do we desire a shirtless future?

There’s an old saying that goes, “if you haven’t seen bare breasts within 10 minutes, you’re not watching a sci-fi movie”.

Okay, there is no old saying like that, I made it up. But have you ever noticed how especially in the 70’s hippy-sci-fi movies, there is inevitably  a scene in which a topless woman rides up on a horse? The reasons for this are both obvious and ironically opposed — 1) the audience for science fiction is overwhelmingly male and 2) in the future, we reach an enlightenment in which breasts are no longer seen as sexual objects.

Apparently, in Portland, Maine it’s already perfectly legal to go shirtless if you’re lady. (I was not aware of this during the 8  months I spent going to school and working there, alas.) This past weekend a bunch of women and men took shirtless to the streets to try and begin the process of making female topless-ness more normal.  They were predictably met by a mob of male creepers, who gawked and took pictures of them with their cell phones.

Legal or not, I find the idea of going shirtless in public completely terrifying.  I have done it only in my anxiety dreams — the same ones where I realize I have to go back to high school because someone figured out I never actually graduated.  I suppose for me, shirtlessness is not on the top of my feminst agenda, but more power to the women who decide it is.

I cannot imagine a time (even in the sci-fi future) in which a woman could walk down the Chicago street where I live –a street where men gawk at you even in the dead of winter when you are dressed as a gortexed pig-the-blanket — when I could go shirtless and not feel completely vulnerable.  I also have to wonder – would common-place female toplessness automatically assume the end of the sexualization of breasts? And is the de-sexualization of breasts something that most women desire?

What are your thoughts?

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