Titillating conversations

Should public female nudity be legal?

Artwork: Jed Helmers

By Sarah Sidlow

Does anyone remember  Chelsea Handler posing topless on a horse in an imitation of a photo of Vladimir Putin? Instagram does, probably. Twitter probably also remembers all of the nude Chelsea Handler photos they had to remove because of its policy against nudity.

But it’s not just a Chelsea Handler thing. It’s a nipple thing.

See, lots of social media sites restrict images of female breasts when they include the nipple—which means photos of that nature are often deleted, and can lead to the prohibition of an account.

But there are people who are just not down with that. Solution: #FreeTheNipple, a gender-equality movement that says, basically, all nipples were created (relatively) equal, and if Putin (or any other gender-normative male) is allowed to flaunt them, so can I. And the fight isn’t staying in cyber space.

This is also the driving force for the women who choose to breast feed in public—because they believe it shouldn’t be viewed as weird.

Many believe that city laws prohibiting female nudity are, well, sexist. Others say the laws perpetuate a notion that the female body is inherently sexual, or at least more sexual than its male counterpart, and should therefore be hidden away.

There are a number of American cities where it is legal for women to be topless in public, including Asheville, North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; and New York City. But even in those places, police may still arrest topless women for “disorderly conduct.”

On the other hand, lots of people view this whole argument as a complete waste of time. Some might be thinking: let’s tackle the gender pay gap before we #FreeTheNipple. (Fun fact, though, in 2015, the search term “Free the Nipple” actually surpassed phrases like “equal pay” and “gender equality,” according to Google trends.)

Other opponents argue that this campaign masquerades as feminism, while simultaneously using young, attractive, topless women to make its point. Score one point for body-shaming, and zero for societal advances for women.

There’s the argument about industry: the #FreeTheNipple campaign actually hurts the sex industry, where sex workers leverage the sensuality and novelty of their nudity in order to make money.

And then there’s the argument about reality: stripping nudity of its sexual connotation is probably not going to happen. Moreover, are there really that many places where not being able to go topless completely ruins a woman’s experience?

Questions about how to define a woman’s appearance have bubbled over into a number of arenas, from lofty free-speech arguments about art and nudity to local concerns about school dress codes. As with most things, this is probably one of those arguments on which reasonable people can disagree.

Reach Dayton City Paper forum moderator Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.


Question of the Week: Should public female nudity ( or at least showing nipples ) be legal?


Boobs are beautiful

It’s your choice to show them

By Megan Garrison

I have to be completely honest here, I will, without a doubt, never expose my nipples in public. And that is my choice. I am allowed to make this decision because I am an adult, and an independent woman. My breasts, including nipples, live happily in their bras and I am content with this.

But my choice isn’t, and shouldn’t have to be, everyone’s choice.

I am a firm believer in a type of America that allows for freedom of expression and the ability to pursue happiness as long as it is not at the expense of others. Denying anyone this right is often the beginning of protests, riots, and societal discontent. And thankfully, in the USA, this ability to question standing laws on their constitutionality has led to some pretty kick-ass equality rulings.

So why, in 2017, are we still even talking about whether or not a nipple is public indecency depending on the human it graces; male versus female? Half of the population in the United States is women. In fact, there are .2 percent more women in the USA than there are men. You could say we are the majority gender. Which makes it even crazier to know that if I wanted to stand outside in a park and have the warm sun caress my tits, I can’t. I legally can’t.

And why can’t I?

Because for some reason my nipples protruding from my chest plate, thanks to fatty tissue, unlike men, who are blessed with not having flopping skin sacks, could potentially offend those around me.

What are you offended by?

That I have them and you don’t? That one is slightly larger than the other? That I can feed a living human from my body?

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that these issues are rooted deeper into society then I am letting on. I know that there is a larger societal idea that women should be modest and sex and sexuality is a private aspect of one’s life. But I don’t understand why my nipples, which are shared by both men and women alike, should be sexualized by anyone. If a man gets to take his top off and go on a run around the neighborhood, then I should be allowed to do the same thing. In fact, 33 states agree with this statement. 33 states out of 50 have had at least one city pass legislation that believes a nipple is just a nipple and they should all be free and happy and hanging out in the sunshine.

And this issue runs into social media, as do all things in our generation. Lina Escoe, the writer and director of the Free the Nipple film, says it best: “Why can you show public beheadings from Saudi Arabia on Facebook, but not a nipple? Why can you sell guns on Instagram, but yet they will suspend your account for posting the most natural part of a woman’s body? As President Eisenhower said, in the era of McCarthy: ‹The most dangerous weapons of any Tyrant, are not weapons and guns, but censorship.›»

The problem isn’t that my nipple sits on a breast and a man’s does not. The problem is that breasts are sexualized when they shouldn’t be. Breasts do not harm people. Seeing them does not endanger anyone’s safety. So, why should there be laws that say only half of the population can take their shirt off and have a nice breezy walk?

We can’t preach to young girls that they should be proud of their bodies, that they are equal, that they are valued and respected, and then turn around and legally tell them that a part of their body that is almost identical to a man’s is shameful and should hide behind clothes. Body positivity and then censorship of that body does not work.

Maybe we should be focusing more on the wage gap, domestic violence, rape statistics, etc. And we are. But how can we expect to ever make the same amount of money, stand up for ourselves in society, defend our bodies in public if we can’t even show our fucking nipples if we wanted to while the man beside us is currently shirtless and wearing shorts that highlight his package?

My nipples are fine in my shirt. Your nipples might be fine getting more fresh air. Whatever the case, we both have nipples and we should be allowed to decide how much exposure they deserve. Sometimes to change society you have to start small. #FreeTheNipple and then, maybe we won’t just be objects anymore.

Reach DCP freelance writer Megan Garrison at MeganGarrison@DaytonCityPaper.com


It’s not about our ta-tas, #Don’tFreeTheNipple

Struggles facing women go far beyond the ta-tas

By Marrisa Mae Walters

Once again, the beginning of a debate is going to start because of the Russians. A man walks out into the wilderness shirtless. He just happens to be Russian President Vladimir Putin who obviously likes to take his shirt off in front of the camera to provide the imagery of strength to those around the globe, and maybe even to boost his own ego. I remember seeing photos in a 2013 news story and thought the manipulated photos of him riding a bear were especially funny. Comedian Chelsea Handler decided to add her commentary by posting nude photos of herself in similar poses, but was quickly censored with x marks covering her nipples.  Inevitably Twitter and Instagram went aflutter and a conversation ensued on why a woman could not bear her chest just the same way.

I’m here to inform everyone that Chelsea Handler makes money stirring the pot and making fun of both people and issues. It is a part of a normal day in show business. The problem is some believe the conversation should be taken further than the 15 seconds of discussion it deserves. To Chelsea Handler, this is just a way to increase her ratings and remain relevant to her audience. She, like other celebrities who seem to believe they speak for the rest of us, only do so, not because they have a moral obligation to represent the issue. but because they want to make money and increase their name recognition.

Certainly, there might be a percentage of the population in society who would be in full support of a woman bearing all in public. I was surprised to learn several cities throughout the United States, including just down the road in Columbus, allow women to be topless in pubic. As a woman, I am not thrilled at this.

It’s not a matter of being ashamed of the female image. To me, it’s a matter of public decency.

Public decency standards generally refer to acts involving nudity or sexual activity in view of the public, often with the intent to shock, offend, or arouse. There are some things which are better left done in the privacy of your own home that do not need to be forced upon the general public. Go ahead and run around your house naked all you want, but please don’t come flaunt your goods in public. It doesn’t matter if you are a model or far from it, people don’t want to see it.

Walk around any local festival or mall and it is shocking how some of our neighbors dress —both men and women—men with their pants hanging half-way between their waist and knees with their underwear showing and women with shorts  that expose their cheeks. Some are already walking a fine line. Nevertheless, I do believe the #FreeTheNipple campaign, launched by Chelsea Handler, does provide an entry into a much more relevant topic of discussion.

Women, as hard as it is to imagine, still to this day face struggles that have been going on for decades and should have already been put to bed. The issue of public nudity does not make my bank account any larger. I consider the issue irrelevant and a distraction from other issues which I would hope to solve for my own daughter. What does make my bank account increase (therefore making sure my children have a better life than what I had) is equal pay in the workplace.

The issue of equal pay is something all women should all be concerned about. How in the world can we live in 2017 and still be making 15 percent less than our male counterparts?

According to a Pew Research Center study in 2016, women across all races and ethnicities had hourly earnings which lagged behind those of not only white men, but each of their respective racial groups. This comparison was also true for all education classes. So, ladies, just because you have a degree, whether it be bachelors, masters, or doctorate, you will unfortunately be making less than your male counterparts.

Although the wage gap has narrowed since the 1980s, it is still an issue; and if we do the same exact job, we all deserve to be compensated the same. Again, this is happening everywhere and in every occupation.

To find out exactly how much less you are being paid, visit your company’s human resource office and request a pay audit. You will be glad you did so, because this could be the opportunity to increase your pay when, they find out exactly how valuable an employee you really are.

It’s not about our ta-tas, but what is between our ears that makes the difference, ladies

Missy Mae Walters serves as the senior associate of campaigns and public affairs at JSN & Associates. Walters served as the regional political director for the Trump for
President Campaign in Ohio and is a former executive director of the Montgomery County Republican Party. Reach her at MissyMaeWalters@DaytonCityPaper.com.


And so you asked the straight white guy…

It’s basic biology

By Ben Tompkins

I would like to begin this with a big thank you to the publisher and staff of the Dayton City Paper. In this day and age, a straight white man even attempting to discuss women’s issues, much less their boobs, is inviting abuse and scorn to be heaped upon the very head he was using to ponder them in the first place. Not today, I’m happy to announce. I have awoken at the unblessed hour of 4:30 a.m. for the purpose of discussing what women should be allowed to do with their tits, and advocate for women presenting them for our viewing pleasure far more frequently. And I am being paid for it.

Now that the proper pipers have been paid off, I would like to begin this festival of chesticles with a resounding rebuke of anyone and everyone who thinks that societies where women are allowed to walk around topless result in hordes of females parading around unclothed. For those who don’t know, it is already legal in the fair state of Ohio for a woman to wander around with her breasts on full display, and yet—unless I simply haven’t been to the right part of town—most women don’t. This is not because of some deep-seated oppression and body shaming, it’s because a big pair of titties is (are?) extremely uncomfortable to lug around without some semblance of support. For comparison, tie a five-pound weight to a man’s balls and see how long he spends downtown before putting his backpack on like a diaper and limping home.

The next tier down the argument chain is the bizarre lumping-in of breasts with the other ugly and shame-worthy organs with which the Lord has so graciously adorned us. Historically, humans have generally considered it reasonable and modest to cover up organs associated with excrement and birth, and it’s a damn good thing too. In an un-aroused state in a well-lit environment, both the male and female organs of excretion and sex are some of the most hideous conglomerations of flesh (or in the case of holes, the lack thereof) known anywhere in the animal kingdom. I would even go so far as to say that if great apes had less hair or whales had opposable thumbs, we’d be seeing far more diapers and loincloths in the mammalian kingdom that we do at present.

In the case of organs on display in Homo sapiens societies, not all are created equal. Those organs associated with birth are visually preferred (perhaps, less objected to) above those for excrement, and by this logic it follows that the one organ between the sexes serving both purposes—the penis—is reviled above all else. This is entirely just and proper. The phallus is a horrific stain on the human condition, and a painfully embarrassing problem for the serious Judeo-Christian apologist who believes that we were created in God’s image.

Naturally, it is by this logic that the female breasts are the first in line for liberation of the organs we currently cover up when it’s a bit—I’m terribly sorry—nippy outside. They are the organs most obliquely associated with birth, being that they only come into use when birth has actually taken place. This distinction sheds some light on the question of why male nipples are considered more socially acceptable. Like most things about us, they are a part of our anatomy that is completely useless, and whose purpose is completely unknown, to both us and everyone else.

It seems obvious to me that the vast majority of people in the history of the world have demonstrated that they are at least capable of viewing a woman’s upper anatomy without bringing society to a screeching halt. Nude beaches are the norm in many parts of the world, and in many cultures women are still wandering around the village with their soldiers on parade. The only standards that are consistent between cultures, speaking non-exhaustively of course, are that the nether regions are concealed by both genders. Frankly, it’s a damn good thing that we have some standards where those portions of our anatomies are concerned. Staring at a gaping area of human uncleanliness in the eras predating toilet paper and running water during dinner would probably have made death a preferable option to eating.

So, feel free—if you so choose—to wander around without a shirt, and I would ask nothing more than you have the professional and personal problems visited upon women are the same as those visited upon men. We won’t promise not to look (please don’t say anything painfully silly about our nature) any more than women won’t judge, but I think it can be expected that we not comment, or make it obvious that we are taking a peek.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist, and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. For more of his work, visit HillofAthens.com. Reach him at BenTomkins@DaytonCityPaper.com


Nixing the nipple nabobs

We don’t need to de-regulate the nipple.

by Victor DeLaine

Women have suffered many oppressions over the ages, but the rule obligating them to cover their nipples in public is not one of them.  Getting rid of that rule will cause more problems than it solves.

It seems that only yesterday the topic du jour was the wolf-whistling and cat-calling women endure on the streets of modern cities, practices that make feminists shriek about sexism and objectification.  In a henpecked shire or two in England, they’ve even declared those practices hate crimes.  The same harpies behind that crusade are the ones who also want to “free the nipple.”  But what effect do you think freeing the nipple will have on the number of hoots, leers, and shouts of “Baby, gimme some”?  Bear in mind that, nipples or no nipples, the demographic trend points toward more ungallant behavior, not less of it, among the men on our city streets.  As immigration brings us more swarthy men from equatorial climes where women know their place, our barebreasted lasses will find themselves running into fewer men like Alan Alda and more men like Ayatollah Khomeini.  As the vinegar of nipple-baring feminism mixes with the oil of Third-World misogyny, the resulting tidal wave of harassment will make today’s street-smart chauvinism seem genial by comparison.

The poster child for the push for new nipple laws, of course, is not the would-be Helen Reddy who wants to shake her breasts at random passers-by, but the nursing mother who merely wants to feed her baby without having to hide in some filthy washroom.  Despite the supposedly horrid restrictions on the books today, practically all of us have seen inoffensive moms who discreetly nurse their little ones on park benches, unmolested by police, revealing so little of the breast to public view that even the skuzziest voyeur would miss it.  Who could object to that?  But what if our nursing mom, emboldened by the sisterly call to be proud of her anatomy, opts instead to nurse her kiddies in full view of traffic at the corner of Third and Main in a state of total, glorious toplessness?  Or what if she wants to nurse her boyfriend?  Or her girlfriend?  Or, having two independently-targetable delivery systems, both her boyfriend and her girlfriend simultaneously?  Or any thirsty bystanders?  Allowing the unobtrusive mom while forestalling all the in-your-face head-cases would require some tricky legislative draftsmanship.  Our current array of indecency laws reached their present stability only after years of court challenges.  Changing them would throw them into another decade or two of flux, with the new, broader statutory bounds sure to be tested by she-martyrs with attitudes, all angling to be the subject of the next Supreme Court case, or at least the next TV talk-show.

That said, the people pushing the cause of nipple de-regulation are not interested in a law that merely lets mothers nurse infants on park benches.  The feminist head-cases, not the nursing moms, are the ones agitating the most loudly for this.  The weird hypotheticals we’ve just recounted, which normal people would consider silly or gross, are not silly at all to the wymyn losing sleep over having to cover their nipples.  They want women to be free to do in public what they now can do only in a go-go parlor.  To them, nipple reform is not about finding a practical solution to an inconvenience faced by young mothers, but about Making a Statement.  And the statement they aim to make is the same one they made a few months ago with their “pussy hats.”

Evidently, wearing a vagina on your head and baring your nipples in public are both swell ways of showing you’re proud, or not afraid of the patriarchy, or something.

The attempt will inevitably be made to liken our present nipple restrictions to laws in Muslim lands that require women to cover themselves head to toe.  We used to have something like that here, when women had to cover their legs even at the beach.  Nipple laws are admittedly on the same continuum as Victorian rules against exposure of a woman’s ankles.  Those who make a fetish of all-or-nothing consistency will therefore contend that freeing the ankle requires us to free the nipple too.  But wiser counsel allows comfortable grays and practical compromises.  We can let women show their legs without letting their more strident sisters shake their naked teats.  Pitted against the yearning of oppressed nipples to be free is the relentless sexual appetite that resides deep in every normal man’s brain stem.  Nothing inflames that inner animal more than the sight of pretty, pink flesh.  And when that animal’s cravings are inflamed, men can get ugly.

So use some common sense, will you?  Flash your legs at us if you must, but keep your nipples covered.

Reach DCP freelance writer Victor DeLaine at VictorDeLaine@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Ben Tomkins
Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at BenTomkins@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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