Thursday, September 03, 2009

bikini coffee stands

It was reported in the most recent online edition of the KP News that the Key Peninsula area now has not one, not two, but three new coffee stands, all in the 'bikini barista' tradition.

Considering we had none of those just a few short months ago, the change is dramatic. (note: one of these stands, Bare Espresso, had a brief opening run and now appears to be closed again. I heard through the grapevine it has something to do with a lawsuit against the former owner, but have no personal knowledge to corroborate that story).

It would be easy to become offended at this point; in fact, most might expect we Christians to get our noses out of joint, to become righteously indignant about the decay in morals in our society. It would be all too easy to go Church-Lady on these new establishments. But, no, I'm not going to be offended. I'm not going to thump my Bible over anybody's head.

Instead I'm going to simply be honest, and say that I am utterly disgusted at the thought of these places doing business, here on the KP or anywhere else.

"Why are you so disgusted?" you ask.

There are primarily two reasons:

1) I respect women. I'm glad I live in a day when women are rising to some of the highest areas of leadership in our country. I'm glad to serve in a church that believes in full equal leadership rights and responsibilities for women. I believe women, like men, are created in the image of God, and are worthy of full respect. But even there, quite often 'respect' carries the wrong connotations. It can sound borderline patronizing. To put it simply, in God's eyes, women are the equal of men. And I'm glad I live in a world that is finally recognizing that.

To carry it a step further, believing that women are created in the image of God is also to believe they have enormous, immeasurable intrinsic worth. God's image is shown in their intellect, in their wisdom, in their leadership skills. Both women and men come to the table carrying around the image of God. We do well when we show each other respect and honor as humans created by, cherished by, loved by, and honored by our God.

All rhetoric aside, bikini coffee stands take us back to an uglier world, where a woman's primary worth is her attractiveness to men. Now, two of the managers of these new stands either lied or are just clueless, because they tried to deflect this view. "Don't be judgmental because of the bikinis,” [one] said. “The girls are nice, but our business is coffee." Sure. Go with that.

At least one of the owners was honest. "The girls will be our big draw," said Matthew, the owner. "And we aren't going to hide them. We'll have a four-foot by four-foot window to put them on display." 

It is obvious to anybody paying attention that there is a backlash, a dumbing-down, if you will, against many of the gains made by women in the last 50 years. For every Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton who have risen to Secretary of State, there is a Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, plummeting right back to the world where sex appeal and 'dumb blonde' is a badge of honor. For every serious female actor, working hard at garnering respect for her craft, there are hundreds of girls getting their 15 minutes of fame in a Girls Gone Wild video. For every image calling my daughters to find their worth in their mind, in their creativity, in their skills, there are too many more reminding them it's all worthless unless they look and act hot and available.

And lest you think I would promote a world devoid of physical attraction and admiration, I would add in the many marvelous examples of female athletes. WNBA stars, track and field champions, swimmers and gymnasts, tennis players and soccer players can all be admired for "their bodies." Not as primarily sexual creatures, but as powerful athletes who have created wondrous athletic machines with the bodies God has given them.

So why am I disgusted by bikini coffee stands? Because they stand as one more reminder to women that their worth is in their cleavage and their flat stomach, and (I'm assuming here), their ability to flirt with the men who drive through. And because they once again reinforce to the men who drive by the thought that women exist for their pleasure; that women are to be admired because of their sexuality, their bodies, and the way (I'm assuming here) these women flirt with them as they drive through.

Because, in the end, I highly doubt any guy's going to drive away from Smoking Hot Espresso thinking, "Wow, I admire her for her understanding of the geo-political situation in Central America." I even doubt most will drive away thinking "Wow, I admire the way she brews a cup of coffee."

2) I like sex. But I also happen to have a very high view of sex. To do the briefest of theological sketches, humanity (male and female) were (are) created in the image of God, and that image finds fulfillment in the sexual union. Genesis says the sexual union creates "one flesh." Paul use the sexual union of husband and wife as the model for Christ's union with the Church. He also goes so far as to say even fleeting dalliances with a prostitute creates a spiritual union between the partners. The church's aversion to sexual immorality and the cheapening of sex is not borne out of overly-sensitive sensibilities or old-fashioned, victorian aversions to anything tawdry, but instead out of a grander, more incredible vision of sexuality than anything the world can imagine. There is an incredible spiritual component to sexuality.

(btw - if I had more time and space I'd work that out to include all male-female relationships, not just the sexual act itself. This is not just the plane of the sexually-active; I think there is a component of healthy male-female friendship that exists even when there isn't sexual activity. But that's for another time and place).

Thus, any cheapening of sexuality is a cheapening of the deepest part of our very selves. Any divorcing of sexuality from true, abiding friendship and relationship does damage to who we are as humans.

And any usage of sexuality as an advertising ploy does great harm to our souls. And, no, it's not just bikini espresso stands. It's also Burger King and their "Paris Hilton washes a car" ads. It's the beer ads promising instant sexual satisfaction from hot girls (or guys) for all who drink their product. It's any and all advertisement that use sex as a gimmick. In fact, it's anytime anywhere in our culture when the sexual act is removed from a committed relationship, be it movie, music, or television. When we take what is perhaps the highest, most intimate connection between human beings, an act that goes back to the highest point in pre-fall creation, and turn it into "just sex," we deny ourselves as Human and move down the ladder to pure animal.

In other words, if you use sex, especially 'hot female sexuality" to sell your coffee, you are cheapening sex, and damaging your employees and customers by denying their humanity, their worth, and their ability to truly stand as whole, healthy human beings, knowing and being known by others in respect and true love.

That's why I'm disgusted with these bikini espresso stands. Not because I'm offended by sex, not because I'm frightened of female sexuality. Instead, it's because these places at their core cheapen women, turning them into one-dimensional caricatures for the enjoyment of so many men, and because they cheapen sex, the very thing they play on to draw the customers in.

One final thought: At this point, some would say "live and let live. If you don't like it, don't shop there. Don't judge others, don't foist your morality on others." Fair enough. Except for this: what these stands do cheapens all of us, it cheapens our community, it cheapens the lives of everybody out here. If I lived on the beach, and a mile or so down the beach a company was dumping raw sewage into the water, I wouldn't settle with "live and let live." What they do "up there" affects the environment down here. Any, be it bikini espresso stand owners or TV producers who use sex as advertisement, as ratings-producer, ultimately affect the larger culture. Even if I choose to ignore it, to turn off the TV, to drive by the espresso stand without stopping, those things still end up altering the world in which I, and my friends and family, live. So while I don't plan on standing outside with protest signs, I certainly do hope others will take all this to heart, and, eventually, these places either shut down or change their business practices. After all, we've got plenty of other coffee stands that are doing just fine without putting their girls in bikinis, tassels, and pasties.


Anonymous said...


rebecca said...

Thanks, Dan, for getting some words around this issue. If you want to get some of it in the paper, would a list of signatures of those in agreement be appropriate? I'd be the first to sign and also gather more. Many have said they don't like this sort of stuff, but it's more of a dirty feeling and your words helped explain that. Our daughters and granddaughters deserve better than being eyecandy to get a job. This should have left society decades ago, but I guess that won't really happen until the Great Day. At least we, as individuals, can live out the Kingdom now as best we can.

Anonymous said...

Well said, I was just saying my rosary every morning while passing each stand. Power of prayer and not spending my money was my way of protesting. However, a huge part of me wanted to hold up a sign.

Donna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna said...

Thank you for your honest appraisal of the coffee shop situation in our community. It breaks my heart to hear that this is happening here, it belongs in other communities not mine.

Like you I'm disgusted but I want to add that I'm disappointed and I will be more disappointed if these businesses succeed. Because if they do succeed it means that as a follower of Jesus, I have not.

Anonymous said...

wow, Dan this looks more to me like it is easier for you to take on others "sins" than look at your own. Was it not Jesus himself that said "Judge not" I think you should take a look at your own life and not rag on others untill you yourself are perfect. I hope that along with talking about these stands you write an article about why you shouldn't take your kids to wild waves for fear of what they may see women in their bikinis or for heavens sake the purdy spit *gasp a bikini honey get the kids were not ever comming back here!!!!!

Lynn said...

Thank you for this blog. I just had a frustrating conversation on Facebook with fellow northwesterners about the subject, and they just told me 'not to look'. I agree that it's polluting our city, and demeaning women, and negatively effecting our cities. So thanks for your words, they are refreshing to find.

AndyR said...

You know Dan I'm not sure why but you bother me. Your intentions may be good but what does God say about good intentions?
I don't agree with the bikini stands either but...what am I or you going to do about it? Talk on the internet? Freedom of speech only has so much power when you have a free market also. Yay capitalism. You are all living with it