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.

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IMG_7588When was it that nudity started being equated with weakness? Vulnerability, sure, we get that: if you’re naked, you’re exposed to the elements; and as Bruce Willis once taught us, when you’re barefoot it’s a bad idea to walk on broken glass. But the flip side is all those amphorae in the museums depicting the original Olympic games, where all the athletes competed in the nude. And what about those strapping classical statues? David v. Goliath? What about that island Wonder Woman came from — everyone trained naked there, didn’t they? (Not in the movie, maybe, but you just know they did when the cameras weren’t filming.)

IMG_7543IMG_7429We happen to believe that there is nothing weak about being naked, that nudity is a cause for pride and self-confidence, not fear or shame.

IMG_7531And when we get together as a group (as we recently did on our favorite rooftop sundeck), it’s an occasion for setting aside all those timid-woman cliches along with our clothes.

IMG_7681Having set them aside, what do we do then? We sun, we read, we snack; we do as we like. We make no apologies and ask no permission.

IMG_7653IMG_7661Even when the occasional refugee drops in from “man’s world,” there’s no question who’s in charge.

IMG_7608And we like to think that some of that extra self-confidence comes back with us into our daily lives even after the clothes go back on.

IMG_7384IMG_7576IMG_7545Do you feel proud naked — or would you like to? The summer’s not quite over yet, and even when it is, the fall usually has some warm days in it. Get in touch. Drop an email to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and tell us you’d like to be part of our grand adventure. We welcome body-positive women of every description.

Just call us Themyscira on the Hudson.

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IMG_7111In August 2011 — seven years ago — half a dozen of us decided that we were going to try doing this thing we knew was legal in New York, but that we’d never been brave enough to do: go topless in the park on a hot summer day.

park-jFor our first test of this freedom we supposedly had, we chose Sheep Meadow, the most glorious grassy lawn in Central Park, a stone’s throw from the legendary eatery Tavern on the Green. (That “green” they’re talking about? It’s Sheep Meadow.) We found our way through the fence and onto the grass, and after a timid moment or two, we unbuttoned, untied, unzipped — un-topped — and did it ever feel good! Not just the solar rays on our sun-deprived skin, but the feeling that we were really as free as the law said we were, that our rights really were equal, and our breasts as valid as any man’s chest. No one stopped us, criticized us, shamed us, ogled us. No one told us to put a shirt on or to go home; no one reminded us that there were children around (though there probably were, there always are). We simply were allowed to be.

IMG_7355IMG_7281IMG_7130Each year since then we’ve come back to Sheep Meadow at least once, and this summer was no exception, except that we left it almost to the very end. Once again half a dozen of us came out to enjoy the sun and the soft grass, the gentle breeze and the lack of judgment. Once again, no comments or stares came our way, just the kiss of the wind against our nipples, and at the very end, the tiniest scattering of raindrops to refresh us and (finally) chase us out of the park.

IMG_7296Two of our longest-time members were there for the event, along with one of our newest: a college student who made her mark instantly by bringing lemon sorbet, Pellegrino water, cups, and ice, for impromptu sorbet cocktails. (We’re keeping her.)

IMG_7166IMG_7357Reading material included a dystopian tale of a world in which women are a lot less free than we are — and which sadly, some days, feels only a few small steps away from coming true.

IMG_7134To take our mind off such dire futures we focused on the moment. Small physical joys. And it was blissful.

IMG_7159IMG_7236IMG_7250Would you like to join us? There’s still time! Monday is Labor Day, the traditional end to the summer season, and we’re marking it with a picnic in the park. If you’re a body-positive woman and in the city over the holiday weekend, why not see for yourself what freedom feels like? Email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. Before the winter comes  (and before this insane government goes all Margaret Atwood on us). Come out to the park with us, and enjoy the taste of liberty. It’s cool and refreshing, we promise.

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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.

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IMG_7066Nature plays cruel tricks sometimes. After a long, cold spring, she’s treated us to a summer punctuated by torrential rainstorms and day-long drizzles, sometimes every day for a week. No, it’s not anything like the lava in Hawaii or the fires in California — we’re fortunate and we know it. But it has made it hard to plan and pull off the outdoor events that are our raison d’etre.

So this past week, when “chance of thunderstorms” was once again on the forecast every day, we decided to move up our annual spa date and celebrate Christmas in August. Twenty-two of us descended on our favorite spa, a serene oasis hidden on the fifth floor of a midtown building. We took the place over, which enabled us to roam freely, lounging naked in the jade-encrusted sauna…

IMG_7007IMG_7044…under the rainforest shower…

IMG_7021…and in the lemon- and ginseng-infused soaking tubs.

IMG_7030IMG_7069IMG_7017There were massages for all, and afterwards there was champagne for those that wanted something bubbly…

IMG_7071IMG_7080…and tea for our teetotalers.

IMG_7083But what made this particular rainy day extra special was the storytelling adventure we experimented with in one of the spa’s relaxation lounges.

Storytelling adventure? Well, you already know we love books. And while neither the printed nor the electronic variety survive well in a sauna or soaking tub, there is an older tradition — the oral tradition — that is perfectly suited.

For reasons we’re sure you will appreciate, we don’t have any photos to share with you of this portion of our afternoon — but it was truly a wonderful experience. We chose a comfortable room with gentle heating elements in the floor and went there in groups of five or six at a time. One person in the group would start telling a story — an erotic story — and as it developed, the rest of the people in the room would suggest directions the story might take. The first story, for instance, was about a sports victory and what happened in the showers after. A classic premise, you might say. But we gave it some fresh twists and turns, and well before the characters in the story reached their sorely deserved climaxes, we reached ours. Some of us several times.

Kudos to our brave storytellers, who shared their fantasies, and to all the brave women (and one brave man) who participated. We’ve explored group orgasms before, but never with this added interactive element, and it just took things to an entirely different level. Before long, people were already talking about doing an all-erotic-storytelling event sometime later in the year. (Maybe that will be our Christmas treat, since we’ve already done the spa!) If you’re feeling brave and might be interested in sharing stories and orgasms with a group of like-minded women, let us know: you can reach us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. Or if you’d like to come to our next spa event…or our next outdoor event. Whatever your interests, we’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this little peek into our rainy day pastimes. There’s nothing like being out in the summer sun — but when that isn’t an option, we do find some wonderfully satisfying alternatives.

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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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