For those of you that might not know, I am part of a topless book club that meets in New York City. Yes, it is legal in NYC for a woman to be topless (as long as you are on public property) so sidewalks and parks are fair game. I joined Topless Pulp Fiction, an outdoor co-ed topless appreciation society, about a year and a half ago on a whim. I had found out about the group through their Twitter account and thought “Why not?”
Mustering up the courage to actually go to one of these book club meetings was a whole different story. I am shy by nature, but very outgoing if I am around a person or two I know. So after a few email exchanges with the organizer of the book club I finally grew a pair (metaphorically of course) and joined the group in Central Park one day last summer.
The meeting went better than expected. It took awhile to get used to the stares from passerby but the day proved to be relaxing and I managed to read a chunk of a new book, something I haven’t done in years.
Fast forward to last weekend and our club went on a 13-mile topless bike tour of the city. This is a different ball game than being topless in a park because of the sheer number of people we encountered. Typically book club meetings in the park are quiet. Topless women is something people in Central Park or Washington Square Park are accustomed to (they see much stranger things on a daily basis). The entire city however, was not prepared for our adventure. Just think about how many people you see when walking one block in NYC. Now imagine biking 13 miles from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back. We easily saw thousands of people, and they saw us in all our glory.
We had the best tour guide, Adam, from Loudest Yeller Bike Tours (highly recommended for anyone looking for a fun and informative tour of NYC). Adam changed his tour up a little by tailoring it to our group. He typically talks about the historical sites he visits but instead he gave us a tour about NYC authors and feminists who changed the world. We stopped by a sex shop to pay homage to Sex and the City, the Stonewall Inn to discuss its role in the gay rights movement and so many other sites.
Throughout the day we had our pictures taken by hundreds of strangers and there were some comments like:
“What are you doing? Where are your shirts?”
“Can I take your picture?”
“You go girls!”
“Is this one of those breast cancer things?”
At one point a walking tour guide explained to her surprised group of tourists that being topless in NYC is legal for women. When one of the men asked, “What’s your problem then?”, the tour guide laughed and said, “I know what to show and what not to show.” To my delight one of our group members yelled back, “We know what to show and what not to show!”
**The above photo was taken by a member of Topless Pulp Fiction and censored by me because this account is connected to my Twitter and I don’t want to get fired from my current jobs for posting topless photos of myself**
Most of the day felt like we were in a fishbowl, constantly being photographed and stared at, but we got some relief when were stopped at Washington Square Park for lunch. We decided to have a picnic and went into Murray’s Cheese (while topless) to buy some food. Unfortunately the manager of the place was an asshole. I understand if he wanted us to wear shirts in the store to make other customers comfortable and would have obliged had he been nice about it. Instead he rudely told us we couldn’t be there and then said “BUH-BYE!” to us in the most annoying fashion. So we took our exposed breasts and walked over to Faicco’s Italian Specialties. They were unbothered by our appearances and made us some delicious (and gigantic) sandwiches for our picnic.
I’ve been to NYC many times before this tour was unlike any other trip I had taken. I got to see so many parts of the city at once, Chinatown, Little Italy, Wall Street, etc. These were areas of the city that were previously untouched by my eyes. I know what you’re thinking, “This had to have been awkward.” And you’re right. It got uncomfortable at moments when men got too close trying to take a picture and navigating through cars gave me anxiety (I’ve never biked in the city before), but overall the day was exhilarating. We also had some fearless women on this tour, one who had no problem telling every man or woman who took our photo without asking to fuck off. She also gladly flipped them off to ruin their picture.
One of the funniest parts of this whole adventure was waking up the next day and seeing pictures of the book club’s bike tour in the New York Daily News and The New York Post (see below).
In all seriousness, I hope people see this and learn that women have this right in some areas of the country, not just in NYC, and I hope it gets normalized. Breasts are over sexualized in the United States and women are given the impression they need to cover up when in reality it’s your damn body so do what you want with it. I wish the U.S. would lighten up a bit like Europe and stop being so stiff about nudity. The worst part is seeing women shamed for breastfeeding in public, which blows my mind because they are feeding a child. HOW IS FEEDING A CHILD SEXUAL? Answer: it’s not. People make it sexual.
Additionally, men and women shouldn’t be afraid of breasts because it’s the same body part a man has (with some extra fatty tissue). Seriously, seeing boobs won’t kill you and taking your top off and enjoying your right to toplessness might be more fun than you think. I certainly didn’t expect to end up in a topless book club, but here I am, and maybe I’ll tell my grandkids about my crazy adventures one day.
Would you ever go topless in public? What would your reaction have been if you saw us biking through NYC? Let me know in the comments section!
Feature photo originally posted on Instagram by me.