Note #1: My thoughts on subjects like women being topless in public are constantly in flux. As a result, this post is subject to change, depending on the arguments I hear for or against it. It is not my intent to offend or anger anyone, and if this post does make you feel offended or angry, let me know by commenting and we can talk about it. Offending or angering people is not my intent, and I’m sorry if I do. I’m just trying to explain the way that I, personally, feel about the subject of women being topless in public.
Note #2: The reason I support women being able to be topless in public is not because I want to gawk at women’s breasts. The reason why is because a few months ago I got into a conversation about it with a woman on Facebook. This conversation changed the way I looked at the issue. Women don’t want to be topless in order to flaunt their bodies at other women, or arouse and manipulate men. Women want to be able to be topless in public during times when they feel hot and a bra is making the matter worse: This woman wanted to be able to take off her bra in order keep herself comfortable, without having to worry about being arrested for indecent exposure. It is an issue of equality, too. The line of thinking is: “Men can walk around topless, so why can’t women?” As I will explain in greater detail, I think that there is no reason why women shouldn’t be able to be topless in public. And that is why I support it.
I believe that the human body is an inherently good thing. In the Bible, in Genesis 1:31, God sees everything that he has made (including the body) and calls it “very good.” And I think that Original Sin — the imperfectness we’re all born with — doesn’t make the body any less good: Original Sin, I think, just means that we have to try extra hard to see people as human beings, not as body parts.
The reason I bring this up is because, according to Facebook, something called “Go Topless Day” is trending, and I just wanted to give my two cents since matters of modesty and the human body are important to me, as a guy who wants to live out his faith, and as a guy who wants to see every person appreciated for who they are on the inside and the outside, not lusted after or shamed.
I think women should have the right to be topless in public. The reason why is because I don’t see anything sexual about breasts. I understand the need to cover the penis and vagina: Those are sensitive parts of the body, they are necessary for reproduction (i.e., sex), and thus should be protected, and you wouldn’t want someone to stare at them — staring is rude, and makes a person feel uncomfortable.* But I think the mindset of “Breasts are sexual! Cover them!” is Puritan-esque. Like the penis and vagina, I would call breasts a sensitive part of the body: Breasts produce milk which feeds babies.** However, again, I think that women should have the right to be topless in public, because I don’t see anything sexual about breasts. The reason why is because any body part can be considered sexual: “Sexual” meaning sexually arousing.*** And I think it is the same with breasts. We as a society attach a sexual meaning to breasts because it is considered normal to keep them covered: Concealment creates mystery, which leads to (sexual) excitement when the mystery is finally revealed. It is a mystery, I think, that doesn’t need to be kept.
These words from Saint Pope John Paul II, in his book Love and Responsibility, are the basis for this post: “Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness. Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person, when its aim is to arouse concupiscence [i.e., lust], as a result of which the person is put in the position of an object for enjoyment.”
*The butt is another sensitive orifice that needs to be covered, and another body part that it is considered rude to stare at and which staring at would cause a person to feel uncomfortable. But, unlike the penis or vagina, it is not a sexual part of the body. (I will explain why I think this in the next paragraph.) There is also the issue of germs. The penis, butt, and vagina have the potential to spread diseases. This is another reason to keep these parts of the body covered — in order to be sanitary. As far as I know, women’s breasts aren’t a source of disease.
These three characteristics — 1) sensitive 2) necessary 3) rude to stare at — could be applied to women’s breasts. 1) Breasts are sensitive in the sense that they produce milk which feeds babies, and thus should be protected from harm. 2) A woman doesn’t have to have breasts in order to have sex, but if breasts do play a role in the act of having sex — if there is some reaction that breasts go through when a woman is aroused, or when she is having sex — let me know what that role is. As you can tell, I am ignorant about this subject. But, I’m always willing to learning something new. Even if there are reactions that women’s breasts undergo as a result of sex though, something similar could be said about men’s body parts, too: What I mean is that the penis and vagina aren’t the only body parts effected by sexual arousal, or the act of having sex: Man or woman, before, during, and after sex, our bodies react in a number of different ways. Just because women’s breasts act a certain way as a result of sex is, I think, not a reason to assign a sexual label to them. The only body parts I would call “sexual” would be the penis and vagina, since they are necessary in order for a man and a woman to have sex: Sex would not happen without them. 3) It is rude to stare. Yes, if a woman were to walk down the street topless, people would stare. But I think that people can be taught not to stare.
**If there is anything sexual about breasts, it is that breasts provide milk for the result of sex — babies.
***I’ve heard that, centuries ago in Japan, a woman’s wrists, and the back of her neck, were considered arousing. I’m sure I could find more examples of different parts of men’s and women’s bodies that, throughout history, were considered arousing. But I won’t, at least not now, since that is not the purpose of this post. What I’m trying to say with this footnote is this, though: All cultures throughout time have considered different body parts of men and women arousing: In the case of the United States in the 21st Century, a body part considered arousing is women’s breasts.