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Freeing the Nipple, by RnR


A Naturist World is home to a genuine and respectful community of naturists and nudists from all around the world.

ANW shares a series of Articles to allow people new to naturism to find out more about our life choice. This article has been written by active ANW members, bloggers and group owners RnR. 

The ANW community as a whole is welcoming and respectful and individuals are protective of themselves, ANW and naturism.

Our commitment to naturism goes beyond ANW and while the public continues to misunderstand naturism we will continue to share articles like this one to encourage new people to enjoy and understand the healthy and fun option of being without clothes. 

Freeing the Nipple, by RnR.

There is a history to bare breasts being covered up, and so in this article, we have exposed and brief insight to the struggle for women to achieve the same equality in this modern world as men.

Today, #Free The Nipple, is see all over the internet. In some parts of the internet it is a fierce debate between men and women, but also, women and women. The hash tag is widely circulated, but where did it come from and how did it start?

Being topless in a warm climate was to a degree a way of remaining cool, in hot and sweaty conditions, it was far easy to simply remain topless, and just wipe occasionally in order to be able to work, and do daily chores. It was a normal reaction to the conditions, and seen as a common sense way to deal with the heat and humidity. Unlike today, it was not seen as shameful, and was regarded with the same sensibilities as having bare arms, or legs. No one looked, no one stared, it was simple reality of a normal and natural life.

Looking at it from a global perspective, it was around the seventh century with the expansion of Islam, that that Islamic women began being told to cover up, and that has proliferated since. It should be noted, that today, in Egypt and Tunisia, women are still allowed to sunbathe topless, but only on a privately owned beach. In Indonesia, women did not start to cover up their breasts until around the twelfth century, as Islam began to grow, and in India, depending on the religion, toplessness was seen as a mark of status and class, until the Muslims entered around the 12 to 16th century.

During the Medieval era, full nudity was quite normal. Bathing was a social event, and it was quite normal for a row of bathing tubs to be set out, as guests were invited by the lord and ladies, to join them in cleansing. The tubs would be relatively close, there were no screens or blinds, and it was common to bathe on a balcony, or open fronted room, so one could enjoy the day as one bathed and held conversations. To a degree, you have to go back to the start, and try to understand where being topless actually came from. Toplessness, especially in warm countries is as old as humanity, and as hard as it may be to believe, covering up is to a degree, a much more recent trend in the scheme of things. It is without doubt, and symptom of modern western culture, although, it was not always that way.

Bathing tubs would have small tables beside them, filled with fresh fruits and wines, and staff would walk around as the group bathed to assist them with washing, or pour drinks. It was quite normal to have minstrels sat in the background playing as the group lounged naked in their tubs talking and relaxing, passing away the time socialising. Unlike today, there was an absence of shame or ridicule, it was seen as nothing more, than a mere act of normal hygienic practice, and the sight of a man or woman stepping out to air dry on the balcony rail, was a common sight. Do not let the stories or films of old misinform you, there was a lot of nudity and exposed breasts in the Middle Ages.

In Europe and the USA, the Enlightenment was when topless became less popular, before that, right up until the 1700’s toplessness was far more common than it is these days, and regarded as normal, if anything, at that time, ankles were seen as far more risqué. Royal nipples were hardly seen in paintings, and yet ladies of the court were often painted with one breast or nipple exposed, it was quite a normal thing to see. It was common place to see a woman walk around with her breast exposed, women who exposed both breasts were usually seen as a “Mistress.” It was so common place, that most women would have several shades of orange to red make up, to enhance the look of their nipples.

Covering up possibly became more legitimised during the reign of Queen Victoria. The clothing style of that time was layers upon layers of fabrics, and due to Victoria’s mother, who was very strict, Victoria eliminated any customs that would remotely infer to, as she worded it, “Sex Stuff.” From that point on, covering up in the west became the norm. The interesting thing about this is, that the rule did not just apply to women, it also applied to men.

In 1938, eight men walked onto a Coney Island beach, during the baking hot summer, and removed their shirts. It caused chaos, and all eight were arrested for indecent exposure, taken to court, where they were all fined one dollar each, as the judge, who was female, announced. “There are many people who object to seeing so much of your body.”

The news papers were filled with the story, and it divided the nation, although most people had not noticed that in 1934, Clark Gable, had appeared shirtless in the movie “It happened one night.” Before that in 1932, Jonny Weissmuller had appeared on the big screen bare chested in the Tarzan movies, and men wanted to emulate him.

The incident at Coney Island stirred up emotion, and men who the press started to name “Nearly Naked Outlaws,” Started to appear in acts of defiance on beaches and in public with no shirts on, all over America. Men rose up about the shirtless laws and challenged them wherever possible, until finally, there was so much support from men over all of the country, that in late 1937, it forced the laws to be changed, and Men won the battle to free their chests and appear in public with no shirts. The truth of the matter was, it was easier to pass the law, rather than constantly fill the courts, with men who challenged it.

Around the world topless females were still relatively acceptable in eastern cultures where Islam had not arisen. It was here that the west began its interference of culture, and the stamping of western cultural values on eastern states. Between 1939 and 1942, Field Marshal Plaek Pibulssonggram, who was declared Prime Minister, but the basic dictator of Thailand, issued twelve rules, which were in essence Cultural Mandates. The twelfth, which is the most important to this article, was focused on the cultural wardrobe. He ruled that, “Thai people should not appear at public gatherings, in public places, or in city limits without being appropriately dressed. Inappropriate dress includes wearing only underpants, wearing no shirt, or wearing a wraparound cloth." With one stroke of a pen, what had been centuries of toplessness for both sexes, was wiped away, changing the cultural heritage of the people of Thailand forever.

Since the 1950’s the rules have been challenged, but it is fair to say that when it came to women’s freedom to go topless, most women were too afraid to do it and feared the consequences. There is a great deal at play here, one of which, was family opinion, and religion, which projected a message of morality on its masses. Things settled in the 1960’s, and with the cultural revolution, things began to really get shaken up, as for the first time in a few hundred years, women claimed the rights to their own bodies, and discarded the bra in day to day life, and removed their tops, when spending a great deal of the time on beaches.

It is funny when you look back at the 1970’s, because at that time, toplessness raised very few objections. Most women at that time were not that offended by the sight of bare breasts, and with the rise of topless models, which featured in the national daily papers, whereas most women did not think it was suitable to be in a paper, most accepted that the act of bare breasts was not that big a deal. It was the sexualisation of the breasts that most women objected to, on a topless beach for the purpose of tanning, the majority of women, did not have that big an objection, although the odds were, they would never do it themselves. There were always some female moral crusaders, of which possibly the most infamous in the UK was Mary Whitehouse, a conservative evangelical Christian, who campaigned to halt what she saw as the permissive culture of society.

It is a curious state of affairs really, because the 1960’2 and 70’s saw the rise of the women’s Equality movement, which was to a degree split on the issue of breasts, and in many ways, still is. One half saw freeing the breast as an act of liberty and women’s empowerment, whereas the other half saw it as an act of oppression and sexualisation of all women by men, and since that time it has swung back and forth, with the two opposing sides within the movement not really forming one opinion that would unite all women together.

In a bid to bring equality, to a degree, what was then considered a very sexist law in the USA, i.e. men can be topless but women cannot, women have pushed the fight for the free nipple onto the back burner to fight other aspects of sexism, and we have not really seen many advancements on the freedom to go topless issue for some years. It maybe has something to do with the fact that Europe and Australia relented and gave topless freedom to women on beaches, and as a result, where as in the 1980’s and 90’s it was a relatively common site to see women sunbathe topless, these days it has become somewhat of a rare sight.

One has to ask did women become bored, or was there something else at play here? It has never been proved, but it is surmised that the rise of Social Media, and a slide more and more towards a puritanical mindset in the UAS over the years has played a much bigger role in the fight for women’s rights to go topless. Whereas many other countries have relaxed laws on female breast exposure, in the USA it has kept a firm control of its laws, and as one of the most influential countries in the world, especially in the area of media, one has to question as to how much influence it has asserted on women? It would be unfair to heap all the blame at the doors of the States, as stated previously, another force to be reckoned with, is the power of the expansion of Islam, which has again played a major contributing role in the covering up of women, especially in the East.

The USA has seen a few attempts to liberate women’s chests in more recent times, such as Rochester Top Free Seven, who were arrested in up state New York in 1987, and fought their case through the courts right up to the Supreme Court of America. The were acquitted in 1992, and won the right to go topless, outdoors, if not related to commercial purposes or advertising, without being arrested. New York became the first place in the USA that would allow women to be topless giving them the equal rights to men. Little was done after that, and in many ways, it appears odd that the rest of the women in America, did not follow in the footsteps of the men of 1936, and demand the same rules across the board for the whole country, it still surprises us that they did not.

Whilst the rest of the liberated world appeared to be moving forward with breast equality amongst the population, the USA appeared to be slipping backwards. In 2004 during the Superbowl’s half time show, Justin Timberlake, accidentally revealed Janet Jackson’s breast, and there was a massive public scandal, which seriously impacted on Janet’s career. The public outrage was not direct at the fact Timberlake had an accident and embarrassed Janet; it was at the fact that a naked breast was seen by all. As you possibly can imagine, it caused outrage amongst feminists, who saw a very double standard, because Timberlake’s career flourished after the event, whilst Janet’s tumbled.

It reignited the debate on equality, and the movement once again began to gather momentum, which culminated in 2012 with the film documentary by Lina Esco, “Free the Nipple.” This was the first time the hash tag was seen, as Lina added it to her social media account, #Free The Nipple. In 2013 she posted teaser clips for the movie onto her Facebook account accompanied by the hash tag, and in 2014 Facebook removed them as it stated them as a violation of it’s policy and community guidelines.

There was backlash at a social media company and it garnered the attention of celebrities, who in an act of solidarity with Lina, Miley Cyprus, Lena Dunham, Chelsea Handler, Rhianna, and Crissy Teigen, all posted pictures of themselves to social media of their exposed breasts to show the platform they were wrong.

Florence Pugh, supporting Free the Nipple.

In 2016, Tiernman Hebron and Anni Ma, appeared topless at a Bernie Sanders rally with “Free the Nipple” painted across their naked chests, and were arrested and charged with indecent exposure. They were held for twenty five hours, before being released and all the charges dropped.

The fight has continued with ups and downs, with nothing beating the law change of New York Sate in 1990 which made toplessness legal, so when a woman was arrested in 2005, she was found not guilty and rewarded with a twenty nine dollar damages payment. In 2015 in Iceland, a young student activist for the movement posted a picture of herself and was harassed, in an act of defiance, Bjort Olafsdottir a member of the Icelandic parliament posted a topless photo of herself to show solidarity. Since that time, Free the Nipple events have taken place all over the world, in hope to garner male and female support to change what are see as very unjust and unequal laws, the fight continues as we write.

The world changes so fast these days, and since 2012 much is very different, as politics and big business have taken control of a lot of media, especially around the issues of gender. The USA still appears to be the main player when it comes to swaying public opinion, and with social media community guidelines that have banned all forms of nudity, it is hard to imagine how movements like free the nipple can gain a foothold.


There is a clear bias when it comes to men and women’s bodies, and it does appear that the current state of affairs is that men’s bodies are normal and manly, yet women’s bodies are sexual, especially the breasts, which are the primary focus of men’s attention. Even in this enlightened world, which is allegedly tolerant of all culture creeds and sexualities it appears that the way a women dresses or exposes her skin, are still regarded as “Asking for it.” Which apparently is the only justification that a sick individual male needs to attack and sexually assault.


It is a confusing scenario, when you consider the liberated 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, where there was far more tolerance for naked bodies, and one would also add, respect for women. To add to the woes of Women who do have a very legitimate claim for unequally over breasts, women have become constantly bombarded with advertising and very unrealistic media body standards, that have an effect of them mentally, creating issues such as body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and self image negativity. Sites like Facebook, Tik-Tok, Instagram and Snap Chat do little to protect women, as they allow their advertising to demoralise and exploit them. In an ironic move, they even censored cartoons drawn for a blog on ANW.

There are subtle changes that big business is starting to listen, whether you agree with them or not, as after all, their motivation is sales. Last year Adidas posted a huge billboard to show how they catered for all women’s differing breast sizes. It has it critics on social media, 24 to be exact, and Facebook took it down, but people headed to twitter in their thousands to cheer them on for supporting the movement with such a realistic collection of images all posted on a huge bill board. For a brief moment it fuelled the debate of how all breasts were normal, with very positive results. It did have a larger than expected response, and that can only be a good thing for those fighting for equality.


If there is any one time to really support women, it has to be now, and oddly enough, help may come from the most unexpected place.


In January 2023 Facebook (Meta) received a challenge, stating Human Rights Violations to Women, Trans, and None Binary people, over its nudity policy. In a decision dated 17 January, the oversight board, a group of academics, politicians, and journalists who advise the company on its content moderation policies, recommended that Meta change its adult nudity and sexual activity community standard, “so that it is governed by clear criteria that respect international human rights standards.”

Facebook have ninety days to respond, and we are watching, to see what they do. If the rules change, it could very well have a big impact on the USA and the rest of the world. As a result, it has been noted that Tumblr has quietly lifted its own nudity clamp down, and naturists in particular are heading back to the site. This may well be a land mark moment for women, and brings them closer towards some form of liberated equality with men, we hope so. We also believe that if women embrace their naked breasts, they will firstly find the liberation freeing, and will also discover some body positivity, which would go a long way towards undoing some of the negativity that has been forced on them for years through the media. To be able to show naked breasts in public, will also go a long way towards more tolerance towards women, and to a degree, desexualise breasts, and that would be a huge positive for women.

This spring 2023, fashion will join the movement, and add to a trend that has been around for some years, “Sheer Dresses.” LaQuan Smith recently spoke out about the new lines of fashion, which are inspired in tribute to the “Free The Nipple” movement and a celebration of the female form. This year’s style will include many fabrics that will be so sheer, they feel transparent, using paper thin cloth such as silk. In a way this could be a very useful idea, the breasts will still be covered, but will allow women to be behind a layer of what is see through fabric. It may give them the confidence to be a little more daring, and as a result improve their body image and confidence. Under the rules of social media, the breasts will be covered, and so therefore they should not be flagged as community violations.

It is still too early to tell what impact this will have on women and the world, but it is worth watching to see what becomes of it all. If social media is forced to change its rules, this fashion may well have arrived at the right time to reignite the debate and help it once again move closer towards equality for all, and the freedom to be topless if you so please.

Kendle Jenner supporting the cause in a sheer dress.

This is a complicated and at times heated debate, because what this has done, is highlight many injustices within the world today, and there are few areas of life it does not clash with. There are religious groups hell bent on demanding women stay covered. Media platforms make a lot of revenue from advertising, and they want to keep people insecure, and their bodies hidden. Open displaying nipples is not good for business selling bras and clothing whilst exploiting their customers. Politicians do not want to touch this, because it will alienate half of their voter base. There are women who fear it will sexualise them more and lead to more rapes, and it is understandable why some women fear this.


We feel, what about the individuals who are confident, and yet have to conform on hot days, dealing with sweat and discomfort, whilst the men around them can discard their tops and be more at ease. We understand the reasons many want to remain covered up, but consider the point. To make it equal, will ensure you have the same right to go top free if you want to, supporting the movement does not necessarily mean you have to instantly rip off your top and stay topless all week. You may never be topless as a female, but at least you will have the right to take off your top, if you ever feel the need. For those that do, your support will; give them a freedom they have been denied for over two centuries.


As we write this, we do see the start to this year as a positive, but we are also aware, exposure is only one aspect of the issue, especially in the USA which already has a much stricter puritan out look. The USA is the biggest influencer, and it is on that land this battle will ultimately be won or lost. Once again, we state, if women really do want equality to go topless, it is their cause to fight for. There are a lot of women out there fighting for it, but they do need more, and so ultimately, it is up to the females of the world, to make a stand and scream out the injustice for their equal right to go topless like men do.


Show your support #Free The Nipple.

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