“The looks are terrible”…Why are fewer and fewer women going topless?

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my life, my opinion On the occasion of world topless day this Saturday, “20 Minutes” wondered how the monokini, in fashion in the 1980s, became a minority practice

“ Looks are terrible””… Why are fewer women going topless?

A monokini enthusiast enjoying the beach. — Canva

  • Only 16% of French women under 50 sometimes tan topless, compared to 43% in 1984, according to a study by the Ifop* produced for xcams media in 2021.
  • On the occasion of World Topless Day this Saturday, 20 Minuteswondered why the monokini, fashionable in the 1980s, became a minority practice.
  • Fear of leering from men, criticism from women, being the victim of verbal aggression , physical or sexual, but also fear of negative remarks on her chest… There are many reasons why women no longer take off their swimsuit top.

On the beach, they can often be counted on the fingers of one hand. The monokini, àgrave; fashion in the 1980s, seems completely gone. in disuse. A trend confirmed by an Ifop* study carried out for xcams media in 2021. Only 16% of French women under 50 surveyed sometimes tan topless, compared to 29% in 2016 and 43% in 1984. À on the occasion of World Topless Day this Saturday, 20 Minuteswondered; why this practice has become a minority.

“It’s dangerous,” said Nora, 38, who responded to a question. our call to testimonials. “It increases the risk of skin cancer,” adds Karine, of the same age. The risk that exposure to the sun poses to their skin is one of the first reasons cited by women who decide to keep their swimsuit top. If it is now proven sun and skin cancer go hand in hand, exposure to the chest is no more likely to cause melanoma than any other part of the body. Furthermore, no studies have shown link between recurrent bare-chested exposure and breast cancer.

Fear of men's gaze

The fear of cancer is far from being solely responsible for the end of the monokini. Also singled out were the “lustful gazes of the men” Marilou, 25, notes œillades « insistent from men who cause [him] a problem.” “It is not the urge to tan topless that is missing, but the oversexualization of women’s breasts is unbearable.

Have men become more voyeuristic? “It’s rather be explained by the rarity; that provokes attention,” analyzes David Le Breton, professor of sociology at the University of Strasbourg and author of The Sociology of the Body**. I also think that the women of the younger generations have a sensitivity to it. exacerbated in the face of men's gazes and wish to bring it to light. distance.”

Fear of being assaulted

And it goes beyond looks. Half women between the ages of 18 and 20 24 year olds who never tan shirtless when questioned expressed their fear of being verbally, physically or sexually assaulted. A fear that also exists among their elders. “In the 1980s, the monokini wasn't a problem, but it wouldn't bother me. the idea today, out of fear of being assaulted by men” admits Marianne, 56. An apprehension that is not unfounded. A woman sunbathing bare-breasted had, for example, been assaulted at in the summer of 2016 by another woman who reproached him for his skimpy outfit and asked him to hide his chest.

Promiscuity suitable for the beach also creates another worry. The one to be photographed at; his knowledge and that this stereotype end up on social media. Almost an 18-year-old woman. 24 out of two always taking the sun with their breasts covered makes this argument. “Today, you can no longer control your image in the public space and this problem did not exist in the 1980s”, recalls the sociologist.

Fear of female criticism

If the looks of men can be embarrassing, other women also sometimes push topless enthusiasts to go for it. retie their bikini top. Sophie, 27, thinks that “women allow themselves all sorts of sometimes harsh comments. cash out”. An observation that Catherine also made, although from a completely different generation. “The looks of other women are terrible. They glare at me. I don't really know why. No doubt they can't stand their husbands looking at me. I feel judged as if I were a tease,” testifies the 50-year-old who no longer dares to remove her bikini top.

How to explain this perception? For Eve, a young retiree, “tanning topless is a provocation and a lack of respect” She even goes so far as to calling monokini fans “provocateurs”. And she’s not alone; share this opinion since 31% of women not practicing topless questioned in the Ifop study believe that exposing their bare breasts in public is a lack of respect towards others.

< p>An unsurprising appreciation for Fabienne Martin-Juchat, professor of communication science at the University from Grenoble and a specialist in bodily communication, according to whom “every era defines the criteria of what is acceptable and vulgar or not”. Consequence: more than one in four women surveyed who do not or no longer practice topless would be afraid of being perceived as an immodest or indecent woman.

A backspace?

Has our time become puritanical? This is the theory of Patricia, 65, a former monokini fan. “Our company” is less tolerant than it was in the 1970s and 1980s.” An analysis confirmed by David Le Breton. “There is a growing moralization in our societies.”

But if the younger generations no longer reveal their breasts to the beach, on the other hand, they show off their buttocks, dressed in thongs or thongs. For Fabienne Martin-Juchat, it is therefore more of a fashion effect. “Every era and every society need to redefine what we are allowed to show. Each generation offers new codes to assert itself in relation to the previous one.”

Body shaming

Codes, but also beauty criteria. Nearly a third of women aged 18 to 24-year-old respondents who do not go topless dread negative reviews about size, shape or firmness. of their breasts. The Ifop study also shows that among the rare women who practiced monokini over the past three years, 36% consider themselves “very pretty”, and only 4% consider themselves “not pretty”. “It’s like there were breasts that we would have the right to show and others not,”analyzes David Le”Breton.

Mathilde, 45, who “finds it “so much more pleasant to dry in five minutes in the sun than to have a wet piece of cloth? on the chest” found combines it. “As soon as I see grannies resisting, I go to settle in their corner and I fall from the top with happiness.” This perhaps allows another woman to do the same. 

* The survey carried out by Ifop for xcams media was conducted among a sample of 1,510 women, representative of the French female population aged 18 and more. The interviews were carried out by self-administered online questionnaire from July 7 to 8, 2021.

** The sociology of the body, David Le Breton, Que sais-je?, 2023, 128 pages.