In Spain, it is legal to be naked — anywhere.
Not that many people do it, but it means they are more liberal about where and when you can be nude or semi-nude. For instance, it’s a common sight to see women sunbathing on the beach topless, even with their children nearby. There is no shame in it. It is perfectly ordinary.
And because it’s so normalized and so common, it takes away a lot of the gawking associated with beach bodies in most parts of the world.
So if you go topless — as I did during my last holiday in the Canary Islands — no one will bat an eyelid.
I would be lying if I told you it was an empowering, feminist experience that changed my entire life. It didn’t. I was a body among other bodies. It just made me feel happy.
And for once, I didn’t have to worry about anyone harassing or sexually objectifying me because of it.
No, women’s bodies aren’t inherently sexual
Sunbathing topless is received very differently around the world, and as many as 38 countries still consider it a criminal offense. In many other countries, even if the act isn’t prohibited by law, barely any women do it as it is generally looked down upon.
Well, women’s breasts and bodies are still largely perceived as offensive and only worthy of appreciation when abiding by dominant ‘beauty’ standards. And that’s because our society has systematically and historically hidden, shamed or sexualized women’s bodies — leaving no space for normal, positive representations and relationships with ourselves.
From early on, girls are taught that our ‘cursed’ female body turns men into ‘horny bastards’ who can’t control themselves. In other words, we shouldn’t be surprised men objectify us if our inherently sexual bodies are ‘asking for it,’ right? Yikes.
A woman’s body, just like a man’s, can be sexual in some situations. In other cases — it’s not. It’s just a body. A walking, breathing organism. Not an inflatable sex toy. And just because some men grow up believing it’s ok to behave like ‘horny bastards’ it doesn’t mean men as a whole are physically unable to control themselves. They can do that just fine.
Sadly, due to this sexual objectification and body shaming, many girls grow up feeling ashamed and even repulsed with how they look — myself included. And women’s hatred of their bodies is such an everyday phenomenon that we pay no heed to just how deeply it cuts into our sense of self.
But when we try to shake it off and learn how to love our bodies and be proud of them — we’re shamed for that, too. What a surprise.
Slut-shaming exists for a reason
If you caught a glimpse of the Olympics this year, you probably noticed all the bouncy asses in skimpy pants and boobs slipping out of impossibly tight sports bras.
Well, it shouldn’t be news to anyone that female athletes’ wardrobes are often strikingly sexist. While men’s uniforms are usually designed for practicality, women’s uniforms are designed for show. Because as we all know, the only visual purpose of a woman’s body is to pleasure men. Duh, what else could it be?
And so the minute our bodies exist for any other reason than that, all hell breaks loose.
A female athlete forced to wear a skimpy outfit while competing in the Olympics? Oh, that’s perfectly fine; at least men have something to look at. A woman wearing a skimpy outfit in real life while going out with her friends? What a slut. She obviously doesn’t have an ounce of respect for herself.
The very reason why slut-shaming exists in the first place is because men are taught they are entitled to women’s bodies. And they think shaming us for ‘daring’ to dress and look however we want will remind us of that entitlement. It will humble us down. Put us back in our expected place in the society where men, once again, can have unrestricted access to our bodies.
But most importantly, they use slut-shaming in hopes of breaking us. After all, broken women are the pillars men use to uphold patriarchy.
Whatever we do, we can’t win
The fact that sexual objectification of women’s bodies and slut-shaming exist simultaneously should be proof enough that women simply can’t win.
Being a woman often feels like one of those interactive story games in which you have to make decisions for your character, and based on that, you get different outcomes, only in this game, it doesn’t matter which choice you make — you’re screwed anyway.
I imagine if you’d actually make a story game about it, it would go like this:
Congratulations! You have been assigned to a female body. What would you like to do next?
A. Be proud of it and not afraid to show it.
B. Just exist within it peacefully.
C. Try at all costs to avoid being objectified.
If you choose A, men will objectify each part of your body and, in the same breath, call you a vain and superficial slut. Even more so if your chosen avatar complies with beauty norms dictated by society. Additionally, most of your societal respect points will be taken away immediately.
If you choose B, men will still objectify each part of your body. They might also try to coerce you into sending them naked pictures of yourself, which will probably end up circulating on a random Reddit forum. If you refuse to send any, you will be labeled a prude or a bitch.
If you choose C, men will still objectify each part of your body. Right off the bat, you will also be labeled a prude or a bitch for not wanting to offer your body on the altar of male validation. And if you would really like the objectification to stop, complete the game until level 40, when you’ll reach your expiration date and become invisible to most men.
Warning: sexual harassment and rape threats from angry men might randomly pop up throughout the game, regardless of which letter you’ve initially picked.
What we choose to do with our bodies is no one else’s business
Despite all of the shame I once felt about my female flesh suit, I’m slowly growing to love it. And that’s why going topless on that Spanish beach made me feel happy and even a bit proud of myself.
It might not be a thing for everyone, though, and that’s ok, too.
The bottom line is, we should feel free to dress and look however we want and not be bullied into submission to either modesty culture values or revealing fashion trends. Because whatever we choose to do with our bodies is no one else’s business but our own. And just as there isn’t an outfit that prevents rape, sexual harassment, and objectification, there isn’t one that encourages it.
Even being completely naked isn’t ‘asking for it.’
Nudity does NOT necessarily equal sexuality.
And it’s about time more people got that through their thick skulls instead of jumping on the slut-shaming or sexual objectification bandwagon any chance they get.