A debate over public nudity in the New Hampshire State House took a dark turn on Tuesday when male lawmakers made disturbing comments about breasts toward their female colleague on Facebook.
State Rep. Amanda Bouldin (D) wrote a post on the social media website expressing her opposition to a proposed bill in New Hampshire that would make it a misdemeanor for women to expose their nipples in the state. Bouldin wrote an open Facebook message to the sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Josh Moore (R), saying that he should scrap the bill or at least exempt new mothers who are breastfeeding.
"The very least you could do," Bouldin wrote, "is protect a mother's right to FEED her child."
The bill already does exempt breastfeeding mothers -- an oversight Bouldin acknowledged Wednesday in an email to The Huffington Post. But her comment on Facebook prompted Moore and another one of her male colleagues to snap back at her.
"If it's a woman's natural inclination to pull her nipple out in public and you support that," Moore wrote, "than you should have no problem with a mans inclantion [sic] to stare at it and grab it. After all... It's ALL relative and natural, right?"
Moore later deleted his comment, but Bouldin had taken a screenshot of it.
When Moore added that he obviously has "more respect for a woman and her innocence and decency" than people who support a woman's right to show her nipple, Bouldin replied, "My nipple isn't my innocence. By the time I had cause to whip it out in public (WHEN FEEDING MY CHILD) I was certainly no longer a virgin."
At this point, another one of Bouldin's male colleagues weighed in. "No disrespect, but your nipple would be the last one I would want to see," said State Rep. Al Baldasaro (R). "You want to turn our family beach's into a pervert show."
Reached for comment, Baldasaro defended his remark about his colleague's nipple. "I stand by what I said," he said in a phone interview. "You're damn right it would be the last one I want to see. I'm a happily married guy."
He added, "She sits right in front of me at the State House."
Baldasaro said he supports the anti-nudity bill because allowing women to expose their nipples on New Hampshire's beaches would hurt tourism and cost the state money.
It is currently legal in New Hampshire for both genders to be topless in public. The proposed bill makes it a punishable crime for a woman to show her nipple, and it classifies such an act as "lewdness" and "indecent exposure." The legislation is a response to the national campaign to "Free the Nipple," which aims to empower women and normalize female breasts in the same way men's nipples are publicly acceptable. The campaign spread to New Hampshire in August, when a small group of women went topless at Hampton Beach to make a political point.
Bouldin said that even though the legislation does exempt women who are breastfeeding, she think it's unfair to make it a crime for women to expose their nipples while men are still allowed to expose theirs. But the bigger problem with the debate over the bill, she said in an interview on Wednesday, is that she believes her points are being discounted because she's a woman.
"This is bad governance, plain and simple," she said. "The merits of the bill have nothing to do with the flesh between my thighs."
Moore, the sponsor of the bill, could not be reached for comment.