Why Women Should Be Allowed To Take Their Shirts Off In Public

Trigger warning for mentions of rape, and NSFW warning for pictures of shirtless people. 

Occasionally, I ask people to explain things. My latest project has been asking people to explain why women can’t take their shirts off in public. Barring circular answers (“it’s obscene!” “it’s just not appropriate”) and irrelevancies (“hubba hubba”), the answers have mostly been in two groups:

1) “Men aren’t attractive the same way women are.”
2) “There are some men who will, you know, take that as an invitation…”

To both of which I say: bullSHIT.

I am pansexual, which basically means I have attraction superpowers. I like everyone! (And/or cooking implements.) As a pansexual, I will be pleased to inform you that she:


Amanda Fucking Palmer, naked, with words written on her.

and he:


Zach Galiafwhatever, sporting a somewhat distressing beard and only half a shirt.

Are both people I feel a quite intense physical attraction to upon looking at their shirtless pictures. And here’s the thing: I am not any less attracted to the man than I am to the woman! They are both attractive! I would like to bang both of them! There is no qualitative difference between my attraction to them, unless you count my assiduous avoidance of The Hangover so I will continue to want to bang Mr. Galiafwhatever. Our culture seems to have this bizarre idea that people would want to have sex with Ms. Fucking Palmer because tits, and people would want to have sex with Mr. Galiafwhatever because he’s funny. Nope. I want to bang them both because they’re fucksexy.

What’s more, nearly all straight women experience the same pleasurable groinal feelings as I do when they look at men. Perhaps not Mr. Galiafwhatever, though. Perhaps they prefer:

|
William Beckett, skinny prettyboy!


Vin Diesel, the world’s most well-muscled D&D player!


Daniel Dae Kim, who was in Lost or something oh who cares HE IS THE SEXIEST.

Or something else! The world of what turns women on is very diverse and very inadequately represented by Google Image Search, insofar as GIS is under the impression that “hot guy” means “hairless muscular white dude,” someone Photoshopped “calling Slimfast and 24-hour-fitness, Help!!!” on David Krumholtz’s perfectly attractive if somewhat chubby body, and neither Masi Oka nor Peter Dinklage nor Bill Nighy have apparently taken their shirts off in public.


Alan Rickman has, but he is quite shy and hiding behind a Grecian statue.

My point being! Straight and bi women like men’s bodies! The only reason that (1) doesn’t apply to men is that we believe that women are incapable of attraction and men are incapable of being attractive, which I hope I have adequately disproved with my collection of shirtless men of assorted body types.

(2) is horrifically sexist, of course, because as shocking as it seems the vast majority of men are capable of being turned on and enjoying it, without responding with “I must rape you you sexy person!” Most rapists are motivated by power and revenge, not sexual arousal, and deliberately select victims who are vulnerable and incapable of fighting back and defending themselves. There are plenty of shirtless people who can defend themselves! But even if you grant this “male sexuality is inherently sexist” notion, which is misandric on the face of it, what about gay dudes? You’d think they’d be running about the place raping every man who takes his shirt off when playing basketball.

Hrm. Maybe that’s why homophobes are scared of gay dudes.

Basically, it’s hot out, and I want to be able to take my shirt off when I’m all sweaty even though I have boobs, and also post lots of pictures of shirtless men. This is clearly the most important frontier of gender activism.

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About ozyfrantz

Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.

Comments

  1. You know I think this article needed to be written, but I would have appreciated a bit less discussion about your sexual preferences and crushes, which are less interesting to me than the general principle.

    • Emmeline says:

      The point ze was showing was that women are really, *really* attracted to men. I think. I’m getting distracted by Mr. Rickman.

      • I figured, but I think it was possible to make and would have been stronger without personalising it so massively. I guess that’s zher style, though.

        • I kind of like the personal touch.

          Because it shows specific examples of dudes that are sexy. And also shirtless. And nobody really questions their shirtlessness. Whereas the woman with the breasts is horribly taboo, we don’t see the men without the shirts and think “That’s COMPLETELY inappropriate.”

  2. The question really boils down to, “why are women’s chests considered erogenous, while men’s chests aren’t?” Neither sex can walk around with our genitals exposed; the question is why breasts are treated the same way.

    And I don’t have an answer for that.

    • I think its the belief from the Freudian Oedipal Eroticization elicited by that part of the female body in our infancy. Or maybe its because its the catch 22 of, we don’t like it because it will cause a lot of awkward erections (male arousal from my perspective is a little more public) until it is more acceptable but it wont become more acceptable unless we let it be.

  3. Nick, mostly says:

    Oh, Ozy, just come to New York and take your shirt off already. Perhaps you can join this group (since they’re into pulp fiction, you may have to make due with Black Orchid).

  4. Confidential says:

    It’s legal in Ontario, just nobody takes advantage of it. I think between the societal freakout over breasts and the fact that you have to wear a shirt to enter any establishment it’s somewhat pointless.

    • Mark Neil says:

      Beat me to it. The only time I ever see bare breasts are as the pride parade and when the feminists are marching demanding women be allowed to take off their shirts (the insanity of doing so in a location where they ARE allowed being truly baffling)

  5. omgboobies!!! says:

    I have always interpreted it as an assertion of male dominance. Like the burka.

    • I … doubt that. Incidentally, toplessness has been acceptable a fair amount even comparativley recently and in far, far more patriarchal western European societies. And did not seem to be overtly sexualized, though it was full of male gaze. Something about bare-breasted European noblewomen in the court? They were not exactly in a position to be sexualized too much.

      • The fact that two societies are both sexist doesn’t mean that they’ll express that sexism in exactly the same ways, or that they’ll both use the same mechanisms for limiting the freedoms of men or women.

        I don’t think we can doubt that the cultural prohibition on women’s toplessness in public is an expression of the ways in which male sexuality (as in ability to be sexually attracted to people) is centralised in western societies due to the disproportionate power of men in certain social spheres. The ways in which women’s bodies were objectified and controlled may have been different in European royal courts, but I’m pretty sure they were still objectified and controlled.

  6. I very much appreciated this. Of course, I’m something of an exhibitionist, so my opinion might count for less, but still. pretty awesome.

  7. As a fellow bisexual, Beckett gets my vote for sexiest.

    As someone who has considerable experience with casual, non-sexual nudity, I’ve never seen any good reasons to prevent people from not wearing clothing when there’s no need for it. The only thing that is even close to resembling a “good” reason is that children might be scarred by the adults around them freaking out about them having seen nudity. Though I recognize that this is an issue that requires baby steps to achieve acceptance, and women’s topfreedom is where it’s currently at.

  8. I really wonder why this is. I do note that among the various body parts, male and female, which people cover around the world, most seem to be either objectively, physically debased or disgusting (such as the butthole), to be the genitals specifically, to be erogenous (such as feet or breasts. Are men’s nipples less sensitive than women’s?) or to have one of a number of forms that I guess people find sensual or sexy or something. Which can be curves of certain kinds (which in the case of women, have various amounts of socially required coverage, and in the case of men must be completely covered for a formal, clean-cut appearance).

    While there is a BIG variety, it does not seem to be completely random to me.

    A few thoughts:
    -Wigglyness seems to be a factor sometimes. Might also tie into disgust at breasts of very fat men? It could be something more complicated then femmephobia / gender body preference.

    - Note that in the West, women can generally expose any part of the breast except the nipple itself, with increasing degrees of provocativeness more or less going according to how difficult to make or wear the clothing is. (i.e. exposed upper chest < center/top cleavage < side cleavage < under breast). And then pasties or those weird-looking tape Xs can either provide the more-provocative-than-nudity 'you are seeing everything except the technically private part' aspect or making a sheer top more acceptable to society. I remembered hearing that (at least in the past) Indian sarees would have to ALWAYS cover the navel, but would generally expose some of the side of the midriff. In both cases, I think that small spots are being used to provide an objective way to determine whether somebody is dressed or not. Of course men have these spots too but they are not as emphasized.

  9. I Copenhagen we had a brief go-around with this back some 5-6 years ago. I used to be women were required to wear tops at the city’s many public swimming facilities. Then we had a series of protests – groups of women showing up to go swimming w/o tops. The city quickly struck down the “no topless women” rule.

    So – going to a pubic swimming facility topless is now OK. I don’t think a lot of women do it, though – at least not at in-door facilities. Lots of topless women in parks and at beaches in the summer, few anywhere else.

  10. Josh/Vencha says:

    I really liked this post, some awesome points for something I always figured I agreed with but never gave much thought. Thanks! Also, can I add one more sexy man? Rapper Lupe Fiasco, sexy sexy brains.

    http://thissongissick.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/lupe-fiasco.jpg

    (Also, what kind of tags work here?)

  11. TenGalaxies says:

    Most people don’t know which places in the U.S. legally allow toplessness for women. Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Ohio, and Texas allow women to be topless in state law, although some cities in these states may prohibit it. Washington, DC legally allows women to be topless. I’m from Oregon and as far as I know toplessness for women is legal throughout the state.

    • It’s interesting to wonder whether the fact that these laws are seldom taken advantage of is lack of awareness or because most women don’t want to be topless… and if so, is that a problem, or is it enough that women have the right even if they largely choose not to use it?

      • Nick, mostly says:

        Well, that’s why some women are taking it upon themselves to spread the word. Such as this woman:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwod_VFC_c0

      • I’m also from Oregon. It’s legal here on the state level, and not banned in most of the larger cities as far as I know. Not only this, but full nudity is also a protected form of free speech when used in conjunction with protest. Before the Portland SlutWalk I pointed out that there was no need for topfree women to put tape over their nipples for this event if they didn’t want to, but the women who responded to that all said that they were scared of police harassment and/or arrest anyway. (Which is kind of ridiculous since the Portland Police don’t do that at the naked bike ride, nor do they do that when toplessness or nudity occurs at certain other protests or events, but apparently these people weren’t experienced with that.)

        A huge part of the problem is that in most places the police can arrest you for “failing to obey orders” (including covering up when they say so, even if it’s not illegal) or “public disorder” (which is pretty much whatever the police think it is). Sure, it’ll get dismissed if there’s no substance to it, and you can sue the department for harassment if they keep arresting you for no good reason, but that’s a major hassle that most people are unwilling to deal with.

        • “A huge part of the problem is that in most places the police can arrest you for “failing to obey orders” (including covering up when they say so, even if it’s not illegal) or “public disorder” (which is pretty much whatever the police think it is).”

          +1.

          I have a huge problem with these kinds of laws because they effectively say whether or not a policeman’s orders are legal, we still have to follow them in the short-term.

  12. When I was living in Spain for a bit, there were topless women at all the beaches. We Americans did a little bit of pearl-clutching and nervously averting our eyes for a day or so, and then it became totally normal. No one cared or noticed, and women were not constantly being raped on beaches. It’s one of those things that Americans can’t imagine because it’s never been done here before, but if it actually happened, they’d realize that there’s nothing embarrassing or terrifying about a pair of breasts at all.

  13. This bisexual woman thanks you for all the sexy photos to start my morning. Not a person in the list I would say no to (I’d bang Zack Galifinakis [come on, is that really harder to remember/type than Galiafwhatever?] BECAUSE of his beard, not in spite of it). Amanda Palmer even got a double-take, I scrolled back up to look at that again.

    My addition to the list would be Russell Brand. He just seems like he’d be a lot of fun in bed, and I kinda dig the grungy-glam look. Lady Gaga too. What a threesome that would make!

    And more on the topic of the article – I am all for women being able to expose their breasts in public. I live in Ohio where apparently it’s legal (I am just learning now??) but I personally have never done it just because I’m super pale and burn very easily, and as my breasts never see the sun, they’re probably the whitest part of me. And as someone above said, you can’t go into most businesses without a shirt so being topless outside would not be very appealing to me. (I’m also not sure how my husband would feel about others seeing my breasts – he’s always telling me to get away from the windows if I’m topless in our own home, when I could care less. While I’m not going to put on a show, my philosophy is, if anyone’s peeping through my windows, they deserve to see what they see: my body in all its pale flabby glory.)

  14. jnakabb says:

    Not quite the same as “omg-i-must-rape-you”, but there’s the lesser “I’m a male-gendered-person, so visual, so female boobies ==> hard-on”.

    It’s all part of sexualising mammaries and barely-controllable male urges. The Spanish beach example above suggests that it’s just a construct and not objectively a sexual trigger.

  15. Thank you Ozy! Awesome post.

    I especially loved this bit:

    (2) is horrifically sexist, of course, because as shocking as it seems the vast majority of men are capable of being turned on and enjoying it, without responding with “I must rape you you sexy person!”

    Yes yes YES. Thank you. Male attraction and sexuality are not dangerous or toxic. At least, not any moreso than female attraction and sexuality.

    • But, but, privilege! Physical strength! Patriarchy!

      /sarcasm

      I am really offended by the constant implication in certain quarters that my dick is some sort of unstoppable vagina-seeking missile, or that every woman I find physically attractive in some way I am also necessarily sexually attracted to.

      • The problem is, men themselves are always confirming it.
        I can’t even count how many times I have heard some peculiar men saying that “women could show their bodies (actually, they call it “sexuality” | body = sexuality… yes, it can’t get more radical) – but don’t complain if I get more aggressive or “act accordingly” (??!!)”. That is bizarre!

  16. jnakabb says:

    Apologies for the double-post.

    Also, I’m sorry that you’re having to suffer in the heat, Ozy. Looks like there’s a movement to prevent men from going topless too, as mentioned here. And it’s a shame there are restrictions on Mr Pejic’s cover photo :(

  17. I have largish breasts so going braless is not s comfortable option. Also, nipples sre sensitive . I don ‘t want them potentially bumping into things, getting cold etc. Finally, they are a private part of my body. I don’t want people looking at them, other than my boyfriend and my doctor. And I don’t want to see yours either.

    • And I don’t really want to see guys’ chests when they have more than an A-cup, or mullets, or cornrows, or burkas, or speedos, or crocs, but it’s not my (or anyone else’s) place to say that no one is allowed to have those things in a public area.

      • I don’t want to see men walking around with their penises showing either. I think there are goid reasons for social standards of attire. Also, the truth is, most people look terrible naked. Most people should not be wearing pants that show their butt cracks or shirts thatxshow their fat bellies. I include myself in that. Do we need to see more? Ugh.

        • ” I think there are goid reasons for social standards of attire.”

          If you’re going to be supporting legislation in support of those standards (aka promoting harm to those who break with the standards), please name those good reasons. The only one I’ve heard that makes any sense at all is to keep children from being psychologically harmed in some way, so I’m willing to give on the issue of genital nudity.

          • Though the actual harm from children seeing nudity comes from the fact that adults tend to freak out about them having seen nudity. They’re not harmed by seeing the nudity itself. That’s still a sort-of good reason to keep the laws when the taboo has been a cultural thing for generations – you do want to minimize harm to children regardless of the actual reasons for it, right? But on the other hand, in the modern world, whatever reasons people had for establishing it as part of the culture in the first place almost certainly no longer exist. So it’s also cutting into the freedoms of future generations for the sake of continuing a largely pointless legacy.

        • The law does not exist to prevent you from looking at things you find distasteful. If it did I’d be campaigning to get certain types of wallpaper outlawed.

    • If you don’t want to be topless, it is also a valid choice.

      You also have the choice to look away if you don’t want to see guys’ chests.

  18. Tom Matlack says:

    I find it highly ironic on a day when on GMP we are trying to discuss serious issues surrounding the role of feminism in the men’s movement that this piece, which includes what I would call a pornographic image of a woman, is getting more traffic. Really, really sad.

    • One picture of a shirtless woman. Five pictures of shirtless men. The shirtless woman is pornographic. Thank you for proving my point for me. :)

      • Tom Matlack says:

        According to the feminists only men are capable of objectifying women. And what they objectify is tits and ass. At least that is what I am told by all the women who comment on GMP.

  19. Why would you call it pornographic and not the others? Also, Alan Rickman…..lovely.

    • Also, Amanda Palmer, she is a feminist no? I don’t see anything here that seems porno to me. Maybe the Diesel pic. Most are provocative yes, and some are sexy, but that’s not what I think of when I think about pornos…interesting. Tom, would you share why it’s pornographic to you?

  20. All this to say I can see irony too. There was a post recently about men and objectification which drew loads of comments. Many women wished they’d be seen for their minds before their bodies, men wished they’d be objectified a little, denial of objectification and also acceptance of it. Is this a case (the page views) where the body is more compelling than the intellect? Is it a meta issue? :) I say this tongue in cheek but it struck me. Looking at bodies may be easier, for starters, than diving into such intense intellectual and feeling states that the pieces Tom and Co have shared with us. Perhaps the visuals are a respite of sorts, in which case, I am happy to say I value both.

    • Emmeline says:

      I find there’s a line with objectification. Bodies are pleasing, and you need a little bit of swooning every now and then, it’s just when it turns into “I expect this from you/men deserve to have the same demeaning treatment women get”, then it turns bad. And honestly, I think people would be fine with Male Gaze if Female Gaze was right along side it, not just there in tumblr, kink memes, yaoi-like queer porn and chick flicks.

  21. Alan Constance says:

    Ok, folks, try this one.

    Have a male friend go to Ontario Canada where it is legal for women to take off their shirts. Have the male friend take of his shirt, then you as a female or male, go up and rub his chest, not have him to to the police and claim you sexually assaulted him, see , what they say. NOW, reverse the genders and see what happens.

    Laws are such that the men who made the claim would be laughed at, by the police and prosecutors, where as the women wouldnt be.

    • Cluisanna says:

      Maybe, but that’s a problem with the (male-dominated) police, so I don’t really see your point regarding this article. Please cite a law against sexual harassment/unwanted bodily contact that isn’t at least on the paper gender neutral.

      • Actually it doesn’t have much to do with the police, male-dominated or not, since already at the beginning it’s ok to tuch a mans breasts but not a woman.
        Just the hand on the breast when you stop someone is ok on a man where on a woman you better aim well with that hand or you get slapped.

      • I have a question: could you cite a public nudity law that isn’t gender neutral, at least on paper?

        • Arizona:
          A person commits indecent exposure if he or she exposes his or her genitals or anus or she exposes the areola or nipple of her breast or breasts and…

          Delaware:
          a) A male is guilty of indecent exposure in the second degree if he exposes his genitals or buttocks under circumstances… (b) A female is guilty of indecent exposure in the second degree if she exposes her genitals, breast or buttocks under circumstances…

          Indiana:
          (b) “Nudity’ [for the purpose of this public indecency statute]‘ means the showing of the human male or female genitals, pubic area, or buttocks with less than a fully opaque covering, the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple, or the showing of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state.

          Louisiana:
          A. The crime of obscenity is the intentional: (1) Exposure of the genitals, pubic hair, anus, vulva, or female breast nipples in…

          Etc, etc.

          And that’s without even getting into inconsistent caselaw.

    • raindizzle says:

      According to that logic, it would make better sense if men had to wear shirts at all times, while females should be able to go nude freely, as they are the ones who have the protection of the law behind them.

  22. Hi, long time listener first time caller, as were.

    1. As a man who looks like a slightly denser through the shoulders version of Mr. Zach… Person… it’s really affirming to see his body time referred as explicitly attractive in an outlet like this. Kind of shallow, I know, but it’s rare enough to stand out so thank you for mentioning.

    2. It also makes me really sad that the discourse is so poisoned that the picture of AP would… really come across as anything other than a very cheerful looking shirtless person with a pretty smile. I mean, I know I probably sound really goofy saying this, and yeah, she’s got a very nice body, but mostly I notice how lovely her smile is and how comfortable she looks, and it’s always nice to see someone quite comfortable with his or her body… and lots of writing on.

  23. Valter Viglietti says:

    Thank you Ozy.
    You’re fu***ng awesome. 8)
    (opps! Can I say “awesome” here? :mrgreen: )

    I long for a world where we can do whatever we want with our own bodies.
    Right now, I say that forbidding women to take off their shirts is just hypocritical and sexist.
    Of course, you cannot get real answers to your question, because the subject matter really is BS. Specifically:
    1) Men are attractive to whomever find them attractive (c’mon, if men weren’t attractive, our species would have vanished long ago…)
    2) Rules of consent still apply. Many men are attracted even by completely clothed women, so having them half-naked won’t change much. We desire women anyway, anywhere, anytime! And we are used to repress that desire. :roll:
    Again, having breasts exposed won’t change much.

    When miniskirts became widespread in the ’60s, many people cried out men would not be able to resist to bare legs… the same protest and fears have been heard over and over, through time, when costumes changed.

    BTW, main proof being naked is nothing dangerous, is naturist people: they are naked by choice, and you never hear trouble from them.
    Once something becomes a habit, nobody cares anymore.

    • FlyingKal says:

      “1) Men are attractive to whomever find them attractive (c’mon, if men weren’t attractive, our species would have vanished long ago…)”

      Well. Yes. But…
      Saying that women are attracted to men, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are attracted to his body, or images thereof.

      (I have asked this specific question on a number of discussion boards where the subject has been brought up, and it seems to be a fair number of women having sex with their husbands or male partners despite and not because of their visual apperance.)

      2. WRT Ozy ” insofar as GIS is under the impression that “hot guy” means “hairless muscular white dude,”

      Well, regarding your sample of pictures, I get the impression that “hot guy” first and foremost means “Famous guy”, with “hairless, muscular or lean” clocking in as viable options.

      • Yep, because famous guys are the ones who have large numbers of pictures of them on the Internet. :P

        And the whole “hairless, muscular, lean” thing is an annoying side effect of the fact that conventionally attractive people are more likely to have attractive shots of them with their shirts off, so even when one puts some effort into getting different body types and actively dislikes muscles, one *still* ends up with two muscley dudes.

        • FlyingKal says:

          “Yep, because famous guys are the ones who have large numbers of pictures of them on the Internet. ”
          Yeah I know. So much for circular arguments, right? :D

          But, as a rather cis-straight-male kind of guy, the pic of William Beckett seems to do more for me than the one of Amanda Palmer…! :)
          IDK, but I think it’s more the smile and tousled hair than the torso. And I’m getting distracted by the text, “What does it say and what’s the story behind it?” kinda thing more than “WHOA, hot chick with naked chest!”.
          Sorry. You were sayin’…?? ;) :D

        • FlyingKal says:

          And also, since I complimented Noah Brand for being a brave person in his naked-photos-post, pass my likewise compliments to Amanda Palmer.

          (WRT the last post: The relative uninterest in her upper body display is probably just a sign of my age…)

      • Women will feel attracted – or not – to men’s body based on their sociocultural background. The same goes for men. (Heteronormative here just to be simpler)
        In general, yes, many, if not most women, prefer the fit (muscular or lean) hot guy, with little to no body hair. “Masculine” or pretty boy (Justin Bieber, anyone?), depending on the age, usually.

        But I believe that, in general, American women are still learning to understand their sexuality. For that reason, you could hear about lots of women that will say they do not care about physical attractiveness at all – even though later on many of them will not find their mate as sexually appealing anymore, but won’t ever realize that the lack of physical attraction is what mostly made them cold in the end.

        I find it hilarious that so many men still try to deny women DO feel visual sexual attraction. Some guys even seem kinda frustrated about that. Well, you know, women also know men, in general, will always find curvy, thin and hairless women attractive. We fully understand and accept it. What we sometimes get angry about is that many men will in fact believe they are entitled to the “hottest woman ever”, so much hotter than him… and will never care about the average girl. If men believe women are the same, just relax; women still believe there are more to men than looks, and that they aren’t entitled to the hottest guy. In fact, most prefer a guy on their league, and will settle for a guy less physically attractive than them if he has a great heart, with similar values. You see that all the time, come on! :)

  24. Honestly, the thing about naked people is that we only really care because we’re told we should care. Society says “Naked woman chest = Sexual, Naked man chest = Not sexual.”

    The thing is, I don’t find nudity particularly erotic, except during sexual situations. If there’s a naked guy doing laundry, I’m probably not thinking “ooh, must look at naked laundry man.’ I’m probably thinking about the laundy. Because unless they pose or something, naked people aren’t really that sexy to me.

    • Yeah. If you believe that mere nudity is erotic, then it’s fairly likely that you will find it erotic. If you don’t, then you definitely won’t. I had some discussion with a number people in the early 1990s (not on the internet, obviously) on this subject and it turned out that most of the people I spoke to were aware of this, yet they would rather live in a world were mere nudity was considered erotic because “it would lose a special something” if it wasn’t. (Or something along those general lines – one person specifically said “it would reduce attraction to ass-sniffing” whatever *that* means.) I have no idea if that attitude was actually widespread at the time or a local quirk, and whether it’s still prevalent either way.

  25. Sooo…. I’m going to crush some of the righteous anger here. In some states at least like say… Wisconsin https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/944 (scroll to 944.20) nothing is mentioned about women not being able to take their shirts off. … (Although there’s still an exemption for breast feeding I’m not sure why…)

    • It is true that women being topless is not illegal in a lot of places. The issue is not so much the law as the fact that there is a lot of cultural stigma about women being topless. I think that until that changes any woman who goes around topless will be subject to a lot of negative attention, from disapproving and judgemental stares to people muttering that she’s ‘just doing it for attention’. Even if the attention is not all negative, if you’re just trying to go about your day it would be so much easier to just wear a shirt and not stand out, even if it means you can’t cool down as much. This is what the ‘righteous anger’ is about. (Of course in some places, this stigma does translate into laws.)

      • “I think that until that changes any woman who goes around topless will be subject to a lot of negative attention, from disapproving and judgemental stares to people muttering that she’s ‘just doing it for attention’. ”

        A guy in a speedo will get the same, even more if he’s overweight.

        “Even if the attention is not all negative, if you’re just trying to go about your day it would be so much easier to just wear a shirt and not stand out, even if it means you can’t cool down as much.”

        I also like lolita fashion dresses a lot, but if I couldn’t stomach the attention it gets, I shouldn’t bother, not blame society for giving me attention.

        It’s always “easier” to just fit in, do stuff you don’t like but that won’t make waves…it doesn’t make it better.

        • Colette Wedding says:

          “A guy in a speedo will get the same, even more if he’s overweight.”

          A female-bodied person will too, and does. You’re talking about genitals.

          “I also like lolita fashion dresses a lot, but if I couldn’t stomach the attention it gets, I shouldn’t bother, not blame society for giving me attention.”

          Should we only question society’s reaction to stepping outside the status quo when it comes to things you’re not willing to suck up?

          • Stepping outside the status-quo will always draw some attention.

            As long as it doesn’t provoke undue grievances to being able to rent or buy real estate, work in businesses, or outright public (physical or verbal) violence, such it is, suck it up or don’t do it.

            Cross-dressing men have been fired for being cross-dressed off the job. That’s undue grievance in work. Trans people have been fired for legalities, and making people squeamish about their gender presentation (especially if they don’t are seen as trans visually), they’ve also been presented from renting property, and even using public facilities like locker rooms and bathrooms. That’s undue grievance about work, leisure and home renting.

            Being gawked at will happen if I wear lolita fashion, but no one will jump at me, no one will call the police on me, no one will refuse to hire me, or refuse to rent to me for it. They probably won’t insult me either, unless I look like a man in a dress (I don’t FTR, even though I am trans). They might find it cute, endearing, outdated, superfluous or just weird, and they’ll look because it’s unusual.

            You want something to not be unusual before you do it? Wait for brave pioneers to pave the road, or pave it yourself. It sure won’t pave itself.

            • The issue is that men can walk around with their shirts off in public when it’s hot as much as they want to, but women can’t. It’s the exact equivalent, and there are certainly other things you can wear that draw attention, like certain fashions, but they are not exact equivalents to this. The fact that to make an equivalent example to my original comment you had to make a man take even MORE clothes off, and wear just a speedo, is quite telling. If a woman walking around in nothing but a tiny pair of swimsuit briefs stands out because the briefs are revealing, and NOT because she’s topless, then that would be an equivalent.

              I still think that before women can feel comfortable walking around topless we would need to change the way people think about nude female upper bodies. For now, loads of people still have problems with public breastfeeding. I think we have a long way to go. And while you may consider that feminist minded women whipping their shirts off in public as much as possible to change attitudes will be the way forward, I can empathise with those who would never have the courage to do this until attitudes change a little first.

            • “And while you may consider that feminist minded women whipping their shirts off in public as much as possible to change attitudes will be the way forward, I can empathise with those who would never have the courage to do this until attitudes change a little first.”

              Okay, but not wanting to be a trailblazer yourself won’t pave the roads.

              Be a trailblazer, or encourage people to be. Don’t complain at trees for being in the way. The attitude won’t change until the attitude changes. You can’t complain at it.

  26. John Anderson says:

    I don’t have a problem with female strangers taking off their tops. The problem is with women I know. Do you really want to see your sister, niece, or daughter topless? Some female friends or coworkers could be awkward also. What if they had an exceptional pair of boobs? You know you’re not supposed to notice, but how can you not?

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      @John Anderson: “The problem is with women I know. Do you really want to see your sister, niece, or daughter topless?”

      Want it or not, that should not be THEIR business (otherwise, that would be akin to say “Women should not wear sexy outfits, because that makes men excited”).
      Of course, realizing that a woman kin to you is a sexual being might make you uncomfortable. But she IS a sexual being, regardless you notice it or not.
      Even a mom is, despite the fact that most children would not want to think to her that way (in USA, at least).

      In other cultures, hair are considered sexy, thus women have to cover them. Should you support a law that forbids women to reveal their hair? :)

      Anyway, everything becomes “normal” with time. Even uncovered breasts would be perceived as natural, after a (maybe long) while.

      • Thank you for this Valter. Women see men they know (and are related to) shirtless all the time. Depending on our attraction to them (and believe me it’s possible to acknowledge that one’s cousin is built well, all while tamping down attracting due to taboo issues), it can be more or less comfortable. Women find men attractive and I’d say we enjoy seeing many of them half clothed.

        I’m not sure how folks handle it in Europe, where a family might be on the beach and a mother takes her top off, but perhaps you’ve got a take on that Valter? Are the topless ladies on beaches mostly un-mothered, and not with family, or does one see a combination?

        Mothers are still sexual beings. We hate hearing about how we aren’t or shouldn’t be, or at least I do. I suspect the more we see of bodies the less of a big deal it all becomes.

        • Valter Viglietti says:

          @Julie Gillis: “I’m not sure how folks handle it in Europe, where a family might be on the beach and a mother takes her top off, but perhaps you’ve got a take on that Valter?”
          I don’t know much, because here in Italy (traditional and mostly catholic country, alas) people never go around topless (again, alas ;) ).
          But I know that in France some women go topless on the beach, and – of course – naturist people and families do that… and nobody makes a fuss, AFAIK. :cool:

          @Julie Gillis: “I suspect the more we see of bodies the less of a big deal it all becomes.”
          Yep. Everything becomes a habit, after a while.

      • Mark Neil says:

        Agreed. I’ve said before, feel whatever you want to feel, but don’t expect me to conform to make you feel better. If you want to think I’m a rapist walking down the street, go right ahead and think that. But once your feelings start impacting me, ether by telling me I need to go out of my way to avoid you, telling me it’s my responsibility to stop rape so you don’t feel that way or you start yelling for help when I’ve done nothing, then that becomes a problem.

        So that remains applicable here. If I’m uncomfortable seeing my family members breasts, that’s my problem, and they shouldn’t be expected to wear a shirt to pamper my sensibilities.

      • Acknowledging her boobs has nothing to do with sexuality. A man may feel sexually turned on, but that is about himself. What is sexual is our minds. Our bodies are just bodies, instruments we can use to express sexuality if we want to. But still neutral.
        Women are sexual beings, with boobs or not, showing them or not. I don’t get your approach here. Unless you believe there is something particularly sexual about boobs; but that is certainly just cultural, and once again the meaning our minds give to them.

  27. raindizzle says:

    It women started going shirtless as frequently as men, the “sexual” aspect of the display would certainly wear off. A big reason why people are so attracted to breasts is because they don’t get to see them often enough in a non-sexual context … kind of like feet, belly buttons, or long hair in some other cultures.

    It’s incredibly unfair to create a hostile environment and then insist that people comply with the rules for their own protection.

    • I totally agree with this. I’ve pointed out elsewhere that yeah, as a lesbian I’m totally ‘guilty’ of viewing breasts as sexual body parts (just like I’m sure straight/bi women and gay/bi men view men’s chests as sexual body parts, I’m sure). And I’ve definitely had to catch myself from staring at a woman’s breasts a few times…especially when I was sort of just realizing I was actually attracted to women.

      But I definitely agree that breasts aren’t inherently more sexual than a man’s chest…our culture has just framed them as such.

      • Valter Viglietti says:

        @HeatherN: “But I definitely agree that breasts aren’t inherently more sexual than a man’s chest…”

        I think they are.
        Since they’re used (some say “meant”) for breastfeeding, they have an inherently sexual quality. I think it’s biological and built-in.

        The fact that both gender’s genitalia are hidden, but just female’s chest have to be covered, is telling. Breasts have a huge emotional power.
        Still, that’s not a reason to forbid women wearing what they want (or not). :cool:

        • “Since they’re used (some say “meant”) for breastfeeding, they have an inherently sexual quality. I think it’s biological and built-in.”

          Um, no. First, men’s breasts can lactate too. Second, even if they were made for breastfeeding, that has absolutely nothing to do with sex. Being made for breastfeeding doesn’t mean they’ll have a sexual quality to them.

          “The fact that both gender’s genitalia are hidden, but just female’s chest have to be covered, is telling. Breasts have a huge emotional power.”

          That is CULTURAL. In societies where women walk around uncovered, men aren’t like overcome at the sight or whatever. It’s a cultural thing.

      • There is actually a neurological difference between the chest of a man and the chest of a woman, namely that stimulation of a woman’s nipples also causes her genital stimulation, whereas the same is not true of men* (I don’t know if/how this may apply to trans or gender non-binary people, I think the study only used cis participants).

        Now I think the effect that behaviour and culture have on neurology is vastly underestimated in the general population so I wouldn’t say this difference isn’t cultural per se, but nor can we say that the only difference is a cultural one without further research. Of course this difference might very well have no effect on what makes for good public policy, I just thought it was worth a mention.

        * Sorry the study is behind a paywall, but that’s what the abstract says.

        • Valter Viglietti says:

          @Yiab: “stimulation of a woman’s nipples also causes her genital stimulation, whereas the same is not true of men”

          YES! (and thank you for the quote)
          I can confirm that from personal experience (as most women would do, I think).
          OTOH, my response to nipple stimulation (and most men’s, I think) is just “meh” or – at best – mildly pleasant.
          I even read that some women can orgasm through nipple/breast stimulation only. No way this would happen to a man.

          HeatherN’s stance seem rooted in the need to see men and women as equal; in many cases (bodies included), they are not.

          • So, Valter….I’ve met men who had extraordinarily sensitive nipples and enjoyed them during sex immensely, like a straight line to the groin. I’ve also met men for whom earlobes were near ecstasy. I’ve met women who….well, let’s just say their toes were somehow granted strange nerve pathways. I don’t know that we can ever say “Men’s bodies are like this, they never experience orgasm any other way but…” or the same for women.

            I believe that there have been cases of men who have experienced orgasm through nipple stim or earlobe stimulus after after paralyis. See the Chris Reeve foundation for more info.

            I’d paraphrase Heather by saying, everyone has a different experience and men and women are equal in the sense that the parts all have the potential to cause pleasure. Some women don’t need clitoral stim, some do. Some people love odd things, some people don’t.

            But to say “women always” or “men never” seems silly to me.

            • Valter Viglietti says:

              @Julie Gillis: “men and women are equal in the sense that the parts all have the potential to cause pleasure”

              Theoretically, yes. Practically, not always.
              Your stance (Julie and Heather) seems one of loving the idea so much (men and women as equal), to ignore practical reality. If men and women really were so much alike, there would not be so much conflict and misunderstandings.
              Sometimes (MANY times!) a man and a woman really look like they’re coming from different planets… :roll:
              Listening to spouses complaints, you hear the same issues over and over.

              @JG: “to say “women always” or “men never” seems silly to me.”

              I agree with you that generalizations can be silly. Yet, sometimes they’re needed when talking about things at large (not specific individuals), and sometimes they’re just true (or mostly true).
              Otherwise, subjects like psychology or sociology would not exist.

              - Women always love receiving flowers? Check! (or 99% check) ;)
              - Men are never able to get pregnant? Check!
              So, you see, there ARE differences… or trends. Like men having (on average) more testosterone, or being willing to have sex no-matter-what: not always true, but usually true.

              In understanding reality, we must tell the rule from the exception.
              You seem to pick exceptions because you dislike the rule… ;)

            • Valter Viglietti says:

              @Julie Gillis: “I’m saying no one is alike.”
              Yes and no.
              Everybody is unique… yet we all share commonalities.

              “I myself am an outlier in many ways”
              So am I (most of the times). :)
              Yet, I see trends and commonalities (even when they’re far from my personal experience).

              “I don’t like hearing that my experiences aren’t somehow just as real as yours.”
              Your experiences are – of course! – real; but they do not necessarily represent reality at large. You seem to think they do, and that’s what I’m objecting to, usually.

              “That I have a knack for the odd and unusual?”
              That’s most likely! :D

              All in all, it seems to me you’re often focusing on the exceptions, I’m more focusing on the rules (because I need to understand common behaviours and events).
              Rules and exceptions are both real, but the former are more statistically meaningful than the latter.
              Perhaps we could say that I stare at the forest (and I see similarities), you look at the trees (and you see their uniqueness). :)

            • I’d say my stand of trees that I”m most familiar with doesn’t look like the rest of the forest. And from what I can tell (reading here especially) my stand of trees has a lot less conflict, sex, happiness and acceptance than some of the other sections. Sometimes I read stories here and I just have such a hard time believing they are true. I do, you know, believe the writers. But I don’t recognize it, and it sounds quite sad.

          • As a bisexual person, I have some involvement in the gay community, and apparently men liking nipple stimulation is a very common thing. (I do to.) So unless it’s partly tied to one’s sexual preference, I don’t think there’s actually all that much difference between the sexes. (Not all women like it or get much out of it either.) As for the genital connection, well, women’s genitalia get aroused too, it’s just that the visual changes are so subtle that most people wouldn’t notice with a casual look.

          • Actually there are people of both genders who can reach orgasm without physical stimulus.

        • Yeah, mate, that’s not always true though. I know men that LOVE having their nipples played with, and women who actually don’t react sexually to having their nipples stimulated at all.

        • As a rule, studies talk about averages and tendencies. This does not necessitate that the traits being discussed are universal, nor does that variability detract from the fact that there is a real quantitative difference being presented.

          Remember also that this study cannot separate innate biological traits from deeply ingrained cultural ones, and that it does not make a policy prescription. I merely presented it as a point of data relevant to the discussion.

  28. As a man who has had breasts since he was twelve, I find going topless very uncomfortable. In general I feel there’s enough body policing to go around.

  29. Nick, mostly says:

    Just the other day I was reading about neural tissue engineering and nerve regeneration in the peripheral nervous system . One of the new-ish techniques in this field involves replacing damaged efferent neurons with afferent neurons to restore (limited) motor functionality. The fascinating thing to me is that the afferent neuron still “terminates” in the same area of the brain, requiring our neural pathways to reorganize to a certain extent to relearn control of the affected muscle.
    All of the discussion about whether female nipples are “sexual” or not, or have some unique sexual response that male nipples do not, reminds me that the determination as to what type of sensations leads to which responses happens in the brain. While recent research has helped us understand the action more, sexual response due to nipple stimulation isn’t completely autonomic. As with many things, our conscious processes can heavily influence what we find arousing.
    Since breast tissue arises from the same stem cells in both men and women, it shouldn’t surprise us that nipple stimulation would lead to similar results in men and women. Women’s breasts aren’t different in nature than those of men, they’re just more developed. Both men and women report that nipple stimulation detracts from sexual arousal at about the same rates. What is difficult to know is whether the larger difference in nipple stimulation enhancing sexual arousal (about 80% for women vs 50% for men) is due to the male breast tissue being more rudimentary or because of socialization factors that might cause men to either underreport the effects of stimulation on arousal, or ultimately to dissociate nipple stimulation from sexual arousal.

  30. blkmagick says:

    I feel like I’m such a prude for saying this, but I would prefer if women weren’t allowed to go topless in public. I’d be okay if men couldn’t take of their shirts as well. I feel like some parts of the body are for only those you are intimate with. However, my feelings on this stem from my extreme insecurity and I would feel jealous every time my man and I went out in public and he stared at another topless woman. Plus I wouldn’t want to go topless because gravity is not my friend. I believe there should be equality, which makes me say that men should have to have their shirt on as well.

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