A long struggle for equal gender rights

Guys have breasts too, and if they are allowed to show them, so should women.

At least that’s what a recent University graduate has been trying to prove through topless escapades and legal action.

In September 2005, Lorien Bourne, 35, now a University graduate, was cited with disorderly conduct for hosting a topless picnic at City Park in protest of an indecent conduct and exposure charge she received two months prior for roller blading topless down the Slippery Elm bike trail. Last month Bourne appealed her City Park citation to the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Toledo on the grounds that a sexist double standard exists.

Bourne said she hopes her case will set some sort of precedent that sexual double standards are wrong, and that there be one coherent law that applies to both men and women.

City Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Reger said Bourne was cited on solid legal ground and her actions caused an inconvenience, annoyance or an alarm to the families in the park.

“In society we have found a difference between a woman being topless and a man being topless,” Reger said. “And society has defined that it is offensive. There are differences in men and women in the physique and the state has the authority to monitor displays that they deem offensive.”

But Bourne disagrees with society’s norms and believes male breasts should be considered just as offensive as female breasts.

“I know lots of females and gay males that think [male breasts] are so sexy, just like females, it’s just absolutely ridiculous,” Bourne said. “Males and females both have breast tissues, women just have more. They both have nipples, they both are erogenous zones. Men and women’s nipples both get hard, both are erogenous zones, both are attractive.”

Bourne also feels she was a victim of selective enforcement of the law and pointed out “Girls Gone Wild” as an example.

“Do you remember when “Girls Gone Wild” came to BG? It’s OK for the benefit of men for women to be sexualized like that but a girl can’t walk down the trail topless because it’s hot out,” Bourne said. “As long as it’s for the pleasure of men, it’s OK for women to go topless.”

Bourne’s attorney, Rodney Fleming, managing attorney at Student Legal Services, said it is Bourne’s first amendment right to express displeasure of unequal rights between men and women.

“Lorien isn’t just opening a way for women to go topless. If you narrow it to that you’re missing the point she’s trying to accomplish here,” Fleming said. “It’s bigger than that; why are women in our society treated as second class citizens and looked at as sexual objects constantly in our society?”

Though she acknowledged being topless in the presence of families during the picnic, Bourne doesn’t believe her actions caused any harm to the children.

Instead, she thinks it may have helped them.

“I think it doesn’t do damage to the kids. I think it’s social brainwashing that little girls learn that their bodies are bad. If they constantly see women covering up, it’s like little girls are going to be ashamed of their body,” Bourne said. “I think I did the kids a favor. As far as the City Park goes, it was the adults that had the problem.”