According to a Megafon poll conducted for Politiken and TV2, just four percent of Danish women sunbathe topless. A full 85 percent say that they never or only very rarely take their tops off on a public beach.
That represent a significant change from previous generations, when Danish women were much more likely to be topless at the beach. According to the survey, nearly half of respondents between the ages of 40 and 69 said that they used to bathe topless but do it no more.
Those least likely to appear topless were women between the ages of 18 and 39. Roughly three out of five in that age group said that they have never been on the beach without a bikini top.
Louise Vinther Alis, 35, told The Local that she doesn't go topless even though it was the norm in her childhood.
“My mum always went topless during the summer – even inside. But these days there is a higher body image standard in all the advertising that is directed at women. Not just ads for plastic surgery but also those that ask us if we have 'a beach body'. I know for a fact that my mum did not include that term in her vocabulary,” Alis said.
Alis said that the rise of social media also plays a factor, as younger women may be worried that someone will snap a topless photo of them and upload it to the internet.
She said that the changing attitudes towards women’s breasts can also be seen in the debate about public breastfeeding.
“Natural breasts no longer seem welcome in public. Only the perfect, Photshopped and surgically-enlarged erotic ones are,” she told The Local.
Finally, she said that it is human nature to try to fit in with the herd.
“If I was on a beach where 30 percent or more were topless I would probably do it as well. I'm not inhibited in any way, but if you are the only one topless in any situation you start feeling like an exhibitionist,” Alis said.
Karen Sjørup, a gender researcher at Roskilde University, agreed that the pressures that modern women face to have a seemingly perfect body have changed their attitudes.
“When we took off our bras in the 1970s, it was a revolt against the stereotypes of how women’s bodies should look. ‘Now we will show ourselves as we are, with saggy breasts and crooked toes,’ as one of the women’s liberation songs from those days said. Since them, we have been fed an unequivocal picture of how beautiful breasts should look,” she told Politiken.
“Despite our liberation, we were subjected to the pressures of eternal youth and marketable,” Sjørup added.