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Men Walking With Bare Chests Is Okay But Women’s Breasts Are Scandalous!?

Everywhere you go, you'll find men walking bare-chested. Why are women's breasts are so sexualized that even Google search calls them "inappropriate"?

Everywhere you go, you’ll find men walking bare-chested. Why are women’s breasts are so sexualized that even Google search calls them “inappropriate”?

Your Instagram reals must be filled with young men and boys posting their gym-toned bodies, making sure their broad chests do not go unnoticed. These images hardly have any impact on us, but imagine what will happen if the women in your colony walk around like these men, just strolling outside without covering their breasts. The answer is a big scandal!

Such women would be termed as prostitutes, witches, or even lunatics because no sane woman would do so, right?. She would be called out for obscenity, creating nuance and disturbing public morality.

Women’s breasts labelled “inappropriate” by Google

If you search the word ‘chest,’ google shows hundreds of images of the male upper body without any clothing but the search for women’s breasts would be termed ‘inappropriate.’

The meaning of obscenity, vulgarity, lewdness is not objective, these ideas are constructed through heteronormative patriarchal structures which shape our social mores.

For example, it is okay for men to show their chest but scandalous for a woman to do the same. Patriarchal societies are shaped around fulfilment of male pleasure and controlling female sexuality for the former.

Even new-age media is not free from the chains of patriarchy

New age media that claims to be inclusive and progressive is also not free from these patriarchal connotations. Facebook community guidelines forbid displaying women’s nipples.

Similarly, Instagram would flag any images of women’s nipples including those of breastfeeding and mastectomy. Such policies deny women agency to express their sexuality, free from the male gaze.

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Why this over-sexualization of female bodies?

Enslavement of women’s bodies rests upon an idea that their bodies are only meant to be looked at. Female sexuality has to be imagined in male eyes because the only purpose of women’s bodies is to satisfy the desires of men. 

The male gaze has forced women to look upon their bodies with an encroaching eye. An eye that has forbidden women to experience pleasure on their terms, to challenge over-sexualization of their bodies, and to have a right to express themselves in a manner that frees them from the shackles of patriarchy.

Patriarchy denies space to feminist and queer gaze

Heteronormative patriarchy not only dictates how women can express themselves with their bodies, but consciously denies queer bodies and desires any space for expression.

Queer desires and bodies are deemed deviant, unnatural is forced at the margins like women, to keep the hegemony of masculine desire intact. However, it is only through the feminist and queer gaze, we can challenge the hegemony of masculine, heterosexual desire.

Perhaps there will come a day when women’s breasts will not be so scandalous and will be as normalized as men’s chests!

Image source: Ganta Srinivas / Pexels (female pic) and Swapnil Dwivedi/: Unsplash

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About the Author

Harshit Agrawal is a postgraduate in Women’s Studies. He is an independent researcher and Junior Research Fellow who works in the field of gender and sexuality to highlight their intersections in the society. He read more...

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