Tuesday, July 10, 2012

To Bikini or Not To Bikini

Elizabeth asked the ladies of cathsorority what their take on bikinis and modesty is at the beginning of the summer. She was trying to make an informed decision about their use. Most of the ladies err on the side of being more modest and said bikinis were off limits. I and maybe just Paige were the 'harlots' of the lot and said "Bikinis all the way!" Well, maybe not so drastic but we weren't against the 'kinis either!

So why am I not against bikinis? Mostly because I don't think women are responsible for what men think. I think men are responsible for their thoughts and subsequent actions. If we teach women that their bodies are the the reason men are sinful, we're associating their bodies with a sin they can't control. Women have enough pressure from society about their bodies, we need not add more. Men were given the ability to reason and have free will just as women do and men need to be held responsible for their actions.

Here's an example: I made dinner for Steven that consisted of 5 pounds of pasta with the intention that we wouldn't eat all of it. Is it my fault if he eats every last noodle to the point of being sick? Am I the one responsible for his gluttony or is he the one who should have self control and know when to stop with this most basic of human instincts? Am I at fault for making a meal that was just too visually appealing and tasted so damn good? (Not trying to brag up my spaghetti but it is pretty good. ;-))

We would never scorn the woman cooking and say "You should have known not to make so much food. He's incapable of stopping. You lead him into this sin and you are at fault." Instead we would say that the man is the one culpable for his actions because he is the one who chooses to indulge. It is the same concept with bikinis. A man controls his thoughts and if he wanted to have lustful thought about a woman, a burqa (or burqini) wouldn't stop him.

8 inches of Lycra won't fix this problem.

My honest opinion is that this a cheap ploy that men have used to take their shortcomings and make them the fault of women. They have turned our femininity against us. Our bodies are wonderfully made and we should respect them and demand the same respect from men. I'm not saying we should all run around naked (Adam and Eve ruined that for us) but our sense of modesty shouldn't come from what men will think of our body. There is far too much modesty (and immodesty) aimed to only appease men and that is a huge detriment.Instead our morals about modesty should come from genuine respect for the body. 

So where do you stand? Love them? Hate them? Can't decide?


  1. I guess I just don't understand, if there are plenty of cute, fashionable, modest bathing suits out there- why would a woman want to show that much more of herself off? It's not that I think we're culpable for men's sins, although we really can't play the total ignorance card- if we're walking around with that little on, they are going to look- they are, by their nature, much more visual creatures than us women.
    In the end I just always wonder "why a bikini?" What are the reasons behind it? I know after I got really slim after my second was born I really wanted to get a bikini. When I stopped and examined my intentions, it was just that I wanted to show off my new slim figure, which just didn't seem like the greatest intention.
    Sorry this is so ridiculously long, very thought provoking, thanks for posting!!

  2. I just don't like bikinis because I feel like I'm in my underwear if I wear one. I mean, what's the difference between bra and panties and a bikini except the material they're made out of?

    1. Exactly my thought. I wouldn't wear a bra and panties to the beach, so I won't wear them in lycra to the beach either. They're just not necessary. And I definitely like it that my hubby's the only one who sees my waist and hips sans cover.

  3. Honestly, I don't think one piece swimsuits are all that "modest" in the usual sense of the word. They are skin tight, show the whole leg and arm and usually a bit of cleavage. I am a fan of functional bathing suits. If you swim more comfortably in a bikini, then do so. If you feel self-conscience, then perhaps something with more coverage is better. My husband says that modesty, particularly at the beach, has much more to do with how you carry yourself than what you are wearing.

  4. I wish I could still wear one, but,after my first pregnancy moved my belly about five inches closer to the earth, it wasn't an option for me unfortunately...:( I think the most important is to make sure whatever you pick out fits you impeccably. I think you can get a tasteful suit, no matter what the cut, as long as it's made for your shape and build. In other words, I don't think a thong bikini really works on anyone...*shudder*...but a nice, sporty two piece can look really flattering.

    I, myself, had to buy a tankini this year (maternity), and ended up loving it. I like the freedom of the two pieces and the major belly coverage. Enjoy the bikini before you have kids, because after that, no one can pay you enough to get in one...LOL

  5. I'm a one-piece bathing suit gal myself, but haven't always been so. When I did wear a bikini, however, I remember forever messing with the darn thing!! Pulling the seat out of my butt crack or arranging my top so I wouldn't spill out of it. Don't worry...at the time I saw nothing all that wrong with it...I could wear a bikini...Girl, could I WEAR a bikini!!! But ultimately, when I could no longer wear a bikini and feel comfortable (as if I ever really felt comfortable in the first place) I realized that my competition/workout suit (a speedo for those who aren't sure what that is) works just fine and I will usually put on some shorts when I'm not in the pool to cover my legs a bit more. This has been wonderful for swimming with the shorties as they will not wait for me to tug my seat out of my butt or arrange my top anyway!!!

    Honestly, I just thought of this, but I also really dislike the volleyball underwear they masquerade as shorts. The girls spend more time messing with them than they do playing volleyball!!! so annoying to watch.

    1. LOL! I agree about the volleyball games. SOO annoying! I always wonder why they have to wear those skimpy outfits. Plus whole families watch the Olympics. My 7-year-old son even made a comment about it!
      I have never worn a bikini (I'm in my thirties now). I just wouldn't go around in underwear, baring that much. I think it is special to only have your spouse see all that. I have 2 tween girls and in today's society it is such a task dressing them modestly.

  6. I would say that women and men are responsible for working together when it comes to temptations. If you know ahead of time that Steven has a tendency to over eat, how uncharitable is it to put five pounds of spaghetti on table?

    Am I my brother's keeper? You better believe it! Jesus says, "whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea" (Mt 18:6 RSV).

    We all struggle with concupiscence, and we can act (and often do act) in ways that lead others to sin. Knowing that, we have the responsibility to be a help to our brothers and sisters, not willingly lead them into temptation.

    As a man who struggles with the temptation to lust, I can say with certainty that 8 inches of lycra makes a huge difference! It's not about teaching women that their body is sinful, because both man and woman were wonderfully created by God. It's about helping our fellow brothers or sisters avoid sin and get to Heaven.

    1. Amen, my brother! I hear everything you're saying and second it. The "Am I my brother's keeper?" line came into my head on this very same discussion in a different place recently. Us ladies have to do our part too.

    2. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Well-said Bryan. Ladies, listen when a guy tells you what men think. We girls have to do our part and dress modestly. Amen!!

  7. I kind of agree with Bryan... men and women should work together. That being said, I don't really see anything wrong with bikinis because some one-piece suits are just as immodest. If they are tasteful then I really don't see a problem. Sometimes price or comfort is a factor in choosing a bikini.

    Personally I would rather wear a one piece because I just don't feel comfortable in a bikini.

    I guess I just don't want to involve myself much in the modesty debate because it gets too messy... lol.

  8. I have to respectfully disagree. If my husband had a problem with overeating (and most men have a problem with looking lustfully at a barely dressed woman) it would horrible of me to put that much food in front of him. I would be tempting him to sin and not making any effort to help him control himself. I don't think that's the type of relationships we are called to have-an attitude of "it's your fault if you can't stop yourself and I'm not going to try to help you."

    Also, you say we shouldn't run around naked-but based on your logic-why not? If it's the man's job to avert his eyes and not lust, then it truly wouldn't matter if the woman was naked. I just dont see any sense in drawing the line there.

  9. I used to be a bikini gal...until I had a baby. I tell you, you can lose all the weight and more, but nothing ever goes back into the same place that it was. Also, I look like I was mauled by a tiger on both of my hips.

    So, alas, I am a one piece kind of gal now.

    With that being said, now that I am sporting a continuous piece of Lycra and I am a mom, my thoughts on the matter have changed as well.

    I do think it is our job to remove sources of temptation from those who may be tempted as much as it is their job to control themselves. We all have to work together to keep each other on the right track.

    And, I totally agree with your comment that modesty should come from respect for the human body. That is so true. However, we do live in a world where that is rare, so we have to take the right precautions. People should also have enough respect for life and sex to not commit the horrible act of rape, but that doesn't mean we should walk around at night by ourselves. (Extreme metaphor, I know!)

    With all of that being said, very great article. Lots of good discussion out of it. Thanks :)

    1. And yes, I said "with that being said" twice. I must love that phrase...

  10. I'm With Paige on this one... the twins made that choice for me. If it fits well, looks well, and makes you feel well...get it. However, letting "the girls" come out to play does not qualify as fitting!

  11. I guess the real underlying question here is, "Is what I am wearing modest?", and not necessarily, bikinis or one pieces. In a world where people are pretty much wearing their underwear to the grocery store sometimes it is hard to judge what *is* modest. If you think of this scripture :"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." and then think, ok, if I am a holy temple, do I look like one? Would God want to reside here? Another question I would ask is, WWMD. What would Mary do? Wonder what her closet looks like. And the last think I would ask is, do you ever ask God to help you get dressed? If you have a prayer-life and start to ask the Holy Spirit what He wants, he will start to tell you. I have to agree with Ana, examine your intentions for wearing what you are wearing, if it is to draw attention to your figure, probably not the best reason.

  12. I have to agree with Bryan on this one. While it isn't my responsibility per se to control the lustful thoughts of men, it is my responsibility to act charitably and not be an occasion of sin to another person, man or woman. I have a tremendous amount of respect for my body, I think it's a beautiful thing, even after two babies, but I gave my body to my husband the day I got married, and it is for his eyes and his alone. Likewise I expect the same thing from him. I don't want him flaunting his washboard abs in public either (ok, he doesn't have washboard abs, but if I find his body appealing I'm sure other ladies do too). I value my purity and I would never want another person to have an impure thought about me, obviously I can't control every man's thought, but I'd still like to do everything possible. If you know someone has a weakness I just think it's unfair to put the temptation right in front of them and say "it's not my problem, but yours"

  13. I think the sin really has to do with the 'intent' on either side.

    Men can stare and their intent is lust- that wont change whether a woman wears a bikini or not.

    Women can wear a bikini, look and feel great about herself and wear it with the most pure intention. I don't see anything wrong with that.

    However, another woman wearing the same swimsuit as above, might very well have the intent of getting attention. She might pull is tighter or lower or bend over to show off her back side. ;)

    If the intent is impure then sin may be attached. I really don't think it is a modesty issue.

    1. I have to disagree with you on this, Kate! Intent isn't the factor that decides whether a sin is a sin. They may be more or less culpable, but we can sin without the intention of sinning. Causing scandal is a sin, and a lot of the time people do not intend to cause scandal. We are DEFINITELY not responsible for men's actions regarding lust and so forth, but we beg God daily to "lead us not into temptation" - and yet we easily lead others to temptation by wearing revealing clothing. Not saying we are responsible for their sins, only that we tempt others to sin by our actions. A good motto to adopt, (which I have to work on immensely!) is what would the Blessed Mother do or say about my dress or action? Would she wear a bikini had she been living in our times?

  14. I don't want to 'body snark'- but there are very few women past age 20 or so that looks great in a bikini- and how can you really swim? I think the problem isn't necessarily the cleavage (like the black one piece you posted)- at least with a one-piece you can wear it all day without worrying you are going to fall out of it

  15. I agree with a lot of the commenters on here.

    Unfortunately, an attitude of "it's not my fault if you sin" is missing the point of Christian charity entirely. Why wear the bikini? What moral good is this that you are choosing? What are your reasons for wearing it? And why do you care so little for your Christian brothers' chastity...when your decision is so simple, and the impact is so large? Have any of the saints had such a cavalier attitude about the souls of others - no! They thirsted for them, as Christ, they resolved to remove any obstacle to the Body of Christ, to humble themselves and their desires to the greater good. And chastity, especially today, chastity is a battleground for the souls of many men and women. It is in this area where Satan is winning over and over again, and I think in large part it is because of the individualist attitude that all of us are so tempted to adopt.

    Beauty, a woman's beauty, is so incredibly powerful - I don't think we even realize it. What is 6 inches of skin to us is a further revealing of ourselves to men, who find our form glorious and attractive! Our beauty must be treated with the greatest honor, and we should realize that we do not demean ourselves by using it wisely.

    Ultimately, when it comes to any kind of clothing, our thoughts should be two-fold: is this beautiful (b/c I'm ALL about beauty and I think, judging from the world, God is too), and is this modest? Modesty veils what should be veiled; it protects what is private. Underwear is inherently private; bikinis are underwear out of different fabric. They are revealing what should be concealed.

    And I keep coming back to - why? What's the point? Why wear them if you know they could hurt certain people, if there's a greater chance of a wardrobe malfunction, if it's the same as underwear? This debate came up in college Catholic circles, in grad school, and now on the blogosphere and I've never been able to find a single good reason to wear one besides "I want to. It's flattering. I like getting a good tan." Our desires in this area aren't reflective of much; flattering cuts are great but they still have to be modest; and why do we care so much about tanning parts of our body we would never show in our regular clothing???

    I think I feel more passionately about this because I live in a beach town and that unfortunately means that this casualness about dress on the beach bleeds into all other areas of life - so that I have to tell girls at youth group not to wear skirts that show their butts. We cannot section off any one area of our life and say "this is where the standards I usually use do not apply" - because it has an impact, whether we realize that or not.

    But even if you never agree with me, I promise we can still be friends. And I don't think you're a harlot!! :)

  16. To a porn-soaked culture, let me just say that men can see you naked if they want to. Regardless of what you wear.

    Rape and sexual violence is not less common in countries that require women to wear burqas- in fact, it's usually quite the opposite. I'm not saying I'm running around in a string bikini or a thong- I'm not. And I have a one-piece, a tankini and several bikinis and I rotate them. I don't feel as if I am being immodest because my intent is not to entice men to lust- just like they don't always wear a t-shirt in order to keep ME from lusting.

    My biggest argument about this is and always will be: if ALL the Catholic women everywhere only wore one-pieces or only wore swimsuits at all in female company, there will still be plenty of women who ARE wearing thongs and string bikinis. And good Catholic men who have the propensity to lust after them, will. So, if you are a man who has an issue with lusting when you see women dressed that way, you should probably stay home in the first place.

    1. I don't think your argument is a very good one. What do other women wearing immodest things have to do with what WE do? The measure of our conduct is not the conduct of others, but what God asks of us.

      Of course it is difficult to avoid immodesty in our culture and men must be very self-disciplined - as must women. No one should excuse men from bad behavior. But neither should we excuse ourselves.

      You focused in your argument on your intent - your intent is not to cause them to lust. Why do you think intent matters? We can't miss Mass on Sunday and say "well, I certainly didn't intend to sin" and have it be okay. Why does intent matter when it comes to modesty? And where, then, does one draw the line? Could we walk about nude and then exclaim, "I don't intend to be immodest!" - are those the words that give us blanket immunity?

      I think modesty does, at some point, have to have some rules - if the standard is subjective, then we have to admit, it's no standard at all. If we do not encourage moral relativism, then why modest relativism? I understand that historically, showing ankles used to be immodest. But surely we have reached the end of our rope! The only thing women aren't baring are (hopefully) nipples and their actual crotches. Can't we back down from that line and agree on some bare bones rules like, don't wear something that is the same as underwear?

      I mean these as honest questions. At some point, we have to decide, as Christian lay women, that there are lines we will not cross. And if modesty is regarded as something subjective, something best left to personal judgment, something that isn't taken very seriously - isn't that a sign of generally how modern culture regards the body today?

    2. Well, to be fair, I didn't focus my argument on my intent, (though surely I feel that must be part of it). I focused my argument on the fact that I can't be held responsible for other people's sins. I was trying to illustrate that if every good, Catholic woman was very careful with her modesty, a man could STILL lust after the women who aren't dressed modestly and in that, the sin falls on the person who is sinning. There are plenty of non-Christian women out there who have never been told a thing about modesty (at least in the arena of bikinis) so does a good Catholic man's lusting fall on those women? Or should he learn to practice custody of his eyes or find ways to mentally avert himself in some way so that he isn't objectifying women? I agree that we women should recognize our dignity and worth and dress accordingly. And if that is the issue, then by all means, say so! I think if we want to entreat women to do the right thing, shaming her into feeling guilty about how someone may or may not look at/think about her is not the way to go about it. Isn't it better to change how women think of themselves and the modesty will follow?

      I also want to know where we draw the line. If the issue is that we should be careful not to cause men to sin, what about men who are turned on by any number of things? What about our earlobes or our feet? What about pants that are well-fitting? What about collar bones? To that end, how come no one seems to worry about whether *I* am going to sin seeing some dude's tanned abs just hanging out at the pool on display for all the world to see? Where is the outcry for *him* to be modest and not lead me to sin?!

      Intent absolutely does matter! There are probably many, many women who put on their clothes every day knowing that a man will objectify them and that is the intent of the clothing. However, a woman who puts on clothing that is well-fitting and classy may still be objectified (and probably will) but her intent was not to make a man look at her in that way. THAT is a product of his fallen nature, and therefore that is on him.

      Modesty is completely subjective. In our culture and our society, yes, we should have some rules. But those rules would still only apply to our culture and society and would be in flux based on age groups, parts of the country in which we live, and let's be honest, religious affiliation (the majority of mainline Protestants probably spend very little time talking about modesty). There are cultures in this world that would call our version of the bikini modest. There are cultures that DO run around naked all the time and it has nothing to do with causing men to lust. But it's not as if I'm calling for women to wear a bikini to the office or to Mass. Wearing a bikini at the beach or lake or pool is appropriate attire for the environment. Dressing appropriately is not a sin, even if it's not the best exercise of our cardinal virtues.

    3. "I can't be held responsible for other people's sins"
      -Yes, you can: "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck." Mark 9:42 (this was quoted early in the comments"

      In response to the rest of your argument, especially the "modesty is completely subjective" bit, and in response to the position of the main post, let me quote some of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, starting around paragraph 2520:

      Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ORDERED TO CHARITY to whose sensitivity it bears witness. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s CHOICE OF CLOTHING. It keeps silence or RESERVE where there is EVIDENT RISK of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to RESIST the ALLUREMENTS OF FASHION and the pressures of prevailing ideologies [e.g., wearing "classy bikinis"]. The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another [it does change from culture to culture, but it is NOT subjective--those are two different things]. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Christian purity requires a purification of the social climate. So-called moral permissiveness rests on an erroneous conception of human freedom...

  17. Jen Fulwiler JUST wrote a beautiful post on modesty. I really love her angle.


  18. I'm so tired of this being an issue. I feel as if living in today's world that if a man chooses to go to a decent beach yet expects women to be in complete covering he should be living in a different century or possibly a strict Muslim country. In today's Western Society he's exposed all.the.time to horrible amounts of immodesty. I just don't think a nice catholic girl needs to worry about leading someone to sin by wearing a bathing suit at an appropriate place. I think we should be modest, and promote modesty but I feel as if this bikini hangup is mute. If a guy is struggling to such a degree that seeing a normal girls body in a bikini is an occasion to sin then I think it's on him to stay home. I just can't help feeling that men are facing much more important spiritual realities than this in today's world.

    Sorry, I just ranted a bit.

  19. I came across this article but I'm sorry I would have to disagree... hmm.. I heard a talk by a priest saying how if we present a temptation to someone, that is pretty serious and not something that we should do. It's true that guys are responsible for their choices, and that a guy could be tempted but still say no to any temptation. Yes, and if he says yes, then he's responsible for that choice. But - as women, if we are the ones presenting the temptation and this 'battle' within his mind, we are really not loving our brother in Christ and not helping him towards holiness... we are making it much harder for him, and putting him in a position where he might sin. It's even wrong to put ourselves in situations where we know we would be tempted: it is also dangerous to do this for others. I used to wear a bikini but I stopped a while ago. I dont want a guy to have to battle with temptations and bad thoughts because of how I dress... and I've read what guys say about bikinis and many Christian guys do say that it's an issue. God bless :)

  20. If you don't mind having 13-18 year-old boys lusting after your "classy bikini" clad body, then by all means keep on yanking on the bikini! And I agree, both men and women will be held accountable for their actions and for the control of their passions.

    I'm sorry, but this discussion is just so dopey that it's exasperating! Cover up a little, and use some common sense. You don't have to put on a burka, or whatever the heck people keep going on about. Same goes for the goofy guys. Holy mackerel! Have we all lost any clue as to plain old common sense as to what is decent and modest.

    Sorry, just not getting the need to be out there flashing so much skin, male or female, in this time of rampant pornography. Or had you not noticed that things are getting ugly in that department?

    Grow up, men and women, and use the brains God gave you when He made you. Have we really all become such a bunch of pampered, brainless, hedonists?

    You'd think we'd have figured this out as Catholics who claim to love Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. What a lot of sophistry and silliness. Use your heads and just cover up a little, and stop acting as if you don't know what you're doing, both males and females. Duh. You don't need to be 90 percent naked to be free and fashionable and comfortable. And if it's that hot and sunny out, then you'd better be getting a t-shirt on and a hat of some sort. :*) Over your modest swimsuit that God gave you the brains to pick out for yourself without consulting the Sharia law books. Okay, now I can't stop laughing, so thanks for the chuckle.

    Peace. Ave Maria!

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