News & Opinion | August 27, 2021 1:24 pm

Are France’s Nude Beaches Going Out of Style?

A recent survey suggests French women are less interested in topless sunbathing than they were in decades past

Woman lying facedown on the beach with her bikini top undone
French sunbathers are covering up.
Siri Stafford/Getty Images

France has long been known for its enviably unrestrained sexual mores and lax approach to public nudity, particularly when it comes to topless sunbathing on the nation’s famed nude beaches. According to a recent survey, however, it seems the country’s notoriously bare-breasted sunbathers are more inclined to cover up these days, with interest in full-body sunbathing on a significant decline.

Conducted in honor of “National Sunbathing Day” — which, in case you missed it, was yesterday, apparently — a survey from French pollster Ifop found that just 19 percent of breast-having sunbathers in the country still feel comfortable going topless in public. That’s down from 34 percent who were fine with stripping down in 2009, and 40 percent who were down to soak up some rays in the nude back in 1980, according to French outlet Le Parisien.

So why the conservative shift for the presumably liberated sunbathers of France’s nude beaches? For one thing, there are safety concerns. Whether or not the world is a more dangerous place today than it was a few decades ago, women seem to be increasingly wary of sexual predators these days, perhaps due in part to mounting evidence in recent years suggesting sexual predators are perhaps more widespread than previously acknowledged — particularly among powerful and often respected male figures. According to the survey, 48 percent of women who said they weren’t into going topless named physical safety their top concern, expressing fears of being harassed, attacked or otherwise violated while trying to enjoy some bare-breasted fun in the sun.

Another thing topless sunbathers of today have to worry about that their bare-chested predecessors didn’t in the ’80s? Smart phones and social media. Gone are the days when one could strip down in public without having to worry about strangers snapping photos and posting them online for the world to see. According to the survey, 46 percent of women said they feared nude photos being taken without their consent and/or published online.

Knowledge of the dangers sun exposure has also increased significantly in recent decades, prompting many women to opt out of nude sunbathing over healthy concerns of skin cancer and sun damage. After all, no one wants burned tits. According to the survey, 53 percent of women said they’d rather cover up than risk exposing their breasts to any unnecessary sun damage.

But while topless sunbathing may be falling out of fashion on French beaches, naturism appears to be on the rise elsewhere. As Josh Sims wrote for InsideHook earlier this month, nudism has taken over a new generation in the form of nude comedy nights, bike rides and dining events throughout the western world. Trends come and go, but getting naked never truly goes out of style.