Toplessness ordinance coming: oh good, this should be fun

Council to introduce law Tuesday night. Hmmm. Let's think this over.

| Jan 29, 2010


LET’S DANCE: A page from Boulder Express of 1970 reveals our topless past. But what of today?

boulder-confidential-logo-220Oh boy, this should be fun. At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Boulder City Council will begin considering an ordinance banning toplessness. Is this really necessary?

Some of us enjoy Boulder because it is, after all, a tolerant place, a liberal place, a fun place. It’s not quite San Francisco, where a variety of public events feature total public nudity — from naked pro-bicycle demos to painted-up Gay Pride parades. We’re not quite that, um, out there. But some of us remember the days of nudity at Coot Lake — you know, out there west of the IBM plant (I never made it there, my crowd for some reason favoring a lake just west of the airport for our skinny-dipping).

And some of us published an underground newspaper in Boulder in 1970, during which one of our “duties” was to host rock concerts where female toplessness was a regular feature. One of those concerts was even in the City of Boulder’s Buckingham Park. I feel obliged to show you a page from the old Boulder Express (pictured) to document Boulder’s historical tolerance for toplessness.

Now, to the current furor. I see both sides. I don’t want Boulder to be all prudish and puritanical. Then again, there are hazards. If women were to run topless on the Downtown Mall on Halloween to assert their support for civil rights, or just for fun, or to quietly make a statement that topless is beautiful and not a big deal, well OK then. But what if said topless women are there promoting a business, as could easily happen? Not so good. And what if, say, 30 percent of the population are thoroughly embarrassed by such semi-nudity, and find it genuinely offensive to their moral values. Less good even.

Female versus male nipples

We can get all rationalistic and say, hey, what’s so different about a female nipple versus a male nipple? More flesh tissue surrounding it is about the sum total. But wait. It’s more. It’s the obsessive interest that guy-type humans display in them. This may be instinct at work; subconsciously, very subconsciously, assessing the ability of a woman to provide milk to the future children you will have with her. But that’s probably a stretch.

More credibly, it’s just a form of learned behavior based on us wanting so bad that which society views as risque and verboten. On the beaches of Europe, toplessness is either a ho-hum everyday affair or, at least, strictly the option of the woman involved. And guess what: men kind of lose interest. I’ve noticed that in a few visits to European beaches — it’s the American guys who are doing most of the staring.

So what do we do here in Boulder? How about we go ahead and pass the law, so as not to slap the faces of the community’s more conservative citizens? But how about we kind of selectively enforce it (as if that weren’t what we’re already doing with marijuana laws)? Let’s not go and bust Mary or Susie or Heather if she just has to disrobe a bit at a Central Park bandshell concert or the Reservoir. Can’t we be that liberal, that tolerant, that libertine? If Reservoir moms with kids get all huffy and offended, someone should try to convince them that a bit of semi-nudity is part of the bargain of living in a liberal town. And that Puritanism hasn’t served America all that well.