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{Published in the Colorado Springs Gazette, 2009-10-01}

By now, I’m sure Monday’s Gazette front-page story on “Bikini Baristas” has generated plenty of letters of outrage.  “Cancel my subscription!”  “Cheap and tawdry!”  “Tabloid journalism!”  Maybe there’s a letter or two above me today.  Was I close?

All I can say is “Welcome to America, land of the free.”

Conservatives everywhere have always been uncomfortable with the female body.  (Those of you who’ve seen the angel sculptures in New Life Church will know that the male body has never been as problematic).  Some of the discomfort, I think, rests on a profound appreciation of the power of women over men.  Particularly young women with the right set of genes.

Men have always liked looking at scantily clad young women.  There are very good reasons for this, shaped through thousands of years of evolutionary history.  In women, fertility is strongly linked with appearance, much more so than for men.  That is neither right nor wrong.  It’s just how evolution turned out.

Men are wired to respond to certain features in women in a way very different from how women respond to men.  You could put guys in Speedos behind the espresso machine, but you’re not going to get hordes of women driving by snapping pictures with cell phones.  That’s because (news flash) men and women are different.

The allure of young, pretty women for men of all ages is a very strong human universal, a tremendously powerful force of nature.  The question is, what do we do about it?

Fundamentalists of all types put the burden on women.  Women must cover up, so that they do not distract men.  Women must worship separately, so that they do not distract men.  Women must put their hair up, so they do not distract men.  At best, this is done with the justification that a woman’s beauty should be shared only with her husband, or that modesty is necessary to protect women from unwanted sexual advances.  At worst, it is done because a woman’s body is inherently sinful and tempts men to lust.  But in all cases, male lust is a woman’s problem.  Men, apparently, just can’t be expected to deal with it.

Not that the left is any better.  Despite modern liberalism’s debt to the sexual revolution of the 60’s, much of the left would never see “Bikini Baristas” as an empowering choice for the women who work there.  They are taking part in their own exploitation, and are simply too young, too stupid, or too insufficiently class-conscious to see it.

I find the whole “exploitation of women” argument self-evidently silly.

Five minutes on Google will show you that bikini baristas make $100-$200 a day.  Men, by contrast, pay $2 for a dinky cup of coffee, and often leave more in tips.  $2 for a cup of joe?  Somebody’s being exploited, all right, but it’s not the women.

For the angry left, if a young woman wants an abortion, that’s some sort of sacrament, but if she wants to use her body to make money, that’s just wrong.  Mention “Lingerie Football League” to a lefty professor and see if you can get an artery to burst.

When I see a bikini-clad woman holding a sign for a coffee shop, right on the front page of my hometown newspaper, it makes me proud to be an American.  It means that this young citizen lives in a world where the decision of what she wears is hers and hers alone.  It also makes me proud to live in Colorado Springs, because she thinks enough of our men to stand on a corner in a bikini and not feel threatened.  Would she do the same in New York or Chicago?  Or even downtown Denver?  I doubt it.

In an enlightened society, women own their bodies.  This includes being allowed to say “look, but don’t touch” in exchange for money.  Men in turn must respect the limits such women set. If they don’t, they’ll go to jail.  Whatever feelings bikini-clad women may inspire in men, the burden is on us to deal with them.  That is exactly as it should be.

That said, I’ve now stored the locations of all bikini coffee shops in Colorado Springs in my GPS, so I can make sure I’ll never drive by one.  Knowing how they advertise, I’d probably crash the car.

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