Topless or not?

The topic of going topless can be a thorny issue, depending on your age, religion, cultural background and personal preference. So for today’s young women, what is considered socially acceptable and what isn’t?

Historically speaking, exposed breasts have been part and parcel of many varied indigenous cultures, and have been celebrated as such in art for centuries past. But whether or not going topless in ancient Greece was socially acceptable bears little or no relevance to British women today.

British boobs

In the UK a certain amount of cleavage is widely tolerated, but any public revealing of the nipple area is deeply frowned up, and in some cases could lead to prosecution for indecent exposure. Interestingly, open-air nudity in itself isn’t considered an offence, but the moment you ‘offend’ someone who complains to the police, you’re treading on dangerous ground. So it’s not a great idea to take your top off in a public park, although what you choose to do in the privacy of your own back garden is entirely your call… providing you’re not overlooked by nosy neighbours!

It’s arguably unlikely you’d choose to flaunt yourself on a British beach purely because of the temperatures involved, but should you wish to, you should preferably limit yourself to designated ‘nudist’ beaches or areas. Sunbathing topless but facedown on other beaches is also generally accepted, providing you’re careful about concealing yourself when it’s time to get up.

For a comprehensive list of nudist – or ‘naturist’ – beaches in the UK, visit the British Naturism website, which provides a detailed description of each beach and appropriate reviews.

European sunbathing

You may or may not be surprised to know that the practice of sunbathing sans bikini top is so highly linked to Europe by other continents that it is actually known as ‘European sunbathing’.

For many countries across the EU, it is common to see dozens of topless sunbathers in both parks and on beaches. France, Greece, Turkey and Croatia have a notably relaxed attitude to semi-to-full nudity on their beaches, while in Spain it’s also legal to be topless at a public swimming pool. In Englischer Garten, Munich – Germany’s equivalent to Central Park, New York – nudity for both sexes is regarded as completely normal, which can prove quite a shock for more conservative Westerners during a lunchtime stroll!

Elsewhere in the world

Further afield, topless sunbathing is accepted in Tunisia, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Caribbean, Goa and Bali. However it’s unwise to attempt it in the Middle East, Canada, Mexico or America, where it’s considered illegal in certain states including Tennessee, Utah and Indiana.

For a full map of US states demonstrating where public bare chestedness is and isn’t acceptable, visit GoTopless.

Finally, it should go without saying, but if you do plan to sunbathe topless, make sure you wear a high SPF and reapply frequently. The skin on your breast area is less accustomed to sunlight and therefore requires far more protection. And trust us – sore sunburned boobs are no fun at all!

For more information regarding going topless and the law, please read our article, The politics of breasts.

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