To all my sisters: Would you rather be seen as beautiful or sexy?
Before you answer that question, let's look at synonyms for both of these words:
- Beautiful: attractive, pretty, lovely, charming, engaging, ravishing, gorgeous, stunning, glamorous, graceful, elegant, exquisite, magnificent
- Sexy: seductive, beddable, desirable, sensual, sultry, slinky, provocative, tempting, tantalizing, luscious, lush, hot
Now what do you think? Would you rather be called beautiful or sexy? Exquisite or provocative? Lovely or tempting? Gorgeous or beddable?
I almost gagged when I saw 'beddable' as a synonym for sexy. It's pretty disgusting that if a man sees you as 'sexy,' he sees you as a target with whom he can get into bed easily.
It may not seem disgusting if you're picturing your handsome boyfriend seeing you as 'beddable,' but what about the old man walking down the street? Yup. Now you're grossed out.
Sex, Sex, Sex
When a man sees a woman whom he thinks is sexy, he's looking at her with one thing in mind: sex. This might be great if every man walking around had a beautiful vision of sex as “a glorious thing created by God to be an act of selfless love, a gift of oneself created for marriage to be an icon and foretaste of the joys of the marriage of Christ and the Church in Heaven!”
But, I'm assuming that isn't the case in our pornographic culture where airbrushed, scantily clad women are used like objects to sell cars and beer, and sex is seen as something 'dirty' that can be thrown out with the trash on a first date.
Why do I care if you’re seen as beautiful or sexy?
- Because I want you to know how good and beautiful you are, and to use your beauty to draw others to God (who is authentic Beauty), rather than to use your beauty to manipulate and draw others lustfully to yourself.
- Because I never ever want a man to treat you like an object to use for his own lust/pleasure. I want you to guard your beauty in a way that humbly commands the respect of who you are as a person (a daughter of God, which makes you royalty and a Princess), rather than to disregard your beauty, and throw it away like one who prostitutes her beauty and body to any man who desires it.
And how does this relate to bikinis?
Well, an interesting study was done at Princeton University (and thank you, Jason Evert, for bringing this study to my attention), where men viewed pictures of both women in bikinis and women more fully clothed. The study on the male undergraduates found that:
'Men tend to associate bikini-clad women with first-person action verbs such as I “push,” “handle” and “grab” instead of the third-person forms such as she “pushes,” “handles” and “grabs.” They associated fully clothed women, on the other hand, with the third-person forms, indicating these women were perceived as in control of their own actions.'
Also, in some of the men (those who scored higher on a survey having 'hostile sexist' beliefs vs. 'benevolent sexist' beliefs), the part of the brain associated with analyzing another person’s thoughts, feelings and intentions was inactive while viewing scantily clad women. These brain scans showed that the men who viewed women in bikinis tended to de-humanize them and viewed them, rather, as tools and objects.
So are all guys this way?
From this study, a conclusion might be made that there’s some hard-wiring there that can interfere with the average man’s ability to interact on deeper levels with a stranger in a sexy bikini. What goes on in a man's brain is automatic, and not purposeful, thus some men may choose to yield to lust, while others may choose to love and see women as human beings.
For instance, I have a lot of 'non-average' guy friends who are striving for holiness and allow God's grace to constantly redeem their sexual desires. One guy friend, when he is tempted to lust after a female stranger, gives her a name so as to make her a real person to love, rather than allowing her to be an object of lust.
Obviously, these kinds of men are stellar guys and not the 'average man' who sees women in bikinis as walking pieces of meat over which to ogle and drool.
What do you want for yourself?
However you look at it this study though, women in bikinis were seen as sexy, beddable, and tempting and fully clothed women weren't. I don't know about you, but even if I disregarded the holiness of my brothers in Christ, I would want to guard my body against being seen as a tool!
But I do care about my brothers' purity, and want to help them out by not wearing what is basically a bra and underwear to the beach and inviting them to lust over all that is, ahem, 'hanging out.'
Also, I want to be the type of woman who inspires men to holiness and beauty and not lures men to lust and my booty. See what I did there?
Your body is so good!
Modesty isn't just about clothes. It's a virtue that guides who we are, how we act, how we dress, etc. We don't dress modestly because our bodies are bad. In fact, we dress modestly because our bodies are so good, and in fact a 'temple of the Holy Spirit' (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Some girls dress immodestly because they want the attention. Other girls dress immodestly because they are following the trends of the culture and don't know any better. This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about modesty:
' . . . Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity…
“Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.' (CCC 2521-2523)
But everyone’s wearing it . . .
The 'fashion' of our culture right now definitely leans towards immodesty on and off the beach: short skirts/shorts, tight, see-through, low-cut, and low-riding clothing.
Thankfully, there are many amazing young women who are standing up against the culture and developing modest, yet stylish clothing (and bathing suits) so that women can maintain their dignity.
While I admit that I loathe shopping for modest swimwear because it does take more time and effort (and is often more expensive than the itty-bitty centimeters of fabric they sell at Forever 21 and Target), I believe it's worth it.
I ditched the bikini a few years ago and have not regretted it. Modesty is a sacrifice that I'm willing to make to be seen as a whole person to be loved, and not a tool to be used.
My sisters, I love you and want the best for you. I pray you know how good and beautiful you are, and that you use your beauty to always lead others to Christ.
My challenge to you: join me in ditching the bikini this summer in favor of more modest swimwear to be seen as beautiful, not sexy.
Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us.
St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us.
St. Philomena, pray for us.
St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.
St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us.
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.
St. Faustina, pray for us.
All holy men and women, pray for us.