It’s been in the news recently that some topless women in Times Square, who pose for pictures with tourists in exchange for money, are causing a lot of consternation. I find it rather depressing that this is still such an issue. It’s legal for women to go topless in New York City, and I consider that a good thing. I can’t help but feel that the decision to hide the human body from young eyes at all times is part of why our society has come to automatically associate nudity with sex. That’s part of why women often aren’t allowed to breast-feed their babies in public.
Now, I’m sure these particular women ARE trying to titillate for tips (should we call it “tipillation”?), but that doesn’t mean you can’t just ignore them, right? The best way to overcome a taboo is to normalize the formerly forbidden thing.
Some people are presenting the issue as being about aggressive panhandling, as these women have apparently gotten in the face of passersby. In this respect, they tend to be lumped together with the people who dress up as licensed characters, which looks to be legal even though they’re making money from it. With performers who are trying to attract children, there’s the additional concern as to whether they’re perverts. Also, would it kill them to be a little better organized? There shouldn’t be two Elmos within ten feet of each other! That’s just going to confuse the kids!
But if this IS the main issue, it becomes somewhat ridiculous when you consider how loaded Times Square is with advertisements. Why is a street performer asking for money any worse than someone handing out flyers for their business? And they’re almost certainly a step above people telling everybody they’re going to Hell, which is perfectly legal but incredibly mean.
Governor Cuomo said something about the performers getting in the way of “legitimate businesses.” If street performers are doing something legal and making money from it, how are they not legitimate? I have to wonder if it has to do with the fact that they aren’t giving kickbacks to the governor’s office. More than that, however, Cuomo and others have claimed that naked ladies in the square are indicative of a return to the bad old days when it was a seedy place. Not only is this an exaggeration, but I can’t help but think it’s disregarding WHY Times Square was considered bad prior to the cleanup. Wasn’t it mainly because there was a lot of crime? Sure, there were also strip clubs and porno theaters, but no one was forcing you to enter them. If they were, THAT would be the crime, not the nudity. Sure, criminal activity is often tied in with sex-related businesses, but there are also criminals who sell stolen electronics, and that doesn’t make the electronics themselves bad. Of course, the prevailing notion is that things need to be kept family-friendly, which I guess in this case means “crowded and full of ads.”
Sure, there’s something to be said for good taste, but isn’t that a subjective matter? Well, I suppose it is called “Times SQUARE.”