JEFF CORBETT: A glimpse at nudity, bikinis and string theory

I am not one to perve.

To ogle and leer is at the very least inelegant for a mature man, and it’s a base response that reduces the people ogled, who in my case would be women, to sex objects.

You may recall that the fear of being accused of seeing a woman as a sex object a couple of decades ago converted an entire generation of males to sensitive new age guys, and they’re still slinking about with eyes down.

Sowhen a fellow camper at Diamond Head on the Mid North Coast a few weeks ago remarked that he’d just seen a woman walk past my car in a bikini even briefer than a thong I made my way casually to the front of my campsite.

The evolution of the bikini has always interested me, in the sociological sense.

But she was gone, out of sight, nowhere to be seen. When she returned an hour later I happened to be polishing my bullbar and what I saw was a piece of black string.

It was about as thick as the twine you might use to tie a tomato bush to a stake or to wrap a gift.

An hour or so later when she came down the track from the other direction it just so happened that I was still polishing the bullbar and I saw that at the front two pieces of string held in place a narrow wedge of cloth.

Back and front, this was a significant step in the evolution of the bikini.

To my amazement I saw these string bikinis everywhere as I made my way up the coast, everywhere I cast my gaze, until at Byron Bay I decided to hightail it home to Newcastle before I started to look even more like Benny Hill.

It may be that this string bikini has been playing hide and seek on Newcastle’s beaches unbeknownst to me for a year or two, because I’m not a beachgoer since I came face to face with a shark straight out of a coffee table book 15 years ago, but it was a new source of wonderment for me late last month.

What forces are at work here? I mean, men are covering up more than ever, with ponderous board shorts that are heading towards the knees and with long-sleeved rash shirts, and men in budgie smugglers are deemed to have a few issues that need to be addressed professionally.

My wife and children would have such an outpouring of disgust whenever I presented in budgie smugglers that these days I spare everyone the agony.

So while men are waterlogged with clothing at the beach, women are using string to position three tiny pieces of cloth, not one of the three big enough to wipe a baby’s nose, so as to be only technically distinct from nudity.

Wolf whistlers will be arrested!

Not that I wolf whistle, and that may or may not be because I can’t whistle, although I do like to people watch.

You know, watching the passing parade, trying to guess his or her occupation, the state of the relationship of the couple walking single file, whether his or her arrogant bearing is justified, the progression of the bikini.

What next for the bikini?

If the string bikini’s coverage is merely indicative, and the bikini as clothing has been growing ever more indicative since it made its appearance 70 or so years ago, then the next step must be more indicative, perhaps a stamp of pigment applied to the three points to provide an even more tenuous illusion of modesty.

If ever you’ve seen a woman with body-paint clothing you’ll know that the image tricks the mind to see her as clothed, and if someone is perceived as dressed they are dressed, right?

The illusion does not, err, work for men.

Perhaps next in the evolution of the bikini will be simply a string around the waist, and that’s all, as worn by some tribal women in Papua New Guinea and South America. They could hang a few trinkets from the string belt.

Nudity doesn’t bother me, not even my own, and for people who want to be nude it must be a wonderful thing. I barely look, and then only selectively.

What does bother me is how to look without perving.

You’re only perving when you’re seen to be perving, otherwise you’re just looking.

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