What is the difference in our culture between accepting topless males, versus topless females, in public? Is it a Puritan hangup? How about the stories about it being lawful for females to show their breasts in public in New York? Is it true? Are there any other places where it’s OK for females to go shirtless (and bra-less) in public other than Black’s Beach? I’m talking about public streets, parks, etc.
— Curious in Clairemont
Oh, I wish I could pass this one off as “it’s complicated,” because it truly is. I’ll attempt to offer some elucidation on the matter, but I must warn you, the laws surrounding public nudity constitute a morass of legal mumbo-jumbo that I’m not lawyerly enough to parlay to the common woman (topless or otherwise) in a way that constitutes any kind of legal advice! That said, let’s start with the fact that there’s no law on the federal books that prohibits public nudity.
Yup, that’s right. Uncle Sam isn’t about to say you can’t run around naked if you want. Neither will the State of California. In fact, any regulations on public nudity in California are strictly local ordinances and enforced by city or county governments. San Francisco, for example, has refused to legislate nudity and full-frontal is legal there. Keep your eyes peeled next time you’re in the Castro! And the rumors are true about NYC: women are free to bare their bosoms in the state of New York because of a ruling by the high court there that said it’s discriminatory for women to be banned from going topless in places where it’s acceptable for men to do so. The full monty, on the other hand, remains prohibited.
Here in SD, the city has put a big “negatory” stamp on walking around in the buff. It’s permitted at Black’s Beach, however, because that is a state park and therefore subject to the state’s policy on nudity, which is complicated. Basically, “traditionally” clothing optional areas are allowed to stay that way so long as nobody puts up a big fuss on either side of the aisle. Weird, right?
The best bets for other places to go bare-chested would be national parks, like the Cleveland National Forest, but I wouldn’t be surprised if park rangers were less than sympathetic. There’s nothing illegal about walking around nude in a national park, but it still might cause trouble. Best to check with local authorities and naturist groups before experimenting with public toplessness.