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Legislation could mean prison time for topless women

By Michael Biesecker

The Associated Press

11 Comments | Leave a Comment

RALEIGH — A bill that could send women to prison for going topless in public appears set for approval by the North Carolina legislature.

Triggered by two topless rallies held in Asheville, the Republican-backed bill headed to a floor vote in the House and would amend the state's indecent exposure law to expand the legal definition of "private parts" to explicitly include "the nipple, or any portion of the areola, or the female breast."

Depending on whether such exposure is judged to be "for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire," the woman could be charged with a felony, punishable by up to six months in prison for first-time offenders. More mundane exposure would be a misdemeanor, meriting up to 30 days in jail. "Incidental" exposure by breastfeeding mothers would remain exempt.

Co-sponsor Rep. Rayne Brown, R-Davidson, told members of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that her constituents are concerned about topless rallies promoting women's equality held the past two years in Asheville, which is located about 130 miles west of Brown's district.

Many cities have local ordinances barring women from going topless, but Asheville does not.

Brown said a blanket solution is needed to give law enforcement officers statewide the clear authority to make arrests when nipples are exposed. It would be left to local governments to regulate sexually oriented nightclubs.

"There's some confusion about the law," Brown said. "I think our state deserves clarity on this issue."

That confusion is rooted in a 1970 ruling by the state Court of Appeals that the term "private parts," as then specified in state law, did not include breasts. In 1998, the N.C. Supreme Court suggested that earlier interpretation might not be expansive enough, citing an American Heritage Dictionary definition of "private parts" as "external organs of sex and excretion."

A separate state law specifically outlaws "sexually explicit nudity," including nipples, exposed in the presence of minors. But it is not clear whether the exposure of breasts as part of a political protest could be defined as sexual.

Two Democrats on the Judiciary Committee questioned whether the issue rises to a level requiring legislative action.

Rep. Nathan Baskerville, D-Vance, reiterated that any city or county having a problem with public toplessness is free to pass a local ordinance.

Rep. Annie W. Mobley, D-Hertford, suggested a woman wanting get around the proposed law could simply cover her nipples with tape.

"You know what they say, duct tape fixes everything," agreed Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland.

The committee voted to recommend the bill to the House floor, with only Baskerville voting no. The measure would still need approval from the Republican-controlled N.C. Senate before heading to the governor's desk.


Follow Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck


Every child born, is born with a felony in NC

Felony. For nudity, which is how we enter this world. Which means that every infant born commits a felony upon emerging from mom ... they'll be taken right into the clasp of North Carolina law enforcement.

Please note the political

Please note the political party affiliation of those that are recommending this legislation. The camel is, 'finally getting his nose under the tent';our tent!

Republicans are supposed to be the party of limited government

I guess these guys forgot what they are supposed to be standing for? Do we really need more legislation? Then to make it a felony? Look at the lifelong implications of being charged with a felony. Completely unbalanced. As if jails are not overcrowded enough. The public has to pay for all the extra jails. "Hey, what are you in for?" Everyone has nipples and breasts. I don't think they realize the damage they are doing to their own party.

Less than 12 women were exposed

This rally in Asheville that disturbed Rep. Brown consisted of less than 12 women who exposed their breasts.. Why is she even concerned about a rally that is 120 miles outside of her district anyway? This is true Nanny State governing.

One would think that the

One would think that the citizens and leaders in the City of Asheville would be the most qualified to legislate the needs of their own city. Especially over matters that really don't have an impact statewide or on other individual towns/cities and counties...


I have being doing a two year in-depth project involving public toplessness in New York City and The Bronx. I have a documentary called TOPLESS SHOCK SYNDROME which has been sent to festivals. The documentary trailer can be seen on Youtube — click on link below! Ron Kuby, Ramona Santorelli, Moira Johnston, and celebrities and others all weigh in on the issues. It is the first and only in depth look at this issue. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHH7IEajU2w I have been arrested over ten times and involuntarily hospitalized three times (once for six days) for being topless where it was already legal to be topless... FOR TWENTY YEARS, in a "sophisticated" city. On the actual 20 year anniversary of it being legal to be topless in New York State, I was taken to a mental facility to be evaluated. The doctor who spoke to me had no idea it was legal and they let me go. There are many many stories. I am hoping to get my documentary into a festival to broaden the awareness of this ridiculous issue, which might now lead to actual FELONY charges. I'd be ashamed to let nipples enrage or disturb me so much, but I guess others are just so brainwashed by their own issues... stranger than fiction.


Asheville is known as a liberal city, such a shame and sham. What happened to modesty and knowing what is right and knowing wrong is wrong? The city officials should be ashamed as well as the citizens

shame is irrational

The only thing I'd be ashamed of is being ashamed of a body part... or calling 911 when I see a topless woman.


Sure know how to spend our tax money. No money for health care but show a tit and we will pay to lock you up.

Follow the example of New York state

In NY, it's legal for women to be topless anywhere it's legal for men to be topless. That hasn't caused a ton of women to go topless. Not every issue needs to be a legal matter. Some things can be left to culture.

Gender-based discrimination

So if a woman's nipple is seen, she gets prison time, but if a man's nipple is seen, he gets off Scot free? So much for equal protection under the law!

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Bless your heart
Bless your heart