Number of French women sunbathing topless hits its lowest for 40 years

Number of French women sunbathing topless hits its lowest for 40 years amid fears they could be secretly photographed and posted on social media

  •  A new poll found that only 19 per cent of women would go topless on the beach in France, compared to 40 per cent in 1984 
  • Nearly 50 per cent of women said the reason why they would now wear a bikini top is due to a fear of being harassed or attacked by men
  • Women are also increasingly cautious over health concerns such as skin cancer  

The number of French women sunbathing topless has a hit a 40-year low amid fears they could be secretly photographed and their image posted on social media. 

A new poll found that only a fifth of women would go topless on the beach in France, with nearly 50 per cent pointing to a fear of being harassed or attacked by men as the reason why they would now wear a bikini top. 

Topless sunbathing has become less popular in recent years, with only 19 per cent of women saying they do, compared to 34 per cent in 2009 and 40 per cent in 1984.

The survey by pollster Ifop showed that French women are becoming increasingly cautious of going topless due to health concerns, sexual harassment fears and safety reasons, reports Le Parisien. 

The poll, published to mark World Topless Day on Thursday, found that 46 per cent of French women said they did not go topless because they were worried about being covertly photographed and the photo then being posted on social media.

The number of French women sunbathing topless has a hit a 40-year low amid fears they could be secretly photographed and their image posted on social media (file image) 

Another 48 per cent said they were worried about being harassed or attacked by men on the beaches if they sunbathed topless. 

Meanwhile, a larger 53 per cent of women said decided to wear a bikini top because of health reasons such as skin cancer or damage.

Previous surveys have also shown that younger women are increasingly concerned about sexual harassment and body shaming on the beach.   

Less than 20 per cent of French women aged under 50 now sunbathe topless, compared with 28 per cent 10 years ago and 43 per cent in 1984, according to a 2020 survey by Ifop of over 5,000 Europeans including 1,000 French.

This makes the French less willing to bathe topless than some other Europeans, with almost half of Spanish women saying they bathe topless and 34 per cent of Germans.

Topless sunbathing has sparked a row in recent years in France, as two gendarmes in Sainte-Marie-la-Mer, 70 miles south of Montpellier, asked three female sunbathers to put their tops on in August 2020 after a holidaymaker complained. 

The move caused a public outcry, with politicians from the centre, left and right uniting in condemnation – with one branding it a ‘threat to our culture’.

France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin condemned the officers’ actions and said: ‘It was wrong that the women were warned about their clothing.

‘Freedom is something precious. And it is normal that officials can admit their mistakes.’ 

The local gendarmerie has since acknowledged their actions had been ‘clumsy’ but said the officers only wanted to calm the situation.

Topless sunbathing in France is legally not considered to be sexual exhibitionism although it can be halted by local directives outlawing certain styles of dress.        

Images of Brigitte Bardot sunbathing topless on the Cote D’Azur the same decade helped to make the gesture fashionable, while denunciations by the Vatican and Spanish church only increased its appeal

Topless sunbathing first gained a foothold in France in the 1960s, as second-wave feminism swept through Europe and women demanded the same right to tan their upper bodies as men.

Images of Brigitte Bardot sunbathing topless on the Cote D’Azur the same decade helped to make the gesture fashionable, while denunciations by the Vatican and Spanish church only increased its appeal.

But it was in the 1970s, after a conservative attempt to ban the practice was defeated, that it became a point of national pride.

Today, the right of women to sunbathe topless on beaches is seen as a sign of equality between the two sexes, and a sign of France’s progressive attitudes. 

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