The last time we visited Coney Island — three summers ago — we saw no one else going topless. Correction: no other women going topless. And the reception we got, while not unfriendly, was a bit…uncertain. We got looks, for sure. People didn’t know what to make of us, and didn’t seem entirely at ease with us doing what we were doing.

What a difference three years makes! While the beach still wasn’t filled with topless women the way a beach in Europe might be, we were not the only ones there by any means, and several others followed our lead when they saw us doing it.

In fact, shortly after we got there, a total stranger walked up to our group, asked if she could sit with us, remarked that she hated having to wear a top and promptly took hers off. Then she pulled a copy of Sappho from her bag and read us one of her favorite fragments. Thus are new friends made.

And we got no particular looks, from women or from men, even when we went onto the boardwalk to score a corn dog and a Pepsi. (Indeed, we saw another topless woman calmly eating her own unhealthy but delicious lunch at a nearby picnic table.)

How was it walking down to the water? Unremarkable — which is maybe the most remarkable thing of all. No double-takes, no second glances. At one point one of the beach’s lifeguards blew a whistle, but when our members went over to ask why, she just wanted to let them know that some stranger seemed to be taking photos of them. (“That’s not a stranger,” they reassured her. “We’re all together. We’re part of a group.”)

When we weren’t swimming we spent our time relaxing on the sand, in sight of the giant Ferris wheel and the parachute drop and the century-old Cyclone rollercoaster.

We were reminded that Coney Island and nudity are old friends — even setting aside the burlesque dancers and sideshow performers, back in the days before WWII there were baths with nude sunbathing on the roof (separate sections for women and men, though bold voyeurs going up in the parachute drop could apparently catch a glimpse of both).

But that establishment closed ages ago, and for decades after men won the right to go topless on the beach, women were denied the equal right to do the same thing. That changed as a matter of law 27 years ago…but it has taken longer to change people’s hearts and minds. Clearly that change is finally happening.

And it feels so good. It feels wonderful to be able to relax on a beach with no more on than all the men in sight are wearing — a bottom — and to not feel you’re disrupting the social fabric by doing so. To pull off your top without fear or shame.

And getting to do it with other fun, interesting, smart, well-read women is best of all.

Members in attendance this time included students and teachers, women in art and fashion and theater, a photographer, a neuroscientist, a sex worker. We came from all over America and all over the world — Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Sweden. We’re queer, we’re straight. We’re vegan, we’re carnivores. In other words, we’re everyone. And this Saturday afternoon, everyone was happily going topless.

Would you like to join us next time? We’re getting to the end of summer, so we may not have another beach trip in us this season, but we’ll keep holding outdoor events in the city as long as the weather holds up (in some years that’s even meant events in October and November!). And when it gets too cold out to do that, we find fun things to do naked indoors. 🙂 If you’re curious or intrigued…whether you know for sure you want to do it or are still a little nervous…we’d love to hear from you. Email or find us on Insta at @Topless.Pulp. (On Twitter it’s @ToplessPulp without the underscore.) We’ll supply everything you need. Even the books!

And if you do find yourself on the beach in New York before the winter winds begin to blow, we hope you’ll try going topless too. Yes, it’s easier with a group of other women — but it’s fine doing it solo too. The law is the law. And for once, we’re the beneficiaries of it.