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What do you make of this??

(17 Posts)
Hipotle Sun 15-Nov-15 13:42:17

Back in the summer I was at the local lido and when I was getting dressed after swimming, I had a very odd chain of thoughts which have stuck with me and which I need some help unpicking. I should stress that this isn't something which is troubling me, more that I'm just interested in what insights you have into the societal processes at play which might have led me to think the way I did. (and have only just got around to writing the post).

For context I was with my DH and toddler DC in hot weather, changing outdoors (as many others were doing) and basically all I was doing was taking off swimsuit and sticking underwear on under my large beach towel, then chucking a sundress over the top. I was making an effort to be discreet and at no point were any private parts at risk of display!! It was a very normal situation.

My thinking went like this:
Oh, better make sure I don't accidentally show any of my body when changing. Men might see. Hang on, I'm fat so it doesn't matter if they see.

I was really shocked that my brain went down that route, but as I say I can't quite unpick the many different issues at play.

Any ideas??!

VestalVirgin Sun 15-Nov-15 16:25:49

Oh, I think that's pretty obvious, actually.

You don't want to be seen naked by men for fear they might objectify you. (A reasonable fear, given how many men watch pornography) But you are also aware that you are fat and men will therefore not think you worthy even of objectification.

I know the conondrum. I would like to walk around topless on the beach, but I know that would lead to drooling and objectification, and I just do not want to live in the knowledge that men have pornographic fantasies about me and don't see me as person.
Even if that means covering myself in a way that I consider sexist.

I intend to walk around topless when I am old and wrinkly, because that is what would make me think it doesn't matter when men see me naked.

HairyLittleCarrot Sun 15-Nov-15 16:25:59

Do you think it's this:
We are all aware of the male gaze and familiar with being considered a sexual object.
Also, we judge our body's acceptability as a sexual object frequently according to whatever standard has been laid down by society.
And we absorb the message that it is our responsibility for controlling or evoking male thoughts.

So I suppose your brain went "I'm a sexual object. Better not provoke male thoughts. No wait, I don't qualify at the moment. I'm off the hook."

Of course you consciously know it's all bollocks, but society does quite the hatchet job on our subconscious doesn't it?

Hipotle Sun 15-Nov-15 19:27:41

Thank you for your replies, I appreciate it. Hairy, you have hit the nail right on the head and expressed very clearly what I was struggling to! It really was like a wake up call when I started thinking about how I'd felt - as though I suddenly realised how deeply ingrained the various messages we are always bombarded with had become. Really gave me some food for thought.

LassWiTheWellStockitFarm Sun 15-Nov-15 20:09:21

I do the same and always have whether it was as a lissome 20 year old or a considerably less lissome 50 plus.

But so do my son and husband when they are changing.

I've never thought anything of it beyond a British uptightness about being naked in public. I hate communal changing rooms too. It doesn't matter if they are all female, I would still do the same.

Oh and name change is due to mislaying book of passwords and I can remember neither my old password or the e-mail that goes with it. This name is from Burns rather than Shakespeare.

SilverBirchWithout Sun 15-Nov-15 20:23:25

You have raised something similar to own thoughts I have had recently. Now, in my late fifties and somewhat overweight, I often feel a sense of relief at not being the object of cat calls in the street or concerned that if I am friendly certain men may misread my signals. It is also good to know that at work I am often taken more seriously than when younger. However it can be hard to know whether the changes I feel are always down to my age/looks or whether its just the world which has changed in the past 30 years.

Of course, I often also suffer from the invisibility that us older women frequently experience from both men and younger women. But on balance I do prefer the 'freedom' from potential harassment as an older woman.

LassWiTheWeelStockitFarm Sun 15-Nov-15 23:21:02

I know the conondrum. I would like to walk around topless on the beach, but I know that would lead to drooling and objectification, and I just do not want to live in the knowledge that men have pornographic fantasies about me and don't see me as person

Whilst topless beaches are not generally the thing in the UK in my experience no-one bats an eye in continental Europe. I don't often go on beach holidays , but if anything, when I did when my son was younger I used to feel the odd one out wearing a top.

There were topless women of all ages, shapes and sizes, with friends, families and even men, just getting on with what people do on beaches.

VestalVirgin Sun 15-Nov-15 23:45:15

I know people don't say anything. But I would feel unsafe, if that makes sense.

And ... well, all beaches are topless beaches for men, are they?

LassWiTheWeelStockitFarm Mon 16-Nov-15 00:40:22

Well I can't tell you that how you personally feel is wrong but going topless didn't seem to bother the women on any of the beaches I was on.

I kept my top on because I'm an uptight British person (and I really didn't want to be topless in front of my son) It had nothing to do with worries that the men on the beach were ogling me. To be honest , I think it's just a tad insulting to them to assume they are drooling and objectifying you rather than just getting on with their day on the beach.

VestalVirgin Mon 16-Nov-15 00:54:54

I will stop assuming that men objectify me when if they stop watching porn. As a class.
Science found that the average male objectifies women in bikinis (yes, actual scientific proof, they use the brain part for "use of tools" when looking at pictures of women in bikinis). So, forgive me when I am a bit sceptical about going topless.

I am not an uptight British person, I am European, and I don't get why you have problems being topless in front of your son. He's family, and if you breastfed wouldn't see anything he hasn't already seen.

LassWiTheWeelStockitFarm Mon 16-Nov-15 01:33:59

He was 6 months old when I stopped breastfeeding so I doubt he remembers.

There is, I would have thought, a bit of a difference between laboratory testing of showing men pictures of women in bikinis and the situation on a crowded holiday beach.

30somethingm Mon 16-Nov-15 02:12:57

I'm sure many men (fat and muscular) feel objectified by going topless on a beach too. Human beings think differently to each other and we cannot control how/what they think - the only thing we can TRY and control is whether or not we get discombobulated by anxieties over perception.

But even if men are aware they're getting ogled [by women], most would then think mainly pleasant thoughts: "ooh, I'm in there" or "still got it", the less pleasant thinking might be: "pity i cant avail because ive got the missus" or worst case scenario "hope the missus didn't see that".

When women get ogled we have to worry about our bodies in the way very few men do, and for a bonus, worry how far the ogling is going to go: blatant ogling, gestures, pestering and pick-up attempts, right along the scale to rape.

We can't even enjoy getting ogled, [if that's our thing]! fgrin

30somethingm Mon 16-Nov-15 12:08:41

"But even if men are aware they're getting ogled [by women], most would then think mainly pleasant thoughts: "ooh, I'm in there" or "still got it", the less pleasant thinking might be: "pity i cant avail because ive got the missus" or worst case scenario "hope the missus didn't see that"."

Gosh you have a low opinion of men. Some men may indeed think like that, but the same can also be said for some women too. Exhibitionism and showing off are not a trait exclusive to men - in fact one often comes across equally unfair people who generalise that it is women who like to seek attention.

To generalise either way is unfair.

AuntieStella Mon 16-Nov-15 12:35:30

I was wondering if your DH was also making efforts to keep his privates private.

I'm assuming that this incident took place in UK, because in general people here (of both sexes) are very inhibited by public nudity.

I do notice a difference between UK much of mainland Europe.

museumum Mon 16-Nov-15 12:46:18

I sometimes think about how twenty years ago if I'd flashed my boobs men would be all "whoar" but if I did it today theyd likely hide their eyes in disgust.
I guess I feel very different about my 20yr old body and 40yr old body. I don't even hate my current body. I just feel it looks better covered up or supported.
It is double edged though cause I don't really want to be drooled over but we all do want to feel attractive, it's only human.
I think one can appreciate another persons body with respect to them as a person and without respect. I can say that I am in awe of Jessica Ennis hills body without reducing her in my mind to a slab of meat.

30something - naaah, I don't mean it like that, although I can see how that might be read (in mitigation it was 7BC when I wrote it!). There my DP, he wouldn't have the first freaking clue anybody was ogling him. Ditto many male friends, albeit many wouldn't be on a beach in the first place.

I was just trying to point out the absence of any unpleasantness of getting ogled, if one's of the male persuasion.

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