Petition Would Make All Nantucket Beaches Topless

nude beach

All of Nantucket’s beaches would become topless under a citizen petition filed this week that will be considered by island voters at the 2022 Annual Town Meeting. 

Dorothy Stover

Island resident Dorothy Stover authored the proposal to seek “equality for all genders on all island beaches” by creating a new town bylaw that would make it legal for any person “to be topless on any public or private beach within the Town of Nantucket.” Stover, who was born and raised on the island and is the daughter of the late Town Clerk Catherine Flanagan Stover, is a sex educator who enjoys going to Nantucket’s unofficial nude beach near Miacomet. So why, she asked herself several months ago, shouldn’t those same unwritten rules be applied islandwide? 

“We have the exact same makeup – men have mammary glands and nipples – and so I started reaching more into it and men can go topless but we can’t,” Stover said. “It blew my mind that we’re still in this space. But it’s turned into an equity issue, and I know I’m not the only one who thinks this.”

In Massachusetts, anyone who intentionally exposes their genitals, buttocks, or female breasts in a way that is intended to produce “alarm or shock” can be charged with open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, which carries a potential penalty of up to three years in prison. 

Stover said she drafted her citizen petition and the proposed bylaw with the assistance of her sister, Ada Ruth Waig, who is a paralegal, along with town counsel, KP Law. She obtained the required 10 signatures in support of the petition from registered Nantucket voters that are required for it to be included on the 2022 Annual Town Meeting warrant. 

“In Europe, it’s completely normal to be topless, you don’t even think about it,” Stover said. “I’ve had more support than I thought I would. It’s been surprising seeing who supports it and who is pushing back. They say women’s breasts are sexual, and I said no, they’re sexualized, not sexual.”

Town manager Libby Gibson said Tuesday that she was aware of Stover’s proposal, but had not yet had a chance to review the petition. 

The new bylaw would require a majority vote at Town Meeting to be approved and enacted, along with a favorable review by the state Attorney General.

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