Jessica Rey’s fairly recent video on the evolution of the swimsuit has been creating a small stir on the internet. She argues in her video that contrary to the position that bikinis empower women, they actually give them power to shut down a man’s ability to conceptually relate. The answer to this negative power is showing off ones dignity through modesty.
I find her argumentation lacking. Although it may have only been because of time constraint, her arguments lack the depth needed for the topic. First, read this post by Rachel Held Evanst. In it she does help to broaden the discussion beyond just men’s brains and a cursory reference to modesty.
Rachel points out that the article done by Dr. Fiske of Princeton University has several issues. She includes that the there was only a small sample pool, only headless pictures of women, and that the subjects used already had a sexist view. I would also like to add the critique of a control group. According to the book Wired for Intimacy by William Struthers, there is problem with studying the affects of porn and objectification because it is difficult to find a control group that has not had a great exposure to pornography. I would like to know the porn addiction history of the men in the study by Dr. Fiske.
I would surmise that individuals who have not been exposed to pornography, or any form of advertisement, would be less likely to objectify women. Almost all advertisements and pop culture objectifies women’s bodies and trains men to do the same. This is a culturally trained pattern that men must actively fight against in order to responsible for their own thoughts.
Men are responsible to keep their thoughts captive, but we cannot expect them to do this on their own. Should women cover everything up? That would depend upon your culture and I will leave that discussion for someone else. What is necessary is that we equip men to be able to deal with culture and its training to sexualize woman’s bodies.
From car commercials, to advertisements for watches to television series, women’s bodies are portrayed as sexual, completely clothed or not. In most advertisements it goes beyond how much skin is showing and into the body language of the female. She is postured so as to accentuate curves and present herself as a target.
Are female bodies innately sexual? I don’t think so. But our society is making it that way. As is evidence by some cultures that find the ankle to be the most sexual part of the female body, what is sexual and what is not is simply what we are trained to think. Currently we are training men to think of every part of a female as sexual.
As we seek to train men to control their thoughts, we also must train them to think counter culturally. They must learn to think of the female body as a person, not an object of value that helps to sell cars, watches, boats and deodorant. The battle of men and women to control their minds is constant. Understanding what culture is teaching us, and then learning what Scripture teaches us is another very useful skill for the battle.