Thursday, May 30, 2013

Internet + Bathing Suits = Bad Idea

NOTE: This post was originally posted in the summer of 2011. It has received over 12,000 individual hits after being posted on several non-Catholic websites.

Something I never really wanted to post about, but feel I have to, because I don't think that young women quite understand the problem.

Yesterday when I logged onto Facebook, I had several pictures of college women in bathing suits, who are friends on Facebook, come up on my feed. In response, I posted the following on Facebook as my status:
A note to young women on Facebook, from a guy who works with young men struggling with might look good in your bathing suit, but if you were able to see yourself through 20 year-old male eyes, which are struggling to see you as a human and not an object, you would never post that pic. Just a thought.
But, that isn't enough to describe what is going on. So, here is the science behind it all:
Researchers used brain scans to show that when straight men looked at pictures of women in bikinis, areas of the brain that normally light up in anticipation of using tools, like spanners and screwdrivers, were activated.

Scans of some of the men found that a part of the brain associated with empathy for other people's emotions and wishes shut down after looking at the pictures.

Susan Fiske, a psychologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, said the changes in brain activity suggest sexy images can shift the way men perceive women, turning them from people to interact with, to objects to act upon.
I believe that most young women who post pics of themselves in bathing suits aren't looking to be objectified, but it is happening to them nonetheless. I hope this shows once again why modesty is a necessary virtue in our society today and it is an act of charity to your brothers-in-Christ to avoid immodest behavior, including posting pictures of yourself that are not modest.

Something else to think about. Once it is on the internet for a short time, it will most likely have a permanent copy in many other places that you cannot get rid of. In other words, you are leaving a permanent digital mark of yourself out there for the world to see.

A note for men - you are not off the hook for lusting after women because a woman dresses immodestly. There is no excuse for using a woman, regardless of how she might present herself. Your lust is your problem, not her problem. Her problem is immodesty.

I should add a note for the women - you would never have put on the bikini in the first place if you ever had 30 seconds behind those 20 year-old male eyes I describe above.

UPDATE: I forgot to post the history behind the bikini - I summarize it like this:
The modern bikini came from a Frenchman running a lingerie boutique. When he introduced it, he couldn't find a model to wear it so he hired a stripper. It was a hit with the guys and caught on.

Related posts:
**Top 10 Reasons Men Should Practice Custody of the Eyes
**Top 10 Reasons Women Should Dress Modestly
**The Impact of Porn Through Stats
**Reflections on the Question of Modesty


Mike the Geek said...

The fact that scantily clad young women are filed into the same mental category as a spanner could, however, be the basis for any number of Saturday Night Live skits...

Pam (Rose) Beeler said...

Marcel -- I can guarantee you that many of the young ladies have no idea of how they are tempting their brothers in Christ. However, it goes beyond that ... many of them have absolutely no idea what you really mean when you say modesty. We have discussed this quite a bit in my high school theology classes. I urge the ladies to practice modesty and I share with them that some of their male classmates have actually come to me in private and have asked me to say something about how difficult the girls make it for young men who are striving for purity. In one class discussion there were two young ladies who I had been on youth-related trips with. I'd had to ask both of these young ladies to go change clothes on those trips because what they were wearing was unacceptable. They had willingly complied and had been very embarrassed about the whole thing ... but, I don't think they really understood what had been wrong with what they were wearing. In the class discussion both of these girls talked about the horrible things that "other" girls wear ... how it makes them look like "trash" (not their exact wording, but ...), and how they were thankful that they knew better than to dress in such a "trashy" way.

True story.

In other words, their moms won't let them dress like "trash" ... but, they have no inkling that what they do actually wear might be considered immodest.

Soccer Kim said...

I'm not disagreeing with what you say. However, having family that spend a lot of time boating and on the lake and doing water activities, I would like to know what a woman should wear instead? Is it enough for a woman to wear a one-piece?

Barb, sfo said...

Printing this out NOW to show to my teenage daughter. Thank you!

Ray said...

Another question of mine along these lines: why is a bikini socially acceptable in public and not panties/bra combo? Same "lines" etc... I never understood this.

Regarding swimwear for women, my wife tends towards the one-piece (or a two-piece that has similar coverage) where a skirt is a feature of said bathing suit.

Marcel said...

Soccer Kim - I think a one-piece is the starting point. As a father of four girls, my kids are banned from bikinis (look at the history I posted in the UPDATE above).

The Catechism says this about modesty:
"Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. 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 (CCC 2522)."

It is left up to the prudential decision of the individual how to apply this, but one thing I will say is take your grandparents with you to go swimsuit shopping. Not your boyfriend.

Rebellious Kafir said...

Soccer Kim, why not have them put on a cover up, or why post the pictures at all? Is it absolutely imperative that you post pictures of your family online wearing bathing suits?

Ten years ago, would you ever have dreamed of handing out a photo of your daughter wearing nothing but her swim suit to a stranger? Why is Facebook any different? You have absolutely no idea if those pictures are downloaded and redistributed elsewhere...none. ONce they are posted on the internet it is out of your control where they show up.

Excellent article and I appreciate your candor. I'll definately use this in my CCD class this fall.

awesomegirl said...

If they aren't looking to be objectified, then I wonder what they are looking to be? Since I was once a teen girl, I assume they want people to notice how "hot" they look in their bikini. Of course they are free to wear a bikini if their parents say it's okay, but to post pictures on Facebook- I'm afraid that is the serious sin of pride and a total lack of humility- two "roots" of many other serious sins.

Marcel said...

awesomegirl - I think what they are looking for is what every woman ultimately wants - to be loved and found attractive. They are just looking for these things in the wrong ways.

BarbnAggieland said...

Thanks for starting this topic, Marcel!!! And your point - to start with a one piece - is so true. I've seen one-piecers that were way more seductive than a bikini! When shopping with my teen, here's what we look for:
1) top must be modest or can be altered to make it modest (we either sew more material in to create a cami look or sew the bra together to get the cleavage out).
2) The bottom must cover well front and back... watch out for high cuts!
3)No scooping cut aways on the sides - really those are just bikinis that attach the top and bottom. And the back shouldn't scoop below the bra line either.
4) Tankinis are ok as long as there is no "ini" - - now you can buy bottoms separately and can get a modest bottom so the tummy doesn't show. Also, no spit back - the back should be covered below the bra line.
My teen is accustomed to dressing modestly because I raised her from infancy that way. And I have promoted and reinforced Catholic values. She feels valued and honored at home.
My teen says she wants her future husband to treat her like a treasure. My job is to help her protect the purity of her soul until that special young man takes her hand in marriage.

BarbnAggieland said...

(I had tried to post a similar comment but had password issues - hopefully this isn't getting double-posted) One more thought: It is sad how many "good Catholics" think contraception, purity and modesty are optional. Most of my Catholic friends - people who love their faith, Church and are even involved in ministry - think I am too serious and prudish about these issues. They let their daughters wear bikinis, immodest clothing-even in Church, watch Glee, Hangover - with their children, etc... We've had many discussions about it but I haven't been able to change their minds. All I can do is pray for them and be ready to respond in charity and love when opportunities are presented.

BarbnAggieland said...

By the way - my teen proves you don't have to look Amish to dress modestly. She graciously marries fashion and modesty and I think she dresses so cute. I've seen lots of young women at St. Mary's and around town that pull this off. We can turn around the trend of objectifying people (it applies to both genders) by starting with ourselves and striving to give Jesus the best of ourselves... or as Matthew Kelly says, "Be the BEST versions of ourselves!".

wifeforlife said...

I agree 100%!!!
I really hate logging on and seeing scantily clad pictures on my newsfeed. But nevermind what they're wearing (or rather NOT wearing!) at the beach..... some of the clothing young women are choosing to wear to CHURCH is what gets me.....
I felt so sorry for our priest a couple of weeks ago, who had to baptise a baby whose Godmother looked like she was dressed to go bar-hopping....Her sundress was cut so ridiculously low that I'm really surprised she didn't "fall out" when she moved. Someone else's dress was so short it barely covered her butt! And while these were visitors (that most likely will not be in our church again any time soon), even some of the "regular" attendees wear skin tight jeans and tops that leave nothing to the imagination. It is so hard to raise modest children, and especially to train our boys to purity when a young woman's sexuality is flaunted everywhere you turn.

fireoftheheavns said...

I'd like to share something with you on this topic, immodest photos posted on FB. Recently a girl among others was murdered in my area,and an Internet news website decided to use the publicly available photo she had on her FB account. Unfortunately it was a photo of her wearing a short dress and posing immodestly. I really doubt that she would have wanted the world to remember her as depicted in that photo. It's just not the type of photo any good person wants to see when you read about the murder of someone.

awesomegirl said...

Here is a little humble pie for me... I am ranting about humility and I just realized I posted under my daughter's account, um, "awesomegirl."
Sheesh! :^)

fireoftheheavns said...

Your post is right on. Pornography dominates the Internet already. We don't need our "friends" to makes things more difficult by popping up on our FB in revealing clothes.

My suggestion is don't post pictures you wouldn't want to be used on your obituary. Recently one girl among several others were murdered in my area together (please pray for them), and her FB profile picture was the photo that at least one Internet news article went with. It happened to be a picture of her in short dress and standing in a sexual pose. I doubt that that is how she wanted anyone to remember her.

Jamie said...

Great post, Marcel. It makes me consider my own swimwear more seriously. My husband tells me that since I work hard at staying in shape, I should enjoy it and show it off. I feel like I should show it off only to him. (Does this make me his trophy wife?)

I am no longer a college student, but a thirty-something mother of two. I wish sometimes that my mother would have taught me more about modesty, but she was more of a product of the 70s sexual revolution.

What shocks me is the number of women my age on FB who are willing to post photos of themselves in bathing suits (bikinis) and in suggestive poses and dresses regularly. I have trouble locating a recent photo of my face most days let alone one of me in a bathing suit.

stcharleskc said...

I was recently married to an amazing man.

Although I don't consider myself a "prude," I've been amazed throughout our time dating how much more seriously I took dressing modestly, including getting rid of my bikinis and other immodest clothing.

Wedding dress shopping was actually one of the hardest experiences of my life, as the only dresses I could find were strapless, and many were low-cut as well. This wasn't what I wanted my friends and family members to see me in. Later, I tried on my mother's dress which was both modest AND gorgeous. Later, I had two of my guy friends (who totally aren't into dresses and I never would have guessed they would have a discussion about dresses) discussed between themselves about how much my dress was ME and how nice it was to see a modest wedding dress.

Guys notice. Be supportive and dress modestly.

benkenwill said...

I am surprised that such a short post has garnered so much response!

I would simply like to add that something I beleive Marcel is trying to get across is that each party--both male and female--has a Christian responsiblity to the other to behave charitably. Because many young men deal with issues of lust, it is charitable for a woman to dress modestly. Because women are a physical embodiment of divine beauty, men should regard the whole person--body and soul--and not merely the body.

The distinction needs to be made however, that posting pictures on facebook provides an unnecessary occasion for sin on the male's part. This can be helped by both the females not posting the pictures and the males not oogling them either. We as males have a responsibility to practice custody of the eyes on such occasions, but our natural sexual attraction to the female body--which can come about even if we are attempting to be chaste--can lead us to the sin of lust even when we aren't looking for it.

That is why it is helpful for the pictures to not be there in the first place.

Kelley said...

Just a thought... I agree that both women should dress modestly and men should do their best to view them respectfully. But why aren't men held to the same standards when it comes to modest attire? Young men post pictures of themselves shirtless. Is that not the same as a woman in a bikini?

Marcel said...

Who says they aren't held to the same standard?