Topless commerce in the Big Apple

Only in America, or only in New York City, could you have an epidemic of toplessness — women painting their bodies in stars and stripes and then prowling Times Square to accost 11-year-old boys, not to mention 60-year-old men, and have their pictures taken so they can shake them down for a few bucks.

Twenty dollars will get you a photo with a red, white and blue bare-breasted woman that you can post on Instagram for your mother, your wife and maybe your grandkids to see.

Is it any wonder that China is kicking our butt? While the Chinese are developing exciting electronic gadgets, destroying the global economy, gobbling up Manhattan real estate and selling us tainted dog treats, we’re grappling with the really BIG issues — controlling topless panhandlers. I bet China even owns Times Square, although maybe now we can afford to buy it back.

The great minds in New York City are trying to remedy the situation, which has turned into a political brouhaha over whether 40 or so bare-breasted women in thongs, otherwise known as “desnudas,” should be allowed to roam the streets and hit on tourists.

Last week, 100 topless women and 300 supporters paraded through midtown in support of the Times Square women. They’re within their rights to walk around topless in the Big Apple — and all of New York State — because of a 1992 court ruling that says if men can do it, women can too. (This makes me wonder why our enlightened General Assembly hasn’t secured topless rights for every man, woman and Chihuahua in Connecticut.)

But not everyone is happy in New York. Tourists are complaining because they’re getting accosted with their kids, and a family photo with a painted woman, who looks like Old Glory with breasts, is not what they had in mind when they decided to visit what is alleged to be the greatest city in the world. Maybe they should have gone to Dallas or Newark or the Grand Canyon.

All this negative publicity is bruising the Big Apple’s image, and politicians, prodded by a series in the New York Daily News, vow to “take action.”

One idea they’re exploring is similar to the Kennedy administration’s strategy to control the spread of Communism — containment. It would mean the women could only show their assets at certain times and places like, say, the nearby Toys “R” Us. Another possible solution would be to designate Times Square as parkland, where solicitation and panhandling would be prohibited. The women could still promenade around topless in the pursuit of artistic expression, but they would have to do it for free. The police commissioner, too, has a progressive suggestion — “tear up Times Square.”

A representative of the New York Civil Liberties Union said the best way to deal with the issue is “education.” I suspect he wants to have classes to bring the women and tourists together in an attempt to close the achievement gap.

And the executive director of a civil rights coalition told the News he was outraged by the outrage and had a message for tourists: “If you don’t want your children to see homeless people, derelicts or bare-breasted women in costumes, then maybe New York is not your place. Maybe you should go to Toledo, Ohio.” Well, what about bare-breasted derelicts in costumes? Or bare-breasted politicians dressed like Miley Cyrus?

This is what happens in a society where commonsense gets thrown out the window, along with modesty. Good government, however, can solve virtually any problem through a time-honored practice known as taxation, which means the city should start taxing the assets of the painted women and require them to file returns. For recording purposes, they should have to give receipts to the 11-year-old boys and 60-year-old men unless they pay by credit card.

This is also a constitutional issue, and the Supreme Court will probably join the fray. Somewhere in the Bill of Rights, I’m sure it says women have the right to wander around Times Square topless, looking for spare change. In fact, I recall reading that during the Constitutional Convention, Thomas Jefferson and his goombahs convened at a topless tavern in Philadelphia, drinking schnapps and thinking deep thoughts:

Tom Jefferson to Jim Madison: “Jim, I predict that someday New York women will want to get naked in public and express themselves with body paint … so we have to guarantee that right for future generations.”

Jim Madison to Hugh Hefner (who is old enough to be one of the original signers): “I agree. What do you think, Hugh?”

Hugh: “Absolutely! Especially if they can make money off 11-year-old boys and 60-year-old men.”

Contact Joe Pisani at joefpisani [at] yahoo.com.

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