Just a heads up, there is a lot of social and religious commentary in this article and I may have some controversial opinions.
In Western countries, there has been a large shift in recent decades towards body acceptance. It is this idea that you should take joy in your body even if society doesn’t, nobody should tell you what to do with your body except yourself, and anybody who says otherwise can go kick rocks.
With this kind of thinking quickly becoming the norm, it’s no wonder that the question of “who should not wear a bikini” is often answered with “anybody can wear a bikini if they feel like it, also stop body shaming.”
In general, I agree that you should be happy with how your body looks. That said, I think that the body positivity movement has actually become quite toxic, with many people on extreme ends of the weight spectrum claiming that they are healthy the way they are and getting a lot of support, even though there is an abundance of scientific evidence to the contrary.
This extreme belief in body positivity – that you should never be ashamed of how you look nor should you strive to change yourself – has some far-reaching consequences. This attitude might influence a young girl or woman who really should not be wearing a bikini into being bold enough to wear one to her detriment. I don’t necessarily just mean in terms of body image. Let me provide some examples.
It might not be a good idea for you to wear a bikini if it goes against your religion and causes you to feel guilt or causes friction between your religious friends and family. You should avoid wearing a bikini if you don’t want to attract too much attention from guys. If you have self-confidence issues and jump straight into wearing a bikini to try to overcome it, one bad interaction can potentially have long term negative effects on your self image. If you don’t want to use so much sunscreen when outdoors, a bikini provides little coverage against UV radiation. There are many legitimate reasons why one should not wear a bikini.
In this article, I want to play devil’s advocate and talk about some of the reasons why it might be a bad idea for select girls/women to wear a bikini. This idea goes against the grain and will definitely ruffle some feathers, but I think some vulnerable people need to hear it.
When accepting yourself can go very wrong
I’m going to be very honest. There is a very beautiful, yet very damaging lie that has become accepted as sage advice. I see it all the time on the internet, and hear it a lot in real life.
This advice is often given in the context of finding a suitable partner, getting accepted into a group of friends, or succeeding in interpersonal relationships in general. Can you guess what it is? It’s “just be yourself.”
There is an implication that being yourself and doing the things you want to do sets you down the right path, and that conforming to what other people want you to do or be sets you down the wrong path. The sentiment is very nice and maybe that logic works in Disney movies, but that’s not how real life works, at all.
Try telling a person who is extremely socially awkward, unkempt, and unhygienic to “just be yourself” when trying to make friends or find a partner, and you’re going to get someone who is still a mess, but on top of that is now frustrated and depressed months or years later because all attempts to endear people have failed. This is not good advice.
With regards to wearing a bikini, this “just be yourself” advice can be interpreted to mean something like “don’t be afraid to show off your body by wearing a revealing bikini.” In some contexts this can be empowering, but not all of them.
For example, it can embolden certain vulnerable young girls or even grown women to wear a bikini when it would lead to disastrous social consequences. It’s not sound advice, and unfortunately, some people need to think long and hard before they decide to wear a bikini to the pool or beach.
Reasons why you should not wear a bikini
It goes against your religion
North America is very religious. Christianity plays a large role in our attitudes, beliefs, and even our laws. Personally, I was raised as an Evangelical Christian. And even though I have long since renounced my faith, I cannot help but feel that it continues to have an impact on my morals and the way that I think, causing me to irrationally feel guilt over absurd things.
You might have heard Christians claim that women who wear bikinis are temptresses (actually, a stronger word is often used) that cause men to fall to the temptation of lust. You might have also been told that you have been perverted by lust for wanting to wear such a revealing outfit as well.
I often felt a lot of guilt growing up because I was taught that many of the things I did were sinful. My parents and religious leaders used that as leverage over me, constantly making me feel like I was such a failure in God’s eyes and getting me to do what they wanted me to do (or not do). I wanted their approval so I did whatever made them happy.
Over the years this abuse affected me, and even though I have since left the fold for many years, I only just recently started to feel better about what I like. Sometimes I still feel a twinge of guilt, admittedly. I needed a lot of time and therapy just to reach this point, and I know that suddenly doing all of the things that I wasn’t allowed to do would have given me a mental breakdown from the guilt.
If you were raised in an extremely conservative household and you don’t want to suddenly wear a revealing bikini because you’re scared of what might happen, that’s totally okay. Take your time, work through it at your own pace, maybe start with a tankini or something less revealing and slowly work your way to wearing a bikini.
Starting off with a bikini right away is too much of a change and it can be detrimental to your mental (and maybe even physical) health in the short term, especially if you’re still a dependent with religious nutjobs for parents.
You can be ostracized
Oftentimes a religious person wearing a bikini can result in some devastating social consequences.
Many young girls and women have felt how terrifying it was to suddenly have family and friends shun or shame them because of what they were wearing.
You will hear lots of derogatory words aimed at women such as “sl*t, wh*re, b*tch” and all manner of colorful ways to essentially label you as an escort just because you decided to wear a bikini.
Making your move too early can potentially ruin your life. If you thought your life was terrible now, it can get a lot worse. I’ve heard of horror stories, and I had to wait until I was financially better off and living on my own before I decided to “just be myself” and do whatever I wanted to do with minimal fear of repercussions.
If you’re young and still living with your parents, or you live in a small religious town, I recommend you play your cards close to your chest and wait until you move out before you decide to wear a bikini and go wild.
Your mental health isn’t in a good place
If you are someone with low self-confidence, you may have heard some advice that you just need to put yourself out there and step out of your comfort zone. If your fear is that you think you look bad in a bikini, conventional wisdom is that you need to expose yourself to more situations like that until the fear is gone.
Well, here is the counterpoint to that. Some people are mentally in such a bad place that they cannot handle a bad interaction. If a girl wears a bikini and gets ridiculed by her peers, it may negatively impact her confidence for years.
Once again, my suggestion is to go at your own pace and don’t feel the urge to conform. If you want to eventually wear a bikini but lack the confidence, take baby steps. First get comfortable with wearing a one piece, then maybe an open back one piece, then eventually a tankini, then a more revealing one that reveals your midsection slightly, then finally a regular bikini.
You will slowly build up your confidence until you can wear a bikini no problem. But if you were to jump straight into it during a very sensitive time of your life, it can cause long-lasting damage if you have a bad experience with it.
You don’t want the attention
Okay, enough about religion and mental health. There are some very practical reasons why you shouldn’t wear a bikini. One is that, due to how revealing it is, you might attract unwanted attention from the guys.
You’re going to have guys eye you up and down, maybe even approach you and try to aggressively flirt with you. Some of these guys can be creepy and won’t take no for an answer. If you reject them, they might harass you, call you names, or maybe even get violent. I know, #NotAllMen and all that, but there are enough crazies out there that women should be cautious.
You don’t want to use so much sunscreen
A bikini leaves very little covered up. This can be a problem if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors. UV radiation is no joke, so you will need to protect yourself by covering every square inch of exposed skin with it. And therein lies the problem.
With so much skin to protect, you’re going to need a lot of sunscreen. If your sunscreen needs to be applied every 45 minutes, then you might end up using an entire bottle for each day that you’re at the beach. That expense adds up and reapplying sunscreen gets old quickly.
Consider wearing a bathing suit with more skin coverage than a bikini if this is becoming an issue.
You are very active
If you’re an active gal and you want to participate in all of the beach activities, a bikini is probably not the best option. Whether you’re playing volleyball, diving, kitesurfing, going down a slide or swimming, there is a very high chance that your top, bottom, or your entire bikini can fly off at any moment. Good news for the boys, bad news for you.
In that case, your best bet is to wear either a competition two piece swimsuit or a one piece swimsuit. Then you can be reasonably confident that you can go all out in the activity without worrying about your top or bottom flying off.
There are many reasons one should not wear a bikini, from religious reasons, to mental health reasons, to very practical reasons like wanting to be more active, wanting more sun protection, or wanting to look more modest so as not to attract unwanted attention, or maybe being too young.
There are even more reasons you might want to cover up, such as to hide tattoos, scars, or love handles that you’re not comfortable with others seeing. If you know lots of photos or videos will be taken and you don’t want certain family members to see your more wild side, then best tone it down by wearing a one piece swimsuit instead of a bikini.
I realize that going against the conventional attitude of “just be yourself and do whatever you want” is probably going to irk some people, but if you are in a situation where wearing a bikini makes you the black sheep, you need to think about protecting yourself while you’re still in that world.
Get out of that situation first before you wear a bikini, otherwise you might alienate family members or friends. I can’t believe that needs to be said, but based on my own intensely religious upbringing, I know this can be true for some people.
As such, there are very valid reasons for people to not wear a bikini. If this applies to you, then bide your time; one day you will be able to wear whatever you want and nobody can stop you.