Boobs vs moobs: British court ruling sparks censorship debate


Posted at May 16 2008 09:25 PM | Updated as of May 17 2008 05:25 AM

Agence France-Presse

LONDON - A British court ruling that it is legal to ogle a man's chest but not a woman's breasts triggered a lively online debate about censorship on Friday.

The case emerged after a court last year found Kevin Bassett, 44, guilty under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act after he secretly filmed a man in his swimming trunks at a swimming pool.

But lawyers for the care home worker argued that the man's chest did not constitute "private parts" under the act, which referred only to women's breasts in such terms.

This was the case even if the man in question was obese, and had "man breasts" or "moobs," they said, cited by The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

A judge this week agreed, quashing the ruling because the judge in the initial case had failed properly to explain to the jury the difference between breasts and chest.

"The intention of parliament was to mean female breasts and not an exposed male chest," said Lord Justice Anthony Hughes. "The former are still private -- amongst 21st century bathers -- the second is not.

"This act didn't mean to refer to the male chest but only to female breasts, it follows that the judge's directions on the meaning of breasts was erroneous," he said.

The Daily Telegraph report of the ruling drew varying views on the broadsheet's website.

"So it is OK for women to shamelessly flaunt their bodies, but illegal for men to look at them? Stupid," said one commentator, identified as Tom.

"Photographing another man in a swimming pool with a camera hidden in a plastic bag can now be considered 'normal' behaviour. Where will it all end -- think I'll emigrate!" added another, Douglas Tuck.

"Mom-o-3" had a more detailed take on the subject: "If a woman is flat chested can she go topless? It seems to me the ruling is about the amount of fatty tissue OVER the pectoral muscles not the muscles themselves."

John P was dismissive of the whole debate. "There is so much immature twaddle about sex in England I don't wonder that both sexes get psychologically twisted."