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To Wear or Not to Wear: The Bikini Debate

Last Updated: July 29, 2021

Luke Gilkerson
Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Your Brain on Porn and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

Modesty is a controversial topic no matter how you slice it. It is controversial because it is both personal and vague: personal because our wardrobe reflects, in a sense, our heart, and vague because it can seem difficult to define.

Enter the bikini debate: Is wearing a bikini “immodest”?

Swimsuit designer Jessica Rey believes bikinis are immodest, and she’s on a mission to help women find swimwear that is both fashionable and modest.

Bikinis in the Eyes of Men

What struck me about this presentation was what she said about a man’s reaction to scantily clad women.

“Brain scans revealed that when men are shown pictures of scantily clad women, the region of the brain associated with tools, such as screwdrivers and hammers, lit up. Some men showed zero brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that lights up when one ponders another person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions.  Researchers found this shocking, because they almost never see this part of the brain shut down in this way. And a Princeton professor said, ‘It’s as if they are reacting to these women as if they are not fully human. It is consistent with the idea that they are responding to these photographs as if they were responding to objects, not people.'”

Misunderstanding the Modesty Message

Messages like this from Jessica Rey are unpopular because it is easy to misrepresent her thoughts as a form of victim-blaming. The reason why modesty is important, some say, is because everyone knows men are all horny, uncontrollable beasts, so anyone who wears revealing clothing is just asking to be cat-called, groped, mistreated, or worse.

This is a gross misrepresentation of her modesty message.

Rather, Ms. Rey is calling us to question where we get our beauty norms from. Are they informed more by the culture or more by Christ? Is the choice to wear a bikini a reflection of the desire to appear sexy by culture’s standards, or something else? Does the way you dress display your integrity?

What do you think? Are bikinis immodest?

  • Comments on: To Wear or Not to Wear: The Bikini Debate
    1. Jocelyn Sophia

      Interesting. I am now a 52 year old woman. I have been covering all of my body and hair in public, except my face and hands, since I was 23 years old. I have never been molested, mugged, nor am I mocked. I feel very respected by people here in Philadelphia, where a lot of us women cover this way in public. At home, even with my children, I do not wear shorts, but wear long dresses with short sleeves. Even if I go swimming, i just swim with my clothes on. It is no problem and prevents a lot of problems!

      • Allie

        As a young woman committed to saving myself for marriage, I believe that it is unfair to my future husband to show off my body to every and any man on the beach. For this reason, I personaly choose not to wear bikinis.

    2. James Yoder

      Are bikinis immodest? ABSOLUTELY!

    3. Vern Knock

      Are Bikinis immodest. ABSOLUTELY! They are as close to NUDE as you can get; not the kind of message for we men, young or old.

    4. Eddie

      This is probably the best argument I have heard for Modesty and against bikinis etc. Men are the ones who are being called out for not being able to control ourselves, women are offended that a man is staring at their exposed body parts but all of those exposed body parts can be quite distracting even for men that don’t have ill intentions. And while I don’t place this blame on women, I think its a societal problem.

      Look how Swimsuit Editions are promoted and is it no wonder that Men will oogle even more when they see the real thing. As a recovering addict I often avoid the swimming pool in my apartment complex due to all of the women in bikinis.

    5. joe blow

      hi, i have an issue with lust, and bikinis are very iimmodest. i was at the beach last week, and there are soooooooooooooo many boobs there that are out there… there are girls that are showing themselves even before puberty, and their mothers are teaching them that its ok to show themselves to others. its wrong for a man to expose themselves, but women do it, its ok…

    6. Yes contact me. I have been trying to come up with a cross between some sexy flattering and something from the early 50’s when you could have something nice to wear to the pool or lake but it didnt exactly have your bottom hanging out or your boobs busting out of the tiny cups that don’t even hold them in place. I was in fashion for a long time and then one thing I never wanted to do was put on a bikini because I thought they were always too revealing. There is a way to be modest and sexy at the same time. Lets see if we can create something together. Thank you, I’m Elizabeth by the way. Nice to meet you Ms. Rey. Thank you for your time

      • Allie

        Revealing and sexy are two VERY different concepts. The most sexy outfits are flattering, but leave something to the imagination. Modest is hottest!

    7. Shirley Johnson

      Yes, bikinis are very immodest, but not only bikinis. There seems to be no work standard in clothing. I have been in department stores at the check out counters, standing next to a young man when the clerk bent over and her very immodest top let all who wanted to, see all the way to China. Also, I have been in “family” restaurants such as Ruby Tuesdays and the waitresses were wearing tops that showed more than I ever wanted to see especially at dinnertime. I was mortified for my husband and grandsons. Bring back modesty in all forms please! Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

    8. Rufonious

      No woman or child should wear this abomination. You might just as well walk around in bra and panties which is basically what bikinis are. In fact, even one-piece swimsuits are immodest.

    9. Britt

      Modest is hotest? So it’s still all about being “sexy” and “hot”? When people say that phrase I take it as a very hypocritical statement. You are still trying to entice men by ” leaving something to the imagination”…why? So they can Lust after you?
      No wonder most people think religious folks are hypocrites. Whether 1 piece or 2 piece, you are still showing most of your back, all of your legs, and your arms. Technically they’re BOTH immodest. I don’t consider myself overly religious but I wear a tankini with shorts. Why? It has nothing really to do with God (or not) but the fact that I wouldn’t want my husband looking at other women in an inappropriate way.I show him the same respect.

      Usually if you have to QUESTION whether what you are doing is “right” or not….its usually not.

      • Kay Bruner

        Hey Britt, I think the modesty question is culturally bound. What is considered modest today would have been totally scandalous 100 years ago. Culture changes and standards of modesty change, and are different in different places. We lived for many years in a place were it was fine to go bare-breasted, but showing your thighs at all was totally inappropriate. Women wore long skirts. And nothing else. They were totally modest in their own culture.

        What is constant, I believe, regardless of time or culture, is our need to treat every person–including ourselves–as precious and valuable, regardless of what we wear. The opposite of treating individuals with value and respect is objectification, which I think is the root problem of porn culture, where people are simply objects to gratify us in whatever way we want.

        Unfortunately, we can begin to think that objectification only happens when women wear the wrong thing or do the wrong thing, but the reality is: objectification happens in the minds of individuals. It’s a choice we make, regardless of what other people are wearing.

        Blessings Kay

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