Nanny State

Underboob Banned in Springfield, Missouri, After Rally Seeking to 'Free the Nipple'

Mayor opposed law for implying sight of boobs "transforms men into raving sexual predators who rush to the nearest restroom and kidnap children."



The "Free the Nipple" movement seeks to repeal laws against women going topless in public. A recent "Free the Nipple" rally in Springfield, Missouri, elicited swift action from the city—but not in the direction activists were hoping for. Rather, the Springfield City Council voted that women should actually cover up more of their breasts in public than was previously required.

The new indecent exposure law prohibits women from showing too much of the sides and bottom of the breasts—aka "underboob"—and everyone from from showing any part of their tush. (For a highly informative video on the parameters of the new breast ban, see the Springfield News-Leader.) 

The issue was contentious among city officials, passing the city council by just 5-4. Springfield Mayor Bob Stephens voted against it, condemning proponents' claim that keeping women's breasts hidden is necessary so as not to encourage sexual assault. "If we believe what we've heard, the sight of a female breast, either inadvertent or deliberate, immediately transforms men into raving sexual predators who rush to the nearest restroom and kidnap children," Stephens said. 

Some took issue with the bill not doing what it set out to: ban Free the Nipple protesters from parading about with only their areolas covered, following the old indecent-exposure law to the letter but not in spirit. City Attorney Dan Wichmer said Free the Nipple rallies are still safe because they're protected political speech. Councilman Craig Hostner, who voted against the new law, said it "doesn't do anything other than make us feel like we've addressed the problem, when we really haven't done that." 

Councilman Mike Schilling, who also voted against the law, said he thought the current requirement was adequate. "I don't anticipate a wave of people roaming the city topless," Schilling said at a city council meeting covered by the News-Leader. "I would prefer to stick with what we have, and that will work fine." 

But the new law's instigator, Councilman Justin Burnett, said it was important for protecting the city's "family-friendly image" and ensuring "the safety of the most vulnerable among us." It is unclear who Burnett thinks is made unsafe by the public presence of underboob. Burnett does not, however, fear for those exposed to erect penises. In updating the indecent exposure law, it was stripped of language banning "the showing of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state." 

Burnett crowed at a city council meeting that the new ordinance would shut down a planned "SlutWalk" event in early October, described by Facebook organizers as "a protest walk designed to raise awareness about the prevalence of rape in our culture and to challenge Springfield area residents to face the reality that rape is too often excused or downplayed by referring to aspects of a woman's appearance." Protesters at SlutWalk events (an international phenomenon) tend to dress in campily revealing clothing. 

Earlier this year, the government of Thailand warned women that posting underboob selfies online could violate the country's cybercrime laws.