Yesterday was one of those days when I just felt like doing something a little “crazy.” While Jake, a friend, and I had drinks and lunch outside, I told Jake to pour ice water down my dress. He did, and that turned in to him telling me to put some in my underwear as well, which I sneakily (or maybe not so much?) did under the table.
On the trek from Yellow Jacket to our friend’s place after lunch, the Texas sun scorched our skin and the heat seemed to radiate out in waves from everything– from the street, from the sky, from the air. “Somehow there’s still some ice in my panties!” I said, pulling it out and rubbing it on my neck. Jake looked around, and when he didn’t see anyone, we snapped a photo of my ass hanging out of my panties by the railroad tracks as we walked.
When we got to our friend’s place, sweaty and tired, I pulled off my dress and declared that I would just hang out topless all day. And I did. At first it was just inside, but then we ended up sitting out on the front porch talking as the guys sipped beers. I’d never been outside topless like that before, and although I was sitting facing away from traffic behind a pillar most of the time, we were still on a main street, and the possibility of being seen was palpable.
It’s technically legal to be topless in Austin as long as you aren’t committing some other crime or “offending” people, which is subjective and could still be risky, but people in Austin are usually pretty chill about it. When one of my friends lived at a hippie co-op during college, they had a topless car wash outside to raise money. Some cops rolled up as they often would since the place was known as a hub for wild parties, but they didn’t do anything…except park and watch for awhile. I’ve also seen topless women at public places like Barton Springs, floating the river, and Eeyore’s Birthday.
At first I felt strange and a little vulnerable sitting out there, expecting people to stop, stare, or who knows…maybe even scream, “Hey, look at that topless girl sitting outside!” if they happened to see me. But nothing like that happened. No one stopped to look, no one gasped in horror, and I don’t think anyone other than a couple of people like a neighbor walking by even noticed, and the few that did didn’t seem phased.
I’m comfortable with my body, yet every once in awhile when someone was walking at an angle where they could possibly see me, I thought, should I go put on clothes? Is my body going to offend someone? Will I get in trouble? I never got to the point where I felt so uncomfortable that I went to get my dress, I just had passing moments of feeling a bit squeamish.
But it was also exciting and freeing as the breeze grazed my body without the confines of my sweaty dress sticking to me, and that feeling held more power over me.
While writing this post, I started to wonder why flashing is considered exhibitionism or taboo in the first place. Why are men are allowed to be topless while women generally aren’t?* Is it because women’s body parts are automatically sexualized, while men’s aren’t? Sure, women’s breasts can be sexual, but so can men’s chests and nipples.
When I asked Jake about it, he said that it’s just not something our society generally accepts, and the norms are followed so that people aren’t offended. He also pointed out that a lot of women probably don’t want to be topless in public for fear of ogling men, which is understandable.
But still, why are only women’s breasts considered potentially offensive? I think it has something to do with the hypocritical relationship between our sex filled media and contrasting expectations of purity and “modesty,” especially for women.
Advertising screams sex at us everyday, everywhere we go, on the streets, on TV, on the Internet. Buy this makeup and you will be desirable! Wear these flirty clothes; you need a flattering cut with Spanx underneath to feel truly beautiful! Get this deodorant, and women will bang down your door, dying to fuck you! Victoria’s Secret supermodels touch themselves in skimpy lingerie for all to see, but women are still sometimes arrested for breast feeding in public.
I could go on and on on this topic (and perhaps I will in another post,) but my point here is that it seems warped to me that when the media and advertising often use sexually suggestive content, it’s acceptable, but seeing a woman who is comfortable in her own skin, showing a natural part of her upper body in real life could be considered more offensive and possibly even illegal. And even if she isn’t topless, she risks being labeled a slut if she wears revealing clothing or expresses a sexuality different from the norm.
Even though I think our society’s attitudes about sex and nudity are contradictory and generally screwed up, as of now, they’re still a fact of life. Until people of any gender can walk about topless without possible arrest or at least shock factor, baring my tits is still exhibitionism, and so I suppose I’m a budding exhibitionist. And although I tend to shun labels, I don’t really mind this one.
Of course I had to document my wild day of “exhibition” for Dee’s Scavenger Hunt as well, even though I only had my phone camera. Does my underwear one count for Train Tracks as well?
*For writing simplicity I refer to “women” and “men” here, although a person’s gender doesn’t necessarily coincide with having or lacking breasts, and not everyone identifies as one of these two labels.