Maria Goretti and swimsuits

Maria Goretti and swimsuits

Today is the feast day of St Maria Goretti, the eleven year old virgin and martyr.

In the final month of her short life, Goretti repeatedly refused the sexual advances of Alessandro Serenelli, a nineteen year old neighbour, who in the end attempted to rape her at knife point. Goretti resisted, reportedly screaming “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” Serenelli stabbed her fourteen times, and though her wounds were mortal, she lived another 24 hours, in which time she forgave Serenelli and despite her terrible suffering spoke only of God and the splendour of Heaven.

I get the impression that these days, for everyone who celebrates her heroic witness, there is another who is uncomfortable with the story.

Do we really want to encourage the message, some will ask, that it’s better to die a virgin than to survive a rape? I think Goretti’s integrity and courage can be universally admired. But not surprisingly, her sexual mores are a bit too alien for some.

It’s especially apt, I think, to present the following video on her feast day. The video, like the life and death of Maria Goretti, raises challenging and controversial claims about purity and modesty.

Jessica Rey is an MBA, an actress, and now a fashion designer who repudiates the immodesty of the bikini. Apart from anything else, her history of the swimsuit is illuminating!

Now I’m wise enough not to pontificate about female fashions and modesty on this blog. But I will add this: the scientific study Rey cites is dubious. The photos in that study were cropped at the neck, so that the women’s bodies were depicted, but their faces were not. In such circumstances, it’s not surprising that the men responded to those photos as they would respond to impersonal objects. Whatever the effect of the bikini, headless bodies are always dehumanizing! This is a point which is worth clarifying, but it certainly doesn’t discredit Rey’s other claims.

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