The Open Source Boob Project

So, planet LJ has been thrown into turmoil by The Open Source Boob Project. It’s hard to get an accurate description of what actually happened since posts have been revised and further revised, but it appears to be that at some sci-fi fiction convention in the States the issue of breasts came up between friends. One of the women said that it didn’t bother her if her male friends touched her boobs, so they did. The group (male and female) then started asking other women if they could touch and organised badges for people: green for yes you may ask if you may touch my breasts, and red for no you may not ask. Anyone without a badge was not supposed to be asked, and all that the green badge meant was that you could ask – your request may be denied.

There’s a fair amount of outrage being voiced about this one-off situation(as well as voices of support, but these are tending to be muffled), and I’m trying to work out exactly what it is that makes me so uncomfortable about it.

I agree with the idea of breasts being seen as normal and not taboo and all that (because, well, they’re just breasts), but am having a block as to how touching them achieves that. Isn’t focusing attention on them merely perpetuating the (mostly male) obsession with them. Will there be open source knee projects in the future?

On the one hand (no pun intended) there’s the “they’re only breasts” view, but on the other I believe them to also be an intimate part of a woman’s body. Maybe it’s a personal space issue but I would feel uncomfortable about anyone feeling that it was acceptable to ask to touch any part of my body, but I can’t quite work out why this bothers me as touching and asking are very different things. Maybe it is the singling out of a body part that is the issue, reducing an individual (male or female) to that one part instead of a whole.

Should it be socially acceptable to ask to touch another person’s body? (Asking first is certainly better than what happens in a lot of places). I think my problem with it is why are you asking to touch them? If they’re “just” breasts/knees/elbows, then why are you interested in touching them in the first place?

I’m all for sexual experimentation amongst consenting adults, and satisfying curiousity can be a good thing. I’m personally curious about the feel of breast implants for example, but would I go up to someone and ask them if I could feel theirs? No. That’s crossing the line of what is socially acceptable for me. If they were at a booth specifically allowing people to touch them, would I? I think that I would definitely be tempted, but still wouldn’t do it as even with consent it crosses the line for me. I’m curious about lots of things that I don’t try out (what would it feel like to have 2,000v of electricity run through your body, for example), and I like having mystery in my life.

I can see how this one-off can have been empowering for the people involved, but also how it could have made other people very uncomfortable (why the need for red buttons, and what signal was it sending out?). It had the potential to go very wrong indeed, and at the end of the day I just don’t understand what is so fascinating and why touching random breasts will make them less of a taboo. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned that way.

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