John Walker's Electronic House

Rum Doings Episode 121: Boob Display

by on Nov.09, 2012, under Rum Doings

We’re back! It’s episode 121 of Rum Doings. With Nick too lazy to travel to Bath, still, we’re back online. But! Not on Skype! Using Mumble, as so many suggested, we have a much more natural conversation (although still not as good as the real thing). This week we don’t discuss whether Phillip Schofield should be in charge of solving all crime. Obviously we discuss the recent US election, and the consequences of it all for the Republican party. There’s also talk of Page 3, and the place boobies hold in our society. Breast feeding, Nuts and topless bathing are all places where you can see boobs, as we extensively explain.

There’s a brief discussion of the games journalism row of a couple of weeks back, and Nick inevitably tries to make everything much worse. And then we ponder the new arch bish, and the embarrassing position the Church Of England still takes on same sex couples. And that’s your lot.

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15 Comments for this entry

  • Ed Pemberton

    I enjoyed the discussion on Page 3, it’s good to have a counterpoint to some of the hysteria on this subject that I’ve heard of late.

    However, I’m not sure I quite buy into the argument that Page 3 is good for its ability to normalize boobs and thus remove the shame women might feel for displaying them in public, be it breastfeeding or sunbathing topless. Page 3, whilst being a strangely anachronistic and harmless cultural artefact, is still very much centred around the male gaze. The taboo around viewing breasts as either bits of meaningless flesh, or life giving food bags, arises from the sense that these purposes are somehow secondary to their main raison d’etre, which is for the entertainment of men’s willies.

    As much as it should be argued that we need more breasts on display rather than fewer, I think it’s desperately important to focus on increasing the context of how these are displayed. The more relaxed issue taken on the continent is a reflection of less cultural hang ups about these multifunction fun bags and a better ability of society to view them truly for what they are, rather than denying their essential function. I’m not sure if you could have Page 3 without some degree of fetishisation of breasts as sexual things

  • NM

    There’s a difference between accepting breasts as attractive or sexually interesting and having them as a fetishised taboo, or a symbol of something that limits women to a particular role. I think some people who oppose page 3 are deluded by a fallacy of the non-distributed middle. They assume that this represents the totality of women’s capability and possibility and therefore object. I cannot accept that this remains true in modern Western society. It remains one aspect of womanhood, freely chosen by the women who are photographed.

    I don’t mind the male gaze per se, so long as it’s not the totality of the reaction to and interaction with women. Male gaze, female gaze, trans gaze: we’re still visually-fixated sexual primates, and so shall we always be. Different societies will fixate on different bits of one another about which to salivate. Again, I have no problem with this.

    The point, as you perhaps suggest, is for us to get over our cognitive dissonance: they can be simultaneously sexual funbags, baby food-stations and problematic cancerous growths. And we do this by removing the “naughty” taboos around them, and allowing their multiple aspects to be revealed and revelled in. Not banished in shame.

  • Arthur

    So your position is that NPR would be razed to the ground by a 5% defunding. That WGBH, an organization with enough money to purchase Public Radio International outright would just disappear.

  • Zorganist

    Does Nick always deny absolute facts like that, or is it only when talking about gaming? And how do you put with it, John?

  • Nick Mailer

    Absolute Facts. Gosh.

  • Hidden_7

    I think it’s pretty clear by now that when talking about gaming Nick exaggerates his own position to get a rise out of John. I think that his actual positions are probably closer to the ones he espouses than the opposite position, but I think he is being, in part at least, facetious.

  • Evert

    To be fair to Sun (which I have to admit I read on a somewhat regular basis), page 3 is a lot less problematic than the Mail Online leching over 14 year olds (for example).

    There are horrible, weirdly constructed, phrases that the Mail uses. As you mention “all grown up” is one. The most horrible one (for me) is the phrase “all grown up”. The weirdest is “poured her curves”.

    I agree with Nick in that the moral crusade against page 3 is largely a class thing. And that all it serves is to keep breast taboo.

    Though I disagree about marzipan. Marzipan is delicious.

  • Xercies

    I actually agree with Nick in that I would rather live in a world where we can have tits out on a newspaper page then one where we are all shocked. Which is pretty much where the anti lets all wear burkhas and soceity is all sinful because of half naked women everywhere is leading us.

  • mister k

    I think the notion that Obama was timid in his first term is a little misleading. Obama tried to pass an incredibly simplified version of healthcare, a benign version that republicans should have been on board with, and they denounced it as the devil. When one party absolutely refuses to compromise and controls one house, its pretty damn hard to get laws passed.

    I also agree with Nick. Ending the war on drugs would make the world a profoundly better place. There would also be less Americans in prison to.

    On page 3.. page 3 sexualises breasts and says that their purpose is to be enjoyed. This is not going to help breast feeding become normalised. That said, I do agree that the calls to ban it are ridiculous.

  • Nick Mailer

    What’s wrong with “sexualising breasts”? They’re considered sexually attractive in a number of cultures and have been way before tabloid newspapers existed. There’s nothing wrong with considering them sexy. We’re screwed up because we’re caught in a ludicrous binary fallacy, where we seem unable to cope with the notion that they have multiple functions, multiple effects and multiple semiotic paths. A healthy attitude is to accept they can be any or all of these, simultaneously.

    In summary: to see page 3 girls as sexy, as career women AND as (breastfeeding) mothers is not only possible – it’s necessary. The artificial repression of ANY of these aspects of her personhood is counter productive.

  • mister k

    To be clear, obviously breasts are sexy and can be considered thus. But society as a whole has a taboo on things which are sexy being public, so while breasts are considered primarily sexy breast feeding will find harder acceptance.

  • Jambe

    Seems Mumble worked out alright! The conversation seemed more fluid than the last Skype episodes. Has Mumble integrated the Opus codec yet? Hm.

    @mister k: it would seem “society as a whole” is sexually repressed in some sense and that this results in a popular hypersexualization of breasts (ditto genitals and buttocks and to a lesser degree collarbones, exposed abs, thighs, etc).

    Treating bits of flesh as always-sexual denies context; that’s the root problem of any absolutism. If we were comfier with notions of sex and beauty then the presence of a nipple would merely indicate the fleshy boundary of a human, unless the context was intimate.

  • Alex

    Here’s a nice (depressing) article about the types of people who don’t think the government should be helping them, even as they take the help:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/us/even-critics-of-safety-net-increasingly-depend-on-it.html

    Also, about Republicans turning away conservative minorities: it’s not only Latinos. Black families have the highest church attendance and the some of the highest levels of resistance to gay marriage in the US. The problem is that somehow, people won’t vote for you if you overtly try to keep them from being allowed to vote.

    And the religious blonde you were thinking of is Kristin Chenoweth.

    @Arthur: Part of the problem is that PBS and the public TV stations around the States still have to have the money to purchase the content made by the few big guns like WGBH.

    @Jambe: There’s support in 1.2.4, but I don’t think it’s been officially released yet.

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