Mooning is the act of displaying one's barebuttocks by removing clothing, e.g., by lowering the backside of one's trousers and underpants, usually bending over, whether also exposing the genitals or not. Mooning is used in the English-speaking world to express protest, scorn, disrespect, or provocation, or can be done for shock value, fun, or as form of exhibitionism. Some jurisdictions regard mooning to be indecent exposure, sometimes depending on the context.
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. 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. Formerly, "mooning" was slang for "wandering idly" and "romantically pining". 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.
In 2006, a Marylandstatecircuit court determined that mooning is a form of artistic expression protected by the First Amendment as a form of speech. 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."
Defense attorneys had cited a 1983 case 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 California, an appellate court found in 2000 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.
In 80, Flavius Josephus recorded the first known incident of mooning. Josephus recorded that in 66 AD, at around the beginning of the First Roman–Jewish War, a soldier in the Roman army mooned Jewish pilgrims at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem who had gathered for Passover, and "spake such words as you might expect upon such a posture" causing a riot in which youths threw stones at the soldiers, who then called in reinforcements - the pilgrims panicked, and the ensuing stampede resulted in the death of ten thousand Jews.
At the Siege of Nice, in the summer of 1543, Catherine Ségurane, a common washerwoman, led the townspeople into battle. Legend has it that she took the lead in defending the city by standing before the invading forces and exposing her bare bottom.
A number of early explorers of the Atlantic coastline noted that the Etchemin tribe of Maine practiced this custom.
Since 1979, The Annual Mooning of Amtrak has been an annual tradition in Laguna Niguel, California on the second Saturday of July, where many people spend the day mooning passing Amtrak trains; some passengers ride the trains that day to witness the event. This has inspired a chain of "train moonings" throughout the country.
At the Patch Adams Full Moon Festival three-day event to raise money for his Gesundheit Institute! and Albuquerque, 200,000 people pay $100 each to moon as a group and lend a hand with local projects.
^Queller, Donald E.; Madden, Thomas F.; Andrea, Alfred J. (2000). The Fourth Crusade. p. 178. ISBN978-0-8122-1713-1. 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.