Captain’s Log: November 27, 2015
8:20 am: Check the forecast. Sunny, mid 60’s.
8:23 am: E-mail the Philadelphia Police Department (multiple recipients).
“Good morning, Lt _______. I am writing to ask for confirmation on how the Philadelphia Police Department treats public female bare-chestedness. I see conflicting information on the Internet. Many sources seem to indicate that bare-chestedness is legal in Philadelphia, but I saw one reference that women have to cover their nipples, at least with pasties. This assertion did not seem based in fact or law, though. I have researched Philadelphia and Pennsylvania law and see nothing criminalizing female breast exposure. I would like to take advantage of the warm weather today and go for a bike ride and I would like to do it bare-chested. I am not a protester and I certainly don’t want to be arrested. I just wish to go for a bike ride on a nice day. Thank you.”
9:15 am: No response. Phone call to the precinct that covers the route I want to ride. A female officer answers.
Me: “Good morning. I have read online that female bare-chestedness is legal in Philadelphia. I am calling to confirm this. I would like to go on a bare-chested bike ride on Kelly Drive today and would like to know that the Philadelphia Police Department won’t arrest me for doing so.”
Officer: “Um…I’m pretty sure it’s illegal.”
Me: “Could you find me the code or statute for me?”
Officer: “Um… let me put you on hold.” (Ten minutes later.) “Yes ma’am. It’s illegal.”
Me: “Can you read me the language?”
Officer: “You want me to read to you the language in the code?”
Me: “Yes please.”
Officer: “I’m not going to read it to you.”
Me: “Well, what is the code number?”
Me: “Pennsylvania Code 3127? Indecent exposure?”
Me: “I have 3127 here in front of me. It says only genitals are indecent. It says nothing about breasts, male or female.”
Officer: Pause. “Maybe you would you like to talk to our legal department?”
Me: “Yes please.” Silence. “Can you give me the name and number?”
Officer: “You want the number?”
Me: “Yes please.”
She gives me the name and number of a captain in the legal department, but not the e-mail address.
9:27 am: I call the legal department. No answer. I do an Internet search and find the e-mail address of the captain to whom she referred me in the legal department. I send the same e-mail as above to the captain and a couple people in the commissioner’s office.
10:10 am: The legal department captain responds by e-mail.
“As counsel for the Department it would be inappropriate for me to provide personal legal advise to you. However, I think a quick Google search may provide the answer to your question.”
10:27 am: I reply.
“Good morning. Thank you for the quick response. I’m not looking for personal legal advice though. I’m asking for a confirmation of what appears to be clear legal language. I called the Precinct to ask for a confirmation that my Internet research was correct, and that I would not be arrested if I appeared bare-chested on a bike ride on Kelly Drive this afternoon and she gave me a misinterpretation of State Code 3127, realized I believe her misinterpretation and directed me to you. She told me that if I had a question about a legal definition as it relates to enforcement I was to speak to you. If you are not the person to talk to, to whom should I?
10:40 am: Finally a substantial reply!
“The facts and circumstances that occur on the street are beyond my ability to speculate. The mere fact of being bare breasted is not an issue to the PPD. However, if your actions create other issues impacting public safety, I can not say that the police will not interact with you. I see no charges that would be applicable for being solely bare breasted.”
10:44 am: “Thank you. I understand. I appreciate your time. Be well.”
10:47 am: I call the precinct back.
Me: “Yes, ma’am. Are you the officer I spoke to earlier about female bare-chestedness?”
Officer: “Yes, I am.”
Me: “I received an e-mail response from the legal department which reads, “The mere fact of being bare-chested is not an issue to the PPD. I see no charges that would be applicable for being solely bare-breasted.”
Officer: “Okay. Thank you. Can you forward that e-mail to our precinct lieutenant so he can communicate that to the patrol officers?”
Me: “Yes, absolutely. Will you please tell them that I will be on the Schuylkill River Trail later this afternoon? And possibly Pine and Spruce Streets as well?”
Officer: “I will. Thank you. Enjoy yourself.”
Me: “Thank you.”
11:15 am: In the car and driving north…!
11:35 am: I receive an e-mail from another lieutenant in the police commissioner’s office reading,
“In response to your email. It is not illegal for a female to go topless in Philadelphia. The nipples do not need to be covered with pasties. This includes for bike riding. However if the presence of a topless female causes a disturbance anywhere within the city, she can be arrested for disorderly conduct.
Additional information to consider.
From Jan.1st to Oct. 31st, 2015 in Philadelphia the statistical number for sex related crimes are as follows. Rapes- 1116 Other sex offenses- 890.
So Be careful! Regards,”
11:36 am:Deep breath and respond.
“I very much appreciate your time and quick response. Regarding the argument that a police officer may still charge a bare-chested woman with disorderly conduct, public indecency or open lewdness: merely being a female is neither disorderly, indecent nor lewd, any more than being a male is. Since no one would consider mere bare-chestedness disorderly, indecent or lewd in a male, it cannot be considered so in a female. Disorderly conduct traditionally consists of such actions as using vulgar and obscene language, vagrancy, loitering, playing loud music or creating excessive noise, intentionally causing a crowd to gather in a public place in such a way that it impedes movement or creates a danger, or annoying passengers on public transit. Bare-chested sunbathing or walking or bike riding involves none of those things.
One of the reasons it is so important to normalize female bare-chestedness and cement gender equality is to disassociate females and their attire from perceived consent. I have been going for bare-chested walks, bike rides, beach trips etc in places where it is legal all over the country. Not once have I ever been sexually assaulted or touched inappropriately. I have been touched inappropriately and verbally harassed about my gender and looks numerous times while being fully clothed. The problem is not clothes, as you know. Sexual assault is a very complicated issue, and I do appreciate your concern.
I love Philly and am sure that I will enjoy my afternoon!
Thank you again.”
[If any female reading this wishes to use my wording and/or e-mails as a template for her own outdoor bare-chested excursion, please do not hesitate. I post my experiences and this information so that others may use and learn from them. I would only ask that you maybe share (publicly or privately) your own experiences with me!
Good luck and enjoy yourself!
Your bare-chested friend,