Women's Bare Breasts Are Disappearing from France's Beaches

Why a new generation prefers to cover up.

Bare breasts used to be commonplace on French beaches. You did not have to go to designated "topless" areas, much less all-nude beaches to see them. They were refreshingly everywhere, and apart from some obvious oglers, breasts were taken very much in stride. Topless women appeared in billboard ads for products like soap. Nothing sexual about it.  It made for a striking difference when compared to the American over-fetishization, and all out sexualization of breasts. (That part of the anatomy does have another use, you know.) Well, not anymore. Alas, according to a recent poll in Elle magazine, the younger generation of French women is more conservative, and prefers covering up. 

In that survey, a mere two percent of French women under 35 said they were willing to go topless on beaches. Some see it is as "vulgar." It seems that the younger generation is becoming more prudish than their radical, feminist, '60s inspired mothers.  

The norm of female toplessness on French beaches was very much an outgrowth of '60s feminism. It was part of the bid for equality. If men could go topless (and wear Speedos!) women should too. Brigitte Bardot helped popularize the trend, to say the least. But you didn't need her bodacious curves to enjoy frolicking nearly nude. Women of all cup sizes and shapes threw off the shackles of the bikini top.

As Dylan sang, "the times, they are-a-changing." Fashion has changed, for one, with fuller swimsuits currently in vogue. Everyone is freaked out about skin cancer, so covering up seems like the healthier thing to do. And ubiquitous cell phones make lying topless on a public beach a dicey proposition that could turn you into an overnight Internet meme, without your even knowing it. More and more, French beach-watchers say, men with cell phones loiter nearby. All those reasons, and a shaky economy that seems to have helped usher in a more conservative mindset, have been blamed for the change.

C'est dommage! (Translation . . .ah, look it up!)





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