I am planning to take one of my friends from Dallas to Miami next year in February. We are planning to stop in New Orleans for Mardi Gras to attend different parades each day. When I lived in Houston, I used to visit New Orleans regularly on Fat Tuesday because it is a good party town. I invited my friend and she has agreed to visit New Orleans with me, but not to go to Bourbon street at night. The main reason is she doesn't wanna get naked on Bourbon street for beads. But I often tried to convince her that she can simply refuse to accept beads from anybody there, and just go and visit like a tourist. She is mainly concerned that guys would start taunts, like What are you doing here if you are not willing to take beads?

I would like to ask a question here for her, is it normal to walk on main Bourbon street for a girl and not to exchange beads?

  • 2
    Sure its normal. Who told you that BS??
    – Aganju
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 15:35
  • 5
    It sounds like she's saying that she doesn't want to be in a situation where she's likely to be cat-called and taunted and that desire should be respected. Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 18:27
  • 1
    Yes of course... and everyone can get beads regardless of their state of nudity. This includes men. It's not that transactional, everyone is just trying to have a good time. The vast majority of people don't get naked.
    – eddie_cat
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 16:15

2 Answers 2


I have attended the Mardi Gras festival in 'Nawlins' (New Orleans) all through my life, so this answer is derived from personal experience rather than facts. My experience has mostly been as a "bead provider" on the "supply side", but I have also attended with my wife and children along with coed groups.

To my knowledge, "breast begging" at the festival has been a matter of 'cultural gravitas' that has been going on for a long time. There is a brief vignette of it in the film Easy Rider (1969).

I have been in discussions with so-called 'Dylanologists' who claim that there are shrouded references to this aspect of the festival in the lyrics to Mr Tambourine Man, which would date it back to at least 1965. The only comment Dylan himself ever made about the song is that was inspired at the Mardi Gras and it's not about LSD.

For those not familiar with breast begging, the males will pitch beads at the women who pull up their tops to reveal their breasts. The women collect the beads and string them together into a necklace as a sort of 'badge of honour'. It is the never-ending cat-calls of encouragement to the women that some find intimidating and I suspect this intimidation forms the motivation behind your question.

I would like to ask a question here for her, is it normal to walk on main Bourbon street for a girl and not to exchange beads?

Define 'normal'. There are families with multiple generations out on the streets enjoying the cuisine and music, including grandmothers. There are also holy-rollers, bikers, evangelicals, street bumpkins, goth punks, meth dealers, gawking tourists from Europe and the Far East, and nearly everything else you can think of. They ignore that part of the culture. Once the lads see that you are not a 'player' they will generally leave you alone. HOWEVER...

Without doubt there is a subculture on Bourbon Street during the festival can be interpreted as misogynistic. It's frat boys and rednecks and roustabouts and similar groups of young men who are out on a lark and there's enough participation from the female side to keep the tradition alive. There is too much momentum to the tradition to think it will stop in 2016 just because times have changed. The cat-calls and raucous leers are going to happen whether you like it or not. If you think you will be overwhelmed by the intimidation, don't go.

On the other hand, there's a great piece of advice for dealing with the breast begging subculture: ignore it. It's meant playfully and nobody will assault you or abduct you; and the police will intervene if a given crowd gets too rowdy. Just ignore it. Mardi Gras is a great festival and a piece of beloved Americana; it's an all-around jolly hoot and there is no reason to avoid it because of the breast begging subculture.

  • 1
    I think it's also good to include that the vast majority of Mardi Gras doesn't happen on Bourbon Street. The parades are not in that area for the most part and are actually quite family friendly, people "breast begging" uptown for example will just get dirty looks from locals who normally bring their kids. It's more of a block party atmosphere. Bourbon Street at night will be raucous, yes, but that's not all there is to MG by a long shot. Most locals don't even go down there, lol
    – eddie_cat
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 16:17
  • @eddie_cat this would make a great answer! Please add a new answer, and then ping me so I can up vote it. Thanks
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 17:10

I would like to ask a question here for her, is it normal to walk on main Bourbon street for a girl and not to exchange beads?

Absolutely. It's crazy what they are doing. I remember someone is throwing beads from the balcony. Could easily hit you in a face or an eye. Like you said you can politely or even impolitely refuse it. No one is going to force you.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .