Sunbathing Topless: Would You Go Nude On A Beach? - Coco & Creme

The Spanish island of Ibiza is known for its vibrant party life, beautiful beaches, and rich local residents. While I enjoyed the vivacity of the boardwalk style town, I eventually wanted to find solitude away from the heavily populated beaches that were filled with drunk, foreign college students. Walking two miles in flip flops and a bikini covered by a shrug, I searched for a secluded beach to serve as my resting spot for the afternoon. I wanted peace and silence, not only to write but also to lay topless underneath the rays of the sun.

After passing numerous tourist attractions and restaurants, the land began to transition from commercial to residential, leading to a series of private beaches for local residents. As I already knighted myself as an honorary Spaniard, I walked onto one of the private beaches behind a new condominium complex, complemented by a makeshift Tiki bar. There was one woman lying atop the sand, soaking up the sun’s rays with her bare breasts while indulging in a Spanish romance novel. Sharing her towel, her pint-sized dog sat directly next to her beach bag, which overflowed with magazines, sunglasses, and clothes that likely had robed her body hours before. A margarita stood inches from her right hand as she exuded a level of contentment and freedom that I rarely see American women attain. As I stretched my towel across the sand, unsnapped my bikini top, and let my A-cup breasts feel the ocean breeze, I pulled out my notebook to capture the scene and between giggles whispered the words, “only in Europe.”

In my twenty years of living in the United States, I had never sunbathed topless on any beach. It is no secret that Americans have an immature relationship with public nudity, either deeming those who participate as hypersexual or cult-like fanatics. Seeing a woman topless or even bottomless on a European beach is not an anomaly. Primarily, it is considered normal for women to stretch out beneath the sun’s rays in the nude, not only to get an even tan but also as a body liberty.

Women of all ages indulge in this tradition, from older grandmothers in their sixties to younger mothers in their twenties. And yes, it’s not simply a practice that occurs in the company of strictly women. Husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons lay next to their female counterparts and no one stares at anyone’s rack. Well, unless you are the only person on the beach fitting the description of black and female.

Eventually, I ventured to another beach on the island, filled with primarily older couples and British tourists. While numerous white women sat topless, conversing with friends and drinking beach cocktails, I surveyed my surroundings and noticed that I was the only woman of color out of at least sixty people. All eyes were on me. Of course, my blackness was not going to stop me from unsnapping my bikini top again, pulling out my notebook, and reveling in this foreign freedom. While the older white men and women stared for the first five minutes, eventually they went back to their conversations and left my body to be kissed by the sun without any extra attention. I’m sure that many black women would’ve felt uncomfortable in a similar situation, but it was important for me to send a message that black nudity and freedom were equal and beautiful too.

I’ve talked to other black women who have lived abroad in Europe, South America, and the Caribbean about their experiences sunbathing topless. It seems that we’ve all enjoyed letting our breasts meet the sun without the lurking eyes of social “respectability” discouraging us. Our bodies are beautiful, bold, and colored in many shades. Why is it necessary to be ashamed? I’d welcome a beach revolution this summer, lead by American women, that provides us with the freedom to lay topless without harassment or scrutiny. It is long overdue.

Have you ever sunbathed visibly topless or walked a beach completely nude? Did you feel a sense of liberation? Share your story.

– Arielle Loren


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