I See London, I See France …

Morwenna Ferrier finds that fewer French women are sunbathing topless. Is American media culture to blame?

Alice Pfeiffer, a 29-year-old Anglo-French journalist (who, incidentally does sunbathe topless in Biarritz, Guéthary, Monaco and surfing resort Hossegor), thinks the decline is inextricably linked to social media: “Young women in their 20s do it less because they are aware that … you can end up topless on your own Facebook wall.”

Pfeiffer blames “pop-porn culture – Miley Cyrus to American Apparel, ie aggressive naked imagery of young girls” – for the shift in perception of going topless. “Globalisation and Americanisation of women’s portrayal and sexiness in France has pushed away gentle (and generally harmless) French eroticism towards porno, frontal, hyper-sexualised consciousness,” she says. “Nudist, beach-like freedom is not what it used to be … breasts no longer feel innocent or temporarily asexual.”

The Germans, apparently, are the most likely to go nude at the beach. Rebecca Schuman wishes Americans would follow suit:

[A]s frantic as Americans get about the public dirty-pillows-baring of nubile young women, even self-professed progressives seem to balk at the free flaunting of a diverse array of bodies, i.e. nudity that “nobody wants to see”: older bodies, overweight bodies, scarred bodies, bodies who dare to have birthed children and remain unashamed about it. Consider Jezebel’s Kelly Faircloth, who just last week scolded the entire Speedo-wearing world—on a site that prides itself on body acceptance.

You’ll never see a German shocked at the sight of a rotund 65-year-old man with his Schawnz und Eier semi-clad by a Speedo or totally nackt; young Germans frolicking bare-breasted by the pool will receive at most a blasé once-over from their male companions. Of course, if your religion (or, like me, your infernal pallor) requires modesty at the beach, then by all means wear whatever you want. But for those whose prudery (and dislike of seeing others) comes not from necessity but conditioning? Maybe a little “free body culture” wouldn’t hurt.