So, earlier today, someone I knew made a #FreeTheNipple post on Facebook (without the hashtag). I’m a support of the concept, but this one caused me a moment of vapor lock as I was trying to reason out online etiquette for it.
Normally, if someone posts a picture of themselves dressed nice, or doing something cool, etiquette is to hit Like, and possibly comment on it, saying “Hey, that looks good on you!” I’ve seen a number of Free The Nipple or GoTopless.org links, complete with nipples showing. I’ve got no problem with that, and typically hit “like” on it, or comment with my support. But, this was different. The person who was feature in the picture was my friend, with her shirt pulled up. (OK, in all fairness, I’ve seen a lot of my female friends that I know in person topless at one time or another. See entries on “Davis Parties” and my dating history, among other things. I have no problem with nudity.)
But, this was Facebook. My brain got about that close to mixing two different social protocols: I hit like, and almost said “Hey, nice boobs.” Something I wouldn’t say in real life.
That, of course, probably wouldn’t have insulted anyone. She put her boobs on there as a form of protest, not to model them. (And, for anyone thinking “Oh, she’s just looking for attention” or “she’s just trying to pick up guys”, I highly doubt it. She’s married, and doesn’t appear to be an attention hog. However, she is all about equality, and I believe it to be an appropriate form of protest.) So, I actually managed to not type “Hey, nice boobs.”, and instead showed my support (and questioned how long they would stay up – I’m legitimately curious how long before someone reports them as offensive.)
It brought up an interesting question in my head: how long does it take for a new social protocol to come about? How long before it’s “Whoa – boobs on Facebook?” and more “Hey, did you get a new couch? I like the red.”
In American culture, boobs are highly sexualized. I’ve always had an odd take on that – for me, they are sexual when they are in lingerie, or half showing in a way that’s intended to draw attention to them, or during sex. But, shirtless or breastfeeding, they’re just another part of the body. I’m sure someone might think “You’re obviously not a breast man.” Well, I suppose that’s true – I think women are beautiful. Almost every woman has something I think is beautiful about them – legs, arms, boobs, stomach, hair, etc. My answer to my favorite body part ends up either being “Yes” (all of it) or the face – a face that I enjoy looking at is considerably more important than nice looking other parts. And I shouldn’t have to spell out why 🙂
I live in what is often viewed as an uptight, conservative state: Kansas. Here’s something I’ve explained to people more than once, usually with them thinking I’m insane – Kansas doesn’t have any nudity laws on the books, unless it’s intended in a sexual or lewd fashion. It’s the cities and counties that create the laws, and there’s still a good number of them that don’t have laws on the books (there was a big brew-ha for a short bit in Topeka when some guy on the edge of town was walking around naked. Cops were called about it. Cops say (paraphrased) “So? Did he shake it at you? No? Well, he’s breaking no laws. Have a nice day.” News articles were written, legislation was drafted and… nothing really happened.
Part of it is farmers, I think. Let’s face it – if you grew up out in the country, you stopped, whipped it out, and pee’d wherever. Country girls dropped their pants and pee’d wherever. It was no big thing. When I bought a house in the city, it took me a while to get used to the idea that I couldn’t just piss on the fence when I was in the back yard – it’s illegal in Wichita city limits.
I have seen some interesting discussion come up about FreeTheNipple – one of the most important being that if men’s nipples are allowed to be seen, why not women’s? It used to be that it was illegal for men to go topless quite a few places (in 1960 in New York, a man was fined for going topless in Central Park, for instance – that was about the end of the era), and there are areas of the US where it’s perfectly legal to go topless (oddly, after mentioning New York as a place that a man was fined in the 60’s, New York it’s legal for both men and women to go topless.)
By the way, one response I’ve seen is variations on “Free The Willy!” Yeah, that’s cute, but a bit different; it’s a bit unsanitary for you to go without pants. Seriously, in no way, shape, or form do I want to sit down where your sweaty, naked butt has been sitting, no matter if you’re male or female.
How long till it’s legal everywhere? Who knows. How long until it’s allowed on Social Media networks? Who knows. And now that’s I’ve encountered it once, well, I doubt I’ll have a moment of vapor lock next time 😉