Free boobs: female breasts as commodity

Blog Statue DC
Library of Congress, Washington D.C. November 2015. Bare-chested women have long been used by sculptors to represent power. Here, I guess, the sculptor means to show that a bare-chested woman is strong enough (all in the abs!) to ride a dolphin-horse after which she will have to be spit on by a fish to be cooled off. At any rate, the Library of Congress finds the image powerful enough to represent it on the front steps. I appreciate that much!

 

A YouTube commenter on my M Street walk video wrote to me this morning, “Thanks for the free boobs. I hope you succeed at your quest for the ‘normalization of female bare-chestedness’, cause then we will get free nudes all the time. Seriously, thank you, lady. You’re a hero for all the men who just wanted to see some girl’s boobs. Again, thank you.”

I would like to post my reply as an article.

Thank you for taking the time to watch my video and consider gender equality and body pride. I think your language opens up a much bigger conversation and points to the effects of the modern hypersexualization of the female body, as exists particularly in Internet imagery.

So let’s break this down a bit. You say, “We will get free nudes all the time.” You define the subject of your sentence, “we,” in your next sentence as “all the men who just wanted to see some girl’s boobs.” I appreciate that you don’t presume to speak for all men, just those men looking for free boobs, because the men I have around me want women treated with respect and treated equally under the law. They also enjoy looking at the female body, of course, but they are mature enough to appreciate a woman for more than just her body.

So, “free nudes all the time.” My first reaction is that a bare-chested woman is no more nude than a bare-chested man. We don’t call a man wearing pants but no shirt nude. We shouldn’t call a woman dressed that way nude either. But more importantly, the term “free nudes,” is pretty profound. This implies that we have created a whole industry around selling images of female bodies, specifically female breasts, for commercial gain that would not be possible if women were allowed to simply walk around bare-chested in the first place.  The qualifier “free” points to a normal state of boobs as “for sale.” Images of female breasts would not make anyone money if people saw breasts in non-sexual contexts with any regularity.

“Free nudes” makes it sound like the only real justification for a woman going bare-chested is for gratifying a man or for making money, and that seeing breasts for free is some type of bargain or hack. It’s also emphasizing what the man gets out of it, again.  A further disturbing association that arises out of the term “free nudes,” in this pay-per-view dynamic, is that we have made a commodity out of a basic human interaction, out of what in many cultures is the simple, healthy, free exchange of visual information about ourselves.

In Tokyo, Japan, they have made a commodity out of all of the male-female interactions, and a man can for a fee have a woman hold his hand, chat with him about work, comb his hair, fix his tie, stare into his eyes, etc. A man can literally choose on a menu the things that he would like a woman to do, and the fee for those services is based on what he wants and for how long. This is apparently very popular there, but it sounds desolate and bleak to me. An associated survey of young Japanese men and women shows the majority of both genders see no reason to have an actual relationship or family.  It’s worth pointing out that the population of Japan is also decreasing at a significant rate.  A majority of young women say they prefer to work and use their money to buy themselves things. A majority of young men say they prefer to play video games. As a result, one form of women’s “work” now is to sell men the human interactions that used to be given freely.

One of my goals in working to normalize female bare-chestedness is in fact to undermine the phenomenon that makes women’s bodies commodities, in the minds of men and women both. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe we are headed for the Tokyo model, but I think the entire conversation matures if we find our way out from the economy of prohibiting women from appearing bare-chested, shame us for being born into female bodies, require us to cover up, which creates an obsession with the very bodies we have to cover up against our wills, creating a whole population of men willing to buy and women willing to sell the very bodies they are artificially forbidden to show, which creates an industry with so much wealth that it creates actual power over all of us.

The entire interaction has started to give me heebies, like a hand has reached into the middle of all these natural healthy human interactions, engineered them to be considered dysfunctional, only to sell them back to us after they become obsessive needs. Why? You may not have meant it this way, but undermining the breasts-for-pay industry would be a beautiful legacy of the topfreedom movement, I think. Thank you again for your time.

(While I have you, the New York Times put out a great video and story about topfreedom in New York today.  The journalism is responsible and best yet, the images are uncensored!  That’s huge for a mainstream media outlet.  New York Times, “Free the Nipple.”)

 

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38 thoughts on “Free boobs: female breasts as commodity

  1. This is unfortunately the majority attitude. It seems to be due to age old repression of exposure of body parts..which still continues today. High ‘prude rates’ equal higher rates of sexual frustration, unwanted teen pregnancies, etc..
    http://www.alternet.org/story/154970/5_countries_that_do_it_better%3A_how_sexual_prudery_makes_america_a_less_healthy_and_happy_place

    The larger challenge is how to change this attitude here?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I think it can be changed somewhat. I have hope. But I think the way to do it is first to establish legality where we can, and then empower women who choose to go bare-chested to do so, all shapes, ages, races, in such numbers that the sight of bare-chested women becomes as normal as a bare-chested man. Relentless, patient forward progress and a lot of effort and conversation. Like this 🙂 Thank you.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great response to some uneducated remarks. Legality and education are what’s needed. Personally for us full public nudity in appropriate places should be legal.

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  3. First of all, I would like to comment you on your response to this guy. There are those who would have just ignored him, or blasted him for his frat-boy ignorance. You took the time to respond in a mature, responsible, knowledgable manner. Unfortunately, if he (or any others like him) see your response, I doubt if it would make any impression whatsoever. This culture is so steeped in male privilege and what they think they are “entitled” to, that they believe they are entitled to “free boobs”. Those “boobs” are not attached to a thinking, feeling woman; they are just a sexual object that happens to be attached to a woman. Also, I had no idea of this phenomenon in Japan; I do thank you for sharing this and I will be doing some further research myself. Again, thank you; great article.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you. I have had a few long conversations in person and through trading comments that started with this type of content and eventually turned into a conversation between adults. Not all do this of course, but a lot do move. I get the sense that these types of people make their comments before they realize how much collective conversation has been going on and for how long (decades). They throw out some silly sophomoric comment, not expecting an actual response, and if they continue the conversation it does become apparent that they are caught off guard by the sophistication of the women and men supporting the topfreedom movement. I’ve noticed less and less such comments under my videos. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that people who would say those things read the threads from other people who have said the same things and decide for whatever reason not to post their comment, either because it didn’t have the intended consequence or because they changed their mind or decided it wasn’t worth the effort. But I do see movement. Just to give you a bit of hope. Some people will remain obtuse forever but we can move a lot of folks toward acceptance. Enough to make a change I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another terrific article! Congrats!
    When you got to Japan I thought you’d also get to the festival and playground centered around the penis. Giant (and tiny) penises are displayed for playing. The women in pictures look both laughing and a bit embarrassed. I wonder what would happen if we had a festival of BOTH gender parts here. The “send up” might be very healthy!

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  5. Don’t be surprised that some people never seem to grow up with mature attitudes. What a contrast to the natural state of children’s minds, which accept the exposure of body differences as completely normal, which is as it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a very complex topic that indicates a root cause for teaching children body shame: the profit motive. I agree that children should have models of sexually functional adults who enjoy sex for its own sake, rather than models of sexually dysfunctional adults who always require payment for sex or nudity. By mentally castrating daughters we create male demand for sex as a commodity.

    A detailed analysis of this topic is at: https://sexhysteria.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/sex-play-and-sex-work/

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  7. So I’m trying to put myself into the perspective of your commenter. It might be a bit easier for me since I am a guy, but then I am bisexual and a nudist, and while I find female breasts fun in bed, I’ve never actually felt particularly aroused by the mere sight of them. In any case, it is no wonder that a guy who feels so deprived of the object of his desire (female breasts), would see a woman going bare-chested and encouraging other women to go bare-chested also, as a hero. You truly and literally *are* a hero to “all the men who just wanted to see some girl’s boobs”. There is a kind of despair expressed in that commenter’s comment, as if unconsciously he feels something is off with how things are (women covering their breasts), but he can’t put a finger on it. It’s like his brain is wired to work one way, but by social convention he cannot get the input that such a brain needs, and the result is this huge desire to simply see women’s breasts. Perhaps it is some sort of thing involving how evolution and procreation works. One’s first impression of another individual is the sight of their body, their demeanor, their voice, their smell, etc. For some men, I suppose the shape or size of the female breasts is more crucial than for the rest, when choosing a partner. Cover them up and you cut them off from what is to them valuable information. Are they sick, mentally unstable, childish, immature? Or are they deprived? Think of the most important thing that you look for in men when you are looking for a partner. Now imagine what would happen to you if all men were forced to hide that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Nikola: What a beautiful comment. Thank you. I’ve written before about the importance of compassion, which is very different from pity? You are analyzing the YouTube commenter’s words with compassion. It’s a hard thing to do sometimes, especially when the words coming out of a person’s mouth are on their surface reductive, insulting, angry, contrary to our view, etc. On the surface, on one reading, the commenter is making a sophomoric jab at the silliness of a “girl” in his words who would be so dumb as to give away the image of her “boobs” and that she has been fooled or duped into serving the brand of men who value women only for said boobs. And that is I think the way many, many people read that type of comment and it sparks anger in the receiver (and what is anger but fear?) But as you show, there is another way to read this type of comment, and that is from a place of compassion. Pity does not work. Pity is insulting and condescending. Compassion is more respectful, and therefore more effective. You rightly point out that there is a kind of despair expressed in his comment. I absolutely agree, and where I really respond strongly and positively to your comment is that you are saying, think about what this says about this person’s view and experience of human relationships. Nowhere in this comment are you apologizing for the comment or the tone therein. I appreciate that. You are simply doing what I consider to be a vital mandatory intermediate step when developing a response to someone, which is to try and see this thing through that person’s perspective. In T’ai Chi they call it the difference between making a reaction and a response. T’ai Chi practitioners train to respond, not to react. So nowhere are either of us saying, if I’m reading you correctly, that because the commenter has a despair implied under his message is that commenter justified in saying insulting, reductive things. It’s a more practical approach then that. It’s saying, understand where this comment comes from before addressing it. How do we get this specific human to move his position, to examine his feelings on women, or to change his language, to understand how his word choice affects the receiver of those words, etc? Compassion is a very powerful tool in creating social change, because it allows us to occupy the perspective of our impediments and understand them from inside out, and address their particular fears, angers, concerns in a way that actually addresses them and neutralizes them hopefully. I remind myself all the time, kindness is not weakness. Compassion is not weakness either. Compassion is a tool of strength. Bravo, friend. Thank you for taking the time to make your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your kind response. Of course, some of the credit is to you as well, for the excellent article – and your blog in general – which got me thinking in that direction. I didn’t know that what I did is practiced in T’ai Chi. I suppose I ought to look into it, since I have learned the value of separating reaction from response all on my own (though I’ve never put it in those terms), while I often have trouble doing so. I do believe it’s not easy to be one to whom such comments are frequently given, though. I imagine it’s not easy to be treated like a boob hanger. Then again, you are one of the very few women I’ve ever seen doing something substantial to stop that. If women were casually bare-chested, I honestly believe there would be no frustrated men like those who make comments such as you quote in your post.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. In response to Nikola’s last point- Forcing men to hide an attribute of desire. Do you mean like true emotion or feelings? Boys are so often raised to suppress their emotion yet their eventual mates wish so that they would be more open and honest with their feelings.
      Is it any wonder that the male supporters that comment here seem to be much more in touch and open with emotions. Seems to me a bit of a parallel to Gingerbreads main point above.

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  8. This is an excellent response to an attitude seemingly typical of someone who has been, for want of a better word, indoctrinated by modern mass media and pervasive social attitudes. Years ago, I was probably like that, but things changed when I first went to a nudist beach on a family holiday and, with bare female breasts everywhere, I initially didn’t know where to look. After a couple of days, it was amazing how my brain normalised social nudity and, in that context, they stopped being anything special and a source of fascination, interest, or something to stare at and objectify.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This was a really, really outstanding response to that idiot commentator. Being a supporter of women and women’s rights (including topfreedom equality), I find it incredibly frustrating when I see men say they’re all for women’s rights & topfreedom equality but yet turn around and pull the same “frat house mentality” towards women as this person did. It’s true a lot of it has to do with society and how the media portrays women and nudity, but the way you handled the situation and turned it into a positive, intelligent and mature conversation is beyond admirable. There will always be the “frat house mentality” men who won’t grow up, but when more people like you speak out and educate others, the better people will be informed – and hopefully become more supportive of women and women’s rights. Outstanding blog too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Scott: Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment, and for the kind words. I take heart when I hear men expressing objections to other men saying reductive or demeaning things about women. I also take heart in the fact that so many men find it frustrating, as you say, to encounter inequality, hypocrisy and misogyny. More and more people are becoming sensitive to the nuances of inequality, in cause and effect, and I see evidence of this in the quality of comments here and elsewhere. I also have a lot of encouraging conversations in person with people who either have or are starting to grasp the importance of the topfreedom movement and who feel comfortable and confident speaking about its importance to their own friends and family. That’s a true bellwether to me. It’s one thing to like a tweet or thumbs up video, it’s a whole other thing to voice competent support to people in one’s actual life. I’ve felt the movement gain gravity over the last 2-3 years in particular. There are a lot of people doing this work all over the country and the world and it’s starting to show. It’s exciting. Thank you again. Be well.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Nudity forces the onlooker to see the human as it is: An animal. The peoples who have been raised in religion, associate evil with matter. So, they are forced to see the truth, when they see a penis or a women nursing. Their comfort zone is gone. Their superiority feeling is challenged. In fact, except for the distinctive shape, and mostly hairless outside cover, our DNA has a lot in common with the animal kingdom.

    There is also the civilization factor. Phrases like: “We are not animals”, “We must maintain dignity”, “Nude peoples are: improper… uncivilized… have no morals”. There is a strong will to conform with our tribal roots. Our animal, survived by adhering to the tribe customs. Whatever they are; failure to adhere could mean total annihilation of the tribe. It makes changing what peoples believe very hard to do. Have You noticed that the most offended peoples were the older women? I think that older women of the tribe may be the ones which are the guardians of the customs.

    I also support another hypothesis, about the need to see the human body in the nude. When two animals, say two dogs, meet, they naturally go about smelling each other, out of curiosity. However, we as a human, we are deprived of a good smell organ. Compared to a dog or a cat, we are nose blind. But we are really visual. And the female of the species has the curves to prove it. So seeing nudity is our smelling substitute. Limiting our sight to the hands and face, frustrate our animal, our instinct. The (female) breast is a good place to start. People need not fear the male sexual instinct, as it will be appeased. Yes men will stare at first, trying to compensate for a lifetime of deprivation, but as time goes, everything will settle.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello. Thank you for visiting and commenting. I agree, there seems to be a real resistance in some people to what they perceive to be atavistic behavior. I get this sense with my bare-footing, that it unbalances people beyond it’s actual gravity, because they see it as a step backward on the civilization arc. It’s like, we were bare-footed back then, then we invented shoes, and now we aren’t bare-footed anymore. So when someone goes barefoot, to some people, it’s really jarring. It’s going the wrong direction. “Trying to compensate for a lifetime of deprivation,” I like that phrase. It’s interesting to ponder the psychological effect of using a breast to nourish and comfort a child, and then at some point withholding that very same breast and making people, men in particular, feel ashamed for trying to find comfort in it as an adult. No wonder we are so conflicted. Interesting thought about the guardian of the customs, very astute postulate, though I have found the most vitriolic responses (few and far between, but those that stand out) have been from mothers of teens, so 35-45 year old mothers. I wrote an article about what scares parents about bare-chestedness, by my observations and conversations with these mothers. The older women may have strong negative reactions internally, but they haven’t spoken those objections to me. In fact, I have had a half-dozen women over the age of 60 or so really show me sincere and deep support and kindness. But I like that you are applying that tribal psychology to the fear mechanisms involved in normalizing bare-chestedness. That’s how I think too. Thank you. Be well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s interesting. Sorry to steer this into a different direction for a bit, but Richard said older women seem to be most offended are older women. You claim it to be mother of teens 35-45 years. However, with my experience as a barefooter, I get only praise from both these age groups and the truly negative ones strictly from highschoolers (15-19 year olds), and that when they’re with their classmates. Granted, a man going barefoot and a woman going bare-chested is by no means the same regarding social custom, but it’s curious how different age groups cause us “trouble”, so to speak.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s fascinating, but it emphasizes perhaps that people’s objections to a new thing, or perceived abnormal thing, are very situational and subjective. I had a teen girl object to my bare-chestedness once in Ocean City. She was initially very vocal and dramatic. But I stayed calm and talked to her, and what changed her mind was that two of her friends said, “I don’t have a problem with this.” And just like that, she was outnumbered, and she suddenly wanted to join me in some bare-chestedness. So that leads me to believe her initial reaction was more about punishing behavior she felt was simply non-conformative, to protect her herd, her security, but when her herd decided my behavior was safe, she embraced it. It was never about the rightness or wrongness of my act to her, it was about the strangeness or normalcy of it.

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  11. I find it ironic that the supposedly “enlightened” and “progressive” communities are the most restrictive when it comes to women being bare chested or nudity in general. I live in one of those communities where that progressiveness is limited to what a few people say is permitted, and top equality is not one of them. Just the mention of being topless emotes giggles and chuckles which show a level of immaturity by these so-called “enlightened” individuals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you there. Hypocrisy is one of my triggers. I find it more difficult to remain non-confrontational in the face of hypocrisy. I’ve worked on it a lot. Funny anecdote: On my walk in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, a young man looked at me with a mix of surprise and judgment and said something like “why you got your boobs out?” And I said, “The same reason you got yours out.” And he looked down and realized he wasn’t wearing a shirt, and he looked back up and kind Of shrugged like, “You got me there.” And we both laughed about it for just a half beat. But that stuff drives me nuts sometimes, even when I can laugh about it. When people say equality it rarely means equality. And some of the people who most resist sharing freedoms with others are the ones who just take them for granted in their own lives. With that said, I’m still hopeful we can move the conversation. We already have. Long way to go but the train is still rolling.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Your response to “free boobs” was the usual thoughtful tour-de-force. And thanks for the reminder to be compassionate. It takes extra effort. Like trying to understand the mindset of people who wore corsets.

    As for “commodity” torsos, we live in an economic system that tries to monetize everything. For entrepreneurs and industries, social taboos are special Eldorados.

    With the female chest taboo, for instance, monetizers think they are at least twice-blessed. The perceived market is of course what feminism calls “male gaze” — men actively looking at women as objects of desire, while women passively watch themselves being watched. So monetizers set out to profit both from revealing the hidden and from products that fashionably enhance the hiding, not to mention selling ads in media that promote tittering about every nip-slip.

    But the taboo is fragile. The slightest lapse on either side risks collapse of its market value. If the supposed reflex of men gets disrupted, say, by forgetting to automatically objectify female managers. Or, if women forget to be passive about expecting equal respect at school, in the workplace, at the beach. Or, if parents (like mine) forget to transmit the taboo to their children. Or, if it becomes clear to everyone that a woman can go for a stroll bare-chested in, say, the nation’s capital without anxiety or gaze-hassle.

    Contrary to the take of your YouTube commenter, routine encounters with real-life “free boobs” are like water on the Wicked Witch of the West. It melts the taboo’s value, neuters the power of Photoshop, isolates fantasy from real people, heals excessive watch-being-watched self-consciousness, and realigns social expectation-response with normal social civility. As anyone who has vacationed on a French beach can confirm, the spirit of even the most rapacious “free boobs” consumer “normalizes” in a matter of minutes. A worrisome focus-group result for taboo investors.

    The monetizers have had a good run, but it is now time for them to bank their profits and move on to other taboos. Since most people have female chests, continuing to insist they are contraband is legally incoherent, socially unsustainable, and commercially doomed. Your walks around town prove that most people consider the “use by” date on this “commodity” already expired.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I started this blog at the suggestion and request of friends and family, to share the experiences and lessons learned from my bare-chested walks during the previous two years. I thought long and hard about it, pondering the positives and negatives. As much as I thought about the positives, and there were many, I did not foresee the sheer joy of conversation the comments section would bring me. I have generally considered the comments section of social media, YouTube, and even the blogosphere to be a festering wasteland as far as civil discourse is concerned and the thought of moderating a comment section conversation on gender equality felt quite heavy at times. But comments like this, Justin, really make me thankful for having started this project. And it’s not because you generally agree with me, support gender equality, body pride, etc though all that is certainly nice. It’s the tone, the intellect, the thought you bring to the comment. It’s that you have read the post, read the comments that preceded yours, thought on it for some time, it sounds like you’ve thought on this topic for quite awhile anyway, and brought something new, you pushed the conversation a step further. Other commenters do the same thing, and it just struck me with this comment how much I enjoy reading well-constructed expressions of thought, even when they express ideas contrary to my own opinions. Thank you for your time, thought and support. I hope to read more from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent response; I suspect that the “free boobs” comments were made by a person (male or female) who opposes the public exposure of the female breast and was posing as a licentious male to make you feel shame and thus reconsider your position.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I really admire you for your courage and for all what you are writing here on this blog.
    I noticed that you are mostly walking with bare feet and sunglasses, is there a reason for that choice?

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    1. Hi Frank: Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting. I prefer to go barefooted when possible for many reasons. There is a lot of information circulating around about the benefits of walking barefooted, but basically I feel my feet are stronger and I am more aware of my surroundings when I’m walking barefooted. It feels free to me. Sunglasses… just that I am often out on bright sunny days. I do think it’s valuable though to be able to make eye contact with people sometimes. Sometimes people can feel eye contact is intimidating. It depends, I guess. Mostly though it’s just to shade my eyes. Thanks again.

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  15. Good evening, and I am sorry to be so late to the program, I’ve only just discovered your blog. I’ve pondered this entire situation for quite some time, from my own personal perspective. Why is there a male fascination with the female form, more specifically, breasts? Yes, while the response of “free boobs” was indeed sophomoric, it comes from our earliest memories of being nourished by our mothers. While it is often viewed as sexual, I would argue it is more as sense of comfort and nurturing. Society at large fails to see, or is unwilling to accept, that for centuries, the only form of nourishment male and females had in their infancy was their mother’s milk. Unfortunately, most of today’s children do not understand this other than the stigmatic symbolism associated with it as created by the Puritanical beliefs we cling to with a death grip. Of course, their comments come across as childish, because they are conceived from this place of when we were children. — they do not consciously realize this, because that is their only frame of reference.

    For the record, I believe that women should be able to go bare-chested, and publically feed their children. It’s not immodest or immoral, it is the natural order of being a human and accepting this is how life should be. It should be celebrated, not supressed.

    I applaud your endeavor.

    Liked by 2 people

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