In the opening chapter of Blinded by the Night, as Toyoda returns to the pub, he is greeted by the sight of a foreigner’s bare buttocks. The practice of dropping one’s pants, bending over and displaying one’s buttocks is called mooning.
In some cultures, mooning is a form of protest, contempt, or irritation; in others it is used to shock or amuse. Although mooning is usually considered impolite and offensive, it is practiced by a wide range of people from all sorts of backgrounds in different parts of the world.
There are numerous mentions of mooning throughout history. In 1346, during the Hundred Years War, hundreds of French soldiers mooned the English army at the Battle of Caen. This was a painful mistake for many of them because the English archers were armed with very powerful and accurate longbows, and they seized the opportunity for a free shot at the French buttocks.
Mooning was first recorded in North America in around 1524, when the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano and his crew were mooned by Native Americans of the Abenaki tribe along the coast of Maine . Verrazzano was astonished by the “barbarous” behavior of the natives and called the state of Maine “onde la male gente” (land of the bad people). The Abenaki, however, had previous contact with Europeans and did not think very highly of them. Mooning Verrazzano and his crew was the Abenaki’s unequivocal way of telling the Europeans exactly what they thought of them.
According to legend, in 1534 the city of Nice in southern France was saved from the Turkish invaders by a local washerwoman, Catherine Ségurane, who mooned them from the walls of the city. Although there is no evidence to support this legend, the people of Nice celebrate Catherine Ségurane Day annually on November 25.
Members of the British royal family have been victims of mooning incidents in recent years. Queen Elizabeth II was mooned by a Maori while on a visit to New Zealand. Tame Iti, a Maori activist and serial mooner, claimed that mooning was a traditional Maori form of protest and not indecent exposure. And in 2000 an event called the Moon against the Monarchy took place outside Buckingham Palace in London. A large group of people gathered to protest against the Royal Family by mooning the palace, and some of them were arrested for doing so.
In the United States there is even an annual event to celebrate the practice of mooning. The Annual Mooning of Amtrak is now in its 28th year. The event started in 1979, when a man called K. T. Smith, who was drinking in The Mugs Away Saloon, offered to buy a drink for anyone who mooned the next train. What probably started out as a joke for a few fellow drinkers has turned into a carnival with thousands of participants each year.
Mooning has frequently featured in movies and television series. Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris responded to being kicked out of a dance hall by mooning the patrons. In the movie Braveheart, the Scottish army mooned the English just before the start of a battle. And two of televisions biggest stars, Homer and Bart Simpson, are enthusiastic mooners.
Sportsmen are also partial to the practice of mooning. The most famous mooning incident is English football occurred in the 1979 FA Cup semi-final, when Arsenal’s Sammy Nelson mooned the crowd to celebrate scoring a goal for both teams in the 1-1 draw. Mooning is often part of the after-the-game celebrations for American football or rugby teams. Rugby players usually accompany their mooning sessions with rousing choruses of obscene songs.
Rock stars—many of whom have behavioral problems—are also known for their mooning stunts. Ozzy Obsourne of Black Sabbath mooned the audience at the UK Music Hall of Fame ceremony in November 2005. The audience responded by giving him a standing ovation.
Although there are no gender prohibitions for mooning, it is usually practiced by men, and more often than not, drunken men. It can be fun, but it can get a person into trouble if practiced at the wrong time or place. Ken Mitsuda of the popular Japanese comedy duo “Tommys” was questioned by the police and severely warned by the Chinese authorities for mooning a group of tourists at a Buddhist temple on Hainan Island in China. He was obliged to write a letter of apology before being allowed to return to Japan.