Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Run, the nipples are here!

Naked Man made a post on Facebook today asking people how they would feel about their children seeing a topless woman in a movie.  He has been doing a series of parenting questions like this on all kinds of topics, and I am beginning to wonder if a part of his motivation is getting me all riled up to rant about it and get into fights with his other friends who aren't on the same page I am.

Obviously the answer is that there shouldn't be any differentiation between showing topless people based on sex.  Ideally.  But we don't live in an ideal world, and in the world we live in showing a topless female has a different result than showing a topless male.  The female in this case would be sexualized, regardless of how she acted, but the male *might* be sexualized but in any case it would be far less so.

That distinction doesn't matter to me though in terms of my response to this question, and indeed it is a ridiculous question to me.  I am naked around Elli on a regular basis, and I am perfectly comfortable with her seeing other naked bodies too.  The idea that a child would be corrupted by the sight of a breast is so absurd to me I can't even think straight about it.  Most of them spent between half a year and two years with their faces smooshed into breasts!  How is it that after that seeing a naked breast will be a disaster?

I don't pretend that I am immune to cultural conditioning!  I notice breasts, a lot.  I saw the movie Riddick recently and I recall quick clearly that there is a topless scene for the one female character but I find myself unsure if there is a topless scene with any of the males in the movie.  I don't think so... but would I have noticed and remembered?  Topless females stand out to me due to a combination of cultural conditioning, feminist principles, and my sexual orientation.  Whereas if a male had been changing into a new shirt and been topless at some point I am not at all confident I would have recorded that, and I suspect this is a common thing, and not just amongst those who are sexually attracted to topless females.

This doesn't mean that we should shelter our children from topless females though.  Even though society conditions us to see that as a sexual thing the correct response is not to give in to it and cover our children's eyes in such situations.  We need to do the opposite.

Okay, maybe the opposite is seeking out topless females to show to our children, and we don't need to do that.  What we need to do is model indifference.  Sure, there are some shirtless people.  Whatever, it is just people's bodies, those don't hurt us.

I don't stop at topless though.  Bodies aren't offensive.  Nudity should not be a crime, nor should people feel like nudity is an attack on everyone else nearby.

But in the world I actually occupy you can't show a breast in a movie without the censors clutching at their pearls and marking the movie as only acceptable for adults.  I won't entirely throw the blame their way either, as those censors are by and large doing what the public wants.  People are terrified of sex, and breasts are sexualized, and thus people feel they must be controlled and hidden and marked 'filthy'.

Which all sucks.  I think things are shifting my way, but I also don't think I am going to live long enough for them to shift as far as I want.


  1. ...and one of the reasons I ask those question is to ever so slightly shift things your way. It's not always about who responds, sometimes it's about who reads it and doesn't respond as they realize that their views aren't as widely held as they thought.

    I completely agree with you on this one, and I knew your answer well before I asked the question.

    But in person, I have not found anyone who thinks my girls should be allowed to watch "Love Actually".

  2. The problem with breasts in film is that the film is going to present them as sexualized. I kind of remember the scene you are talking about in Riddick, it was a scene where a threat of violence hung in the air and nakedness was used to signal vulnerability to that violence. I can't override that message with passivity or with taking it in stride, that would show my acceptance of the message.

    I certainly don't have a problem with my kids seeing naked people, but I'd want to think carefully about a Hollywood movie with naked people, and how it presents nudity. I can only think of one time I've seen a naked person in a movie and they were treated very neutrally and naturally (it was Walk Hard, the movie presented you with a perfectly sensible-in-context shot of a naked man from foot to just-over-waist having a conversation with another man sitting on the floor - the theatre laughed, but the real joke was that they weren't making a joke at all [at least that's how I remember it]).