Topless Sunbathing

Reading through the quite extraordinary report of last nights parliamentary ‘Motion to Adjourn’ where the main issue – in the article at least – focused once again on the Playboy Poker event, I came across Ms. Louise Jakson’s condemnation of topless and nudist beaches. Now, there were certainly quite a few things in that discussion that I’ll be writing on shortly, but I thought this one deserved a little attention for now.

Ms. Louise Jackson was protesting about the Playboy Poker event that I also criticised last week. While I do agree with her in respect to my perception of the event being demeaning to women, my main opposition to the event was the conflict of interest between the Premier and the charity Urban Health Institute that benefited from the event, which is run by the Premier’s son, and for which the Premier, in his capacity as Minister of Tourism, provided free trips to Bermuda as the second prize available at the event. I still criticise it for its demeaning of women and the mass Vegas-style gambling, the conflict of interest was always my main concern. My main reason for pointing out that this would irk the socially conservative bloc of Party supporters was not to give any support to this bloc but simply to point out the possible political ramifications of the incident itself.

While I do happen to share similar opposition to this bloc in regards to conventional porn and gambling, these are only superficial points of unity. We have very different reasons for why we share this common position. The socially conservative bloc opposes it more or less from a conservative reactionary stance rooted largely in theological reasons. I oppose conventional pornography more for its sexist subtext in the demeaning of women; I am not opposed to porn in itself, indeed, I have no problems with sex-positive porn. Similarly with gambling, my main issue is with the social costs at the expense of mass private gain, and could support gambling under certain conditions (publicly owned, with profits being used for social welfare purposes and with adequate safeguards to fight addiction problems).

Anyway, Ms. Louise Jackson seems to be attacking the Playboy Poker event essentially from the position of social conservativism. She lambasted the Premier for “…betraying his position as a role model for young Bermudians by attending an event where naked women were present.” From here she apparently voiced the ‘slippery slope’ argument that this incident could domino like lead to moral deterioration resulting in nude sunbathing. What horrors! [Thats me being sarcastic by the way…]

Nude sunbathing and conventional pornography are totally separate issues, and this argument of hers, which no doubt is echoed by many within the social conservative bloc simply portrays the general sex-negative psychology of this group. It is similar reactionary and illogical thinking that leads to some within this social-conservative bloc to equate homosexuality with sexual deviance such as peadophilia and bestiality. And yes, I’m aware that PLP MP Glenn Blakeney did bring homosexuality into the argument later; I’ll be dealing with this in a following post.

In conventional pornography women are reduced into sex objects for the purpose of male lust. This leads to a demeaning of women into objectified sex objects within our male patriachal society. Nude sunbathing does not do this. There are no sexual connotations involved in topless or nude sunbathing in and of itself. Comparing the two is really like the proverbial apples and oranges situation. It is a related argument to the one that ‘blames the victim’ when a rape victim is told she was ‘asking for it’ for wearing ‘sexy’ clothing. Its a false argument, and its underlying ideology of sex-negativism and male supremacy needs to be challenged. If anything topless sunbathing has the potential to be empowering for women, and is quite the opposite of demeaning.

Anyway, even though Ms. Jackson is obviously an opponent topless sunbathing, I actually think its a great idea and would like to publicly thank her for bringing it up. As should be obvious to many from my post I am very much pro-sex-positive, and believe that this is one way to challenge the prevailing sex-negativity and its male patriachalism that is supports. Topless sunbathing is not only potentially empowering, but it also leads to sexual egalitarianism in the sense of the current legislation that allows for bare-chested men but not bare-chested women is essentially sex discrimination. The breasts are not inherently a sexual body part like the genitalia of either sex. Furthermore, I think it would be great for tourism as well. And no, I’m not talking about increasing the numbers of tourists coming to ogle topless women. I’m talking about encouraging greater tourist numbers from continental Europe where topless sunbathing is the norm, as well as catering to the growing numbers of liberals in North America.

I’m not talking about having topless women on the bus or walking through town or waiting tables or anything like that. I would imagine the same laws concerning bare-chested men should be invoked for bare-chested women. This basically would restrict bare-chestedness, male or female, to the beach and pool. Of course, breast-feeding women should be encouraged to do so when and wherever needed.

I realise that there would be problems in achieving this. There remains a huge social-conservative bloc here that would baulk at this notion, especially if done instantly for all beaches. It will take some time for the idea to become so commonplace that it would cease to be controversial. I would suggest the best way forward would be to introduce a few beaches were topless sunbathing is allowed. I reckon that Snorkel Beach in Dockyard and the 9 Beaches resort at Daniel’s Head would be ideal locations for this. Also, some of the hotels could introduce it readily at their pools as per their determination.

Thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “Topless Sunbathing

  1. After reading the article on the RG online (I currently live in the U.S.) I must say that this issue seems to be getting an awful lot of attention. My main problem with the Premier attending this function is that he is the head of a country. No matter how much he is disliked, I very much doubt that George W. Bush would be seen at a poker game surrounded by naked women. Nor for that matter, any leader of a country. If the Premier wanted to support the charity, which I have less of a problem with as I would assume any father would want to support a charitable endeavor started by his son, coudn’t he have done so without actually attending the event? There is a great deal of respect and dignity that comes with being the leader of a country, and I don’t think that either one is earned by attending a poker tournament surrounded by Playboy bunnies. With regards to public nudity in Bermuda, I must say that I agree with you in this respect. I think that shirt/shirtless laws should apply to both men and women equally. Frankly, I think it is much more offensive (to the eye at least) to see a 350 pound man walking on the beach without a shirt on than it is to see a woman topless. Anyway, I thought the MOST offensive part of the entire article was the statement at the end by the Government Whip regarding homosexuality. Is that the opinion of the PLP, or just him? Either way, it represents a very backward way of thinking and I thought Bermuda was finally starting to be PROGRESSIVE (or is that just a monkier with no meaning???) Anyway, to sum up, Premier at Bunny Party – BAD, Equal laws for men and women regarding toplessness – GOOD, Government Whip’s comments about homosexuality – VERY QUESTIONABLE (AND BAD)

  2. Hi Hywel

    In broad terms Bermuda is conservative with a small ‘c’. In addition, there are more religions and more churches per square mile than (I think) anywhere else on this planet.

    John is better placed to advise, but in my view the Church is quite a powerful lobby here.

    On the issue of homosexuality, the attempts fairly recently to debate providing homosexuals with the same rights not to be discriminated against in Parliament, was a parliamentary farce with the issue being hijacked. Not saying the debate would have brought about a change in the law – far from it – so we still have this ludicrous position here where it is “lawful” to discriminate on the grounds of one’s sexual orientation, whereas race, color, disability etc are covered.

    Now – the Church and it’s members are entitled to their view. That said, it’s a view that I have never understood. The concept that homosexuality is a “choice” is ridiculous in my opinion. In 50+ years I have never woken up in the morning and said…”I think I will go gay today”. Clearly the church thinks I can do that.

    On the issue of supporting his son, the Premier should be encouraged to do so – but not using public monies under the guise of ‘bringing people to Bermuda’. It’s a weak rationale at best.

    On the wider issue of ‘the article causing a lot of attention’…it’s inevitable here with the conservative views of the island opposing a Premier whose views are not so conservative. Sadly, he is not liberal enough to do the honorable thing and legislate to embrace homosexuals. He may well be concerned at loosing a significant slice of the electorate at the next election, who would probably not vote for the opposition, but abstain. So – he won’t take that risk in my opinion.

    Finally, I am trying to get the image (which you didn’t create) of a 350lb man topless v a 350lb woman topless. The thought of either is pretty frightening frankly.

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