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What If Women Went Topless?

Unprecedented East Coast heat has prompted Moira Johnston to go topless in New York. Why drown in a hot, puddley bra when you can rip off your top, as so many men do when temperatures rise?

Moira also wants to raise awareness that, “It’s legal for woman to be topless anywhere a guy can be without a shirt since 1992 here in New York State.”

Jamie Peck gave it a try and found the only objectors were those worried about children, which she ponders:

Personally, I think that viewing a bare breast as inherently sexual and hence corrupting of innocence is silly; I’d much rather my hypothetical kid see women of all shapes enjoying the outdoors and being comfortable with their bodies than, say, two fully clothed people dry humping on a bench.

Plenty of men would love this, and judging from the crowd Moira attracts, many do.

But what would happen if women did go topless? All of them, in mass, for a long time?

Men would probably be disappointed as the breast fetish faded away. After all, it doesn’t exist in places where women walk around topless all the time, like tribal societies. And it withered in Europe and Australia in the 80s when breasts were bared in magazine and TV ads, and on billboards, and where women went topless on the beach.

The woman who reported this piece for Stuff appears to be Australian, and she can relate:

Why do we still treat bare breasts as such objects of scandal?

I must admit it’s always puzzled me. Growing up, as I did, in the ’80s, my template for adult womanhood was that it was perfectly natural – nay, expected – to whip ’em out in summer.

We’d turn up to the beach, three or four families or so, stake out a spot, and then the mums and aunts and friends would roll their one-pieces down and pour on the Reef. Consequently my approach to beachgoing is similarly au naturel.

So freeing. And some feminists recommend this breast baring to de-objectify them.

On the downside, women would probably still be judged, and some might feel pressured to uncover when they’d rather not — the inverse of some Arab women who feel pressured to cover when they’d rather not.

Still, women from once-topless societies aren’t expected to have such huge breasts today, saving money and potentially dangerous, unnecessary surgeries. As an ex-pat now living Portugal reveals:

My wife, who teaches at a local university, had an interesting conversation with one of her students. He’s a cosmetic surgeon, one of the very few in southern Portugal who does breast augmentations.

“I’m curious,” said my wife. “What size do most women ask for when they have an augmentation?”

“In Portugal? A B-cup,” he replied.

“A B-cup? That’s all? I’d have thought women who were paying for larger breasts would want something a little more…sizeable.”

“No, a B-cup is the average here, and in Europe. But if you go to the United States, it’s a different story.”

“What do American women ask for?”

“A D-cup,” he said. “The difference between Europe and the US is two cup sizes.”

Interesting to see the law of unintended (or intended) consequences in action.

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