Shirt or No Shirt: Define "Indecent"

The other day I was driving up 14th Ave and saw a young man out for a jog, sans shirt. Based on his physique, I would say this young buck is an aspiring Abercrombie model. So yummy. So, so yummy. I couldn’t keep my lecherous eyes off him.

That was unfortunate because, as I said, the other day I was driving up 14th Ave.

Because of my pervy rubber-necking, I nearly rear-ended the car in front of me when the driver stopped for one of those stop lights that are hung, not at an intersection, but in the middle of the street for no reason at all. My “significant other” calls them “squirrel crosswalks.”

My near death experience on 14th left me to ponder two things: 1… Why are those, particular, stoplights even there? Stupid. And 2… Why is it all right for men to run around in public, shirtless, but not women?

Summer heat demands that summer fashion accommodate high temperatures. Men can wear nothing more than a pair of little jogging shorts, whereas women’s breasts must be covered at all times. That’s stupid and unjust. As near as I can tell, this law is simply a way to legalize sexism. It’s an example of discrimination being written into our law books for absolutely no good or valid reason, whatsoever.

Why can a man, regardless of physical appearance, run around shirtless, while a woman, regardless of physical appearance, cannot?

One might simply say, “Well, women have boobs.”

I respond, “Sure. So does Danny DeVito. But, like all men, Danny’s got clearance to go shirtless in public. Man-boobs or not.” Point met with more than valid counter-point.

One might say, “Well, a shirtless woman would be disruptive. She would be distracting and that could be dangerous.”

I respond, “Sure. Just like 14th Avenue’s Abercrombie model that almost caused a multi-car pile up at the squirrel crossing, right?” Point obliterated.

One might say, “Well, it’s just the way it is.”

I respond, “Sure.” Point so stupid, it doesn’t deserve further rebuttal.

I asked this question of my co-workers and, interestingly enough, straight, gay, male or female, one thought on the issue was nearly identical, across the board. Most people, at Westword, anyway, believe that the law is wrong, not because it is discriminatory, but because it is misplaced.

The general consensus seems to be that the question of indecency should have less to do with gender and more to do with appearance.

Shallow? Perhaps. But I’d rather be shallow than sexist. (And I can’t really think much more about it because when I think too hard, my brow furrows and I’m already starting to see fine lines and, tragically enough, wrinkles. It’s terrible.)

Shirt or No Shirt: Define "Indecent"

“I think a better question is, why is it okay for that guy to go shirtless?” said one of our sales representatives who looked out the window when, as if on cue, Jabba the Hut’s younger (and less attractive brother) sauntered on by, naked beer gut and farmer’s tan prominently displayed.

Our new cutie of a web editor, Joe, agrees.

“I mean, yeah. There are plenty of men who shouldn’t go shirtless in public,” he says. “Myself included, probably.”

But it doesn’t answer my question. I ask, “So if supermodel Gisele Bundchen and you were to be walking down Broadway together, both shirtless…”

He interrupts me to say, “My exposure would be far more indecent than hers.”

And yet, if that is true, then why would poor Ms. Bundchen walk away with a ticket for indecent exposure while Joe would simply walk away. Well, maybe not “simply” walk away. Even I can see how a shirtless Gisele may make it hard to walk away.

Classified Sales Manager and “Hot Mom,” Teri, not only agrees with the idea that more men should be required by law to cover it up, but takes it one step further.

“First of all, [women] certainly can’t just run around shirtless because all hell would break loose. But I do feel that there are many, many situations where men should always wear shirts,” she pauses a minute and shudders, shaking off a painful memory and says, “…and shoes, too.”

Teri goes on to say, “And really, I think bikini tops should be part of this conversation, too. I was at the Mile High Music festival and let me tell you, some of the women wearing bikini tops were plenty indecent.”

Our marketing genius, Megan, is so exceptionally gorgeous that it’s sometimes awkward to look at her. I truly believe that we should include a tiny, little headshot of Megan in the corner of each edition of our paper, regardless of that week’s cover story. She’s ridiculously hot. Circulation would quadruple. Easily. Though Megan concurs that going shirtless should be based on what she terms “a person’s level of fitness,” (She’s in P.R.), her answer to this hard hitting question is more thought out.

“The reason the law is in place, simply put is, men are pigs. I think a woman will look at a well-built man out for a jog or enjoying the sun and think, you know, ‘Hey. That’s an attractive man.’ And she’ll have the ability to leave it at that. A man doesn’t have that same ability. Your own example of the incident on 14th Avenue further proves my point, doesn’t it? You are a gay man, you saw a man you found attractive and, as a result of your loss of focus, you almost caused a collision. The law stating that women wear tops in public is in place because if it wasn’t, all productivity would stop. Steve, I wear a shirt and still, depending on how low cut the shirt is, conversations I have with men, any men at all, need to be constantly redirected. Steve, are you listening to me?”

And honestly? I wasn’t. I was just staring at her. I’m telling you, dude, she is ridiculously hot.

Our circulation director, Curt, is hands down, the most heterosexual man alive. He would be powerless against Megan even if she were to don a burka.

He has this to say on the issue:

“Well, there’s definitely a double standard there. It’s one of those eternal conundrums, ya’know? And, quite frankly, yeah, people will lose their minds if women are topless. Although, on the flip side, I’m not sure I’d necessarily like to live in that world. I dunno, I’ll have to think about it.”

Curt thinks for a minute and continues. “I like the mystery of… you know… boobies. If you saw them every day, you’d be all blasé about ‘em. That’s what’s so great about boobs, is the mystery of ‘em, ya’ know? I think, to some degree, feet are the same way.”

Support analyst, Trisha, has this to say: “I mean, like, I have a great boobs, so I doubt I would offend anybody.”

And I’m sure she wouldn’t. But that is not the issue. The issue is not the condition of a woman’s boobs; it’s the legality of a woman’s boobs.

As you can tell, I didn’t get very far with this question. Pretty much, there’s no good answer. It’s a stupid law. Associate publisher, Tracy, apparently tired of hearing the dialogue I started by asking the tough questions like this one, came to the desk and said, “Look, the bottom line is, you can’t show your boobies.”

Fair enough, I suppose. And, as one of our writers who would like to remain anonymous said, “I don’t know. It really is stupid. Boobs are the least of anybody’s worries.”

Good point. Boobs are the least of anybody’s worries.

Especially compared to the “squirrel crosswalks” on 14th Avenue.

-- Steven J. Burge

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