SMH offers enculturation argument about topless lust
The Life and Style section of the Sydney Morning Herald has a fascinating article by Sydney-based writer Emily Maguire about the way culture trains men and women to respond in particular ways to their “biological responses to beauty.” Here’s an excerpt:
…boys are not taught, as girls are, that their bodies could have a disruptive effect on people around them, that they should wear looser clothing so as not to distract their classmates. They’re not told that how they look could incite nasty rumours or prevent them advancing at work or cause them to get raped. They aren’t told that the sight of their flesh may cause grown women to turn into mindless brutes.
But the fact is male bodies can have the same effect on women as female bodies can have on men. That far fewer men than women are harassed or attacked by people claiming sexual provocation is not because women aren’t visually aroused, but because women have learnt that their biological responses to beauty are not an excuse to commit acts of violence or discrimination.
The context is a recent attempt by conservative MP Fred Nile (Parliamentary Leader of the Christian Democratic Party in New South Wales) to ban women’s topless bathing on Sydney beaches. Here’s what Maguire has to say about that:
Women’s learnt ability to deal with inappropriate lust brings us back to those topless sunbathers. In supporting Nile’s proposal, the NSW Labor MP Paul Gibson revealed his deep discomfort with both women’s bodies and the language used to describe bits of them when he asked, “Do you want somebody with big knockers next to you when you’re [at the beach] with the kids?”
Plenty of beach-loving mums can relate: there you are, rubbing sunscreen into your toddler’s back when a delicious slab of man meat lays his towel down right beside you. What to do?
How about this – remember that the person lying there is a human being whose hotness does not negate their right to bake unmolested. If the kids ask awkward questions like, oh, “What are those?” You say, “Nipples, we’ve all got them. Cool, huh?” Then you stop being a creepy perve and concentrate on the sandcastles and surf.
In a culture which is fascinated by biological arguments about the differences between men and women, it is awfully refreshing to hear a wittily argued rejoinder that lust and reactions to naked bodies are shaped by culture.