Monday, September 19, 2005


Breasts and Western Culture

I was watching a movie recently called "Mermaids". In this movie three, attractive young women play mermaids who become human when they leave the sea. When they are in the sea, however, they shed their clothes and are are supposed to be nude. To solve the breast "problem" the producers covered their breasts with some sort of glittery material, so everything was revealed without being revealed.

In seems these days that women go to great lengths to emphasize their breasts by means of the clothes they wear. Every movie star that appears on the nightly talk shows has a plunging neckline, or as much cleavage as they can muster. Young girls wear tight fitting tops. Dresses for formal affairs like the Oscars are always revealing, as are many strapless gowns at society functions.

So women want their breasts to be noticed. However, if they show their breasts then this is regarded as slutty, or even criminal. In the movie, it would have made perfect sense for the women to be topless in the mermaid scenes, but to have done so would have made the movie unsuitable for TV as well as having given it a rating as unsuitable for children instead of the G or PG rating it had.

So, what's going on? Why is it that women want to tease with their breasts, but not show them. Whole industries have sprung up making videos of getting women to flash their breasts, especially at bars and the Mardi Gras. If women were to go topless at the same venues as men do (the beach, for example), what would change about the dynamics of society? (I realize there are special nudist or topless beaches, but that is not the norm). Was the Janet Jackson flap about showing her breast in public or just on TV?

There is obviously a religious basis for our schizophrenic behavior, the first thing the missionaries did when going to the south sea islands or interior Africa was to get the women to cover up. And many societies are even more restrictive, but there seems to be a special disconnect in western society these days. Teasing is OK, revealing is condemned. Odd...
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