Saturday, September 30, 2006

Houston Chronicle Defends Teacher

In an editorial today, the Houston Chronicle defends the Texas teacher who was suspended following a parent's complaint that a child saw a nude sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art. Also, The New York Times has an in-depth article (registration required) on the teacher, who really seems to deserve the support of free-thinking people everywhere.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Daily Newds

  • A 56 year-old assistant professor at a Chinese university stripped naked in front of his class to demonstrate the power of the body and to challenge taboos. A culture ministry official has denounced the act.
  • Did some women in the Kentucky National Guard pose for nude photographs before being shipped out to Iraq? The Guard is investigating. Apparently it's OK to lose your body in combat, but it's not OK to show it to anybody.
  • Five Swedes have been charged with violating hygiene laws when they posed for nude photos in a slaughterhouse.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More Thoughts on Naked Nudism's Blog

Naked Nudism has now posted part 2 of his essay on "The Political Dimension of Nudism". I am much more in agreement with his latest thoughts, particularly when it comes to topfree equality and the importance of maintaining current and adding new nude venues.

I still have a problem with his contention that we have a "natural right to be nude". Certainly we are all born naked and it is the natural state of man, but society through the millennia has developed the generally accepted attitude that people should be clothed. Any nudist or naturist must accept this fact, it's the reality of the modern world. Humans also have a "natural right" to defecate, but doing so in public is considered highly offensive by what has to be 100% of the people on the planet. I hate to equate nudity and defecation to make a point, but I'm sure that many religious fundamentalists would consider the nude body to be the more offensive of the two.

The problem that I see with the future of nudism lies with the current younger generation. Kids are no longer required to participate in gang showers, so there is really no social nudity whatsoever. These children are being taught that they are never to be nude with others unless it's with a marriage partner. Young boys are so homophobic that they are afraid to let other males see their genitals lest there be some sort of gay attack - the political demonization of gay people contributes to this common misconception. Just last year I was showering naked at the YMCA when a young man in his twenties showered beside me wearing his swim trunks.

When I was a kid growing up in the sixties there were many times that I was nude with other boys. We swam naked at the Y, and at Y camp we all changed into our swim trunks in front of each other. At the Boys Club, in order to have swimming privileges, I stood in line with scores of other bare naked boys to be examined by a doctor. Living near a lake in New England, my friends and I went skinny-dipping all the time - it was the ultimate in summer fun. In high school, a naked gang shower was REQUIRED after each gym class. Unless parents are nudist minded, or European, it's not likely that kids these days are having these normal experiences in America today.

Naked Nudism writes, "The real problem that nudists face now is that our system is geared to address the grievances of a single complainer." Sure, sometimes one squeaky wheel can be the one who gets the grease, but in our society we have huge religious and political watchdog groups that lobby, petition and write to legislators and government agencies whenever something "offensive" is observed. With an evangelical in the White House who recently proclaimed that there is a religious "Awakening" happening in America today, this is far more than the work of a "single complainer".

On the subject of topfree equality, NakedNudism writes, "There's no rational reason that women should keep covered where men don't have to, and honestly I don't believe the vast majority of the population is offended by them". Perhaps there is no rationale for the lack of equality, but to state that the majority of the population is not offended by nude female breasts is naive. A recent study by Baylor University reported by The Washington Post shows that only about 11% of the population in the United States has no religious affiliation, which means that while some might argue that we are a secular society, in actuality we are a religious people. And while there is probably no poll out there that asks people how they would feel if women were free to take off their shirts in any public area, I'll bet that the majority of people would oppose that, mostly "for the sake of the children". Female breasts are viewed in America as sexual objects.

Now if you ask people if they would object to designated nude beaches or other areas, there are examples out there where most people are accepting of this. It seems to me that the best chance we have of growing the nudism/naturism movement in America is to keep adding more public places to the list of legal nude areas, and this will require a lot of organization and political action. It's important for anyone who seriously believes in naturism to join an organization, or if so inclined, form a local group. Talking about "natural rights" when it comes to nudity is good, but action is better. Get together people.

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NakedNudism Takes on the Constitution

My fellow nudist blogger over at NakedNudism is undertaking an ambitious 3 part essay on "The Political Dimension of Nudism", which is worth a read. While I am sympathetic with his libertarian views, his contention that we have a Constitutional right to be nude is overly-simplistic and fails to take into account the sociology of our culture and how it molds current interpretations of the Bill of Rights.
So the mere fact that indecency and obscenity laws exist and have popular support does not necessarily make them constitutionally sound. Like many of the examples above, these laws are able to persist because many people happen to agree with them, not because the laws are just.
Any and all laws are subject to Constitutional interpretation. For example, is it Constitutional for my town to tell me how often I must mow my lawn, or paint my house? Perhaps not, but these are the laws that govern my community - I am forced to clean my gutters, keep my yard free of old appliances and non-working motor vehicles, even maintain my driveway to certain standards. All of these regulations are limits imposed on my first amendment "rights".

NakedNudism makes some valid points and his arguments are backed-up well with examples, but there is no way American society is ready for public nudity, the current climate of rising Christian fundamentalism, coupled with the politicalization of issues such as sex offenders and homosexuality, is too hot. People are freaking out in Texas over nude sculptures in Dallas Museum of Art, imagine if people started walking around nude in public. It's nice to dream about a day when nudity is normal, but it's going to take a long, long time before humans are ready as a society to return to the Garden of Eden.

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The Daily Newds

  • Australia's National Rugby League has distanced itself from a calendar depicting nude players because of the "revealing" nature of the photos. Proceeds will benefit breast cancer research.
  • Your tax dollars are hard at work. In Florida, Hillsborough County police officers spent $6400 for lap dances, drinks and tips while investigating violations of nudity laws at an adult bikini bar.
  • A British couple say that getting naked in front of each other on televison saved their marriage. "It was such a shock being asked to undress in front of each other. I was shaking. I was so nervous. But that really helped build our strong bond of trust."
  • If you are planning to attend the World Congress of Naturists in 2008, a nude filght is being planned from Madrid to Brazil.
  • A group of grannies aged 78 to 95 have posed nude for a fundraising calendar in Farmland, Indiana.
  • Here's a good story by an Australian journalist and her first experience at a nude resort. "I am dreading it. I totally buy the idea (in theory) that the human body is nothing to be ashamed of, no matter how lumpy or scarred. But I'm the offspring of devout Catholics from the north of England who were brought up steeped in Biblical guilt and shame. So it is with a great deal of trepidation that I strip off and head to the shower block."
  • Here's an article by a woman who is seriously hung-up about the human body.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Non-Sexual Nudity Under Attack

There is nothing on Earth more beautiful than the human body. This is what I believe, and it is also the inspiration for most of the great art created throughout history, from the Venus de Milo to the Sistine Chapel, from the voluptuous Rubens nudes to the ample impressionist bare breasted women in Renoir paintings, and so on.

And today I read that a Texas fifth grade art teacher has been fired because she took her class to the Dallas Art Museum on a field trip and there was a nude sculpture on display. (Story here and video here). A parent complained and the teacher lost her job. This has to be the single most reprehensible and unacceptable action ever taken against an teacher regarding nude art.

When people FEAR the naked human body to the degree where they freak out at the mere sight of a nude sculpture, it's a psychological issue. When a school board supports and upholds this irrational fear, it is a crime against humanity.

Is it religious upbringing that is causing this reaction from some people? Or is it the politics of fear, when sex and the human condition becomes a divisive issue to stir up fear and get people out to vote? Gay marriage, sex offenders, Janet Jackson's nipple, and other issues are being used to incite people into choosing candidates and supporting issues that arouse emotions. Be afraid, be very afraid.

If one does believe in God, and also believes that humans are the creation of God, then it is logical to also believe that the human body is divine and something to be appreciated, even worshiped. To condemn an artistic rendering of this divine form goes against any religious teaching - even the Sistine chapel has Adam's genitals on full display as he touches the hand of God.

What does this teach our children? That the human body is something to be ashamed of, something dirty and disgusting. This is not healthy for normal development and children raised under these circumstances will probably harbor unhealthy attitudes about their own bodies and the bodies of others.

This story of the Texas teacher is simply too fantastic to even be believed, but it's true and classic art is under attack. This Texas school board is defining non-sexual nudity in art as harmful for fifth graders, and is therby defining ALL nudity as unacceptable. If a teacher can lose a job because of something in a museum, then anything can happen to anyone.
Buddy Minett, school board president, declined to talk about the case. "This is something where it's really better if we don't comment," he said.
That's because the school board acted out of fear. One should never be afraid of the truth, and the truth is that the teacher did absolutely nothing wrong; in fact, she should be commended for expanding the horizons of her students' minds.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Weekend Newds

  • Kate Winslet is terrified of doing nude scenes. "I don't have the belly for this!"
  • A woman who posed for nude photos is upset that her ex-husband e-mailed them around the world. She claims that she does not remember posing nude, was probably drugged, and now her reputation is "tainted".
  • Feeling fat? No problem, Hewlett-Packard has new digital "slimming technology" to take off those unwanted pounds in all your photos. Body image takes yet another hit.
  • Streakers are in-season in New Zealand and a local man has managed to get some photographs of the jaybirds. "I've made it a rule now to always travel with a camera and have enough film in it. You never know what you might see," he said.
  • A Chinese man is facing up to five years in prison for posting nude photos of himself on the Internet.
  • Authorities cannot locate Osama Bin Laden, but a tenacious ranger in Tennessee has reeled in a nude hiker after spending three months on the case.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Notorious Bettie Page

Every once in a while I will comment on films that relate to nudist and naturist themes.

In "The Notorious Bettie Page", Gretchen Mol is completely convincing as the innocent yet naughty pin-up icon of the 1950s. She manages to portray a bondage sex symbol while at the same time maintaining a playful naivety that keeps her close to her Southern religious roots and strict upbringing.

Following a failed marriage and a traumatic gang-rape experience, Page moves to New York where she eventually begins to take acting lessons, which lead to posing for cheesecake photography.The director, Mary Harron, never allows the photo sessions to devolve into the world of total sleaze - the photographers are all "nice" and the customers are successful people who are just looking for something "different" to relieve stress. At least it's all OK in Bettie's mind, she seems sincere when she explains to her boyfriend that it's all innocent dress-up, that when she is dressed in leather while sternfully wielding a riding crop it's all done for fun and a few laughs.

The heart of the film is one scene when Bettie is posing for a photographer. They are alone in the woods, and when the young man suggests that she not remain in the sun for too long lest she develop tan lines, she unashamedly removes her top, and then her bottom. From a nudist/naturist point of view, the scene is quite beautiful, and Mol seems completely relaxed and natural in her nakedness.

Page eventually winds up in Miami where the film turns from gritty black and white to rich saturated color, and she winds up modeling for Bunny Yeager, who observes that when Bettie is "nude, she doesn't seem naked". It is with Yeager that Page's photos become more art than titillation, the images evoke a nostalgia for an era of sexual awakening in America, and contrasted with what is available today, it's hard to believe that anyone could have been offended.

But there was public outrage, and the Kefauver hearings labeled the bondage pictures as "disgusting" and ruined the careers of Irving and Paula Klaw, who introduced Bettie to the world of fetishism. As Page sits and waits to testify, she hears the gut-wrenching story of a man who found his son dead and naked in some sort of self-satisfaction bondage ritual gone awry. It's only at this point that Bettie begins to re-evaluate her career. It's not completely clear if she walks away because of this event, or if she knows her days as a model were numbered anyway due to the fact that she was in her thirties.

Mol's performance never completely lifts the veil on the mystery of Bettie Page. While we see her completely naked on the outside, we never really get to see what made her tick inside. Perhaps this is deliberate on the part of the filmmakers, but it does prevent the film from being completely successful since it lacks an emotional pull.

Years later when Page is preaching the Bible in a park, a man recognizes her and urges her not to be ashamed of what she did. Bettie responds emphatically that she is not ashamed, that Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden and only put on clothes after they had sinned. It's not clear what sin made Bettie Page put her clothes back on.

Despite some flaws, "The Notorious Bettie Page" is recommended for Mol's terrific, uninhibited performance and some handsome cinematography. The film does not make judgement on its subject matter, but rather evokes a fond nostalgia for the era and adds a bit of gloss to the already large mystique of the Bettie Page mythology.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Daily Newds

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Daily Newds

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Friday, September 15, 2006

"Confetti" Bare-ly Entertains

I'm not a movie critic (although I sometimes think I am when exiting a movie theatre), but I did get a chance to see the British comedy "Confetti" which is a mockumentary pretender to the sublime Christopher Guest creations such as "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind". "Confetti" starts with a promising idea revolving around three couples who are chosen by a fictional London wedding magazine called "Confetti" which stages a contest to find out who can throw the best and most unusual wedding ceremony.

One couple is naturist and plan on having their wedding in the nude. Situation-wise this should be brilliant, but the moments that could and should have been amusing only turn out to be awkward and quite unfunny. Part of the problem is that the cast worked without a script, that just about all the dialogue was improvised, and while the actors are capable and charming (and brave), they are not apparently skilled enough in improv to pull it all off. The first glimpses of the couple (played by Robert Webb and Olivia Colman) are startling because non-sexual nudity is rarely portrayed on the big screen, and the actors are convincing in their seemingly casual and matter-of-fact nakedness, such as when they are preparing dinner.

But sweetness turns to sour as the nudists argue, the groom-to-be predictably shocks the future mother-in-law, and the couple ends up in counseling. In fact, the arguing and bitterness theme is carried out with all three couples, especially with the "tennis-themed" couple who have no friends because they are rude and self-centered. The third couple is planning a Busby Berkeley-type extravaganza and are plagued with meddling family members and a seeming total lack of talent to pull it off. Family arguments can be funny, but these are not, in part because the improv is not totally convincing and the situations are just a bit too overdone. The success of the Christopher Guest films relies not only on the great skills of seasoned improvisational masters like Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara, but also on a respect for the subject matter at hand. In "A Mighty Wind" there is a great affection for folk music that drives the script and the actors; they are not making fun of the genre, but having fun with it. "Confetti" seems to strive to deride the wedding industry, perhaps deservedly so, but in the process nullifies any goodwill and heart mustered by the efforts of the ensemble.

It is ironic that the most stable and interesting couple in the film is the two gay wedding planners, who love and support one another throughout all challenges put before them, and they bring a charm and playfulness to their scenes. Unlike the over-the-top Martin Short character in "Father of the Bride", these planners seem like real people in spite of some stereotyping.

The nudist couple storyline is the most disappointing. He is a lifetime naturist, she is a go-along good sport, and the lifestyle is used as a wedge between the two as a plot device. The characters are not "fleshed-out" so to speak, we really never learn much about them and there are inconstincies in the details, such as when the magazine suddenly decides that the couple cannot be nude in the ceremony although they were specifically chosen because they wanted to be married in the buff. Naturism is on the rise in Great Britain and it's encouraging to see natural nudity portrayed in a mainstream film, but ultimately I think that naturists will be disappointed in the way this couple's particular story unfolds.

"Confetti" tries desperately to emulate "Best in Show" where Christopher Guest presents a wide array of eccentric but lovable dog owners who all gather in one place to see who has the top pooch. By the time the final judging of the dogs comes around, you are convinced that these are actual people, despite some of the obviously contrived comic inventions, such as Eugene Levy's two left feet. His feet are hilarious because his character gets into your heart, unlike a similar situation in "Confetti" when one of the brides has an issue with her nose that is just plain ugly and completely unbelievable. The characters in "Confetti" never break through to achieve the illusion of reality, even the naturists seem to be just naked actors struggling to invent their lines. "Confetti" ultimately fails to convince.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Daily Newds

  • A play in Ireland featuring a nude man and semi-nude woman has been denounced as "crude and completely over the top".
  • A group of women runners in the UK have stripped off for a calendar to raise funds for fighting cancer.
  • Some young women from Oklahoma State University have posed nude for Playboys's "Girls of the Big 12" pictorial. When one was asked about having any regrets, Alexandra Hill, a business major, responded, "When I have kids, they’re going to be all saggy and I’ll be like, ‘This is what I used to look like – this is what got your daddy."
  • The Missouri Supreme Court has been asked to uphold a 2004 ruling that threw out a law putting restrictions on nude dancing clubs. The issues involve freedom of expression as defined by the first amendment, whether or not there are really any "secondary effects" such as crime and prostitution, and if it is even constitutional to restrict admittance to only those over 21.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Good Nude Life Models Don't Scratch Themselves...

...or speak, wriggle, or re-adjust themselves, but a female with a Fu-Manchu moustache and beard is apparently OK. Here's an interesting article on what makes a good life model. One former model reminisces on her experience: "I hope this doesn't sound vain, but often when I was reclined in a long pose, I imagined myself as a beautiful Renaissance woman in a great 17th-century masterpiece. I truly believe that every body is beautiful in life drawing, and modelling for art classes has been one of the most liberating, exhilarating and enjoyable experiences of my life."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Breastfeeding Incident in Louisiana

A woman at a Louisiana shopping mall was asked to refrain from breastfeeding her child at Great Escape Water Massages. There are still many people who do not seem to understand that breastfeeding is completely natural, wholesome, and healthy. While only a scant 20 percent of Louisiana mothers breastfeed their children, nationally the figure is on the rise, with a target of 75% planned by the government's Healthy People program.

Louisiana does have a law in place that states that anyone who interferes with a breastfeeding mother is in violation of the discrimination law, although the mall in question has no specific policy on the matter. Louisiana has a large segment of its population at or below the poverty line, so this is clearly a class issue, with many poor mothers undoubtedly working at jobs that discourage breastfeeding or pumping breaks, not to mention the fact that many of these moms cannot even afford the pumps. But there is hope.
The battle of public perception about breastfeeding is one that mothers are winning as more education about the benefits of breastfeeding are touted, said Evelyn Landry, a registered nurse and lactation consultant for Lafayette General Medical Center's Breastfeeding Resource Center. Studies show that breastfeeding benefits not only baby, but mother. The American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation for babies to be breastfed through the first 12 months has also helped with education, local breastfeeding supporters said. "I think the more that the education is coming about and realizing the important health benefits that these mothers are less inclined to hide," Landry said. "They will find discrete ways to nurse in public. They have the attitude, 'It's a normal, natural thing and my baby needs to eat, so we'll sit here and breastfeed.' "
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The Daily Newds

  • New York's "Naked Cowboy" is releasing an album of songs. "Some of the tracks have eyebrow-raising titles, the most printable, perhaps, being "Get Your Ass Kicked by a Man in his Underwear.""
  • Janice and Charles Youngman are retiring to the textile world after running South Florida's only nudist resort for the past 37 years. "It's time to give up the lifestyle, Janice said. ''My husband's cold all the time,'' she said. ``He's gotta wear a jacket.''"
  • Swedish photographer Jannica Honey is a feminist artist who is not afraid to speak her mind. "Being naked, to me, I think it's really liberating. I think as soon as humans start to put on things, you put on a bit of sexuality, a bit of style, class, religion. It's all added on to emphasise who they are. I think the naked body is so... I want to say pure but it sounds shit. It's real to me. I think being naked is divine." Her views on nudity are liberating as she observes the differences between Swedish and British cultures, such as the use of the terms "birthday suit" and "naughty bits". "That's something I find quite interesting because it's not offensive to be naked."
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Monday, September 11, 2006

Fear of Nudity

A common misperception fostered by conservative groups is that nudity is bad for society. For fifty years, Pennsylvania had a law regulating all-nude dancing at clubs with liquor licences, specifically "lewd, immoral or improper" entertainment, and last month a federal appeals court threw out the law on constitutional grounds. The court agreed with the argument that the law was vague and restricted free speech. The general consensus is that all-nude dancing and lap dancing are no longer illegal in Pennsylvania, and that any contact or other sexual behavior would have to qualify as obscene or prostitution in order to be prosecuted, but with the absence of an injunction the matter is still open to interpretation. The state Attorney General's office is seeking to reargue the case.
Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, expects many clubs that sell liquor to turn to all-nude dancing. She also worries that more rapes and sexual assaults will result. "What the 3rd Circuit did is outrageous. The consequences are very real," Gramley said.
But are there "real" consequences to a community when nude clubs are present? A 2001 study presented to the National Institute of Justice's Crime Mapping Research Center suggests otherwise. You can access the .doc file here. The study of an area in Indiana is detailed and scientific, and the conclusion is that there is no direct correlation between nude clubs and sexual crime.

While all-nude dancing and the practice of nudism are different in many ways, the public perception of nudism and naturism is that it is sexual and deviant behavior. Witness the current firestorm in Brattleboro, Vermont, where conservative groups argued that nude teenagers were "exhibitionists", and that the nudity was bad for "the children", yet there were no reports of any lewd behavior from the kids. Notice how these "family" groups never cite specific facts to back up these arguments, it's just hyperbole.

I once read about a town in England that had lap dancing, and a startling figure was presented as an argument. Apparently rapes in the town increased by 50% since the clubs opened, certainly an unacceptable rise in crime, but once it was revealed that the actual number of rapes increased from two to three, the argument was rendered moot. This sort of manipulation of facts and figures is nothing but junk science.

When former Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered some classical nude statues to be covered up at the Department of Justice, he sent a strong signal to society that the nude human figure was something bad, something to be hidden, something to be ashamed of. There was no rationale for his action, it was motivated by his own religious beliefs and an irrational fear of nudity. Free society should not foster fear, it should be fearless.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Culture, Clothing, Conditioning, Conformity and Change

In order to understand the widely varying public perceptions of decency vs. indecency, one has to first take a look at history. Jim Gaines in the Bowling Green Kentucky Daily News has written an astute and wide-ranging essay on the subject, and while he professes that he is not personally an advocate for more public exposure, he concludes that there is little practical reason to outlaw the flashing of the flesh.

Gaines quotes author Peter McWilliams, who states “Frankly, I don't think nudity in public should be a major concern for the same reason I don't think we need to concern ourselves about people wearing fried eggs on their foreheads,” he wrote. “I mean, how many people actually want to do it?" This is so true. In our current climate of modesty and shame, very few people would be willing to walk down Main Street stark naked. On the other hand, witness the Spencer Tunick phenomenon where thousands of people willingly shed their clothes for the sake of art. This does, at the very least, show that there is an inherent desire or willingness within people to be nude.
Leaving aside the overarching question of whether personal morals should guide public policy - far too complex to tackle here - it can easily be argued there is no absolute standard for decency of clothing; even within the same culture, attitudes can change dramatically inside of a few decades.
And there are signs today of a culture shift. Nude recreation is booming. Teenagers are stripping down in Vermont. Nude protests are rampant worldwide from bike rides to PETA demonstrations. Charitable organizations that are bastions of morality and taste are launching nude fundraising calendars. And so on.

Gaines quotes Oliver Thomson from "A History of Sin": “There is no universal human law of decent or immoral exposure; naked barbarians were so used to their condition that they would excite themselves greatly by putting on clothes,” he wrote. “The one universal rule is that human beings dress with as much or as little as they think will win attention, so the necklines and hemlines keep rising and falling.”

Conditioning is the key. Today the female breast is so sexualized in culture that the mere sight of a mother breastfeeding a child is enough to create a disturbance. The male nipple is ubiquitous, the female nipple is verboten. It makes no legal or logical sense, but the conditioning of society through religious moralizing has made most people believe that the boob is bad. Somehow we accept the tit as a sexual icon, in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, in Playboy, in advertising, and we are willing to allow women to alter themselves to achieve that "ideal" that is in the mind's eye, yet we are uncomfortable when we are confronted with the breast in non-sexual situations.
What causes a public stir is not the absolute coverage of a garment, but what it covers relative to what last year's fashion exposed. That fashion changes because, against all personal expectation, we can very quickly become accustomed to whatever is shown...In pre-industrial times, clothing was usually conditioned by climate as much as it was shaped by public morality. In a climate-controlled global culture, we can afford to wear what we want, but still half-forgotten social forces shape our clothes.
We are conditioned, we accept, we conform. We do as others do because we want to fit it, we want to be accepted, we don't want to make waves. Yet we do not question why we do as we do. When looked upon with simple logic, the wearing of clothing in most everyday situations is not necessary. We do not need clothing as protection when we are in environmentally controlled surroundings. In fact, the wearing of clothes coupled with the use of air-conditioning is downright foolish.

Nudists and Naturists need to keep speaking out in calm and logical terms. Even though cultural perceptions are showing signs of change, there is also the religious right that believes that any exposure of the human body is sinful, and those moralists have succeeded in part by getting the FCC to increase fines and police the airwaves for anything "indecent". The struggle goes on.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

The Weekend Newds

  • In Singapore, 2 animal rights activists have been detained and will be deported for merely planning a naked protest.
  • An Oklahoma police chief is under attack because his wife has nude photos online.
  • Detroit Lions defensive coach Joe Cullen was arrested after ordering in the nude at a Wendy's restaurant drive-thru.
  • Christi Womack in the Herald Tribune recounts a day 22 years ago when she encountered some skinny-dippers at a Florida swimming hole near the Rye Road Bridge. She says, "To this day, I think about the naked people every time I cross that bridge." Personally, I think that her sharp memory is kindled by her own personal longing to be naked in that swimming hole, too. Nudism is within us all, it's just been repressed.
  • A Louisiana man, who is apparently a member of AANR and likes to be nude at home and in his yard, is upsetting his neighbors who think that he is a pervert. "Sometimes, he's sitting in a chair on the porch naked except for a wash cloth is his lap," Porter (a neighbor) said of Raymond Haley. "It's disgusting."
  • Four Hong Kong Disneyland staff members have been fired for being naked in the changing room. Disney is being sued.
  • Starbucks is celebrating 30 years of being the java giant by re-introducing its original logo. Apparently the innocent bare-breasted line drawing of a mermaid was too much for an elementary school principal in Washington who ordered all teachers with Starbucks cups to cover up the offensive picture because it could be "distracting" to students.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Is German Naturism on the Decline?

According to this article, two fifths of nude beaches in Germany have become clothed since the reunification of East and West in 1990. Although 12 million Germans visit a nude beach at least once a year, Baltic resorts are attracting more tourists with more money who do not want to see naked bodies.
Gudrun Krah, 63, donning a bathing suit under protest, bemoaned the loss of a beach life that was more liberal in the communist era, saying today's mixture of nude and clothed bathers on a beach ``robs it of some of the panache.'' While Krah said West Germans are responsible, Wagner is less willing to assign blame, even as his cherished pastime goes the way of East German entitlements such as cheap housing and full employment that have been lost. ``I just want to continue to go naked into the sunset,'' said Wagner, before wading into the Baltic and disappearing under the dappled surface.

Brattleboro Board Bypasses Bares

Congratulations to the Brattleboro, Vermont, Select Board for passing on the nudity ordinance, referring to it as a "knee jerk response to an isolated incident." The board did the right thing in spite of worldwide media coverage and pressure from a handful of outraged citizens.

Tuesday's debate on nudity was in response to resident Theresa Toney complaining at a previous Selectboard meeting about a woman in the Harmony Lot who walks around topless. "I just think it's anarchy, because they won," she said Tuesday after the meeting. "It's inappropriate behavior for downtown. It has nothing to do with the weather. There's good behavior and there's bad behavior and that's bad behavior."
Someone should ask Ms. Toney why nudity is bad. She will probaly say that it is "indecent" or "bad for the children". Those are not hard reasons, just opinions. I still stand by my previous statements on this blog, that I do not consider the nudity to be wrong, but I do think that the teenagers exercised poor judgement and disregard for the feelings of others in hanging out nude in the downtown area.

But I was wrong whan I said that no good would come out of the situation. The decision of the Brattleboro board is a victory for personal freedom and nudists/naturists in particular. While Vermont still has no state law barring public nudity, if Brattleboro had adopted the ant-nudity ordinance, other communities would likely have followed their precedent. But this story is far from over - the board expects the ordinance proposal to re-surface in the spring if there is still a "problem".

Peggy Frost, a Vernon resident, found it disturbing. It's traumatizing to children, she said. Parents should teach their children the difference between the male and female anatomy -- they shouldn't see it on the street. She said she refuses to shop in Brattleboro until the issue is resolved. "How can children tell the difference between a nudist and a pervert?" she asked. "They can't until it's too late."
Nudity is not "traumatizing" to children. Kids take to nudity like fish to water. The shame and trauma comes from the adults who cover their eyes and act indignant. And I would ask Ms. Frost the question "How can you tell a priest from a pervert?" or "how can you tell a Boy Scout Scoutmaster from a pervert?" Young children need to be educated that ALL STRANGERS can be a potential danger, that child molesters can be friends, family, or someone else that appears trustworthy.

And many parents fail in teaching sex education to their children. That's why we have sex education in schools, and Planned Parenthood would not exist if all parents were responsible and understanding with their kids' sexuality. Personally, I learned about the male anatomy from nude swimming at the YMCA in the 1960s, and the female anatomy from Playboy magazine. My father died when I was only 9, and my mother was never any good at talking to me about sex.

Another report on the meeting has some more details.
Town Attorney Robert Fisher presented the Brattleboro Select Board Tuesday with examples of anti-nudity ordinances passed by other Vermont towns, but noted that it may be difficult to write language that adequately defines the terms nudity and public place. For example, Fisher asked, should the Select Board ban all public nudity, including at secluded swimming holes along the West River? And would an anti-nudity ordinance also ban nude sunbathing in a person's backyard, or breast feeding in public?"I think we have to first determine if there is a need," Fisher said.
Fisher is right. For example, if it is determined that a woman's nipples must be covered in public, what about the male breast? There was a time when a topfree man was breaking the law, and this was only changed in the 1930s. When Clark Gable bared his chest in "It Happened One Night" it was scandalous. It's the proverbial slippery slope when one tries to define decency in terms of the law.
"Most people do not want to be exposed to this exhibitionist behavior," said Stephen Cable, a Rutland attorney representing the conservative Christian group Vermont Renewal. "You are obligated to protect children from this."
Wrong, and wrong again. The nudity in Brattleboro is not exhibitionism, which by definition is a psychological need to display parts of the human anatomy. By all accounts the teenagers were expressing their freedom and rebellious nature. And as for the "children", well, I'm getting really tired of that lame argument.

Residents are expressing mixed feelings about the Brattleboro nudes. Some say the town has been hurt by all the media coverage, others say it has been a boon for business. I say the jury is still out on the issue, the the winter cold will now rule and force people to cover up, and come the spring we will see if the nudes will come out to play in downtown Brattleboro.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Normalization of Nudity is Needed

I think it's safe to say that the majority of people on this planet wear clothes, and that's fine. Clothing was invented from necessity as protection from the elements, and over time clothing became fashion. And somewhere along the way clothing became a means to cover up parts of the body that were perceived to be shameful.
So while the naked human body was once the norm, so today it is the clothed form that rules, to the point where exposing the body is illegal in most places. It's all very complicated and a bit sad. What needs to be addressed in society today is the shame factor, which is completely illogical and damaging to us as human beings. I point this out because some news stories caught my attention today that would simply not be news if not for shame regarding nudity.
One story from China concerns a man who was jailed for threatening to circulate a semi-nude video clip of a woman if not paid a blackmailer's ransom. Not a nice thing to do, by any means, but if nudity was normalized this would not be an issue. Nudists/Naturists are not shy about being photographed or seen, but there is the fear that a photo could end up in the hands of an employer or associate who might not understand the concept of naturism. There's a lot of work to do to change perceptions and attitudes.
Jennifer Aniston settled a lawsuit with a photographer who took topless photos of her "allegedly" without her consent. The settlement is sealed so we will never know all the details, but it's rather ridiculous for a movie star who poses topless for money and does sex scenes in movies for money to show this false indignation over some photos of her breasts. Chances are she really does not care about people seeing her nipples, it's been reported that she and former husband Brad Pitt were nudist-minded, but since society feels that exposing the female breast is shameful, someone can sue and make a lot of money. Normalization and de-sexualization of the body, and the female breast in particular, is needed to avoid absurdities like this.
A horrific story emerged today out of the UK where a woman was kept as a nude slave by her sister-in-law. Her clothes were burned, she was starved and beaten, and forced to do all the housework. After two years of this, it's reported that the abused woman found some men's clothes, put them on, and fled to a neighbor's house. According to the report, there seems to be no other reason the woman did not try to escape except for the fact she was naked. Was it the overwhelming power of her own shame that forced her to endure two years of terror? Was the simple idea of running out of the house nude more agonizing than being starved and beaten? The trial is continuing so perhaps we will learn more in the coming days.
But ultimately we, as a society, have a great need to remove shame from the public agenda. I don't expect people to start walking around the mall naked, I'm talking about just learning to be unafraid of nakedness. The sight of a penis or a vagina should not be a traumatic event. People just need to see each other naked, whether it's at the beach, in the home, at the gym, in a hot tub, or in a sauna, and not get all worked up about it. Being nude is natural and normal, and it should be no big deal.

Indiana Women Strip for Fundraising Calendar

I love stories like this one. A group of women in Clear Lake, Indiana, have organized a fundraising calendar in order to purchase a small island and save it from development. The ladies, aged from the 50s through the 80s, began the project as a joke when one of the women was posing for photos in her garden and decided to reveal her other "blossoms". The women all had a lot of fun and the lake community has gotten friendlier and tighter. A 2008 calendar is already planned.

Nude Beaches Endangered in Australia

Three out of the four nude beaches in Victoria, Australia, will have their status reviewed because of growing population and some incidents of obscene exposure.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Nude Swimmers Assaulted and Arrested in Croatia

Six young Spanish women were slapped on the back and face by irate Croatian men because they went swimming naked on a beach in Split on the central Adriatic coast. Police said the nude swimming was insulting to the feelings of citizens on the beach. The women and the men all ended up in jail and a decision is pending.

Les Miserables 2006

This has nothing to do with naturism, but I am physically ill reading this article about 2 men in Colorado who were sentenced to six months in prison for taking food from trash. Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James said that he was going to make an example of the men. Example for what? Inspector Javert lives.

German Magazine Normalizes Sex and Nudity

The photo at the left is from the online version of the German magazine Bravo. Target audience? Ages 10 and up.

Elisa Ung in the Philadelphia Inquirer has written an article about the publication which points out the fact that Germany is far more frank in dealing with sex and nudity than most other societies. With the help of columnist Dr. Sommer, German teens are finding it easier to speak more openly on sexual issues.
Each weekly issue of Bravo now features photos of two nude teenagers - male and female, generally between the ages of 16 and 20. The feature is called "That's Me," and the pictured teenagers talk about their bodies and their experiences with love and sex.
Imagine the uproar and backlash from the conservative right is such a magazine were to be published in the United States. The idea of dealing openly and honestly with sex is taboo here, but selling sex commercially with fantasies is mainstream. We still have an adolescent attitude that encourages secret masturbation and shame over education and mental well-being.
"We take this very seriously," said Bravo's deputy editor-in-chief, Alex Gernandt. "It is not pornography. It deals with naked people, but in a very sensitive way. We try to portray young people to tell readers, 'You are not too fat, not too thin. You are OK the way you are.' "
Bravo, Bravo.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Conservatives Begin to Exploit the Brattleboro Nudes

As I predicted, conservative voices are beginning to speak up about the nude teenagers in Brattleboro, Vermont. This situation is seen by the right as a chance to denounce liberalism and equate the public nudity with prostitution, and, in general, "lowering the bar" on what is decent in America. You can read Grant Swank's column on the Conservative Voice here. Falwell can't be too far behind.

Anti-Nudity Ordinance to be Presented in Brattleboro, Vermont

An attorney reportedly will present an anti-nudity ordinance at the Select Board's regular Tuesday meeting this week in Brattleboro, Vermont. The move is in response to the groups of nude teenagers which have been congregating in the town over this summer. The high-level of media attention will likely increase, with Dr. Phil, Bill O'Reilly, The Washington Post, The BBC and others already covering the story. The Dr. Phil segment is scheduled to air on 9/8 and is supposed to include interviews with some of the rebellious teenagers.

Select Board Vice Chairman Richard DeGray said some residents he has spoken to are outraged about the nudity. Others think investigating an ordinance is a waste of the town's time, he said, especially since there are pressing financial matters to tackle."The nudity isn't the issue as much as it is a lack of respect for other people," DeGray said. "Just because you can do it legally in Vermont, doesn't mean you should."

A spokesperson for is quoted as saying that it is not "normal" for nudists to be naked in public and is puzzled by the motives of the teenagers, but a visit to their website shows that they are supportive of the teenagers and have set up a Yahoo Discussion Group. I'n not sure if it's wise for a naturist group to be fully supportive of the teens since the generally accepted naturist philosophy includes respecting the wishes of others. The absence of any sort of lewd behavior is not a sufficient reason to give unconditional support. Consideration has to be give to the majority of the population who feel that any sort of public nudity is "indecent", and it is unwise to cause a confrontation that will stir anti-nudity emotions. It's not the nudity that's the issue, it's where and how the activity is taking place.

The Tuesday meeting is likely to be contentious due to the outrage that has been shown by some residents. The Select Board will likely find it hard to ignore a group of angry people, but many are hoping for cooler weather to force the kids to cover up and maybe the whole thing will quietly go away. With several weeks of warm weather left, and the media coverage heating up, it looks like the situation is likely to move from a simmer to a boil.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Weekend Newds

How are you spending your Labor Day weekend?

Breastfeeding and Naturism

It is this blogger's opinion that breastfeeding, topfree equality and naturism/nudism all come from the same basic principle - that the human body is beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of. It continually baffles me how anyone could be upset or disturbed at the sight of a mother breastfeeding a child because it is such a heartwarming and natural part of the human experience. So here are a few links to help increase awareness and appreciation of breastfeeding.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Breastfeeding Is Now a 2-Class System

The New York Times has an article today (subscription required) which finds that lower-income mothers are finding it nearly impossible to breastfeed their babies.
But as pressure to breast-feed increases, a two-class system is emerging for working mothers. For those with autonomy in their jobs — generally, well-paid professionals — breast-feeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice. It is usually an inconvenience, and it may be an embarrassing comedy of manners, involving leaky bottles tucked into briefcases and brown paper bags in the office refrigerator. But for lower-income mothers — including many who work in restaurants, factories, call centers and the military — pumping at work is close to impossible, causing many women to decline to breast-feed at all, and others to quit after a short time.
In a country that sexualizes the female breast for commercial purposes, that incessantly promotes magic pills for erectile dysfunction, that buries the fact that 45 million people have no health insurance, and completely ignores the disaster of 1 out of every 3 people being obese, we are now manufacturing a society that supresses the most basic and nurturing acts of humanity.

Dr. Phil Takes on Public Nudity in Brattleboro, Vermont

Unlike the photo above, the naked kids in Brattleboro, Vermont, are not likely to be awarded trophies for their public nudity. The story is rapidly spreading around the world, picked up even by the BBC, and Bill O'Reilly has invited the Brattleboro police chief to be on his program. And now Dr. Phil is sending in a crew to exploit the situation.
On the negative side, an article written today refers to the nudists as "exhibitionists" which implies that they are getting some sort of sexual gratification from being seen. Nudism/naturism is not a fetish. These teenagers in Vermont might not be naturists per se, their nudity seems to be more an act of rebellion than anything else. I have read nothing to make me think that this situation in Brattleboro involves sexual expression.
Also, local resident Theresa Toney has not softened her stance because of the media spotlight. "I'm against it. I'm offended," Toney said Thursday. "I go downtown to do business and I don't want this shoved down my throat. We have rights too." She has an appointment to air her grievances with Dr. Phil.
On the positive side, the town is not yet considering an ordinance against public nudity. Selectboad Chairman Stephen Steidle said, "I think we should decide and not care about what other foreign newspapers or TV shows have to say about it. I think this whole issue had gotten a lot more publicity than it probably deserves."
Police Chief Martin agrees. "It's not as big a deal as they are all making it out to be," Martin said. "My opinion is that it is a social annoyance more than a crime."
The nudity episode of the Dr. Phil show is scheduled to air on Friday, September 8.