On Covering the Breast
If nothing else, this is a good opportunity to look at nudity norms in American society.
People say Americans are prudes and are even sexist for not allowing women to go topless. Regardless of the merit of these moral accusations, they’re not why the vast majority of people in our culture feel a natural disapproval of female public toplessness. People feel this way because of the most obvious reason: breasts are sexual.
They’re not as sexual as other parts, and so their non-sexual function—breastfeeding—is often deemed acceptable in public. Whereas it’s pretty much never acceptable to urinate publicly. A man in full view peeing into a river is considered wrong because people can see his genitals.
Gotta draw a “nudity line” somewhere.
Throughout Western cultural evolution, this line along the continuum of public exposure has been drawn with the breast being just on this side of inappropriate. Actually, it’s not even the whole breast. Just the nipple. It seems silly, but then all lines do—55mph is legal, 56 is not.
All cultures (I believe) have realized the benefits of drawing this line. Sex is private, exclusive, and powerful. Different cultures, however, handle female topside nudity differently. I lived in Tanzania briefly, where I saw more public breast exposure in 8 months than I have in all my other years of life. Consequently, breasts there just aren’t as sexual.
I think that’s the trade-off.
So the Western world has decided to maintain that allure of this body part at the cost of having to cover it. The benefit is that it leads to an enhanced sexual experience, which is what we sacrifice when loosening this nudity norm.
I usually believe that the fewer the laws, the better. So, in this respect, I'm glad this ordinance requiring tops on women is being revoked. Let free people make choices for themselves. In this case, I just think the choice to reveal sexual parts in public is, in general, a regressive one for our society.