I love it when friends I know from non-feminist circles get feminist.
Tablesaw, whom I know from ifMUD, critiques a write-up of something calling itself The Open-Source Boob Project.
As for what I think about the Project itself, not having been there I don't know the actual dynamic, but the summary sets off a lot of warning bells. Tablesaw addressed most of them in his comment on the post, but the ones that stuck out for me:
1. The validation aspect:
There wasn't that undertow of desperation of come on, touch me, I need you to validate my self-esteem and maybe we'll hook up later tonight.
They were awesome breasts, worthy of being touched.
By the end of the evening, women were coming up to us. "My breasts," they asked shyly, having heard about the project. "Are they... are they good enough to be touched?" And lo, we showed them how beautiful their bodies were without turning it into something tawdry.
Which is it? Is it about validating self-esteem or not? And seriously? "Good enough to be touched?" Do insufficiently attractive breasts communicate diseases or something? The impression I get from that is that it became less about body positivity and more about being "good enough," which leads to the next issue.
2. Groping as grouping:
My God, these are beautiful breasts you have, along with the backstream compliment of Thank you, you're worthy of touching them.
And if you weren't a total lout - the women retained their right to say no, of course - they would push their chests out, and you would be allowed into the sanctity of it.
It was an Open-Source Project, making breasts available to select folks. (Like any good project, you need access control, because there are loutish men and women who just Don't Get It.)
Though I've lumped them into one issue, there's two things going on here. First, there's the idea of "access" as a measure of "worthiness." If she says yes, you're special and honored. It's that whole tired "gatekeeper" idea. Second, there's the idea that it's all or nothing, that this is a group acceptance and not an individual one. If you're a lout, no boobs for you; if not, nobody refuses you. Again, I wasn't there, and don't know the real dynamic, but I suspect there's an element of peer pressure involved, and an element of wanting to avoid "Why did you say no to me when this other woman didn't?" And while there's lip service paid to the voluntary nature of the activity, there's *always* lip service paid to the voluntary nature of the activity. The fact that nobody in the hallway situation said no makes me a little suspicious about the claim that the decisions were all totally free and uncoerced.
I think it's a little telling that the "Yes, you may" button says only that - it keeps it in the Super Secret Boobie Touchers Club. Yes, I recognize the problems with a more explicit button, and having to deal with the fallout from that; on the other hand, I don't think it's entirely coincidental that the statement elides "Yes, you may ask" and "Yes, you may touch."
3. Making it about the menz:
In this moment, all of the societal restrictions had fallen away
I felt the terrors of high school washing away from me. It could be this easy. Just ask!
For a moment, everything that was awkward about high school would fade away and you could just say what was on your mind. It was as though parts of me were being healed whenever I did it, and I touched at least fifteen sets of boobs at Penguicon. It never got old, surprisingly.
Well, that's great that touching women's breasts gets you over your personal issues with high school, but so what?
4. Keepin' it patriarchal:
exploring thoroughly but briefly lest we cross the line from 'touching" to "unwanted heavy petting."
It could have been a base lechery. But instead, it was sexual desire made simple.
We weren't degenerating into an orgy, but rather exploring the amazement of how beautiful this body was and how wonderful it was to have access to them.
This could go wrong, collapsing and turning us into cruel lechers who'd make her feel uncomfortable and shamed of who she was....
But it was a miraculous sexuality that didn't feel dirty, but clean.
And there haven't been any hookups that I know of thanks to the Open-Source Boob Project. It is, as I said, a very special thing.
it's strangely wholesome and sexual at the same time.
There's a definite sense of "good sex" versus "bad sex" going on here. The "Open-Source Boob Project" is "good sex" because it doesn't lead to anything else, particularly to "bad sex." Why is it a bad thing if people hooked up? Why is the touching/"heavy petting" distinction equated with the wanted/unwanted distinction? Why would additional sexual activity be a "degeneration" and not, say, a "metamorphosis"?
5. Short skirt chasing:
Because a beautiful girl in an incredibly skimpy blue Princess outfit strode down the hallway, obviously putting her assets on display
You didn't just ask anyone, but rather the ones who'd dressed to impress
Abso-fucking-lutely not. I can't see how any cosplayer wouldn't be insulted by that.
Power Girl, for example, is a favorite among a lot of my comics-loving friends. Her costume has a relatively revealing cutout. Does that imply that someone dressed as Power Girl is there to "impress"? (Heh, I can just imagine someone asking Peej for a feel. Stick with Starfire, boys.)
Or take some of the more elaborate anime/videogaming costumes. The ones for women (and some of the ones for men) are often quite skimpy, but also very elaborate. Someone who makes (e.g.) a Lulu costume may be wearing it low-cut to "put her assets on display," or it may be more about the fact that that's how the costume is designed, and accuracy is important.
Now I have no doubt that this "project" was a positive experience for many or most, for all kinds of reasons. Hell, in other contexts (at somewhere like Burning Man, for example, or maybe some part of the con that's semi-private space), with other spin, I'd probably be posting about this as an example of the direction our attitudes need to go. But it's not above examination. Basically, the problem I'm having with this "Open-Source Boob Project" or at least the summary thereof is that it seems to take something that is, or at least could be, "free-as-in-speech love" and turn it into "free-as-in-beer love."
2 years ago