Wet t-shirt 1

Not Your Mama’s Beauty Pageant: A History of the Wet T-Shirt Contest

Wet t-shirt 1

Moms and dads enter their adorable tykes in those baby beauty contests everyday. Darling little girls with bouncing curls and frilly dresses are a beauty pageant staple. And who hasn’t spent a few hours in front of the TV, watching regal, tanned goddesses stroll across the stage at the Miss America Pageant or the Miss Universe Pageant? There’s something irresistible about watching lots of beautiful people, young or old, compete to decide who is the MOST beautiful. It’s just one of those quirks of human nature, even as we try to teach our kids that “it’s what’s on the inside that really matters” or “everyone is beautiful in their own way.”

The wet t-shirt contest has all the makings of a beauty pageant, combined with a heavy dose of sex appeal. Sex, in fact, is the number one draw here, with classic beauty and poise taking a back seat to plain old big boobs. No one knows exactly where the first wet t-shirt contest took place, or whose idea it was (though we can logically assume the genius was of the male gender). Some claim that the wet t-shirt contest was inspired by the opening scenes of the 1977 movie “The Deep,” in which Jacqueline Bisset swam in a t-shirt. Today the competitions are the domain of bars, nightclubs, resorts and similar establishments that are looking to draw a big crowd with the lure of sneak-a-peeks.

Wet t-shirt contests are a staple of spring break celebrations at locations such as Daytona Beach and Cancun, and typically involve lots of big-breasted young women (though male versions of the contest do exist). Participants wear white or light-colored t-shirts, tank tops or crop tops, sans bras or other undergarments. At the height of the contest, water is sprayed or poured onto the contestant (we’re pretty sure that job is one that’s not hard to fill among the men), making the material see-through and revealing the breasts. Each girl may dance or pose for the crowd, with the ultimate winner determined by crowd reaction or a panel of judges.

Wet t-shirt contests have always been viewed as risqué, and occasionally become the subject of controversy locally and nationally. In 1998, an airplane flight carrying a group of Portland, Ore., high school students to Mexico following graduation became notorious for a wet t-shirt contest held en route. Flight attendants encouraged the contest, and airline pilots supposedly acted as judges, disobeying FAA regulations that prohibited passengers in the cockpit. An investigation followed, and the pilots were disciplined for sexual misconduct.

In 2005, a 17-year-old Florida teenager brought a federal suit against Playboy, Anheuser-Busch and other companies regarding video of her appearance in a Daytona Beach wet t-shirt contest the previous year. While the girl admitted that she had lied about her age to participate, her suit claimed that as a minor she was unable to give consent to participate or be taped while performing. The suit was later settled. A similar suit was brought against Deslin Hotels, “Girls Gone Wild” and various websites in 2007, by two girls who participated in a 2001 Daytona Beach wet t-shirt contest.

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