102-106. Accepted clothing requirements are arbitrary and inconsistent.
102. Clothing standards are inconsistent.
For instance, a bikini covering is accepted and even lauded on the beach, but is restricted elsewhere--in a
department store, for example. Even on the beach, an expensive bikini is considered acceptable, whereas underwear--though
it covers the same amount--is not.
103. Clothing requirements are arbitrarily and irrationally based on gender.131
Until the 1920s, for example, female ankles and shins were considered erotic in Western cultures, though
men wore knickers. The Japanese considered the back of a woman's neck erotic, and contemporary Middle Eastern
cultures hide the woman's face. During the 1991 Gulf War, female U.S. army personnel were forbidden from
wearing t-shirts that bared their arms, since it would offend the Saudi Arabian allies. Women (but not men) were
forced to wear full army dress in stifling heat.132
104. Today in America, women's breasts are seen as erotic and unexposable, even though they are
anatomically identical to those of men except for lactation capacity, and no more or less a sexual organ.
Medical experts note that men's breasts have the same erotic capacities as women's.133 In addition, studies
suggest that women are as sexually attracted by men's unclothed chests as men are by women's.134
105. The arbitrary nature of clothing requirements is reflected by different standards in different cultures.
For example, a review of 190 world societies in 1951 found that, contrary to the standards of our own
culture, relatively few considered exposure of a women's breasts to be immodest.135 Julian Robinson observes,
"few cultural groups agree as to which parts of our bodies should be covered and which parts should be openly
displayed. . . . Indeed, many people find it difficult to comprehend the logic behind any other mode of clothing and
adornment than what they are currently wearing, finding them all unnatural or even uncivilized. The thought of
exposing or viewing those parts of the body which they generally keep covered so frightens or disgusts them that
they call upon their lawmakers to protect them from such a possibility." 136
106. The arbitrary nature of clothing requirements is reflected by history. Even in the same culture, taboos
about what parts of the body could or could not be revealed have changed radically over time.137
For example, until statutes were amended in the 1930s, men were arrested in the United States for
swimming without a shirt.138 Many of the paintings and sculptures today considered "classic"--for example,
Michelangelo's Last Judgment--were considered obscene in their day.139 The body taboo reached its height in mid
19th-century England and America, when it was considered improper to mention almost any detail of the human
body in mixed company. Howard Warren writes: "A woman was allowed to have head and feet, but between the
neck and ankles only the heart and stomach were permitted mention in polite society. To expose the ankle (even
though properly stockinged) was considered immodest." 140 On the other hand, in the early part of the 19th century,
women's clothing fashions in France were so scant that an entire costume, including shoes, may not have weighed
more than eight ounces.141 Lois M. Gurel writes: "One must remember that clothing itself is neither moral nor
immoral. It is the breaking of traditions which makes it so." 142
The degree to which women's breasts may be exposed has varied especially in Western cultures. At various
times in history, women's necklines have plunged so deeply that the breasts have been more exposed than covered.
Historian Aileen Ribeiro notes that in the early 15th century, "women's gowns became increasingly tight-fitted over
the bust, some gowns with front openings even revealing the nipples." Breasts came back on display throughout the
early 17th century, and again in the 18th century, especially in the Court of King Charles II of England. Ironically,
in this latter period, a respectable woman would never be found in public with the point of her shoulders
131. It is interesting to note that while R-rated movies are prohibited from showing full-frontal male nudity, full-
female nudity is perfectly acceptable--as long as there is no male in the frame with her.
132. Hoffman 35.
133. See Fahringer 144; Glazer 130.
134. Wildman et al. 485; Fahringer 144.
135. Ford and Beach 47.
136. Robinson, "Introduction" xiii.
137. For an excellent discussion of the changing views about nudity in fashion (and art) over the course of history,
see Hollander. Laver (Modesty in Dress 38-39) presents an excellent, brief summary of the different concepts of
modesty in fashion throughout history.
138. For details, see Agate 75, et al.
139. Allen 18-19. For a brief history of the censorship of nudity in art, see Noble.
140. Warren 163-64.
141. See Robinson, Body Packaging 65-67; Ribeiro 117; Shields 291; et al.
142. Gurel 4.
143. Ribeiro 52, 80-82; Laver, "What Will Fashion Uncover Next?" 160, and Modesty in Dress 9. For a brief history
of the exposure and censure of breasts in fashion, see Ribeiro, and Shields 289-91.