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Topless women in public not breaking the law, says NYPD

Police memo says breast exposure is not considered public lewdness, indecent exposure or disorderly conduct.

By Charyn Pfeuffer - MSN Living Editor May 17, 2013 7:26PM

Women of New York, it’s OK to let the girls loose.

In February, New York City’s 34,000 police officers received a rather unusual memo: For “simply exposing their breasts in public,” women are guilty of no crime, reports The New York Times.

Photo: Still of the 2012 Go Topless Day Rally In New York City (JoseKickaha1 via YouTube) The police officers were ordered that, should they encounter a bare-bosomed woman walking in public, they should not arrest her. In fact, should a crowd form around a topless woman, officers are to “give a lawful order to disperse the entire crowd and take enforcement action” against those who do not comply, says an official memorandum included in a federal lawsuit filed this week by Holly Van Voast. Van Voast, a Bronx photographer and performing artist, is known for stripping naked in Times Square, Grand Central Station and outside a Hooters restaurant in Midtown.

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The decision that it’s perfectly legal for both a woman and a man to bare one’s chest in public comes after more than two decades of proceedings and protests fighting for equal rights to be shirtless.

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No one bats an eye at a bare-chested guy, so why is a topless woman in public so scandalous?

Read the complete story at The New York Times here.

Tell us: What do you think about this decision?

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Photo: Still of the 2012 Go Topless Day Rally in New York City (JoseKickaha1 via YouTube)

74Comments
9 hours ago
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Only a hundred and fifty years or so ago it was scandalous if a lady happened to expose so much as her ankle.  Now our social mores have changed and women's breasts are exposed somewhere daily in public venues all over the country.  If it is not the so called "wardrobe malfunctions" and "nip slips" that garner so much free publicity all one has to do is turn on their pay TV service to HBO or Showtime and they will see way more than a bare breast.


The selfies that many celebrity ladies are posting are far more scandalous than a lady who happens to be walking through Central Park topless or perhaps nursing her child on a bench by the water front somewhere.  I am a seventy year old nudist and for me the human body is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about at any age so I have always had a kind of contempt for the so called moral objections to nudity. 


To be completely honest people who dress in very provocative attire that is designed to tease and titillate are clearly sending a sexual message that comes across very blatantly whereas someone who happens to be totally nude is just totally nude.  There is really very little sexuality attributed to it.  When old time burlesque succumbed to the completely nude strip places many complained that it had lost its seductiveness and charm.  To some extent I have to agree.

Sat 12:06 PM
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Its about time someone got some sense. Even if it is NYC>
Jul 16, 2014 5:09PM
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I have no problem with topless women.... no matter what their size may be.  There's nothing that makes me look if I choose that option.  What I have difficulty with is the nipple.   When it comes up on full "erect" I can't help but wonder "is she cold or excited to see me?"  and I can't help but stare!   Girls, "My eyes are up here" is stupid.  If you don't want men to look, don't BARE it!  You've "trained" men to the fact that Ta Tas are sexual objects so LIVE WITH IT!   It became a compounding problem when you first started stuffing them into a BRA to make them pointier.  The more you bare them the less attractive they become.  The young ladies of the 60s had it RIGHT!  Burn the BRA!  CHIVE ON!
Jul 8, 2014 4:58AM
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she looks great from the back! i bet the front is pretty good too,by the looks on the crowds faces.
Jul 8, 2014 4:55AM
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personally,im not bothered by it. but its the stupid laws!
Jul 7, 2014 3:10AM
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Women should be allowed to be topless in any setting where it is acceptable for a man to be topless. How is it any different? A man's breasts are anatomically the same to a woman's. It is only a big deal because our culture has over sexualized women's bodies when in fact the main reason for women's larger chests is not for male pleasure but for bringing new life into this world. Breasts are not a body part to be ashamed of. I am not advocating that people should be allowed to be totally nude in public. But if it is acceptable for a man to be topless in certain settings, then it is for a woman. Men act as though the merely by bearing her breasts a woman is inviting them to harass or grope her. It is never acceptable to violate any person simply because of their appearance.
Jul 5, 2014 7:22PM
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That's revolting, and SEXIST. I bet they'd feel exactly the same way about a naked man with a keg belly.  They're breaking no law? How about the fact  not all heterosexual men, who don't have a lifetime porn subscription, don't   want to see some strange woman's boobs hanging out. If they're topless in public, they're basically attention whores anyway. For egalitarinism, I think men should be allowed to walk around with their wieners hanging out. The boys need to breath too, right?
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