Thursday, May 30, 2013

Of beaches and bikinis

I tried to post the following as a comment to an article on someone's blog, but I kept getting an error message. Since I didn't want to waste my rant, I'm posting it here.

You know it's summer when article after article appears about "the bikini question". Not to insult the author, but this article is really no different than the hundreds, if not thousands, of others already out there.

Let me get to the point. If the author truly wanted to "sacrifice" for men easily drawn to lust [by wearing a cute tankini instead of a bikini] she should stay home and pray that they would have the sense to do the same. Because that's the solution I've never seen addressed in an article. I'll be so bold as to say it here:

DUDES! If you are so easily tempted by the sight of a woman in a bikini, DON'T GO TO PLACES WHERE YOU MIGHT SEE ONE! Don't go to the beach, or to swimming pools. Don't watch TV. Stay off the Internet. IT'S THAT SIMPLE.

Chocolate cake analogy [several commenters used the analogy of someone following you around, offering you tempting chocolate cake]: since I don't want to eat chocolate cake, when my willpower was weak, I avoided places a chocolate cake was likely to be. Why torment myself? Now I've been without it for so long, and have such compelling reasons to avoid it, that it doesn't bother me if everyone around me is eating some. It would bother me if someone followed me around offering me a slice all the time, because I'm creeped out and annoyed by coercive people who disregard my "no thank you". (So, ladies, even if you are wearing a burka at the beach, don't follow guys around offering yourself to them when they don't want what you're offering. Respect their boundaries. Take a hint: the lack of an enthusiastic "yes!" should be taken as a "no".) At the same time that I am no longer overly tempted by chocolate cake, I see no reason to hang around bakeries, checking out what chocolate cake might be there. What's the point?

I can hear the menfolk whining about the unfairness of staying home so the women can wear what they want. I can hear the mothers complaining, "Are you saying I can't take my boys swimming or to the beach?" Let me put it this way. I have five sons, ages 16 - 27. There is no way that I would ever knowingly expose them to a temptation they are not spiritually mature enough to handle. I don't expect the world to arrange itself to be less tempting to my sons or to me. To use an old cliche, if we can't take the heat, we stay out of the kitchen.

If the sight of anything — chocolate cake, an athletic man in a speedo, your neighbor's new sports car, the latest cool techno-gadget from Apple, a scantily clad woman — whatever it might be, if you are easily provoked to sins of covetousness and lust, do whatever it takes to avoid the temptation! Jesus had some pretty extreme things to say about avoiding sin. He went so far as to talk about gouging out your eyes. What he didn't say is to tell your girlfriend how to dress or to blame other people for "stumbling" you. It's not what goes into you that defiles you, whether it's food or the sight of a body you find sexually attractive. It's what is already inside you, and inside me. We are responsible for our own lust and covetousness.

Yes, this article was written to the women. As are so many countless others repeating the same tired old theme. I guess I had hoped, because someone I know linked to this one, that it was something a bit better than same old, same old. Sigh...

My lucky 3 readers get more of my ranting:

You know what else? As an "older woman", I'm just about ready to start teaching me some of these young bloggerettes! Which is my funny way of saying that someone needs to take some of these young women to task for their pride. I mean, I'm all for healthy body image and all that, but that hardly means you have to jump on the Internet and brag about how men everywhere would be driven to lust at the mere sight of you if you weren't so loving, godly, and sacrificial as to clothe yourself modestly. I knew a woman who used to ask, whenever another woman online bragged about how her modesty kept men from stumbling, "Really? You're that hot? That tempting? Men can't help wanting you — they are driven to sin — by a glimpse of too much of you? Wow." Then we'd hear some hasty "I'm really not prideful or vain" comments about how God created all women to be beautiful, alluring, blah blah blah. Yeah, right. If we are all physically "beautiful", that renders the word meaningless. ("Darling, you look beautiful!" "Well, duh, all women do!" "No, I mean it." "I'd hope you think I look like a woman, since I am one." "Of course you look like a woman, dear — a beautiful woman." "Isn't that redundant? And I'm getting kinda tired of you constantly telling me I look like a woman! So what?")

Maybe beaches have changed since my beach days, and now they only allow women to wear bikinis if they look sexy in them — but back in the day, guys I hung around with admitted that most of the women and girls in bikinis were not that appealing and often more of a turn-off than a turn-on. It reminds me about my long-ago joke about speedos: men should not wear speedos lest they stumble me. Either I'll stumble over my own feet because I'm looking at the guy and thinking, "Whoa! That dude looks good in his speedo!" or I'll stumble because I'm gagging, "What possessed that guy to go out in public like that? Ugh! Dude, cover up! We're all about to lose our lunch!" (It seems like, back in the day, average guys in America didn't wear speedos.)

The other thing I find silly in these articles is that the young "I respect men too much to stumble them with my sexiness!" authors will hasten to tell us, in case we were worried, that their modest attire is still "attractive". Because heaven forbid this young lady lose her ability to attract the guys! Supposedly now her bathing suit attracts a better sort of guy, who is drawn to her personality and mind. Because, you know, men are able to discern that just by how we are dressed. ("Oh, her bikini just sucked me into its lust vortex, so she must be slutty. But that other woman is wearing a tankini and I am suddenly attracted to her sweet, fun-loving, wholesome personality and her interest in philosophy, because I can tell all that just by her bathing suit.") Even more ridiculous is when the author chirps, "Modest is hottest!" At least now we know her real agenda. She wants to be "hotter" than all those other girls! She doesn't want men to lust after her body parts; she wants them to lust after her modesty. Otherwise, if she thought she was such a huge temptation, she really would stay home from the beach.


  1. I'm going to weigh in here as a guy who was raised in an ultra-conservative Christian bubble and now live in LA surrounded by Hollywood (minister there).

    The ultra-conservative Christian movement takes the responsibility for lust out of the men and blames it on the women. This is both anti-woman and anti-men. It reduces us men to animals who are unable to control our physical urges. It reduces women to sex objects who must cover up as their true worth is in the eyes of a man who will make her his Proverbs 31 woman, provide for her needs, and keep her pregnant (this extreme isn't prevalent everywhere but is out there).

    Modesty is cultural and guys will lust no matter what. As men we must learn how to gain self-control over our flesh. There is a picture that I like as it proves a point. Two Arab men are rubbernecking (looking behind them) at two burka clad women who are passing by with their ankles exposed due to their gait. It would take a miniskirt here in LA to get that kind of attention. There are tribes in Africa that remain almost nude except for a strand of beads around the waist. Take those beads off and you will cause a scandal.

    Growing up in the ultra-conservative bubble anything that showed cleavage was provocative. Anything that showed off the figure was titillating. It was quite an adjustment going to college where women dressed like normal human beings with short shorts and tank tops. But I reigned in my hormones and controlled my thoughts.

    I'm now surrounded by the culture of this world. If I go to a pool party or the beach most of the women will be wearing bikinis. It's what is socially acceptable in this day and age. Since I've broken free from this puritanical/hypocritical culture that I was in as a youth it doesn't bother me. There's no "forbidden" aspect of hanging out at the pool with a group of friends who might be wearing a bikini. Growing up it was treated as if they were topless which just added to the potential for lust. I actually believe that the ultra-conservative movement increases lust by focusing so much on it and by making the women the culprits.

    Besides, we are called to engage and transform culture. We are to be the Jews to the Jews and Greeks to Greeks. I shouldn't be able to spot a homeschooled family in public simply by how they dress. Believe me, I can spot them at the beach. Let's engage the hearts and minds of our culture by eliminating the hypocritical ultra-modesty that in fact draws more attention to the ones living it out. Modesty is a heart attitude more than what one wears. A woman can be more provocative in a tankini then another woman in a bikini. It's all about the heart attitude and the spirit in which she is operating.

    Yes, I appreciate women who dress modestly. But it's not their fault if I have a problem with lust. There's been times in my life when I've avoided the beach and other times in which I've hung out there a lot. But each of us are answerable to God for our actions. Not the actions of our brothers who lusted because they saw a bit of cleavage or naval.

  2. Matthew: I am raising a glass (non-alcoholic) to you today. Thank you for pointing out that the crazy doctrine doesn't do men any favors, either.

    Also a glass to Rebecca for posting this in the first place. :)

  3. Great post, wise post, and I appreciate your views as a mother of many sons! But I must say I will have to bookmark your blog to read later (or maybe through feedly) because I am a coffee addict who is currently giving up coffee, and your background is bringing about thoughts of hauling out my coffeepot again! (I say this lightheartedly but yes I think I did have an actual physical craving a minute ago!) But you should feel free to go right on ahead and enjoy your coffee. :) I get it!

  4. Thank you for this! I have three boys and have been waiting for someone wise to respond to the article. It seems to me that if people are really serious about not wearing something so they won't cause lust they would need to only leave the house wearing baggy clothes that cover every part of their skin.