I hate this video
Okay, first let me give over my position on baring breasts and taboos about nudity in public. I have mixed opinions and my opinion is largely dependent on context and places and person. Nudity on a public school playground by a man troubles me, nudity on a beach by a woman in France less so. Nudity by gender is not an equal proposition,nor by individual and the genders have different methods, devices and value. And these are not “cultural” or societal, though these things inflect how the background drives are tribally expressed. But I’ll get into this in a moment. As to women baring their breasts casually, I have no real opinion. Baring their breasts as an act of rebellion, not very impressed…as it rings less than sincere, and very likely, ineffective in terms of whatever “statement” it is making. It is also of a family of very, very old rituals, which I’ll cover in a moment. I think nothing in that video was thought through or factual. It was silly. But let’s start.
This video is not meant to appeal to facts or offer over information on any issue or growing concern. There may be interest and a want of bare breasted, and casual social interactions, but that isn’t given over here, or if it is, the roots and interests of that “casual” bare breastedness have some tells that lead to less casual and more manipulative ideas. The first clues as to bullshit is the mention of the activities of the Native Americans, who all went topless in the summer. Now the example of the French, mentioned above, who often go topless on beaches was not chosen because they don’t evoke the “nature” fallacy. The French aren’t seen as wholesomely natural as “Native Americans”. This appeal to the authority of the natural is bogus. Which Native Americans, I wonder? All of them? Through all time? I know many women of Native American descent, none of them went topless in the summer that I recall. Native Americans are not an animal of the past but exist now also. This universal toplessness didn’t keep Native Americans from Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego from human sacrifice, rape, warfare or any other of the varieties of human behaviors attendant to a variety of peoples over many thousands of years. Toplessness may have been a trivial affair. El ninos, court politics, murderous enemies, and when Europe arrived, mass extinction may have been more concerning. Then again…maybe not. Breasts aren’t a trivial matter.
But I don’t know they all went topless in summer. Some probably did, some probably didn’t, and there may have been some mix and match (like the French beaches). Dress to comfort and the caprice of the taboo of the moment.
To further say no one thought anything of it is unlikely. Where this happened people probably thought things of it. The stone age Venus statues, for example, would seem to show the emphatic fatty deposits exemplary of female anatomy, were of importance.
To say it is okay to bare your breasts doesn’t need this natural authority if casual in itself nor does it need justification. The communal innocence implied is a bit flimsy. Whereas actual harmlessness would say a lot more than a justification. But is it innocent? Is it just casual, ever for men or women? (I would ask if “casual” isn’t a manipulative social pose and tribal identifier in itself.)
Following this in the video are the signs of powerful and aristocratic women throughout the world baring their breasts. What is this supposed to say? So throughout tim, royal women , powerful women and aristocratic women have taken it as a point of power to step outside the convention of the lower status and bare their breasts? (Why not show the Minoans too…just an absence I noticed…not really a problem.) What is the precedent being referenced? This is kind of expected, as aristocrats take on certain entitlements, and differentiating dress to separate and exaggerate power relationships. This doesn’t say toplessness was casual, it says toplessness is power. This isn’t to say boobs are powerful, therefore women are powerful. It is saying defying sexual taboos shows placement in hierarchy over those who have to obey.
But I think this video is suggesting in other times it was okay to bare breasts. Okay. And? It is probably okay now too. I’m not sure it has been noticed but modern movies have regular nudity, why the appeal to antiquity? These paintings are a sign of “beauty and femininity”. Maybe…I am aware of more than a few paintings from the era shown that are a little more spicy and mischievous than that and go against the later rebuke in the video “If we continue to eroticize the breast as a plump salacious morsel of female sexual essence than we are kinda robbing women of their full bodily agency.” How eroticizing the breast robs agency is not explained. Eroticizing, or sexual interest, is also natural, normal and bodily. Breasts are sexual as well as useful with offspring, and a sexual identifier for the agent sporting them. As is a given. Agency is not robbed by any parties from any parties. I do find it interesting that a type of social bullying and dictate is offered here, but modified with “kinda”. Bullying others who find boobs stimulating (no one chooses to love boobs, we just do) as a crime, kinda, seems like trying to manipulate to advantage. Neither old men nor young women dictate the rules of sex.
So these nonsensical diversions are the introduction to the point of the video “who writes the rules of sexuality?” And the question of boob taboos. The boob taboos are blamed on Christians in Africa, and the Victorian era. This is mentioned as the start of the taboo against the female body in the Western world. No.
So let’s look at a few things first. The taboos against the female body go way further back than this. They are pre-Christian, they are prehistoric. Likewise, aspects of the male body were and are taboo. This isn’t to make this fair and balanced that I mentioned “men too.” The thing to look at here is taboo, which is magic. Taboo is usually the “don’t do” aspect of an otherwise potent magic. Menstruation has many magical dos and don’t throughout history including isolation, burning goods, and magic potions. It fit within the framework of the troubling concerns of birth, sex, and death. These were (and in many ways still are) mysterious and troubling things. But boobs don’t exactly fall into magical taboo, boobs are valuable in other ways. They don’t have to do with sex, birth, and death magic as much as gender value on both sides of the gender coin.
Let’s consider who writes the rules of sexuality. Well, evolution has a lot to do with it. And though always fun to blame old white men and sexist behavior, there are some real considerations about sex and gender, and boobs, that need to be brought into the discussion. As a good friend of mine pointed out, boobs were valuable and an issue before humans included whites, and oldness had some different standards…not exactly the Roman Senate.
One of my favorite areas to introduce the subject of gender relationships is fat pads.
When studying anatomy you will eventually find a chart that has a side by side comparison of the sexes. The differences between the sexes is called “sexual dimorphism”. Within a species depending on the economics of energy within a setting, competition will mold the genders to great similarity, or great difference. The greater difference between the appearance of the sexes is a good indicator of serious sexual competition. In our case men are generally larger and stronger with thicker brows, and remnants of longer eye teeth, for example. A noticeable difference between men and women, though, is distribution of fat pads. This includes boobs, but also the butt, thighs, arms, knee, beneath the navel etc. Women have more deposits of fat, which come in handy in various times of need, which we can skip for now. We are talking about sex. When female humans have fattier diets (when they eat better) in their childhood years they reach sexual maturity earlier. The signal for this sexual maturity is prominent rounded fatty deposits. This is very important in a deep and strange way. (It has also been noted that the fatty advantages for sexual ends, can be the same fatty health disadvantages when older-our sexual interests and personal interests don’t always agree.)
I have mentioned the kiki/bouba test before. It is an image of two figures, one called kiki, one called bouba. One is spikey and the other is bubbly. This test is used to show that people have cross modal understanding of sound and vision. People usually assign the proper name to the proper figure without knowing why. The reason why is we have neurons that respond to both sound and vision. Sound and vision are tied. Though our eyes and ears are the conduits through which we take in data, that data passes through several systems and processes before it becomes a full experience. Our senses aren’t quite what we have traditionally believed. When we see facial expressions angling and curving we are in some ways “hearing” those expressions. If you watch musicians playing instruments their faces taken on the characteristics of the music, that is the line indicators on their face perform the correlate sounds in the music that we understand emotionally and in speech. But it isn’t just sound and vision, this interaction of the information taken in by our sense organs is all over. Curves, lines, intersections and corners, and how they move in time and space are a keystone of the way we “know”. This includes lines of motion, both those we enact and feel, and those we see when we watch others move. It has been found that humans can tell biological movement, including gender, using only 12 small lights on a moving figure in a dark room.
The other aspect of the Kiki/Bobou effect that is of note is that we can also usually tell the gender of these figures. This is because of fat pads and our cortical maps.
Our brains have several versions of our bodies mapped onto it’s surface. In greater and lesser detail and with variable function these maps provide us with our sense of our body, our body schema, as well as a good space around our bodies (called peripersonal space). It is how we feel and “know” our bodies. We have topographical representations of the body surface in the somatosensory cortex. These are separated into hierarchies, or levels, and these maps maintain.
I won’t get more technical, for the moment.
I mention this because how we feel, how and who we are as bodies is known to us, pre-consciously. How we move, the way pilot our bodies, our physical capacities in balance and strength are all pre-conscious information we use persistently but don’t assemble deliberately. This experiential activity is surprisingly intrusive and projects. As an artist I have the advantage of seeing it not only in myself but can recognize it with other artists as they “infect” their drawings (especially those done by imagination, but also portraits) with their own features. The cross modal visual/feeling drawings they produce are in many ways external cortical maps. But we attempt to relate to and recognize ourselves in many very simple figures and patterns. We can know the gender of Kiki or Bouba because we can feel it, or can assume things from lines or curves and our own spatial maps of our bodies and motions. The strange part is we identify in exaggeration and we do not identify every part. Our brains bounce a signal to our muscles in imitation of living things we see. From the feedback of that bounce determines all kinds of agency, likeness, or relationship. We, in a sense, “try on” other people and things. For women, one of the comparative areas is fat pads. We see boobs as an important indicator. All of us.
My point is, boobs are not a social construct or legal fiction, and to our animal not casual. That said, the same value doesn’t need to be boobs especially. It can be hips or other sexual signals. As mentioned: Eroticizing the breast as a plump salacious morsel of female sexual essence is part of what is happening by both men and women. You see, there is a problem that is popular but unfounded: sexual equality. There is no such thing. You probably want an explanation….me too.
So let’s break this up into proper segments so we don’t muddy the water. Equality in tasks and skills by humans seems to have some variations, but for work and career we can say that there are capabilities in common between the genders. So we’ll call this “ bourgeois gender equality”. I don’t mean bourgeois in a derogatory way. I mean it in terms of the merchant classifications that emerged in Europe during the late middle ages. These bourgeois ideas involved rethinking time (like hours in a work day as opposed to Church hours) and production. So for work, regardless which is statistically better in one regard or another en masse, we can say there are examples of proficient men and women in any give profession not dependent on gender.
But let’s move away from task based skill. Other things are going on. Sex is never held aside or removed from life. The building blocks of identity and position are intermixed with sex and sexual viability. The kiki/bouba test is instructive to show how deep and expansively we are aware of sexual identity, hierarchy, and viability. We identify and differentiate automatically. No deliberation. No planning. So instead of “equal” we know difference. We build these identifications based on our own bodies in space, their appearance, and how we interact (subtly not socio-political stances).
We’ve noted work capability, involuntary identification of sex in ourselves and others, but now let’s look at how the genders deal with sex and where boobs (or other sexual signals) fit into this. Let’s look at tournament style vs pair bonding sexual interaction. As I mentioned above animals fit into categories of sexual style. One is tournament style. Tournament style is characterized by a wide range of differences in the sexes. Males will be larger with more combat ready gear. If you consider this as raw energy, it is expensive to be this kind of animal. Being battle ready (against other males) is costly. Killing competitors or driving them off is rough stuff. To compensate, animals like this are generally not stay at home dads. The expense in energy raising offspring is differed to the fight. These males breed widely and freely-as much as possible. Their chances of death in combat don’t lend to pair bonding. Instead their dna demands a different avenue to better chances. Likewise, the females in this interaction tend to have female traits as emphatic signals. If the males are brutal, knobby, and dangerous in appearance, the females will also show the signs of their best energy use-having good offspring and in some regard being able to maintain them for a time.
Females also have a tournament sexual style. Females with overt sexual attributes (again costly to maintain) will sexually select those males most likely to provide strong offspring, but then when the tournament male is gone will find another male to raise the offspring. This frees the female up to have more strong offspring while deferring the energy of raising the offspring to less sexually viable males.
Then there is pair bonding. Sexual dimorphism has a smaller range among pair bonded animals. In this set up males and females look a lot alike. This look isn’t superficial. They share common burdens. Their energy dispersal between mating, fighting, and raising offspring is such, that sexual signals can use less energy, while other concerns (like mortality of offspring, food gathering, etc) need more attention. The common task sculpts them to uniformity, while with tournament style, population of rivals in an environment sculpt them to difference.
Many animals tend toward one or the other end of this range. But it is all present. Given proper environmental cues and stresses the pendulum can swing over time. Humans, of course, fit in this range. And it isn’t definitive how or where. Males tend to be large, stronger, with larger teeth, and women tend toward being fatty (literally looking like energy reserves for themselves and others). We move within a range of gender specific arcs (easily identified with a minimum of information). But at the same time we are not extremely different. As mentioned above humans seem capable of sharing very difficult tasks with equal facility. Barring gender specific tasks, we overlap in skills quite a bit. Likewise there are large numbers of pair bonded and tournament mates in common areas of overlap, performing common tasks. That is to say these styles exist in humans side by side, whereas these methods usually indicate specifics in environmental pressures. Likewise, they can exist in different order in the same person over a lifetime.
The question of sexual equality is somewhat meaningless or in flux. That said sexual value is still very active and clear.
Boobs would seem to fall into a range of tournament style signal. Being both sexual and involved with care of offspring over a given time. That noted, it isn’t as easy as saying boobs are a sign of humans as tournament style animal. Likewise it doesn’t say that boobs are taboo at the dictate of old white men.
Let’s consider sexual interest in boobs, fat pads, sexual value and trade, and back to kiki/bouba. Why we like boobs. You may have heard the idea that men like boobs evolutionarily because they resemble the buttocks, who’s curves and cleaves lead to the vagina. Or that men like red lips because they resemble the signals of a sexually ready, engorged vagina. These seem incorrect in any number of ways, and are random guesses, bordering on sympathetic magic.
The points of interest in these things are framed incorrectly to come to any answers about human sexuality. Instead of “why do men”, it has to be put to all. Why do humans love boobs? It isn’t entirely men. Just as a good guideline, any time blame is mentioned in gender be on your guard, bullshit is likely to follow. We are in this together.
We have to consider boobs in terms of our animal. We have a good deal of weight placed in the value of vision. Anything that changes color, has spots or alters form and shape, or other visual exemplars are tells about attention. Someone is looking. The idea that men like cleavage because it looks like the cleavage of the rear end is making a superficial connection of likenesses. Men don’t love cleavage. Men love breasts with nipples. Size can be of varying importance. When cleavage isn’t present but breasts are still prominent, there is no lack of interest. This should be no surprise. Most swim suits and upper torso garments worn by women in western civilization specifically hide nipples, but can still bare cleavage. A key and obvious tell about interest is the coloration of nipples. Nipples are not only differing in shape and color from surrounding tissue, they also change shape and color during sexual arousal, and pregnancy. They are evolved to be intently noticed and attended to by mates and (once vision is somewhat established) offspring.
The myth that boobs are for milk (implying single purpose) is a misunderstanding of organisms. Things aren’t assembled for single use. How we note use describes our biases toward what we do, or our interests. Breasts produce milk and nourish offspring for a time. But equally, in fact in most cases, more often, they are sexual signals. Let’s differentiate the mammary glands as seen, to how brains build them, specifically on women.
Pardon me if this is uncomfortable. I suspect the taboos around this subject are setting up uncomfortable twinges here or there. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. This might signal a need to examine taboo and value. Laying bare what is secret or conspicuously hidden might give over some interesting information.
Nursing has an interesting chemical component, which is oxytocin. The “love hormone”. Oxytocin is produced in several different circumstances, physical and social (maybe we should consider social things as somewhat physical or extensions of physicality-even transmission). Petting your dog increases oxytocin levels (in both you and your dog). Other circumstances include the physically triggered stretching of cervix and uterus during childbirth, and nipple stimulation during nursing. But also nipple stimulation when not nursing. Oxytocin levels increase for both sexes during sex, but it should be noted also during general social bonding.
Let’s compile some information. A preconscious search is going on at all times among humans. We are attempting to identify routes and affordances in an evolutionary way. That is we are maneuvering to reproduce, adapt, and viably compete. The success through this triplet of pressures is determined by species. Survival is not an individual description. It refers to the general survival of a species. How that species groups, blends, or becomes internally parasitic or predatory to maintain survival is variable. We have evolved, like it or not, to be certain forms, with certain interactions. With these interactions, over time, workable methods have led to successes and reinforcement of methods. Oxytocin “confirms” likely successes. It biases an organism toward binding at certain times or under certain conditions, or if another organism fits certain criteria. This criteria determined by likeness, or fitness etc.
Boobs are not just a sexual signal. As well as having visual size prominence, and color emphasis at the nipple, there are more things happening with them than acting as signals to outsiders. Women have an interest in attention and stimulation of breasts and nipples. This is not much of a surprise in any direction. Men know this, women know this. Sexual stimulation of breasts is known.
In a conversation with a friend, I referred to an asshole I know of as “the kind of guy who gives titty twisters in gym class”.
My friend said “Titty twisters? You mean ‘tune in Tokyo’?” And made a gesture both like a “titty twister” and radio knob turning.
I asked, “Tune in Tokyo?” having never heard this before.
Wistfully she said, “Ahhhh, a girl never forgets her first tune in Tokyo.”
Why? The above mentioned cortical maps are interesting things. They are the source of phantom limbs among amputees. The mapping persists even if what was mapped is gone. Your brain keeps what is lost mapped. And these maps can migrate. They can cross territory, even double. Where a foot is missing but still felt, another foot may appear overlaid in the genitals. This is interesting, dual placement. But nipples might be different. The nipple cortical maps are connected to the chest and torso. But they also have a doubling in the overlapping group of the clitoris, cervix, and vagina….and likewise in the genital regions of men. That is to say, that breasts and nipples are of sexual interest to all sides. They are not just signals, they are involved with sexual gratification. They are a part of eroticization on all sides.
This isn’t to say “both sides do it” like a political equivocation. This is just putting forward and lining up some facts-notably those set aside when trying to portray sex in a blame game of guilt or innocence, like indicating old white men lay down sexual law.
Sex is a powerful thing. Among all animals it involves a great deal of wrangling and killing. For all animals it is fundamentally important in some regard, whether in social status, or access. To think of sex politically is chronologically strange and superstitious. To think of it economically seems reasonable. The trope of old white men, or religion as overarching dictators of sexual codes is demonstrably false. Old brown women and persons with no religions at all, have also played equally manipulative parts, and still do. The control of sexual access and manipulation, or advantage, and even hoarding can be found in our near primate relatives and involves participation as well as unwelcome force (among both sexes).
If we take this video, which is not offering over reasoned fact or information, we can immediately note it is a maneuver. It is using sex, and portraying sex in a narrative, fictional, form. It links sex to rebellion. But this isn’t new. Nor is it “thoughtful” or smart. It also fits into human rituals, tribalism, and an evolutionary situation of tension between becoming a parasite and a predator.
Among the Greeks the ritual called the Skiraphoria (and another called the Thesmophoria), had exclusive gatherings of women. They would paint themselves white and eat garlic so they would look and smell unappealing. Ritually, they would discuss the overthrow of men, killing them, and taking over. But this isn’t a feminist rebellion. Men have similar rituals that are called “criminal” rites. The Skiraphoria included other rites of “communal guilt”-in crime or taboo breaking and were socially binding. Rebellion, criticism, vandalism, etc have this brand of grouping. Aligning with causes or issues serve this purpose (as do political parties.).
The part to note is within groups, once they are grouped, the members of the group turn on each other in the usual hierarchical fashion doling out sexual rites and taboos, food rites and taboos, and other “cultural” mandates.
The clichés and tropes in that video are not only incorrect, uninformed, and sneering, they are also unimportant. There are issues involving gender that are important. Topless women doesn’t seem among them. Even uber free men, who can frolic free and topless all day usually wear shirts. Depending on jurisdiction this is variably true for women…I think Utah, Tennessee and Indiana being no goes…so if needed a targeted campaign to those places seem best. Otherwise, I doubt many men, even old white men, would complain about topless women. They might be surprised, but probably okay.