Above: an X-ray of Chus Martinez’s chest. “Pornography’ is banned in the WordPress.com terms of service and so due to the savage restrictions on freedom of expression on this platform it is not possible to post the image that would best illustrate this blog.
Toplessness refers to the state in which the breasts, areolae, and nipples of a woman or post-pubescent girl are exposed, especially in a public venue or in a visual medium.
Social conventions about covering the female breasts have differed widely throughout history and across cultures. While exposed breasts were (and are) a norm in many indigenous societies, most cultures in the world today have informal and formal dress codes, legal statutes, or religious teachings that require females to cover their breasts in public from adolescence onward. Contemporary Western cultures permit displays of cleavage in appropriate social contexts, but exposing the areolae and nipples is usually regarded as immodest and is sometimes prosecuted as indecent exposure. The topfreedom movement challenges laws that forbid females to go topless in places where males are permitted to be bare-chested, arguing that such restrictions amount to gender discrimination.
Toplessness is less controversial in entertainment, fashion, and the arts than it is in society as a whole, especially when it is perceived to have artistic merit. From early prehistoric art to the present day, women have been depicted topless in visual media from painting and sculpture to film and photography. In contemporary mainstream cinema, Academy Award–winning actresses such as Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, and Nicole Kidman have appeared topless in their films. Cabaret and burlesque shows, as well as haute couture fashion shows and pictorials, frequently include toplessness.
In European societies as a result of the Renaissance many artists were strongly influenced by classical Greek styles and culture. As a result, images of nude and semi-nude subjects in many forms proliferated in art and sculpture. During the Victorian era, French Orientalist painters such as Jean-Léon Gérôme presented an idealized depiction of female toplessness in Muslim harem baths, while Eugène Delacroix, a French romantic artist, invoked images of liberty as a topless woman.
Societies tend to take a stricter line when women expose their breasts for the express purpose of sexual arousal. When toplessness is used as a form of adult entertainment in venues such as strip clubs, or as an aspect of softcore pornography, it is often viewed as indecent and subjected to more stringent government regulations or prohibitions.
Public toplessness may occasionally be considered acceptable, depending on location and context. Many jurisdictions legally protect women’s right to breastfeed in public or exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. In many parts of Europe and Australia, as well as at many resort destinations around the world, it has become culturally and often legally acceptable for women to sunbathe topless on beaches. Topless sunbathing may also be permitted in non-beach areas, such as some European parks and lakes, designated areas on some cruise ships, and swimming pools at some hotels.
Above: Chus Martinez goes ‘beyond nudity’!