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Why are women’s boobs still seen as “inappropriate”?

One woman took to Mumsnet to share her story, sparking debate over topless sunbathing

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By Hannah Banks-Walker on

The internet is great. You can order food to be delivered to your door at any time of day. You can watch any episode of Friends, any time you like. And you can shame your prudish husband if he does something you don’t like. Which is exactly what one woman did do, taking time out of her holiday to ask the users of Mumset whether or not her husband was right when he said it was “inappropriate” for her to sunbathe topless.

“On holiday at an all-inclusive hotel with kids club etc. Got some tan lines from my bikini so this afternoon took the bikini top off to try and sort them out. DH comes over and says it is inappropriate near the kids pool. I said that he had his top off so why couldn’t I. He said because I was female. I didn’t put the bikini top back on but is it inappropriate? It’s just boobs?”

Well, WaitrosePigeon, you’re right. They are just boobs. But while a lot of comments were supportive, suggesting that it was weird for people to be offended by the mere sight of a woman’s body, there were others that asked why a woman would behave like an “attention seeker”, clearly desperate for people to look at her. Responding to these particular comments, the woman wrote: “The attention-seeking comments interest me. Can people expand on that? What attention am I hoping for? Negative? Positive? I wasn’t topless right beside the pool in full sight. I was at the back.”

The general discussion also proved that even now, in 2018, so many people have difficulty identifying a woman’s body as anything other than a sexual object

A lot of the conversation, bizarrely, focused on the idea that women wouldn’t be permitted to walk around topless in a supermarket, therefore they shouldn’t do it by a pool. It’s exactly that sort of logic that makes the internet so brilliant, obviously. But the general discussion also proved that even now, in 2018, so many people have difficulty identifying a woman’s body as anything other than a sexual object. So many comments raised the idea that young boys or teenagers would feel “uncomfortable” at the sight of a topless sunbather. One person, for example, wrote: “Like it or not, as some other pp's have pointed out to you, boobs ARE sexualised and designed to appeal to the opposite sex aswell [sic] as feeding babies. And rightly or wrongly some pre teen and teen children will find this uncomfortable in their play area. So I think you are being a bit of a dick tbh.” That’s right world, our breasts are DESIGNED for only two purposes, both of which have nothing to do with our own enjoyment. And if you try and contradict that theory, the internet will hurl insults your way. You dick.

The thing is, we didn’t sexualise our own bodies. The sexualisation of breasts is, obviously, a result of the culture and society in which we all exist. And, as WaitrosePigeon points out, why can’t a woman sunbathe topless just like men can? My personal favourite of all the comments came from a Mumsnet user called Wherismymind: “It's not a big deal. The human body needs to he normalised and not treated as a dirty secret. Oh and young kids will be used to seeing their mum’s boobs. Older girls will be getting their own boobs and older boys will have seen worse on their phones.” Which, if you ask me, is right on the money.

@hlbw 

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Photo: Rex Features 
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