Long established clothing-optional beaches are under attack. In addition to Mazo Beach, the pressure is now on Navarre, Higbee, Honokohau, and Rincon. There are rumors of others to follow. In several counties in Florida which don't have either nude beaches or naturist clubs or resorts, there have been efforts -- some successful -- to outlaw any form of public nudity. This is ostensibly to control adult entertainment businesses, yet no attempt is even made to exempt traditional naturist activities. (And this leaves aside the larger question of whether there aren't better ways to control any "problems" that adult buisnesses might contribute to without infringing personal liberties for essentially religious purposes.)
If you do take the time to read through the material in this report you may observe a couple of striking ironies. The first is that most of the protest is coming from far-right religious groups, often with one or more of their advocates strategically positioned on local legislative bodies. The great majority of the public is either indifferent to the whole issue of traditional naturist activities like skinny-dipping, or clearly inclined to be tolerant of such things.
The second major irony is that this stepped up level of interference with traditional naturism is ocurring at the same time that the media -- whether in print, on TV, or even on the Internet -- is taking a much greater interest -- and usually a tolerant interest -- in non-sexual nudity.
The whole question is where things will stand as this tug-of-war between right-wing prudes and the tolerant majority plays out. This is a matter which should definitely not be left to chance. There are only a few ways for people who support naturism to influence the outcome. The two main places that the conflict is ocurring is in legislative bodies at all levels of government and in the courts. It's quite possible to bring responsible influence to bear in both of these places. But it isn't easy or cheap.
There are two principal naturist/nudist organizations in the U. S.. One is the American Association for Nude Recreation. They have an active government affairs program which includes selective lobbying efforts. Unfortunately, there is no easy way for unaffiliated naturists to support this specific activity without joining AANR.
The other organization is the Naturist Society. They have an affiliated organization, the Naturist Action Committee whose specific charter is political activism in support of naturism. Individual naturists can support NAC with a contribution as small as $20 (and receive an informative printed newsletter as well). It's something serious naturists really should be looking into -- as our special report ought to make pretty clear.
This is going to be an interesting summer.
About 20 states now have laws that explicitly protect a mother's right to breastfeed anywhere she can legally take a baby. But there's a lot of oppostion. In this April 9 ABC News article carrying the headline above, it is mentioned that "Last month, a pro-breastfeeding bill in Colorado died after majority Republican lawmakers voted against it." Hmmm, weren't Republicans supposed to be "pro-family"? Evidently not. And further, "Anti-breastfeeding sentiment runs deep among the general public too. Comments from readers in the Dayton Daily News were largely against a pro-breastfeeding bill being debated in the Ohio legislature." And what reasons do such readers give for this position? Well, for instance, "A naked breast is a naked breast, whether feeding a baby or not."
Anyhow, the lawsuit described in the article was brought by two women in Ohio (which doesn't yet have an appropriate law) who claim to have been harassed in Wal-Mart stores for breastfeeding their infants. Their choice of a target couldn't be much more appropriate. Wal-Mart is known for its far-right attitudes on various issues. The company denies that it has an official policy against breastfeeding. But they do refuse to carry CD music they consider to have lyrics that are controversial. And their photo processing departments often refuse to develop pictures which contain nudity.
In fact, the well-researched article at hand mentions another mother in New Hampshire who took some film to the local Wal-Mart for processing. The pictures showed her nursing and were meant to go with an article she was writing about the birthing experience. Result? The store refused to give her the prints, citing a company policy against doing so for any pictures which contained even innocent nudity.
Wouldn't you really rather do your shopping elsewhere anyhow?
Apparently, however, the prospect that a couple of hundred neo-pagans may celebrate their religious festival -- some of them sky-clad -- is "scaring the pants" off some locals in Menifee County, Kentucky, according to this March 17 article in the Lexington Herald-Leader. (The article was picked up by the Associated Press on April 7; for instance here.)
One local resident calls it a "horrible disgrace". Another, a Baptist preacher, calls nude worship "an abomination". But then, of course, Christians have been bad mouthing pagans for almost 2000 years, so it's to be expected.
The documentary was put together from five days of shooting at the Desert Shadows Inn in Palm Springs, CA. Although it makes use of pixellation and overly clever camera angles to avoid showing "naughty" parts, there are plainly a lot of nude people in it.
The main dramatic tension comes from the question of whether or not the show's host will give nudity a try himself -- and he eventually does. But the presentation of naturism itself is respectful and positive, discussing the naturist lifestyle, naturist "etiquette", and even showing a nude wedding. (It was the groom's first social nude experience as well.)
Somehow, we suspect this is just the first of a number of media documentaries on naturism this year. As is clear from the number of other items here about nudity in the media -- which seem to have been slowly but steadily increasing over the last year -- a lot of media people are paying attention. Besides, we're only a third of the way through the year, and summer hasn't come to most of the country yet.
A TV ad for the North American market from Australia's tourist promotion bureau shows nude Aussies disporting themselves on the beach. Signs even identify the beaches as clothing optional. The idea, apparently, is to persuade Americans that Oz folks know how to have an uninhibited good time. In reality, the truth is that many parts of Australia are as prudish about their beaches as North America -- but it's nice to think they believe this is a good inducement to visit their country.
This TV ad appeared in Canada. A man is going on talking about himself while eating a bowl of a new sort of vegetable soup. He ends up saying, "The day I try something new is the day I mow the lawn naked!" And then we see him riding off into the sunset, nude, on his lawnmower. Kind of interesting, isn't it, about the apparent appeal of nude lawnmowing? (See Vol. 2, No. 2.) Wonder if the allusion was intentional.
This one's interesting, since it looks as though Teva might be planning to use nudity as a continuing theme, as well as to advertise directly to naturists. The May issue of Outside, on page 127, has a Teva ad with a picture of a nude male (except for sandals, of course) doing a cannonball into a lake. Headline: "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of whatever you damn well please". But their ad on the inside cover of the latest issue (No. 30) of Naturally magazine is even more interesting - more for where it is than what it shows. The picture has a nude couple (again, except for sandals) and the headline: "We've yet to discover what the human spirit looks like. But we know what it wears." Namely, nothing but Tevas. There's no frontal nudity, so we wonder whether they will run the same ad in non-naturist publications.
Here we have an Internet commerce site (software equivalent of Amazon.com) using the theme that if you work at home, you don't need to wear clothes. It's a TV ad, and you can see it in an MPEG file at their site. Titled "Reed *******, the Naked Man". Reed is shown NIFOC, barbecueing nude in his backyard, even answering the door nude for the UPS man. Slogan: "Beyond.com allows me to be myself".
Also on the same theme, Visa (teamed up with Yahoo!) has a full page ad on p. 123 of the latest Outside (i. e., right before the Teva ad) with the headline in large bold letters, "GO NAKED TO THE MALL". ("Shopping Yahoo.com" in smaller letters.) No pictures, and not much more text either. Interestingly, advertisers seem to think that Outside is a good place to use a nudity theme. The demographics are people who are young, adventuresome, savvy. Makes sense.
Who? A computer company that makes the "Palm" handheld computer. Their 2-page magazine ad has a naked female model (identified as dancer Kate Hunter) in fetal position, holding the product. Front view on the first page, back view on the other side (duh). Nothing "naughty" visible, of course. But the photos are striking images of elegance and simplicity. Headline: "Simply Palm". This one's also in Outside (April, pp. 77-8) and elsewhere. And yet another computer product. The ads have gotten attention, too. According to this article in the Detroit News there are people who've been "upset" by the ads -- there have been protests from "cultures that are not used to seeing the body uncovered, people who are having a hard time explaining them (the ads) to children and extreme feminists." (In case you haven't seen it, the pictures are really quite tame.) It's also mentioned that the ad campaign may be extended to TV.
Of course, the Times article doesn't make its point in these terms. It simply observes that this part of the new Death Valley National Park is seeing the effects of more active management by the National Park Service.
There are some positive points in the article. Such as its description of the diversity of visitors to the hot springs: "Bohemians and bankers, hikers and Deadheads, cops and free-range philosophers--all destined to soak, naked and together, in steaming springs that have been a hidden mecca since at least the 1960s." And there are testimonials to the diverse pleasures of nude soaking: "This is the most relaxing vacation you can imagine," said Pam Sellars of Redondo Beach, floating in the buff next to half a dozen new friends.
The TV spots include nude interviews of club management and patrons. The TV folks seemed to be somewhat nervous and self-conscious, but the naturists were naked, calm, and confident. Camera angles were very carefully chosen to avoid showing anything "naughty".
It sounds like the University's naturist club is doing well, with more than 100 members and regularly scheduled swims and volleyball matches. The short but very supportive article includes a nude picture of founder Thomas Lundy and a friend. Expanding on the theme of university naturism, it also mentions the Naturist Student Festival in Rotterdam in May, at which about 500 attendees are expected.
With legal topfreedom for women, a naturist nightclub in Ottawa, and a healthy student naturist group in Toronto, it looks like Ontario is pulling ahead of most of North America in terms of clothes-freedom. (But then, there have been setbacks too - see the story on Meech Lake in our last issue.
It's a positive article, but with all the usual cliches that friendly but non-naturist journalists tend to use. After various anecdotes, here's the writer's conclusion:
The greatest revelation was how quickly I adapted to the novelty of full bodily disclosure. Unaccustomed to such displays, I had approached the weekend with a combination of trepidation and lurid fantasy (the latter stoked by my friend's unfulfilled promise of a watsu session with some unclad water goddess). Yet after a short time in the pools, these residual adolescent inclinations gave way to a wholly unexpected sensation of liberation. As the shock of my own and others' public nakedness wore off, I found myself reveling in the sheer physicality of Harbin. Stripped to the bare essentials, enveloped by nature, I began to metamorphose into some primordial variation on myself.
In any case, it's satisfying that the magazines at least pay lip service to the idea of actually putting in an appearance at a nude beach. Perhaps if they keep talking about it enough, the idea will start to sink in.
The article in question here, in the April issue of Mademoiselle, begins with "Sudden exposure: it's almost time for sundresses, shorts, bikinis -- and less." Once you've followed the article's advice, "you can get on with more important summer stuff, like feeling great about being naked..."
Then, the important question: "Back to sun, sea, sky... and maybe a skinny-dip or two. Why not?" After all, "Once you give your post-cold-weather skin a little TLC, you'll have the confidence to bare up -- and bare all..."
The article's illustrated with a couple of clothes-free sun worshippers. Maybe some day readers of this kind of thing will get the idea it's for real.
No nipples or pubic hair, of course. This is, after all, a U. S. magazine. But the photography is high-quality anyhow. Some of it is by fine art photographer Howard Schatz, author of Waterdance.
The theme of the story is, basically, women's growing acceptance of their own bodies, with their special characteristics and needs. "There are signs of a growing acceptance of the female body with its signature cycles and turning point," writes Barbara Ehrenreich. The theme is quintessentially naturist, though the connection isn't spelled out.
Perhaps if women could really be convinced that it's OK to have a body, and a female one at that, then they would finally be confident to acknowledge it by eschewing the absoluteness of the need to keep it covered up at all times.
Then you read it twice, and it's screamingly funny, because this really is how some people react to nudity. In the writer's case, when she first saw a friend naked at age 5, "I was horrified. I was 5 AND I was a Catholic. The whole thing was just DIRTY. I felt as if I had just witnessed something unholy and shameful, and I never told anyone that filthy secret, not even at confession."
Prudes everywhere should read this piece. They will, at first, enjoy a sense of deepest satisfaction that someone, somewhere knows exactly how they feel about seeing a naked body. But how will they feel when -- if -- the realization starts to dawn that the joke is really on them?
And this: "The video also contains an image of a mother breastfeeding. Perhaps the Pope is taking a cue from The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Mother's Milk," the cover of which featured members of the band, reduced to a tiny size, sucking on a woman's breast."
"We thought maybe we landed in another country when we walked to a beach -- marked for our hotel's guests only -- only to find topless women sunbathers," he wrote. "As Christian men, we are taught to flee this type of thing, which is hard in Miami since it seemed that this type of immorality was nearly everywhere." Fleeing, unfortunately, was temporarily out of the question, since the minister and his friends found, upon returning from dinner one evening, that their car had been booted.
As a public service, Barry offers the following cautionary warning to travelers: "IF YOU COME TO THE MIAMI AREA, AND YOU GO TO THE BEACH, THERE IS A CHANCE YOU WILL SEE TOPLESS SUNBATHERS." Further, "The Miami tourist bureau requests that you tell everybody you know about this warning and spread it on the Internet."
So, we're just trying to pass this along, in case you're thinking of a trip to Miami.
What a shame that the minister didn't happen to stumble upon Miami's Haulover Beach.
In fact, perhaps it's mainly a matter of male breast-envy: "Even an unendowed female chest is innately more stunning than that of her male counterpart. Why is a hairy, flabby, grossly out-of-shape male chest not considered vulgar or indecent enough to be outlawed from public exposure?"
Postlethwaite has done nude scenes in live theatre, and looks forward to doing one in the leading role in a new film version of Macbeth. Not surprisingly, he has some positive view on nudity in dramatic work. Speaking of the experience of doing such scenes, he reflects: "I found it strangely liberating. As an actor, you try to strip away to get at your character. What you wear on the outside is a sign of inward grace. I don't feel I have anything to hide."
It certainly wasn't a "naturist" event, though it encouraged a more casual attitude towards nudity on the part of participants and spectators alike. There's a very interesting article which appeared April 14 in the e-zine Salon. It gives a little insight into the motivations of the students who participated.
The writer, Jeannette Johnston, tells of her experiences in 1992 as a Princeton sophomore. She'd always been "well-behaved", to a fault, but finally yielded to the temptation to do something a little wild. Though the idea of being naked in public was pretty terrifying, somehow she went through with it and -- before very long -- naked butts and boobs and other body parts became just part of the experience. And finally, "Sometime later, I stood on a sidewalk in town, outside a busy restaurant, still naked."
But -- nothing terrible happened, and shortly thereafter she was safely back in her room, and before long "life resumed its pace". There was an unsettling brush with the law, due to an overzealous local police detective who went in pursuit of students who happened to have been photographed nude at some point, but nothing very bad came of it, since no one except the detective cared to press charges.
Would she do it over again? Probably not in the same way. Yet overall it seemed a positive experience, and she felt changed:
I am glad that I ran. I am glad that I dared myself to taste debauchery, and glad that I somehow was served the whole pie. It proved a brief departure from caution and responsibility and level-headedness -- buzzwords that had circled my head all my life. To these I could now add, "exuberantly nude in the snow." I had been vilified, but at the same time, set free.
St. Johns County was the first to enact a draconian anti-nudity law (which described in lurid and ludicrous detail exactly which body parts and how much of each had to be covered). After it (astonishingly) passed legal challenge, Polk County and Brevard County (home of Playalinda beach) enacted similar ordinances. Last year voters in Seminole county approved another such law. And now, in March, the commisioners in Manatee county have voted to follow suit. But only by a "bare" majority of 4 to 3.
The ordinance is much stronger and more unreasonable than necessary for the stated purpose of regulating (i. e. eliminating) topless/nude dance clubs, since it also prohibits legitimate nudist parks and resorts, and even nudity in one's own back yard swimming pool. Although it does, generously, allow mothers to breastfeed children, the kids must be younger than 2 or the mother can be arrested. Even wearing bathing suits may not be enough, if the suit is too skimpy - covering less than a third of the buttocks or less than a fourth of a woman's breast. (Sheriff's deputies will presumably carry measuring devices.)
News articles on the ordinance:
In Charlotte County, which is near Manatee, also rural, but located between the cities of Sarasota and Fort Myers, the domino effect can also be observed. The religious right is pushing hard for a similar anti-nudity law. Fortunately, incredulity from the wider public over the ridiculousness of the Manatee law seems to have held off action on this clone -- so far.
Navarre Beach, near Pensacola (i. e., almost in Alabama) has been a favorite destination of naturists for decades. Santa Rosa county, in which it's located, has long had an unfriendly attitude, but tolerant authorities at Elgin Air Force Base have usually granted refuge on their part of the beach. No longer. The base has a new policy that anyone on their beach will be arrested for trespassing. And if you try to go back to the civilian side, the local Sheriff's department has suddenly decided to get much more aggressive about issuing citations for nudity -- how convenient.
According to this article of April 13 from the Northwest Florida Daily News a local Sheriff's Commander has promised naturists that "We are not going to go away. We will not allow this to go on. We'll take them up and book them." Wouldn't you just love to spend some of your vacation money in his jurisdiction?
Why the sudden surliness and belligerence? It's not clear. But sadly, and ironically, it comes at a time when there's no great public outcry to end skinnydipping in the area. The front page of the Daily News carried an opinion poll for anyone to cast their vote on whether nude beach users ought to be left alone. When last checked, about 75% of respondents voted against harassment of skinnydippers.
Too bad. The approach which seems to be emerging to deal with the problem is, at a minimum, to close all the parking lots. But right-wing Republicans in the area are pressing for more draconian law enforcement, and perhaps even new laws against even innocent skinnydipping.
According to this April 9 article from the Bergen Record, there has long been a tolerant attitude towards Higbee, and "nude sunbathing is nothing new. Last summer, one couple even got married on the beach -- wearing nothing but smiles." But that's all been spoiled, allegedly by gay male Web sites that have promoted Higbee as an ideal cruising location. "In summer, some bathers prefer to go naked. But they're not the problem, state officials say. Men openly engaging in sexual acts -- alone or with partners -- are."
This April 22 article from the Philadelphia Enquirer makes points about the natural beauty of the beach area and its long popularity with skinny-dippers. It also reiterates points about the nude use attracting crowds simply to gawk at the skinny-dippers, gay males taking advantage of the tolerance of nudity to engage in lewd behavior, and all of this annoying locals and wildlife advocates. In other words, there are serious conflicts among a variety of different users of the area.
Unfortunately, you also see local right-wing Republican politicians like State Sen. James Cafiero trying to make a soapbox issue out of the whole thing by getting nude use banned altogether, sneering at the whole idea of trying to "distinguish between the good naked people and the bad naked people." Right. Instead of trying to solve problems cooperatively, just blast away at that part of the public you don't (and don't want to) understand.
In spite of all this, it's encouraging to see some objective journalism which makes a reasonable attempt at putting the legitimate interests of real naturists in a favorable light.
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