Archives for category: street

IMG_7732There we were on the sidelines, waiting for the Ultimate Freedom Concert to begin in Times Square, arguing the way bookish folk do: did the adjective “Ultimate” modify “Freedom” or “Concert”? Was it a concert celebrating the ultimate freedom, or was it the ultimate concert celebrating freedom?

It was a way to kill some time as the men inside the enclosure paced and noon turned to 1pm and 1 inched toward 2. One of the men, a sober, even severe, fellow in a charcoal gray t-shirt, held a microphone but didn’t speak into it. Drums stood in one corner, not being played. Yoga instructors balanced tentatively on one foot, then the other. Everyone was holding fire.

The man was a singer and activist calling himself Ton Dou, who’s been traveling around the country for the last several years, trying to persuade people that nudity isn’t anything to be ashamed or frightened of, and governments that it shouldn’t be illegal. Nudity, he believes, can be non-sexual and healthy and beautiful. And somehow he’d convinced New York City to let him hold a concert in Times Square fully nude himself, with anyone attending free to go fully nude as well.

But here we were, an hour and a half after the announced start time, and everyone was still fully dressed.

Was it cold feet? Literally, yes: going nude means going barefoot, and on this autumnal day the pavement was chilly. But maybe metaphorically as well. Ton Dou had the courage of his convictions, and he’d gathered perhaps two dozen men of varying ages and sizes and complexions to join him, but aside from one brave yoga instructor, no women. When Ton finally gave the signal and the clothes came off,

IMG_7727IMG_7720IMG_7744IMG_7754IMG_7724…it was surely the most penises Times Square has ever seen at one time, and all without a police whistle blowing or anyone getting carted off to jail. And that’s wonderful. We agree that nudity isn’t shameful or dangerous and that it shouldn’t be illegal. And yet — with the one brave exception, it was an all-male demonstration. Not even our cadre of body-positive women felt like stepping behind the protective fence and disrobing surrounded by twenty or thirty naked men and several thousand iPhone-wielding spectators. (One of the photographers at the event, a woman representing ClothesFree.com, who gladly goes nude in her own site’s videos, chose to stay clothed at this event. Several of our members who said they were curious and might attend changed their minds when they arrived and saw the gender imbalance.)

It’s interesting to note that this hasn’t been a problem when Human Connection Arts has held bodypainting events in Times Square — those have had a fairly equal mix of women and men from the start, and everyone felt comfortable. (Those also had paint, of course, which may not do much to hide one’s naked body, but does help disguise one’s face, which can be a consideration if you’re going to be naked in front of thousands of onlookers in one of the most public places on Earth.)

RandAIMG_8447IMG_8290So was the Ultimate Freedom Concert a failure? Not at all. It served its purpose: it showed that people can be naked, and can see other people naked, without any catastrophic consequences. People walking through Times Square to celebrate Brazilian Day got to see their share of, uh, brazilians. We overheard conversations between spectators and participants that suggested honest curiosity and supportive dialogue. (“What is this?” was the most common question, followed by “Is it legal?” and “Doesn’t your penis get cold?”) Some faces in the crowd seemed downright bored by the sight, and if that isn’t a victory, we don’t know what is.

IMG_7717But not being a failure doesn’t mean it was a success. A gathering that women don’t feel comfortable participating in — even if that wasn’t the organizers’ intent — might be a step in the direction of freedom, but the ultimate freedom it is not.

IMG_7737

img_4025Two summers ago, we met a funny, smart, beautiful woman named Mara Altman, who said she was writing a book about women’s bodies in general and her body in particular. She wanted to see what our events were like in preparation for writing the chapter about breasts. We were delighted to have her join us.

img_3582Now, after a gestation period that would do an elephant proud, Mara has published that book: GROSS ANATOMY, subtitled “Dispatches From the Front (and Back).” And sure enough, it has a chapter about breasts, and the baring thereof in public, focused on a topless bicycle tour we did in downtown Manhattan. It is thoughtful, eye-opening, and laugh-out-loud funny, and we commend both it and the rest of the book to your attention.

img_3587“When I’d thought about participating,” Mara writes, “the possible pitfalls had seemed huge. What if I changed careers? Say someday I want to be a politician. I’m running on a ticket of universal health care and weekly pizza parties for all, but then, during opposition research, a picture of my bare tits bobbling above a bicycle is revealed. I am no longer fit to serve. Keeping fabric less than a millimeter thick between your body and the world somehow preserves your integrity and makes you honorable, respectable, and capable of deep thoughts. Taking that little swatch of material away makes you a hussy.”

img_3607But of course she goes ahead and joins us anyway. “We rode through Battery Park and stopped in view of the Statue of Liberty, where one of the girls — one of the ones who had breasts that I wouldn’t mind having (it was something about the perkiness, the lightheartedness of the pair, like they were tulips reaching for the light in the sky) — read Emma Lazarus’s sonnet ‘The New Colossus.’ ”

img_3683“We made a quick stop at the New York Stock Exchange, which was filled with men in suits, but what really stood out were the many tourists aiming their cameras at us. Our meaningful movement, to them, was merely a stunt to document on their Instagram feed.”

img_3701img_3694“I saw interest, shock, disdain, adoration, and curiosity on the faces that flashed past. Many, hordes in fact, turned their phones toward us and began recording. I got it; usually, viewing this kind of stuff costs money and endless viruses on one’s computer. I tried to be chill…But every time a camera pointed in our direction, one of the girls, the one who had grandiose breasts, large and pillowlike, the type I’d decided would be perfect to rest my face in for a quick respite from the world, would yell, ‘Fuck you, you have to ask!’…I didn’t share her sentiment. Going outside topless would be like going out with a pair of parrots chanting ‘I like big butts and I cannot lie’ while fornicating on your shoulder, and expecting witnesses not to snap a picture. It wasn’t realistic.”

IMG_4092She writes about the experience of shopping for a sandwich in a shop whose staff isn’t receptive; she writes about eating lunch in the park, with a break for kickball with some kids.

img_3827IMG_3955img_3891Finally when a brief rain shower breaks out, she has an epiphany: “As little droplets pinged pleasingly all over my body, I finally realized an interesting change — my breasts, in that moment , weren’t for anyone but me. I hadn’t really dwelled on it before, but since my beginning, my breasts have always been for someone else. When I was a teenager, I wanted my breasts to grow so I’d be attractive to boys. When my breasts turned out small, I felt it was my duty to warn boys before they went under my half-filled bra cups so they wouldn’t be disappointed by what they found. For doctors, my breasts were something that could potentially turn lethal. For the babies I may have one day, they would be a source of food…Being topless is always a stop on the way to somewhere else — to a shower, to a breast exam, to sex — but it is rarely the destination in and of itself. By exposing my breasts to everything and everyone in one of the largest cities in this nation, paradoxically I finally got a taste of what it was like to relish them for myself.”

IMG_4055We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Hell, we couldn’t have said it half as well.

Check out what else this eloquent topless bicyclist has to say  here — and let us be the first to say this: Mara Altman for President in 2020.

IMG_4083IMG_3684IMG_3739IMG_3905

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.

IMG_6430

18-02-10-Polar Bear-484A couple of times each year, the non-profit organization Human Connection Arts puts on a big public event that celebrates free expression through nudity. New York’s annual Bodypainting Day in July is the biggest, but there are others peppered throughout the calendar. Last October, for instance, the group fielded a topless float in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, which seemed pretty bold at the time since October isn’t the most common month for outdoor toplessness.

But it pales in comparison to February. Which was when the group gathered most recently, on a frosty, somewhat rainy Saturday afternoon, with the temperature hovering not too far above freezing, applying bodypaint indoors at a studio near Times Square–

18-02-10-Polar Bear-12518-02-10-Polar Bear-11818-02-10-Polar Bear-225–girding themselves for the arctic winds they might face–

18-02-10-Polar Bear-14618-02-10-Polar Bear-254–and then bravely heading out into the cold to march to the Crossroads of the World, greet astonished tourists,

18-02-10-Polar Bear-32118-02-10-Polar Bear-35518-02-10-Polar Bear-373hobnob with costumed characters,

18-02-10-Polar Bear-522and take photos at the iconic bleachers near the TKTS booth.

18-02-10-Polar Bear-50918-02-10-Polar Bear-496One of our members gamely took part (see if you can spot her in these terrific photos by Daniel Vialet of Leinadmedia), together with some two dozen other participants of all ages, genders, sizes, and shapes. It was an exciting and liberating event, and we’re delighted to have played a small part in it.

18-02-10-Polar Bear-446If you’re inspired by what you see but need a little more mercury in the thermometer before you’d feel comfortable going outdoors in nothing but paint, remember that July isn’t that far off.

Or just paint yourself in the colors of the sun and think warm thoughts…

18-02-10-Polar Bear-264…or do it with a bunch of friends and huddle close. 🙂

18-02-10-Polar Bear-404

IMG_3444fAround this time each year, a little pop-up village of craftspeople and artisans and vendors appears in Columbus Circle to help New Yorkers with their holiday shopping. This year, the usual festive atmosphere was enlivened by the addition of a layer of snow on top of the candy-cane stripes and statuary, and one of our braver members decided to venture out in that snow with only a fur hat and a pair of gloves to keep her warm from the waist up.

IMG_3381IMG_3376fIMG_3324fIMG_3306fConsider it a tribute to the resilience of the human body and a precursor to our annual topless snowball fight, which we’ll hold in 2018 when snowfall permits. If you’d like to take part in that — or maybe in one of our warmer indoor events! — send us email: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com.

In the meantime, we wish you all a very merry, happy, safe, healthy and free holiday season.

IMG_3335fIMG_3358-C2IMG_3478fIMG_3440f

IMG_2556fUsually we meet as a group: we choose a day, head to a park or plaza, and hang out topless in the sun together. Safety in numbers, and also it’s more fun to hang out in the park with friends than by yourself. But sometimes there’s no one else around and you just feel like heading out for a walk on your own.

IMG_1789fA case in point was the recent rainy morning you see here. It wound up being bright and sunny in the afternoon, but you wouldn’t have guessed by the way the wet stuff was pouring down in torrents during morning rush hour. But that’s what raincoats and umbrellas are made for, and if you’re thinking, “How can you wear a raincoat and go topless at the same time?”, you clearly haven’t found the right raincoat.

IMG_1863feIMG_2107fThe morning’s stroll took us along the Upper East side, past stores and storied apartment buildings–

IMG_1327e–and on to Carl Schurz Park, home to some of the finest dog runs in Manhattan…

IMG_2322f…a beautiful riverside promenade…

IMG_2390fIMG_2501fIMG_2601f…and Gracie Mansion, where the mayor lives. (Didn’t snap any photos there. Next time.)

This seems finally to have been the end of warm weather for the season — it’s brisk and chilly now and seems likely to remain so until the Spring. If so, we’re doubly glad we took advantage of the warm weather while it lasted, even if doing so meant braving the elements.

IMG_2272fNext time — indoors! And we have many exciting indoor events planned. If you’re curious about them and you’re a body positive woman in the New York area, we’d love to hear from you. Just drop a note to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and tell us a little about yourself. We’ll be glad to invite you to join us for our adventures.

Not that it isn’t fun doing it solo, too…

IMG_2059fe

IMG_0880“I just want to tell you,” the man in the dress shirt and necktie said, “I love what you’re doing. You’re bringing back the 1980s. Back then, everyone here was completely naked.” The smile on his face was warm and genuine, though it was hard to imagine the fond memory he was describing was accurate. People went completely naked on the piers at the Hudson River? Well, they hadn’t been developed yet; they were just rotting spurs of wood sticking out into the water; so, maybe. And yet…really?

“Yes,” he said. “You’d come here and everyone would be naked. It was free and wonderful.”

Free and wonderful: two words we could relate to, even if we still had our bottoms on. The wonderful part, especially, since it’s a wonder that in the middle of October it was still warm enough to go bare outdoors. Later, when the sun had set, we went online to search, and sure enough found this:

slide_218857_843458_freeThe Hudson Piers were once home to a flourishing gay and lesbian scene, which included nude sunbathing, until gentrification arrived and chased the sunbathers away.  Needless to say, we’re proud to be doing our part to bring it back, even if we’re only taking baby steps by comparison.

IMG_0827IMG_0814IMG_0824These days, the piers have been developed, with artful, asymmetrical grass swards and metal sculptures dotting the grounds, and the sun worshipers lounging about look like this–

IMG_0568IMG_0714But the day we came, they also looked like this:

IMG_0618IMG_0677IMG_0664And we saw the gentleman’s handstand and raised it three cartwheels.

IMG_0725

We certainly felt free there — no one bothered us or complained, or even gave us a dirty stare. In fact, when we saw a bare-chested man enjoying a beer at the outdoor bar at the end of the pier, we figured we’d be welcome that way too — and we were.

IMG_1023IMG_1065IMG_1077New York may not be everything it was 30 or 40  years ago, but in at least one respect it’s been freer and more wonderful since 1992, the year a state court established that it’s legal for women to go topless anywhere men can. Back in the day, maybe people went naked, but they were all breaking the law by doing so. Today, we can do what we do in total comfort and confidence.

IMG_0951IMG_0857IMG_0763Of course, the balmy temperatures won’t be around for much longer — already it’s turned colder.

But the flame of freedom? That burns all winter long.

IMG_0914