Although it is legal in most states for women to go topless in public, many are still arrested if they try it. What gives? Actress, director and activist Lina Esco set out to answer this question in her indie feature film, Free the Nipple. For Esco, and supporters such as Miley Cyrus and Lena Dunham, the right to go topless is about equality. “No more double standards,” Esco says.
PLAYBOY: You filmed Free the Nipple in New York. How did bystanders react to dozens of topless women?
“We live in a country where obscenities are defined largely by things sexual instead of things related to war and killing and hatred. What kind of a world is that?”
– Hugh Hefner
ESCO: Before shooting, we decided to test reactions by going topless at Occupy Wall Street. Within minutes we were surrounded by hundreds of people. And you know what? After 15 minutes they started talking to us or tuning out. Everyone realized they’re just boobs.
PLAYBOY: Acceptance of nudity is a societal problem. It’s why censorship exists. But is there value in seeing more breasts on network TV?
ESCO: I don’t know if America is ready to take that big of a risk, but it could be in the future. Acceptance starts with a conversation, and that’s the goal of the film: to start a conversation.
PLAYBOY: What’s the conversation?
ESCO: Let’s talk about how much violence is on film and TV. The glorification of violence is unhealthy for our society. My film includes a quote from Hugh Hefner that gets right to the point: “We live in a country where obscenities are defined largely by things sexual instead of things related to war and killing and hatred. What kind of a world is that?”
PLAYBOY: Is there any hope?
ESCO: Yes. There are so many ideological shifts happening right now, from gay marriage to legalizing marijuana, because of a rising generation of men and women who believe in equality and independence. It’s all happening so fast, it’s amazing.