Wet T-shirt contest
A wet T-shirt contest is a competition involving exhibitionism, typically featuring young women contestants at a nightclub, bar, or resort. They have traditionally been a staple of college spring break celebrations at locations such as Daytona Beach and Cancún.
Contestants generally wear white or light-colored T-shirts without bras, bikini tops, or other garments beneath. Water (often ice water) is then sprayed or poured onto the participants' chests, causing their T-shirts to turn translucent and cling to their breasts. Contestants may take turns dancing or posing before the audience, with the outcome decided either by crowd reaction or by judges' vote.
In racier contests, participants may tear or crop their T-shirts to expose midriffs, cleavage, or the undersides of their breasts. Depending on local laws, participants may or may not be allowed to remove their T-shirts or strip completely naked during their performance.
In the United States, skiing filmmaker Dick Barrymore claims in his memoir Breaking Even to have held the first wet T-shirt contest at Sun Valley, Idaho's Boiler Room Bar in January 1971, as part of a promotion for K2 skis. The contest was promoted as a simple "T-shirt contest" in which airline stewardesses would dance to music wearing K2 promotional T-shirts. However, the first contestant to appear was a professional stripper who danced topless and the amateur contestants responded by drenching their T-shirts before competing. Barrymore held a second "K2 Wet T-Shirt Contest" in the Rusty Nail at Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont in order to film it, despite the fact that Stowe City Council had passed a resolution banning nudity at the event. He held another promotional contest for K2 on 10 March 1971 at Aspen, Colorado's The Red Onion restaurant and bar, and the contests were featured in a pictorial in the March 1972 issue of Playboy.
The first known mention of the term Wet T-shirt contest in the press occurred in 1975 in The Palm Beach Post, describing the contest's appearance at New Orleans discotheques. The contest subsequently became established at spring break events in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with some bar owners being fined under public indecency laws for holding one. Jacqueline Bisset's appearance in the 1977 film The Deep, where she swam underwater wearing only a T-shirt for a top, helped to bring the wet T-shirt contest to broader public awareness. On Frank Zappa's 1979 album Joe's Garage the track "Fembot in a Wet T-Shirt" tells of Mary from Canoga Park who takes part in a wet T-shirt contest in order to raise money to return home after being abandoned by a rock group in Miami.
The Spanish festival of La Tomatina, a large public tomato fight where participants become soaked with juice from tomatoes, has been suggested as another possible origin of the wet T-shirt contest, although La Tomatina began in 1945.
In 1983 the King & Spalding law firm in Atlanta asked women summer interns attending that firm's annual picnic to participate in a wet T-shirt contest. The proposed contest was replaced with a swimsuit competition and the winner was promised a permanent job on graduation. Some participants said they felt humiliated but did not protest because they were candidates for jobs with the firm. The Wall Street Journal included details of the event in a front page article on sex discrimination in large law firms. The fact that a wet T-shirt contest was proposed led to the case being used to demonstrate institutional sexism in law firms.
In 1997, teenagers from Portland, Oregon, celebrating the completion of high school held a wet T-shirt contest on a Boeing 727 en route to a Mexican resort, with a flight attendant encouraging the activity. An FAA investigation followed, as pilots supposedly judged the contest on the flight deck, disregarding rules that passengers are not allowed in the cockpit. A video showed contestants emerging from the cockpit wearing wet T-shirts. The FAA disciplined the pilots for sexual misconduct.
Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of underaged contestants who lied about their age to participate in wet T-shirt contests.
In 2002, the parents of teenager Monica Pippin brought a federal lawsuit against Playboy Entertainment, Anheuser-Busch, Deslin Hotels, Best Buy, and other companies relating to her appearance the previous year in a Daytona Beach wet T-shirt contest, at which time she had been a 16-year-old high school student. Pippin had danced topless during the contest and had allowed men to pour jugs of water over her bare breasts. After footage of her performance began to appear in videos and on cable television, a neighbor alerted Pippin's parents, who retained a lawyer. Although Pippin admitted in court that she had lied to contest organizers about her age, her attorney claimed that, as a minor, she was unable to give informed consent to perform or be filmed topless. Pippin settled with Anheuser-Busch and Playboy in April 2006.
In a similar suit in 2007, two women sued Deslin Hotels, Girls Gone Wild, and various websites that published footage of their appearance in another 2001 Daytona Beach contest. The two girls, who were both sixteen at the time, had been filmed exposing their breasts, buttocks, and pubic areas. Like Pippin, they had lied about their age to gain admission to the contest.
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- Media related to Wet T-shirt contests at Wikimedia Commons