Live (Top)Free or Die: roses and thorns from New Hampshire

Hampton 1
Weir’s Beach, Laconia, New Hampshire, Summer 2016. New Hampshire has been debating topfreedom for more than a year, but after one court ruling and two legislative debates falling in favor of allowing female bare-chestedness, more and more women have been doing so.

New Hampshire’s state motto is, “Live Free or Die,” which was taken from a toast made by a Revolutionary Army General named John Stark.  (The phrase was used widely in the French Revolution prior to that, according to Wikipedia.)

The motto has created a lot of irony over the years, as New Hampshire has continually been a cultural battleground between traditional, fiercely independent isolationists and the waves of transplants that vacation and retire there from the more urban areas to its south.

New Hampshire is also virtually entirely white in population, (94% white, 2% Asian-American, 1% African-American), and there can exists a palpable lack of nuance in their statewide conversations about racial equality.  Likewise with regards to gender equality, the state’s 400+ member “citizen legislature” will sometimes pass or attempt to pass laws that leave the rest of the country scratching its collective head.  (Which per capita is one of the largest such bodies in the world, and as my New Hampshire friend Joe insists in the state’s defense, with that many people, you are bound to get a few crackpots.)

This year four male state representatives introduced a bill that would have made female bare-chestedness illegal.  This blog or Google will catch you up if you wish to look back at how it came to be (including the state rep who declared publicly that if another state rep got her breasts out she should be okay with him grabbing them.)  In January, after a concerted effort from topfreedom supporters, the bill was rejected in committee 19-0.  Shortly thereafter, a female state senator introduced a second bill that would have given the unelected department heads that oversee (among other things) parks, forests and the tourism bureau the power to regulate attire on all state property including beaches, parks and forests, stating clearly and repeatedly that she was trying to stop women from going bare-chested.

In response, one of the topfreedom supporters testifying before the senate committee proposed changing the state motto simply to “Die.”

Fortunately, after another well-attended show of dissent from the topfreedom supporters, that bill also died in committee, 14-1.

So yay, right?

Sort of.

Yay because women have indeed been going peacefully bare-chested across the state this year, including at Atlantic beaches, state parks and local swimming holes.  (More on this below.)

Laconia Bike Week
Bike Week, Laconia, New Hampshire, Summer 2016. Our New Hampshire pioneer friends posing with the same police officers who arrested them for being bare-chested two weeks prior in protest of another woman’s arrest. You didn’t think they were just going away did you?

But not so yay in the small town of Gilford, New Hampshire, where this whole saga began, and its immediate neighbor city in Laconia (home of the famous bike week) where police continue to arrest and harass women for going bare-chested, in open defiance of a court order to the contrary and two failed attempts at the legislative level to give the towns the right to ban female bare-chestedness.

In June, Laconia’s police chief stated publicly that his department would arrest bare-chested women and argued that the court order in question, which ruled that no state law criminalizes female bare-chestedness and that towns do not have the authority to criminalize it themselves, did not apply to Laconia which he says is a “city” and not a “town.”  Several of us, including me by phone, talked with the chief at length, who claimed he believed women and men should be treated equally but that he and his legal staff feel strongly that they can and should keep women from going bare-chested.  Two weeks later three women were arrested on purpose in Laconia for going bare-chested and their case will eventually go before the same judge that ruled in their favor in Gilford last winter.

On the positive side, I received these updates from others who have been going bare-chested all summer.

“Based upon my own experience, and that of others, there are a lot of “first-timers” going topfree at the beaches/parks.  And a lot of folks who are noticing topless women in public for the first time.

I’ve also seen a couple instances of women wearing sheer tops at the beach, so this is helping those who are “in the middle,” too.

Other than Laconia and Gilford, there have been no reported legal problems.  One woman has mentioned that someone called the police when she was at [a local swimming hole near Bristol], but the officer showed up and admitted that the only thing they have is a “nudity” ordinance, which does not mention toplessness or nipples.

My personal experience at one recent beach trip:

So, we (kids and I) were at Hampton Beach today with our friend G, her son, and her boyfriend. We were supposed to meet some others, but various craziness delayed us and meant we missed them. Still, she got her paints out, her top off, and painted herself up as an octopus. It took about two hours, total, for the painting.

Lots of folks slowed down to watch as they walked past. One woman came over about halfway through to say that she’d been watching, but had to leave, and wanted to know what the final design was going to be. A father stopped walking with his kids to tell them how cool bodypaint is. Things were going very well, and then a young girl, probably 10 or so, started to walk past, got the “I need to find my parent” face (the parents in the crowd know which one I mean), and I braced for some irate parent yelling at us. Sure enough, she came back with her mom, exclaiming, “see? what did I tell you? there she is… isn’t that so cool?!” They stayed for a minute or so, discussing the artwork.

All told, we spent six hours on the beach and the adjacent sidewalks, and she got hundreds of positive comments, and many requests for pictures (mostly from women). Many mothers asked if their kids could have pictures with her. Judging by the extreme variety of accents among those who spoke with her, the anti-nipple brigade’s claim that tourism will be harmed is proven to be nonsense.

Through the whole day, there was only one negative interaction, when a trio of women complained that she should not be near the playground (despite the fact that she was there with her child). One said something along the lines of, “not everyone wants their child to see that.” G replied that people definitely have different ideas of what they want to see in public, just like some people might not want their kids to see someone smoking. She tells me that she didn’t even consciously realize that this busybody was smoking in the playground before the words were out of her mouth – in that case, her subconscious was on the ball with the most perfect possible argument.

As those three left, they tried to tell others coming in that they should not because of “the naked woman,” and everyone they spoke to thanked them for the information, then ignored them and came in anyway. A few minutes later, they brought the police, who quite firmly told them to get lost; based upon their body language, I believe their words towards that trio would not have been even vaguely polite if they were not in uniform. So, maybe Gilford and Laconia can send their police and other employees to Hampton for training?

The remaining couple hours were more positive interactions, folks asking if they can be bodypainted at some point in the future, and at least one shout of “free the nipple.” After a swim in the ocean, some of the paints washed off and others remained, leaving her with one nipple unpainted. The interactions remained positive, including several more interactions with families.”

Hampton 4
Weir’s Beach, Laconia, New Hampshire, Summer 2016. Apparently the only real complaint against “G” this day was from a woman who said she did not object to her bare-chestedness, but to her doing yoga, which she declared obscene. The Laconia police eventually arrested her after she politely refused to cover her chest, asserting her right to do so under New Hampshire law.

And this update from a different friend:

Sorry for the late response. Been really busy with work. I have gone out bare-chested — quite a few times actually. I love swimming and go probably once a week and haven’t worn a top once. I have been hearing and talking with a lot of women who are exercising their rights. That is why I love our Facebook group. I think us all being able to share our stories and experiences helps other women see that it is okay and it inspires them — whether they want to go bare-chested or not.

Unfortunately for us the police are not being very cooperative…despite having lost a court case last December, Gilford cops threatened they would arrest for criminal trespassing if [women] go topless on the beach… and get this, it was [our friend]  who called the police to say, ‘Hey we’re going to be going to Gilford Beach and we will be topless. Just wanted to inform you beforehand.’ She was giving them a heads up to do the right thing and give them a chance to do the right thing as well. I’ve gone topless at a local falls quite a few times topless and have only had one incident. A cop was called on me and even though he knew he couldn’t make me put on a shirt, which he acknowledged, he was still very upset I wouldn’t. He kept trying to convince me and even went as far as to lie and say that the town of Bristol has an ordinance (which they don’t). So, not sure what to do about Gilford! 

Thankfully, most of my experiences and most of the women I see talking about theirs, have been positive. I do believe more people are in support or indifferent to it.”

Hampton 3
Weir’s Beach, Laconia, New Hampshire, Summer 2016.  The day after “G” was arrested, two others went out bare-chested in protest of her arrest and were arrested themselves.  All behaved quietly and did nothing to resist or cause a scene.  I will update this story when their cases resolve.

And from this weekend’s Go Topless Day events, this update I found on the Topfree Runboard, “I spent Sunday (which was go topless day) afternoon and Monday (just a regular day) at Hampton Beach. Go Topless day seemed to present an example of what would happen if it were culturally acceptable, as well as legal, for women to choose what they wear at the beach the same way that men can. On Sunday there were topless women all over the beach. Ages ranging from 0 – 60 and just about everything in-between. But there were no senior citizens. Looking around this seemed to be because there were no senior citizens at all. Though the beach goers were mostly white, there were hispanic and african-american groups as well, and lots of European tourist as well as Americans. Some women from all of these groups joined in doffing their tops. I suspect some of them had no idea it was go topless day (such as the ones I overheard speaking Russian or some Slavic language), but looking around and seeing lots of other women topless, just felt comfortable joining in.

On Monday it was a different scene. For one thing the senior citizens showed up. I guess with parking costing 1/6 as much as the day before and them not having to be at working that makes sense. Secondly we were back to the typically American beachwear scene with the only topless woman I saw that day being a friend was with me.”

And this super awesome update from an attendee of the New Hampshire Go Topless Day.

“Our go topless day was amazing. I would estimate there were at least 200 topless women and nonbinary people, if not more. It is hard to say because throughout the day women were joining in. Some were tourists from other states and overseas. A man and a woman were walking together and I heard the man say “it must be legal, it has to be.” and so the woman undid her top, took it off, and they kept walking 🙂 At one point a little girl, maybe 8, asked me “why aren’t you wearing a shirt?” so I told her “Because it is hot!” she accepted this answer. She wasn’t scared or angry but rather curious, like most children who notice (usually they don’t).”

And finally this article from the conservative Union Leader.  The article is neutral to my ear, and the comments are the predictable vitriol the Union Leader is known for.  So I take it as a win that the article is journalistic.  (I don’t read comments sections.  They are not an accurate reflection of public sentiment.)

New Hampshire Go Topless Day article.

Advertisements

31 thoughts on “Live (Top)Free or Die: roses and thorns from New Hampshire

  1. Another really interesting article about how difficult it is for women to have the same rights as men. Even when they are legally granted those rights, it seems they can’t enjoy them without being hassled by people in authority. All this in the ‘Land of the Free’ in the 21st-century as well!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s me you quoted about Hampton Beach. Talking with other friends after the event, we estimate that about 200 women and girls went topless at least at some point on Sunday, and many supporters were with them. Walking all the way up and down the beach in the late afternoon there were always some topless women visible. Only a very few negative comments from some frat-boy types; by in large most people were supportive or just ignored us and did their own thing. Future events are being planned around the state in the upcoming weeks. Feel free to ask me if you have any questions.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Hey Robert! We just last night realized you were the admin for the topfree runboard and the same guy we met in Concord. This is the second time a long time contributor from Topfree Runboard has arrived in our lives, too. A good friend from Pittsburgh turned out to be someone with whom we had interacted on your board. Your board has been an incredible resource to me and us over the years. We have been pondering the creation of a list of places where topfreedom has been “confirmed” as legal in some way, either through police confirmation or legal battles or statute etc, and creating a sort of wiki for this information. We were thinking (several people have been in this conversation) that we could ask people to cite their authorities, and that some admins could vet the information, so people could easily find and also trust to some degree the information they are looking for. Is that something the runboard could be or do, do you think? My computer skills don’t rise to that level. Anyway… 200 women!!! I would sure have loved to have seen that. You all have worked so hard in New Hampshire to make this happen. It’s awesome that it’s moving and progressing. Well done. And thank you for all the effort you’ve made over the years.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. A number of people have been thinking for a long time about making such a wiki. I don’t have the computer skills, and I don’t think that the runboard has what’s needed to host it. However, a lot of us there would be glad to help out with providing info on such a project.

          Like

            1. What you need is a map and a wish list. Whatever you come up with could be a useful tool to help identify where it theoretically is legal, where it’s been tested, and where work of some sort needs to be done. There are plenty of mapping sites that let you add your own content.

              I have an overthought, 400-word version of the above paragraph that I’ll email you separately. But that should be enough to get the wheels turning in somebody’s head. With the right tool, any job is easy. (-ier) We just need to define the tool.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. I was concerned I didn’t get any update from you recently, and what I found today? This! What a relief and nice read. I’m glad things keep going well (in the broad sense). The change is building up.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks to the courageous women fighting for top freedom. We should definitely outlaw adults smoking or drinking alcohol in front of children before we outlaw top freedom in front of children!

    Like

  4. It seems to me that the police of Gilford and Laconia have decided amongst themselves that – even though they can’t do anything about the matter legally – they will harrass you to the maximum extent permitted by what they think of as the law. And I suppose, as long as nobody takes the law to them about abusing their power illegally they will continue.

    It may seem a bi step frm here to what is happening in many parts of the US at this time, and that could be described as an attempt at genocide by the vehicle of shooting as many putative traffic offenders as possible as long as they are black (or rather – excuse me – African American; I live in South Africa where, before during and after the rule of Nelson Mandela the indigenous people of the continent were, are and will be called “black” by themselves and others and nobody thinks there is any discrimination in that word.)

    Like

    1. Thank you for reading my blog and sending your comment. I don’t see it as a big leap at all between topfreedom and Black Lives Matter, on an idealistic sense. As I’ve said elsewhere in this blog, equality is equality for all, across all intersections. And as both movements (or both parts of the same movement hopefully) have found, those in power feel a lot of anxiety when an oppressed party asserts their equality. It can be stressful for those standing up too, for many reasons. All change, even improvement, carries with it stress. As for labels, I try very hard to use the terms preferred by the people that term is referring to, and realize that those terms may and will change as the public discourse evolves the terms and as our sentiments change over time. And there it is again… We learn one new set of terms (change!) just in time to have to learn new terms (double change!!). Hopefully all this collective panic will create a dialog about fear an anxiety and hatred that will move us forward. Thank you again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. coming back to the ever changing PC term for people of the African ethnicity. And I admit that it is off topic here – even though it probably helps a bit with understanding what motivates people that are – at the end of the day – just bigots. (I’ll use that thought in another reply just now.)

        It seems to me (as an outsider as far as the US are conerned) that using a new term every few decades because the old one is – once again – deemed discriminatory is not solving the problem. When I was old enough to notice the accepted word was “negro,” soon to be replaced by “colored” then “black” – with “black pride” and “black is beautiful” to reinforce the sentiment. But it wasn’t to last, and so we now have the somewhat unwieldy “African American” – which I have heard people use in the context of visitors from Africa, where clearly it wouldn’t apply. But could it be that the discrimination (or let’s call it what it is – the racism) is not in the words but in the sentiments behind them and as long as the sentiments don’t go away the words will not fix anything?

        Like

  5. Slightly off-topic;

    We in Europe are quite fascinated by the odd relationship American culture has on average with the female breast.

    I do however like to point out that we are fully aware that male and female torsos are not equal actually, since humans are the only primates where females have permanent plump breasts because ancestral males have shown a sexual preference for the mutation producing these permanent breasts. They are sexual ornaments, and men are evolutionary programmed to admire them. Otherwise today’s female chests would resemble the flat thoraxes other bipeds.

    For this reason, we city-people generally prefer to restrict (as a social construct) naked torsos (males too, actually) to beaches, parks and recreation.

    I’m wondering what your thoughts are.

    Also, if you had the freedom to go as you please (there was no more fight to be fought) but were limited only by common decency, would you take this idea into account when choosing where to walk bare breasted, or does your vision for the future include desexualizing breasts so they have less power over – biologically speaking – potential mates?

    Like

    1. Hi Alex: Thank you for visiting my blog and writing your comment and question. We made a trip to the Netherlands this spring and found a culture that felt simultaneously more and less open than the U.S. It was fascinating. Regarding nudity, the Dutch were soooo much more comfortable with social nudity, and the society as a whole seemed quite inclusive of same-sex relationships, non-binaries and such. But at the same time we observed this fascinating social uniformity regarding fashion and behavior that stood out to our American eyes. Many people wore the same jeans and shirts and dresses and used the same phones and things like that. It was funny actually, because people kept looking at me in this strange way and I was like, surely they can’t tell I’m American just by looking at me! But then we realized I was wearing wide-legged pants, and basically every other woman under the age of 40 was wearing black or dark slim fitting pants. So as to your question, I always sort of bristle when I hear the term “common decency” because both terms, common and decency, are products of this collective group thinking that societies do. It’s great for the people who naturally fall into the common part of that equation, but for the people who fall outside of it, the social isolation is incredibly powerful. So if there was no fight to be fought, I would appear as I felt comfortable that day. Most of my bare-chestedness is exactly that, just going out as I am most comfortable. Some of my walks and such are to make a political statement of course, most are not. I only share a portion of what I do here on the blog. We have a long, long way to go until female bare-chestedness is as normalized as male bare-chestedness in the U.S. Men here go bare-chested all the time, in all sorts of settings. I’ve received negative feedback at times about going bare-chested where men don’t. So I started taking pictures of men bare-chested in these places I go. It’s just SO common that we don’t even see it anymore. As far as evolution and the breast goes, I would have to do some reading on the topic. But it’s an interesting thing to ponder. I wonder if penis size has met the same sort of evolutionary decision making…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Gingerbread, thanks for your reply.

        Penis size will most definitely have an evolutionary footing, as humans have the biggest penises in the primate world. Generally speaking of course; there are micro penises (as there are also flat chested women). I didn’t mean to give the impression though that I was cherry picking evolutionary tales, rather illustrate that the female breast is a sexual thing that one cannot honestly say is exactly equal to the male chest. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to go bare-chested. I think you should. We do generally think though that getting your breasts out is one-upping bare chested males, as getting your penis out would be one-upping bare breasted ladies. There are entire communities of people who go completely nude, and their discussion is a whole different one: Should males have to be ashamed of and remove themselves from sight when they get a involuntary erection, which happens a dozen times per day just to keep things healthy, but more in context, can also happen when a particular voluptuous set of breasts enter the scene, because that quite simply is the power that breasts have. What is your opinion on this?

        The privilege you seek (if that’s the correct word for something that is illegal in certain states for now) is one many agree you should have. But the reasoning that men can go bare chested so you should too in the name of equality is, dramatically speaking, an insult to breasts. I think people should be more live and let live and either be nice or move along in general. But I do think it’s understandable that you get negative feedback where guys do not. Basically you’re (asking for the right to) walk around with a device that can trigger the male mating reflex. I don’t know (but am curious to know) who gives you the negative feedback? Because if you walk bare breasted in my city (as opposed to near beaches or lakes), I’m sure you will find that you will receive a modest amount of negative feedback specifically from females walking around with their boyfriends or husbands, as my girlfriend sometimes experiences when we walk from the lake to our home. Interestingly, we never heard criticism when someone was walking with their kids. So the offence is clearly not taken in the direction of children being exposed to something that is completely natural.

        Full disclosure: We go naked on the beach, and at the same time personally I am glad it is not the norm to go (semi) naked in the city.

        Like

    2. Interesting comment, Alex, but when you say: “…ancestral males have shown a sexual preference for the mutation producing these permanent breasts” that’s merely a hypothesis that we have no way to confirm. It’s possible that human breasts evloved for other reasons that have nothing to do with sexual preference. The same goes for penis size. In any case, whatever the reasons for the difference, the moral question now is whether to continue encouraging little girls to become ashamed of breasts or not.

      Like

      1. Hi Sexhysteria,

        You are correct in saying it is a theory, but I find it a rather weak argument to disregard what scientists and biologists widely theorize to be true. Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, correlation between breast fitness and fecundity, Fisher’s runaway (about features in male species), the link between preference and genotype in Richard Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker, or even female exploitation of this trait though clothing (such as corsets invented by famous Madame Caplin) in recorded history.

        You effectively disregard hundreds of years of educated reasoning by millions of biologists by saying “Nope, merely a hypothesis.” and I am not sure why. What is the argumentative gain? Is it an argument to go back to the notion that the male chest is exactly equal to the female chest? Or perhaps a rejection of the notion that somewhere along the way males might have had a ‘say’ in how you look today?

        Either way, the proposition, whether classy or not, successfully stifles further discussion. Irregardless, when you say “the moral question now is whether to continue encouraging little girls to become ashamed of breasts or not” I agree. With the side note that it is “a”(n important) question, not “the” question.

        Like

        1. Alex, thanks for your reply. I’m glad you agree that whether to continue encouraging little girls to become ashamed of breasts is an important question. In my hierarchy of priorities, it is a far more important question than the status of evolutionary theories of why humans have unique breasts. Breast shame is only a part of the traditional mental castration of girls, but it’s a big part. Have a nice day!

          Like

    3. Which other bipeds? Penguins? They are birds; they don’t have mammary glands. There aren’t really any other mammalian bipeds. Which points out that your evolutionary conjecture is built on a pretty weak foundation. Yes some very famous biologists have speculated that human female breasts were brought about by sexual selection. Desmond Morris for certain. I think Owen Lovejoy suggested it too. But it’s still speculation.

      We don’t understand the evolution of any particular trait. We understand evolution. It is a proven Theory, up there with Relativity and Quantum Electrodynamics in terms of how well supported it is. But understanding evolution and understanding the evolution of a particular trait are two different things. It’s like the difference between understanding Probability Theory and predicting the outcome of a particular die throw.

      So lets do some speculating. Lets say that human female breasts were brought about by sexual selection. Well sexual selection always goes two ways. There is no point in having a massive peacock tail unless pea hens are attracted by them. So as human female breasts evolved, then so too, human male reaction too them evolved. Only that is too simple because sexual orientation and fetish is so plastic. The human mind is so plastic that at best genes control tendencies. Is there a gene that codes for male sexual attraction to female breasts. I seriously doubt it.

      Far more likely, genetic selection for female breasts evolved along side cultural selection for men who were attracted to them. This would have required a very long stable cultural bias but hunting and gathering lasted millions of years and maybe there was that stable bias built into the successful hunting and gathering cultures. Yes that sounds likely ! (This last sentence is dripping with sarcasm if you can’t tell). Still it is more likely than a gene coding for a mental tendency for males to be attracted to a particular shape.

      So lets pretend that is likely and go on speculating about cultural selection of males to be sexually attracted to human female breasts. Given how plastic our reactions are and given that culture is changing faster at this time than at any other time in history, it seems likely that it would be relatively easy to change that. If it had a benefit for society then we should. And, oh look, there is a benefit: read gingerbread’s comment below.

      So, given that the best way to achieve that is to do exactly what gingerbread and the OCTPFAS are doing, then perhaps it is time to take our city-person biases about nudity being for the beaches and throw it out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your reply is slightly ignorant. Lawyers like to reject cases based on technicalities rather than substance. Pretending not to know one means apes, monkeys, orangutans, chimpanzees etc in this context when a non-native English speaker uses the word ‘biped’ wrong, is the same.

        Biologists hypothesize that when no individual survival benefit for a trait (e.g. breasts, loss of fur, steatopygia) can be found, sexual selection is the most likely secondary benefactor. It’s a common misconception that hyptothesis would imply mainstream scientific doubt; the concepts of theory and hypothesis have specific meanings in a scientific context. While theory in ordinary conversation implies a hunch or conjecture, a scientific theory is a set of principles that explains observable phenomena in natural terms.

        I find this an interesting concept and value hypotheses by biologists who studied evolution for a lifetime a lot more plausible than the rejection of them by ordinary people with an agenda that is helped by the rejection, and it would make for a more interesting discussion about the differences between males and females if we could just take this into account.

        And although the relatively speaking extreme prudishness of especially the stereotypical American in western society about breasts makes even the hint of the inevitable sexuality an unwelcome notion in the discussion about the freedom to go bare-breasted in public, disregarding the notion does not help when trying to understand where this prudishness and ‘inequality’ in upper-body nudity came from.

        It is not necessary to deny the sexuality and “wish into existence” the notion that men can simply choose to not be sexually triggered the slightest by them anymore, in order to make going bare-breasted socially acceptable. This is demonstrated in parks and beaches across Europe.

        Praising and acknowledging the sexuality should remain part of the fight, just as males with well toned abs are not required to cover up but will attract eyes just the same.

        Like

        1. Hi Alex,

          Right you are that I probably shouldn’t have opened with a strawman about the use of the word biped. My apologies on that front.

          However, I still disagree with your use of hypothesis. Your analysis of the word theory is perfectly correct. The Theory of Evolution is a well established scientific theory. Evolution happened, is happening and will happen. We are in agreement there.

          However, a hypothesis is a testable statement that is not yet supported by fact. When biologists hypothesize they are developing testable statements that they can conduct experiments to test. The reasons for the evolution of a particular trait are rarely the subject of hypothesis. Instead, biologists speculate. I am not exactly an ordinary person when I say this. I am not a professional biologist but I do have a biology degree.

          When a biologist is trying to get published in the popular press, they don’t tend to distinguish very well be speculation, hypothesis, and theory. All three can be argued with reasoned arguments but most biologists know which one of them they are doing. And when they whip up stories about the causes of particular traits they know that they are speculating.

          More often than not they are trying to give an example about how a particular trait-development mechanism might work rather than actually talking about how a particular trait came about. The speculation isn’t meant to demonstrate that breast size increased due to sexual selection or because they came to mimic buttocks (as Desmond Morris proposed). The speculation is meant to demonstrate how sexual selection or mimicry selection could work. Their point is not about breasts but about evolutionary mechanisms.

          In any case, they still consider it all merely speculation; a stab in the dark. They imagine that later maybe someone will be inspired by the ideas to develop a testable hypothesis.

          Your right that none of this changes the fact that in our cultures, most heterosexual males find breasts sexually attractive. Those who don’t probably at least find them aesthetically attractive. The point is that there are other cultures in the world where the sexual aspect is not the case. Generally speaking they are cultures where female bare-chestedness is the norm. This proves gingerbread’s point that female bare-chestedness is not genetically determined to be sexually arousing. It’s a cultural thing. And culture can evolve quickly.

          The point is that regardless of how you feel right now about female bare-chestedness in public spaces such as streets, malls, buses, et cetera, you can change the way you feel.

          Your point that the sexuality of the female breast could be celebrated while still permitting its exposure, is missing the point. I hope I am not speaking out of turn when I say that women in general want to be able to be comfortable. Comfortable when it is hot means not wearing hot and restrictive clothing. Comfortable when around other people means not being the focus of sexual suggestion and comments. They don’t want their body parts “celebrated” by strangers.

          They just want to be free.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hi Eriksaumur,

            Thanks for the apology and nice response. I don’t have a specific biology degree but more of a sincere interest and I read a lot of books from the greats. My girlfriend however is a geneticist with a PhD in molecular biology and she does influence my opinion with reason and examples.

            I guess I find a certain amount of pride in the fact that we can acknowledge this and go to nudist beaches anyway. I find pride in the fact that we’ve grown our social brains to the point that we are comfortable enough with our sexuality that we can separate urges and triggers from just having a picknick. And I guess personally it saddens me to see that in America the fight for bare-breasted freedom includes the narrative that the sexualizing of breasts would be 100% culturally made up and would need to collectively learn that there is nothing magical at all.

            Although personally I don’t see that as troe. I wouldn’t call it a shot in the dark, but rather a high probability. You see it in everything. Breast enhancing behavior over the decades. You call it 100% cultural but I can only agree that culture has a certain influence on top of the biological one. Think of superstimuli. Niko Tinbergen won a nobel price proving that the attraction to the red spot on seagulls’ beaks was instinctive rather than learned. Babies have a similar attraction to breasts. Some researchers hypothesize that sexual interest in breasts are sex hormones re-purposing this neurological network. As you know, a neurological network is by design something that is sensitive to stimuli one way or the other. The Venus of Willendorf is also a nice example to show what we found stimulating 30,000 years ago.

            You are right that there are other cultures in the world where going bare-breasted is the norm, but it is not true that there is no sexual aspect. In Zulu tribes women go naked, but once they are engaged they cover up their breasts to stop attracting other men. In Ethiopian tribes were females go bare-breasted they ‘tattoo’ their bodies with scar patterns as a sign of adulthood. The breasts remain untainted to attract mates, but once in a relationship, they cover their breasts in scar patterns too. And in some tribes where breasts are not sexualized, butts and hips usually are, and women do cover up the buttocks. I read about an interesting correlation where in these tribes the genotype dominates in thin and sagging breasts (and no, that’s not because they don’t wear a bra) but rather voluptuous buttocks. Their ancestral mates chose a different path in sexual selection. And on the other hand, in some African cultures they actually go as far as to iron girls breasts in the hopes they stop developing so they don’t attract mates.

            Summarized, I disagree with you, but we can agree to disagree. You can’t be sure that sexual selection did not play a role. You can’t just ignore a probability because it conflicts with your end-goal. Things in reality are not as black and white and bite-sized as the American presidential debates. I’m for embracing the sexuality and the freedom to not have to hide it. You are for rejecting the sexuality and consequently the freedom to not have to hide it. But the end conclusion, that men and women should be able to go free and naked as they please, is something we can agree on.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. We are coming close to agreement Alex. I have found that exploring social naturist has desexualized female breasts in social situations for me. I still see the human body, female and male, all parts taken together, as aesthetically pleasing to the eye. In fact, what I have gained from the experience is the ability to aesthetically appreciate body shapes that are not the advertising norm.

              But in sexual situations, I still find female breasts sexually attractive. It is just that sexual situations are no longer associated with nudity alone.

              This is as far as cultural learning has to go to create situations where women (and men really) can be comfortable dressing how they please.

              So did female breast shape come about through sexual selection. We can both agree that there is doubt about that. Is it 90% certain as you feel or is it 30% certain as I feel? What does that mean and does it matter? I think we both agree that when it comes to the question of whether people have to respect the comfort of other human beings, the question of female breast-shape origin is irrelevant. As you say, “I find pride in the fact that we’ve grown our social brains to the point that we are comfortable enough with our sexuality that we can separate urges and triggers from just having a picknick.” Whether we are overcoming genetic urges or culturally-learned urges, yes we should be proud that we can act in a mature fashion and place the value of “respect for other people’s comfort”over satisfying subconscious urges.

              Like

    4. Greetings,

      while the evolutionary aspects of human female breasts are interesting, is such a discussion at all relevant in the discussion about the right for women to go as barechested as men in western culture?

      It is an interesting qestion to ask, when seen in the light of anthropology.

      Human females go just as barechested as men in numerous human cultures, past and present.
      One example is the Zo’é indians (who bare much more than just their breasts).

      Try to watch this documentary:
      http://videoneat.com/documentaries/3113/isolated-zoe-tribe

      How come these women don’t cover up? Why don’t the men ask them to cover up?
      Why don’t these men go about constantly distracted by bare female breasts, butts and genitalia?

      Could it be that cultural indoctrination has so much more than evolution to say in how people react to bare breasts, that evolution is actually no explanation at all as to why western culture doesn’t want women to go barechested?

      In the light of these questions, how can evolution be used as an argument against female barechestedness in western culture?

      Best regards
      Johnny :o)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. > is such a discussion at all relevant in the discussion about the right for women to go as barechested as men in western culture?

        It is if we want to address or simply understand the roots of the uncomfortable majority of people, such as the ones that have been criticizing Gingerbread. Without a willingness to comprehend the entirety, we will not evolve our collective opinion, but rather force ours upon them. And without a willingness to accept or discuss the biological sexual cues, we cannot understand and debate the cultural norm that has evolved on top of that.

        > how can evolution be used as an argument against female barechestedness in western culture?

        If that is the point you’ve distilled from my comments, then I’m afraid you’ve missed it or even ignored the part where I say the opposite.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been lurking here for a little while now, following the debate. Lots of things come to mind.

    One thing is that we had a phase in Europe that started with more and more ladies dropping their Bikini tops at Mediterranean beaches, starting at the French Cote d’Azur around 1975. It wasn’t a movement, but it got emulated in more and more places, even in public parks in cities, sometimes extending to full nudity by both sexes (The Munich English Garden, for instance.)

    Somewhere around 20 years later, public municipal swimming pools all around Germany (most certainly the most “proper” of organizations you can imagine) changed their rules to say that “swimming trunks were deemed to be appropriate bathing attire for people of either sex,”

    Sadly, it seems that this was also the beginning of the end – at least an interim lull. One could almost speculate that the moment it was no longer a big deal it became less important and once again the manufacturer of two piece bikinis managed to incite demand for wearing the “complete” outfit rather than just the bare minimum. It is also intersting to observe that there seems to be pressure exercised mostly by other females against those who still exercise their right to not use tops. A degree of peer pressure was also seen in the beginning to help get tops off the more hesitant ladies – and now this?

    But when you think about it, there is something in the theory that it is the other ladies that reprimand the ones that exercise their freedom. It could be interpreted as “getting rid of unwanted unfair (?) competition.”

    That would also apply to “unfair” advantages that do not qualify as “indecent exposure” by the strict rules – mini skirts, hot pants, tight sweaters, push-up bras and nowadays also boob jobs.

    (breast implants actually were a logical development once garments could no longer be used to shape the female upper torso; strangely enough they are rarely used to create a natural look …)

    On the subject of sexual stimulation – there are so many triggers for that, not just breasts, and many of them without any stigma attached. Even female breasts are not really stigmatized unless they are completely bare – or as the acknowledged expert Miley Cyrus recently pointed out: “It isn’t really about breasts, breasts are fine as long as the nipples are covered.” Her empirical experience, I guess. But she is not dropping clothing for comfort, she admits doing it for attention.

    Then there is this thing about nipples and aureolas – they seem to fulfill the function of giving the baby some orientation to help find the source of nourishment most easily. Later in life that stimulus would no longer be needed – we find our nourishment in other ways and in other places. And if you are female the stimulus would go away over time (at least for most of you) through regular relaxed exposure, but the males in your society don’t get “overexposed” so easily and so the “titillation” remains – through the very act of making exposure a taboo.

    When I think about that – as I said earlier, we find so many things stimulating, and not all of them are under a taboo. And as the female torso was increasingly exposed in Europe it increasingly became much less of an “irritation.” And I use the term “irritation” with forethought here. When I come across nudity in a public place today where nudity is to be expected (parks, swimming pools, beaches) there is no more irritation. But if it were to happen, say, in a supermarket or at the airport I would probably still be irritated. Unlike many other people I would look at myself for a fix. I also catch myself getting irritated when I encounter a public breastfeeding. But I know (sorry, I KNOW!) there is nothing wrong or unnatural about it – only my irritation for lack of exposure. So I am at fault and I must get used to it. And in time I will.

    But I feel strongly that the solution will never lie in trying to ban what I am not comfortable with. That would be offloading my problem onto others.

    (Another example – off topic here, but the same concept, really. When, on occasion, I encounter a gay couple exchanging tender gestures, it irritates me. It does so for lack of exposure. My problem, not theirs, I feel. Fifty years ago the same thing from a straight couple would have irritated me the same way – it no longer does. I got used to seeing that. Still, in Paris, to this day, the “bateau mouche” boats are going up and down the Seine river along the “Rive Gauche” bank using spotlights to “embarrass” the couples kissing “under protection of the darkness.” I am sure, by now they have to hire couples to do that for pay. It should be absolutely commonplace by today, still, I hear, it is a tourist attraction (???)) This is a strange planet we are living on …

    Like

    1. Thank you for this and your other comments. I have enjoyed reading your thoughts. They are well constructed and sincere and respectful. You will notice, probably, that I just posted an article as a response to this comment thread… just FYI. Welcome to the blog. Thank you and be well.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s