Turning the other cheek

A potted history of mooning

1st June 2018

Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom is set to take place on 13 July and of the numerous protests, one is a little cheekier than the others.

Show Your Rump to Trump is an open Facebook event, asking Britain to protest the president in the aged and ignoble tradition of mooning.

Mooning, for the uninitiated, is the act of revealing your buttocks to someone or something that is not expecting to see buttocks.

Being doubled over adds an admirable dedication and craftsmanship to display — though it may not always be possible if the baring isn’t premeditated — but if you expose your genitals, you’ve definitely gone too far.

Dark history

From historical and scientific research — and bum-based stories generously donated by members of the public — we can begin to build a picture of exposed buttocks and their place in society.

The earliest recorded example of mooning is given to us by Romano-Jewish scholar Flavius Josephus. He details how about in 66AD, at the start of the First Roman-Jewish war, a Roman soldier mooned a number of Jewish pilgrims who had gathered for Passover.

It was a member of an occupying force insulting an invaded people, which we would not associate with modern day mooning theory

This proto-mooning is slightly different from what we would expect today. Firstly, the soldier also farted and, in defiance of comedy law, was punching down — it was a member of an occupying force insulting an invaded people — neither of which we would associate with modern day mooning theory.

The mooning caused a riot and eventual stampede that killed around 10,000 Jewish pilgrims. Since then, mooning has routinely appeared in warfare, albeit usually as a pre-battle taunt or celebration over a force repelled.

It tells the enemy that you don’t think much of them or their ability to hurt you

Bending over to reveal your backside is a perfect physical gesture that at once leaves you potentially vulnerable while insulting your opponent. It tells the enemy that you don’t think much of them or their ability to hurt you. Professional boxers — at least brave professional boxers — should moon one another at weigh-ins.

mooning barca
Barcelona harbour graffiti shows mooning often transcends language barriers 📸 Corradox

Outside of war, exposing your crack can is an act of political defiance. One contributor told The Overtake that he mooned a police helicopter during a riot. “What else can you do, when your only weapon is your lily-white buttocks?”

There could be a truth in that. When debate and democracy have failed you, the only option you may have left is to express yourself via your tuchus.

Politics

In 2000, the Movement Against Monarchy, whose goals should be self-explanatory, attempted to organise a “2,000 Bum Salute”. Deposing the monarchy might be an impossible dream, while exposing your buttocks is not only possible, it’s fairly easy.

Sadly, four thousand rebellious cheeks were reduced to just four. A heavy police presence scared off almost all of the protesters and only two dropped their trousers to confused tourists and cheering allies; such a waste of perfectly good bums.

pumpkins
Humans can be pretty silly creatures 📸 spablab

But it isn’t always how many booties you have that counts. One well-placed bum can do the job of thousands. A contributor told us how efficient her sister’s mooning was at letting her Australian hometown know what she thought of them.

“She hung her bum out the front door and yelled, ‘Hey, Raglan! Here’s what I think of you!’ The family home is on the highest block in the neighbourhood, so she had a great vantage point.”

Whilst she doesn’t go into exactly what her sister’s problem with Raglan, one set of buttocks was enough to let an entire community know about her anti-Raglan agenda. Mooning, like satire or editorial cartoons, expresses ideas — namely “here are my buttocks” and “I don’t much care for you” — very quickly.

Hilarious

But it’s not just the political clout of a naked caboose that makes it so popular. It’s also very, very funny.

There are plenty of theories about why something is or isn’t funny and it’s often said that a joke is like dissecting a frog: no one is really that interested and you end up killing the frog. So, there’s no need for us to delve too deeply into derrieres and explore the comedy that lies within, save to make a couple of quick points.

A bottom in a doctor’s office, or changing room or sexy dance you do for your partner on their birthday isn’t something that should be laughed at

Often, what is funny is what is unexpected. A joke traditionally builds a set of premises we accept, then a punchline tears those premises down. For the large part, arses are unexpected. The appearance of an arse at Christmas dinner, or a job interview or speeding past in a car is not part of most people’s day to day life.

The opposite — that an expected arse isn’t very funny — is also largely true. A bottom in a doctor’s office, or changing room or sexy dance you do for your partner on their birthday isn’t something that should be laughed at.

One of the stories that came to The Overtake is about what happened after a woman living abroad avoided the machinations of a con artist.

“She walked away and I shouted ‘scam!’ at her and went to sit down at a cafe. She stood in front of me over the road, and pulled down her trousers and bent slightly over for the ‘full moon’. I just laughed.”

Violating social norms is unexpected and can be funny, but that’s not always the case. For example, revealing that you believe reception teachers should have guns is not funny, despite being unexpected.

So, psychologists theorise the reason we laugh at mooning — an otherwise vulgar phenomena — is that we know it is ultimately harmless.

Mooning
The Mooning of the Amtrak is a popular pastime 📸 Chuck Coker

That’s not to say that mooning is without danger.

We’ve already seen that historically it has lead to deaths, but there are other less severe dangers. Social embarrassment at mooning an unintended target is a perfect example. In fact, one source says leaning up against the concert stage she caught the eye of musician Paul Young as he mooned his supporting act from the wings, only for him to subsequently avoid looking at her in the front row for his entire set.

Stabbing

The Overtake also received multiple stories of injuries sustained in the process of mooning.

His arse shattered the window and impaled him on 30cm ‘knife of his own making’

One individual, a student at the time, rushed to the window of his dorm to moon a passing friend on an important phone call. Having misjudged his speed, his arse shattered the window and impaled him on 30cm “knife of his own making”.

Similarly, another student, in an attempt to industrialise mooning, tried to photocopy his naked prat for secret distribution among the student body. After all, he was quite busy and didn’t have time to moon everyone individually. His weight shattered the surface of the photocopier and the shards tore into his cheeks in several places. Also, the copier wasn’t turned on.

The moral here is to remember to be careful when presenting your buttocks to friends, strangers, huge audiences or office devices

The moral here is to remember to be careful when presenting your buttocks to friends, strangers, huge audiences or office devices.

It’s worth noting that mooning, while a form of exhibitionism, is psychologically distinct from other types of exposure. Many other forms of exposure include some form of sexual satisfaction on behalf of the exposer. Common mooning doesn’t include this sexual element for the mooner or, depending on the bum, for the viewer.

So long as you keep your bare arse political, comically charged and completely asexual you should be fine

Mooning is seen as so sexually innocuous or so fundamentally hilarious, that it doesn’t fall under indecent exposure laws. So long as you keep your bare arse political, comically charged and completely asexual, and make certain not to accidentally expose any genital you may have in close proximity to your anus, you should be fine. However, if your commitment to mooning becomes a social inconvenience — say you simply cannot stop mooning ambulances trying to save people’s lives — you may be charged with being a public nuisance.

In the US, mooning is enshrined in the constitution and is protected under the First Amendment as an artistic form of freedom of speech. If you find yourself in the States and would like to participate in some mooning, you can take part in the annual Mooning of the Amtrak in Orange County, where hundreds of yanks travel across the country to show their “fannies”  to a passing train. God bless America.

From Brits gathering to protest an American arse to Americans gathering to show off their asses, we’ve come full circle. Throughout history, wherever tyranny and injustice have reared their ugly heads, brave souls have unleashed their ugly rears, and we need to see that now more than ever.

Mooning may not be big or clever but it a useful and hilarious tool for fun and political protest. After all, getting trumps out are what bottoms are for.

1st June 2018