The Weekly Nudesletter
Vol. 2, No. 6
August 7, 1999


Article: Seeing the obvious

Nudity in the News

Nudity in the Media

Nudity and Politics

Seeing the obvious

There's a joke making its rounds on the Internet by email. It goes like this:
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After enjoying a pleasant day of skinny-dipping in a country lake and sitting down to a good meal and a bottle of wine they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.

"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."

Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars."

"Very good, very good... but what does that tell you?"

Watson pondered for a minute. "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Philosophically, I can see that the universe is quite vast and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?"

Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. "Watson, you moron. What it tells me is that some bastard has stolen our tent."

I couldn't help thinking about this story when I read a news item from the July 14 St. Petersburg Times: Park users may get new rules to hit, sunbathe and walk by. It begins "Golfers, pet owners and nudists, listen up: If you're planning to visit a county park, officials want you to stop chipping, pick up after your dog and, while you're at it, put on some clothes." Yes, this is about yet another one of those new regulations from prudish public officials trying to banish skinny-dipping forever from their beaches.

Pretty moronic in a place like St. Petersburg, Florida, which has many miles of beautiful, remote, scarcely-used Gulf coast beaches. Granted, a majority of folks in the area may not care to skinny-dip, or even be around folks who do. But why can't they just set aside a few of the remoter, seldom-visited beaches for people who want to enjoy the sun and sand naturally? This is all that naturists have been asking Pinellas County parks officials to do in a location in Ft. De Soto Park that has traditionally had clothing-optional use.

Unfortunately, parks officials, rather than find a way to accommodate a large group of their users in a way that everyone could be comfortable with, prefer to simply eliminate the minority by threatening them with fines and arrest. As parks commission Chairwoman Sallie Parks was quoted in the article, "The nude beaches thing just doesn't seem to go away unless we do something in a more formal manner" -- such as passing an ordinance prohibiting it. "It is pretty clear that that is not a community value we hold here," she said.

So what does that tell you, Watson? If the "nude beaches thing" just doesn't seem to go away, what it tells me is that some people enjoy them and want to have them.

Any other conclusions from this story? Well, it might tell someone, like Sallie, who can't see the obvious that naturism isn't a "community value" in Pinellas County. But what it tells me is that fairness is not a community value they hold, either.

Didn't their parents ever teach them to share their toys?

Send that woman back to kindergarten!

Nudity in the News

First-ever nude English Channel swim
A team of 6 relay swimmers recruited by British Naturism (the UK's official naturist organization) has made the first ever completely nude swim of the Channel. According to the press release issued July 6, the crossing took 13 hours and 43 minutes. The team comprised a doctor, a policeman, two 15 year old girls and a lady grave digger. Team members did not wear any thermal protection -- or anything else, either.

Is nudity politically correct?
Not at Langara College, a community college in Vancouver, BC, that's for sure. A May 26 Reuters article reported that an unnamed instructor had been fired after he persuaded all members of an adult education class in shamanism to strip naked. The purpose of the exercise, apparently, was to help the students, many of whom were health care professionals, to better understand "energy patterns in the body". The school spokesperson even admitted that none of the 20+ students had complained, the nudity did not lead to "inappropriate activity", and there was "nothing unusual, except for them being nude." The students had even been advised in the introductory session of the class that they would be asked to strip. The instructor was fired anyway, and the class canceled. All of the students are reported to have disagreed with the school's action.

Striptease classes are OK, though
At least they are at an upscale institution like Mount Holyoke College in So. Hadley, MA, and if they aren't offered as part of the official curriculum -- according to a recent Associated Press story. Susan Scotto, a PhD instructor of Russian at the all-female school teaches the extracurricular classes in "exotic dancing" in a campus dance studio, with full approval from campus officials. Scotto worked as a stripper while obtaining her degree from the University of California at Berkeley and still dances semiprofessionally. She staunchly contends, "I don't see any way how an exchange of pleasure is something to be condemned."

Exotic dancing isn't naturism, any more than shamanism is. But isn't it interesting that nudity with a sexual message to it seems actually to be more acceptable than does non-sexual nudity?

Nudity in the Media

Hanging out in art class
The naivete of undergraduates at some relatively prestigious U. S. universities is charming, sort of. But sad. (Princeton students come to mind -- those whose idea of a good time is running around (literally) naked in the dead of winter saturated with ethanol.) Then there's the writer (Laura Blythe) for Stanford's Daily who authored the front page June 3 article with the title above.

Her heart is definitely in the right place. Her puns are corny. Her story is a defense of what most people consider obvious: nudity is an old and respected tradition in Western art, and art students need to work with nude models. (But please, don't describe them as naked!)

It is gratifying to see this defense offered to today's undergraduates, in view of the opposition that definitely exists in the U. S. (See Vol. 1, No. 16.)

But if current students at Stanford really need this reminder, one wonders how surprised they might be to know that only 25 years ago, skinnydipping and nude sunbathing around the campus Lake Lagunita were accepted as normal -- far from the case today.

And perhaps some eyebrows should be raised at the fact that the large picture of Michelangelo's David which accompanied the article was defaced with a smiley face covering David's you-know-what. Evidently it's not Politically Correct to show stuff like that in campus newspapers these days. Someone might feel sexually harassed.

Savvy Travelers go naked
The Savvy Traveler is a nationally broadcast public radio travel show. (Why are radio programs called "shows" anyhow?) As a Nude Recreation Week (July 5-11) special on July 10 they featured an interview with Marilou Aguirre. Marilou is a San Francisco Bay area naturist and government affairs official with AANR. You can find Real Audio for the program here, along with contact information for travel agents specializing in nude travel.

At the same time, Savvy Traveler offered two other interviews on the nude travel and recreation ("Dare to Bare"). The first was with AANR spokesperson Susan Weaver. The second was with humorist David Sedaris, author of Naked. (Despite the title, only one chapter of the book actually deals with nudism -- in the form of a droll account of the author's first visit to a nudist camp.) Real Audio for both of these can be found here.

Laguna del Sol makes the headlines
Twice during the last month, in fact, although the second time was something everyone concerned would just as soon have done without. The first time Laguna del Sol, an upscale resort in Wilton, CA, near Sacramento got some ink was in connection with Nude Recreation Week, which (in case you missed it) was July 5-11. Many nudist clubs and resorts around the country managed to get their story in local media this summer. For Laguna, it was a positive story published July 11 in the Sacramento Bee, entitled "Getting Down to the Bare Essentials".

The second time, the one we could have done without, was in connection with the apprehension of a man who subsequently confessed to murdering four women near Yosemite National Park. Undoubtedly you've seen the original news reports, which gave due credit to another guest at Laguna del Sol who recognized the malefactor and alerted the authorities. Fortunately, things have quickly returned to normal at Laguna. "Sheriff's deputies and photographers are gone, and everyone's naked again," according to this July 30 column.

Shed and swim in California
Shed the clothes, that is. Here's a favorable review of Day Trips With a Splash: The Swimming Holes of California by Pancho Doll. It's a guide to great places to cool off from the local heat. Over a hundred locations around the state are carefully described - and there are special notations for those places where nude use is common.

I think we Are in Kansas, Toto
Hutchinson, Kansas, to be exact, home of the Sandy Lane Club. And in yet another one of this summer's good crop of local media articles on nudism and naturism, the Hutchinson News on August 2 offered "Here, it's the natural thing to do". (The link probably won't be valid past August 8.)

In fact, this is one of the most positive articles of its kind we've seen anywhere in the mainstream press. It tells the story through carelfully chosen quotes from Sandy Lane members -- such as Beth, now 91 and one of the founding members of the club, which started in 1955. "There's a freedom in being nude," she said.

Not surprisingly, since this is Kansas, the emphasis is on rock-solid family values. Sue, at 27 one of the younger adult visitors, observed, "It felt very comfortable, very relaxed. It's not a place to flaunt your body -- it's a place to be happy with the way you are already."

And for all the readers who think they could never get involved with something like this, an older mother explained: "My husband talked to me abut it for a while, but I was skeptical. I was very scared the first time I tried it. With your clothes off, you become very vulnerable. But I was treated just like a regular person. Now I just love it."

Boston Phoenix: Get naked
OK, so the Phoenix is part of the "alternative" press. But it has been around for about 35 years, and today it is really part of the mainstream. About the only way you can tell it's not a "genuine" mainstream paper is the fact it can publish full-frontal nude photos like this without blacking out the naugty bits.

In any case, the article that photo ran with appeared July 29 -- a report on the recent NudeFest '99 held the week before at Massachusetts' Berkshire Vista.

Although the reporter, Chris Smith, wasn't a nudist, it was a good sign that he decided before the fact to strip off at the event to do his job. His article is mostly about AANR organizational politics and his own reactions to and feelings about being naked, with very little about the resort or other visitors (except for AANR officials). But it is positive. As he ruefully contemplates having to leave, Smith notes, "It's strange, but after a day in the buff, I am appalled by the prospect of putting my clothes back on."

Nudity in the locker Room? How shocking!
In Vol. 2, No. 4 we reported on a tongue-in-cheek article voicing the author's feelings of horror upon encountering nudity in the locker roon of her gym. Now, in this July 2 article from the E-zine Salon, we find calmer reflection over the issue. The author, Jennifer Heartland, reminisces over the locker room dressing rituals of 20 years ago when she did competitive swimming as a teen. And she laments how much more anxiety over locker room nudity there is today in the U. S.

To the author, the nudity is reassuring: "When we dispense of our clothing in public it's a moment to look around, even fleetingly, and see that we are all just bodies of different shapes and strengths, all just animal bodies getting by as best we can in our worlds." In other countries, this does not seem to be a problem: "Non-Americans seem to get this notion of nakedness better than we Americans do. Around the world, being naked in public is not cause for consternation." But for too many people in the U. S. today, "we do not do nakedness particularly well. All too often I've encountered families bent on turning the public dressing room into a scene of high paranoia."

The exceptions, when they occur, are causes for good memories: "I was just happy to be there under the streaming warm water with another woman who was tired from her workout, who was happy and oblivious to her nakedness. I closed my eyes as the shampoo flowed down my face and I felt myself back in that sunny locker room, with the laughing voices of those girls all around me."

Salon: The tyranny of fashion
In an earlier Salon article dated June 25, Erin Aubry has little to say directly about nudity except this subtitle: "As clothing comes to signify less and less about a person, I wonder if I should bother getting dressed at all." However, she has a lot to say about the fatuity of fashion and the fashion industry. Read it and be astonished, again, over the foolishness of using clothes to define one's identity.

Salon: What's the point in teaching everyone to be afraid of their bodies?
And if its articles weren't enough to put across a naturist message, Salon offers it in comic strip form too (July 28). Imagine, for example, if companies made Monday "Nude Day" at work -- we could all see that day of the week in a whole different way.

Dilbert would certainly agree
After having worn a bathrobe to work all week, on May 28 (Friday) Dilbert left even that at home, on a dare from Dogbert. (Sorry -- the "strip" is no longer available online.)

Nudity and Politics

Preachers vs. the Pentagon
Naturists and nudists aren't the only targets of right-wing Christian bigotry. Pagans in general and Wiccans in particular come in for their fair share of intolerance also. To say nothing of many other groups that also feel the wrath of the Righteous. (For an earlier example, see Vol. 2, No. 5)

As it happens, the U. S. military has long had a policy of religious freedom for its members - and Wicca is properly recognized as being as legitimate as any other religion. But, according to this June 23 article, this tolerant stance doesn't sit well with Christian preachers in Texas, who are protesting the Army's hands-off attitude towards Wiccan observances at Fort Hood.

Unfortunately, official tolerance has its limits. Although nudity in rituals and ceremonies is an integral part of many Wiccan (and other pagan) traditions, the Army does insist that its Wiccans not perform their rituals in the nude.

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