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Marisa Papen – Everyone Can Go Topless in NYC

NEW YORK CITY - USA - Going topless in public is still a societal taboo for women in most Western countries and illegal, but is not for men. What does this say about equality?

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In this day and age of extreme equality, there seems to be hypocrisy when it comes to toplessness. Men are allowed to go topless in public, but women are still not in most areas.

Marisa Papen, the symbol of feminine nude freedom and photographer Robert Herman deal with this dilemma in their most recent project.

Excerpts from Marisa Papen’s blog:

“Less than 100 years ago, believe it or not, male nipples were considered just as taboo as female nipples. . In the 1930s, four men went shirtless to Coney Island, they got arrested. Then, in 1935, a mob of topless men in Atlantic City protested; 42 got arrested, but their efforts paid off: By 1936, the naked male chest became accepted as a social norm. Today, men walk around freely topless and you see at least ten bare male chests per fashion magazine. Women’s chests? Not so much in the 1930s, and not so much now.


“From emojis, to hearts, to stars, to a simple blur they were all of use in covering my nips at one point. But even that was useless… So it seemed… About 3 years ago now, my instagram account got taken down. Considering there is so much more offensive, derogatory, and scary material on Instagram, it’s kind of shocking that something so benign was flagged.

“Instagram states that users “may not post violent, nude, partially nude … pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content”. The company’s CEO justifies the regulations in terms of making the social network, “the safest possible place for teens and adults”.

“Despite the fact that the site regularly allows women to be objectified with provocative captions accompanying nude flesh, the line appears to be drawn at the nipple – providing these are covered (with stickers, hands, tassels – you name it), then the photo is deemed acceptable.

“Not sure if it was due to the freedom that I try to spread or just the unacceptably offensive nature of my specific nipples. Whatever!

“Newsflash Girlssssss: it’s legal to go topless in NY State! Here’s some info and some history: Penal law 245.01, which involves public indecency and exposure, was amended by the NY Supreme Court in 1992, ruling it legal for women to be topless in public under the grounds of gender equality. This law was amended six years after seven women were arrested in Rochester, NY for being topless in a public area and the 1992 case People vs. Ramona Santorelli and Mary Lou Schloss thrust the topless revolution into full-blown action. And yet, over a decade later, in 2005, Jill Coccaro, also known as Phoenix Feeley, was arrested on Delancey Street for leaving her shirt at home. After being detained for twelve hours, she later sued the city and was awarded $29,000 for her unwarranted arrest.

“‘I want to thank all the women mentioned above for their courage and will power to fight the system.’

“And I must say, it always surprises me that almost no women are using the right to free their chest. I do understand you don’t want to be yelled or stared at. But think about it… the more boobies in the street, the quicker men (and women) will get used to it, the less boobs are going to be sexualized and draw attention… The free-er we can be. So all fellow-ladies, we should all start to exercise this right, MUCH more often!!”

With love,


Photography by Robert Herman

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