Students at Bard College have started a blog called Boobs@Bard, which (you guessed it) hosts pictures of topless co-eds. Harvard now has their own spin-off. Is this a symptom of our hypersexual culture, or a brave step towards body acceptance?
Full disclosure: I am former Bard student (class of 2009) and as such, I am no stranger to the type of mentality that spawned Boobs@Bard (NSFW, obviously). Bard is located in an isolated town in the Hudson Valley, so it's not uncommon to see bare-breasted women sunning themselves by the library, or walking around the meditation garden. Local lore says the campus is "clothing optional," but there are plenty of places where nudity is not tolerated. Despite the college's reputation for being a freewheeling bastion of liberal politics and hippy ideals (although at this point, hipster might be the better word for subculture of choice), some taboos remain. While no one will stop you from going for a topless stroll by the river, security may ask you to put some clothes on if you try to order your omelet in the buff.
As I've admitted before, my personal proclivities place me closer to never-nude than nudist, but I've always admired those who see nakedness as No Big Deal. Fortunately, for many students, it really is nothing remarkable. In a small, enclosed community like Bard, there is a certain freedom to go nude without encountering the same level of harassment and mockery one would garner in the "real world." Interestingly, Boobs@Bard throws off the safety net created by a wooded campus, policed only by famously lax Bard security, and puts it out there where anyone can see it. Although I can guess what might lead a group of Bard kids to want to show their tits on the internet, we decided to contact the creators of Boobs@Bard — and their brother site, CocksOnCampus — via email to find out what lead to the creation of the original tumblr, and how the two websites differ. The editor of Boobs wanted to remain anonymous, but they were willing to talk about the site and their involvement. Excerpts below:
Why did you start Boobs@Bard? Is it just for fun? is there a political message behind what you are doing?
Boobs@Bard was initially conceived as an alternative to Bard's "nudity and body politics" magazine The Moderator. The nude student models in The Moderator always seem uncomfortable, weirdly bent over tree stumps, posing in recognizable campus locations. Additionally, the political nature of The Moderator was a bit of a turn off; I wanted to see my naked peers unabashed, not participating in hurried photo shoots to fit articles and deadlines. I wanted people to feel comfortable viewing these images in a variety of ways, from an appreciation of the female form to masturbatory purposes. Anonymity is the most important factor in my creation of the site, and I attribute much of the success of the site to this feature. The anonymity requirement has allowed numerous ladies the chance to exert their sexuality/femininity/womanhood/silliness in a creative way where other outlets have failed them. And while occasionally dorm room decorations and props can give clues as to the identity of our topless tumblrs, I accept these images as a form of expression reflecting a desire to be a bit bold and outgoing.
What do you think more generally about public nudity? Especially concerning breast-feeding and the baring of breasts?
Public nudity does not bother me, but even the use of the word "nudity" implies an inoffensive state of undress. Being nude in public does not harm anyone. Americans are scared to publically [sic] acknowledge sex, and can only connote nudity with sex. Even the innocent act of breast-feeding, is typically done in private and usually viewed as obscene when done publically [sic]. It's seemingly ridiculous for this to be the case; men and women both have mammary glands, they just differ in appearance. Many men's chests could fit into a bra, and yet seeing "man boobs" is not socially unacceptable.
How does this compare/contrast with things like The Moderator or other outlets for the display of student flesh?
Boobs@Bard differs from The Moderator primarily in that the photographer and the model are typically one in the same. Giving the model the power to compose their own photographs and self-direct has been essential in motivating ladies to submit. The invention of the built-in webcam in laptops has allowed for a wider variety of submissions than The Moderator, which functions as a club and rarely encompasses more than a small portion of the Bard community. The only other Bard outlets for the display of flesh are security-curbed attempts to sunbathe naked on beautiful days, and raucous parties.
Why did you choose to include male and female pictures at Boobs?
Male and female pictures are one in the same. If a boy feels that Boobs@Bard is the right outlet for him, perfect. If a girl wants to show off her strap-on to BardCocksOnCampus, go right ahead. I like that people are having fun with the site, not taking themselves too seriously, and I want to support, not thwart, that spirit.
Has anyone requested their picture be removed?
Two boys asked to have their dick pics removed from BardCocks within the first week of its creation. That site has been more problematic. Discussing both sites among my friends, the number one issue cited with BardCocks is that most of the submissions are large and erect specimen. This "issue" has apparently scared off the two boys who reneged on their submissions, and has deterred others.
How did CocksOnCampus get started?
BardCocksOnCampus was created in response to the numerous requests I got within the first few weeks of Boobs@Bard for a male outlet. I was skeptical at first about starting the site, though I felt it only fair to the community to provide both men and women with equal resources. BardCocksOnCampus has not taken off the same way Boobs@Bard has, but I still hold out hope that our Bard boys will continue to submit. Boobs@Bard has proven that size does not matter; it's only a matter of time before BardCocks joins in.
As previously mentioned, Boobs@Bard has inspired Harvard kids to start their own blog, Boobs @Harvard. The Harvard version has only been online for a few days, and they have yet to post any student submissions. It will be interesting to see whether it takes off in the same way the original did. A reader from Harvard actually wrote to us about their new blog, saying that "everyone here is freaking out over how 'disgusting' and 'gross' [Boobs@Bard] is. 'Some of the boobs are really bad' and whathaveyou." She expressed the same desire to throw off convention as the editor of Bard Boobs, but was dismayed with the unfortunate results. Interestingly, it is the criticisms reported by our Harvard reader that Boobs@Bard has set out to fight. While the Bard creator rather optimistically claims that this type of thinking has been "proven" false, there is still a certain aesthetic standard of "perfection" to which breasts are held — and, to an equal extent, penises. And this is why, despite some misgivings about the significance of internet nudity, I think this project is actually pretty cool. Displaying "normal" boobs gives women a chance to see examples of anatomy that does not fit a porn/Hollywood/Playboy ideal. Hopefully, CocksOnCampus will eventually catch up to their sister site. It seems that boys could use a little body-image help, too.