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Surviving Swimsuit Season

I realize that this isn’t one of those areas we would think pornography affects.  But it does.  The more I grow, and the more I learn, the more I find pornography is like this nasty black mold.  You scrub it off from one place only to find its spores have seeped into another.

Freedom requires this constant willingness to rethink your thinking because you acknowledge that your thinking might actually be flawed.

This whole post was brought on by an incident that happened a month or so ago.  While hiking with a co-ed group from church, one of the women decided she needed to shed a layer.  She wanted to take off an long-sleeve shirt she had on under her t-shirt.  The problem was we were sitting out on a small outcropping of rocks in the middle of the river eating lunch.  There were about 4 women and 4 men on this little island, and no changing rooms.

One of the guys, realizing what was going on said, “Gentlemen, avert your eyes.”  Being the great, Christian men they are, they all found something interesting in the sky or on the rocks behind us to stare at while she tried to wriggle her way out of her extra shirt.  Then one man remarked, “We probably wouldn’t see anything more than what we see on the beach, especially from the back.”

His girlfriend said, “I know right!?  We freak out about modesty and then we wear bikinis.”

Since summer is coming, and pools are getting ready to open, let’s talk about swimsuits.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you what type of swimsuit you should wear.  I don’t have some set list of rules and measurements that magically make a swimsuit modest.  Besides, they get a little clingy when wet anyway.  Instead, I want to encourage you to think about what type of swimsuit you are wearing and to make sure your thinking lines up with guidelines in God’s word.

I can think of three thought patterns to look out for when evaluating your swimwear:

Motivation #1:  I’m ugly, so I must cover it up.

Yes, I’m going after the ‘modest’ swimsuits first.  There are different motivations for ‘modesty.’  True modesty is beautiful.  It is a respect of oneself and of others.  Any other motivation for modesty brings slavery.  If you are ‘modest’ because you believe sex is bad and you never ever ever ever want a man to think of you that way, you are modest for the wrong reason.  If you are ‘modest’ because you feel like you are ugly– too fat, too flabby, too pale, too many stretchmarks– you are modest for the wrong reasons.

The important thing here is the thinking.  Pornography can be really good at telling us that our bodies are simply not acceptable.  You are not ugly.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.

Motivation #2: A bikini is not technically underwear.

I’m sorry if this is your reasoning for two-piecing the beach, but it’s an absolutely ridiculous line of logic.  Does it make sense to you to only wear lingerie for your husband but then to go to the beach in material that covers less than aforementioned lingerie?

Think about that a bit.  No, you’re not coming on to any of the guys at the beach (at least I hope you’re not), but it’s still immodest.

How about we rip the doors off dressing rooms?  It’s the same thing.  Not to mention, how do you even feel secure in one of those things?  I would be hesitant to put so much faith in a piece of string.

(Can you tell I don’t wear a bikini?  I have a major issue with bikinis, because they are less than a bra and panties.  Sorry, rant over.)

Motivation #3:  I want the men to notice me.

We’ve talked about the reality of seeking male attention before.  Let’s face it, the beach is a good place to try out your body to see if it is acceptable.  There are all kinds of wandering eyes at the local pool.  For some of us, if those eyes are not looking at us, it can get frustrating.

I went tubing with a church group a couple years ago.  Somehow, in the water, I had befriended this man named Isaac.  (How we managed conversation while tubing down the Potomac is beyond me).  Isaac had waited for me at the end of the run, and we were walking back along the trail toward a waterfall.

When we got to the waterfall, there was this woman in a brown bikini sprawled out underneath the waterfall.  She was leaned back against the rocks, her hair down, just letting the water pour over her face and body.  It was like something straight out of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.  I caught Isaac stealing glances at her, and it stirred up this weird emotion- some combination of holy rage and hellish jealousy.

On one hand, I was fired up that she was being so provocative.  On the other, I wanted to be just like her.  

She finally finished whatever she was trying to accomplish and left.  I laugh now, but I actually went to the waterfall and struck the same pose (albeit in a much more decent choice of swimwear). When I opened my eyes again, Isaac was gone.  He had decided to climb up the rocks and explore the waterfall above me.

“You ready?”  he asked.  I nodded, and we trudged back to the  bus stop to wait for our ride.  Part of me felt stupid for even trying; another part of me wished I was attractive.  I would be more attractive in a bikini, I thought.

Truth is, I wouldn’t necessarily be more attractive, I would just be more attracting.  Stick honey out on the porch and it will draw all kinds of insects.  I know it’s hard to feel straight-up ignored (and going to a pool in anything but a bikini will do that).  However, I would rather attract men with character than attract the attention of men who are more interested in watching me walk away, if you know what I mean.

The trick to tackling swim season is to find a combination that you are comfortable in but is also modest.  You might be perfectly comfortable prancing around in your skivvies, but that is far from modest.  Jeans and t-shirt might be modest (until wet), but they are far from comfortable.  We need a balance, and I’m going to share some thoughts on that in the next post.

True modesty is beautiful.  It is a

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6 comments

  1. This is great…thanks for including the first motivation about covering up because you think you’re ugly or believe that any sexuality at all is wrong (including within marriage). That aspect rarely gets covered, and if it does, it’s used to justify wearing bikinis (“Defy anyone who says you’re ugly! Defy anyone who says sex is wrong! Show off your body”).

    Personally, I wear tankinis from Lands End with a mini skirt bottom. I’ll admit that after having three kids via csection, I’m honestly just trying to hide all my stretch marks. But I do feel covered and attractive but not in a “I want every man to look at me” kind of way, if that makes sense.

  2. This is great, Jessica. Sadly it doesn’t work for me, as I happen to be a male. I’d like it if there were a “How to Survive Swimsuit Season” for men like me who don’t want to be lusting all the time. It’s not easy to do for a guy like myself.

    1. Well, since this is a ministry for women, and I happen to be a woman, I won’t be writing that post. However, I can see if my male colleagues will do such a post on their blogs. I will let you know.

  3. For me the biggest challenge is finding swimwear that actually fits and supports certain areas.
    Who designs swimwear anyway? Can we please have some swimwear that’s comfortable, feminine and modest?

    1. I have stumbled on some pretty fantastic-looking swimwear sites lately. Links coming up in the next post!

  4. Summary of Love and Responsibility p. 176-177:

    The essential feature of sexual modesty is the tendency to conceal sexual values themselves particularly as they are thought to be a potential object of enjoyment for persons of the other sex. Modesty and shame must be more pronounced in women because sensuality (which is oriented towards the body as a object of enjoyment) is much stronger in men. This is difficult for women because she does not find in herself the same experience of sensuality as in a man and so does not feel a great need to conceal the body as a potential object of enjoyment.

    Wojtyla concludes the paragraph by stating: “The [development] of modesty in woman requires some initial insight into the male psychology.”