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THE TOPLESS MAN
"Long time ago when we was fab"


Today I was moved to contemplate the topless man. Not a particular topless man, but the topless man in general, although it is true that my mind has been set in motion by a particular topless man, the man being a man called Wahbi Mohammed, who is the brother of a man called Ramzi Mohammed, who apparently tried to blow up a train on the London Underground near Oval Station on the Northern Line. As someone who used to be a regular London commuter on the London London Underground, I can sympathise with a desire to destroy the London Underground, and to exterminate everyone who uses it; but my plans involved the cleansing blast of nuclear fire, or the sterile wash of nerve gas, and were entirely hypothetical.

Wahbi Mohammed is topless, on the front cover of The Sun. He is surrounded by the headline "GOT THE BASTARDS", and there is a confused expression on his face. He is topless. The police ordered him to take off his clothes, or they would shoot him. They probably intended for him to be humiliated in front of the media. But the opposite has occurred. Standing, in his underwear, in the front door of his flat in North Kensington, this topless man radiates with the energy of all topless men, a potent combination of strength and vulnerability. Standing there, he represents all men, everywhere, since the dawn of time; a mixture of hard muscle and soft flesh. He has nipples. He is huggable. But he is a weapon, his body is a weapon; and it is a comfort, a soft pillow upon which a woman can rest her head. He has hugged, and been hugged, his flesh has offered comfort to others.

The topless woman is a debased currency, and does not interest me. Despite their ubiquity in the media, I seldom see topless women in real life. The women I see tend not to be topless. I have observed them at great length, and they remain so. I can conclude that toplessness is not a natural condition of womanhood. No. In contrast, the topless man is commonplace. At least once a day I see one topless man, myself, as I shower myself in the morning. I often pause to contemplate my toplessness. I feel... a surprising sense of power, of masculine energy, as I stand in front of the mirror, contemplating my own topless body. I lament for those who will never see the upper half of my naked form; these people will never experience the ecstasy I feel. Rarely do I see the lower half of my naked body, for the bathroom mirror is not full-length, and I do not like to concern myself with that part of myself.

I cannot remember the first time I saw a topless man, I cannot remember my reactions to this event. Yet I well remember the last time I saw a topless man, in the flesh; it was last week, I cannot remember which day, but I remember the event. He was walking along the street, accompanied with a male friend. I contemplated him from afar. I wanted to reach him, to congratulate him on his courage, in displaying his thin physique to the world; a physique which was unimpressive by the impossible standards set by the media and by Hollywood, where topless men are buffed, bronzed, steroidal Adonii. No, instead this man - really, he was a boy - this man-child was striking a blow for normality, with his withered arms and pale skin. He was not ashamed to be himself, in view of others. I could not bring myself to make contact with this topless man, however, and he passed on and the moment was lost. Perhaps, in the past, many years ago, I might have been that man. But my body is no longer firm, instead it wobbles. Years of alcohol and food have made me resemble Wahbi Mohammed, with his mixture of confusion and surprise at having to appear topless to the world. Would the police have shot him, if he had not disrobed? In a world of nudist fundamentalists, would it be an offence to wear clothes? Who will topple the topless man?

And what is a man, if not a topless man? A man who covers his upper body in clothes is not a man at all, he is limited, he is a humble man, he is not a man made in the image of God, he is a weak man, weak. Strong men throughout history have empowered themselves with toplessness; the topless man dares the observer to react, he double-dares the observer the react. I ask you - yes, reader, you - what is your reaction to the topless man? If you are a man, why are not you not topless at this point in time? If you are a woman, I spurn you, for you cannot known the joy of being topless to the world, without fear of prosecution. In the eyes of the law, the woman's body is indecent, grounds for prosecution. The topless man is not indecent, and can function in all contexts. In the street, at the beach, in the boardroom, the bedroom, whilst performing a hip replacement operation, whilst driving a bus. Toplessness is not barrier to a man, whereas women are constrained by their breasts, which swing about and get in the way.

Many observers have contemplated the presence of nipples on a topless man. A man's nipples do not lactate, and they are not sexually arousing. As I rub my own nipples, I feel nothing except a vague ticklishness, and a sense of unease; what if someone were to witness me rubbing my nipples? What would they think of me, to see me, sitting here, writing about topless men, whilst rubbing my nipples? I damn these people, these imaginary observers, for forcing me to moderate my behaviour. If I want to rub my nipples, I should be allowed to do so without fear of mockery or assault. I would like to rub my nipples. But I am prevented from doing so by my own fear, my own inhibitions. To this end I believe that alcohol may have the power to free men's nipples, just as Dr Timothy Leary once believed that LSD would usher in a new age of earth. When I am absorbed in the pursuit of alcoholic freedom, when my liver has absorbed a sufficient quantity of alcohol that I am no longer held captive by the bounds of conventional behaviour or morality, only then will I be able to rub my nipples without fear of discovery. I may well be mocked and ridiculed and spurned, but I will no longer care, because it will be them, the others, the mockers, they will be wrong and I will be... not right, exactly, but just am. But alcohol is itself a constraining force, for it taxes the bladder. There is no freedom.

There is a substantial overlap between the topless man and the bearded man; and by bearded, I include chest hair, for it is of a similar consistency and, with time, joins with the hair of the lower neck to form a consistent, continuous mat of man-hair. Both the topless and the bearded man are symbols of pure and true masculinity. Whilst a woman may be topless, albeit lacking the same iconic power as the topless man, no woman may be bearded, for a bearded woman is a man. Only a man may be a bearded, topless man, only a man is capable of amplifying his sexual identity with facial hair, and with toplessness. Primitive man wore the hides of vanquished animals as a means of amplifying the power of his own skin. I am content to wear a shirt and tie, and when I am in a casual mood I like to wear a t-shirt and a fleece top, or jumper as they used to be called. Only when I am safe from the outside world do I feel confident enough to be topless. Only when I am safe at home, in front of my computer, when I am surfing the internet. Only then can I be topless, or when it is very warm, I become... naked.

But as I sit here, lost in an alcoholic haze, topless, unshaven, surfing the internet, I think to myself; I am a man. I create, and I destroy. Society should tremble before me. And yet it does not. There is something sick, something wrong with society.

Take this, brother. May it serve you well.

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