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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]

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]

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.[3]

In various countries and cultures[edit]



In January 2016, mooning in a public place in Victoria was made a criminal offence.[4]

Northern Territory[edit]

A group of locals, called "Noonamah Moonies", mooned the Ghan at Livingstone Airstrip in 2004 and 2024.[5][6] The next exhibition can be expected in 2034, with the mooning happening every 10 years.[6]

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").[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 bill 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]

  • Anasyrma – The culturally framed gesture of lifting the skirt or kilt
  • Indecent exposure – Public indecency involving nudity
  • Pantsing – The act of pulling down a person's trousers
  • Streaking – Running naked through a public place
  • Upskirt – Nonconsensual photographs under a person's skirt


  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. ^ Forrest Wickman (June 27, 2012). "Mooning: A History". browbeat: Slate's culture blog. Slate.com. Retrieved July 11, 2012.
  4. ^ Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences) Act 2016 (Vic) s 24.
  5. ^ Wen, Lok Jian (March 13, 2024). "20 years on, passengers on Australia's legendary Ghan train greeted by naked bums again". The Straits Times. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  6. ^ a b Mackay, Melissa (13 March 2024). "Tourist train The Ghan is mooned again, 20 years after NT residents first downed their dacks to greet it". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  7. ^ "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. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  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". sacred-texts.com. Translated by Whiston, William. Evinity Publishing Inc.
  13. ^ "josephus/War/JWG2". www.biblical.ie. Retrieved 2024-05-13.
  14. ^ Queller, Donald E.; Madden, Thomas F.; Andrea, Alfred J. (2000). The Fourth Crusade. University of Pennsylvania Press. 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.
  15. ^ Tenzer Feldman, Ruth (2008). The Fall of Constantinople. Connecticut: Twenty-First Century Books. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-8225-5918-4.
  16. ^ d'Anghiera, Peter Martyr. "The decades of the newe worlde or west India conteynyng the nauigations and conquestes of the Spanyardes, with the particular description of the moste ryche and large landes and ilandes lately founde in the west ocean perteynyng to the inheritaunce of the kinges of Spayne." U-M Library Digital Collections. 13 July 2018.
  17. ^ Bergreen, Laurence. Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe. 2003. E-book.
  18. ^ Brotton, Jerry. "A History of the World in 12 Maps.". 13 July 2018.
  19. ^ Axtell, James (1992). Beyond 1492:Encounters in Colonial North America. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 189. ISBN 0-19-508033-5.
  20. ^ "Californians bare bottoms for passing trains". BBC News. July 11, 2010.
  21. ^ Liss, Sheldon (2005). "Mooning Amtrak Trains, Southern California USA". Archived from the original on 2006-02-04. Retrieved 2006-02-04.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ UPI (26 February 1986). "NEW ZEALAND MOON SHINES AT QUEEN". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  24. ^ Bellows, Alan (November 19, 2007). "Remember, Remember the 22nd of November", Damn Interesting. Retrieved on 2011-09-05.
  25. ^ "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.
  26. ^ "Cheeky anarchists in palace protest". BBC. August 3, 2000.
  27. ^ "Macy Gray - Manchester Apollo - 7.6.02". Designer Magazine. 7 June 2002. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  28. ^ "Moss pretended to moon crowd after scoring". ESPN. January 10, 2005. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  29. ^ Youngs, Ian (November 17, 2005). "Legends turn out for Hall of Fame". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  30. ^ "Police take no action over Barton incident". BBC Sport. October 4, 2006. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  31. ^ Adams MD, Patch (July 26, 2009). "May - July 09: Guatemala, Brazil, Gaza, DC, Albuquerque". patchadams.org. Gesundheit Institute. Archived from the original on January 28, 2010.
  32. ^ "Oh. My. God. Yvette Fielding pulls a moonie on telly tonight". heatworld.com. 10 May 2007. Archived from the original on 13 March 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  33. ^ "Yvette Fielding". YouTube. 26 December 2009. Archived from the original on 2021-12-15. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  34. ^ Malkin, Bonnie (October 24, 2011). "Queen mooned by construction worker in Brisbane". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  35. ^ "Eurovision 2017: Mooning prankster steals show draped in Australian flag | The New Daily". The New Daily. 2017-05-14. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  36. ^ "Molly Meldrum moons crowd while onstage at Elton John concert". NZ Herald. Retrieved 2023-01-17.

External links[edit]