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It’s Just A Breast!

“If you suck on a tit the movie gets an R rating. If you hack the tit off with an axe it will be PG.” This quote is commonly attributed to Jack Nicholson all over the internet, yet I had trouble verifying its authenticity. Either way, it seemed quite apropos the other day when choosing a movie for class.

Usually I don’t find it necessary to check with school administration regarding what is shown in class. Most of the time I feel fully capable of deciding what is appropriate. Yet, due to some extremely graphic violence, I thought it only prudent to discuss this particular movie to an administrator just for some cya in case a parent complained.

For the most part, scenes with abusive and/or strong language (ie. it has to be more foul than a couple of shits and fucks, it needs to be Bob Saget foul) and those with extreme brutality I consider potentially inappropriate.

The film in question contained extremely brutal battle scenes, ie. beheadings, limbs cut off, lots of blood, corpses, etc, which was my main concern. In addition to extremely graphic violence, the film contains a few brief moments of female nudity. Breasts. In total, almost 7-10 seconds of breasts.

While talking to the school administrator, they overlooked the film’s graphic violence, yet suggested I give the students a bathroom break during the breast scenes, and then fast forward while they are out of the room.

Well, the two scenes with nudity are roughly 3 minutes apart. So, in an effort to comply with school policy, I showed the movie and gave the students 2 bathroom breaks approximately 3 minutes apart. Totally normal.

Of the 2 scenes with nudity, one was a love scene between a husband and wife, the other scene showed an intoxicated woman writhing on the floor in a see-through top. The scenes lasted no more than 30 seconds each and are not overtly graphic in nature.

While the omission of the nudity in the film from my students had no real effect on class curriculum, there is an important question at stake. Why is nudity considered inappropriate yet extreme violence dismissed as totally copacetic?

You may be asking about the age of the students, however, their age is separate from the question and, actually of little concern. The problem is a societal ethos which finds nudity to be icky, and brutality the norm. That ethos seems to be rooted in religion.

As a teacher at a Catholic school, the answer is fairly clear; nudity is seen as a reminder of the association between body and sin, and women are still considered symbols for sexuality and depravity.

These stigmas, while utterly ridiculous, are relics from the beginnings of the Church and continue to be upheld by a self appointed clergy who claim to speak for all people, yet their members represent only 50% of society.

The idea of nudity being more offensive than brutality is certainly not new, and was probably not even new when Jack Nicholson allegedly made the comment above. Yet, being forced to screen a few seconds of breasts out of a graphic and utterly violent war movie suggests that we are still more willing to bare arms than breasts.

Featured image: Richard

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Richard teaches art at a Catholic school, and spends most of his days coloring and pretending he is not an atheist. He likes vintage furniture and french bulldogs.


  1. July 1, 2013 at 8:54 am —

    This question has always gotten me as well. It bothers me greatly that my child can watch spurting blood in a PG-13 Movie, yet if there’s a breast exposed the movie will get an R rating. I realize some of this has to do with American Puritanical roots, but I think we’ve moved far enough forward to perhaps rethink some of this nonsense. Of course we won’t move away from this until we can move away from the idea that Christianity should dictate how we view the world. I am rather glad I broke that prism long ago.

  2. July 1, 2013 at 4:38 pm —

    I have the same issue with the books I assign as outside reading. On the list, I put a “mature content” label on the books that have any description of sexual content or graphic violence. I have never gotten a single complaint about any of the books that describe war, even in stomach-churning detail. Each year, I expect two or three complaints about sexual content and language in outside reading books, even when it’s not graphic at all. I’m not sure what parents are worried about. Apparently, teenagers never think about sex on their own, so reading about a character having sex will make them have sexual thoughts? I worry the most when it’s students doing the complaining. I’ve had a few conversations with kids who started reading something, then came to me and asked to switch books because they said it had too much sexual content in it. I feel terribly sorry for them, because if a description of sex in a book makes them feel impure or uncomfortable, how often must they feel that about their own thoughts and desires? It’s purity culture in action.

  3. July 27, 2013 at 5:38 pm —

    And remarkably, Europe, which has a long history with religion seems to have little problem with nudity. You see it in movies, on TV, in art, in the news…and nobody frantically runs around slapping hands over their kid’s eyes.

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