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I Went to a Raelian Cult Protest For Titties

We sent Kara Crabb to attend a protest where 20 women from the "UFO Religion" known as Raelism went topless for gender equality.

Kara Crabb



All photos via the author.
It was the hottest day of summer, the sun was at its highest peak, and about 20 Raelian women were gathering around Mount Royal to promote gender equality by taking their shirts off.

As I was walking to the mountain to report on this magical event, I started thinking about skin cancer and how I’m probably going to have skin cancer within the next two years. A man on the street overheard me talking about cancer, and started to tell me about his cancer! He was on his way to the clinic to get chemotherapy. He started telling me about his life, where he grew up and where he went to school. When I asked him what he studied, he said: “I actually studied to become a priest.”

What a coincidence! I told the priest that I was on my way to a Raelian demonstration. He laughed and called them total lunatics, saying that their leader Claude Vorilhon, who claims to be able to speak to aliens, “out of his mind.” He also told me ol’ Claude, aka “Rael,” was ostracized from several countries for being so radical. As the priest continued talking to me, I could not help but notice that the other side of the street was completely shrouded in shadow and that this man was actively walking in the path of the sun with a large, growing lesion on his skin—where I assumed he was receiving injections. The man continued to complain about his life and life in general and, because of the tonsil cancer, his voice became extremely aggravating to me.

When I told him that I had to go because I was late for the Raelian demonstration he stopped and waved dismissively. “Well, you aren’t missing much,” he said.  

The Go Topless movement was founded by Rael, a French ex-racecar driver who I think got high once and believed the experience was really profound. The “UFO religion,” with an estimated 90,000 members worldwide is largely based in Quebec and South Korea.  If you have been thinking about joining a cult lately, and if you like looking at bare breasts, then this is definitely one you should consider, despite what the weird guy on the street told me. 





Go Topless has been reprimanded by the media as a superficial publicity stunt since its establishment in 2007. When I arrived on the scene, Raelian men and women were parading around a statue holding signs about “equal rights.”

I watched a mother enter the park with her infant-in-stroller and, immediately upon seeing the topless women, she took off her shirt and bra and swung them over her head like a flag of victory. It was as if she’d been waiting for this moment all day, her swollen, milky breasts freely bouncing in the open air. Everyone cheered for her. Then I think she realized it was a part of something culty and steered away in the opposite direction.

After the parade swooped around the statue, they configured into a disorganized circle, holding signs and handing out flyers on the grass. The Raelian symbol was scattered throughout a frenzy of male photographers and what I assumed to be journalism students. Earrings, necklaces, and t-shirts, bared the Star of David conjoined by a swastika, with dreamcatcher-like feathers dangling from its sharp edges. 

Within two minutes of approaching the circle, a topless woman wearing a large sun hat grabbed my arm and said, “Are you a journalist?”

“Yes,” I responded.

She led me to a group of busy women with clipboards. There I met Sharon, the head of The Raelian Association of Sexual Minorities. Sharon told me that they have been promoting transsexual rights since 2004. I was impressed, considering how increasingly topical it is becoming in 2014. Sharon and I talked about what it meant to be in a cult. She told me that she believes cults are everywhere in society, and that Rael is a prophet who can speak to aliens. I asked her which book of Rael’s was her favorite and she told me she couldn’t decide. Then I asked her which book she would recommend to me if I was going to choose one to read, and she said “the first.”

Intelligent Design was written in 1973 when Claude was just 27-years-old and without any formal education. Sharon seemed to be excited by this quality. When I asked her why she liked it so much, she said, “Everything just made sense.” Sharon admitted that the symbol had a powerful affect on her too. She explained to me that because she grew up in Israel, the swastika had a devastatingly negative impact on her psyche. When she saw the two symbols merged together and decontextualized as a symbol for peace, it was cathartic for her conscious memory.

I had to agree with Sharon; Rael seemed quite charismatic and—depending on your point of view—progressive.

I was curious about the specific elements of belief, which seduce people into worshipping one particular human being as a deity, just in case I too decide to start a cult when I turn 27. I tried interviewing some Raelian bystanders but they were very apprehensive and uncomfortable. One older man, wearing a white outfit and hat, avidly repeated that he did not wish to discuss his beliefs and directed me again to the women with clipboards. The older man was attractive, with peaceful eyes, and I felt sincerely disappointed by his rejection.

“It sure is hot outside,” I said, waving the collar of my trench coat up and down.

“Why are you wearing that?” he said.

I walked over to the group of women with clipboards again and interviewed a Raelian registered nurse named Nadia. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the religion’s ideology since they didn’t seem too concerned about recruiting members. Nadia was marginally defensive when we first started talking. She said, “We are normal people with normal jobs.” I was aware that Raelianism is a paradox, described as an “atheist religion,” and that many of its values support the advancement of medicine and technology. For instance, a surgeon and Raelian counselor in San Fransisco have joined forces in treating victims of clitoral mutilation

I still didn’t understand what was so attractive about the label however. I asked Nadia about the regular functions of the Raelian community: the international conferences, the online meditations, the self-published literature. From what she was saying, it reminded me a lot of working at American Apparel in 2006. Rael was actively political with sensationalist beliefs that defended marginalized populations and in turn generated many loyal supporters. Maybe they just need better PR?

As the crowd expanded, six female participants, who seemed to be getting bored, sat down on some blankets and started eating granola. The crowd of male photographers went wild—silently clicking buttons on their iPhones.

“It’s important to separate nudity from sexuality,” said Sharon. “Tribes in Africa, South America, and all over the world do it.”

I stared at the middle-aged topless women on blankets, sharing food, lounging, looking like Greek goddesses. Sharon continued explaining why it was important for men to see women topless, saying that it is unnatural for men to repress their hormones, by concealing the female body. All of my fantasies about going back in time and being born into a matriarchal tribe came rushing through my skull, uncontrollably hypnotizing me toward the blanket.   

As a journalist, I thought it was appropriate to capture the perspective of the marginalized group of women. I sat down next to the women with my trench coat open baring my breasts, and they started cheering for me.

“How do you deal with this?” I heard myself say aloud.

I was so overwhelmed by the frenzy of males I could hardly construct a thought.

“That’s right, how 

do 

we deal with this,” repeated a woman beside me. She extended her Raelian hand and I avoided making contact. I looked up at the photographers in awe. The panorama of seething males, obstructing the horizon, was a surreal phenomenon of incalculable perversion.

None of the males were talking. All I could hear were camera flashes, body movement, and muffled laughter. It is a really strange way to be objectified. What gratification could exist taking photographs this way? Is everyone just bored?

Or rabidly hydrophobic?

When I stood up I thanked the Raelian women for trying to change the world. Even though they support some schizophrenic racecar driver from France, I still think it’s nice that they’re attempting to manipulate this social structure, which I too believe is flawed. Maybe someday when I start my own cult I will be able to amass their eager fellowship and start charging mandatory tithes (of which there are none in Raelianism).

For now, I will rescind back into my normal life with my normal job, scheming the means of language and persuasion in a way that provides me with sustenance. Secretly, while making zero effort to achieve my dream, I will always be burdened by the fantasy of breastfeeding in a circle with my girlfriends as the men go away to hunt.  


@karacrabb