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Nantucket residents vote to allow people to go topless at beaches

Dorothy Stover is a seventh-generation Nantucketer, who wants everyone who so pleases to be able to sunbathe topless. "I'm not saying that everybody has to be topless,'' she said. "I want to support the love of body.'' She is photographed at Jetties Beach.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Nantucket residents voted to approve a motion for anyone to be topless at beaches on the island Tuesday during the second night of the town’s Annual Town Meeting.

After about 30 minutes of back-and-forth comments from residents, the motion was approved with a 327 to 242 vote. The measure was drafted by resident Dorothy Stover, a sex educator who runs the online Nantucket Love School.

The measure must now be approved by the state attorney general’s office before it becomes law.

Stover proposed a bylaw amendment entitled “Gender Equality on Beaches,” which states “In order to promote equality for all persons, any person shall be allowed to be topless on any public or private beach within the Town of Nantucket.”


Speaking in support of her measure, Stover raised five points to support her measure, including the history of allowing men to be topless at the beach almost 90 years ago, the anatomy of human sexes and other cities and states that allow people to go topless on public beaches.

Stover also clarified the definitions of topless and nudity with two different definitions, wearing nothing on the upper body and showing genitals, pubic area and buttocks, respectively.

“Being topless is not being nude,” Stover said during the meeting, which was live streamed on YouTube. “This bylaw would not make beaches nude beaches. This bylaw would allow tops to be optional for anyone that chooses to be topless.”

Much of the debate from residents focused on gender equality and family values.

“Nantucket women have always practiced and lived gender equality,” one woman said. “Now I may not choose to go topless … but I think other people should have that choice ... I would suggest that we vote for this so that we have choice.”

Some residents raised questions about safety, particularly when young crowds flood beaches in summer.


“Speaking as a father,” one man said, “ I just feel as though this is opening a can of worms, for which we may not be able to control.”

Addressing issues of family values, one supporter noted it is up to parents to “teach their children respect for the human body, whether it’s male or female.”

An amendment proposed to exempt Children’s Beach and Jetties Beach, both of which are popular with families and tourists, was ultimately withdrawn.

One resident noted that the proposal would require “all persons” to wear shirts on those beaches, and that could be interpreted to mean that men could not go topless.

Madison Mercado can be reached at