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The city's crackdown on sex shops survived its first legal challenge in a federal appeals court when three judges made broad statements supporting the measure in a case that questioned the law's fairness based on gender.

The written decision issued Friday and made public Monday by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came in a case in which a topless dancer challenged the law on the narrow issue of whether the city discriminated against topless women because topless men were not targeted as well.

"We must recognize that the public reactions to the exhibition of the female breast and the male breast are highly different," the appeals court said.

"The male chest is routinely exposed on beaches, in public sporting events and the ballet, and in general consumption magazine photography without involving any sexual suggestion," the judges wrote. "In contrast, public exposure of the female breast is rare under the conventions of our society and almost invariably conveys sexual overtones."

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