Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The right to bare breasts


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If you’ve ever been out walking on a hot summer day, you know that sometimes clothes can make you unbearably sweaty and uncomfortable. If you’re a man, you can try to cope with this problem by taking your shirt off, and no one will complain. If you’re a woman and you do the same, you’re likely to get arrested.

In most parts of the U.S., it is illegal for women to go topless in public. Women may legally do so only in six states, and specific cities and beaches. If a woman goes topless in public anywhere else in America, it is considered indecent exposure. In Massachusetts, the maximum penalty for indecent exposure is up to six months in jail and a $200 fine.

Public toplessness for men, however, is legal everywhere.

Of course, the existence of this law isn’t just arbitrary sexism. There are numerous objections that people have made (and will continue to make) to public toplessness for women.

The strongest argument for keeping women’s tops on is that women must be protected from men. According to this argument, men simply are not able to control themselves at the sight of a woman’s bare breasts and would sexually harass, assault, or even rape them. However, women are expected to cover their hair in certain cultures and religious groups. These groups believe that if a woman’s hair— a supposedly sexual part of her body – was to be seen, men would not be able to control their desires. Regardless of religious belief, though, women typically leave their hair uncovered in the U.S., since we don’t consider it to be a sexual entity. Even if a woman does have beautiful hair, men are easily able to control themselves. There is nothing inherently sexual about a woman’s hair, and similarly, there is nothing inherently sexual about a woman’s breasts. Both ideas, in fact, are mere societal constructs.

Other people will say that they aren’t comfortable with being forced to see women’s breasts in public. After all, not everybody has attractive breasts, and who wants to see ugly women go topless? Nonetheless, not everybody has a body that is widely considered attractive, and yet we are “forced” to see them every day – sometimes in shorts or a bathing suit. Finding someone, male or female, unattractive is not a viable reason for forcing them to cover up, or for arresting them if they refuse to do so.

Still others argue that there is an inherent physical difference between men’s and women’s chests, and that therefore we should treat them differently. However, the only real, physical difference between men’s and women’s chests is that women’s breasts can be used to nurse children. Yet, women who are nursing children are legally allowed to show their breasts, so why should their breasts be covered up when they are not in use? We would never cover up our hands simply because they were not in use.

Another pervasive argument against women’s toplessness is that children must be protected from the sight of breasts. However, breastfed children grow up seeing their mothers’ breasts, and it doesn’t seem to affect them adversely. Moreover, European children who go to public beaches see women’s breasts, and it doesn’t traumatize them. In these situations, breasts are clearly not explicitly sexual. As children grow older, they will experience healthy sexual thoughts and feelings on their own, regardless of whether they see naked breasts on a regular basis or not.

Many people also argue that, while the current law may be unfair and sexist, society isn’t ready for a change. In answer to this, I will say that, according to many, society “wasn’t ready” for civil rights, or women’s suffrage, and still “isn’t ready” for gay marriage. In the end, social change will never arise if people continue to cling to tradition for tradition’s sake. If unjust laws are changed, society will adjust accordingly.

Finally, some will say that this simply isn’t an issue worth worrying about. If one examines the mentality behind this kind of law, however, it becomes clear that it is very important. Although people will cite many objections to toplessness for women, the main reason for its illegality is that our society hyper-sexualizes women’s bodies, and particularly their breasts. Covering them up is, at least in theory, meant to protect them from men who won’t be able to restrain themselves. But rapes, assaults, and harassment still occur. Even here on the UMass campus, a woman was assaulted this past weekend, and wearing a shirt didn’t do anything to protect her.

According to the Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, one out of every six American women is the victim of an attempted or completed rape at some point in her lifetime. I am by no means saying that the law against women’s toplessness is the cause of this, but the fact remains that both the law and the high rate of assaults are the result of a certain societal mindset. This mindset tells us that women’s bodies are inherently sexual, and that men are unable to control their actions. However, neither of these things is true. If a woman’s body isn’t automatically seen as primarily a sexual object, a man is less likely to treat it as such without her consent. If a man isn’t taught that his desires are uncontrollable, he won’t act as if they are.

Far from preventing sexual assaults, the law against women’s toplessness is part of a way of thinking that is harmful to both men and women. If we take steps to change the law, our society’s attitudes will adjust and such a change in attitude will protect women far more effectively than a t-shirt ever could.

Sophie Kaner is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

53 Comments

53 Responses to “The right to bare breasts”

  1. Anonymouse on October 17th, 2010 11:06 pm

    Great article Sophie!

  2. K on October 18th, 2010 8:05 am

    You might want to rethink your wording: things are rarely a “mere” social construct. Things that are socially constructed have a hell of a lot of power, which is why they often get translated into laws. Your overall point is a good one nonetheless.

  3. chesterfield on October 18th, 2010 10:29 am

    How would men get any work done if women walked around with those juggernauts floppin about

  4. Dave A on October 18th, 2010 5:15 pm

    Great article. The correlations made are a good way to assist discussion.

  5. Dave A on October 18th, 2010 5:17 pm

    Oh, and to chesterfield. As women are able to be topless more often wherever a man can be… men will become a bit more indifferent to the sight. Sure, an attractive body is an attractive body… but the fact that they are topless will not make it any more or less so.

  6. Richard Mason on October 18th, 2010 10:23 pm

    Qualifier: I am a naturist.

    I have been involved in the naturist and top-free movement for over 30 years. Our group is responsible for the City of Miami Beach, Florida allowing top-free sunbathing since 1985 with no adverse secondary effects.

    All of the coast line from Miami Beach to Sunny Isles Beach is top-free today. All with no adverse secondary effects.

    Haulover Beach Park in Sunny Isles Beach has a 1/3 mile of clothing-optional naturist family beach for 19.5 years. No problems.

    I have been involved in citizen lobbying against anti-nudity laws for over 20 years. What I learned from all this is the the female breast is powerful and those that try to treat the female breast as a criminal object are the same people that are anti-equal rights for women.

    Men who make the laws feel they own the female breast. It is male ownership of women that has the end result of domestic violence.

    Women arrested for top-free sunbathing have been charged as being lewd and lascivious. Those that plead “No Contest” a guilty plea, are now listed as sex perverts on the data bases along with rapists and child molesters. How is that as a career killer?

    The Top-Free issue is the most important issue in the quest for equal rights for women. Also, it is a 14th Amendment Issue.

    New York State has ruled that women can go top-free anywhere that a man can go top-free. You don’t see women walking around New York State top-free, because women know when and where it is appropriate to be top-free.

    A visit to a nudist resort will be a quick lesson on the issue.

    Richard Mason
    South Florida Free Beaches
    Haulover Beach, Florida

  7. Richard Mason on October 18th, 2010 10:33 pm

    Incidentally, Sophie Kaner’s article on the top-free issue is one of the best I have seen written outside of the naturist community.

    Refreshing!

    Richard Mason

  8. Bill Schroer on October 19th, 2010 8:36 am

    Terrific article, Sophie!
    As a long term naturist, I completely agree with your points which you have made in a clear and compelling fashion. Richard Mason is right on in his observation that the “fear” of what would happen if women were topless is overblown. And, it is a 14th amendment issue…unfortunately, too few women sitting on State Supreme Court benches and therefore little interest in changing the status quo.

    Bill Schroer
    Naturist Action Committee (NAC)
    Treasurer

  9. D. Michael Martindale on October 19th, 2010 9:52 am

    It’s so nice when sanity is injected into a public debate. Thanks, Sophie.

    Chesterfield, you are the poster boy for crude, ignorant men.

  10. John on October 19th, 2010 1:35 pm

    Another naturist here, but I must disagree with Richard Mason, much as I respect him. I think this topfree business is a waste of time and not naturist at all. (Naturists go around naked, or wish we could. Topfree stuff is all about skimpy clothes–which women already have far more right to wear in our society–and not about nudity.) As for “the most important issue in the quest for equal rights for women”, I’m sure women are grateful that men are such avid feminists. Cough, cough.

    Just so you know–Massachusetts law makes it illegal to be “guilty of indecent exposure” but leaves it ambiguous what that actually is. In one incident where bare breasts were considered in court a few years back, the judge said the law was hopelessly vague, and dismissed the case.

    And, as a practical issue it’s one big yawn. In New York, Vermont and Maine, women being topless is already legal, and what difference does it make to anyone’s behavior or what you’d see on a beach or in the neighbor’s backyard (or your own)? The answer is pretty much “none”. So why give any thought to a right that nobody makes any use of when they have it? When the wonderful freedom of the ladies of NY, ME and VT actually makes a difference in their lives, then maybe it’s time to start questioning why the ladies of MA can’t have the same thing.

  11. robert on October 19th, 2010 2:24 pm

    Great article….
    What’s the next step?

    What happens if a woman goes topless at U of Mass?

    If she’ arrested…what is the community reaction?

    What does it take to move Sophie’s comments and analysis into a change in the way our society works?

  12. ShineAwake on October 19th, 2010 5:11 pm

    Thank you! for a very straight forward piece. It’s not only the legality/arrest component but also harassment and public perception which is why articles like this remain relevant and important. We do have the 14th amendment equal protection clause which exists so culturally biased bogus beliefs based on discrimination do not get enshrined into law. In my circles bare breasts are somewhat common. We all need to step up and support this movement…so take it off and enjoy the sun & sweet breeze. It’s easy. peace.

  13. jb on October 20th, 2010 12:03 am

    Women don’t see toplessnes as sexual but if gals on my mail route all shed their tops they may wind up getting their neighbors mail

  14. Brandon Yanofsky on October 20th, 2010 1:10 pm

    Great article. Always been curious about how this disparity came to be

  15. Rich Alpers on October 20th, 2010 3:45 pm

    I take isue with the idea that European children seeing breasts does them no harm. Why, if children here were allowed to see them, they might turn into lefty socialists, just like kids in Europe do. Then where would our great country be?

  16. Gordon Evans on October 21st, 2010 9:14 am

    Dear Sophie Kaner,
    As you will see from the comments left by chesterfield, and Rich Alpers, there are Ignorant, and prejudicial people around who talk out of the backs of their heads without any real thought for the subject matter. The fact that some States in America ‘allow’ women to go topless, and some do not, further enhances the view held by many Europeans that America is a collection of Disunited States. However, that is not the issue here. Historically, in Ancient Egypt, men and women only wore cloth covering the lower parts of their bodies, but if it was a scocial event they were attending, the women bound their chests. No-one knows the reason for this. When Pompei was unearthed, it was seen from the artwork and statues brought back by the rchelogists that the Greeks and the Romans often treated sexual activity as a comedic experience. In Great Britain, upon seeing paintings of Sexual Congress, the Victorian Gentry had such things banned from the eyes of the working classes on the grounds that it would inflame their desires, and prevent from working. However, of course, the Gentry being as they saw themselves, “a better educated class of people”, could view such material on the grounds that it was ‘Research’.

    I am not not too sure about your 14th Amendment, but I do know that that America over the years, has tried hard to tell the rest of the World that it should abide by the 24 elements of the United Nations Charter of Human Rights – one of which says there should be equality between male and female Humans. You were quite right in pointing out that women have been assualted, and raped, and in some cases, even murdered whilst fully clothed so that the arguement that bare breasts would cause an increase in this activity is a spurios one at best. However, it should be borne in mind that Humans, like all other creatures on this planet, have a Sexual Imperative as part of the Survival instinct. And remember, That Dolphins have been seen murdering their young as well as apparently, having sex for pleasure so that Human Behaviour is not a unique thing..

    I thought that you wrote an exceptionally good article with well-founded arguements, but as the Victorians in Britain coined the word ‘Pornography’ so also was that idealogy exported around the world. The whole subject of Human Sexuality is fraught with minefields of conflicting thoughts and idealogies. t is therefore, difficult to see that unless a major event occurs World-wide which would cause humans to discard clothing, the matter of whether a woman should bare her breasts or not will never be resolved.

    Given that clothing was probably the first invention of mankind as he moved North out of Africa, and has since become a sort of ritualistic subject (i.e. ‘Fashion) those who would seek to offer people the ‘Freedom of Choice’ will always be defeated by prejudice, ignorance, and in some cases, a desire to control.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Gordon Evans
    Methil,
    Fife,
    Scotland

  17. Publius on October 21st, 2010 9:31 am

    While parts of Europe allow topless beach bathing doing so a hundred yards (meters) from the beach is often considered illegal. European attitudes are a mixed affair, and those who cite European beaches as an example need to reconsider their (il)logic.

    The strongest argument for allowing female toplessness was not even mentioned in the article. What a shame that America seems to no longer cherish one simple ideal – freedom. The notion that Americans have the right to do as they please as long as they do no harm to others is the most powerful concept for accepting toplessness, or even nudity.

    We tolerate free speech that we disagree with and find offensive. Why? Because we cherish freedom.

  18. Gr8t Pix on October 21st, 2010 11:57 am

    Several thoughts.

    I find it curious that someone who seems to feel so strongly about this issue didn’t include a topless photo of herself.

    I was VERY surprised to find that only 18% of the people on earth consider breasts a sexual object. The other 82% don’t care if the boob is attached to a guy or a girl.

    Has anyone ever felt strongly enough about this to push it all the way to the Supreme Court? After all, it is a violation of the 14th amendment.

    Someone said that several states in the Northeast have already legalized bare chests for women. Are people aware of these laws? At the very least are ALL the beaches in these states topless?

    More picking on the author with some personal questions:
    Toplessness is illegal in public. Do you routinely answer your door and entertain guests while topless?
    Are you usually topless when alone?
    Is this a case where you’re defending someone ELSE’S right to be topless?
    Just curious.

    While I’m at it I might as well open a new can of worms. What about T-backs and butts? Or, while I’m at it, total nudity? America especially is fixated on breasts as a sexual object, seemingly more so than vaginas. So once that barrier is overcome why not drop the drawers too?

  19. timo on October 21st, 2010 12:11 pm

    Women can’t control certain urges during P.M.S. due to hormonal changes. Men are also horomonally driven and hence have trouble controlling certain urges. Combine either condition with mental instability and problems will result. Some human behaviours cannot be controlled by the individual alone. Baring your breats in public can set off a mental case and make you a target. Many normal men would immediatly see this as an invitation. (Ever been to mardigras and seen how men react to women baring breasts?) Its a simple fact. Males are also programmed to respond to things that may indicate mating opportunities. Bare breasts are one of those things. Are all you women out there who want to bare your breasts so obsessed with it that you are willing to take responsibility for any accidents ,maiming, fatalities you may cause by baring your breasts in an area where men will be paying attention to you instead of what they are doing and so causing accidents? If you must bare them do it safely in a place where it can cause no harm. NOT on busy public streets. Inside buildings wouldn’t be a problem nor would outdoor areas not visible from a road. Its the same principal as not texting while driving. Also make sure you are not alone if you do it to make an assault less likely. The problem is the distraction and the attention it draws to you. Be safe ladies not foolish, and you may save yourself a lot of grief. The article above was written by a woman. Some deeper things about men can only be fully understood if you are male. The same is true of females.
    we are what we are. Bare your breasts but bare them safely.

  20. peter on October 21st, 2010 12:40 pm

    I think the problem is that the old ladies up on Beacon Hill are still in the stone age, but then again the women went around without tops in the stone age maybe we need to cover there faces. well we are talking about it.

  21. bellweather on October 21st, 2010 7:08 pm

    Women’s toplessness is legal here in Hawaii (several statutes against it are still on the books, but caselaw overturned them long ago–1970’s), but topless women, even on the countless beaches surrounding us, is still extremely rare. Perhaps it’s because it’s not widely known that it is legal, or perhaps it’s just cultural. In any case, it is interesting and ironic that in a place known for its politically liberal leanings, great beaches and even greater weather, we’re still essentially prudes. Great article. Keep up the good work.

  22. RJ Jennings on October 21st, 2010 7:59 pm

    The great majority of women want female bare breasts to be illegal.

    This is because of a mutigenerational female embarrassment that comes from being present when bare breasts are exposed. Why else would so many women react so negatively to seeing a mother breast feed a child even when no men are present? Then they react even more when breast feeding is in the presence of boys/men.

    Just who teaches boys that it’s wrong to see bare breasts? Grandfathers, fathers, brothers etc certainly don’t. Its priests and mothers that teach their sons SHAME using both words and actions.

  23. David Luchin on October 21st, 2010 9:12 pm

    Get some SHEMALES involved in the cause – they can walk around topless everywhere and police can’t stop them because they were born males — “breast freedom” will win in short order.

  24. Tom on October 21st, 2010 9:17 pm

    Sophie,

    Greetings, and thanks for a great article with a fair perspective. As some of the other posters, I have only been a naturist / nudist for the past 3 or so years. My experiences with nudism, nudist resorts, and clothing optional affairs to date make me believe that with more ‘non-sexual’, family oriented exposure to naked or topless women, the mystery and thrill factor will diminish for men. This is a positive thing. Young children are not negatively impacted with nudity, they are negatively impacted by ADULTS REACTIONS! As an example, when a toddler is running, learning to walk, and falls. Unless an adult “rushes over” or “Fusses”, the child will simply get up and go on. The reaction to CRY is LEARNED based on response to the FEAR and UPSET of the ADULT!…

    So, I say, adults GROW UP and exercise your right to CONTROL yourselves! If a man can remove his shirt and show his big fat belly (or perfect six pack abs) then a woman should have the same right.

    My question is… Sophie, have you ever tried a nudist experience? In a family friendly setting? Consider it.. Seek out an AANR or TNS approved landed club and enjoy a day or weekend FREE of your clothes and worries. You may surprise yourself on just how nice we nudists can be!

  25. Thomas on October 22nd, 2010 4:44 pm

    There are several points being missed here:
    Sophie, it’s not breasts that are sexual objects. It’s AMERICAN breasts only. European breasts, Asian breasts, African breasts – no problem. Obviously American breasts are different in some way.

    @John the point you are missing is not whether women DO remove their top, but whether they may remove them. In most states 5 year old girls have more freedom than 25 year old women. If breast size is the concern, many overweight men have larger breasts than many women. But they still have the freedom to remove their shirts. Does that make sense? I don’t think so.

    Good article

  26. femsup on October 23rd, 2010 12:32 am

    One of the reasons why they say womens chests are different is that they lactate.It is repeated here in the article.Whereas its true that women lactate far easier than men the latter can in some instances do so.So if the cover uppers want to try that arguement then they will be defeated on it.

  27. Danielle on October 23rd, 2010 9:29 am

    I applaud your article and love your attitude. So well worded. I wont repeat what other supporters have said but want you to know, we are not alone. Europe and many other areas of the world, have a grown up attitude towards this equality and its not regarded as sexual.

    The INF and organisations such as internationalyn.org are about logic, and this..is logic, and fairness.

    Thank-you!

    -Danee

  28. J on October 24th, 2010 9:40 pm

    I’m not against women going topless. Strongly in favor, actually.

    But the idea that going topless in public will de-sexualize breasts and help males develop a healthier less obsessed attitude is kind of far fetched.

    Did anyone else notice that almost all the supportive comments on this page are coming from males? Not to mention the guy who asked for a picture.

  29. Olivia on October 24th, 2010 10:12 pm

    Dear Sophie,

    This isn’t about men subjugating women. This is about maintaining some level of modesty for both sexes.

    Don’t breasts feel especially wonderful when they’re aroused? Of course, because breasts are sexual organs from which women receive great pleasure.

    So, just like the other sexual organs, shouldn’t breasts be covered up?

    Turning the tables, would you say that men ought to be allowed to go about public with their penises and testicles hanging out? I bet you wouldn’t.

  30. Gr8t Pix on October 25th, 2010 12:55 pm

    Hey J,

    I didn’t ask for a photo just to see boobs but rather, to see how committed she is to the cause. I’ve seen too many instances where this is a violation of MY privacy and OTHER people should have the right to bare their breasts as long as I don’t HAVE to.

    This is a college paper and the author is obviously in her late teens or early twenties and exploring her own sexuality among other things.

    So my question stands, what does SHE do on a hot summer day?

  31. Chris on October 25th, 2010 11:49 pm

    Add me to the list of guys who are fine with you walking around topless.

  32. J on October 26th, 2010 10:01 am

    Sophie, do gr8t’s posts make you really want to share your personal experiences with going topless ?

  33. Sophie Kaner on October 26th, 2010 6:17 pm

    @Gr8t Pix: Alas, regardless of my own personal desires, the Collegian would probably be unlikely to publish a topless photo of me.

    Although I would certainly take advantage of the law if it were to be changed, I’m not sure that my personal experiences or proclivities have any bearing on the arguments I’ve made. If you think my reasoning doesn’t hold up, though, I’d be very interested to hear your criticism.

  34. Gr8t Pix on October 27th, 2010 12:56 pm

    AH! a response from the author. VERY unusual. Hi Sophie. I’m glad to hear you would take advantage of the law and you’re not just using ivory tower reasoning. That’s why I think your personal proclivities are important.

    I actually agree with everything you said. The Puritan ancestry of this country really screwed up attitudes toward nudity and sex. Let’s take timo for example. He said, “Women can’t control certain urges during P.M.S….” and “…with mental instability”. So according to him you’re uncontrollable AND nuts! I don’t think you should be allowed to write articles. 🙂 He totally ignored the fact that 82% of the world doesn’t consider breasts as sexual objects but let’s continue.

    He also said, “Males are also programmed to respond to things that may indicate mating opportunities. Bare breasts are one of those things.” So according to this line of reasoning the Polynesians never settled most of the South Pacific because the men were busy chasing all them nekkid wimmen around. I guess nobody ever moved north out of Africa because those women were topless too.

    It boils down to the way you were brought up. Would you eat a bug? In many parts of the world bugs are considered candy. But I have a feeling you’re making a funny face now.

    I wish someone would push this all the way to the Supreme Court so we would finally have equality. But I’m certain sales of man bras would skyrocket, especially 48DDD’s.

  35. Gr8t Pix on October 27th, 2010 3:39 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’ve decided that this entire line of reasoning is specious. Man is a creature of habit. “I been doing it this way for the last 30 years and I’m gonna do it this way for the next 30.” No common sense, no logic, no nothing. Probably why the Stone Age lasted several hundred thousand years.

    Let’s take New York or Vermont where it’s legal to go grocery shopping topless. Nobody does. Now while it’s understandable that the average girl, Sophie for example, would probably be reluctant to get the attention and notoriety what about porn stars? Madison Ave., short shorts, flip-flops and maybe a pony tail. Sounds pretty good to me but NOBODY does!

    I think this is one of those rights that everybody has to have that nobody will ever use. It’s like the right to bear arms. Everybody has it but the only statistic I could find says that less than one in three use it (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/health/interactives/guns/ownership.html ). If you discount legitimate uses the real number is vanishingly small.

    So let’s take a vote. HEY GIRLS! The Supreme Court just said topless is now legal everywhere. How many of you are going to throw out all your blouses and bras?

  36. Rich Alpers on October 28th, 2010 11:55 am

    It looks like my sarcastic comment about the sight of bare breasts turning children into lefty socialists was misinterpreted by some.
    Just to set the record straight, I fully support the right of women to be topless – just trying to poke fun at some of the more whacko arguments against it, such as “What about the children!!!”. Thanks.

  37. J on October 28th, 2010 11:32 pm

    @gr8t, now that you’re done putting the ladies at ease, is gr8tpix.com yours ?

    @Sophie, when the weather gets warmer, I suggest you seek out a secluded spot with very few males under 25 around.

  38. Gr8t Pix on October 29th, 2010 1:01 pm

    Hi J,

    I knew it wouldn’t be long before someone caught on. Yep, it’s mine. I do a shoot like that every 3 or 4 days so I don’t especially care about the law except for the fact that ever since I was little it struck me as odd that women had to cover their tops and men didn’t. It just seemed… uneven. I remember going to the beach and seeing guys with bigger boobs than girls. So if it wasn’t based on size, what? Remember, these are the musings of a prepubescent 9 year old.

    I was also surprised at how quickly I got used to being around naked girls. I’m often surrounded by 3 or 4 of them and I find myself looking at their faces. It’s just no biggie. That is unless somebody makes it a biggie.

    I suggest that anyone who has a real interest in the topless issue rent the movie, Hawaii. Not for the movie itself, but rather the interviews at the end. Several of the girls talk about their topless experience in the film and it’s a real eye opener.

  39. Nicky on October 31st, 2010 12:34 am

    I believe women do have the right as men do to go topless and those states and cities that are banning women from going topless are in violation of the 14th amendment of the US Constitution. They should sue those states for violating the 14th amendment and the equal protection clause.

  40. Builder on October 31st, 2010 6:02 am

    Not a single argument in favour of censorship of nudity stands up against evidence to the contrary in cultures where public nudity is common. This kind of censorship, like all forms of censorship, is about a few people having the ability to control the lives of others who think differently.

    In tropical cultures where people go naked most of the time, rape is almost unknown. Covering up is a tease, not a prevention.

  41. Gr8t Pix on October 31st, 2010 12:55 pm

    Well now, Builder, that’s just plain silly. Why are you trying to bring common sense, logic and reasoning into a debate about the Puritan attitudes in America?

  42. John on October 31st, 2010 4:45 pm

    @Builder – Rape is almost unknown in tropical cultures? Are you joking?!?!? You might want to check up on that.

  43. Andrew on November 2nd, 2010 1:58 am

    The author relies on two basic arguments:

    1. The argument that individuals should have a right to do anything in public that does not harm others.

    But our society does NOT actually grant this right to individuals, and no society ever did. We ban the public display of certain things that are perfectly harmless or even beneficial in private. For example, you may not have sex in public, and it is illegal to urinate or defecate in public.

    These are not bad things. In fact, they are essential biological functions. But we still don’t want to see them in public. Bare breasts could (and should) fall under the same category.

    2. The argument that we need equality between men and women when it comes to bare chests.

    Fair enough, I agree we need equality. But that does not necessarily mean that we need to take the rules for men and extend them to women. We could just as well do the opposite: take the rules for women and extend them to men. In other words, we could achieve equality by making it illegal for both men and women to bare their chests in public. That is what I would support.

  44. andre on November 2nd, 2010 4:15 am

    Olivia, my ears are particularly sensitive – can give me very nice goosebumps all over, well the whole of my neck and throat actually… I only cover them when they’ll get burned… The willy well, it does what it does… but to get me started you should nibble my ears…

  45. Dan G on November 2nd, 2010 10:34 am

    Sophie:

    In general, I agree with your article and your position. I would like to add one point and offer one point of criticism.

    The point of criticism is the assertion that the sexualization of breasts is “merely a social construct.” This is directly contradicted by the evolutionary record. Other apes have body hair and do not walk erect, so the signs of health, the ability to raise offspring, and sexual maturity are generally not on the front. (Think “silver back gorilla” or the red rear ends of many monkeys.) For humans, the signs of health, the ability to raise offspring, and sexual maturity migrated to the front as we began to walk on two feet and become generally hairless: pubic hair, male beards, and pronounced female breasts. In that context, it would be quite surprising if men did NOT have subconscious cues about a woman based on her breasts… just as a peahen can count the number of “eyes” in a peacock’s tail almost instantly. Breasts are thus an important sexual signaling device and the social construct, then, is that it’s inappropriate to look. (I do agree, however, that any such subconscious circuitry in men is not an excuse for lack of control of their actions.)

    As an aside: using the construct above, one easily sees why acne pimples are generally considered unattractive: they generally denote lack of complete sexual maturity and, because they are reminiscent of pox, lack of health.

    As another aside: hair style is a social construct. While clean, well-kept hair denotes health for both genders, the idea that “woman with long hair are sexy” is completely social: there is little to no difference between male and female hair. The contrast with breasts — which are different between the genders — illuminates the argument.

    Now the point in addition: I lived in Europe for some time. Like most Americans, my view when I got there was that the beaches were full of nubile young women, topless. “What a feast for male eyes,” thought I. The reality is a bit different. Rather quickly, one learns that breasts come is as large a variety as eyes, smiles, and all other body parts. And some are attractive. And some are not. Just like on any beach, there will be people you want to meet based on their attractiveness to you, including __but not limited to__ whether their breasts are attractive to you (covered or uncovered). But ultimately, you just learn to relax about the whole thing, and you realize just how uptight Americans are.

  46. Dan G on November 2nd, 2010 10:42 am

    I should point out one irony, though. Sophie makes a case for equality. However, she lives in Massachusetts where:
    1) It is illegal to have an all-male gym because that denies access to the facilities to women.
    2) It is legal to have an all-female gym because some cultures insist on it and because some women prefer it.

    There are Massachusetts Supreme Court rulings on both of the above. As I said, I generally agree with Sophie’s article, but she could not have picked a more inconsistent State (um… Commonwealth) in which to write it!

  47. Gr8t Pix on November 2nd, 2010 12:49 pm

    It’s hard to believe people like Andrew have thoughts like this and think they’re perfectly logical. What about what is arguably the greatest civilization of all time, Rome? They had public, communal and unisex baths and restrooms. They did OK for a thousand years or so.

    And I’ll NEVER understand how he can equate bare breasts and defecation in the same breathe!!

    My guess is that women started strapping their breasts when they were active and the bouncing became uncomfortable. It’s the most logical thing I can think of but feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong.

    I’m also curious about whether or not Andrew really supports equal rights. Andrew, are you wearing a man bra now? Is it a 48DDD?

  48. Joan on November 2nd, 2010 10:36 pm

    “The argument that individuals should have a right to do anything in public that does not harm others.”

    No, Andrew, she never made that argument. She’s arguing one very specific thing here – the latter of the arguments you accuse her of making. And to that, “… we could achieve equality by making it illegal for both men and women to bare their chests in public.”

    We could, but that would be moving backwards and is just an illogical step to take.

  49. Joan on November 2nd, 2010 10:55 pm

    Sophia, I’m totally behind you. I’ve been arguing this issue since I was 10. This article is beyond brilliant. The laws need to change and we need to change them.

  50. Gr8t Pix on November 3rd, 2010 6:28 pm

    First Sophie, now Joan.

    DAMN! Why are all the women willing to run around half naked a thousand miles away!!

  51. Clover on November 4th, 2010 12:56 am

    None of the people who have posted a reason AGAINST this idea are valid.

    You could’ve also mentioned in the article that women don’t go crazy and try to have sex with a man just because he goes for a runs or walks around without a shirt.

    I mean really.

    Just going along with what you mentioned, breasts shouldn’t be seen as evil or gross or purely a sexual object. We shouldn’t even give it a second thought, but our culture makes it so.

    I just can’t believe how harsh the punishments are for something guys can do any time they want.

  52. Gr8t Pix on November 6th, 2010 12:40 pm

    I like to think I’m a typical guy. When I see boobs I giggle and drool a little. I never attached any special significance to it. I always thought it was cute and sexy and fun. Interesting but no BIG deal. So I find it fascinating that women seem to feel so strongly about their right to go topless. I said in a previous note that I thought it was one of those rights everybody has to have that nobody would use but it does bring to mind two questions.

    1. In states like New York and Vermont where it’s legal to go topless why don’t you? Simple question, you have the right, you don’t use it, not even on the beach. Why not?

    2. In states where it’s illegal the judge usually dismisses the case at the first hearing from the little bit of research I’ve done. The judge says the law is vague, discriminatory or finds some other excuse to throw the case out. In situations where the girl is found guilty why not appeal? Most of the women seem to be in college. I find it hard to believe one of them couldn’t interest a law professor who would make it a class project. So, why not?

    This seems to be people making a mountain out of a mole hill. Big rallies, lots of screaming and hollering, then, “Oh, we won!? OK, what’s next on the list?” It brings to mind the old saying, use it or lose it. Men have the right to go topless because they DO! Women don’t have the right to go topless because they DON’T!

  53. Stu on November 7th, 2010 10:46 am

    It’s a cultural thing, isn’t it? Women’s breasts have far stronger sexual significance than men’s, so they are perceived as intimate and so we don’t consider that is proper to expose them to children or to anyone in public. Men’s chests are not perceived as intimate, so it doesn’t arise.

    Sophie Kaner – maybe it’s time that you grew up, stopped finding sexism in every cultural attitude, and focused on something a bit more important.