July 28, 2004

The Pope on Beach Attire

There's been a call to modesty in female bathing attire in certain quarters of st. blogdom, and it's a healthy thing. I'm all for the mercy shown by a woman who covers herself and helps us avoid sin. But on the other hand it seems that context and "what we are used to" plays such a big role in lust. That many Islamic men have a fetish for women's ankles (because that's all Muslim women show) leads one to despair or to at least to a focus on the viewer rather than the viewee.

The Holy Father wrote in Love & Responsibility that context is important. "When a person uses a form of dress in accordance with its objective function we cannot claim to see anything immodest in it, even if it involves partial nudity. For example, there is nothing immodest about the use of a bathing costume at a bathing place, but to wear it out in the street or while out for a walk is contrary to the dictates of modesty."

One could say that the function of a bathing suit is to swim, but the real function is to tan, which requires less clothing. One might question the importance of this goal, but there it is. The Pope is saying that context matters, but what I don't understand is that my eyes don't understand context. In other words, mine react to the provocation of skin whether it be on the street or on the beach.

And the Holy Father recognizes this. "Although physical immodesty cannot be identified in a simple way with nakedness as such, it none the less requires a real internal effort to refrain from reacting to the naked body in an immodest way."

It seems that much of it might be what you are used to. If you are used to seeing women in burqas, it doesn't take much to provoke arousal. Since many of us rarely visit a beach...

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