1 in 2 say female toplessness taboo is fair

July 21, 2015, 3:33 PM GMT+0

Only a third of Americans think it's unfair that women generally cannot go topless in places where men can

The laws on toplessness can vary significantly across the country, though not as much as people might suppose. In New York state women are legally allowed to go topless anywhere that a man is also allowed to be topless, including the streets of New York City and the subway, something the police now generally respect. Many other states, including places as disparate as California and Alabama, also have similar laws on the books. In fact only three states (Utah, Indiana and Tennessee) explicitly prohibit female toplessness in public.

Research from YouGov shows that Americans tend to be OK with having different standards for men and women when it comes to toplessness. 47% of Americans think it's fair that men can generally go topless places women cannot, but 35% think it is unfair. There is a significant age divide on this question, however, as younger Americans are much more likely to think it is an unfair double standard than older Americans. 49% of under-30s think that it is unfair to hold women to a different standard than men, but 63% of over-65s think it is fair.

There is also a gender divide on this question. While most women (51%) think that it is fair that women's toplessness is generally not allowed when men's is, men are nearly evenly split, with 44% saying it is fairly while 42% think it is unfair.

The offensiveness of seeing topless women with bare breasts varies greatly based on context. While 73% of Americans would not be that offended by seeing a woman breastfeeding in public, 60% say that they would be offended 'a lot' or 'somewhat' by seeing a topless women walking on the sidewalk. 58% say the same about the front page of a newspaper, on TV before 6pm (56%) and while sunbathing in a park (50%). Most Americans would not be that offended, however, by seeing a topless woman on the cover of a fashion magazine (51%) or on TV after 11pm (60%).

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.