IMG_3181Followers of this blog will have noticed that we don’t go to the beach a lot. That’s not because we don’t like beaches — we love them. But New York City makes it easy to go to the park and hard to go to the beach. Few of us have cars, for one thing, and getting to the beach is a lot easier with one.

But at least once each summer, we make a point of going. Last summer we braved the hour-long subway ride and the siren song of funnel cake vendors to go to Coney Island, and this past week we went to Riis Beach.

IMG_3103Now, Riis is famous, but few of us had ever been. It’s a right pain to get to — in the end, we wound up hiring a bus to take us there and back. And once you’re there, there’s not much in the way of amenities. A few food vendors on the boardwalk, some fenced-in fields, an abandoned nursing home building for atmosphere.

IMG_2938But…what an amazing beach it is!

IMG_3145Who knew that one hour out of Manhattan there’s a beach that’s as free and loose and casual as you’d find on the coast of Spain or a Greek island or either Riviera (French or Maya)? The sand was packed the day we went — one of the nicest weekend days all summer — but everywhere people were relaxing and getting along, and at least on the eastern end where we set up our towels, as many women were topless as not.

IMG_3412IMG_3555IMG_3057How wonderful, for once, not to be the only ones! Not that we really mind when we are — it’s ok, as long as no one bothers us. But how wonderful to look around and see all sorts of women confidently baring their breasts, and no one thinking anything of it!

IMG_3294So we staked out a little patch of sand for ourselves and lost no time in stripping down to as little as we could get away with.

IMG_2919IMG_2949IMG_2988Not to be undone, one of the three boys we had with us this time decided to rock a gold-sequined C-string, which was the hit of the beach until he made the mistake of wearing it into the water. Hello, wave; goodbye, C-string.

IMG_9912The water was lovely. Choppy, yes, some giant waves, but cold and refreshing and we took many long swims…

IMG_3576IMG_3006…then walked the length of the beach after to dry off.

IMG_3411The beach does have a more “bohemian” (aka, gay) section and a slightly more conservative (aka, straight) section, and we probably got a few more looks when we strayed from one to the other. But just curiosity, not hostility. No catcalls, nothing to break the lovely mood of the day, even when we moved from the sand to the boardwalk.

IMG_3374Back at our towels, we got some reading done. (No, Invisible Man doesn’t count as pulp fiction — it wasn’t the H.G. Wells version! — and neither does The New Yorker, but cut us some slack. We like to read a variety…)

IMG_3500IMG_3227IMG_3219And for those who didn’t bring reading material? There was sun, sun sun.

IMG_3260IMG_3319IMG_3463IMG_3095Eventually 5pm arrived, and our bus with it. We took one last dip…

IMG_3037IMG_3519…then packed our things, bid a rueful adieu to the sand and sun, and motored back to Manhattan.

Would we do it again? Oh, in a heartbeat. It’s tempting to go every week! Yes, Gunnison lets you go fully nude, which would be an improvement; Riis has a history of being used nude, but that was in the 60s and 70s, and the world is more censorious about such things now. (Unless the ocean eats your swimsuit, people understand that!) But Riis more than makes up for it with the warmth of the crowd, the quality of the scenery, and the relative ease of access (Gunnison is in New Jersey, a 50% longer drive). And you really couldn’t ask for a better place to relax with friends.

IMG_3597Probably this was our only beach trip for this summer, but if you’d be excited about joining us for another, we can consider it — just send email to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and let us know.  August is beach weather too, after all.

IMG_3640IMG_2943cIMG_3088

IMG_3732When we sunbathe topless in the park or take our shirts off in some other public place on a 90-degree day, it has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with comfort and equality. We like wearing less when it’s hot out than when it’s cold; stripping off a sweaty t-shirt to lie in the grass or play frisbee or enjoy the spray from a fountain isn’t a sexual act when we do it any more than when a man does. We work hard to make this distinction clear: nudity does not equal sex, and the two should not be confused or conflated.

That said, most of us do also like sex.

So we were cautiously receptive when we were contacted recently by several alumnae of Betty Dodson’s famous Bodysex workshop, which has been teaching women to explore their own bodies and their sexuality for something like fifty years. (Betty Dodson herself is close to 90 years old, and still going strong.) There was a Bodysex reunion being held near NYC, and some of the participants were followers of our group, and they asked if they might come to one of our events while they were in town. Of course we said yes, and invited them to join us on our favorite private rooftop sundeck.

Now, normally the privacy we enjoy there only means we get to sunbathe fully nude rather than merely topless. But this time it meant something more, since our visitors promised to share some of their practice with us, and their practice includes group masturbation and shared orgasm.

How many of us had ever masturbated in a group before? Not many. But we’re open-minded and very much pro-orgasm and sex-positive, so we decided we’d give it a try.

IMG_3746In all, between the Bodysex alums and us there were a dozen people on the roof. Some were first-timers, some long-time members; eleven were women, one was a man.

IMG_3759IMG_3712IMG_3660We began by sharing our groups’ respective stories, and some fresh fruit, white wine, and mimosas to go with them. (What story doesn’t go better with a mimosa?)

IMG_3681cAfter that, we shifted from the couches and lounge chairs to the floor of the roof and the dozen comfy soft towels Amazon had thoughtfully shipped us the day before.

IMG_3709We had a selection of toys to choose from — ones that vibrated, ones that pulsed, ones that sucked — and enough bottles of lube to stock a medium-sized pharmacy. (What’s the difference between a lubricant that “Arouses and intensifies” and one that “Arouses and releases”? We figured we’d find out.)

IMG_3655Someone in the group had an iPhone with a relevant Spotify playlist (“30 All-Time Greatest Songs to Masturbate To“)…

IMG_3794…and someone else had a bluetooth speaker. Connections were made. The mood was set. The moment of truth arrived. So we took off any clothes we still had on, laid back, spread our legs and dove in.

IMG_3750A word about masturbation: it’s nothing to be shy about, certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes the best orgasm you can have is one you give yourself. Learning how to pleasure yourself can also help you learn how to have more satisfying sex with a partner — but it doesn’t have to be about that. The self-administered orgasm (like the self-portrait, or self-hypnosis) can be an end in itself. Masturbation isn’t anything to apologize for. We all do it, women and men, and when we do it right it’s wonderful.

Yesterday, it was wonderful.

IMG_3779It didn’t hurt that the weather was perfect for it, sunny and clear — we gave ourselves orgasms under the bluest of skies and the whitest of fluffy white clouds. The air was deliciously warm against our skin.

IMG_3742Was it strange doing something so intimate and private in a group, a number of whom were meeting each other for the first time? A little. But remember, a lot of people also say that baring your breasts is something intimate and private that shouldn’t be done in a public place or in front of someone you don’t know well. People who say that are wrong — so why should we take as a given that they’re right about masturbation having to be solitary?

IMG_3738It helped that while the act was sexual, it was not sexualized. We weren’t performing, we weren’t ogling each other or being ogled (or watched at all, really; our eyes mostly slid shut as we went to somewhere special in our own headspace). We were just friends enjoying ourselves together, feeling beautiful sensations, and sharing that experience — as one member put it the next day, it was less like a sex party than like a wine tasting, only with orgasms instead of wine. And what fine vintages we uncorked.

IMG_3763And then, soon enough — too soon — it was over. We came, we relaxed, we caught our breath. We marveled at this thing we’d just done. Did everyone have a blissful smile on her face, or did it just feel that way?

IMG_3671We all felt really nice, that’s for sure. And our ordinary event started up again. We ate grapes, chatted, joked. Shared our addresses with each other so we could stay in touch. IMG_3730

Eventually, the Bodysex folk headed off to catch their planes home, like magical sex fairies who’d done their job.

Will we ever do it again? Who knows? Certainly not in the middle of Central Park, where going topless means nothing more than that it’s hot out, and neither women nor men are free to engage in sexual acts. But on some wintry afternoon perhaps, in a private room at our favorite spa? Or if one of us has a big enough apartment and enough cushy throw rugs? Why not?

Our group is not about sex, and what we do as a matter of course is not sexual.

This was sexual.

Maybe now people will have an easier time seeing the difference.

IMG_3767IMG_3796

 

IMG_2089Back in the day, when John Lennon lived in New York, the story goes that he’d come to a little lawn in Central Park, near the Dakota Apartments where he lived, to walk with his wife or listen to music or just zone out. After his death, the city of New York renamed the area “Strawberry Fields” after one of his most famous songs, and with help from his family turned the spot into a living memorial, beautifully landscaped and sheltered.

IMG_1887It’s one of our favorite places in the park now. The lush grass is so welcoming; you can feel yourself relaxing as soon as you lie down in it. And though it’s in sight of one of the busier intersections in the park, so you never feel isolated or cut off from the city, it’s set apart enough that half a dozen women can go topless without exciting anyone’s notice. You never feel alone, but you don’t feel surrounded, either. Really a perfect blend of out-in-nature and still-in-the-thick-of-things.

IMG_2224We went on a weekday, so it was less crowded, but it was a gorgeous weekday, so anyone who could get out of work was enjoying the great outdoors. (Along with all of Manhattan’s tourists, who are always around.) We had several first-timers meet us, which took a bit of work since as famous as it is, the actual lawn isn’t all that easy to find. (There are a lot of lawns in the area.)

IMG_2010IMG_2206IMG_1999But eventually everyone found it, and found us.

IMG_2027We relaxed with books…

IMG_1964-FIMG_2134IMG_2329…with strawberry cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery…

IMG_1868IMG_1872-FIMG_1877-F…with silly boobs-pressed-together selfies…

IMG_2185IMG_1993…and just with the excellent company of good friends.

IMG_2271And as we did this, the world and all its troubles (which, heaven knows, are many and grave) receded, so that for a brief moment we had none — no world, no troubles. Like the man wrote, nothing to get hung about.

IMG_2050We like to imagine (see what we did there?) that this might be what it was like for John Lennon too, on his days off, wandering in the park. Everyone needs time to breathe. We’re grateful to have gotten both respiration and inspiration this week.

IMG_2100If you’re feeling in need of either, or both, why don’t you join us sometime? We welcome all body-positive women, timid or bold, eager or just curious. Write to us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We promise: In the late Mr. Lennon’s honor, we’ll help you free your mind.

IMG_2120IMG_2251IMG_1900IMG_2416IMG_2358

IMG_1212Most places in New York look like they’re in New York. Even most places in Central Park do. You don’t have to look far to see tall buildings, or crowds of people, or to hear traffic rushing by on the nearest pavement, honking as it goes. But there are some spots, small and secluded, where the city retreats — or is held at bay, almost as if by an invisible protective shield, like the one protecting Themyscira in Wonder Woman.

IMG_1171IMG_1357One of these is our secret meadow up near the north end of Central Park. We won’t say any more about where to find it, since we’re happy for it to remain our little secret. But passers-by are few and if you lie in the grass you see nothing but blue sky, hear nothing but nature. And we happily took full advantage of being alone in nature.

IMG_1465IMG_0912cWe sketched each other (even when a butterfly landed on our artist’s sketchpad).

IMG_0984IMG_1279IMG_1006We partook of baked goods from the 100-year-old Orwashers bakery.

IMG_0995We posed dramatically against an imposing boulder.

IMG_0864We read — of course we read.

IMG_1418IMG_0900And we inducted a couple of first-timers into our sorority of kickass bare-breasted amazons. (While we’re on the subject, why weren’t Wonder Woman’s people topless in the movie? You live on a tropical island with nothing but women around, and not one of you takes her top off? We call b.s.)

IMG_1410IMG_1464IMG_1308At one point some teenagers came by to smoke pot on a nearby rock ledge — secret meadows have other uses too. But for the most part we had the place to ourselves, and what a lovely afternoon it was!

IMG_1436IMG_1438Would you like to be one of our first-timers next time? If you’re a body-positive woman in the NYC area, send us an email at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. August is almost upon us, and September coming hard on her heels — don’t let the summer pass you by. You can be a bare-breasted amazon too!

Join us. You deserve to have an afternoon lying fearless and proud and laughing in the sun.

IMG_1483IMG_0896

 

IMG_1625For the fourth time in four years, a group of more than 100 artists and models congregated in a public place in New York City — this time, it was in Washington Square Park — to demonstrate that art can take many forms, that the human body can also take many forms, that that the human body is nothing to be ashamed of, and that a naked human body can be an aesthetic object, not only or always a sexual one.

IMG_1559IMG_1650IMG_1743The artists came from all over the United States and all over the world — Japan, Russia, Latvia. Texas. Brooklyn. The models came in all sizes, shapes, ages, races, genders.

IMG_1648IMG_1679IMG_1774IMG_1513The theme this year was a broad one — just one word, Humanity. Nothing that would constrain an artist unduly, but a wonderful jumping-off point for art meant to celebrate what we have in common and our capacity for kindness, thoughtfulness, and decency.

Yes, decency — though five dozen naked bodies were uncovered in a public place, in front of thousands of passers-by, it was decency, not indecency, that was on display.

IMG_1688While some in the crowd showed confusion at first, by far the most common reaction was a smile. Some people we spoke to expressed wonder that an event like this was permitted, but they were overwhelmingly enthusiastic and supportive. A few expressed interest in coming back as models or painters next summer. And they’ll be welcomed gladly.

IMG_1622Some of our members made appearances under the paint–

IMG_1728–while for other models this was their first time standing nude in front of strangers.

IMG_1549IMG_1666IMG_1827And because this was an artistic exhibition, nude meant nude, not just topless — the ordinary restrictions on public nudity don’t apply when you’re creating art. Which meant that thousands of people got to see that a vulva or penis is just a body part like a nose or an elbow, not something you need to shield your eyes from.

(Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s awfully rare to see a penis presented in public in anything other than a hostile way, as an act of aggression or an attempt to provoke shock, fear or disgust. How wonderful to see penises in their natural state, just there between a man’s legs, doing no harm to anyone, and not meant to do any harm.)

IMG_1805IMG_1653IMG_1821IMG_1834IMG_1641Vaginas, of course, by their nature, are harder to display and to paint, but we proudly salute all our sisters and their marvelous multicolored labia.

IMG_1721IMG_1697IMG_1800But the focus wasn’t on any body part — it was on the totality of the human canvas and what art can be birthed from and upon it. We remain in awe of some of the gorgeous creations we saw, including the ones we saw on our own bodies.

IMG_1668IMG_1664And for all those of you who supported the event, or came to it, or participated in it — thank you.

We appreciate, and gratefully salute, your humanity.

IMG_1700IMG_1785IMG_1594IMG_1556IMG_1825IMG_1582

IMG_0665Did we mention we love to read?

We do. We’re not the sort of book club where everyone reads the same book at the same time and comes prepared to discuss Chapter 27 — but we are a book club, and we all come prepared with whatever book we’re reading at a given time.

IMG_2835For some of us that means schoolwork — a study guide to the MCAT, for instance.

IMG_0661For others, it might be a graphic novel like Peepland by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips, all about New York in the seedy, pre-Giuliani days of live sex shows in Times Square.

IMG_0561IMG_0651IMG_0681Or SoHo Sins, an art-world whodunit by Richard Vine about an art collector who confesses to murdering his wife (but did he really?), which got a bunch of angry 1-star reviews on Amazon.com because of a Lolita-ish subplot (“Avoid this pedophile-friendly trash!”) but is actually really, really good.

IMG_0628The point is, we love to read, and don’t draw a line between respectable reading and scandalous, between high and low. Or between what we ought to read and what we read as a guilty pleasure. All reading is good.

IMG_0564Similarly, all reading is good whether you do it fully clothed or half naked — and if anyone is scandalized by that, well, that’s just too bad. Sometimes the world is better for having a little scandal in it.

IMG_2851cSpeaking of high and low, all reading is also good whether you do it lying flat on the grass by Manhattan’s waterside–

IMG_0675IMG_0569–or up on the elevated park (once a railroad for deliveries to the meat-packing district) called the High Line. Though admittedly we did more walking than reading up there.

IMG_0791IMG_0798Not to mention on our way to and from.

IMG_0699IMG_0712IMG_0727Hats off (and shirts!) in particular to our two first-timers, who joined us proudly and had their first day of outdoor topless pulp fiction appreciation. We have a feeling they’ll be back. 🙂

IMG_0776If you’d like to join them sometime — if you’re a body-positive woman and either bold enough to do this enthusiastically or curious enough to maybe try it a little timidly — we’d love to hear from you. Email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com.

Everyone needs a little more reading time — and a little less bra time.

IMG_0535

IMG_2904A new non-profit arts organization called Human Connection Arts wants to bring fully nude outdoor body-painting events to four cities this year: New York, Berlin, Amsterdam and San Francisco. But they need your help! They have a Kickstarter attempting to raise the money needed to fund the events, and with only 42 hours to go, they’re still $1,400 short of the goal. And if they don’t reach their goal, they get no money at all! [ETA: They made it!! Whew. Nakedness, art and free expression to ensue as planned!]

IMG_2894IMG_2902To build awareness, the HCA team brought four nude models to the streets of Greenwich Village today for an impromptu painting session that brought traffic to a halt and left hundreds of passers-by smiling.

IMG_2887Lots of people had questions, but only a few expressed anything less than delight and support.

Of course, this was in Greenwich Village — some neighborhoods might be less supportive. But it was a joy to see so many people face to face with public nudity and pleased to see it.

IMG_2868IMG_2872If you’re in New York and would like to see it live, the New York event will take place from 12 noon to 4pm on Saturday, July 22, in Washington Square Park. (Be there or be, um, Washington Square. No, wait, that doesn’t work.)

IMG_2890But whether you can come in person or not, if you like what this group stands for and the work they’re doing, please consider helping out. It’s not our event or our organization, but we do like what they’re doing and we support them. We hope you will too.

IMG_2881