If You’re Wanting To Legally Free The Nipple, Here's Where You Can (Literally) Hang Out

by Amber Leventry
Originally Published: 
If You’re Wanting To Legally Free The Nipple, Here's Where You Can (Literally) Hang Out
Ekaterina Morozova/Getty

It’s getting hot out there, folks, and nothing signals sweaty times like a man casually doing all the things without a shirt while women change their bra for the third time of the day or give up and just walk around with paper towels under their boobs. And little more signals the hypocrisy of said man attached to his exposed man-boobs than his complaints about a woman not wearing a bra or trying to breastfeed her baby in public while clinging to the expectation that a woman should show him her tits whenever he demands it.

First of all, fuck off, Chad. Second of all, many women would love to walk around topless as freely as men do, on their terms, but it’s not universally legal. While the double standards run deep and wide in this country, specifically between genders, there are places that give equality to the nipple.

If you want to let it all hang out, 31 states in the U.S. have “top freedom.” But several factors prohibit women from walking around with breasts to the wind even if technically allowed to do so. Laws are often ambiguous and vary between cities within states. And topless women are arrested under the guise of disorderly conduct. According to the site Go Topless, if you want to know if you can free the teats, the suggestion is to Google the city name and its municipal code and key in the word “nudity.” To cover your bases, they further suggest that you “Do the same for the county where the city is located to be sure. Consult with an attorney.”

In 2019, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma became the newest states to eliminate a ban on women going topless after a federal court ruling. The case was won by women who are part of the #FreeTheNipple movement—which has gained public support from Chelsea Handler, Miley Cyrus, and Chrissy Teigen. However, Utah woman Tilli Buchanan recently took a plea deal and admitted to lewdness for being topless in her own home.

Three years ago, Tilli Buchanan was hanging drywall with her husband in their Utah garage. After getting hot and covered in the residue of their work, they took off their shirts. Buchanan’s step children, a 13-year-old boy, a 10-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy, walked in and saw their father and stepmother topless. The children’s mother filed criminal charges against Buchanan because Utah law stated that any exposure of the breast below the top of the areola is punishable with jail time and the need to register as a sex offender for 10 years. Buchanan fought the charges, but eventually took the plea deal earlier this year. Despite knowing she didn’t do anything wrong (her husband completely supported her too), the risk of being labeled a pedophile was too high.

And what it is it about the areola? What specifically about a “female” nipple makes lawmakers (men) declare them illegal? Oh right. Because people (men) sexualize breasts (women) to the point of blaming the breasts (women) for resulting behavior (harassment, assault, rape). So, instead of men getting their shit together and taking responsibility, they turn women’s bodies into their legal playground.

For clarity, I am writing this article as if gender is binary and body parts have a gender. It isn’t, and they don’t, but the laws are set up this way so I must bend a bit. However, as a nonbinary person who has had a double mastectomy with nipple grafts, I can’t help but wonder what gender my nipples are. Legally, my birth certificate and other documents indicate I am female because the state I was born in doesn’t recognize a third gender, but my chest is visually male. I no longer have breasts and my areolas and nipples have been resized and replaced to give me a masculine chest.

I could have chosen not to have my nipples put back on my body. Without nipples, do I have a gender? What about the transgender woman with breasts? Is a transgender woman rightfully considered a woman in this case? Or will the bigots still hold tight to misgendering her and let her waltz around town with her boobs and areolas hanging out?

We can speculate for days, but if you want to go topless and need some moral support, there are events and cities that celebrate the nips. Sadly, COVID-19 has cancelled or altered some of the most popular ones. The World Naked Bike Ride in Portland has been cancelled, but the Ride in New Orleans is still on — with some social distancing rules, of course. If riding while naked isn’t your thing, World Topless Day is scheduled to take place August 23, 2020. The event was started by the organization Go Topless after topless activist Phoenix Feeley was arrested in 2005, despite it being legal to be topless in New York City year-round. The yearly event coincides with Women’s Equality Day.

Besides NYC, some other cities that have been “topless tested” are Asheville, NC, Columbus, OH, Madison, WI, and Santa FE, NM. There’s always New Orleans and South Beach too.

Men can safely be shirtless and yet women are asked to cover up—even when they are allowed to free-boob it. Not surprisingly, plenty of clothing is made to accentuate breasts and cleavage as if the message to women is this: titillate us with what you have but don’t give it all away until we demand or expect it.

Women’s bodies are not for male consumption, control, or pleasure. Free yourself from the bullshit and free the nipples.

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