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Illustration of a woman raising her dress and mooning a nun (1905)

Mooning is the act of displaying one's bare buttocks by removing clothing, e.g., by lowering the backside of one's trousers and underpants, usually bending over, and also potentially exposing the genitals. Mooning is used in the English-speaking world to express protest, scorn, disrespect, or for provocation, but mooning can be done for shock value, for fun, as a joke or as a form of exhibitionism. The Māori have a form of mooning known as Whakapohane that is a form of insult.

Some jurisdictions regard mooning to be indecent exposure, sometimes depending on the context.

Word history[edit]

A comparison of the full moon to the exposed buttocks

Moon has been a common shape metaphor for the buttocks in English since 1743, and the verb to moon has meant "to expose to (moon)light" since 1601.[1] As documented by McLaren, "'mooning', or exposing one's butt to shame an enemy ... had a long pedigree in peasant culture" throughout the Middle Ages, and in many nations.[2] "Mooning" is also defined as "wandering idly" and "romantically pining".[3]

Although the practice of mooning was widespread by the 19th century, the Oxford English Dictionary dates the use of "moon" and "mooning" to describe the act to student slang of the 1960s, when the gesture became increasingly popular among students at universities in the United States.[4]

Legal status[edit]

The legal position related to mooning varies between jurisdictions; some consider it indecent exposure, while others classify it as legal self expression.

In various countries and cultures[edit]



In January 2016, mooning in a public place in Victoria was made a criminal offence/something for which one could be punished.[5]

New Zealand[edit]

Whakapohane is the Māori practice of baring one's buttocks with the intent to offend. It symbolises the birthing act and renders the recipient noa ("base").[6] In 1917, Mihi Kotukutuku Stirling stood on a marae (sacred area) at Rotorua and the chief of the Te Arawa tribes, Mita Taupopoki, objected, telling her that she must get off his marae as she was a woman.

She stood her ground. When he had finished his objections, she defended her position. She said that she was descended from a prior-born ancestor than the chief. She was not on his marae; she was on her marae. She turned her backside towards the audience and exposed her buttocks and genitals,[6] telling the chief that that was where he came from. Those assembled were asked to gainsay her speech but no one came forward. The Maori gesture of whakapohane had countered the argument that was aimed at her.[7]

United States[edit]


Students at Stanford University conduct a "mass mooning" in May 1995. This demonstration was in protest of censorship in the American media.

In January 2006, a Maryland state circuit court determined that mooning is a form of artistic expression protected by the First Amendment as a form of speech.[8][9]

The court ruled that indecent exposure relates only to exposure of the genitals, adding that even though mooning was a "disgusting" and "demeaning" act to engage in, and had taken place in the presence of a minor, "If exposure of half of the buttocks constituted indecent exposure, any woman wearing a thong at the beach at Ocean City would be guilty."[8]

Defense attorneys had cited a case from 1983 of a woman who was arrested after protesting in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building wearing nothing but a cardboard sign that covered the front of her body. In that case, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals had ruled that indecent exposure is limited to a person's genitalia. No review of the case by a higher court took place since prosecutors dropped the case after the ruling.


In December 2000, in California, the California Court of Appeal found that mooning does not constitute indecent exposure (and therefore does not subject the defendant to sex offender registration laws), unless it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the conduct was sexually motivated.[10]

Notable incidents[edit]

The Papal Belvedere by Lucas Cranach the Elder in the 1545 publication of Martin Luther's Depiction of the Papacy: German peasants respond to a papal bull of Pope Paul III. Caption reads: "The Pope speaks: Our sentences are to be feared, even if unjust. Response: Be damned! Behold, o furious race, our bared buttocks. Here, Pope, is my 'belvedere'"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nester, Daniel (2009). How to be Inappropriate. Counterpoint Press. ISBN 978-1593762537.
  2. ^ McLaren, Angus (1997). The Trials of Masculinity: Policing Sexual Boundaries, 1870-1930. University of Chicago Press. p. 186. ISBN 9780226500690.
  3. ^ "Moon". The Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-02-03.
  4. ^ Forrest Wickman (June 27, 2012). "Mooning: A History". browbeat: Slate's culture blog. Retrieved July 11, 2012.
  5. ^ Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences) Act 2016 (Vic) s 24.
  6. ^ a b "Part 3 - A Collection of Behaviours, Philosophies, Emotions and Cultural Influences". He Hinatore ki te Ao Maori: A Glimpse into the Maori World. New Zealand Ministry of Justice. March 2001. p. 141. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  7. ^ Anne Salmond (24 July 2017). Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds. Auckland University Press. pp. 526–. ISBN 978-1-77558-923-5.
  8. ^ a b Londoño, Ernesto (January 4, 2006). "Mooning Deemed 'Disgusting' but No Crime in Md". Washington Post. p. B01. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  9. ^ "Judge rules 'mooning' is not illegal in Md". The News Journal, redistributed from the Associated Press. January 6, 2006. p. B6.
  10. ^ "In re Dallas W. (2000) 85 Cal. App. 4th 937 [102 Cal.Rptr.2d 493]".
  11. ^ Bloom, James J. (2010). The Jewish Revolts Against Rome, A.D. 66-135: A Military Analysis. McFarland. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-7864-4479-3.
  12. ^ Josephus, Flavius (1737). "The Wars Of The Jews Or The History Of The Destruction Of Jerusalem, Book II, Chapter 12". Translated by Whiston, William. Evinity Publishing Inc.
  13. ^ Queller, Donald E.; Madden, Thomas F.; Andrea, Alfred J. (2000). The Fourth Crusade. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-8122-1713-1. As the ships pulled away from the shore the Greeks on the walls hooted and jeered at the defeated attackers. Some of them let down their clouts and showed their bare buttocks in derision to the fleeing foe.
  14. ^ Tenzer Feldman, Ruth (2008). The Fall of Constantinople. Connecticut: Twenty-First Century Books. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-8225-5918-4.
  15. ^ "Battle of Crécy". California Archery. 2002. Archived from the original on April 30, 1998. Retrieved February 4, 2006.
  16. ^ Jarymowycz, Roman Johann (2007). Cavalry from Hoof to Track. Praeger. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-275-98726-8. Retrieved 2011-09-05.
  17. ^ Axtell, James (1992). Beyond 1492:Encounters in Colonial North America. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 189. ISBN 0-19-508033-5.
  18. ^ "Californians bare bottoms for passing trains". BBC News. July 11, 2010.
  19. ^ Liss, Sheldon (2005). "Mooning Amtrak Trains, Southern California USA". Archived from the original on 2006-02-04. Retrieved 2006-02-04.
  20. ^ Kay, Mike; The Spark editorial board (30 March 2011). "Book Review "Whakapohane"". The Spark. Workers Party of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 8 February 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  21. ^ UPI (26 February 1986). "NEW ZEALAND MOON SHINES AT QUEEN". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  22. ^ Bellows, Alan (November 19, 2007). "Remember, Remember the 22nd of November", Damn Interesting. Retrieved on 2011-09-05.
  23. ^ "Officials Charge Hikers Who Moon Cog Railway". WLBZ 2. Associated Press. November 15, 2007. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  24. ^ "Cheeky anarchists in palace protest". BBC. August 3, 2000.
  25. ^ "Macy Gray - Manchester Apollo - 7.6.02". Designer Magazine. 7 June 2002. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  26. ^ "Moss pretended to moon crowd after scoring". ESPN. January 10, 2005. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  27. ^ Youngs, Ian (November 17, 2005). "Legends turn out for Hall of Fame". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  28. ^ "Police take no action over Barton incident". BBC Sport. October 4, 2006. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  29. ^ Adams MD, Patch (July 26, 2009). "May - July 09: Guatemala, Brazil, Gaza, DC, Albuquerque". Gesundheit Institute. Archived from the original on January 28, 2010.
  30. ^ "Oh. My. God. Yvette Fielding pulls a moonie on telly tonight". 10 May 2007. Archived from the original on 13 March 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  31. ^ "Yvette Fielding". YouTube. 26 December 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  32. ^ Malkin, Bonnie (October 24, 2011). "Queen mooned by construction worker in Brisbane". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  33. ^ "Eurovision 2017: Mooning prankster steals show draped in Australian flag | The New Daily". The New Daily. 2017-05-14. Retrieved 2017-05-17.

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