03/15/2013 05:04 pm ET

Femen, Female Activist Group, Discovers Topless Protests Bring Exposure (PHOTOS, NSFW)

One of the reasons people protest is to expose their ideas to the world.

It seems to be working for one group of female activists -- at least the exposure part.

The group, Femen, is a group of women who, according to the organization's website, defend sexual and social equality with their breasts and "undermine the foundations of the patriarchal world by their intellect, sex, agility, make disorder, bring neurosis and panic to the men's world" (sic).

Femen claims to be in 17 countries and have more than 150,000 supporters -- the human kind, not brassieres -- and has recently gained attention for public protests against Silvio Berlusconi, Vladimir Putin, IKEA, and, most recently, the Vatican City, where police wrestled two topless women to the ground during a brief protest after cardinals went into the Sistine Chapel to start their Pope picking.

The group was founded in 2008 in Ukraine by a group of twenty-something women, including Anna Hutsol, Oksana Shachko and Alexandra Shevchenko, in part, to stop the country from becoming a hotbed for sex tourists and human traffickers, reported.

Hutsol said the topless protests started because she and the other founding members felt that only "radical things can change the situation," she told


Femen: Female Activist Group Protests Topless

But while the women protesters are topless, they are not bare-skinned. The group's members write explicit messages on their bodies to get their point across.

Femen isn't the only activist group that has found naked women to be an effective way of raising interest and awareness (and eyebrows).

An activist group called holds a topless protest every August called Go Topless Day as a way to condemn what it considers to be hypocritical laws regarding bare-breasted women.

"People say women shouldn't go topless, that it's indecent," Go spokeswoman Nadine Gary told The Huffington Post last August. "But indecency is not mentioned in the Constitution. Also, it was once considered indecent for women to vote, but that changed."

In addition, while the letters P-E-T-A stand for "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals," it could just as easily be an acronym for "Publicity Events involving T and A," since the group has started publicity campaigns revolving around attractive and scantily clad people -- usually women.

PETA executive Dan Mathews said the idea started with the "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign nearly two decades ago and naked protests have been a part of the PR game plan because it works.

"We're a very aspirational society and it makes sense for us to use attractive, vibrant people," he told AOL News back in 2011. "The press and public seem to respond to women and more than half of the people who visit our site click on the pictures showing attractive women."