Archives for category: street

Each year for the past seven, painter and activist Andy Golub has organized New York Bodypainting Day, where dozens of models and artists from all over the world gather in a public place and create art together, using the human body as their canvas.

This year, we were sure the event would get cancelled — everything else had been. The Olympics, movies, Broadway, school. But when July 25 came around, god bless him, Andy was out on the street in Times Square. With a smaller group, it’s true, but there all the same, everyone wearing masks (sometimes two!) even when they wore nothing else at all.

This year’s theme was “freedom” and it was expressed in ways both explicit and implict. Images included raised fists, floating balloons and, naturally, birds.

But the visuals on display also included the simple fact of uncovered human bodies, and there’s no symbol of freedom more potent than that.

As a women’s group, we’re not generally advocates for men’s right to expose themselves, in part because that sort of exposure is so often wielded in an aggressive or hostile way. But there is no automatic reason that a man’s body should be a forbidden sight and no reason it should be an object of shame. A penis can be beautiful too.

As can vulvas, of course.

We applaud the women and men of Human Connection Arts, the nonprofit organization behind the event, for sharing their bodies without shame or fear.

(Yes, a few people deferred the moment of nudity to the last possible instant and covered up with paint as quickly as possible. But that’s okay too. Bravery takes many forms.)

And we thank Human Connection Arts for letting us participate! A chance to be naked in Times Square? We wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Of course, Times Square being Times Square, we weren’t alone. At one point a religious group marched through, protesting sin and attempting to save souls; at roughly the same time, a random neighborhood denizen, seeing our nudity, decided he wanted to share his own. Both incidents were a tiny bit stressful in the moment, but you know what? We love that we live in a city big enough to contain them both.

After the painting was done, the group took a walk down Fifth Avenue, past the main branch of the New York Public Library and on to the Empire State Building.

The crowd of spectators amused, enthralled or inspired by the procession may have been smaller than usual — and it’s for the best that it was — but the message was the same: we all have a right to be free, and artistic freedom is among the very highest forms.

Of course, it does lead one to wonder why a person going naked in Times Square on July 25th was free to do so, while a person doing the exact same thing at the exact same time in, say, Central Park (or even Bryant Park, just a few blocks away) would get arrested for indecent exposure. Or why the same person, unclothed to the same extent, standing on the same exact spot, would get arrested for it on July 24 or 26. Why is this sight wholesome and harmless one day and banned the next? Why must freedom be doled out with an eyedropper rather than erupting like, um, let’s say lava from a volcano?

But if drops of freedom are what we can get, we’ll take it for now. Remember: Enough drops, over enough time, can break down walls.

We formed this group a decade ago to fight the injustice of being treated differently because of an accident of birth — specifically, being born female in a world constructed by and for men. But as we’re constantly, cruelly, and painfully being reminded, gender is not the only axis along which injustice and inequality are dealt out. Race is another, and the events of recent months have been shocking, horrifying, heartbreaking. They have also been galvanizing, with thousands — tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands — rising up to say, “We will tolerate no more.”

We want to express our solidarity with the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, and with anyone anywhere who fights for the right to live their life free from oppression, from violence, from cruelty, from fear.

(Our own encounters with the police have been few and in the end have all worked out okay — but that doesn’t change the gut-wrenching fear when you see armed men walking toward you with looks of impatience and intolerance on their faces, especially given the very real danger that you might one day encounter the “bad” cop who doesn’t know or disregards the law in his zeal to punish you for something that is no crime.)

As a group of readers, one small way we feel we can contribute is by directing people toward books that might help open eyes and minds and educate all of us about the issues surrounding race and racism in America. With that in mind, we are glad to share two recommended reading lists of books on these topics: one from The Book Table and one from Refinery29.

While we’re at it, another bookstore you should know about is Elizabeth’s in Akron. Not only do they offer a wide selection of relevant books, a portion of every sale goes to the Loveland Foundation to support their mission of making mental healthcare accessible for black women and girls.

Educating ourselves is only one small step — but it’s an important one, and we hope you’ll join us in taking it.

We look forward to the day when no person will be denied their innate human dignity or their fundamental equal rights because of the color of their skin or the conformation of their anatomy. The fight will not be easy or short — it already hasn’t been. But it is worth fighting.

A year ago, a singer and activist know as “Ton Dou” (an abbreviation of his real name, Tony Douglas) held the first of what he called his Ultimate Freedom Concerts — events held in public places (in this case, Times Square in the middle of New York City) where people of goodwill could demonstrate that being naked doesn’t need to be sexual or offensive in any way. For six or seven hours, a group of partially or fully nude people congregated in this high-traffic spot, in full view of locals and tourists, vendors and costumed characters, and peacefully sang, spoke, practiced yoga, painted one another, and explained to the baffled masses on the other side of the protective fencing what it was all about.

This year he did it again, and it went more or less as before: baffled masses on one side, naked people on the other, some mutual understanding gingerly arrived at between the two.

Was there any difference? Well, last year’s profound gender imbalance — two dozen naked men, one naked woman — was slightly less profound: there were maybe one dozen men and four or five women. It’s a step in the right direction.

And the interactions with spectators were less confrontational. Last year the group was met with some antagonism, especially from people stumbling on the event unawares after exiting the annual Brazil Day festivities a block away, coincidentally scheduled for the same day. It was again Brazil Day this year, but somehow celebrants from that event seemed more tolerant or curious than hostile. Maybe the slightly better gender balance had something to do with that. Stumbling across a pen of naked men in Times Square is somehow different from stumbling across a mix of naked men and women. And maybe it also helped that some of the Brazilians this year seem to have embraced at least partial nudity:

Participants were still in a pen, though. The group meets with the city’s blessing and under the protection of the New York Police Department, but that same police department mandates metal fencing between the event and the public, and the result is an inescapable suggestion of animals in a zoo. Then, too, the male participants are a motley bunch that include some sincere idealists, some grizzled veterans of the nudist scene, some starved-for-human-contact sorts who might otherwise be tossing tetrahedral dice (not that there’s anything wrong with that…), and some hardened exhibitionists (not literally hardened, thankfully — but it’s clear enough what they’re there for). The message is a good and healthy message — but the participants attempting to convey the message aren’t all equally good ambassadors for the cause.

But: one step at a time. Last year’s event was a bit shaky; this year’s was definitely better; next year’s should be better still. And we do wholeheartedly endorse the goal: to make nudity more acceptable, more understood, less a cause for shame or embarrassment or anger. We feel fortunate to live in a city where an event like this can happen, not just once but annually, and with no motive other than to make the world a better, freer place.

For the last leg of our end-of-season visit to our favorite NYC parks, we paid our first visit of the year to Union Square.

Why Union Square? Well, to start with, it’s home to the city’s biggest farmer’s market, which means fresh-picked fruit to feast on — or to wear as impromptu pasties.

It’s also quiet, in spite of being home to a subway station and a never-ending stream of pedestrians (and chess hustlers, and street vendors, and, and, and…). The lawns on the east side of Union Square are set off by fencing and shrubbery and statues and just generally feel like an oasis amid all the midtown tumult.

It’s near the New School and some other schools where members of our group are enrolled, making it a perfect spot for a quick topless break between classes.

It’s far enough downtown that no one bats an eye if you walk from the subway to the park in a stylish leather top that lets you enjoy the breeze almost as thoroughly as if you had no top on at all.

Nor does anyone remark on it when you switch to actually having no top on at all.

But there was another reason for our choice when we went there on an unseasonably warm day earlier this month: Union Square is within walking distance of our favorite rooftop sundeck, and we wanted to pay a last visit there as well. So we had a rather full day: topless in the park at noon, nude sunbathing on the roof at 3.

Was that too much naked fun for one day? Sure — for a day in July, with the summer stretched out before us, feeling endless. But for a day in October?

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, the poet tells us, and so we did.

Would you like to gather some rosebuds with us when next spring rolls around? Or perhaps discover what indoor fun we’ve cooked up for the fall and winter? Drop us a note at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com or DM us on Insta or Twitter. You’ll find that when you’re with us, naked is always in season. 🙂

The temperature is in the 50s and dropping — next Sunday, the low is supposed to be 40. On top of that, it’s raining, the Duane Reade down the block is advertising Halloween specials, and all in all it just feels like summer ended a million years ago.

But it didn’t. Less than 3 weeks ago it was 90 degrees in New York City — only for one afternoon, true, but it was in the 80s for longer, and even when it dropped into the 70s it was still quite comfortable to be topless outdoors. So for the past several weeks we’ve been enjoying a valedictory lap around the parks of Manhattan, conscious that it was our last chance to enjoy them before the cold properly set in and the only thing getting denuded in the park would be the trees.

We started up at the north end of Central Park, which is like the upper reaches of the Himalayas in the sense that tourists never go that high, so you’ve basically got the place to yourself. There’s a meadow we like to use, which is secluded enough even at the height of summer and basically empty when fall rolls around. You can stand on your head with nothing on but a thong and no one sees, no one cares, no one says a word.

You can also gather with twenty of your closest friends and enjoy the feeling of the sun on your skin,

…secure in the knowledge not only that what you’re doing is completely legal (it’s been legal for 27 years for women to go topless anywhere in New York a man can) but also that, even if someone does pass by and see, it won’t raise any eyebrows. This is New York. Upper Manhattan. People see stranger things in this neighborhood than a girl with her titties out.

So we got our titties out.

And lo and behold, no one cared. Why can’t everywhere be like this? We had a few boys in the group this time, and our barechestedness drew as little attention as theirs — including from them.

We were able to read in peace,

and even get some schoolwork done.

Practice some asanas,

and our sk8r grl moves.

Show off ink and body jewelry,

and our selective adoption of undergarments.

Have a nosh al fresco,

and just lie back and daydream.

Even when we left the park, a few of us kept up the spirit of liberty that had animated our afternoon.

And why not? Why shouldn’t women be as free to walk down the street shirtless as men?

Nothing but cold weather should make us put more clothes on. And even then, we find all sorts of fun things to do naked indoors! But that’s a subject for another post — a whole winter’s worth of posts, in fact. For now, we’re going to remember the summer as it was at the very end: sweet and warm and free and fabulous.

We usually save indoor events for colder weather — when it’s no longer feasible to gather in a park, the likes of a warm yoga studio, spa, karaoke joint, or restaurant presents an appealing alternative. But who needs indoor events in the summer?

On the other hand, when we were contacted recently by the good folks at Cowgirl Seahorse, who’d hosted us a few years prior and were inviting us to come back, we thought, Why not? We had a friend visiting from the West Coast, and a topless dinner with her sounded like just the thing.

So off we went. We took advantage of the season first by gathering in front of the restaurant before the sun went down and watching it descend.

Then we headed in. Cowgirl Seahorse is a happy little spot down by the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan side. They serve basic Tex-Mex fare in a lively, colorful and welcoming atmosphere. One interesting feature of the place is that it’s basically one large room, so when we come we’re not tucked away in some closed-off private space where no one can see us. We’ve got our own table, but it’s out in the open like everyone else’s.

Did anyone object? Far from it! We were greeted by a warm round of applause when we entered, and no one at all seemed put out by our presence. In fact, a few of our fellow diners stopped by our table to say how much they admired what we were doing, and some staffers even invited their kids to meet us.

The place is female-owned and -run and queer-friendly — live events include drag brunches and the like. While we were there, we watched the staff hot-glue flowers to a giant 1960s-style peace symbol. The spirit of acceptance is as pervasive as the spirits fueling the shark-themed drinks.

There was even a marriage proposal before the night was out, although we’re pretty sure it was the result of the overflowing good spirits of both varieties. 🙂

And when dinner was finished, the fact that we exited into a balmy summer night meant there was no need to put our tops back on while we hunted down some dessert.

Big Gay Ice Cream is just a few blocks away,

…and the plaza outside made a lovely spot for hanging out–

–for meeting new friends (the woman in the middle of this photo is a total stranger who ran over to us and enthusiastically took her top off when she saw us doing it)–

–and for an impromptu flute performance from our very own Pied Piper.

All in all, a filling and satisfying evening, not just because the food and bev were good (though they were), but because everywhere we went, we felt like we belonged. Like our self-confidence and lack of shame about our bodies were not misplaced.

And we relished the chance to pass a lesson about not being ashamed of your body along to the next generation. Hopefully those girls will grow up with a touch more self-confidence because of it. The world will be a better, freer place for it.

Would you like to exercise your equal rights by joining us the next time we plan a topless meal, or a moonlit topless stroll? (The summer isn’t finished yet!) Whether you’re all over it or just curious, we’d love to hear from you. Email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com, or find us on Insta at @topless.pulp or Twitter at @ToplessPulp.

After meeting in 14th Street Park to prepare ourselves for our High Line adventure, and then heading up to the High Line itself for our mile-long stroll, topless, through a crowd of thousands of tourists and locals who possibly might not have been expecting to see a group of bare-chested women in their midst, we exited the High Line at its 34th Street terminus, elated and slightly exhuasted and many blocks from the nearest subway.

Did we put our shirts on for the last leg of our journey? We did not. It just felt too good, too healthy, too natural, to remain topless as we made our way through the city’s summer streets. Who needs another layer of fabric getting between her skin and the cooling breeze? Not us. So, fortified with a refreshing popsicle or two, off we went.

The east-west blocks between the river and midtown are long ones, and we got some looks as we crossed them. One or two odd remarks (“Get in,” said a man in a car. Did he really think we would?), one or two startled ejaculations (in the classical Arthur Conan Doyle sense of the word — “My dear Holmes!” I ejaculated), but overall nothing too untoward or troubling. We passed more than one male jogger wearing as little as we were, and by and large we got nearly as little attention as he did.

Eventually we got to the subway, where one of us got dressed for the trip home–

–and the other two just headed down to complete the trip as we were.

Having gotten out at Columbus Circle, we ended with a brief sit beneath a tree in nearby Central Park.

What lesson do we take away from this wonderful multi-stage experience? That female toplessness has been normalized sufficiently, at least in New York City, that not only can a group of more than a dozen topless women relax without causing a stir in a quiet park but even just two or three topless women can walk through other sorts of public spaces without giving rise to offense or distress — that of others or our own.

Also, that it is physically pleasurable, emotionally satisfying, and psychically healing to go bare-breasted outdoors, both because it is an assertion of equal rights — you can do this thing, and so can I — and because the simple sensation of it is delightful. (Maybe not quite so delightful in the subway. Nothing is as delightful there. But even there, it’s sort of fun.)

Would you like to join us sometime? Maybe not in the subway — that’s some advanced urban toplessness, for sure. But somewhere, sometime. Whether that’s on a grassy lawn in the park or a lounge chair on our favorite rooftop sundeck or wherever appeals to you most, if you’re a woman in the New York area and at all curious about what we do, we’d love for you to join us. Send us email (toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com), or message us on Insta (@topless.pulp) or Twitter (@ToplessPulp), and we promise — we’ll find an event that’s right for you.

Yesterday you read about how our group gathered on a lawn across from the High Line before heading up for our walk along the elevated park.

Hanging out in 14th Street Park is very different from walking the High Line — one is a quiet, serene, nearly empty patch of green in the middle of the city, a little urban oasis; the other is a tourist mecca, a narrow, constructed space with literally thousands of people walking through it at any given time. It’s a different sort of experience (motion rather than stillness, sound rather than silence, lots of contact with strangers rather than next to none), and not everyone in our group was up for braving it. So as we went from the park to the street outside…

…and from the street up onto the High Line itself–

Some of our members peeled off, leaving only a core group to walk the walk.

What is the High Line? It used to be a set of elevated train tracks used by freight trains to get goods to and from the Meatpacking District back when meat was actually packed there. Abandoned for years, the tracks got resurrected as a park by some urban developers who realized they could be made unique and gorgeous and turned into a site for pleasant strolls and sun-swept relaxation. And you know how we love our relaxation.

So we’ve been coming to the High Line from our group’s earliest days, before the whole thing was even done being rebuilt. One of our photos from those days was even chosen by the High Line for inclusion in the fancy coffee table art book they put out to celebrate their creation:

Now the rebuilding is done, and the High Line offers a delicious variety of intriguing and photogenic spaces.

Open stretches and covered ones —

Scenic overlooks —

Spots graced by views of the city’s newest grand public sculpture —

Speaking of which, it’s possible to accidentally walk off the High Line (a public park) and onto a private plaza owned and run by the new Hudson Yards property barons. We know it’s possible because we did it! And got politely (well, sort of politely) ushered back off the private plaza by a security guard who kept trying to get us to be sympathetic to him. (He seemed to think if he didn’t chase us off it would cost him his job. Who knows? Maybe that’s even true.)

But the High Line itself is public and public in the very best way — meaning free for anyone to walk any time, with or without a shirt on, whether you’re a woman or a man. We were thrilled to visit our old haunt again and to feel as welcome as ever.

What came next? Well after the heat of the day and the effort of the walk, we were ready for something cool. Fortunately, there was an ice cream truck waiting at the exit — run by a wonderful woman from Greece, no stranger to topless sunbathing herself. 🙂

From there we had another long walk before us — at street level this time, from the far west side to midtown, where we could hop a subway. How did that stroll differ from our walk on the High Line? Find out in Part III of our report — coming later this week.

We’ve been visiting the High Line before the High Line was even finished being built.

This year was the first time we got to see the whole thing, all the way to the endpoint on West 34th Street, capped by that grand new work of public sculpture nicknamed (actually named?) “The Vessel.”

It was quite an adventure, and we’re going to write about it in three separate posts this week, to give you a feeling for the whole afternoon. Which began with us gathering near the entrance to the High Line at 14th Street and Tenth Avenue, where there’s a convenient little park called (uncreatively enough) “14th Street Park.”

It’s barely a park at all, really. One square block of concrete paving with a single circular grassy hillock in the center. (Does it even count as a hillock? It barely rises at all in the center. Really it’s just a flat grassy circle. Is it even a circle or an ellipse? These are the questions we wonder about. We read a lot, and we like getting these things right.)

Anyway, we gathered, and we did it on the grass in 14th Street Park. First just a couple of us, then a handful, then a gaggle, then a pack.

Well, what group noun would you use for a group of topless women? It’s a “dazzle” of zebras, which doesn’t seem fair somehow — why can’t we have that one? A “convocation” of eagles, a “parliament” of owls, a “quiver” of cobras. A “murmuration” of starlings. Well, we murmured, we convoked. We probably quivered a bit. We like to think maybe we dazzled. But mostly we just relaxed, enjoying the sun and the breeze and each others’ excellent company.

That’s it — a “relaxation” of topless women.

Our relaxation held onto the park long enough that total strangers around us took notice and found enough comfort or curiosity to join in. This woman from Atlanta by way of Texas walked up to us, asked a few questions, and before long was sitting in our circle, and before much longer had her breasts bared in solidarity and joy.

Two women from Colombia went topless but stayed face down or held their shirts over their chests, saying they worked nearby and didn’t want to chance their employers seeing them out the window of their office building. Fair enough. But they took our info and promised to go properly top-free when we next meet in some other neighborhood. And another woman went down to just the thongiest of thongs. We felt our influence was doing some good.

Our meet-up included some first-timers, most of whom discovered us over Instagram. (In the last month alone 564 women in NYC have told us over Insta that they’d like to join us! We welcome every last one.)

We also had some second- and third-timers from events earlier this summer–

–and some old friends, back again from earlier High Line visits.

While waiting for all these folks to show up, we had books to occupy us…

…and snacks (these chips are made of chicken — no, really)–

…and just getting to know each other (we did the summer camp thing of going around a circle saying our names and where we’re from and was this our first time, etc.).

And when that ran out of steam, we got ourselves up off the grass,

headed toward the exit,

and out onto the street.

What came next? The High Line, of course — and you’ll see more of that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, if you’re a woman in NYC and think what you see in these photos looks like fun? Drop us a note. It’s easy: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com.

You’ll be part of our relaxation in no time.

Mostly when we hold our topless events it’s in a park — Central Park, Washington Square Park, what-have-you. Lacking private back yards, parks are where New Yorkers go when they want to get a little sun, and seeing someone less than fully dressed in the park isn’t so very unusual.

But what about traveling to and from the park? Most of us choose to wait until we’re on the grass and surrounded by trees before taking our tops off. But not all. And we want to salute those of our members who are bold enough to take this extra step in the direction of feeling comfortable outdoors in our freedom-loving city.

If men can go top-free on the city streets (and they can, and they do — you see plenty of shirtless male joggers this time of year), women should be able to do it as well, free from shame or criticism.

And we’re very happy to report that women can. It takes a certain amount of confidence and DGAF — but if you’ve got those things, there’s no sidewalk you can’t proudly walk down, no intersection you can’t cross, with your shoulders back, your chin up, and your chest proudly bare.

Yes, even in the subway.

Want to try it? 🙂 Write to us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com — we’ll find the event that’s right for you.