This beach town just voted to allow topless beaches through a “gender equality on beaches” bylaw amendment

Will Katcher

Nantucket may soon allow visitors to any of the island’s beaches to go topless following a vote from residents at its annual Town Meeting.

A town bylaw amendment titled the “Gender Equality on Beaches” passed with 57% of the vote, a tally of 327 to 242, during the second night of Nantucket’s town meeting.

If approved by Attorney General Maura Healey, the town’s code will read: “In order to promote equality for all persons, any person shall be allowed to be topless on any public or private beach within the Town of Nantucket.”

The measure was proposed by Dorothy Stover, a local sex educator and owner of the Nantucket Love School.

The M/V Eagle rounds Brant Point Lighthouse on Nantucket on July 20, 2021. (Noah R. Bombard)

In her five minutes of time holding the floor at the town meeting, Stover argued five points in favor of topless Nantucket beaches: “the history of bathing suits, chest anatomy, the difference between topless and nudity, the difference between sexual and sexualized, and current places in the United States where there is ‘top freedom’ for all genders,” she said.

A century ago, topless men at beaches would have been taboo, she said. But advocacy on their part slowly led more municipalities to allow men to reveal their chests.

Dorothy Stover proposed the amendment. Source : Facebook

“Being topless is not being nude,” Stover also said. “This bylaw would not make beaches nude beaches. This bylaw would allow tops to be optional for anyone that chooses to be topless.”

The measure was approved following roughly 30 minutes of debate.

But the topless beach provision may not be approved by the state in time for the summer.

Town Clerk Nancy Holmes previously told the Cape Cod Times she doesn’t see the attorney general ruling on it “before September.”

But the possibility also remains that the measure is not approved by the state at all.

Massachusetts state laws state a female can be charged with open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior for intentionally exposing their breasts to one or more people. The rule carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and up to a $300 fine.

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