men and women

Free the Nipple: How Men Fought for Their Right to be Topless?

Imagine being on a beach. Relaxing under the sun with those cool shades on. Done? Now imagine being at a park jogging or exercising. Icky sweaty bodies everywhere (ew.) Okay. Last! A happening club. With loud EDM music and (again) sweaty bodies everywhere. Do you know what is common in all of these places? Shirtless men chilling around and about with no remorse, regrets, or repercussions.

Men being topless is sort of “normalized” in today’s culture. Through social media, it is even more popularized to have topless men post photos- of workout routines, outfit checks, or just random experiences. You won’t imagine the scenario being the same for women though. It is considered indecent and even committing a sex offense if a woman posts similar photos or videos on these platforms.

So has this always been the case? Men being comfortable in their skin and women being prohibited to do the same? As surprising as it sounds, No it has not. In the early 1900s, men and women in the United States were equally frowned upon for wearing no tops. Even men wore swimming costumes with sleeves and a breast cover. 

Free The Nipple (Men’s)

Some countries considered it a huge deal to have a man roaming around topless. On beaches, swimming pools, gyms, country clubs, anywhere everyone was expected to dress decently. People would go to great lengths to stop the public display of nipples back then in the case of both men and women. 

In the 1920s, when they were required to wear full swimsuits with tank tops to cover their nipples and most of them made of wool, males who wished to swim shirtless encountered the same objections. Many swimming pools required swim skirts, so the more excellent versions even had them attached to heighten the mystery of what was happening below the waist.

Fast forward to the 1930s, when men from Coney Island started to protest for the right to open swimming and bathing. This happened as a result of them being made to wear swimsuits that were nipple-stifling. They worked extremely hard for change and were even detained for the protection of their nipples. …and finally! Men were given the legal freedom to display their nipples in public in 1936. This set the stage for New York to become accepting of guys and their nipples.

The Men’s “No Shirt Movement”

Men kept revolting against being taught what they could and couldn’t do with their bodies, especially after noticing how ladies swooned when they saw Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller baring his chest in the 1932 movie “Tarzan the Ape Man.”

Not all women agreed with the opinions expressed by their non-Olympic peers. According to a June 29, 1936, Associated Press article, a group of pearl-clutching New Yorkers claimed they had “no desire to gaze upon hairy-chested men.”

The men’s no-shirt movement dominated the summer of 1936, and incidents of dropped straps, protests, and arrests were common.

However, the next year, in the heart of the male protests and numerous arrests, a protracted encounter with “bareback swimming,” as some dubbed it, caused one significant guy to reconsider his viewpoint.

In the same year, a judge in New York overturned the ban and the men were allowed to flaunt, highlight and style their upper bodies however they pleased.

The History of Nudity

The social perceptions of the human body being naked in many historical cultures are included in the history of nudity. One of the changes that signal the end of the Neolithic and the start of civilizations is the usage of clothing to cover the body. In hunter-gatherer societies in warm climates, nudity (or near-complete nudity) has historically been the social norm for both men and women and is still widespread among many indigenous peoples. Human migration out of the tropics into regions with weather that requires clothing for protection from the sun, heat, and dust in the Middle East; or the cold and rain in Europe and Asia—is linked to the necessity to cover one’s body.

Complete nakedness in public has become increasingly rare in modern societies as it has come to be linked with lesser status, indecency, or erotica. However, the moderate Mediterranean environment permitted minimal clothes, and in many ancient societies, the athletic and/or cultish nudity of men and women was a natural concept. Even if it may be seen in public baths or sensual art, being completely naked in public was frowned upon in ancient Rome.

Nudity For Men And Women

Throughout much of the 20th century, communal nudity was the norm in male-only settings in the United States and other Western nations. Males have historically been more likely than females to be expected to use shared showers in school locker rooms or swim in indoor pools while undressed. 

These expectations stemmed from cultural assumptions that women require greater privacy than men. Schools, gymnasiums, and other similar establishments frequently required nude male swimming, partly due to sanitary considerations due to the use of wool swimsuits. At the time, social attitudes held that it was healthy and usual for men and boys to be nude alongside each other.

Free The Nipple (Women’s Version)

Women have been protesting for their rights for decades – starting from the very basic human rights to rights like voting and ruling countries. The same goes for the “top freedom” movement. There are certain double standards in the public eye regarding men and women. While some view men being topless as a simple expression of relaxation or a reaction to heat, if a woman is seen that way, several frowns and rolls of eyes are seen. Women can serve jail time and pay a handsome amount of fine while also registering as a sex offender if found “indecent.”

Expanding topless rights is the subject of court cases and town council debates, but advocates are wary of opposition in New York, where discontent over painted topless women soliciting tips in Times Square has prompted state and city officials to consider rolling back hard-won advancements in the bastion of top-freedom.

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