Even though women in many other parts of the world are able to swim and sunbathe topless, it’s still largely forbidden stateside. Yet one popular tourist destination is now allowing female beachgoers to doff their tops — at least until someone tells the city it’s not legal.
Ocean City, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, is a major beach destination for folks in the mid-Atlantic states. But as the Washington Post points out, Maryland law isn’t really clear on whether it’s actually legal or not for women in the state to bear bare breasts in public.
So late last year, a local advocate asked the State’s Attorney to look at the laws about toplessness on Ocean City’s beaches, and come to a firm conclusion on the matter.
With local schools out of session and temperatures expected to vault well into the 90s in the region next week, 2017’s beach season is well and truly here — but state Attorney General’s office has yet to state an opinion.
Because there’s been no official guidance, the captain of the Ocean City Beach Patrol is now telling patrollers just to let it lie.
Local CBS affiliate WBOC first reported on the memo, which instructs members of the Beach Patrol to document complaints about topless women on “a minor incident form,” but not to go up to or interfere with those women “even if beach goers request it.”
“For the 44 years I’ve been guarding the beach in Ocean City, when we’d see people topless on the beach we would just tell them, ‘Hey, you can’t do that,'” he told WBOC. “But since the Maryland Attorney General’s Office hasn’t issued their opinion on it, we don’t feel like we can tell people not to sunbathe topless.”
“It’s about equality, it’s about positivity, and it’s against body shaming and the forced sexualization of the female form,” the advocate who wrote the brief to the state told the Washington Post. “It is most certainly about equality under the law.”
City officials, however, are wary. A spokesperson for the city told the Post, “The mayor and council have no desire to make Ocean City a topless beach,” adding that there are no plans in place to do so.
The Maryland Attorney General’s office told the Post that they are drafting a formal opinion on the matter “and expect it to be released soon.”