I was in Paris last weekend reading a copy of the French magazine "Elle" and the cover headline was "La Fin du Topless sur la Plage" with an article saying that fewer and fewer French women are prepared to bare their breasts on the beach which for a country that invented the trend for topless sunbathing is a major change in attitude. Apparently in a survey of women under 35 only 2% said they would go topless. By contrast, when flying back from France a woman was sitting in the departure lounge breast feeding her baby and it struck me how attitudes to and willingness for exposure of the female breast have changed over time.
In classical civilisations, such as in Greece and Egypt for example at the time of Cleopatra, many woman were either bare breasted wearing just a short kilt or the breast partly exposed wearing a drape and this can be seen in sculpture and painting and the human form was celebrated, for example the competitors in the ancient Olympic games were always naked. In African society, even today, the bare breast is part of their culture. Every year Zulu virgins from all over southern Africa gather together to take part in the traditional "cane dance" held at the royal residence of King Goodwill Zwelithini and dance bare breasted in celebration of their maidenhood. I have some difficulty in imagining the same thing happening in front of Buckingham Palace!
European society is much more complex by contrast. In Tudor times, it was the fashion amongst the aristocracy and well to do for women to wear corsets and stomachers to flatten the abdomen and push their breasts upwards and out of their low cut dresses to expose their nipples which they coloured with red pigmentation. Apparently the French ambassador expressed his surprise at having an audience with and seeing Queen Elizabeth I with her breasts exposed. Although their was a period of cover up during the Civil War at the behest of the puritans by the time of the restoration, the fashion for women to bare their breasts continued until the advent of the Victorian era when such exposure was frowned upon and ceased.
It was not until the nineteen sixties that swimwear became gradually more minimalistic with the advent of the bikini that the fashion to go topless on the beaches of Europe coupled with the introduction of new fabrics to show the breast such as see through blouse and cut away tops came back into society and of course there is the daily topless girl on page 3 of the Sun newspaper, but may be whilst women want the unfettered right to go topless in public they do not really want to do so.
In neo Tantra and Indian art, the goddesses are always depicted bare breasted and this tradition is continued in the modern Tantric massage with the therapists always topless to heighten the aura of sensuality which is so important in creating the right environment for that truly relaxing and awakening experience.