Monday, August 30, 2004

Chicks and their breasts; or: hello, Google perverts. I was at a warehouse party on Saturday night, wearing a hot pink satin halter-neck top with jeans rolled to the knee, pink and silver lurex-striped knee socks and my pink Converse sneakers. I bought the top to wear on New Year's Eve. It has a very deep cowl neck and a racer back and is quite loose but has a wide waistband. It's my practice not to wear a bra with low-cut tops. Nor do I believe in double-sided tape. Either the tits stay in or they fall out and I'm prepared for either eventuality. I imagine that a slow-motion video of me dancing in this top would resemble that Berlei sports bra ad where they measure how far tits bounce without a bra. And I get chronic headlights.

Anyway, as anyone who observed me being groped on the dancefloor on NYE can attest, this is my Magic Breast Top. It cemented this status when on Saturday night this guy came up to me and said, "You know, I just have to say that you're wearing the best top in the room." I was thinking to myself that no straight man would ever say something like that, which was a pity because he was cute. I've been told variously that my reply ought to have been, "Did you like the top or its contents?" or "Yeah, well not many people can fill it out like me." But I don't know, those kind of sound like terrible lines.

So I started thinking about how women display their breasts, and the paradox of wanting to be admired for the way they look in clothes, but at the same time not leered at. Also, about how knowing that the woman deliberately wants you to look at her tits takes some of the viewing pleasure out of it. I have to say that sometimes I wonder if I should enjoy looking at other women's breasts, given I'm not a lesbian. But why not? I mean, a tip for the straight gentlemen out there: it's my theory that no woman 'accidentally' wears a low-cut top. No - she's proud of her breasts, and she wants people to look at them.

Of course, this disregards the minefield of sexual politics that anyone possessing or admiring breasts must negotiate. We've recently had that rape case where a guy saw a semi-naked woman asleep in her own living room, busted in, started raping her and was acquitted. This is an ancient issue in feminist criminology: should a woman be responsible for the sexual reactions she provokes in others by dint of her appearance or behaviour?

There's a brand of 'feminism' (I use inverted commas because I don't think this school of thought really helps ameliorate the systematic societal denigration and devaluation of women), sometimes known as 'post-feminism' or 'girl power', that holds that women can wear whatever they want, and shouldn't be held responsible for the reaction this provokes in others. I agree that women shouldn't be "God's police" whose role is to protect men from their uncontrollable animal desires. And I realise that when I describe women's fashion and behaviour using economies of "sluttishness" and "self-respect", I'm buying into misogynist clich├ęs. Yet, I'm pragmatic enough to realise that wearing low-cut tops does invite unwelcome sexual attention.

I'm just not sure where we can draw the line between admiring a chick's tits (or feeling admired and sexy), and reducing her to nothing but the tits (or feeling gross and ogled). In the meantime, I'm happy to pretend I don't notice or enjoy the way they look peeking out of tops and dresses, or the effect that has on cute guys.

There is also a hilarious post on Whitebait in the City about a deliciously awkward moment in which a breast is inadvertently groped. Forget those fucking Olympics, this is gold! Gold! And it also provokes ideas about what boobies mean and how we relate to them.

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