Nantucket Woman Fights to Go Topless

Town to consider measure to allow women to go topless at all island beaches
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2022 2:05 PM CST
Nantucket Woman Fights to Go Topless
Beachgoers surround the Brant Point Lighthouse on Nantucket.   (Getty Images/Oliver eielson)

All beaches in Nantucket will become topless beaches if one resident has her way. Under Massachusetts law, men can go topless in public, but the intentional exposure of female breasts can result in a charge of open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, punishable by up to three years in prison and up to a $300 fine. "This is inequality," says 40-year-old Dorothy Stover, a sex educator who hopes to see the town adopt a bylaw amendment titled "Gender Equality on Beaches." "In order to promote equality for all persons, any person shall be allowed to be topless on any public or private beach within the Town of Nantucket," it reads, per the Cape Cod Times.

Stover, a seventh-generation Nantucketer whose mother served as town clerk for decades, tells the Times that she wanted to sunbathe topless at a beach this past summer. "And I thought, 'why can't I do that?'" After all, "some men have bigger breasts than I do." Shortly after drafting the proposed bylaw in November, she told the Nantucket Current that she'd received "more support" than expected—including from women who feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public because of the current law, per WBZ. There are critics who "say women's breasts are sexual," she told the Current. But "I said no, they're sexualized." Just like women, "men have mammary glands and nipples."

"I'm not saying that everybody has to be topless" but "I want to support the love of the body," continues Stover, a sex educator who runs the Nantucket Love School, focused on empowering women through connections to love and pleasure, per the Times. She says topless beaches might even help people feel less insecure about their bodies. The measure will be debated at the annual town meeting on May 2. If it passes with a majority vote, the alteration will need to be approved by the state attorney general. Town Clerk Nancy Holmes tells the Times that’s unlikely to happen before September. (A similar measure passed years ago in Maryland.)

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