Assaulted by Breasts

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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As the trombone player stared into the distance, waiting for the next set to begin on New Year’s Eve at Lindy Focus XI, the trumpet player next to him prodded “Are you looking at what I’m looking at?” The trombone player followed the trumpet player’s gaze to the row of dancers lining the front of the stage and saw a girl who had come out of her dress on the top, exposing most or all of a breast.

While some guys would be delighted at this sight, and agree that this is awesome, in actuality it becomes an issue because something very private has become very public. And when something very private has a very public reaction that could be detected, that brings out even more issues. Yes, guys, I know you want to see attractive women at dances; however, the consensus has generally been that most guys don’t want to be a horn dog at dances, distracted by so much cleavage or full boobage that it becomes ogling and/or pushes them into creepy territory. Generally, guys who want to respect boundaries are going to be uncomfortable being pulled between instinct and decorum and are probably just less likely to dance with a potential wardrobe malfunction.

When the girls are in full display, or perhaps spilling out of one’s top or dress, the movement of Lindy Hop could turn pulse into a full trampoline bounce. I have seen this and been intimidated by watching someone dance like this. It is at that point that the dance becomes something else entirely for those within view – bystanders find themselves watching a car falling off the precipice of a cliff rather than watching an enjoyable aesthetic. It’s the apprehension that makes it so distracting for me – consider that the scope of the apprehension can go further than your dance partner.

For Lindy Focus, this was probably more of an issue on New Year’s Eve (as retailers notoriously only offer sparkle in cleavage-friendly shapes), but I did notice other things throughout the event, like sheer shirts over darkly contrasting bras (camisole, anyone?) and ill-fitting strapless dresses that looked as though the top were Hoover Dam about to burst from a flood of chest. Much of this goes back to buying clothes that fit you well (but not tightly – there is a distinction), but also shapes and necklines that are complimentary to your shape. If you have a smaller chest, you can get away with showing more skin – this is an inversely proportional relationship. Likewise, the larger your chest is, the less skin you can get away with showing, because there is more of it. I am all for cleavage, but proportion, fit, and security are certainly factors to consider.

Another consideration, for the burgeoning nudists among us, were the children present at Lindy Focus. I almost tripped over sleeping children near the stage on a couple of nights, but there were also children running around at the main dances. Let’s try not to scar these kids for life.

The trombone player in the story is my husband and I really don’t want to come home and hear stories like this. Thus, when you are dressing yourself for an event, consider the fit of your clothing, the risk of certain necklines, the athleticism of swing dancing in general, and the proportionate amount of cleavage that will be attractive without becoming a nuisance to you or to others.

EDITED: To add that this post has sparked an extensive discussion in our online Lindy Hop community – Dogpossum sets forth a timeline of the discussion (relevant blog responses and social media) mid-way through her blog post, if you’d like to follow and/or join the ensuing discussion as of February 8, 2013.

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41 responses to “Assaulted by Breasts

  1. Well said!

  2. So my question being a man would be.. what do you do in this situation to help the person in that moment? What is the correct thing to do to not be creepy or accidentally touch what you shouldn’t but still trying to help someone that may have popped out. Also how does shapely female not realize she has come out of her top esp. when the music has stopped. Inquiring (albeit male) mind(s) are wondering.

    Is it happening so often that there needs to be a dress code of sorts?

  3. Amen, sister! The same can be said for dance pants. It’s so much easier to get a good pair of bloomers than worrying about showing your rear end after a succession of spins. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

  4. It is SUPER distracting as a judge…and I am a woman. Like you said it is the anticipation…. that something tragic will soon be memorialized on youtube for all to see.

  5. Hopefully that is not what it takes. Someone being shamed. Are people that clueless or are they afraid that some clothes are just too .. restrictive?

  6. I used to go ballroom dancing where there was a middle aged woman (very attractive and well put together) who wore these pretty twirley skirts. However, she always wore a thong underneath. I know because every time she spinned her skirt came up to waist level and her whole rear end was on display to the entire room. I, for one, was scarred for life. Buy some bike shorts or a slip or bloomers…anything!

  7. Hear, hear! And that goes for super short skirts (or dresses) that look more like an oversized belt than a skirt. Sadly, there’s a Canadian scene notoriously known for its women always wearing those garments. And I’m always cringing when I see them dancing.

  8. Super short skirts are no problem, really. Even in longish skirts we get the occasional flash of knicker depending on how close to full-circle the skirts are. The tight tube skirts are often in that way safer than a full circle skirt. Many of the tiny skirts or dresses I’ve seen have great big knickers underneath anyway :)

    I worry a little that we can get too caught up in ‘correct’ lengths and states of clothing – all that a person really needs to do it make sure that their intended appearance isn’t drastically changed by the action of dancing. If they want to show cleavage, let them. If they want to wear a short skirt, let them. It’s not our position to dictate how people should dress – only to warn that their intended look may shift over the course of an evening and take that into account.

    As to the man wondering about helping a girl that’s popped out – it’s going to be embarrassing for her no matter what. The shame may be a little less if a female friend whispers in her ear. Personally with many of my male or female friends making some joke about ‘flying high’ or whatever I’d be highly amused by the whole thing but probably a bit taken aback by a stranger alerting me. Hm.

  9. This is definitely something that I took into consideration on NYE at Lindy Focus. However, I didn’t treat it like the average night of dancing.

    My dress was backless. I would not normally wear a backless dress out dancing and certainly not for competition or performance. However, I know from previous years that I don’t dance a lot on NYE. I spend most time in line for photos, chatting with friends, and ringing in the new year with slow dances and hugs.

    I did use fabric tape to make sure I was secure and safe. I had several dances and felt totally comfortable. Nothing is worse than worrying about wardrobe malfunctions during a dance.

    So yes, make sure you are secure and appropriate, but also NYE is a night to show off and wear something glamorous that you may not normally get to wear out swing dancing.

  10. Haha I don’t think that exposure came from me, but I have to say I may have been guilty of a low cut neckline, and if anything I had some killer side-boob – but honestly it was NYE and damn it if I wasn’t gonna wear this red dress for which I have no other occasion to wear.

    Ladies, fabric tape is your friend ;)

  11. This is why, as a busty follow, I do NOT like dancing Charleston. Not only do the girls start to hurt from all the bouncing, they’re usually half a beat behind the rest of me anyway.

  12. Matthew, I would just suggest that is yet another reason for men to wear jackets to dances…. as well as for those moments when your follow with the stunning backless dress or the immaculately taped perfect proportion of side boob displays the slightest chill on the photo booth line and you can chivalrously become a hero with a simple gesture of offering up your coat.

  13. The shame-y tone of this post is a little shocking to me. Especially the part where you imply that what women wear is responsible for whether or not guys act creep or like “horn dogs” at dances. Second only to the part where you say kids will be scarred for life by seeing a breast.

  14. Oh, no, really, sister, you didn’t. You didn’t just do some body shaming, some policing of women’s bodies?
    I’m kind of in shock here. For real – you think it’s ok to tell women to cover up their flesh because OMG SOMEONE WILL FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE?! You did NOT just suggest that women provoke sexual harassment and/or sexual assault through _what they wear_? Did you miss the whole slut walk thing? Did you miss the whole ‘men are adults responsible for their own behaviour’ deal?
    And you didn’t _really_ declare that women’s bodies are so shameful, so unclean and horrific they should be covered up when children are near so they don’t do irreparable damage?

    Here’s the deal: if you don’t like what someone’s wearing, if you think women’s bodies are so shameful they need to be hidden away, you’re the one with the problem. If a man can’t look at a woman without reducing her to sexual object, they’re the one with the problem.

    I gotta say, Lindy Shopper, I’m very disappointed.

    • As always, I value your input and the way in which you can illuminate an issue from a different angle; however, I think you may have read into some of what I wrote and seen some intent that was not there. Amanda has essentially crafted the response that is the gist of how I would respond to this comment. I don’t think women’s bodies should be hidden away, but there is a time and a place and considerations of mutual respect.

  15. While I agree that this post has some very sketchy female shaming moments, it also doesn’t do the men in the scene any favors either. So for me the true issue is women who are falling out of their clothes who are also dancing with a partner or around others who may not appreciate it. So while I do take issue with people making comments about what women should and shouldn’t wear on a daily and nightly basis, women do need to be taking into consideration that they will in fact be asking other individuals to touch them through out the evening and those people have boundaries that need to be respected too. And interestingly, I think this is a good moment to point out a particular gray area that I observe in conversations like this. Yes, women should be allowed to wear whatever they wish without being concerned for their safety. However, that right does not mean they get to impose their bodies on others around them. While some may be comfortable flashing their lady (or even male) bits about that doesn’t mean that everyone around them will be comfortable witnessing it. Therefore, in my personal opinion, if I wish to be respected I must also take into account (within reason) the boundaries of those around me and show respect to them as well. Freedom of expression should not be treated as a license to run amok. It is a privilege and requires careful contemplation and deliberation. That said, those who take offense at a flash of skin here and there would benefit from considering that what is special and private to you may not be to others and that is their choice to make. You can’t please all the people all the time, therefore, compromises need to be reached on both sides.

    • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – thank you for this comment, I think it sums up, perhaps in more rational tones, more of my thoughts on this topic.

      • You are welcome and I’m glad the comment was helpful. This is a topic that I’ve thought a lot about and enjoy furthering the discussion :)

  16. The content of this post doesn’t read about respect at all. The danger isn’t accidentally seeing a nipple or the silhouette of a breast – it’s supporting harmful ideas about how women SHOULD dress OR ELSE.

    Showing breasts is not the assault, and certainly not the accidental boob slip! The assault is the implication that the way a women dresses will cause men to sexually objectify her.

    • The assault referenced was more an assault on my eyes, something I did not want to see as another female. I don’t think it is absurd that I don’t feel comfortable seeing other women’s exposed breasts at a swing dance.

      In terms of misinterpreting my intent, I will again refer to Amanda’s response.

      • Whether or not you framed it in your mind as “I’m gonna go shame some sluts today,” you definitely put out some awful sentiments in this post.

        I personally find it kind of impossible to believe, though, that you didn’t know and intend for this post to be incredibly judgmental.

      • It was definitely not my intent to judge anyone as a “slut” who may have had any of these wardrobe malfunctions or issues at dance events – I don’t even feel comfortable typing that word. I think my use of hyperbole has lead people to miss the overarching message of this post, which was that people should dress appropriately for the activity. I don’t know of anyone in the dance community who would ever deserve to be called such a horrible name and I certainly don’t want people to believe that was my intent in writing this post.

        As far as this post being judgmental, I’ll concede that ill-fitting clothing is a pet-peve of mine. Many of the issues I outlined in the post I noticed when an article of clothing did not fit the person in a flattering way or really did not fit them at all.

  17. I’m going to weigh in with a logistical observation from a lead’s perspective. I vividly remember an outfit one follow regularly wore to dances in the summer — a backless silk top with a low swooping neckline that looked stunning on her when she was stationary. However, leading her in turns in that outfit was a distracting challenge. The movement would cause the swoops of fabric to billow out on her front and at her sides so leads had to give extra distance to avoid getting fingers inadvertently hooked into her bare cleavage by waves of fabric, quickly readjust to reestablish a connection on the naked back and then pull back free again before the loose fabric of the sides came back around to possibly snag/cup your hand awkwardly once again.

    Joel Plys once taught a lesson on catching a turning follow with the description, “safe, not safe, safe, not safe, safe…” The lesson talked about the need to anticipate and arrive earlier than you’d expect but not of course, not too early… In this case, the excess of fabric trailing and swirling and contrasting so starkly with the extreme lack of fabric in other areas meant that for quicker tempos I just said, “that’s just an ABG just waiting to happen and I’m not taking the risk. I’ll wait till the next song.”

    That’s what I think about from a lead’s perspective, not any moral judgement about whether someone should be wearing something or not.

  18. So why isn’t there an issue with the burlesque performances at dance events? Skimpy outfits with plenty of cleavage and booty to go around on display for everyone in attendance to see. Why is it just the event goers being called out for their clothing choices? Does the fact that it’s a performance really do anything to reduce the sexuality of it?

  19. I feel really uncomfortable with this post. I am an all around a bigger lady than some lindy hoppers, and some of the ways I cope with my body image issues is by being cleavagetastic. If you want to write a post about dressing appropriately and making sure ones’ boobs don’t fall out, write -that- post, and discuss fabric tape and safety pins and lace camisoles and the myriad number of tactics that women use to avoid clothing malfunctions. This post is not that post though. This post is suggesting that just by nature of having large boobs, I’m scandalizing those around me when I dress in a way that makes me feel confident in my body.

    Besides, in my experience, the men at the dances I’m at deal with my cleavage just fine. (Primarily by looking me in the eye more intently, which is endearing as all get out. Men are clever, and if they are respectful, they figure out how to say nice things about my…shirt, and then we dance and it’s fine.)

    • I’m sorry if you felt like this was directed at girls with larger chests, it was meant to be more universally applicable. If you feel confident showing some cleavage, that is great! My point here was to consider the amount of cleavage and make sure that it is appropriate for the activity, as to avoid a potential wardrobe malfunction.

  20. I wrote a reply to your post, mostly on how different aesthetics create different ideas surrounding modesty and exposure. I disagree with some of your ideas in this case, but I love hearing your thoughts, and thinking about the topics you bring up.

    http://wonderwomanproject.tumblr.com/post/42363600099/assenting-to-breasts

    • Aries, you are a doll. I love that we can agree to disagree, share mutual respect, and that you wrote such a lovely personal post about this. Thank you.

      • It’s funny – I wore something pretty dang racy to LaB Love, and asked three different folks if it would upset sensibilities. For me, I feel so comfortable in my own scene doing my own thing (which is generally not very objectionable in dress), but in another person’s dance-house, so to speak, I try to be more on my best behavior. KFab is my role model.

  21. This is fantastic – thank you. I’m a guy, and I understand that women absolutely have the freedom to wear whatever they like. But just as it is a point of respect that I don’t ogle or otherwise objectify them, I consider it very respectful to me when women willingly choose to display modesty. Not to mention that trying to look good by showing more skin often comes off more to me as trashy than attractive. Thank you for addressing this.

  22. It would be a sad, sad world in which seeing a breast would scar a child for life.

    I have read this, and the follow up post, and I still agree with the comment that a better approach would have been one of, “Look, we all have breasts… here are some great ways to make sure they stay ‘under wraps” on the dance floor.”

  23. Haters gonna hate.

  24. I couldn’t resist…
    Don’t read into this – just watch it, acknowledge the hilarious relevance, laugh, and leave happy.

  25. Hi Lindy Shopper,
    I appreciate your follow up to this post, and your continued interest in getting to the heart of the matter. As someone who is prone to giving excessive benefits of the doubt (benefit of the doubts?), I wasn’t profoundly offended by your post. I attributed positive intent on your part and understood that you were attempting to point things out for ladies’ own goods.

    Having said that, I think I can help you understand part of why others were very offended, because I did have a few moments of discomfort with the way your message was framed. “Message framing” is actually an area of study within Psychology (also called “prospect theory”). Here’s a boob related example: if you want people to get a mammogram, you can choose a gain-framed message (“If you get a mammogram, you will receive x benefits”), or a loss-framed message (“If you DON’T get a mammogram, this LOSS/BAD THING will happen to you). Interestingly, for health-related behaviors, loss-framed messages have been found to be more effective for detection (such as mammograms), and gain-framed messages can be more effective for prevention (such as putting on sunscreen). For more, read here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7789354 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21993844.

    It seemed to me that your entire message was loss-framed; if you DON’T cover up, this bad stuff will happen to you. Since the bad stuff had to do with the reactions of other people (mostly men and children), the boob-laden reader was put on the defensive, and also could legitimately feel offended by the implication (NOT explicitly stated but somewhat implied) that the poor men can’t control their eyes so WE (the boob-ful) must take action to protect them (the men and children, not the boobs, but actually also the boobs). What if you had selected to frame your message in a positive way: hey guys, here’s the awesome stuff about covering up, and here’s how? You still would have had to address the men/children’s gaze (one of the positives being “you will avoid possibly making others uncomfortable”), but I think overall it would have come across as more generous, and your readers would be less likely to interpret your overall message as directed at protecting others rather than themselves.

    Additionally, while I appreciate you starting and ending the post with your husband’s reaction as a sort of stylistic writing choice, it left a bad taste in my mouth personally. I had to choose between interpreting this message as, “Do this for my poor husband and other potential ooglers, and also me because I don’t like the fact that my husband had to tell me this story,” rather than “Do this for yourself because you’re awesome and deserve to feel comfortable and not have to worry about wardrobe malfunctions.” Yes, in the subsequent paragraph you do explicitly say, “…proportionate amount of cleavage that will be attractive without becoming a nuisance to you or to others,” but I think the “nuisance to others” aspect came across more strongly in your writing and descriptions than your “nuisance to you.” I hope this helps! -Cheryl

    • This is a great framing of some of the issues with the wording in my post – rewards are way better than consequences! I don’t always think that way when I write (and certainly not for my day job), but I’ll definitely be thinking about it now. :)

  26. I don’t even understand how you go out in public if you’re so offended by the body parts that we all know everyone has. I’m assuming you never wear a bathing suit and never go to a public space where people might be in bathing suits in large groups, because of how offensive those small pieces of clothing are and the fact that they clearly outline everything any woman has to offer.

    See that? That’s exactly what your post sounded like. Fucking ridiculous.

    Also, there is something that we NEVER talk about in this scene, which I think would be a far better conversation than any conversation about boob slips, cleavage, or short skirts : WE TOUCH EACH OTHER…all night long, all over. And we NEVER TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH WE TOUCH EACH OTHER. But we sure as fuck have really ridiculous conversations such as this.

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