Breast Censorship

We chat to Daria D’Beauvoix talks about her recent breach of Facebook’s ‘nudity’ rules and what this social media policing of women’s bodies really means

Feature by Jessica Walsh | 11 Aug 2014

Daria D’Beauvoix is an academic burlesque performer and feminist researcher. One of her acts, In My Celebrity Skin, sees her parody buxom blonde Barbie perfection by wearing what can only be described as a fake muff and nipples. The aim is to celebrate the realistic female body and discredit ideas of the ‘perfect woman’ and those notions of pressured self-improvement. Keeping this act in her repertoire throughout her career has been of utmost importance as she feels the message it conveys, as a feminist, is relevant and crucial. Her offending image is a projection of her act: fun, lively, and a statement for femininity. However, Facebook recently removed an image of the act for breaching their ‘nudity’ rules.

To be naked in public is not against the law in the UK, unless your nakedness is proven to be anti-social in that it is officially ‘disturbing the peace’. By acting in a way abnormal to what is socially acceptable, then, you are committing an offence. In the UK, our legal system is built by patriarchal men and women who, misguided in their view that breasts are sexual organs, cannot find anything other than sexual arousal from the female form. Complimentary? Yes. How wonderful that female bodies can stimulate such a powerful reaction. But disempowering? Perhaps. While beguiling in its entirety, the human body, both male and female, serves biological functions. The sexual enjoyment of the body can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse to humankind. It is a fine line to tread, respecting its physiological purpose while not being overshadowed by admiration of its form. 

Through her research, D’Beauvoix has found there is something of a dichotomy between censorship and opinion or perspective.  She says that, “While censorship is supposed to represent popular opinion, there is a constant bombardment of mediatised imagery and propaganda, which leads us to think that what we are being told to believe is a subjective opinion.” Art, both historical and modern, has placed the naked human form on a pedestal, so why did women’s bodies in particular, suddenly, seemingly become taboo? The Judeo-Christian ethics that have built around the shame of Adam and Eve's naked encounter in the Garden of Eden are the reason that sociologically we feel it is important to cover our bodies in cloth in public, and that it is acceptable to feel embarrassed at our naked form and uncomfortable at the sight of someone else's. Moreover, it is at the root of our disgust and guilt towards our own sexual arousal and our clandestine approach to sex. 

Sexual objectification and female disempowerment are often arguments thrown around when I ask artists why public platforms such as Facebook take issue with the sight of female breasts. They explain to me how disempowering it is to dictate to an entire female population what they can and cannot do with their breasts, and how insulting it is to assume that men and women cannot enjoy a piece of bare-breasted art, without (shamefully) feeling aroused.

D’Beauvoix has frequently fallen victim to the Facebook censorship rules, serving time for ‘nudity and pornography breaches’. Her parody fake muff and fake nips caused enough offence to the online audiences that her images were removed and her account suspended. I ask Daria if she thinks there is a level of discrimination that exists in the policing of social media sites and if so, where she thinks that discrimination lies. She explains that, in her experience, offence is generally taken at images that are misshapen and do not fit the media-dictated beauty ideal. 

She says, “I often see images of models where they are showing most of their what I call ‘muff mound’ [where pubic hair once was, but has been shaven] and no-one bats an eyelid because it’s perceived as ‘sexy’. If I did the same photographic shot, my muff mound would be covered in pubic hair because I choose not to shave. This image would cause an outcry, people would be disgusted, and I would most certainly get reported and banned. It’s only hair for muff's sake.”

D’Beauvoix accepts that, in reality, freedom of naked expression has its restrictions, and in order to function in society one must adopt characters and uniforms with which to conform. She says, “I want to be able to dance about in the nude and embrace my body, explore what it can do and how it can look, be beautiful, be ugly, not be restricted by clothes.

“It frustrates me that I can’t do this in all realms of my life. Through photography I plan to do a few nude self-portrait projects. It’s just a shame I won’t be able to share it with anyone. Unless I do it anonymously, and of course, not on Facebook – or most social networking sites for that matter  – because that would be un-social of me.”