In 1991 I was walking down the street in my hometown of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. A woman passed by on the other side of the street and as she passed by it dawned on me that she was wearing no top and I had seen her breasts. I was 16 at the time and being a straight male I immediately got an erection and passed out from the lack of blood to my brain.
For her crimes and the pain caused to me by the sight of her bare breasts, Gwen Jacobs was convicted of indecency and fined $75. In rendering his verdict the judge said that breasts are “part of the female body that is sexually stimulating to men both by sight and touch” and that they should not be exposed. This verdict was later struck down by the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Now in the same city, more than 20 years after a legal ruling that women could in fact be topless in public an eight year old girl has been order to wear a bathing suit top in a city pool by the lifeguard, citing a city policy requiring bathing tops on girls over the age of four. No topless girls allowed! The city has received some feedback on this matter from the public and has opted to suspend the policy while they review it.
I have a problem with this policy. Just like school dress codes forbidding spaghetti straps, bare shoulders and the like and women being asked to cover up while breastfeeding, this policy is all about taking power away from women because men might get aroused. This is ridiculous and offensive.
First of all there is the argument espoused by Gen. Tom Lawson that men are biologically wired to harass women. This argument presumes that boys and men have uncontrollable sexual desires. It suggests that the straight male human can not be held responsible for their sexual behaviour because, well, biology. For that reason girls and women should be covered up so as not to inflame the uncontrollable passions of males.
Second there is the argument – in a similar vein – that there are pedophiles out there who would look at young girls and perhaps abduct them if they weren’t wearing a top.
Third is the notion that women’s breasts and shoulders and ankles and bellies and knees and the like are for sex and therefore shouldn’t just be hanging out there for all to see, presumably to prevent things from getting too sexy.
I believe that the technical term for all of these arguments is Hooey.
Do straight men and lesbian women find women’s bodies attractive? Yes. Does everyone find the same things attractive? No. Are men controlled by sex? – Contrary to popular opinion – no. Men have brains and will power and amazingly can even learn that women are people too and deserve to be respected and not mauled whenever a man feels like it. We learned how to manage ourselves when the authorities allowed women’s ankles to be exposed. We handle the exposure of all kinds of body parts.
Do pedophiles exist? Yes. Are they lurking in every pool and public space in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the chest of a female? Perhaps, but not likely.
Can sexiness happen if someone catches a glimpse of a woman’s breast, shoulder, neck or belly – you betcha!
Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter how men feel when they see the form of a woman. The bodies and body parts we are seeing don’t actually belong to us. If we get all hot and bothered by the sight of a naked chest – developed breast or not, that is our problem. It isn’t on the girl or woman to have to cover up to protect men from feelings and biological reactions. Women have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies.
The argument that Gwen Jacobs made in court was that it was 33 degrees (Celsius) that day and there were plenty of topless men around. Nobody seemed concerned about how women would feel at the sight of a hot dadbod sauntering around all topless and stuff. I know some women who would get pretty worked up and maybe even remark upon the naked torso of certain fellows. Why aren’t we protecting those women from their biological reactions?
It should not be for the state to regulate what clothes someone can wear or not wear. It is not for the state to protect men from feeling sexed up at the sight of a woman. A woman who chooses to be topless or bottomless for that matter is not giving men or anyone else permission to harass her or touch her body. She is not inviting sexual assault by wearing or not wearing clothes of any kind.A woman who chooses to be topless or bottomless for that matter is not giving men or anyone else permission to harass her or touch her body. Click To Tweet
It is up to all of us to acknowledge that every human being – even women – have the right to clothe their bodies as they see fit. It is up to all of us to make sure we teach one another that harassment and assault of other humans – even females – is not ok. It is up to all of us to step up and stop harassment and abuse and sexist comments where and when we encounter them.
It is none of your business if my daughters want to run around topless or naked on a hot day. It doesn’t matter how old they are, how developed their bodies are or how the sight of them makes you feel. Your only business is to mind your own business and leave my kids to their fun – however they choose to dress (even if they are wearing clashing patterns).