This post may contain affiliate links.
If you buy something from one of the linked sites you won’t pay anything more, but I might make a commission.
On Monday my husband and I were driving back from Atlantic City (he lost; I lost exactly ten times what he did) and I happened to read two articles about nudity one right after the other.
The first article was about the nearly-nude women in Times Square. I try to avoid Times Square when I can, for all sorts of reasons. Mostly because it’s just crowded and people mill around when I’m trying to get somewhere. I’m also afraid that I will accidentally wander into an anti-Semitic incident between a flea-ridden knock-off character and a tourist family who didn’t hand over money fast enough after taking a picture with their toddler. But I work with a company that has a flagship store in Times Square, and I had a conference and a couple of events at a Times Square hotel recently, so I’ve been in Times Square quite a few times this summer.
The nearly-nude flag women? They’re unavoidable. There can be a dozen of them on any given day. You can see mothers trying to shield their kids’ eyes while guys wearing tank tops gleefully pose for pictures with the women. It always disgusts me.
After that article got me all worked up, I happened upon this one: A really thoughtful accounting of what it’s like to go naked for two weeks for a school project. And I asked myself why one kind of nudity makes me cringe, and another kind seems wonderful.
The answer, in my own head anyway, has two parts. The first part is sex. Those women in Times Square are selling sex. Not literally, of course, but they’re trailed by guys who act as pimps (they take 30% off of the top in exchange for “protection” according to this article). They’re wearing heels and thongs. They mingle among the trademark-infringing characters, ensuring that they’re near small children. They are very much nekkid.
At the nudist farm, on the other hand, the nakedness isn’t about sex at all. It’s about freedom.
I think Urban Dictionary puts it perfectly: Naked is natural. Nekkid is naughty.
And I don’t want to be confronted with naughty at noon outside on a hot random Tuesday while trying to get to work.
So the second part is choice. If you go to a nude beach, or a performance art show, or a nudist colony, you are choosing to be around people who aren’t wearing clothes. But if you need to go to Times Square for some reason, then you have no choice: You’re nose-to-nipple with a painted boob.
Even as I’m writing this I’m arguing against myself in my own head. I support the right for women to be topless anywhere men are allowed to be topless. And I myself have no problem with nudity. In college I made $20 an hour modeling sans clothes for the art department. And if Times Square were simply filled with women on their lunch breaks taking their tops off to get some sun, I don’t think I’d feel the same way. Those women would be going topless for their own comfort and enjoyment, not in order to harass and make money off of tourists.
So in my head it goes back to choice, and ubiquity. There isn’t a time when you can avoid this display in Times Square. There’s no opportunity to say “Well, I don’t want to be around the nekkid flag girls, so let’s go at 2pm.”
Mayor de Blasio has made some noise about trying to ban the women. While it is technically legal for them to be topless, they’re demanding money in exchange for pictures, and that’s a business. So there might be some legal recourse. But I imagine it won’t be easy. Disney can’t be happy with the knock-off characters hanging out demanding tips, but for some reason they haven’t done anything about it, which leads me to believe that it’s a steep uphill battle.
If you get nothing else from this post, though, read the article about going nude for two weeks. It gave a really interesting perspective on class, and why we wear clothes, and how they make us feel about ourselves and other people. And it made me want to be naked more. Or nekkid, but only in private.
If you liked this post, I’d really appreciate a share on Twitter or Facebook, or a pin on Pinterest.