Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Bikini Answer: I Am Not Cake

Okay, so this is definitely turning into multiple posts. Consider the real-life story to be an intro to all the posts. Then each post will include some quotations from the original offensive text, some quotations of other commentary, and then my own thoughts.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The CRAZIEST thing happened on Saturday. My besties Lauren and Hardy invited Beau and me to hang out at the pool with them. I wore a bikini. So did Lauren.

And nothing happened.

When Hardy hugged me hello, he didn’t suddenly lose control or grab my boobs or my butt. When Beau hugged Lauren hello, he didn’t suddenly lust after her or treat her like a sex object. And when Lauren and I hugged hello, not a single guy whipped out a dick to start an orgy.

It’s almost as though Hardy and Beau (and the other dudes who were at the pool) are human beings, not animals, who are capable of seeing women in skimpy clothing without immediately needing to be sexual with them. In fact, they’re capable of TOUCHING women in skimpy clothing without that touch or their thoughts turning sexual.

So I guess it’s not so much that the craziest thing happened on Saturday, but that it’s totally crazy that nothing happened.

Or at least, that’s what the author of the viral post “The Bikini Question” would have you believe. Apparently all men are visual creatures who are incited to lust by a woman’s body. Apparently all women should wear one-piece bathing suits… no, wait, apparently we should all wear shirts and shorts over our bathing suits… But wait, I’ve been complimented on my legs before, and my hair, and the tattoo on my foot… Does that mean I should go swimming in a burqa? If women have to dress a certain way to keep men from lusting after them, that’s the logical conclusion… right?

Those paragraphs were a nice combination of hyperbole and sarcasm, just in case y’all didn’t catch on to that.

I am (hopefully) posting this on June 27th, so I’m a little late to this modesty party. Sorry, but I’ve been too busy celebrating my birthday all month long (I’m not kidding) to take a few hours to write about all my feelings on modesty culture. However, I have been reading epic responses from so many other awesome feminists and/or Christians, and I want to highlight a few of their thoughts before I jump into my own.

From the original bikini-hating post:

Let’s try and put ourselves in a guy’s shoes. I think we can all agree that as girls, exercise is important to us. We want to stay healthy and are often working on getting fit. We work out and stay away from carbs or sweets. We use all of our willpower to not eat the chocolate cake on the counter! Now, let’s pretend that someone picked up that chocolate cake and followed us around all the time, 24/7. We can never get away from the chocolate, it’s always right there, tempting us and even smelling all ooey gooey and chocolate-y. Most of us, myself included, would find it easy to break down and eat the cake. And we would probably continue to break down and eat cake, because it would always be there. Our exercise goals would be long gone in no time.

Cake is something I eat. It is not something I am.

In “Chocolate Cake Can’t Consent,” Libby Anne writes: 

“There’s no reason for chocolate cake to be paraded around a person besides trying to entice them to eat it, so the analogy suggests that women dress sexy simply to tempt men sexually, taunting them and keeping them on the brink of “breaking down.” ”

Over at Defeating the Dragons, Samantha says: 

“Because, in this metaphor where a woman is a chocolate cake, the woman has no choice. A woman, plain and simple, just is a chocolate cake, and the fact is that, as a woman, there’s nothing she can do to change that.* She doesn’t have a say in the matter. She’s a woman. She’s ooey-gooey and smells like heaven, and so she gets eaten. No one asks her if that would be ok. No one asks her if that’s what she wants. Because she’s a cake. She exists to be eaten.”

At All That Jazz, Bethany expresses: 

“I am completely against this whole "chocolate cake" illustration. First of all, it is assuming that men are tempted 24/7 by everything around them, and that it's only a matter of time until they give in. Secondly, it places the blame for the lust on the woman (it's the cake's fault for being there in the first place). Thirdly, I completely disagree with the idea that if we are confronted with a temptation all the time then it is only a matter of time until we give in. NO. This is why we have Christ.”

In the second part of a three-part series (and seriously, it’s so hard just picking out a few lines from this post, go read the original, PLEASE), Abi writes: 

“Chocolate cake is not sentient. It has no wants or desires. It does not have to consent before you eat it. It exists solely to be eaten… Women, on the other hand… are designed for many purposes, none of which is to be consumed without agency… Furthermore, there is… no universe I’m aware of in which cake chases you around and forces you to eat it… [But] This cake is personal; this cake is targeting you. Getting this cake to respect your boundaries would take a restraining order. Equating this sort of cake-harassment to women who are wearing bikinis in their natural environment — the beach, the pool — is a tremendously false comparison, one that assumes that if a woman is wearing something “immodest” she is doing it at men, deliberately, in a malicious attempt to sabotage their self-control.”

Basically, we’re all pissed that the original writer thinks comparing women to cake (this is called OBJECTIFICATION) is a perfect analogy for explaining how difficult it is for the poor menz not to… what? Lust after women? Rape women? Yeah. HORRIBLE ANALOGY.

Here are the reasons I, personally, hate this analogy.

  1. It assumes all women are the same. I don’t work out. I am skinny because my body hates me. I also don’t like chocolate. I have zero problems turning down a chocolate cake that apparently follows me around 24/7. 
  2. It assumes all men are the same. It assumes all men are constantly trying to resist women. All men are constantly struggling not to… consume women. 
  3. It assumes all women in bikinis are automatically trying to tempt men. We are throwing ourselves at men. We are flaunting our hot bodies in the hopes that men will consume us. 
  4. It assumes women in bikinis exist in a constant state of consent. If a woman is wearing a bikini, she exists solely for men to consume her, and she has no choice over being consumed.

I’ve blogged about this before. My boobs have nothing to do with you. When I wear a bikini, that has nothing to do with you. I am not trying to tempt you. I am not wearing an open invitation to flirt with me, or lust after me, or kiss me, or have sex with me. I wear a bikini for a lot of reasons, and none of them having anything to do with any man, not even my boyfriend.

So when someone compares me to chocolate cake that is constantly following a woman on a diet, I am pissed.

That is offensive. That objectifies me. That promotes rape culture.

And that is NOT okay.


  1. AH! it begins. glad that this is going to be more than one post because I love reading all the links you share! (you know I agree with you, anyway, so it's interesting to learn from your sources, too.)

    my post clearly did not go up today and I actually couldn't write it without calling out specific religious groups (bad restraint on my part...) so it's not specifically about modesty anymore but I hope you like it! scheduled for Tues :)

    1. Ha, you know I have zero problems with calling people out. I have posts that deliberately call out people on twitter and link to their accounts. I'm looking forward to reading your less confrontational(?) take on the matter.

      I have SO many more sources! Just you wait! I've bookmarked about eight (I think) posts in response to this ONE bikini post. And I plan on quoting all of them. They take different perspectives, and some of them, like me, address multiple points. But I just realized that with all the quoting I'm doing, I need to break my posts down thematically so my readers aren't overwhelmed. :)

  2. The sarcastic auto-response in me says "Sure, I'm chocolate cake... if you are what you eat." but then I also just told my neighbor's cat that I had literal muffin top, as I shared some chocolate chip muffins I baked with my neighbor.

    But really, honestly, when you first tweeted that post all I felt was rage. As far as the part of my rage concerning the chocolate cake analogy, the quotes you have above sum it up more succinctly than I, so I'll leave it to them with a PREACH.

    But I'm hoping a later post of yours goes further on the persecution of men as a gender in this post- because to be honest, that is what enrages me the most. As a female who grew up in a big city and is wary when the same car makes two or more turns behind me and who practices mentally describing people I've only just seen momentarily, yes, I am very aware of our society's rape culture. But as a human being who appreciates others as individuals, I hate that my high school guy friends, who (many times) walked me to my car when it was around the block from the house party, or my male college roommate who held me for over an hour when my cat got hit by a car, or my husband who stops the friskiness when I am too tired to respond, even without a verbal "no"- are all lumped together as sexual predators just because they have penises. Rape culture makes victims out of both genders, yet another reason it needs to end.

    1. If I were a man, I would be SO offended and frankly, pissed, at the implication that too many women in bikinis would lead me to, at best, lust after woman, and, at worst, RAPE women. I mean, call me crazy, but I happen to hold men in higher esteem than that.

    2. I, as a man get offended when people think that all guys lust after woman, when she is wearing something that shows a lot of skin.I was taught to respect women no matter what they wear.Anything more than a hug when meeting is in offensive to me .I really appreciate your post. Not all men are animals that cannot control them selves.I as a Christian and can and always control my self.If a lady that wears clothing that covers her entire body some people will still lust after her, it doesn't matter what she wears, or doesn't wear.

    3. Hi, Douglas. Thanks for commenting. I agree entirely that this perspective is offensive to men. Most of the men I know are respectful of women and don't treat us like sex objects. I plan on writing a full-length post on how modesty culture hurts men too.

  3. As someone who considers my worldview to be decidedly "anti-feminist," I still agree with a lot of your points. Comparing a woman to a cake is just...wrong. And offensive. Blech.

    1. Bwahahahahahahaha, spend enough time reading my stuff, and you might not start calling yourself a feminist, but you'll probably stop calling yourself anti-feminist. I've single-handedly convinced a LOT of people (including ordained ministers of conservative denominations) to rethink their stance on feminist issues, even if they have yet to fully embrace feminist beliefs. Once you (generic you, not you specifically) manage to realize the Straw Feminist isn't real, you start to understand feminism a lot more.

    2. The word "feminist" brings up so many feelings for so many people, and most of them are based on straw men (straw women?). It was a huge step for me to go from being raised as a homeschooler and hearing preachings against the evils of feminism to go to calling my blog "Fisking Feminist", but it was a journey of my eyes being opened.

    3. I agree entirely. Unfortunately, the conservative right has succeeded in painting feminists/feminism as horrible and evil and bad for women. But for most of us, it's very simple. We believe women are human beings. In a society that treats men as human beings and women as other, we still need feminism.

  4. You're post is absolutely spot on. As are all the quotes you've pulled from other bloggers protesting the chocolate cake comparison. I've just read the original bikini post, and I find it absolutely laughable. You've done such a great job putting together the logic of why the metaphor is ludicrous, that I don't feel the need to add to it, other than to say to the author of the original bikini post (who has comments closed unfortunately): Hey, guess what. Your whole concept of modesty is absurd, because it's entirely subjective. You think you are somehow more modest than girls who prefer bikinis because you wear a one piece? Well, on a nudist beach, the girl in a bikini would be considered modest. And on any beach I'm at, if I see an attractive girl in a tight, one piece bathing suit which shows off her curves just as much as bare skin would, she's going to catch my eye. Does that mean I'm going to imagine myself suddenly having sex with her on the sand? I doubt it. But I will probably think something like "hot damn" to myself and appreciate the beauty of a woman's body, which doesn't mean I respect her any less as a human being. Oh, and I wear a bikini myself. Yes, that means I'm a lesbian. And if that makes my opinion irrelevant to you, you have far greater issues that need to be dealt with besides your illogical views on modesty.

    1. Thank you! Keep in mind, this post is just the beginning. I've written my second one already, about the differences between appreciation, attraction, and lust. And I have many more in mind, because SO much of this is wrong.

      Also, the heteronormative attitude is DEFINITELY a problem with modesty culture. That, and thinking only men are visually stimulated. Um, no.


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Comments are moderated because I receive a lot of spam, and I think CAPTCHA is annoying. I reply to most of your comments within the comment section because it inspires discussion between readers. For first-time commenters, I try to reply by email.

Yes, you can comment anonymously. Yes, you can disagree with me. However, as of 05/31/2013, if you are commenting anonymously, and your words are hateful or abusive, I will publish these at my discretion. I like that my blog can be a forum for discussion, but anything that blames or mocks survivors of sexual assault will NOT be tolerated.


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