So I came across this image while surfing the Web and it got me thinking. This has been a thought that’s crossed my mind plenty of times over the course of my life, so what better opportunity than to look deeper into this and see what we can pull out of the question being asked through this image.
Essentially, the question here is why girls take issue and freak out when seen in their underwear, but not their swimwear, which a lot of the time is either equally revealing or sometimes even skimpier than their underwear.
If you’re an anime fan, you’ve definitely seen this a number of times. The classic scene, a guy accidentally walks in or falls into a room with a girl (or two or more) in various states of undress, but usually in nothing but their bare essentials, their bra and panties. They cover up, blush brightly and squeal, scream, yell, slap, punch, kick and everything in between. And then a few episodes later or sometimes in the same episode they’ll walk out to the pool or the beach in their sexy bikinis which are just as revealing if not more than the underwear they were seen in and will walk right up to the same guy who saw them nearly naked as if nothing is wrong.
If this was coming down to simple logic, absolutely this would be a weird logical process that women have. In my teens I can sympathize with this train of thought because I used to think like that as well. To take that side for a moment here, let’s look at what a person sees without analyzing anything:
Generally speaking what do guys wear as underwear? Boxers, boxer-briefs and sometimes briefs. But one would assume that the average guy is wearing underwear that goes about a third to halfway or so to their knees. That also doesn’t change much when it comes to sleeping, some guys wear pajama pants as well, but as we’re conditioned to believe based on various forms of media, most guys sleep in their boxers and it’s a toss up between them being topless or not. When it comes to swimwear however, there’s a drastic change in length. How often in a public setting do you see guys wearing any sort of swimwear that isn’t at knee-length? Board shorts are the default for most guys, you just don’t see many men walking around your average beach in shorter swim shorts and especially not a speedo.
But with women at first glance it’s a much different story. Obviously the basic underwear setup for girls are the traditional bra and panties, with varying lengths. Some bras give more cleavage and are shaped around a woman’s breasts, while some are more like tanktops cut just above the stomach. The same goes for underwear as some girls wear skimpier panties like thongs and G-strings, while others prefer boyshorts and boxers. When it comes to sleeping we’re generally conditioned to think that girls are a little more conservative when sleeping, usually wearing no bra but a t-shirt or tanktop covering up most of their upper half. The bottoms are randomized really, ranging from panties to boyshorts, to shorts, to pajama pants, it’s really dependant on the person. But when it comes to swimwear, it seems at first that there’s something weird going on. What’s the most common form of swimwear in girls? You guessed it, bikinis. Obviously some wear one-piece swimwear, some wear shorts or skirts as their bottoms, but generally speaking we picture the average girl wearing what really is like a swim version of the tradition bra and panties combination.
So really it should be no surprise to some that there are people out there who would look at this and wonder just what the deal is with girls when it comes to think situation. If a girl would take issue with being seen in their underwear, but the swimsuit they wear is even more revealing, of course some will just look at that as odd behaviour and dumb logic. But like everything else in life you can’t just judge a book by its cover.
The thing you have to take into perspective immediately is that as a society we have different levels of acceptance in various places. It’s odd for sure, but it’s a thing that exists and varies from culture to culture, country to country. Sticking here in North America where my cultural knowledge actually exists (and mostly because I can see it with my own two eyes), it’s widely accepted for girls to wear a bikini in public places like pools and beaches. Over the years swimwear has gone away from the super old-school one-pieces that used to exist, hell can you imagine being a guy wearing a white/red striped one-piece swimsuit that goes from your ankles to your neck? Sheesh! In the present day, one would argue we’re at the point now that over half of girls wear bikinis when they’re swimming. So when the clothing is marketed as normal rather than eye candy, of course you’ll see more girls wear them and not think any differently about it.
That’s another key here, what clothes are marketed as. Yes, swimwear is still marketed as making girls look sexy, but it’s also marketed as normal, everyday wear. Do you see marketing material for swimwear where it’s a bunch of guys and girls hanging out on the beach and the girls are wearing bikinis? Yes. Do you see marketing material where guys and girls are having a house party or something to that extent and the girls are wearing just their bra and panties? If you do, there’s not a whole lot of them. Generally speaking underwear is marketed in a couple of ways, they’re sexy apparel for enticing your significant other or they’re comfortable apparel for when you sleep, which if you’re not married or in a relationship where you share a bed with someone, it’s clothing you wear in private.
And that’s the biggest reason for why swimwear and underwear are treated completely different in the minds of the majority of women. Only a select few in their entire life should ever see them in these sets of clothing. Now granted for some that number will be much higher than others, but it’s not because of the number of sexual/romantic partners they have though. Besides the classic slumber party cliché where several girls are giggling and telling stories while they’re all sitting there in their bare essentials, there are moments where we all come into situations where people we don’t know or barely know will see us in just our underwear, maybe even with nothing at all.
The most common situation is one we all pretty much have to deal with during our teenage years especially, the changeroom. Is it something a lot of kids will deal with through elementary/middle school as well? Yes, but do we really think anything of it when we’re younger than say 10 or 11? Likely not. But in high school especially, there’s a little more to it than that. Speaking for experience, I went out of my way to buy boxers specifically for gym class, because pretty much all my underwear at that time were tighter-fitting boxer-briefs and I wasn’t comfortable wearing them and having 10-20 guys seeing me in them and I know I wasn’t the only one who thought that and I’m certain it wasn’t just guys who acted like this. It would not surprise me in the least that girls went out of their way to wear less revealing underwear when they would be changing in front of other girls. And some guys and girls go beyond that, opting to either wait until most of their classmates leave, or they change in a bathroom stall.
But for most it’s similar to wearing revealing swimwear at the beach, over time you get comfortable with the overall acceptance that in the boys’ or girls’ changeroom it’s okay to be seen in your underwear. And to make it lighter on everyone who’s worried about it, it’s not for a significant amount of time anyway, so it’s not like you’re having to stand their in your birthday suit for all to see. The same happens in an even more public place like changerooms at gyms and public pools. This gets ramped up further by the fact that the majority (if not all) of the people you’re changing with are people you don’t know. Now only speaking from memories as a child as I haven’t ever stepped foot in a gym changeroom and I haven’t been in the changeroom of a public pool or anything like that since before I was a teenager, there are certainly people both male and female (because I sometimes changed in the family changerooms when I was much younger) that had no issue either being naked or barely covered up around other strangers. So there are some places that people can somewhat accept to be seen naked or in their underwear in public.
The most important thing we have to remember though, is simply that some people handle situations differently with others and that reflects on a number of factors, being what they wear whether it’s swimwear or underwear, where they will wear said clothes and the level of comfort they have either being seen in them or walking around in them. Some girls are very shy and don’t want to be seen in compromising positions so they will wear less revealing clothing and go out of their way to ensure no one sees them in something like their underwear. But there are also girls who are far more comfortable with their bodies for whatever reason, whether they’re more flirtatious and perverted, or quite frankly they’re just okay with people seeing them in little to no clothing because it’s not a problem for them. Some just operate with a “you can look but you can’t touch” attitude, because they can differentiate between someone staring at them from someone they allow to get close to them and actually touch what the fabric covers. It’s a matter of personal preference, it’s why some girls are okay with even walking around naked in more private settings but around strangers nonetheless. It’s the same kind of reasoning that some girls walk around their house in their underwear or even naked when the blinds or curtains aren’t blocking the outside view. Some are just more comfortable with themselves while others limit the public eye to just their body in a bikini, which goes back to the whole public acceptance thing.
So when you take all that into account, it shouldn’t be any surprise that presumably the majority of girls take offense to being seen in their underwear, but not their swimwear. It has a lot to do with cultural and societal acceptance, if it’s generally okay to everyone to wear a somewhat revealing bikini, then more girls than not will have no problem wearing one. But when it’s not as widely accepted for people, especially strangers to see you in your underwear, of course those same girls will freak out if someone catches them in their bra and panties, even if what they’re wearing is way less revealing than the bikini they were just changing out of.
So taking all this in, I’ll give my own personal feelings on how I’d react, granted I’m not a girl but it’s not like we’re far apart, feelings-wise. I wear board shorts as my swimwear, that’s my default, but it’s not like I’d have a problem upgrading to something shorter, in fact I own a pair of swim shorts where the fabric stops about maybe a third the way to my knees. But I’ve never worn it when at a pool or beach with friends. Why? Because I don’t want to deal with the risk people would look at me differently because I’m wearing something more revealing that what the norm is. But what about underwear? Well now that I don’t have to share changerooms with people anymore like I did in high school, I haven’t worn loose boxers in years, my wardrobe consists of half and half between boxer-briefs and briefs. They’re tighter-fitting which makes it more comfortable for me. But how would I react if someone saw me in just my underwear? I’d be covering up and freaking out a bit too.
So with that in mind, of course I can understand any girl who shares the same feelings on this issue. If I would have an issue being seen in my underwear by people I don’t want to see me in them, why would I have any problem with a girl having the same issue when she has more to cover up, generally will wear clothing more sexually enticing to those attracted to women, because let’s be honest men’s clothing is not often marketed sexually in any way, and girls are part of a gender that is looked at more sexually than any other gender. Women are certainly marketed as sexually appealing and in some bad cases, simply as sex objects so much more than men that it’s kind of disgusting.
The only way to really balance everything out is pretty much a complete cultural and societal change which is pretty much impossible no matter where you go. You might see little changes here and there, but to completely overhaul an entire society’s views on something is just not an easy task to accomplish. It’s also much easier to remove past views and perceptions than it is to put old removed views back in. To make more sense of what I’m saying here, this is a little prediction I have. While I can’t set a timeline for when this change will slowly occur, I truly do believe that the likelihood of girls being more comfortable wearing just a bra (like a sports bra) or bikini top in public is far more possible to happen than for girls to start covering up when it comes to swimwear, such as wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms. Like I said, it’s far easier for us to allow more than it is to deny. It’s why the likelihood of swimwear getting even more revealing as years go by is higher than the likelihood of swimwear going back to more conservative styles. I’m not saying it will be common place for girls to wear bikinis with bottoms that are more like thongs, but as years go by, I do think it’s more likely for some girls to do just that, rather than go back to a one-piece.
Lastly, will both men and women become more comfortable in their underwear over time? I think so, but it’s not like you’ll see any drastic changes. We have to remember that at least those who live in North America live in a culture that still has a few problems handling sexual content. It’s not taught very well in schools, we try to ban more sexual content than violence and especially in America, they’re more concerned with making sure kids don’t see a pair of naked titties than they are with them getting shot by crazy people with automatic assault rifles. Like I said, it’d require a massive culture shock and I seriously doubt that will happen anytime soon, likely not even in my lifetime if it ever does happen.
So after over 2000 words pertaining to the question, why do girls have no problems wearing bikinis in public, but have a problem being seen in their equally revealing underwear? It’s simple: Because that’s how they feel! It’s none of your business why, it’s a choice they get to make as a human being. But if you want a few reasons why they possibly feel that way, it really has a lot to do with cultural norms and acceptance. But honestly, it could really just come down to you’re seeing them in a bikini around other people, while if you see them in their underwear, they’re alone and vulnerable. And when we associate underwear more sexually than swimwear, of course it will garner a different reaction over the other.
It’s not “women’s logic”, it’s human logic. Deal with it.