Comparing modesty for guys and girls

Hi everyone! I am a traditional Roman Catholic in the U.S… The other day, after having a conversation with my sister about modesty, I thought to myself the question “Why is it okay for guys to take their shirts off, but it’s not okay for girls to just show their stomach?” Please don’t think that I like immodesty or that I am trying to justify it. I love modesty and am just looking for an answer. Thank you all so much!!!


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Modesty restrictions on women generally have always been greater than modesty restrictions for men, because of the longstanding societal idea (probably rooted in some truth) that men get visually stimulated by looking at women who are showing their bodies, more so than women get visually stimulated by men who are showing their bodies.

Men also traditionally have done a lot of hard physical labor where it was often more practical to not wear a lot of clothing because it impedes movement, raises body temperature, and also because clothing until relatively recent times was an expensive and hard-to-make item and you didn’t want to ruin good clothes by wearing them to break rocks in the sun or whatever. Society got used to seeing men going around topless. In some parts of the world outside European society, women also went around topless for similar reasons and in those cultures often the woman’s breast and torso aren’t as sexualized and it’s not considered immodest for women to go topless, until of course the European Christian missionaries arrived and were aghast because their culture would not approve such a thing.

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This is a great answer!!! Thank you! Would you also say that a woman’s stomach isn’t inherently sexual, rather, our culture has sexualized it?

I don’t think any part of a body is “inherently sexual” except maybe the sex organs, and even the visible parts of those are often used by the body for other purposes (men urinate through their organ, women birth babies through their organ).

Back when cultures were more isolated from each other, different cultures found different body parts to be sexual. In Japan for example, the back of a woman’s neck was considered very sexual, so a woman revealing that might be dressing suggestively. Her breasts on the other hand weren’t considered very sexual.

Modesty in dress is heavily based on what the social norm is for your particular culture and point in time.


I guess it depends on your culture, but in Europe and North America at least, every place where it’s okay for a guy to be shirtless it is also acceptable for a woman to wear a bikini.

He’s talking about modest dress standards, not about what the culture in general permits. The culture would permit a woman to walk around on a basketball court in a bikini where men were playing a basketball game without shirts on, and would permit a woman in a bikini to do yard work in her own yard, but it wouldn’t be considered very modest for her to do so in either context. Most proponents of modesty don’t even approve of bikinis at the pool or on the beach.

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Guys are ugly-nobody cares. But such values are also a cultural thing-with no basis in reality. For example, animals don’t bother covering up but ever since Eden man, noble creature that he is, can’t seem to avoid experiencing bodily shame to one degree or another. And we’ve lost control over our natural appetites as well. Such is the case with fallen man; innocence is lost and we won’t ever regain it fully in this life, living here in a rather compromised state of being.

I have stopped going to the beach. A beautiful friend of mine who competed in beauty contests, said this:
“Bikinis look like underwear. I don’t want people seeing me in my underwear.”

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Go to the Catechism:

[2522] Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.

[2523] There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.

2524 The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.

2533 Purity of heart requires the modesty which is patience, decency, and discretion. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person.


There is nothing in catholic teaching that would forbid a woman wearing a bikini at the beach. People who disapprove of women wearing bikinis most often don’t approve of shirtless men, either.

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Many Catholics would disagree with you and say that Catholic teaching does indeed frown on wearing bikinis, unless perhaps you are wearing them in the privacy of your own home in front of your spouse only.
It’s true that many of those people would also disapprove of shirtless men, but not all.

Pretty much every Catholic in my very large family during the 70s and 80s disapproved of bikinis. One-piece swim suits and more modest 2 piece suits on women were okay, but not bikinis. Nobody had a modesty issue with shirtless men.

I myself don’t have much of an opinion on the matter since I’m old and my years of considering wearing a bikini are long past, nor do I have any younger people around whose clothing I need to comment on.

Okay, that sure seems to be a double standard then.

Women do not look like men. There is a separate, appropriate standard for each, men and women.

The first part would be commonly held to be true. Where does the second part (about stomachs) come from?

Most Catholics tell me that it’s not okay for girls to show their stomach.

That’s a new one on this catholic!

I actually have heard this from a few guys. They explain it away by claiming the stomach is sacred because uteruses…basically.

Oh my goodness!

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