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According to French Elle, women have stopped sunbathing topless in France. Two French women reveal why they do, and don't, and how little it has to do with health scares. Is topless sunbathing over? According to the magazine the answer is "yes", and the reasons are threefold. First, an increased concern over health and the dangers of skin cancer; second, the "pornified" perception of topless women indeed Elle suggests the death of the monokini — ie swimming briefs — was linked to the idea that topless women are seen as "loose" ; and third, the rise of breast-affiliated activism — chiefly Femen , who use their naked breasts as a means of attracting attention to various causes, and Free the Nipple , a recent campaign that encourages women to go topless to end the stigma surrounding female bodies.

And now that they're covering up? It's a "worrying of a regression in the place of women". Ever since Brigitte Bardot took off her top on the French Riviera in the s, the correlation between topless sunbathing and women's liberation has been entrenched in French culture as a of true equality. Many others followed suit and the breast and beach were reclaimed. But, according to two French women, it's more than a fear of skin cancer and political activism that has kept them covered up.

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. Though probably universal, this attitude towards topless sunbathing has had the biggest impact in France. It is still the norm in Germany, according to one recent survey, which suggests almost a third of Germans and Austrians sunbathe naked. A straw poll in the UK also suggests it's equally de rigueur: one in six women we asked said they have or would sunbathe topless: "I don't think about skin cancer or being photographed or activism when I go topless," says Jess, 32 of north-west London.

She says the change hasn't happened overnight: "I've never seen young women doing it lo. But some women over 50 do. Pfeiffer agrees that the shift has been generational: "Family albums here can be a strange thing, as you flip through three generations of bourgeois bra-less women. What of the links between breasts and activism? Nudity as a political statement is no new thing — indeed, proverbially speaking, the personal has always been political — but, thanks to the internet, it has become a mainstay in the world of political activism: in France "showing your breasts wisely a dodgy street will always be a dodgy street, so you have to act responsibly can be a political statement," says Pfeiffer.

Costa-Kostritsky thinks the decline could be linked to health concerns, but these are less about skin damage and more about vanity: "Women of my generation have always been told that the sun was bad for our skin. But add sun damage to gravity and the fear is you won't have pretty breasts.

Pfeiffer agrees: "The ones who do it all look the same — slim and small breasts, which contributes to keeping a social order and aesthetic norm in place. But both agree that the issue is not one of self-consciousness. The real reason French women cover up, says Costa-Kostritsky, is because "it makes uncovering them for a lover more interesting". Fashion blog Fashion. The real reason French women have stopped sunbathing topless.

Brigitte Bardot sunbathing on the beach in s. Morwenna Ferrier. Mon 28 Jul Reuse this content.

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