Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Naked Girls, Modest Guys

Summer is near, It will soon be bathing suit weather and women across the world will be looking in the mirror, dieting, buying cosmetic elixirs promising the impossible, worrying about every real and perceived figure flaw.

That got me thinking. For my novel, The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell, I researched swim wear in the early 20th century. In 1920, men wore tight shorts and wife-beater teeshirts when they ventured into the water. At the same time, respectable women wore long skirts and stockings. Some women's swim teams did adopt men's suits, but in 1922, women wearing such "indecent" attire were arrested on the beach in Chicago.

Today, the guys wear boxy, knee-length shorts that would seem modest to a time traveler from the early 1900s, while girls are next to naked, every blemish, every tiny roll of flesh. Are we giving up our mystery?

I read a book by an American who went to Saudi Arabia. When he attended party of Westerners, he found unveiled faces of women incredibly erotic. Now, I'm certainly not in favor of veiling women, but I wonder are we giving up some of our allure by flaunting so much Southern exposure? American men could wear the tiny briefs we see on European beaches, but they don't want to be that exposed. Why do we? Just asking.

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