Several years ago, there was a big hubbub here in Ontario about women’s right to go topless in public. Big debates raged. Lots of press coverage. I believe that the law was eventually passed to make it legal to do so. Not that you’d notice; I’ve yet to see a topless woman go walking about. Good thing we went to all that trouble, debate and discussion, hm?
The problem, as I see it, goes much further than the law, whether in places where it’s still illegal or here in Ontario where the girls can swing free legally if we so desire.
It’s that breasts are sexual according to our culture.
Let me qualify this. Breasts are sexual all the time. Listening to the media and cultural influences around us, those two little (or big, as they case may be) bumps are just walking sex toys. Doesn’t matter if they’re attached to a sleeping woman, an exhausted woman, a woman who is in hard-nosed workaholic-mode or someone just sitting around with friends talking and relaxing. They’re sexual anyway. Who cares if the body they’re attached to is not being sexual in any way, shape or form? Once they’re out there (and sometimes, they don’t even need that – they just need to catch the attention of someone feeling sexual) that woman is being overtly sexual.
Which is, of course, seven different kinds of bullshit.I remember a conversation I had with a neighbour of mine when all the hubbub was at its highest. She was talking about (bemoaning) the fact that now, going to the beach would not be an activity she could share with her children. I asked why not. She said, “I don’t want my children to have to see that!”
Umm, hello? Odds are, your children not only saw “that” but were nourished by “that” for a good portion of their young lives. Why wouldn’t you want to teach your children that sexuality and bare skin don’t have to go hand in hand? That bare skin, our bodies, are natural? The greatest part about this type of lesson is it doesn’t have to be overt. Just letting them see this regularly will help to teach them that bare breasts does not equal sex, since I’m basically sure that a woman going topless on a beach won’t be performing outrageous sexual acts in front of your children. Perhaps if more children grew up knowing and believing that skin does not equal sex, we’d have a more tolerant culture in twenty or thirty years.
It was funny, when all this was going down, to watch the different gender reactions. Many men loved the idea. They wanted a chance to gawk and think about sex. And many women were equally horrified, for the same reason.
Why do my breasts have to mean sex, and therefore be indecent? To me, they’re no different than the backs of my knees, my ears, the inside of my elbows. All these things are exposed to the air and shown in public. All three can be very erotic and pleasure-giving when touched by a lover who knows. But these areas haven’t been exposed to hundreds of years of sexualization, so I can bare them and not be obscene, not invite gawking males or disapproving women. They can just be body parts when I’m not being sexual.
Would that my breasts could be the same.