Woman approached by police for sunbaking topless

A woman who was sunbathing topless was approached by police. Photo: Getty Images.

A woman is sparking debate about her state’s definition of nudity after being approached by police for sunbathing topless on a local beach.

Michelle Bennett, from Minnesota, US, told her local radio station WCCO that she had been minding her own business on the beach for about 20 minutes before a woman approached her and said she was “making her children uncomfortable.”

However, it wasn’t the first time that Bennett had sunbathed on the beach without a top. In fact, she’s done it regularly without a problem, until this woman’s complaint.

Police on the scene

The situation escalated when a police officer became the next to approach Michelle regarding her topless sunbathing routine.

“He heard that someone has been refusing to put a top on and that it wasn’t a nude beach,” she said. “I pointed out to him that I wasn’t nude, I was topless.”

The two had a long discussion before Michelle ultimately decided to put her top back on. Still, the conversation brought the ambiguity of the law to the officer’s attention.

“They really couldn’t establish if I was breaking a law because of that ambiguous language,” she said.

According to the Minnesota’s statutes on indecent exposure, a person is in violation when he or she “wilfully and lewdly exposes the person's body, or the private parts thereof.”

US woman Michelle Bennett is making her home state of Minnesota reconsider their enforcement of indecent exposure after sunbathing topless on a local beach. Photo: WCCO.

The lay of the law

Minnesota, however, is apparently one of just over a dozen states that have ambiguous laws regarding women going topless in public, according to the Facebook page Go Topless.

Toplessness is permitted in many other states, including New York, North Carolina, Wyoming, Oregon and California.

A spokesperson from the Duluth police department’s public information office told WCCO that the statute is up to interpretation.

“If there’s people that are around that are feeling uncomfortable with behaviour that’s attached to a law stating that that behaviour isn’t legal, then that’s a point to step in,” they said.

Michelle pointed out the unfair nature of allowing men’s nipples to be exposed in public while taking issue against women’s.

Additional reporting by Kerry Justich.

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