“One of the most memorable events of my childhood was the day that I (a girl who loved nothing more than running around in ragged jeans and nothing else) was told I had to start wearing a shirt.” – Katherine.
Anjeza at 9. Copyright © 2009 Frank Adamo
Why do women cover their breasts? Why are little girls told to cover their flat chest? Was there more shame in the distant past, or less? Does somebody profit from breast shame, or is body shame inevitable?
I’ve written about breast nudity for several years, but now there is a new force on the scene who merits some attention: Chelsea Covington. I re-blogged one of her articles “Why Some Parents are Afraid of Bare-chestedness” and also corresponded with her about my reply to a comment on her article. Our correspondence revealed the complexity of the issue of top freedom, and some differences in viewpoint that may exist between individual advocates.
In 2009 I first published some of my photographs of top-free little girls on European beaches on Yahoo’s photography site: Flickr.com. Using the name “Girl Becomes Woman” my account quickly got over 300,000 views and hundreds of favorable comments defending my images as normal and constructive rather than “sexual” or “seductive” or “erotic” in any way. Nonetheless, some hysteric(s) succeeded in persuading Yahoo to delete my Flickr account, along with my associated Yahoo email account which was active for over 10 years.
In 2011 I published an eBook “Real Child Safety” which pointed out that the majority of child deaths and serious injuries are due to physical abuse and neglect, so why are some crusaders focusing on “too much” skin showing? Worse, some psychopathic individuals seem to be quite thrilled that responsible vigilance to protect children has deteriorated into widespread vigilantism. “Real Child Safety” criticized the mass hysteria over child nudity and child sex abuse and offered as a free gift a photo-documentary “Girl Becomes Woman” I had been working on for the previous five years.
The photo-documentary of a little girl going through puberty is accompanied by over 100 pages of text describing my personal observations and research on the learning of breast shame in childhood. The eBook was also praised by many readers as normal and constructive, and received no open criticism, actually no attention at all in the establishment-owned mass media. In 2010 this blog also began discussing body shame and sex hysteria, as distorted cultural values learned in childhood. The hysteria over child nudity and child sexuality today is palpable: when people see an image of a top-free little girl they are almost shocked, as if little girls are not supposed to have nipples.
Paypal had been processing donations for my Breast Pride Education Foundation for a year, but in 2012 Paypal panicked and blocked my account “permanently.” The mass media (and the California Better Business Bureau) ignored my crucifixion. I have continued offering “Real Child Safety” to readers (now in a second, expanded edition), as well as “Girl Becomes Woman” and my new video for children “Buddy Massage” – as always on the condition that RCS readers fill out a questionnaire to show they don’t have prurient interests, through my sites: www.GirlBecomesWoman.com and www.FRECS.org
Images of top-free little girls in painting and photography are nothing new, and many historical images are in the collections of major museums and university libraries, most famously the early photographs of Oxford University Professor Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), author of Alice in Wonderland, as well as Paul Chabas’ “The First Bath” (1907) http://www.mystudios.com/artgallery/paintings/131501-132000/131566/size1.jpg William Sergeant Kendall’s three daughters e.g. “A Statuette” (1914/1915) in the Brooklyn Museum: http://www.pigtailsinpaint.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/William-Sergeant-Kendall-A-Statuette-ca-1914-Brooklyn-Museum.jpg and the images of many other artists and photographers. Even Shirley Temple, the most gifted child actress of all time, was photographed top-free when she was nine to advertise her greatest film “Captain January” (1937): http://65.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m697bwOeG01qhpmnao1_500.png In her autobiography “Child Star,” Shirley Temple Black revealed that as a small child she occasionally wore nothing at all in the California sunshine.
Never before in American history has there been such hysteria over child nudity and even partial nudity as today. There is good reason to believe that there is method in the madness: Hysteria over breast nudity discourages mothers from breastfeeding, and thereby promotes sales of infant bottle formula – an industry with $30 billion in annual sales worldwide (1).
Chelsea Covington to the Rescue
Breast nudity is outlawed in many states while males may freely uncover their chest in public in most places. Chelsea Covington’s activism for legal equality of top nudity consists in casually walking around top-free on public streets, in public parks, and beaches while a friend videos her. The videos are posted on YouTube and promote her blog.
Ms. Covington focuses on the simple matter of legal equality, which I feel is not the best approach because that focus could just as easily justify forcing men to cover their chests in public – as men already are in many cultures around the world. As a man I have been told to put a shirt on in a public park. That is a form of “equality.” So I think focusing on legal equality is overly restrictive and could ultimately backfire.
Surprisingly, Ms. Covington has not been prosecuted on most of her top-free walks. If parents allowed their flat-chested young daughters to likewise bare their chests at parks and beaches in most states they probably wouldn’t be arrested either, but the modern police state has so terrorized parents with the threat of kidnapping their children (for “protection” from the supposed risk of abuse/neglect), that many parents are reluctant to challenge the hysteria.
Since body shame is learned in childhood, I believe that the mass hysteria over nudity and sex should be attacked at its source. Many mothers begin breastfeeding but then stop abruptly after a short time. Some women report pleasure and even orgasm during breastfeeding, which probably provokes guilt – a feeling that such pleasure and arousal are “abnormal.” Although some mothers claim various reasons for early weaning, I wonder if guilt over the natural pleasure of breastfeeding contributes to it.
In the past the genitalia were literally named shame organs: “pudenda” in Latin, and “shamhaft” in German. But mothers breastfed in public and even in church during mass. Nowadays the disease of genital shame has infected the breasts. Many parents (usually mothers) passively model breast shame and/or actively indoctrinate daughters to hide their flat chest. Media images of “perfect” mature breasts and complete censorship of normal breast development at puberty further make many growing girls feel especially ashamed of budding breasts, at a sensitive age when girls should be showered with compliments. I believe that children should also be taught buddy massage in school and at home rather than be neglected or ostracized for insufficient “modesty.”
Groups like FEMEN and GoTopless.org also demonstrate in public for women’s top freedom, but nobody seems to care about the source of the problem: instilling breast shame in childhood. We need to realize that the deeper problem isn’t merely legal inequality, but the distorted fear of the human body and its natural functions in fostering healthy sexual desire and genital pleasure.
There is good reason to believe that far worse damage results from body shame than merely offending a moral need for equality. Like other body organs, especially those whose primary purpose is perception or sensation, the clitoris needs stimulation during early life while the relative brain area that controls clitoral function is developing. Otherwise, girls risk suffering reduced sensitivity or irreversible clitoral erectile dysfunction later, an uncomfortable subject that many women have trouble even putting into words.
The Internet is revolutionary because it provides everyone with access to quantities of information never available before in human history. Unfortunately, some individuals feel so insecure that they have a need to limit and censor information they don’t like. They try to control the conversation, and when they don’t succeed they withdraw from the conversation and even try to censor any input from other individuals. That is a very unscientific and highly political (i.e. cynical) view of communication, and expresses contempt for democratic ideals.
Even before Betty Freidan published her classic “The Feminine Mystique,” she fought against oppression and McCarthyism by claiming the value of individualism and nonconformity. How sad that unlike Chelsea Covington most women and even most feminists in America today confront the issue of mental castration of little girls with complete silence rather than challenging the mass censorship and hysteria over child nudity and child sexuality.
- Palmer, Gabrielle. The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business, 3rd ed. Pinter and Martin, 2009.