Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction!

topless book club 4

Fact-of-the-day: In New York City, the law allows toplessness by both men and women. This is good news for the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society, who meet up to do their al fresco reading sans tops. We find out more:

How did the the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society get started?
A good friend and I started talking about the legal ruling in New York State that said women have the same right to go topless in public that men do. This had been the law of the land for almost 20 years, but on hot summer days you’d see guys all over the the city’s parks and streets without anything on from the waist up, but you never saw women doing it. And it wasn’t because no woman would want to. When it’s 95 degrees outside, what sane person would want to have TWO layers of fabric to sweat into (a shirt and a bra) when you could have zero instead? But still, women didn’t do it, either because they didn’t know it was legal or because they were afraid of the consequences. So we decided we’d create a group that would finally give women the chance to do it, and we’d combat both ignorance and fear in the process.

What is the main purpose of it? Are you out to make a statement? To exercise your rights? Just to have some fun reading in the sunshine? Or a combination of the three?
We’re mainly out to have a good time ourselves. On a beautiful summer day, it’s lovely to meet in a green spot with good friends and good books and yummy things to eat and take off our shirts and relax together. But at the same time, just doing that in a public setting does make a statement and does educate people who see it, both men and women. We are exercising our rights, both for our own pleasure and hopefully for the general betterment of the society we inhabit.

topless book club 1Has it been easy to recruit members? Were you all existing friends or has the group forged new friendships?
Easier than we ever thought it would be. Three summers in, we literally get email every day from women asking us if they can get topless with us. But even when we were just getting started, word of mouth spread pretty fast and we heard from lots of women who thought what we were doing was pretty great. Needless to say, we also hear from men all the time, asking if they can join us. We’re always polite, but we almost always decline. (We do have men at our events, but only a few and they’re ones we already know and trust, not strangers.)

We were not all existing friends. Some of us knew others of us before the group began, but there were also plenty of first-timers, and no one knew everyone. And yes, we’ve definitely had girls who met through the group continue their friendships outside the group.

How often do you meet up? Where do you meet and what do your gatherings entail?
We meet sporadically – it’s not a “third Tuesday of every month” kind of thing, it’s more like when the weather looks good and enough people are available. We try to vary the locations just for the fun of being in different settings. In three years we’ve met in Central Park, Riverside Park, Bryant Park, Washington Square Park, Madison Square Park, the Battery Park Esplanade., the steps of the New York Public Library, the tables outside the Flatiron Building, the Highline, and just strolling down Central Park West. We’ve also met on various private rooftops, where we have the freedom to go bottomless too.

Do you receive a lot of attention from passers-by or do people leave you alone?
Most people leave us alone, which is good since literally thousands of people pass us by when we’re lying out in the park. If half of them stopped to talk, it wouldn’t be very relaxing. Occasionally we get a supportive thumbs up or smile from a passerby, once in a while a woman or couple will stop by to tell us how brave or inspiring we are. Once in a while a guy will stop by and say something sassy or obnoxious — but far less often than you might think. And it’s not like guys don’t make obnoxious remarks to girls when their breasts are covered. Sometimes people will snap photos with their cameraphones, and that’s okay; we’re out in public, as long as they don’t make a nuisance of themselves, they’re entitled.

topless 6Do you get much negative reaction?
Very little. Sometimes a sour-faced type – almost always another woman, interestingly – will say something like “Really?” or “There are children around!” (even if there aren’t). But this is pretty uncommmon. Once in a blue moon a police officer will come by and say that someone complained to them, but they always explain to the complainer that what we are doing is perfectly legal.

Is your group open to anyone? Do you have a screening process to keep out the weirdos and pervs?
Our group is open to any woman who wants to come along and try it for herself. We haven’t found it necessary to screen women out. Only once or twice in three years have we had someone join us and not get invited back, and in those cases it was usually because she really wanted to be part of something more like a political protest, with bullhorns and placards, and we just want to relax and lead by example. If we invited men we don’t know I’m sure we’d get a fair selection of weirdos and pervs, but we don’t. So really the only trick is weeding out the men who pretend to be women in order to worm the location of our next event out of us. But we’re pretty good about spotting those.

How can people find out more?
We always post reports on our events on our blog. We’re also on Twitter and on Facebook. And if any woman would like to join us, she can send email to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. But the best way to find out more is to come with us to the park one day. Unbutton your shirt, pull off your bra, and let your breasts soak in the sunshine. It feels great!

Tell us one book we should go out and buy right now…
JOYLAND by Stephen King. We were lucky enough to get advance copies from the publisher, and it’s just sooo good. Not what you might expect from King – it’s not a horror novel, it’s a heartbreaking bittersweet story about lost love and cruel fate. It will make you cry, but in the very best way.

topless book club 2What would your advice be to people in other parts of the world who want to start up their own Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society?
We’d be delighted to see this happen, though of course in some parts of the world it would be illegal and possibly dangerous, while in other parts it might be unnecessary – Spain and Scandinavia don’t need a branch of our group in order to go topless on the beach, they do it all the time there already. But if you live somewhere where it’s legal but women aren’t taking advantage of their rights, by all means, start a group. We’d be thrilled to see ourselves imitated. Heck, send us photos of your gatherings and we’ll post them on our blog with pride.

If you could have any three celebrities attend your next meeting, who would you choose and why?
Well, we’re a book club, so authors would be fun – maybe some dames who write great crime stories, like Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, Christa Faust. Maybe Angeline Jolie, to show the world that beauty is about more than what your torso looks like and that what we’re doing is about our comfort rather than about posing for an audience. Maybe NIcky MInaj, because she seems always to be on the verge of getting her tits out in public as it is.

bobby townsend


Interview by Bobby Townsend