Fire the monokini, or the sad reasons why women no longer tan topless

Nice, on a public beach. The slightly muscular body, the pulled hair and the beautiful tanned complexion… a woman comes out of the water, walks without haste on the pebbles and goes towards the showers. A little embarrassed, eyes discreetly turn away from this fiftieth year who is not a bimbo … but only wears a bikini bottom. At first glance, she is the only one that day to dare the monokini.

And stupidly, one begins to wonder if she is a feminist activist. Or a naturist lost on the Côte d’Azur, or even a Scandinavian tourist. Because it is well known, the women of the North are free with their body …

In 2021, it is an understatement to say that“Take off the top” falls under the exception. According to an Ifop study carried out in early July for Xcams Media, just unveiled *, barely 19% of French women aged 18 and over practice on the beach “Bare breasts”. They were 34% 12 years ago, in 2009. But 43% to do so at least occasionally in 1984! Because yes, in the 1980s, there was a golden age of the monokini in Europe. An era that those under 20 cannot know, and which did not last very long …

To this high school student who was not wearing a bra, or Sophie Fontanel’s Sein d’Or

The French were the first to take off the top …

In the south of France, in the 1970s

The first in Europe to take the top off in the mid-1960s, the French were also the first, this Ifop study tells us, to put it back on. For reasons, we suspected a little, which do not always go in the direction of personal development and individual freedom …

In fact, the first reason given by women to cover their breasts, to read this survey, would be of a health nature: all ages combined, 53% of them put forward the risk to their skin if they tan topless. No complaints. Fortunately, repeated warnings about the risk of cancer due to sun exposure have borne fruit.

Unfortunately, among those under 25, this health concern gives way to a concern of a completely different order: 50% of them say they fear physical or sexual assault, 48% do not want to suffer the concupiscent gaze of men. and 56% of these young women fear that a photo of them in monokini will be published on social networks. Apart from the dark faculty of nuisance of the Web, nothing new under the sun …

Fear of harassment and summer body dictatorship

Two women, topless, as they take part in the global 'Free the Nipple' movement on a topless day in Hampton Beach, 2017

Two women, topless, as they take part in the global ‘Free the Nipple’ movement on a topless day in Hampton Beach, 2017

Equally unchanging is the way French women look at their naked bodies. It is this famous injunction to wear a summer body, the famous “summer body” brilliantly analyzed by Christophe Granger in “the Season of appearances.” Birth of summer bodies ”(Anamosa editions).

Christophe Granger: “The“ summer body ”is a very old soft dictatorship”

In 2021, therefore, nearly one in two women still dread derogatory remarks about their belly (35%), buttocks (26%) or chest (25%). Paranoid and particularly self-conscious about French women? Far from there ! This survey reveals that 16% of them have already suffered comments on their body while 49% have already been victims of some form of harassment or sexual assault on the beaches or in a bathing place.

Traumatized, harassed, complexed … the vast majority of French women, we understand, are not ready to undo their bra in public. The minority that risks it, we discover in this survey, belongs to a high social and cultural environment, capable, among other things, of paying for vacations in somewhat isolated and unspoiled places.

From bikini to monokini … a not so simple story

And this cleavage finally joins the early days of outdoor recreation, when golden youth, even wealthy executives, dared, as pioneers, to undress to indulge in the joys of swimming and beach sports. Even if it means suffering the wrath of the villagers horrified by so much depravity… Beach shorts and tiny bikini (an invention of a certain Louis Réard, an automotive engineer by trade, in 1946) have ended up becoming the norm in the West. This is the meaning of the story. From bikini to monokini, there is only one step, do we want to think. Not that easy !

Kirk Douglas and a starlet in a bikini, Venice, 1953,

Kirk Douglas and a starlet in a bikini, Venice, 1953,

Because originally, this piece of fabric is much more than a simple garment dedicated to leisure. It was an Austrian designer who took refuge in California, Rudi Gernreich, who had the idea to create this topless swimsuit and market it in the 1960s, after trying the bare breast dress. A militant gesture for this designer who wanted to promote unisex fashion (we also owe him skirts for men, long before those of Jean-Paul Gauthier), and to get out of the conservatism of the 1950s.

In France, it was in 1964 that the monokini first appeared on a beach in Saint-Tropez. Was the game won for all that and was the monokini going to settle quietly in our seaside landscape? Not really.

“An apparent relaxation governed by an iron code”

To believe Jean-Claude Kaufmann, author of “Women’s bodies, men’s eyes” (1995, Nathan), this practice, which is far from trivial, is, on the contrary, governed by very complex codes. In the Nouvel Observateur of April 20, 1995, Gérard Petitjean summarized the sociologist’s work as follows:

“The apparent relaxation of our beaches is governed by an iron code. Rule 1: Above all, no attitude that contradicts the adage that showing off your breasts on the beach is such a normal thing that “Men don’t pay attention anymore”. Everything has to be smooth, nothing catches the eye. The ideal is the banal breast, neither too big nor too tired by age. Nor too beautiful, for that matter. Nothing that risks disturbing the tranquility of the recumbent under the sun ”

On the hot sand, ” in this area where the bodies seem to enjoy absolute freedom ”, wrote Gérard Petitjean, the sociologist has finally found “An absolute, instantaneous social conformism”. These lines were written over 25 years ago! And are still relevant today.

In the survey published today, we discover, in addition to the gradual disappearance of the monokini, this same requirement for aesthetic conformity. The rare followers of “without the top” are 36% to find themselves pretty, 4% to think the opposite. Worse, they would be overrepresented in women with breasts “Neither too small nor too large”.

Clearly, three centuries after Molière, more than 50 after May 1968, and 4 years after the awareness of #metoo, women are still asked to cover those breasts that cannot be seen …

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(Ifop study for Xcams Media carried out by self-administered online questionnaire from July 7 to 8, 2021 with a sample of 1,500 women, representative of the French female population aged 18 and over)

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