Breast Crime and Punishment

In the era of governing women’s bodies, North Carolina moves northward to regulate the female breast. In the first two weeks back in session Republican Representatives Rayne Brown and Tim Moffitt proposed House Bill 34, which would classify the nipple and areola of the “human female breast” as a private part which, if it were to be seen in public, would be considered indecent exposure and punishable by law. Men’s areolas and nipples are exempt from the bill. After moving the vote for the “Clarify Indecent Exposure Law” twice, the bill has been re-referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House.

This bill was written in response to two topless rallies in Asheville promoting women’s equality. It is interesting that a small rally, with only a dozen women going topless, can strike such fear into the hearts of politicians.

The bill will make exposing a woman’s nipple in public a misdemeanor, punishable with jail time of up to six months for a first offense or a fine of up to $1,000, if it is judged to be “for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.” Other types of exposure would result in 30 days in jail.

Two important points: breastfeeding would be exempt under this law and towns would be able to work out on a local basis whether strip clubs would be permissible under the auspices of free speech. This language in a bill regulating women’s bodies in response to a political protest strikes me as hypocritical.

Just look at this ad campaign by the Breast Cancer Foundation. Nipples are not always intended to seduce.




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