Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Offensive but legal boobs

So the breasts will be bared. It has provoked a number of responses across the blogosphere.

Pacific Empire has understandably taken the view that it is not for the state to regulate women baring themselves. Nobody has a right to be protected from being offended. It’s a view I largely sympathise with, although I don’t see Steve Crow as a hero. He produces material that I don’t like. I’ve seen it – I once bought one of his films on pay per view with Saturn TV when I lived in Wellington – it was money spent poorly indeed. Kiwi accents, the sound of a car alarm going off in the background, off the set and clearly unplanned and distracting – it was amateur, but not in the good sense of the word.

Having said that, each to their own, but it isn’t to my taste. He has every right to produce the literature he does, and indeed it should be legal to produce literature that depicts any legal act. It isn’t at present, which makes it legal to participate in a wide range of extreme sexual activities, but not to write about it or take a photo. This is absurd. Steve Crow offends many, and his business thrives on this sort of controversy, it also thrives on those wanting to see womens’ breasts. If breasts were not seen as dirty, offensive or naughty, his business may not be as brisk.

Idiot Savant of No Right Turn on the left sees it as putting men and women on a similar footing, and a victory for freedom of speech.

As he says “ if people want to parade around topless, that's their business, and I don't see any reason why the government should give a damn

He also supports countering the event with protests, which of course is again each to their own. He says “this is a far more appropriate response than the Auckland City Council's hamfisted attempt at censorship”, and I agree. I wouldn't protest, I'd simply rather not watch.

I’m personally intrigued as to why men can bare breasts (they do have them) and enormous hairy bellies, which are far more offensive to many (not all), but women cannot bare breasts. Can someone explain that?

NZ Conservative not unexpectedly takes a difference course, seeing this is a matter of standards. A standard which treats the display of womens’ breasts as offensive – in a particular context. Lucyna says that “it draws large crowds of men to leer at topless women and because it is linked to the erotica expo, it is linked to pornography. Pornography is legal of course, although that doesn't mean you need to like it. I have mixed views about it, but I would never ban it.

Now lots of things are linked to pornography. There is a whole genre dedicated to seeing women wearing socks, not showing genitalia at all. To those fetishists women wearing socks causes them to “leer”.

She also says “Leering at topless women is using those women for your own gratification”. Leering at clothed women, or men, or animals is doing the same – and the gratification is what, smiling at something you like looking at?

So what is the problem? Is it that the women have chosen to bare their breasts? Why? Why should you care if someone wants to be leered at? People dress to be seen all the time, to be leered at and noticed. Exposing breasts is likely to provoke the natural reaction of looking, unless breasts are of no more interest than a lamppost to you.

Or is it the gratification? Should we not gain pleasure at looking at another person’s body? Why is this a bad thing? It is when it invades privacy, which is why you can’t go peeking into windows – private property rights pretty much can protect most of that, and implied privacy in contracts can as well. Is it wrong when someone sees someone they find attractive and gains “gratification” from it, as long as the other person isn’t violated? What sort of a thought crime IS this?

Now Lucyna says it affects how people relate to each other, and yes, at an extreme it can. Someone addicted to pornography or sex will be affected because they are looking for instant gratification to fulfill a “need”, but does a man seeing a woman baring her breasts willingly change how he treats other women and men? Unlikely. Even if it does, why is this a criminal matter? Advertising does this, conversations do this, literature does this.

Apparently “to reduce it down to breasts being offensive is to be narrow minded and obtuse”. Yet this is exactly what we are talking about. Men can bare themselves, and conservatives care not a jot – even though many people find it offensive and a few find it arousing. Indeed people can wear many different items of clothing that draw attention to themselves either sexually or in humour. Is making others laugh or aroused by what you wear something the law should get involved in? No. So why breasts?

Indeed, if a woman wants to flaunt her breasts in public why do others want to criminalise her for doing so? Why is her choice less legitimate than your choice to wear a burkha, or wear hotpants?

I.M Fletcher follows up saying that he doesn’t like Steve Crow. Fine, but saying “We don't want you in Auckland Steve - we don't even want you in our country.” Raises the “who is this “we”” issue. I’d rather Graham Capill was sent away, or indeed many others. In fact there are thousands upon thousands of abusive and neglectful (not criminal) parents who are far more vile than Steve Crow. I think Steve Crow is rather tasteless, but he runs a business of consenting adults, selling products to consenting adults. He isn't living off of the compulsorily acquired earnings of others, like beneficiaries or government employees or state subsidised businesses.

The law clearly appears to be that women and men can leave all of their anatomy unclothed, except their genitalia, in a public place. Some find that morally reprehensible, I find the counterfactual offensive. The appropriate responses for those who don’t like it are to:

- Turn away and avoid women they see bare breasted; and

- Peacefully protest against women being bare breasted.

Much as is the case when men show hairy beer bellies, Muslim women wear burkhas and anyone dresses in bad taste. It is not for the criminal law to dictate what people wear in public places.

I’d suggest that if anyone has children and they see a woman with bare breasts, explain the same about seeing a man showing his belly and chest, or a woman wearing tiny hotpants. It isn’t dirty or offensive “per se” but natural – it is your mind that interprets the harmlessness of the human body as being less than that. Breasts are good - and the energy spent in suppressing them and publicising this event may have been better spent focusing on something largely ignored but should be offensive to us all.

It continues to astonish me how so few point and raise awareness of this true Nazi/Stalin type horror that occurs today, given that it is only by raising this tirelessly that there is a chance it will stop.

1 comment:

Dave said...

I’m personally intrigued as to why men can bare breasts (they do have them) and enormous hairy bellies, which are far more offensive to many (not all), but women cannot bare breasts. Can someone explain that?
But you've just said that they can. Isn't that explanation enough? BTW so did I.