A pale skinned nonbinay human wearing shorts, a fanny pack, and black star pasties is in the ocean leaning back facing the blue sky as the water crashes into their back.

Of Breasts & Chests – Criminalization, Sexualization, & Nipple Politics

CW: Mentions of rape and rape culture

When I was young, before growing a pair of small breasts, I used to be allowed to swim in a just pair of shorts, without a shirt, because the wet fabric on my skin has always always been, and still is, an intense sensory annoyance for me.

Eventually, when puberty hit, I learned swimming shirtless would no longer be an option for me.

Up until that point, I hadn’t realized that “breasts were something to be hidden,” and being shirtless with breasts is a crime that could potentially get you arrested, depending on where you live.

The city of Austin, Texas, near where I grew up, has a law allowing people with breasts to be topless anywhere bare chests are allowed (pasties or not).

Even though going topless is allowed for anyone in Austin, the person with breasts cannot draw attention to themselves, or they may risk other charges, such as public lewdness or disorderly conduct.

If an arresting officer decides an individual was intentionally “lewd or obscene” or if there are minors around, a topless individual with breasts may face serious felony charges and could potentially be registered as a sex offender.

In other parts of Texas, going topless with breasts can be more dangerous.

There are some loopholes. In Texas, you are not defined as topless if you wear coverings, such as pasties or trans tape, over the nipple area.

So I recently purchased some waterproof stick-on pasties for swimming and set myself free on our most recent beach trip to North Padre Island.

Why should people with breasts be barred from going topless where people with chests are not? Anywhere it is legal to have an exposed chest, it should also be permitted to expose the breasts.

Every person in this country is supposed to have a constitutional right not to be discriminated against on the basis of gender but to have laws that further objectify breasts and people who have them.

These laws enforce the idea that people who have breasts are sexual objects.

These laws also support familiar narratives found in rape culture that “men can’t be responsible for their actions.” Similar to how school dress codes often send identical messages to young people, their bodies are the problem, NOT the predatory people are hunting them. It’s only a few steps shy of blaming rape victims for the pain they went through because of how they were dressed.

It’s all the same, sexualizing body parts that are not sexual.

The laws also suggest that people with breasts are responsible for other people’s arousal, actions, and feelings.

In contrast, people with chests are free to expose themselves without considering the onlookers or if their chest might arouse anyone.

The feelings of people with chests are being held over the rights of those of us who happened to have breasts – something we have no control over.

People who have breasts should exist as something other than sexual objects, but these laws help enforce narratives that objectify people with breasts.

I have breasts that don’t make me an object for the taking, even if my breasts are exposed—just a nonbinary human trying to cool off in the hot sun, like most humans who take their shirts off in summer. 

A pale skinned mixed race (Native & white) nonbinay human wearing shorts, a fanny pack, and black star pasties is in the ocean leaning back facing the blue sky as the water crashes into their back.

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With gratitude, – Lyric

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