Why French women are abandoning topless sunbathing

Young women in France are far less likely to sunbathe topless than previous generations, a new study has revealed - which points to various factors behind the tendency to stay covered up.

Why French women are abandoning topless sunbathing
Photo: AFP

The survey by respected French polling agency Ifop has confirmed that going topless in France is steadily going out of fashion.

Only 19 percent of French women under the age of 50 say they regularly sunbathe topless in France compared to 29 percent three years ago and 43 percent of women back in 1984.

“Our study confirms that the practice of wearing a monokini (the bottom half of a bikini) has plummeted in France,” said Ifop's François Kraus.

For Kraus the reasons for the decline in the number of women deciding to sunbathe semi-naked on France's beaches is partly due to the health risks of the sun on the skin which have been well publicised in recent years.

But that's not the only reason.

“For people under 25, it is the fear of leering eyes and for 51 percent of them it's the fear of being the object of an attack (verbal, physical or sexual). We can talk about a MeToo effect at the beach,” he said.

Another reason women are keeping the top halves of their bikinis on, according to the study, was to avoid negative comments or looks about their physique.

In an interview with Liberation newspaper researcher Janine Mossuz-Lavau detailed a number of reasons for the trend to remain covered in France.

“For the women of the 60s and 70s going to the beach topless was a way to show that they were liberated from patriarchy, sexual restraint,” she said.

READ ALSO: Au naturel – The rules for taking your clothes off in France

“But for the current generation, women consider themselves sufficiently liberated to no longer have to prove it.

“It has become part of their daily life so they don't have to prove it.

“I have found in my surveys, but also by observing people on the beaches and at the edges of pools, that teenage girls do not like to show their bodies so much. They sometimes wear one-piece swimsuits more often than older generations.

“This tends to be the fashion.”

While the researcher agrees that the fear of being pestered dissuades some women in France from going topless, this has always been the case even when the “monokini” was at the height of fashion.

“Some women do not dare to go to the beach topless because they are embarrassed by men's eyes and fear being bothered,” she said.

“But this has always been the case since the 60s and 70s.”

The fear among younger women of being snapped topless by someone with a smartphone and having the pictured shared among their social circles may also put many off, Mossuz-Lavau said.

The survey also threw up another interesting stat that goes against what the stereotype.

“The main point this survey reveals is that contrary to what one might believe, French women are more “modest” than their neighbors,” writes the site which first published the study.

While 22 percent of French women say they have sunbathed topless, the figure was far higher in Germany where 34 percent of women had gone topless and far behind Spain where 48 percent of women say they had removed the top half of the bikini on beaches.

In Italy the number of women who had gone topless was 15 percent, less than in Britain where 19 percent of women had opted for the “monokini” at some point.

But the decline in the number of women going topless is reflected throughout Europe – apart from Spain where the trend remains consistently strong.

Within France itself it's no surprise perhaps to find out that women in the south, particularly region of Provence-Alpes Côte d'Azur are far more likely (36 percent) to go topless than those in the north (just 7 percent in the Hauts-de-France).

Presumably the weather plays a small role in those regional differences.



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What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer


But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.