Aug 11, 2015 7:11 PM
HAMPTON - State Senator Nancy Stiles' phone has been ringing off the hook, with constituents concerned about the issue of female toplessness at Hampton Beach.
"It's not that they have an objection to breastfeeding or something," Stiles said. "That seems to be very natural. It's just that a lot of people who want to bring young children to the beach don't want to have to explain why this person is doing this, and that person is doing that."
The phone calls, emails and Facebook messages are a direct result of a planned "Free the Nipple" event, coming up on Aug. 23. "Free the Nipple" is a national equality movement, which opposes female oppression and censorship, according to their official website.
Stiles says that in New Hampshire, toplessness is legal. So is showing a rear end, unless the person baring those body parts is acting lewdly. That is what makes this personal freedoms issue a difficult one to navigate.
"It's about freedom of expression, and that's an issue we all have to consider," Stiles said. "I've been looking into different opportunities, figuring out what we might do, that would protect both individual rights as well as all of our guests that visit the beach."
Here is our initial report:
Many of the people Stiles has talked to have an economic stake in the game. Local businesses have worked very hard over the years to give Hampton Beach a family friendly image so people will visit and spend money. Bare female breasts do not promote that kind of atmosphere, according to them.
"I got several calls from a lot of my constituents, saying 'What are you going to do about this? What are you going to do about this? We can't have that,'" Stiles said.
Stiles has been picking the brains of legal minds in the state, and hopes some sort of common ground can be found. She cites the areas of Hampton Beach where surfing is allowed, and where it is not.
As a last resort, the Senator would consider proposing legislation that would make it illegal for women to bare their breasts in public, with an exception for breastfeeding mothers. Even though heroin and related drug crimes are keeping Hampton police busy, she knows they would enforce the law if asked.
"Anything they are asked to do, they do," she said.
Stiles says she, and her constituent base, is just asking for public decency.
"What is appropriate behavior in front of those kids? That's what I would want everyone to take away from this," Stiles said. "I think we have standards of behavior, and I think we need to think about that when we are in large groups."
Take a look at our full interview with Stiles below:
Follow Kimberley Haas on Twitter @KHaasNH1.
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