Sex in San Diego: Pondering cleavage etiquette

by on April 19, 2012 · 13 comments

in Ocean Beach, Popular, San Diego, Sex in San Diego

by Dirk Ebers

When the weather in San Diego warms up — as it will this weekend — many residents opt for a wardrobe change. From gents in tank tops to ladies in short shorts, the flesh displays ramp up as the temperature rises.

In a word, it’s all about skin. And as the cladding gets more scanty, some curious ethical dilemmas arise:

Is it cool to flaunt one’s body parts? When others flaunt, is it okay to look?

As a man, there’s one flesh display that I find especially confusing: cleavage, meaning female breasts, or more specifically, the space between them.

Lady Kitty Spencer at the royal wedding

Like a lot of men, when I register cleavage in my peripheral vision, I feel an urge to take a better look. I’m not sure if it’s a learned behavior or an instinctual reaction.

But for me — and many other men, I suspect — a carefully constructed boob display is like the OB sky during a beautiful sunset: so visually compelling that it almost hurts not to look.

A few years ago, I spent three weeks in a largely Muslim country, where cleavage was nowhere to be seen. But as I waited in the customs line at LAX upon returning home, I once again saw cleavage all over the place. If America is a Christian nation, it’s also one where many lady citizens like to show off their boobs.

But what would Jesus Christ think about cleavage? Would the son of God avert his gaze?

Religion aside, is it okay for a man to look at cleavage? Or when it’s coming at us, should we cross the street and walk the other way?

If a man takes a look, does it have to be brief and discreet? Would it be offensive if he complimented what he saw?

two versions of official photo of Canadian politician

Last September, Canada’s National Post described how a female politician’s cleavage was edited out of some versions of her official photo. This raised a lot of questions, including about the ethics of the cleavage displayer herself.

Are displays of cleavage crass? If a woman believes her breasts are among her most attractive features, is it wrong for her to show them off?

How do women decide whether to show cleavage? Is it a conscious decision to gain attention from men?

Readers, whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re pro-cleavage or prefer more modest upper-body garments, if you have any thoughts on these issues, please share. Enquiring eyes want to know…

click for MP3 of Dirk on KOGO975 The Voice of Merrill Apr19_2012

Sex in San Diego, a column appearing every Thursday here at The OB Rag, explores topics related to sex in America’s Finest City. To encourage openness while still respecting privacy, most authors will use pseudonyms.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Breasted April 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Pardon me, as I’m about to make several points that may or may not be related to one another:

As a woman, I would like to argue that the “decision” to show cleavage is not really a 100% conscious decision at all. I mean – I put on a shirt. Sometimes it shows cleavage.
Am I wearing a push up bra, low neckline combo? Then I want my tits to be noticed (in addition to the REST of my sparkling qualities). If I’m just wearing a shirt where one sees the defining space between my breasts, it’s just a shirt that shows cleavage.

A woman rarely relies STRICTLY on one facet of their looks to be attractive. I don’t do a mirror check in the morning to say “got cleavage? Check.” and head out the door feeling complete in my attractiveness. And we all know that the social rewards for being an attractive woman are higher than the rewards for say, letting ones brains do the talking – so we all generally enhance our positives to appear more attractive to receive those rewards. I think the separation of cleavage from all the other accoutrements that a woman may use to appear attractive is ridiculous.

It almost seems absurd to me that cleavage is so sexualized – as an owner of some, I don’t typically consider the space between my breasts as an erotic area. I’m far more concerned about the curve of my ass hanging out of some shorts or a tiny skirt and it’s inherent eroticism than I am my cleavage. I mean – a bikini doesn’t cover it, so why is it special?

But what disturbs me the most about this article, is the idea that someone would look at a woman and only notice her cleavage as though that is her sole identifying factor. What was the NAME of the politician? She’s not a “cleavage-shower”, she’s a person, with an identity, motivations, passions and a NAME for chrissake. I mean, you’re seeing a body part, not a person. And it’s certainly not appropriate to open a conversation on that point. You’re viewing a facet of a body without the qualities of the body and it’s human associated existence.

It’s summer. We’re in a beach city in Southern California. Objectification, skin and sun go hand in hand. But the premise that it could be crass to show skin is ridiculous if there are no cultural norms to set the standard.

In regards to the Canadian politician, I think the touch-up is preposterous. Are we supposed to think that politicians are sexless barbies? I mean, come on. To consider whether or not it’s appropriate for a politician to show or not show what is essentially SPACE between two parts on her body (and relatively demurely at that) I think that is a hyper-sexual response and leads to the supposition that “women need to be covered because hetero-men are free from controlling their own impulses/urges” which takes the control of how a woman presents herself to society away from the woman. It leads to “she was raped because she was dressed like a slut therefore she deserves it”. Which is never ever true.

Women should be able to dress as they please. Period. And they shouldn’t have to suffer the weaknesses of others as a result, or be objectified as a result. And if one can’t keep your eyes to oneself, then they become some of the “unrestrained masses” who could use a dose of “just because it’s showing doesn’t mean it’s for you, or even for you to comment about”.


markowitz April 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm

“just because it’s showing doesn’t mean it’s for you, or even for you to comment about”

To me that’s like walking around with a loudspeaker and shouting “Hey everybody, don’t listen to what I am saying!”


Dirk Ebers April 19, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Breasted, good points about unintentional cleavage displays. Perhaps as author I should have specified the discussion is more about intentional displays.

I didn’t include the Canadian politician’s name, Rathika Sitsabaiesan, because few readers would have heard of her, so it seemed irrelevant. If it were, say, Nancy Pelosi, I would have mentioned the name.

And when I look at her “before” picture it’s not that I only notice her cleavage — just that I notice her cleavage. Just like I notice her necklace. It’s kind of hard not to.

As for breasts not being an erotic area or not being sexualized, now that seems absurd!


Bob mc April 19, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Let’s cut to the chase. Human existence is all about reproduction. We have evolved to analyze each others prospective reproductive qualities either consciously or unconsciously. Whether we are worried about our looks or how we look to others, it’s all about sex and mating. People who wish to deny it either have some mental or emotional issue or a bad case of sour grapes. Get over it. Boys are attracted to girls and girls are attracted to boys. One million years of evolution has made us what we are. Viva la difference!!!


k. Cisternas April 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Lame. If my eyes are drawn to what I consider an enchanting part of you, that makes me out to have a weakness? Your right to dress as you wish is respected, just as my right to look should be respected too. This is such an oppressed culture we live in. On the one hand, women revel in their womanliness; rejoice in being feminine; yet at the same time are uncomfortable with being looked at or having comments made to them. So both genders tip-toe around each other, being politically correct. And making themselves mentally ill by not expressing what is truly on their minds at the moment of encountering it. Get real. rejoice in being alive and desirable. You will have ample time to live on only memories of what could have been, had you not been so uptight about just being a woman.


Presly Deen Hollingsworth April 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm

If you’ve got it, flaunt it, male or female. If you flaunt it, expect people to look at it, after all, why else flaunt it? Jeez, grow up. As a gay man, I still admire the beauty of a nice pair of tits on a woman. Not the same way that I enjoy a fine set of pectorals on a man, but a beautiful body is a wonderful thing to see. Same with a fine ass. Get out there and enjoy life; try not to offend people but people, try not to be too easily offended! If you are uptight, it’s your problem, so STFU about it.


editordude April 19, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Dirk Ebers was just on KOGO at 95.7 FM being interviewed by Joey Blackwood at 5:35pm this early eve. Good job, Dirk. Cleavage today, gone tomorrow.


OB Mercy April 19, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Have cleavage, will show it. I’m not ashamed of it, love the reaction when I do choose to show it, and if some are offended, then they’re not having as much fun as I am!


judi Curry April 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Looking for a man – one uses any guise to get attention. Doesn’t a man do much of the same with his body? Sometimes it is impossible to purchase an outfit that doesn’t show some cleavage. My advice – look, but don’t touch without permission.


unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG April 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I love showing cleavage. I don’t shave my chest, so that’s an additional aspect of allure. Watch out for the Puritanical roots of even considering the question. Plus, there are other parts of the body w/ cleavage. Think fat plumber or large mailperson or overweight punk saggin’ baggin’ & draggin’.


Phil May 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Revealing clothing makes womens’ bodies easier to compare, which is exactly what men want. That’s still a woman’s main selling point and it will stay that way until they start to cover up. Men don’t walk around with half their chest showing. They’re usually covered from neck to toe and their clothes are usually lose fitting too. If revealing clothing isn’t good enough for men to wear, I don’t see why women should be expected to show off their wares.


Frank Gormlie May 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Phil, are you pulling a double whammy here? Are you using satire as a means to get us to think. Or, in another vein, Phil, do you live in San Diego? At the beach? Usually at the beach, men are wearing less than women – or I guess it could be a close call, pun intended. At the beach – on a nice day – many of the men are walking around with all their chest showing.


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