Let’s look at the issue of female nudity. I imagine that most readers would have observed the naked female form, both in real real life and by way of advertising material and pornography. Indeed, the nude or partially nude images of many thousands of women and girls can be encountered in various forms of media. Most of these images were provided with consent, and often on the basis of financial compensation.
Readers would also likely be familiar with activist groups such as FEMEN, PETA and Pussy Riot, who routinely employ nude or partially nude females ostensibly to advance their political agendas. We might then add various events/memes such as #FreeTheNipple and #Slutwalk.
The Wikipedia entry for ‘Feminist views of Pornography‘ states that “pornography has been one of the most divisive issues in feminism”, and provides a general introduction to the issue.
As to whether the sale and/or public display of female nudity is empowering or oppressive, the answer seems to be “it depends”. Obviously it depends on who you ask. It also depends on the gender of the person asking the question, being viewed or doing the viewing. It depends on what is going through the viewers mind. And so on. The universal exception is material at the far end of the spectrum, particularly images of minors or those obtained surreptitiously and/or without consent.
Some feminists are on record as stating that women who make a living from selling nude photos of themselves and/or performing in pornographic films and/or working as prostitutes, are empowered. Many in this group identify themselves as ‘sex-positive feminists‘.
Many other feminists, however, argue that such behaviour is harmful to women, and that it promotes and/or facilitates violence against women. As a consequence many demand stricter censorship of pornography, whilst other feminists are both anti-pornography and anti-censorship.
(And yet even anti-pornography feminists manage to accommodate their proclivities via strategies such as creating a distinction between ‘pornography’ and female-friendly ‘erotica’.)
Many of these feminists have suggested that women involved in the sex industry do so as a result of earlier emotional damage inflicted by way, for example, of child abuse combined with economic and educational disadvantage.
The only area where the disparate tribes of feminism come close to speaking with one voice is when it comes to condemning men who view pornography or purchase sexual services from women. Such men are portrayed as misogynists partaking in a form of patriarchal oppression, or even violence against women.
As a consequence feminists in various jurisdictions have lobbied for changes to laws that would see the selling of sexual services by women de-criminalised, whilst making the purchasing of sexual services by men a crime. But again, even with this issue there are some differences in feminist opinion.
Feminists tend to remain silent on this issue of women purchasing sexual services. Quelle surprise.
This woman wants you to look at her breasts (17 April 2017)
“New Yorker Molly Borman said her stick-on pasties accentuate the appearance of nipples while also empowering women”
Hotelier says skimpy ban would hit hard (22 March 2017) Australia
Feminists are confusing nudity with liberation (11 March 2017)
Opinion: Posting your nipples online doesn’t make you more of a feminist (23 January 2017) Australia
Lady Part Costumes Ruled the Women’s March (23 January 2017) USA
Hold pornography to account – not education programs – for children’s harmful sexual behaviour (7 December 2016) Unconvincing effort to equate porn viewing with aggressive sexual behaviour by children/youth.
“Why women need to stop stripping off to make a point” (27 November 2016)
Stop calling this ’empowerment’. It’s not (2 November 2016) Australia
Gonzo: we need to talk about young men and porn (23 September 2016) Maddening gender bias in this article in pro-feminist discussion forum The Conversation. They admit the relationship between viewing pornography and violence against women is hotly disputed and call for a nuanced approach, which suggests some degree of objectivity on the issue. But all the while the author happily ignores the issue of girls viewing pornography, and the possible effects of that on both males and females.
Emily Ratajkowski flashes her breasts … again (14 September 2016)
Topless protesters bare breasts in push for women’s rights (29 August 2016)
Times Square Tourists Left Bloodied Over $1 Tip to Topless Performer (20 July 2016) USA
All the Times Emily Ratajkowski Fought the Patriarchy (12 July 2016) with related Reddit discussion thread here.
10 revealing facts about the porn habits of women (13 May 2016)
Calvin Klein blasted online over ‘trashy and repulsive’ upskirt Instagram advert (11 May 2016) The TV panelist on ‘Sunrise’ described this pic as “schoolboy-ish”, although the people who devised and agreed upon the campaign were more likely 30-something women
Pornographic Progress, Sexbots and the Salvation of Man (7 April 2016)
“There is a huge gender imbalance for cosmetic procedures – women accounted for 90.5% of the 11.5 million cosmetic procedures last year”
Turns out, watching porn is good for gender equality (4 March 2016)
Near-nude model gatecrashes BRITs telecast (25 February 2016) UK
Men Classify Women. Women Objectify Themselves (3 February 2016)
Brisbane ‘free the nipple’ picnic sparks wider debate about equality (16 January 2016) Australia
Ayesha Curry Has Hoes All Over the World Crying Their Eyes Out (6 December 2015) USA
SocJus College claims male gratification is wickedness & sin (18 September 2015)
Feminists ‘are more likely to watch porn’ (15 September 2015)
Who is objectifying Laci Green? (4 February 2014) Video about the concept of objectification
Lads’ mags, sexual violence and the need for feminist intervention (4 June 2015) Australia
Lesbian go-go dancing: subverting the gaze one sexy step at a time (22 April 2015) Dancing before men=objectifying but dancing before (gay) women=empowering
#FreeTheNipple: liberation or titillation? (7 April 2015)
Why are feminists ignoring the violent gang rape of porn star Cytherea (23 February 2015)
It’s time to stop blaming women for having breasts (16 January 2015)
Opinion: Why Caitlin Stasey’s new website misses the mark (14 January 2015)
FEMEN activist disrupts Vatican Christmas celebration (25 December 2014)
How did 50 years of feminism end in THIS? Asks Sarah Vine (4 December 2014)
Skimpies tell of working behind bars in outback Australia in new documentary (17 November 2014)
Topless feminists target ‘political’ Pope (14 November 2014)
Porn: Why women want what men have (6 November 2014)
Women prefer gay porn to ‘female friendly’ straight porn says survey (1 October 2014)
Letter to ‘Object’ regarding rape allegations (1 October 2014)
Mythbusters TV show looked at belief that people give waitresses with bigger breasts bigger tips (4 September 2014). Well they do, but the differential is greatest for women customers (Video)
The great naked celebrity naked photo leak (1 September 2014) And of course men are 100% to blame
Free the nipple (December 2013) Video
Gender hypocrisy in porn debate (25 September 2013) This article has interesting things to say about the real source of concern regarding men’s access to pornography, which differs from their publicly stated concerns. The same article was reproduced in the AVfM web site with readers comments (some quite funny)
Women just as easily hooked on online porn (6 August 2014)
Is male nudity in the mainstream media becoming more acceptable than female nudity due to feminist backlash? (Example of womens rowing team making/selling nude calendar)
UK Government to get serious about online ‘revenge porn’ (but no mention of protection for men)
From the mouths of (hot) babes by B.R Merrick (20 April 2014)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4E74-8A4f0k&index=4&list=PLA70081D259987DCD (Advance to the 8:30m mark)
Naked protest: Memories of bodies and resistance at the World Social Forum, Journal of International Women’s Studies, The Female as Weapon, and let’s not forget the Nude Protest for International Womens Day. And what about poor old Mr Putin?
Angry Father Tells Off Lady On A Train To Sit Down! (24 February 2012) Canada. YouTube video
Children and youths – Selfies and sexting
Generation sext: Queensland Girls forced to share nude selfies (10 October 2016) So boys choose to make poor decisions, but girls are “forced” to do so. Oh please! This is gender equality?
Children accessing porn: Schools battle to deal with consequences (22 July 2016) Australia. Typical of media coverage of this issue, this article alternates between use the terms “children” and “boys” to suit the narrative. It ignores the involvement of girls except as victims of boys, and the affect that their exposure/involvement has on their attitudes/relationships with others.
Eight high schools boys suspended for receiving pictures of female classmates nude, girls “verbally reprimanded but not suspended” (27 April 2015) Reddit mensrights discussion thread an linked article
Defence in hockey sex video case says 15-year-old girl should be prosecuted (12 February 2015)
Topless swimming and sunbathing & naturism
One relatively recent phenomenon that I find curious is the declining popularity of going topless at the beach. This article about young women in France suggests that the trend is the result of a return to conservative and family values. The situation in Canada (BC) is discussed here. This article and this article suggest that women are now shunning topless bathing as a result of the availability of digital cameras, but this article says its because women are uncomfortable with men ogling them. I disagree with these explanations.
Alternatively, this article and this article blame the lessening popularity of topless bathing on womens insecurity regarding their bodies. Some cynics have even suggested that women are avoiding going topless as by doing so they ‘devalue the currency‘ (reduce their ability to use sexual leverage against men).
Feminists, in theory at least, should support toplessness with regards to their stated aim of gender equality. With the exception of Sweden they have, however, been generally subdued on the issue.
Sorry, but after reading the often contradictory messages in the above papers … well to the average guy like me the issue seems like a moveable feast of hypocrisy and nonsense. And when it comes to pro-feminist groups using nudity to
get publicity advance their philosophical position, I’d go so far as to say it’s even a little infantile. As and when my BS meter stops buzzing so loudly I’ll revisit this post and endeavour to add more thoughtful comment and analysis.
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