The Male Gaze is Giving Me Tan Lines

I have bikini lines and I blame men!

I’ve never been a particularly self-conscious person. I’m proud of my body and while I have things I want to work on, I’m a pretty confident person. If you asked me if low self-esteem has influenced any of my fashion decisions, I would tell you no way bud.

That being said, there is one thing I have always wanted to wear but never bought, and I’m just now figuring out why.

(I promise I’m not a pervert; it’s just that shopping for bathing suits makes me very stressed.)

For the last couple of years I have wanted to buy a thong bikini bottom. I think they’re super sexy and I really like the idea of not having tan lines down there. Every time I see a woman wearing one, I get envious. Everyone I’ve seen wearing one has looked amazing, and I really, really want one.

But I can’t seem to bring myself to buy one. When I’m bathing suit shopping, I gravitate towards either full coverage bottoms or, if I’m feeling sexy, cheeky. *Gasp!* I know. So scandalous.

Try as I might, I can barely pick up a thong bikini to try it on, let alone buy one.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been self-conscious about the bathing suit bottoms I buy. I’m always making sure they cover enough of my booty to ensure that I’m dressed appropriately. Appropriately to who? Who the hell am I hiding my butt from?

The other day I started to think about why it is that I think everyone else looks so good in thong bikinis but I’m too scared to buy one. It turns out there’s a simple answer: Men.

I realized that my reluctance is because every time I try on a thong bikini, I think about people being able to see more of my butt than I’m used to exposing, and I’m worried about the way people are going to look at me, especially men. I realized I’ve been conditioned by our patriarchal society to hide parts of my body from men and it’s been making it impossible for me to buy a thong bikini.

We’re indoctrinated in the media with images of provocatively dressed, sexualized women. The women who are presented as “respectful” would never walk around on a beach in a thong bikini for the world (and her male audience) to see. Only those women who are presented as “promiscuous” or “seductive” are exposed in that way. I guess I just never wanted to be viewed sexually for just hanging out at the beach, and in my mind thong bikinis are a part of that.

I’m trying to get better about this. At the end of the summer I bought a bikini that shows more of my cheeks and sits lower on my hips, and I started wearing it while at the pool with friends and family. While I fiddled with it at first, I found out pretty quickly that no one was clutching their pearls or swooning in shock. In fact, I got lots of compliments. It was a huge confidence boost to learn that I wasn’t going to be judged for showing more of my body and that whatever subconscious beliefs I’ve had about what is or isn’t appropriate are all in my head.

I haven’t worn the bottoms to a beach or anything yet. Baby steps! Maybe next year I’ll wear my cheeky bottoms to Grand Bend and rock them with confidence, and with any luck I’ll find a bikini thong that I like and buy it without hesitation. Even if they are something I only wear with friends, it’ll feel good to wear something that I think looks sexy without being self-conscious of whether or not it’s appropriate.

My butt looks good, and if the patriarchy has a problem with that, they can kiss it.