IMG_6455For years, people — including our own members — have been telling us we needed to go to Gunnison, the nude beach in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. But it was in New Jersey! Even getting out members out to the beach in Brooklyn (Coney Island) or Queens (Riis) was hard. Gunnison is an hour and a half drive from the city, and almost none of our members have cars, for one thing. And yeah, there’s a ferry that can take you part of the way by water, but only part of the way, and then you have to get a bus, and the line can be long, and…

And we never went. For seven years.

But this year we finally did, and as everyone predicted, it was pretty wonderful.

IMG_6481IMG_6803IMG_6546IMG_6549Gunnison is a weird place. It’s in New Jersey but on federal land (a former military base, it seems), which is why even though New Jersey is more restrictive about nudity than New York is, you can actually go fully nude at Gunnison but only topless at New York beaches.

IMG_6791And it’s absolutely packed on a sunny weekend day — easily a thousand people. Not all aging hippies, not all leathery sun worshippers or hipsters with lumberjack beards and body modifications; you’ll find those types, but really you’ll find every type. There were a lot of couples just spending the day together, work buddies hanging out, recent immigrants from two dozen countries…it was like the crowd you might see on the subway at rush hour, only a) friendly and b) not wearing any clothes. This isn’t Burning Man, where you hang out naked with tripping artists and free spirits and Silicon Valley billionaires and their aspiring model friends. This is hanging out naked with random regular people — your dental hygienist is there in the crowd somewhere, and the guy who stocks supplies in your office’s mail room, and the girls who work the registers at the supermarket where you bought the strawberries and pita chips and guac you brought with you to the beach so you wouldn’t starve. Your bus driver is there (literally: we booked a bus to take us there and back, and in between the driver hit the sand himself, and he couldn’t get enough of it: “Oh man,” he texted us, “it’s my first time here. I love that beach!”). Your high school math teacher is probably there somewhere, or maybe your elementary school principal. And no one’s embarrassed or ashamed. Everyone’s just chilling.

IMG_6569One of the reasons is that there are no cameras, or almost none — the culture there is very much a no-photos culture, which meant we got some side-eye when we took out ours to memorialize this event. Of course we explained our goal was only to photograph ourselves. But we get it: it’s a crowded beach and a photo that’s got us in the foreground might have who-knows-whom in the background. Out of respect for the crowd and its norms, we took very few pictures (by our standards) and so have only a handful to share.

IMG_6565But picture taking wasn’t the point. The point was that here was a spot within relatively easy driving distance of the city where all the city’s denizens could strip off every stitch and just be human together. And that was an entrancing discovery. Of course we knew we could do that — we get naked together all the time, and we love it. But we’re used to doing it surrounded by strangers who range from indifferent to judgmental, and who certainly don’t respond to our nakedness by getting naked themselves. This was like walking into Central Park and seeing everyone in the crowd completely naked, from grandmas to teenagers, every skin tone and body type, a thousand vulvas and penises, two thousand breasts, and not an unkind word or uncomfortable glance anywhere. It was truly inspiring.

IMG_6505IMG_6692IMG_6729IMG_6757IMG_6780Will we go back? Well, it is a long drive. And the summer’s almost over. But how did Molly Bloom put it? yes I said yes I will Yes.

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IMG_5030In our last post, we described a wonderful outdoor acroyoga class we held in Washington Square Park, where one of our members instructed us in balancing each other in midair on our feet.

IMG_5442IMG_5585It was a blast. But before we started flying, we had a more down-to-earth meet-up, and we wanted to share that with you too.

IMG_4982IMG_5218IMG_5022It always makes for great photos when we do something out of the ordinary — go rowing on Central Park lake…

octpfas_080513-9288…or snowball fighting in the middle of winter…

IMG_9682But our usual fare is more modest, even if not in the conventional sense of the word. We bring towels out to the park, like you do; we bring a few snacks and some bottles of water; we bring books to read and friends to talk with; and we take our shirts off to enjoy the feeling of the sun on our skin.

IMG_5078If a group of men did this, it would inspire exactly zero comment. Groups of men do it all the time, in fact, and zero comment is what it inspires. But get a group of women together to do the exact same thing, and… Well, on a good day, pretty much the same thing happens, at least in New York. But even here we get the odd comment. “There are children nearby,” one concerned and exasperated-sounding woman called to us. “Don’t you think you should put something on?”

IMG_5246No, we replied. We don’t think that, but thank you for asking? What we do think is that children will grow up healthier — both girls and boys — if they learn at an early age that there is nothing more shameful about a woman’s body than there is about a man’s; that those rounded shapes under a girl’s shirt aren’t some mysterious prize to be quested after or peeked at or groped, they’re just parts of the body like noses or biceps or knees; and that no woman has to apologize for or conceal the way nature has made her. We don’t always love our bodies, but they’re our bodies. And we’re all entitled to enjoy them equally.

IMG_6015IMG_5015IMG_5355The nice thing about Washington Square Park is that out of literally thousands of people enjoying the day together with us in peace and tolerance, only one felt the need to disturb the serenity with an outburst like this. But that’s Washington Square Park, and that’s New York City. We know that women elsewhere in this country and elsewhere in the world don’t have the same freedom we do. And that’s one of the reasons we created this blog, and why we keep posting to it year after year. People still need to discover that women’s bodies are something perfectly ordinary (half the people in the world have one!) and deserve to be treated as uncontroversial whether covered or uncovered.

IMG_5294If you feel the same way we do, we’d love to have you join us sometime. All body-positive women are welcome. Just email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and we’ll find an event that’s right for you.

Remember, it’s already August this week! The summer won’t last forever. If you’ve ever felt curious or tempted or eager to try it for yourself…carpe diem.

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IMG_5748Everyone’s afraid of something. For some of us it’s spiders, enclosed spaces, heights. For others it’s being naked in public. Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you we spent an afternoon in an enclosed space with spiders — that’s a post for another afternoon. (Or never.) But we did have a chance recently to tackle the other two.

IMG_5818IMG_5564Does two or three feet off the ground count as “heights”? Well, it kind of does when you’re being hoisted up and then balanced on a friend’s legs. It’s an exhilarating feeling, but also kind of terrifying, and we got to experience it when one of our members who’s an acroyoga instructor led us in an acro class on a lawn in Washington Square Park.

IMG_5638IMG_5896And does just having no shirt on count as being naked in public? Well, it kind of does when you’re not used to it. So one of our instructors — who had no issue being hoisted and balanced, or even being spun like a beachball while being rotated between another acro pro’s legs — wore discreet pieces of flesh-colored tape rather than go bare-breasted.

IMG_5506Will the second time be easier for all of us? No doubt. Nothing feels quite as scary as the first time you try something new. But kudos to everyone who demonstrated bravery and curiosity the first time out. We had a great time.

IMG_5827IMG_5767There was even some throwing and catching involved, for the very bravest among us.

IMG_5868IMG_5870And one important lesson: you don’t have to be the very bravest. Even if you come to one of our events, you don’t have to do anything you’re not ready to do. Some of us sat out the acroyoga this time, and that was fine.

IMG_5211Some weren’t ready for the toplessness, and that was fine too. You’re welcome either way. Just send email to us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. If you’re female or a female-bodied person, we’ll find an event for you, whether you’re facing your fears or utterly fearless. (Or like most of us, somewhere in between.)

Won’t you come fly with us?

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IMG_6273This past Saturday, five dozen people took all their clothes off in Washington Square Park. Some of our members were among them.

IMG_6041IMG_6147IMG_6135IMG_6055IMG_4250Not only did no one call the cops on this display of naked bodies, but the cops were already there and fully supportive — they were present to make sure everything went smoothly and that none of the naked people were harassed or bothered. And none of us were.

IMG_6131Now, here’s an interesting fact: one day later, if any of us had tried to undress to the exact same extent in the exact same place, we would have gotten stopped, and maybe arrested, by those exact same cops. Does that make any sense to you?

Yes, Saturday was a special day: the 5th annual “New York Bodypainting Day” festival. For five years, artist Andy Golub has brought together fellow artists from all over the country and all over the world to paint nude models on one afternoon in the summer. And yes, there is an exception in the public indecency laws for nudity that occurs in the course of making or exhibiting art. That’s why no one got arrested on Saturday.

But what’s the logic? How can it possibly be the case that sixty fully naked women and men standing in a group is an inoffensive sight one day, but the following day even just one fully naked woman or man — perhaps lying among a bunch of sunbathers such as this group that watched us for hours on Saturday — is offensive enough to be deemed illegal?

IMG_6268The prude who says a breast, a vulva, a penis is always and automatically shameful may be wrong (in our humble opinion), but at least the prude is consistent. The person who says vulvas and penises are fine on Saturday but forbidden every other day is either the strangest Sabbath observer ever or else just a hypocrite.

IMG_6308But — as long as the hypocrites are making the rules, we’ll take such opportunities for freedom as we’re granted. One day each year when we can shed the last little vestiges of our clothes out in the park is better than none.

IMG_6312IMG_6190IMG_6292And this one was better than most. The weather was absolutely perfect (not a hint of rain in the sky), the crowd was supportive (not a complaint heard, at least by our ears), there were a pianist and a xylophonist nearby for musical accompaniment (randomly), and we even were graced with a street fair right outside the park, for when our thirst required fresh-squeezed lemonade to quench it (Andy kindly supplied some snacks as well, including unintentionally appropriate ones).

IMG_6253The art that emerged from this inspiring environment was suitably inspired. Meant to reflect this year’s theme, “Movement,” we saw everything from the literal, with moving flora and fauna–

IMG_6250IMG_6263IMG_6241IMG_6338…to the metaphorical, such as a bit of cubism (which began, remember, as an attempt to show movement on a static canvas — how great to see it attempted on a rippling moving canvas!)

IMG_4240…or the sort of movement that results in social change:

IMG_4258Speaking of which, we’re a bit of a movement ourselves, aren’t we? Sparking social change, making people think differently about what they’ve always assumed. Seeking freedom.

IMG_6326On Saturday we were free. In a way we rarely have the opportunity to be. Could Monday morning be just as free someday?

Yes. Someday. We firmly believe that. With or without paint, with or without clothes, bodies should be free.

IMG_6052IMG_6143IMG_6181If you’d like to join our little movement, drop us a note: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. With your help, we’ve got some brick walls we’d like to bust through together.

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IMG_4834Five years ago, a painter named Andy Golub had a brilliant brainstorm. He’d been painting works of art on the bodies of individual models for some time, and had won some legal battles establishing that he had the right to do so outdoors in New York City. (It’s legal for women to be topless outdoors in New York anywhere a man can; full nudity is generally not legal in public for anyone of any gender. But there’s an exception — women and men can both be naked in public places as part of an artistic exhibition or a play. And being painted as a human canvas is certainly an artistic exhibition.)

IMG_4923So here’s the brilliant brainstorm he had: what if, instead of one painter painting one model in a public place, he brought together fifty painters and fifty models — models of all ages, sizes, races, and genders, painters from all over the country and all over the world? Suddenly, the artist and model would no longer be outnumbered by a confused and judgmental crowd — in one place, for a time, naked would be the norm. Art would be the norm.

IMG_4943And so Bodypainting Day was born. This year is the 5th anniversary, and anyone interested in attending can find the group in Washington Square Park starting around noon on Saturday, July 14. In anticipation of the big day, and maybe to get his painting arm limbered up, Andy met with us this week on our favorite rooftop sundeck and tested out some wonderful new designs.

It’s fun to be a human canvas, and even more fun to watch the process as your friends get turned into living works of art.

IMG_4461IMG_4515IMG_4734IMG_4504IMG_4585IMG_4608IMG_4682IMG_4711IMG_4533IMG_4643IMG_4683IMG_4741IMG_4856And lest you think bodypainting is just for girls…

IMG_4496IMG_4629IMG_4716IMG_4749IMG_4782Turnabout being fair play, at the end one of the painters got painted:

IMG_4887And we even had a spectator or two who remained pristine.

IMG_4656Look like fun? It was. If you’re thinking you might like to try this someday — with or without the paint — we welcome all curious and body-positive women to join us. Just send email to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and tell us a little about yourself. You’ll be under the sun — and who knows, maybe under the brush too — in no time.

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IMG_9153We heard from our sister group in Australia again with more photos from their visit to their local beach. And this being the 4th of July, we figured it was as good a time as any to share them with you. We love this group of proud, independent, body-positive ladies and hope someday soon they come to NYC for a visit.

SwanMay2018-2SwanMay2018-3We, meanwhile, have no beach trip planned for the holiday, but we’re delighted to take this opportunity to look back at past visits to Coney Island…

IMG_8532…and Riis Beach.

IMG_3088IMG_3319New York City is not blessed with truly great beaches, alas, and certainly not ones where we’re able to be as completely free as our Aussie friends. But we do still enjoy a touch of sand and sea. So another outing to the shore may be in our future.

Would you like to come with us if we do go? Or to any of our in-the-city events, for that matter? Just email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We welcome all like-minded women to come beat the heat with us.

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IMG_4119We went to Bryant Park the other day expecting to get to lie on the lawn — but when we got there, the lawn was roped off, with signs proclaiming that the grass was taking time out to rest after getting stomped on by several hundred pairs of feet during a recent event.

Slightly disappointing — but being dextrous improvisors, we pulled a pair of tables and half a dozen chairs over to the edge of the lawn and sat ourselves down for a lovely and civilized topless picnic, fueled by nibbles sourced from park purveyors.

IMG_4074IMG_4085IMG_4114Interestingly “time out” was an apt theme for the day’s festivities, since we were joined for part of the afternoon by an editor from the magazine Time Out New York, which has written about our activities from time to time over the past several years. While she didn’t get topless herself, she mentioned that she’d spent time topless on Fire Island, so…we have hopes we might yet convert her from curious-observer to full-participating-member status.

IMG_4303In the meantime, we enjoyed our sojourn in what is perhaps Manhattan’s busiest and least private park. Jammed in the heart of midtown, this particular urban oasis leans toward the ‘urban’ side of that formulation. The result was an unusual number of random people sneaking cell-phone photos of us and looking furtive when we made it clear we saw what they were doing.

IMG_4385On the other hand, we also had some lovely interactions, including with a park security officer who stood up for us repeatedly whenever he was asked if what we were doing was legal (it was, and he knew it, and he patiently repeated it to anyone who questioned it), and with this fellow, whose service dog welcomed the warm hug we offered it.

IMG_4281There was ample sun and a variety of spots from which to enjoy its caresses.

IMG_4179IMG_4162There was talk of politics and body image and subjective feelings of comfort, including some discussion of why it feels different to be topless with your nipples bare vs. topless with your nipples covered. (One of our members came to our event straight from a swimsuit photoshoot for which she’d had nipple covers already in place, and she left them on as much for visual variety as any other reason.)

IMG_4228IMG_4233And to add to the whole covered/uncovered dichotomy there was this is-it-a-top? top, which served not only in the park but for the subway ride home after as well.

IMG_4039IMG_4182-subwayAll in all, a terrific way to celebrate the first full week of summer. Would you like to join us for the second? We have a very special private bodypainting event coming up, followed by an outdoor acroyoga class taught by a member who’s not only an acro instructor but also a black belt in taekwondo! If you’d like to come to one of those — or just to one of our regular events where all be do is sip cool beverages and hang out — please email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com.  All women are welcome! We hope you’ll take a moment to write and say hi.

And remember: it’s your right as much as it is his.

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