Modest Swimming?

Is it immodest for a young man to swim bare-chested at mix-gendered swim meets? Why or why not?

Background to question: Scotland’s national standards require male swimmers to swim bare-chested.

Scotland is weird. lol

Agreed. My friend’s son is ready to swim competitively. My friend wants to raise his sons to be modest men. He thinks this is a violation of modesty and asked my opinion. And so I’m here.

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And no, I don’t think it is immodest per se, because the male breast is not innately sexual, as the female breast is.

And yes, I know that some African Christians have argued that the female breast is not innately sexual. I believe they are wrong. And I don’t think I’m being inconsistent.

But there ought to be no law against wearing a shirt if you want to.


Are you asking about shirts or shaving? I thought you were taking about shaving. I don’t think there should be a law mandating either. I don’t think either is immodest. But I don’t think chest shaving is very manly. (Though I don’t guess most women shave their chests). I don’t think beard shaving is very manly either.

I know I wouldn’t do it if chest shaving was required. Or beard shaving. I’d swim without a shirt though.

Do they have to wear those Speedos? That seems immodest but that may just be, like, my opinion, man.

Not talking about shaving the chest. Such blatant paganism is not in question.

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The question is about not wearing a top in public (going bear chested) should be a cultural point of imodestry for a boy. The specific situation is at a public swimming pool. It seems that generally in cultural it is considered inappropriate/ imodest for a male to be bear chested unless we are near a body of water and then suddenly all is well. Is this not inconsistent?

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Welcome, friend.

No, I don’t think it’s inconsistent. Context does play into modesty in a major way. There are times where the only reason to take off your shirt is to show off your physique. And there are times where the purpose is to go swimming.

Similarly, no matter how modest the swimwear for a woman, there are very few other places where it would be appropriate attire.

Gotta run for now.

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Why would one “need” to take a top off to swim? In many cases it makes sense to keep warm keeping a swim top on. In fact in recent competitive swimming they have banned full body suits as it give too much competitive advantage.

It’s common to ban regular street clothes from public swimming pools. The reasoning is that bathing clothes are more sanitary.

Combine this with swimming shirts being too advantageous for competition, and now what is there to wear for a man?

Perhaps finding the reasoning of the rule would allow an exception. Maybe there exists a bathing shirt that is not speedy.

I agree with @jtbayly, @Davedickson. And it’s different for men and women because our bodies are different (utility emphasis/beauty emphasis).

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You wouldn’t. But as a man that generally wears a shirt while swimming, I can attest to the fact that if you don’t get a skin-tight shirt that is made for swimming, you will be miserable attempting to swim in a shirt. I know, because I don’t have such a shirt. Nor will it keep you warmer, but rather keep you cold longer, especially if you are dumb enough to wear cotton. Again, personal experience speaking here, and I’m known for my blue lips while swimming.

If I had a choice, I’d swim without a shirt. But the little amount of sun I get prevents a day on the beach sans shirt.

But all of that is beside the point. Culture doesn’t see it as immodest to be without a shirt as a man. Rather they see it as rude and gross, or at best, vane preening. Nobody thinks twice of a man tossing a new shirt on at the basketball court, or any number of other examples where women would not be able to do the same thing. Movie ratings carry the same reality. The whole “free the nipple” movement is an attempt to deny that there is a difference between men and women by denying that there is a difference between their breasts and ours, thereby bringing female upper body cultural modesty expectations down to the same level as men.


When I play tennis I wear a certain set of appropriate shorts and t-shirt combo. When I go to the gym I wear a different set of appropriate shorts and t-shirt combo. Why when we go swimming should it only be an appropriate set of shorts? Why miss out the shirt?

Men have never worn shirts while swimming. It’s extremely impractical. You have a good question, because historically women weren’t there watching.

Nude swimming, indoors and outdoors, was the norm for men until about the time that YMCAs let women in. Even then, only men’s privates needed to be covered.

I empathize with you, David. And I go too far. I laugh at men wearing shorts off the playing field. I think women should not compete in tennis, certainly not publicly. I’m uncomfortable with my church’s habit of coed swimming. It’s hard to find a segregated gym; fortunately, my office now has a gym which is relatively modest at lunchtime.

However, since you’re asking about breaking a long-standing cultural norm, please explain your concerns. It’d be helpful if you made an argument or addressed specifically what others have mentioned above. They’ve begun to explain the differences between men and women relevant to this discussion.

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This is interesting. I had a college prof from upstate NY who had a swimming class I’m an all male junior high school. Everyone swam nude. I always thought that was so weird. I bet this guy was born in roughly 1950 so that would have been early 60s I guess.

Actually there are such at Amazon. I purchased one last January before my lovely bride and I took off for a cruise to Panama. I knew I would be spending some time around a pool at the rear of the ship, in order to smoke my pipe, and my complexion is very susceptible to sunburn.

Shirts similar to those linked below were just the ticket! with a cap to shade my face, I could sit in the full sun, sip my adult beverage, and puff on my pipe in full sun exposure. No problemo.

The shirt I purchased was long sleeved too. I linked to a short sleeved variety thinking most here interested in such a product would prefer the short-sleeved version.

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I graduated from high school in 1965. While there, we could take swimming classes (and I did so), which were conducted at the local YMCA as the high school at that time had no pool. Plus, the Y’s pool was enclosed.

Anyhoo - the classes were single-sex. The men swam nude in their classes. The girls classes were done with them in suits.

Can you imagine the howls of outrage today, against such overtly sexist discrimination?


The difference between men and women is that modesty for a women is to do with her role as a sexual object. Whereas men’s modesty is to do with his role as a success/ strength object. So I understand people saying men going about shirtless is not sexual however it is a show of strength. When my boys want to compete in the garden they natural want to remove their shirts, to release their show of strength. Think two guys toeing up to fight in a boxing ring. They come in in the dressing gowns and then take them off to fight. This has much less to do with the practicality of fighting with the gown on an much more to do with a show of strength to the opponent.
My question I guess arises because we now have mixed audiences in competition and in audiences what does it look like for a man to be modest in these spheres. Can one justify being topless as a guy at a mixed church gathering at the beach or the public pool?

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Scotland is weird. lol

Yep … How else would you describe a country where in terms of the languages spoken at home, the first (after English) is Polish and the second is Urdu?!

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Ach! Dae the bairns nae lear Scots?!

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