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img_3587Well, it’s true: we do want to change the world. Just like John Lennon wrote.

We want people to see women’s bodies the same way they see men’s: neutrally, as objects in the world, objects of beauty some of the time, objects of simple utility other times, in either event deserving of respect and fair treatment. The way we set out to achieve this is by going out in the world and using our bodies in a wide variety of ways, and doing it unclothed to the same extent men have been doing for ages, and hoping that repeated exposure to the sight will cure people of whatever concerns or anxiety or fear or prejudices they might have.

Most of the time this involves sitting in the park reading books — we are a book club, after all. But when Adam Benedetto of Loudest Yeller Bicycle Tours approached us to suggest a topless bicycle tour of literary and historical sites in downtown Manhattan, we jumped at the chance.

img_3619So, at 11am on a balmy Saturday morning, a dozen of us met up with Adam at his headquarters in Brooklyn, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.

img_3571img_3582Now, not all of us are what you would call expert riders of the two-wheeled contraptions we were being asked to climb aboard. But Adam reassured us that in all his years of running bicycle tours around the world, from here to Shanghai, he’s never had an accident. And sure enough, once we were all seated and pedaling and got the initial wobblies out of the way, breezing through the city streets turned out to be a joy — an absolute joy.

img_3679We headed first for the ferry dock to drop off supplies with Adam’s fiancee (she was leading another tour at the same time — not a topless one, sadly), then bicycled across the Williamsburg Bridge. And let me just say this: if you have never bicycled across a New York City bridge bare-chested on a warm summer day, well, you simply haven’t lived.

img_3607img_3645The next five hours — yes, five hours — sped by in a blur of exercise, education, conversation, and bare bodies. We rode along the Battery Park esplanade toward the Statue of Liberty, where one of our number was enlisted to recite poet and activist Emma Lazarus’ sonnet The New Colossus — not just the famous part, but the whole thing: “Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand/A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame/Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name/Mother of Exiles…” (Imagine it, if you will, read in a beautiful British accent, courtesy of one of our ex-pat members.)

img_3683From there it was on to Wall Street, purely for the ironic juxtaposition, and to discover that tourists find bare breasts absolutely astonishing, judging by the number who turned their cameras on us.

img_3694img_3701City Hall Park, where the mayor presides over New York’s affairs, was a short ride away, and Adam pointed out the site — now up for rent — where in the 19th century Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton published the women’s rights newspaper called The Revolution. (An appropriate theme for our group on any day, but doubly appropriate on a day of bicycling!)

img_3724After a stop at the African Burial Ground National Monument, we cycled past the giant, imposing courthouses where in past years women were sometimes brought before judges for doing no more than we were doing on that very spot, at that very moment.

img_3750On we went, to the crowded streets of Chinatown and Little Italy,

img_3755img_3773img_3835…where finally we stopped to pick up the makings of a picnic lunch. Disappointingly, Murray’s Cheese chased us out before we could buy anything there, citing some entirely nonexistent health code supposedly being violated by our bodies, but their next door neighbor — Faicco’s Italian Specialties — welcomed us warmly, sold us sandwiches and cookies and fancy imported sodas, and did it wall with a smile.

img_3827Next stop: Washington Square Park, where we rested our well-worked-out calves and thighs and glutes while munching, kicking a ball around with some guys who were playing nearby, and chatting with a New York Post reporter, who looked like she was about two seconds away from taking her shirt off too…but never quite got there. Next time.🙂

img_3853img_3891img_3936img_3955img_3963After lunch we had all those new calories to work off, and we did it with a visit to a former women’s prison, the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the Stonewall Inn, and the former workplace of Anais Nin.

img_3988img_3994At this point it briefly rained, but you know what? Far from ruining the day, it felt refreshing and wonderful. Basically nothing could ruin the day for us. Even when one of us got a flat tire and we had to stop while Adam patched it, we found ourselves outside a downtown boxing gym, where this fellow entertained us by working his jumprope outside on the sidewalk.

img_4010Now, look at that chest. Just look at it. Isn’t that an object of beauty? Sexually attractive? It certainly is. And no one but no one told him to put a shirt on or asked what he was doing exposing himself where children might see. No one bothered him or whistled at him or booed or cheered or applauded. And that’s as it should be. All we ask is equal treatment for our bodies. It’s really not that much to ask.

img_4014From there, it was back to the bridge–

img_4055img_4069–and back to Brooklyn, where we returned our bikes and helmets and bid Adam a fond and grateful farewell.

img_4083He’s the best — well informed, a great guide, a feminist through and through, and a whiz on two wheels. If you’re in the mood to discover New York by bicycle, you should totally contact him: adam@loudestyeller.com.

And if you’re in the mood to discover the pleasure of being topless outdoors while it’s still warm enough to enjoy it, you should totally contact us: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com.

It’s your body. Why not enjoy it?

It’s how we hold our revolution.

It’s how we change the world.

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img_3376For the last three nights, our all-female, fully nude production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest has played to sold-out houses in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. (Well, tickets are free, so maybe “sold out” isn’t precisely the right phrase. But packed houses. Standing room only. Let’s call it that.)

img_3138Tonight — Saturday, September 10, 2016 — is your last chance to see the show. If you’re in New York and at all curious, we encourage you to come.

img_3156The show is different in Brooklyn than it was in Central Park in May. The performance space is less isolated, so random pedestrians walking by are more likely to stumble across a mystifying and magical scene. The bulk of the audience is watching from an elevated pagoda, and the lawn before it is flat, reversing the earlier dynamics (in Central Park, most audience members sat on the ground and the stage had a variety of vertical levels). And two new actresses, one new dancer and a new pair of musicians have  joined the cast, appearing in new costumes and new body paint.

img_2933But the script is the same — the same timeless fable of exile and liberation, of vengeance melting into forgiveness, told in some of the most beautiful verse ever crafted. And once again we celebrate the female body in all its variety and wondrous versatility. Our cast displays tenderness, rage, horror. wonder, despair, elation — the full range of human experience, giving the lie to the premise that a naked women conveys only one thing: sexuality.

img_3210Come join us tonight and see Prospero and Miranda, a sorcerer and his daughter–

img_2970Ariel, spirit queen of the magic isle–

img_2995Ferdinand, boy prince, thought orphaned–

img_3164Alsonso, King of Naples, and his loyal retainer, the good lord Gonzalo–

img_3421Sebastian and Antonio, conniving conspirators–

img_3370img_2952And the other spirits in attendance–

img_2909See love blossom,

img_3070img_3089and ripen

img_3257img_3268See perfidy punished

img_3228and virtue rewarded

img_3452See magic abjured

img_3343and captivity…prolonged?

img_3052See it all, before it vanishes into air — into thin air…

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IMG_1256We meet outdoors. Why? Because it’s warm outdoors; it’s pleasant; it’s sunny, and it won’t always be this warm. New York is a beautiful city in the winter too, we love New York at Christmastime, but summer in New York is something special, and we want to enjoy every last bit of it.

IMG_1462We meet in the park. Why? Because it’s a touch of nature in a city that has all too little of it. We love tall buildings too, we love the rumble of a subway train, the rattle of the taxis, but grass is lovely, it feels nice underfoot, and you can lie down on it and roll around in it and do backbends and bridges and handstands in it.

IMG_1541IMG_1556We meet in a group. Why? Because our friends are important to us, because we enjoy their company, because reading books is more fun when you can tell your friends about them; but also because there safety in numbers, and support in numbers too. There’s comfort in knowing you’re not the only one who enjoys what you enjoy and confidence in doing something together with other likeminded folk. Because a harasser is more likely to target a solitary woman than a group of women, and because that’s true even if the solitary woman is fully clothed and the group is topless.

IMG_1476IMG_1593We meet topless. Why? Because it feels good; because we can; because the law permits us to. Because men do it without anyone asking why, and have for eighty years, but once upon a time people thought male nipples were scandalous too. Because eighty years from now, people will think it’s equally ridiculous that people once thought female nipples were scandalous — but only if we start normalizing ours now. Because a beautiful chest is no sexier, and no more inherently sexual, than a beautiful pair of legs or lips or eyes, or beautiful hair, or a beautiful back, and we don’t require either women or men to cover up any of those things, or shame them if they choose not to. Because a beautiful chest is no sexier, and no more inherently sexual, if it’s a woman’s than if it’s a man’s. Because our daughters need to learn this, and our sons too. Because our bodies are all we have, ultimately, and we can’t shed them, and if you criminalize them, you criminalize us. If you shame them, you shame us. If you hide them, you hide us.

IMG_1227IMG_1406IMG_1312We photograph ourselves, and we post the photos here. Why? Because what we do in New York can benefit women all across the world. We’re fortunate to live somewhere where it’s legal to do what we do. But not all women are so fortunate. Most women are not. And we want to show women everywhere — and men, men everywhere too — that a bare breast will not cause the downfall of civilization, that exposed nipples need not be met with outrage, that sane, normal women can enjoy a day in the sun with no top on just as sane, normal men can. Because we are proud of what we do and want you to know we are. Because we choose not to hide.

IMG_1412IMG_1381IMG_1388We want you to write to us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. Why? Because you’re a woman, because you love books and the sun, because you have a body, and you choose not to hide either.

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IMG_2395Two summers ago, we scoured the city to find a hotel with a rooftop pool that would let us come and swim topless. All but one expressed horror at the idea. That one — the Dream Hotel Downtown — said that topless sunbathing and swimming was of course fine. And they of course got our business.

IMG_1981We had such a good time, we returned for a second go-round last summer, and this week we came for our third visit. For the record (and in case any of the Dream’s competitors are reading this, and we know they are), no other guests at the pool complained and no one seemed to mind that both men and women were enjoying the pool bare-chested. The Dream has now enjoyed several thousand dollars of our patronage, not to mention whatever incidental benefit publicity on this blog might confer, with no negative side effects whatsoever. Other hotels might do well to reconsider their senselessly restrictive, sexist policies. We’re looking at you, Hotel Americano.

IMG_2217But enough editorializing. Back to the fun stuff. Which in this case included a nice shady cabana for getting out of the sun,

IMG_1609IMG_2154Some truly delicious champagne–

IMG_2610IMG_1909–and nibbles,

IMG_1694IMG_2574Hanging out both in the pool–

IMG_1861IMG_1874–and on the pool (fun with inflatables, yay!),

IMG_2458IMG_2425Showing off new hairstyles,

IMG_1985IMG_1986Taking selfies,

IMG_2178And of course reading some wonderful books, ranging from the serious poundage of Infinite Jest to the tawdry pulp pleasures of Sinner Man. (Each a wrist workout in its own way, as one wag observed.)

IMG_2358IMG_2777IMG_1716Best of all was hanging out with friends, and holding the onrushing end of summer at bay for one more glittering, timeless afternoon.

IMG_2277IMG_2484IMG_2434And while we may not have another pool adventure in the works this year, we’re not letting the summer slip from our grasp without a fight. If you’re in the city and would like to join us for one of our end-of-summer flings, we welcome inquiries from all brave, body-positive women (or even timid, body-positive women — we were nervous our first time too). Email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and let us know a little about you. We’d love to meet you sometime, before warm afternoons are once more just a thing of legend.

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IMG_4581This past May, we put on an all-female, fully nude production of Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest, outdoors in Central Park. It was a huge success, attracting not only an audience of hundreds to the park but also coverage all over the world, from NBC News here in New York (and the New York Post, and the Daily News, and New York Newsday, and many more) to four of the five major newspapers in the UK (Daily MailIndependentGuardian, and Times), and from Jezebel and Salon online to The Huffington Post and The American Spectator. We were covered in Oregon. We were covered in India. We were one of the “photos of the week” chosen by The Atlantic. For an hour or two, we were one of the top 3 trending topics on Facebook.

But despite all that attention, not everyone who wanted to see the show was able to.

Well — now’s your chance. Our Tempest is coming back, this time to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, for four nights only: September 7-10, at 5:30pm each day. You can find information about the show and directions to the location in the park here.

IMG_3732IMG_4750IMG_4856The cast and creative team is mostly the same, though we have a new Miranda and Gonzalo joining us, and a new painter doing the body art for our supernatural characters.

IMG_4814IMG_4936We’ve already started to get attention — CBS News ran this story last night, and local Brooklyn publications have been all over it.

IMG_5027If you’re in the New York area on the dates in question, we hope you’ll join us in Prospect Park for some open-air Shakespeare and to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as New Yorkers. And needless to say, if you do come, you’re welcome to watch the show topless yourself.🙂

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IMG_1014Many years ago — not too many to count, but let’s call it that, it sounds more romantic that way — Bryant Park was known for its heroin addicts and violent crime. But, in one of New York’s greatest stories of urban renewal, it bounced back. Now it’s a gorgeous green lawn, lovingly tended, surrounded by peculiar amenities such as a bocce court, a carousel where you ride on frogs and rabbits rather than horses, and an open air “reading room” filled with free books and magazines donated by the city’s various publishing concerns.

So when we went to Bryant Park this past week only to discover that the lawn we’d planned to sunbathe on was in the process of being lovingly tended (pesticide had just been applied, so no sunbathing!), we knew which part of the periphery we wanted to head toward. That’s right: the bocce court.

Just kidding. We headed for the Reading Room, with its plethora of folding chairs and books and book lovers, and even an author seated behind a microphone discussing at length the films of Alfred Hitchcock and his encyclopedic new book about same. We commandeered a pair of tables within earshot of the presentation (Cary Grant…Grace Kelly…Psycho…McGuffin…), unpacked our own books (we’d brought extras so we could leave a donation of our own),

IMG_1005 took off our shirts and bras,

IMG_1134and had one of the most pleasant and relaxing afternoons of our long and distinguished career as an outdoor literary society.

IMG_1120IMG_1070IMG_1185cIMG_1078What made it so? Well, first of all, the multiple women who stopped by to say they supported what we were doing, including the one who said she’d join us if she weren’t on her way back to the office from her lunch break, the one who called herself an old hippie and recommended some nude beaches for us to visit, and the one who took our info so she could join next time.

IMG_1184But second of all the men, who for once startled us by having something to say about books, such as this fellow who started with “Are you the outdoor topless pulp book club?” and then followed that not with questions about our choice to be bare-chested but rather, having seen a copy of Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon on the table, a comment about Novik’s recent win over N.K. Jemisin in the Nebula Awards (he originally supported Jemisin, but after seeing one of her tweets about how great Novik is, he tried one of her books and had to admit he agreed, she’s pretty great too).

IMG_1046All in all, an encouragingly positive day, full of sunshine and breezes and occasional surprised glances, but nothing worse than that. If only every afternoon could be like this!

IMG_1112Alas, they aren’t: just two days earlier, in the very same park, two of our members — one with her three-year-old daughter in tow — came to sunbathe and were approached for it by a park official and a pair of cops. They’d gotten several complaints, they said, and while they knew they couldn’t do anything about it, they wondered if our friends would put their shirts back on.

No, our friends said. Not least of all because one of them happened to be nursing her daughter at the time. How old is she? one of the men asked. Does that matter? our friend replied. Well, no, the man conceded. When you’re finished, though, will you cover up?

Um, our friend said. No?

To which the official had no comment, and in the end he had no choice but to leave her alone. But what an awful, awkward, needlessly embarrassing experience it was. And why? Why were two women, one nursing, approached and bothered, while just a few days later something like nine of us could sit happily topless just a few yards away, in the very same park, and not be pestered?

Ah — of course.

The pesticide.

Applied only a few days too late.

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IMG_1078Yes, we’re New Yorkers. But some of us sometimes travel. And when we do it’s sometimes to a part of the world where we can indulge our inner nudist. (If that isn’t a contradiction in terms. Outer nudist makes more sense, I suppose.)

IMG_1079One of our members took a trip to the Balearic Islands and sent back these photos from her holiday. We thought we’d share them with you.

IMG_1077IMG_1076IMG_1075Do we envy her? Perhaps; but no more than we envy the inhabitants of Ibiza and Formentera for having her company. Meanwhile, our scenery back home may be less sparkling and azure, but rest assured that we’re enjoying our own version of a naked holiday every chance we get, in a very different setting but under the selfsame sun.

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