There are surprisingly few stock photos of women in thongs with "I <3 NY" painted on their butt cheeks.
Why does society still find breasts so scary?
It takes a lot for the Big Apple to get its G-string into a twist. 42nd Street porn shops, coyotes in Central Park, rats in the subways — we take it all in stride. But recently, both tourists and locals have been up in arms about a new phenomenon: topless ladies in Times Square.
Yep, along with endless Elmos, Iron Men, and an overload of Olafs, bare-chested babes have been enticing tourists to take advantage of photo ops with them.
Fun fact: While “aggressive panhandling” is illegal in New York City, toplessness is not. But why attack the tatas? They’re not hurting anyone.
If kids can take pics with Cookie Monster and Spider-Man, Mickey, and Minnie, why can’t adults pose with these women?
If you use social media as a gauge, sightings of these sweet painted ladies date back to the summer of 2013, but they’ve been bombarding the news recently. These scantily-dressed gals (referred to as desnudas, Spanish for “naked”) reportedly receive between $5 and $20 in tips for each photo, and some supposedly make as much as $300 a day.
Desnudas tend to be lovely, curvy Latinas wearing nothing but a thong, a smile, and lots of body paint. Currently, the stars and stripes pattern of the American flag, with “I Love NY” painted on butt cheeks, seems to be all the rage.
All three major daily newspapers — the New York Times, the New York Daily News and the New York Post — have been following this with a fervor.
The Daily News described the “horror” of police officers posing for photos with these women in a headline story called “Tit for Brains.” The cops in question were quickly reassigned.
Gothamist countered with their satirical, anti-body shaming story, “Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children: Women’s Bodies are Still Destroying Times Square.” In it, they reported that a Montana man accused anyone who took selfies with these gals as “engaging in child pornography.” Really?
Why does society still find breasts so scary? (For the record, I find the Adult Baby in huge diapers terrifying, but not girls masking their nipples with patriotic paint.)
Big-headed cartoon characters have been making headlines since they started duking it out in Times Square, jockeying for a position to nab the best tourist spots. There was the Minnie Mouse/Hello Kitty catfight, the Batman/Spider-Man/heckler brawl, and the Woody/Minnie Mouse (she’s a troublemaker!) and the Statue of Liberty being arrested for allegedly shaking down tourists for tips.
But so far, the painted ladies have been peaceful.
Another important note: Many of these characters, topless or not, are immigrants. The distinction has been made between “artsy” types who tend to be native New Yorkers and immigrants, who are more focused on making a living. Is it a case of street artists vs. capitalists? Blatant racism? Or are people just scared of boobs?
The Daily News quoted one painted lady as saying, “'People come up to us sometimes and say what we do is disgusting . . . But what is disgusting about the female body? They shield their kids sometimes, and I think, ‘Kids come from the female body.’”
Nobody went this nuts over the Naked Cowboy, who is also topless, and has graced Times Square for a decade or more. Dressed only in boots and his trademark skin-tight tighty-whities, he’s supposedly worth $2.5 million. (In May 2014, he switched to boxer briefs when sponsored by Fruit of the Loom.) Most of his moola was made a dollar or two at a time, tucked into his waistband, although he does do private events.
So, why is everyone in such a tizzy about the naked ladies of Times Square? Has sexism reared its ugly head yet again?
Times Square has become hopelessly homogenized and Disney-fied. I paraphrase the great, cranky New York writer Fran Lebowitz when I say, “There has to be some place left where the tourists are afraid to go.” But alas, there are no more live sex shows and few pulsating porn theatres. Without much else to fear, people are now terrified of painted boobs.
In a city where millions flock to museums and shell out $25 a pop to see the celebrated nudes of Picasso and Rubens, what’s wrong with seeing living, breathing body art on the street? It’s our God-given right in this capitalist society — people making a buck with what the good Lord gave them.
Lighten up, New York! Relax, they’re only nipples!
UPDATE: The latest is that NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio is reining in all Times Square photo entrepreneurs, calling them “wrong” and that he plans to address the issue “in a very aggressive manner.”