Dhe sunbathing areas in Frankfurt’s open-air pools are spacious. Even on the hottest days, the Brentanobad, for example, does not reach its capacity limits. And in the farthest corners of the sunbathing area, bathers can even feel almost unobserved. “Sunbathing without a disturbing bikini is common there,” says Boris Zielinski. “And that is tolerated by our staff and does not upset anyone.”
The managing director of the Frankfurt baths company explains what everyday life is like, while a debate about morals and customs is spilling over from the basins of some German cities into the Rhine-Main area. It’s about explicitly allowing top-down swimming, not just for men.
In cities like Göttingen, Siegen and Hanover, women have been expressly allowed to jump into the pool “topless” for some time now. This is also being discussed in Wiesbaden. On April 1, the Cologne baths adjusted their usage regulations in order to “take account of the changing social awareness”, as it is said.
The Berlin bathing establishments had recently made it clear that swimming with a bare chest should no longer be a problem for women. Strictly speaking, it was not forbidden anyway, because the bathing regulations, like everywhere else, required bathing clothes. A swimsuit takes this into account.
“Not an issue at all”
The clarification was triggered by a complaint: A woman was expelled from a water playground in the Treptow-Köpenick district because of her bare upper body. A lawsuit against the state of Berlin for compensation was unsuccessful. The head of the responsible ombudsman welcomed the clarification because it created “equal rights for everyone, whether male, female or non-binary”.
Pool manager Zielinski thinks that is correct in principle, but regrets the public debate. “Topless is a topic that is not for us at all,” he says. “In our pools, women sunbathe topless, they put on something to swim, and nobody makes a problem out of it.” There was neither a dedicated inquiry nor complaints from women or protests from visitors against overly revealing women. Even in the city council, “topless” has not been on the agenda so far. “We shouldn’t make an issue of it,” says Zielinski. “I see the danger that a debate will only trigger outrage if you want to bring about a decision on it.”
In Wiesbaden, the debate seemed to have ended last week. Contrary to a message from the Volt faction, which brought the topic to the city council as part of the majority referred to as cooperation, no decision has yet been made as to whether people, regardless of their gender, will be allowed to swim “topless” in the future. “There is still no decision on the subject,” says city spokesman Ralf Munser.
The Mattiaqua baths have developed a proposal that will be discussed at the next meeting of the Committee on Women and Equality on May 2nd. The city council will make the decision at its regular meeting on May 17th. Like Munser, Marc Kneiper, spokesman for Mattiaqua, does not want to comment on the content of the works committee’s proposal. In the recent past, however, there have been neither incidents nor inquiries from guests about topless swimming.
Hanau and Darmstadt more buttoned up
According to a message from the Volt faction, everything should already be in the bag. “Topless law in Wiesbaden in the future,” was the headline of a statement from the parliamentary group. “It’s been official since the last meeting of the Mattiaqua works committee: the bathing regulations will be adjusted, and from the coming bathing season it will be up to each person to decide whether to wear a top in the sunbathing and bathing area.”
Volt submitted an application to adjust the dress code in the middle of last year. “We pushed ahead a little too quickly,” says Volt parliamentary group officer Simone Winkelmann. But, Winkelmann continues, the Wiesbaden magistrate has now also agreed, and due to the majority in the city council, she assumes that the new bathing regulations will be decided on May 17th.
Other cities are a little more reserved. Hanau tolerates topless bathing “on a goodwill basis and without legal entitlement”. But if other guests felt disturbed, women would be asked by the staff to put on a top, says a spokeswoman. The topic “topless” is not regulated in the house and bathing rules. Darmstadt refers to the current house and bathing regulations: “The bathers must refrain from anything that is contrary to good morals and the maintenance of safety, peace and order.” Staying in the baths is only permitted in the usual swimwear. The decision as to whether the clothing meets the requirements is up to the staff.