Cops Reminded Repeatedly That Exposed Boobs Are Not a Crime

Topless nudity activist Holly Van Voast poses during the annual Columbus Day Parade on October 8, 2012 in New York City. The Italian-American parade was launched in 1929 and is billed as the world’s largest celebration of Italian-American heritage featuring more than 35,000 participants.
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

It's getting to be that time of year again, when women in New York could — theoretically, if they wanted to — go topless in public without recourse. Now, of course, this almost never happens, save a few notable, awareness-raising exceptions, namely the work of performance artist Holly Van Voast, whose unabashed nudity actually served its purpose. According to a newly disclosed NYPD memo, as reported by the Times today, the department took to reminding officers over and over again in roll call that no one should be arrested or fined for "simply exposing their breasts in public."

Van Voast is currently suing the city for all of the times she's been wrongly charged, in opposition to a twemty-year-old court ruling legalizing free-boobing, and then had those complaints dropped or dismissed. Lately, though, she's been left alone thanks to the explicit legal guidelines whose spread she spurred: It's only punishable, the memo states, "if the actions of any individual rise to the level of a lewd act (e.g. masturbation, simulated sexual act), regardless of whether the individual is clothed above their waist," or if a bottomless individual "is not entertaining or performing in a play, exhibition, show or entertainment." Although maybe they shouldn't dare her to take on the final frontier.