The Bikini and the Male Brain

Photo by © Simon Krzic |

Perhaps you’ve seen the video already, if not you can watch it below. But the history lesson of the bikini by designer Jessica Rey has been generating a lot of debate on the merits of the bikini and the need for modesty in general. It would seem that the bikini and the male brain interact in some pretty interesting ways.

Bikini Facts That Will Probably Blow Your Mind

One of the more interesting facts Ms. Rey brings up is on the impact of the bikini (and other immodest clothing) on the male mind. Major studies have shown that when men are shown pictures of scantily clad women that the portion of their brain that thinks about tools and other “things” lights up while the medial prefrontal cortex in many men shuts down.

The medial prefrontal cortex is the portion of the brain that is used when considering the feelings and value of another person. In other words, immodest dress causes men, quite involuntarily (I’ll explain why in a minute), to not see the woman as a person. 

A Hateful Response to the Bikini Information – From Women?

When I read the response to her video, I was shocked at the virulent anger expressed toward Ms. Rey – by women! There was a substantial amount of name-calling and hate directed toward this designer for the information she shared.

But there was also another common response – the “men shouldn’t be that way” response.

This response misses the point entirely. The point of the study was not that men are choosing to look at women like a thing, but that the very sight of a scantily clad woman (i.e., wearing a bikini or other minimal clothing) induces this effect involuntarily. This is the way the male brain was designed to react to the exposed (or nearly so) female body

Ms. Rey is providing the evidence of what the bikini and other skimpy things cause a man to think, while apparently a lot of women just don’t want to hear it. So they shoot the messenger.

The Purposeful Beauty of the Female Body

It isn’t that there is something bad about a woman’s body – not at all.

In fact, it is good and powerful. Extremely powerful. 

Understood from a design standpoint, the woman’s body and it’s enchanting and captivating beauty serves a very good purpose.

But like many good things (i.e. food, prescription drugs, etc) if a woman’s body is revealed too much at the wrong time to the wrong person (or people) it’s power can go awry.

Hang with me on this. Let me paint a beautiful but realistic scenario between a young married couple – Marlene and Joe.

Unintentional But Good  Bikini Power

Marlene and Joe got married right out of college. Things were great, the excitement was enthralling and the passion was hot and frequent. Joe and Marlene were pretty happy, they had what seemed to be the perfect marriage.

But then they entered their eighth month. Their student loans payments started, along with the car payments and apartment rent. Of course they had to eat, too.

Joe took an extra job, while Marlene went back to school to get a Master’s degree so she could earn more to help out.

Joe rarely gets to see Marlene and when he does – she is in the books. He comes home from work tired and hungry – but Marlene has little time or energy to cook. Her course load is heavy, and she is writing research papers constantly. Her focus is on school, not him. This isn’t the way it used to be. It’s not what he wants.

Joe is also coming home horny – and Marlene is shocked that he would be so selfish and not considerate of her heavy load. This is not what she wants.

Joe is shocked that Marlene would be so selfish and not considerate of his heavy load. The anger is building between them, and it is coming to a head one night. This is not what either of them wants.

Then Marlene does something powerful – but quite unintentional.

Tool Time

As Joe sits frustrated watching the last of the ball game on the tube, Marlene reaches her study fatigue limit and has to get in bed. Too  tired to get on her PJ’s, she slips out of her clothes and is going to bed wearing nothing but a rather stylish pair of undies and a clingy tank top. But she is thirsty, so she heads down the hall and struts right in front of Joe, just before the final big play of the game. She snarls at him angrily as she passes by.

Joe doesn’t see the angry snarl. Nor does he see his team’s fumble recovery and 87 yard run to win the game in the last 17 seconds of the game. His mind was hijacked without his permission. With a swish of feminine hips the anger and angst of Joe is instantly swept away.

His mind switches from game and anger and instantly (and quite uncontrollably) into tool mode. He see’s her incredible figure, accentuated by the tiny undies (similar to bikini bottoms) and the tank top (similar also, to some swimwear) and he suddenly wants to use what he sees. That may sound kind of cold, but as you will see, it serves an important relational purpose.

Houston, We Have a Problem…

Joe’s desire for orbital insertion (to use a space program term) is fraught with challenges tonight – the relationship between his desired gorgeous gal and himself is not what it should be. They have talked very little, and for Marlene sex is the last thing she wants to do tonight. When it comes to do with what she wanted to do to Joe that night, her desires involved bodily harm rather than intimacy.

Joe realizes something important in his still new but already troubled (not uncommon, by the way) marriage. First, he still cares for Marlene and wants the relationship to be great. Of course he wants her body too, in the worst sort of way.

Further, probably unknown to him, he and Marlene are strongly bonded together because of all of the passionate intimacy of the last seven months. Click this link to understand this wonderful blessing of sex.

He also knows enough about women (and Marlene in particular) to know that to have sex with her while the relationship is rocky will not be good sex.

So Joe has to either be frustrated with the status quo (rocky relationship equals no tool time) or pursue the repair of the relationship with Marlene. The desire and need for sex, coupled with the sudden and dramatic appearance of this amazingly enticing female body will drive Joe to seek the healing of the relationship – if he is wise.

In other words, even though Marlene did not mean to arouse Joe that night when she walked in front of him in her skimpy outfit (she didn’t think her outfit was appealing at all, and sex was the furthest thing from her mind), she suddenly finds Joe grabbing her hand and saying, “Hey baby, let’s talk. I need to apologize to you for…”

She suddenly finds the man she loved who wanted to listen to and help her still wants to listen to her and help her. While men are not generally as  conversationally intimate as women are, that strong desire initiated by Marlene’s sudden appearance at the ball game – well, it helped him to seek to repair the relationship.

In marriage, that gorgeous female form is all good. It is purposeful, enjoyable, and wonderful. But outside of marriage, some caution can be beneficial.

The Dark Side of Bikini Power…

Marriage is the venue that our Creator God designed for the female form to assert its amazing power – a power to pull a man toward his woman to achieve true intimacy, not just a quick hook up.

But the same amazing and gorgeous female form has the same power on the random man walking down the street when it is too openly displayed. We have to understand, the female form is not bad at all, it’s great. It just doesn’t need to be paraded in front of the wrong people at the wrong time.

It’s not just body parts that get men’s attention. It is the overall curvaceous shape – many men  (and research proves this as well) find the scantily clad woman far more arousing than a fully nude one. Today’s styles of short skirts, shorts, and revealing necklines are shutting down the compassionate component of men’s brains everywhere.

I know that is not what most women intend to do – to them the minimal clothing is  just “fashion” and perhaps “cute.” The problem is that women’s eyeballs are connected to a womanly brain. Men see your cute fashions in an entirely different way – and not in a way that they have control over.

There is a place for that kind of clothing – in the privacy of marriage. Otherwise, save that beautiful body for the guy who loves  you for who you are, and then share the pretty paint job (the exterior, your “bod”) once you have the ring on your finger.

It’s not that the men are weird, it’s just the way they are wired.

You can do what you want with your body – but there are consequences. As Spiderman’s uncle noted, “With great power comes great responsibility.”


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