On Women’s Bare Breasts in Public

This week, a group called The Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society celebrated their cause of normalizing female public toplessness being publicized by the New York Times, which is hardly a minor accomplishment. The article and video can be viewed here.

Another page that addresses in a very well-written fashion is breastsarehealthy.

To be clear, we have anti-nudity laws for a reason. Having practiced nudism to varying extents for the last ten years, I can tell you that there is a time and place for proper public nudity. I break ranks with many other fellow nudists when I argue that the ability to be naked or partially naked shouldn’t be unlimited, and that I shouldn’t have to be forced to sit next to a naked person when I’m on a city bus, restaurant or movie theater (as much as I appreciate nude people, that’d really just be gross). Even European countries that are substantially more tolerant of public nudity place a host of legal restrictions on its exercise. Even as somebody who vehemently argues that we are too uptight about nudity for our own good, and who believes that there should be an increased societal and legal tolerance for certain instances of public nudity, having standards that control the existence of public nudity is part of existing in a civilized society.

Here’s the trick: the Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society and breastsarehealthy authors aren’t in the business of normalizing nudity or partial nudity, rather they are campaigning for equal gender treatment. Their argument that women should be allowed to be topless anywhere a man would otherwise be permitted to be shirtless is an old but valid complaint, and their agenda deserves more support. I’m glad to see such a powerful, landmark paper such as the New York Times lend its weight and might behind the Appreciation Society by publishing their story to such a wide audience.

Here’s another consideration: There isn’t actually a rational reason to prohibit a woman from exposing her breasts in public (at least in settings where a man’s shirtlessness would be considered acceptable… that said, I don’t advocate for women or men to go topless in a courtroom). The author of breastsarehealthy writes exceptional blog entries detailing that our problem is with sexualizing breasts that have a natural, non-sexual, life-sustaining function.

These women, as I understand it, are exercising First Amendment (freedom of expression) rights to advance their ability to bare their breasts in public. I think that this is more of a Fourteenth Amendment matter… the fact that men can generally be shirtless in public, while a female doing so is often criminally punishable, violates (in my humble, slightly uninformed opinion) the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Under the Law stipulations. I don’t claim to know much about the law, but I cannot see how legal standards of dress and conduct, when applied disproportionately to men and women, do not violate the principle of the 14th Amendment’s demand for Equal Protection Under the Law.

The relevant text of the 14th Amendment comes from Section 1:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

I don’t believe in a free-for-all society where anything goes because we’re calling it “freedom”. I hate that logic. But I think that recent legal precedents have revealed that our sacred Constitution generally prohibits (if not expressly forbids) applying the law differently to the diverse portions of our population. Gender discrimination isn’t American, and broadly banning female toplessness in public serves no practical, moral or useful purpose.

Give these women the right to be topless whenever a man can do so.

 

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