How to go bare-chested without getting arrested

I’ve been appearing peacefully and publicly bare-chested now for more than two years.  I have walked, ridden my bicycle, swum, kayaked and sunbathed in cities, towns and beaches around the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States.

Blog Police 1 edit
George Washington Law School, Washington D.C. Spring 2015. So after the security guard called to confirm the legality of going bare-chested, a supervisor came, and yes eventually four officers arrived to see what I was all about. The man next to me came out of a building to defend my rights. (Thank you!) The man in front of me was asking to take my picture.

 

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say I have been seen bare-chested in person in public by hundreds of thousands of people.

I have never been arrested or touched inappropriately, and up until I started my blog and posted my own pictures, I had never seen a single photograph of me bare-chested on the Internet.

I’ve alluded to parts of my process in other blog articles, but this is the first time I have put the whole thing together.

I do NOT guarantee my recipe will work for others, but it has worked for me so far.  I also only really do this the first time I go somewhere.  New York City, Washington D.C., Philadephia, etc have more or less established themselves as places women can appear bare-chested in public.  This recipe is for when I go to places I have never been or that seem unresolved on the issue.

 Step 1. Get right with myself.

I can’t overstate the importance of this.  Before I started going bare-chested, I studied why I wanted to go topfree.  Not why Scout Willis or Miley Cyrus want to go topfree, but me.  The more I understood my own body image, confidence, anger, anxieties, the paradoxically more normal I began to appear to my observers.  People are going to look.  I knew I wold be doing something new and different and unusual and in some places, radical.

I also know my observers are going to associate my demeanor with my attire and form an instant opinion.  I have seen the entire range of human emotion reacting to my breasts.  People have been moved to tears by “my courage.”  Most people ignore me completely.  Others have shown contempt, fear and anger.  (By far the majority of people react neutrally or positively.  See my videos for proof.)

Now that I have done the work inside myself, I know bullies can’t hurt me, even though I am open and free.

Step 2. Know the applicable laws and prepare to prove it

I’ve written four articles breaking down the basics of understanding how American law generally works regarding female bare-chestedness.  You can find the first one here.

In a nutshell, I have prioritized places where the law already allows bare-chestedness even if few or no people are actually aware of this.  (I will write on the topic of overcoming unequal laws later.)

I first look at the state’s indecent exposure language, which is available online.  I always make sure I am looking at the state’s actual code, and not someone just claiming to know what the code says.

Google searching Pennsylvania Indecent Exposure, for example, brings up a lot of advertisements for lawyers who represent indecent exposure cases but a careful look reveals the language they use in those ads is often canned (re-used from other bad sources) and not reflective of the actual laws in a given state.

Once I’ve found the actual code, which I know because I am looking at a government website, I search the code for “indecent exposure,” “open lewdness,” “public indecency” and “breast.”  Generally these searches will show me whatever laws a police officer might throw at me on the street.

I then copy this language with the code and section numbers for easy reference and e-mail them to myself with a clearly worded title like, “Philadelphia exposure laws.”  If I have to cite my sources on the street, I want to do so confidently without scrolling haphazardly through my phone.  A quick search of my e-mail brings it up.

Jumping ahead, I do the same thing once I receive an e-mail confirmation of the legality of bare-chestedness from a police department’s senior staff or legal department.

 

Blog Police 2 edit
George Washington Law School, Washington D.C. Spring 2015. Waiting patiently for what I already know. Notice the cars stopped. One officer tried to say I was creating a distubance until I pointed out NONE of this was happening before the police began talking to me. It was their disturbance, not mine. They were dismissive, but generally professional. Better than some have been anyway.

 

Step 3.  Plan my trip. Sort of.  

Whether I am riding my bike or walking, I learn something about where I am going and look for places that will provide me an enjoyable experience, just like any normal tourist, right?  I do want to allow for spontaneity though.

Jumping ahead again, once I receive a confirmation from the police, I sometimes tell them exactly when and where I will be.  This allows whoever has confirmed the legality to also give a quick heads up to the officers in that sector that I will be there doing this new thing and that it is okay per (insert superior officer’s name here.)  It also shows them that I am supremely confident that I am within the bounds of the law and that I am comfortable interacting with the police.

Step 4. Figure out who to contact at the police department.

It can be surprisingly hard to find good e-mail addresses for police department superiors.  But if you are creative, you can usually find the e-mail address to someone.  Sometimes I even look at other city websites, like public works, and look for the formula the city uses for e-mail addresses.  For example, ginger.bread@dc.gov or ginger_bread@phil.state.gov or whatever.  From there I make some educated guesses and send off a couple e-mails.  If I don’t get them back as rejected or as bad addresses, bingo.

I have also saved myself some time by just calling the precinct or sector station for the area of the city I plan to visit.  This is a savvy tip!  After all, this is the lieutenant or captain that is about to be dealing with me.  He or she is going to want to answer this question quickly.  Most big police departments have contact information for the neighborhood precincts or substations.  I’m always ready for a dismissive initial response.  I stick to my guns.  I know that I know more about this than whoever answers the phone.  He or she just doesn’t know that yet!

Generally with a first contact, if I am trying to make quick work of a conversation, I have found it is easier to find a lieutenant or captain.  These are the officers in the streets, so to speak, the officers to whom patrol officers report directly.

Important note.  While operations officers are easier to find, they will not feel they have the authority to declare bare-chestedness legal unless the department has already talked about it.  Philadelphia for example gave me a quick confirmation from multiple sources, indicating they had already asked and answered the question.

Departments that have not had to answer this question before will end up referring me up the food chain until I find an officer with the authority to make a department-wide declaration, usually a lawyer, commander, chief or commissioner.  This can take awhile, weeks or months sometimes.  I don’t give up.  Once departments realize this I end up speaking civilly and professionally to someone with actual decision-making ability.

Step 5. Craft a masterpiece.

Once I have found the person to whom I need to be addressing my message, I tailor an e-mail to that person’s specific situation, meaning I cite that department’s applicable laws, beginning with the state, then county, then city or town ordinances.  I state my assumption that she or he already knows these laws.  To do otherwise would be insulting to her or his professionalism.  But I want my reader to know that I know the law too.  Also, secretly, I assume  she or he does not know these laws.  Police officers spend their whole lives dealing with real crime and violence.  They cannot be expected to know what their local ordinance says about breast exposure.

Note: This is not the time to argue the merits of female bare-chestedness.  Police don’t care.  They care only about a thing’s legality or illegality, or should.  They do not have to agree with a thing to protect a thing.  That’s how freedom works.  So the job here is to establish bare-chestedness’ legality, not its validity.  I don’t waste their time with philosophy.

Step 6. Do it!

Armed with my sources and my confirmation from a departmental superior officer, I am free and comfortable to enjoy my walk.

It bears repeating, the work of normalizing female bare-chestedness is going to be slow and patient at times.  I resolve when I walk to remain quiet, peaceful and as non-confrontational as a situation will allow.  I only push as hard as I have to to meet the energy coming at me, no harder.  Ideally, I just walk, and let the world normalize to this new reality.

Step 7. Follow up with the police.

It has been a very important step to e-mail all the police officers in the original e-mail chain after I actually go take my walk to let them know how it went.  That could be anything from “It was completely uneventful.  Thank you!” to “Officer so and so needs some training.”

But it’s vital they  know 1) I actually went out bare-chested 2) the world didn’t end 3) they didn’t lose their jobs 4) I’m not going away 5) how their police officers performed.

Step 8. Share the news

In the movement to normalize bare-chestedness, my mission has become to secure confirmations of legality from the police directly and to prove it by first doing it, then posting articles, photographs and videos of me doing it, as well as making available the information to other women to use themselves.

As always, please let me know your thoughts, opinions and experiences.  I’m constantly updating my toolbox.

Blog Police 3 edit
Washington D.C. near George Washington Law School. Spring 2015. Free and on my way after a nice conversation with police.

 

 

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18 thoughts on “How to go bare-chested without getting arrested

    1. Thank you for sending these links, as discouraging as they are. Will my New Hampshire friends keep me up to date on this, specifically regarding the date of the first hearing? I would like to attend. I encourage others to do the same. Some of the quotes from the bill sponsor in the Union Leader story are pretty remarkable. The Live Free or Die state, huh? He said parents find it difficult to explain adult nudity to their children and are “entitled not to have an evolving standard imposed on them. If this kind of behavior is minimized,” he asked, “what prevents it from taking place at a Little League game in June or a University of New Hampshire football game in September?” Entitled not to have an evolving standard imposed upon them????? Ending slavery? Women voting? School desegregration? What next? This constant progress…err, evolution must stop! It’s amazing what lawmakers will say out loud.

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  1. Don’t feel any need to approve my comment or waste your time replying unless you want to, but I bet these same Republicans that say breasts are indecent for kids have no problem having kids injected with mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, etc. If you do a Google advanced search on Naturalnews.com, there’s a lot of articles proving vaccines cause autism and death. When they say “think of the children” you can show photos of the vaccine reactions. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/Agent/Smallpox/VaccineImages.asp So what is really worse for a child, seeing a breast or getting injected with mercury? But then that might be a hard argument because they’ve been trained that vaccines prevent disease, but it was actually chlorinated water & improved sanitation that reduced most communicable diseases.

    The other thing you can do is bring photos of fat men and eunuchs to show they have breasts similar to women. A lot of eunuchs even look like women but they can go topless. http://media.fyre.co/nFp2NjaQL2UQKE0KDPlG_eunuchs.jpg
    So it’s fine if a big-breasted eunuch or fat man goes topless, but not a woman.

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    1. Thank you for reading my blog and commenting. I don’t know much about the vaccine debate but I do smell hypocrisy in this attempted legislation myself. I’ve spent my morning researching the history of modesty. Fascinating game of connect the dots back to antiquity and the bible. As I’ve said before, I am surrounded by strong, courageous, respectful men who do not blame women for their shortcomings. But how’s this for a quote from Louisville, Kentucky minister C.J. Mahaney, a male, quoted in the “Young Wife’s Guide” in 2012. “Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It’s a desire to serve others, particularly men, by not promoting or provoking sensuality.” He also writes, “Immodesty, then, is much more than wearing a short skirt or low-cut top; it’s the act of drawing undue attention to yourself. It’s pride, on display by what you wear.” Prideful women… dangerous stuff.

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    2. Vaccines don’t contain mercury, and DO NOT cause autism.

      Yes, there is a slight chance that there can be serious side effects, but these are far lower than the risks that are being prevented. Using this as a justification for not getting a vaccine is like not buckling your seat belt because you would rather be “thrown free”.

      There is no reason to fear vaccines, but plenty of reason to fear those who avoid them.

      But more importantly, it has nothing to do with the purpose of this blog!

      Frankly, I would encourage this whole thread to be deleted. (and no, I’m not a Republican)

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      1. David,
        I very much appreciate your support and you endeavoring to stay on topic!
        As for deleting things, I have made a point and promise (to myself if no one else, haha) that I will not delete any comment made by anyone, unless it is spam/advertisement, and that I will speak to the person with respect. I firmly believe that we should treat others as we wish to be treated, and that we get back what we put out into the world.
        As for the originator of this thread, I believe he was being supportive in his own manner, as we all are inclined to do. The purpose for this blog is to share my bare-chested experiences, lessons learned, and host mature conversation. I am more than happy to speak with anyone about this particular topic. Even Republicans :).

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  2. I’m genuinely impressed with how thoroughly you’ve researched and thought through this issue and how calmly, clearly and persuasively you make your case for female topfreedom. What was your initial impetus to want to go bare-chested in public?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really appreciate that. I have answered this in other blog posts, but here is a short version:
      It takes a heck of a lot for a woman to learn to love herself and feel comfortable in her own body… to separate her self worth from what anyone else thinks or says. Through much internal work over most of my life, I am proud to say I have gotten there. I am comfortable in my own skin, I feel free and happy, and that is the main thing and my first reason. I enjoy life. This has also morphed into a social cause in my own life. I want other women to know it is possible, and that it is their right to get there if they desire to. I truly believe in equality of all genders, races, creeds, etc. I believe we should see each other first as fellow human beings. This is my way of being myself while also bringing about discussion of this topic.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I came here from the Daily Mail article. I noticed their map is mostly green. You could always point out to the officer that open carry is legal in this state 🙂

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    1. Thank you for visiting my blog. The Daily Mail aggregated their story from other stories. I didn’t actually talk to them. They use a map another organization puts out. I don’t claim to know the legality in all of these places, since the map does not address local ordinances nor state constitutions. Nevertheless I imagine if I were able to apply my process around the country most states would eventually agree that female bare-chestedness is legal. I also don’t know much about open carry laws nor do I want to hold myself out as knowledgeable about gun laws. My use of open carry laws as an example was a way of finding common ground with a police officer, to show him that how he felt about that I feel about this. It worked. My bigger message there is that finding common ground is vital to explaining a of view. Thank you for visiting. Welcome.

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  4. Your blog is so inspiring! I have one query if I may, and it’s a little off topic so I hope you forgive that. I notice from your photos that you take your walks barefoot. I understand (and share) the desire to do this when walking in nature, but do you not fear injury to your feet when in the urban environment?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bare footing feels wonderful to me. It keeps me aware of my surroundings too. I notice glass or stones, other dangers, and navigate them. I almost always have some footwear with me in case in case I come to something unnavigable or to go inside an establishment (although the bottom of bare feet and the bottom of shoes offer the same health risk or lack there of. I still respect the proprietors rules.). There is a whole community of bare footers online with tips and such. Their blogs are pretty easy to find. Thank you for your time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This story brings back memories of when I used to live in the neighborhood around George Washington University in the late 60’s. The university had just established its “security” force and they were basically a bunch of untrained amateurs taking the law into their own hands. I used to walk around bare-chested and these clowns once chased me down and demanded to know why I was shirtless. I was on a public street and they had absolutely no jurisdiction off university property. Aside from some embarrassment, no harm came from the incident, but it left me with a bad taste for the university and its arrogance, which has gotten worse by an order of magnitude over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a pretty absurd experience with the GW law school police, as they did everything in their power to keep me out of the graduation pictures as I walked down the sidewalk past the school. But now they have been trained so maybe soon I will walk through campus again 🙂

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