Flashing Boobs For Beads At Mardi Gras Festival, Brazil (See Photos, Video)

 Flashing  Boobs For Beads At Mardi Gras Festival, Brazil (See Photos, Video)


Hear the words “Mardi Gras,” and you might picture vibrant parades and parties in New Orleans, elaborate masks and costumes, and traditional desserts like King Cake… or you might think about Mardi Gras beads. Specifically, you might think about women flashing their boobs in exchange for Mardi Gras beads. But although the image of women flashing their breasts for beads is a common one, the practice doesn’t have as long a history as you may think.

Beads have been part of Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans since the 1890s, when a “Carnival King” first threw fake jewelry to his (clothed) “subjects.” But flashing for beads didn’t begin until the 1970s. There are a few different origin stories for this behavior. Dr. Wesley Shrum, a Professor of Sociology at Louisiana State University, published his research into ritual disrobement at Mardi Gras in 1996. He discovered that flashing for beads during Mardi Gras began in the French Quarter in the mid-70s, when a nudist group decided to try to get passersby to flash them, a grown-up version of “I’ll show you mine and you show me yours,” he says.

Soon, he says, nudists began enticing would-be flashers with the promise of beads as a reward. By the early 1980s, it had become common for both men and women to flash their boobs, butts, and sometimes even genitals for beads on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. In fact, flashing for beads was so ubiquitous that by the time Dr. Shrum attended his first Mardi Gras in 1983 “it was so common that when I tried to find out when this all started, people said, ‘Oh it’s been going on forever, it’s just a Mardi Gras tradition, it started a long time ago,’” he says. “Well, it hadn’t started a long time ago, it had only been going on for around five years.”

Dr. Shrum says that it isn’t just women flashing for beads; instead, he says that people of all genders flash for beads because of the power of the free market. “Is it predominantly a female ritual?” Dr. Shrum asks. “I say no. It’s more visible, so we think about it that way, but it’s actually not the case.”

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