Sunday, October 11, 2009

Preaching to the Choir

Still a lot of chatter going on about my post yesterday, which was a reaction to The Academic Naturist's post here.

A surprising number of people actually think that censoring nudist and naturist publications, such as removing nude photos from the cover and on the inside, is a good idea.

In replying to the Academic Naturist, CGHill said, "Perhaps TNS should consider an edited or stripped-down (sorry) version of the book for distribution to libraries and schools and such."

Regin said, "The point of the book is information, right? Travel and destination information. Not nekkid pictures. The book can be just as informative without the pictures. And without the added expense of reproducing the additional pictures, it may even cost less."

Rick at MojoNude chimed in with, "The answer is probably somewhere in between but it’s nebulous. There’s plenty of discussion and materials within the nudist/naturist community but what guidance do we have for promoting and presenting our lifestyle to non-nudists?"

Naturally Nude added, But the question remains: how do you disseminate information about naturism "to their level" (non-naturists) without offending or aliening your intended audience? Do we self-censor and not show any nudity? Or do we show our lifestyle as it really is?"

And Dr. Paul Rapoport of TERA and the Federation of Canadian Naturists, in response to my post yesterday, said:

The most encouraging part of The Academic Naturist's engaging report on this is the last paragraph, where, he explains, with NAC's support, he intends to fight the library's censorship.

Of course it's necessary to do some things you don't want to do to get other things done. Wearing clothes in general society is an example. Stephen Gough is a good (bad) example of how to stay naked all the time, win a battle or two, and lose the war.

Each type of case needs its own evaluation. Sometimes I agree that information with no nudity is a good idea. In other situations it falsifies naturism. If censorship isn't needed, it's a bad idea, and the more of it there is in one place, the worse it gets. Lee Baxandall used to refer to faux nudity in the matter of hiding body parts, which the media are rather good at. If it happens rarely, it may not matter. When it becomes policy, it matters a great deal.

I agree that a library is no place for censorship, only managing its materials properly. I hope Academic Naturist and others continue to take TNS's book to libraries.

Physical censorship with black bars, pixellation, etc. provides the ironic result of often drawing more attention to body parts than there would be without it. It also often ruins an image, violates the original intent, and in a paternalistically moralistic fashion is supremely presumptuous and condescending to viewers.
OK. let's go back to the what prompted this discussion - a public library's refusal to carry a copy of The Naturist Society's book, "The World's Best Nude Beaches and Resorts." In his frustration with the library's total censorship of this material, The Academic Naturist considered taking a marker and blacking out all the naughty bits in an attempt to make the book more palatable to whatever prudish librarian made this awful decision. After some advice from bloggers and the Naturist Action Committee, TAN came to the conclusion that fighting the censorship was the wisest path to take.

Anyone considering self-censorship as an acceptable means of appeasing a distrustful public needs to do some research into the history of book burnings and bannings. Check out Judy Blume's site, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Library Association's page on banned and challenged books, as well as their page on Banned Books Week, and the one for their Office of Intellectual Freedom. The ACLU works to defend the freedom to read:

The ACLU is dedicated to the protection of free speech and free expression. When a small group of individuals tries to keep the rest of society from reading a book or viewing a painting they are impeding that freedom by attempting to dictate what is and is not acceptable expression.
The freedom to read is guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Period. A public librarian who takes it upon him or herself to decide whether or not a particular book is acceptable is acting contrary to the basic principles of the American Library Association, which states, "ALA actively advocates in defense of the rights of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment. A publicly supported library provides free and equal access to information for all people of that community. We enjoy this basic right in our democratic society. It is a core value of the library profession."

An online search of the Columbus, Ohio, public library returns 422 matches for the word "nude", 58 for "Mapplethorpe", 1264 for "Hitler", 52 for "KKK", 530 for "erotica", and while the words "nudism" and "naturism" returned a few results, I could find no meaningful books on the nudist lifestyle, or nude recreation.

I had better luck online with The Ohio State University Libraries, where "nudism" brought back 22 results, including Mark Storey's "Cinema au Naturel", and Dennis Craig Smith's "The Naked Child: Growing Up Without Shame."

In both of these incidences, I doubt if censorship is an issue, but rather that they simply don't have the materials.

Not a problem at all on Amazon.com, where the word "nudism" returns 2436 results (not all of them completely relevant, but a lot of books nonetheless).

So if libraries don't have nudist and naturist books, is that due to censorship, or simply the lack of materials? Are we all just preaching to the choir when it comes to the nude lifestyle, and failing to spread the message to the public at large?

One thing that I am convinced of is that self-censorship is not the answer, for all the reasons Dr. Rapoport outlined above. To block out, or remove images of nudism from AANR or TNS materials is not only self-defeating, it's a tacit admission that there is something dirty, shameful and downright wrong with the human body.

Censorship is a giant step backwards in the fight for acceptance.

How about this idea: The Naturist Society develops a program whereby members are encouraged to purchase naturist books and donate them to libraries. The Academic Naturist took it upon himself to do this, but there should be some sort of organized effort to spread the word.

As Rick noted above, "what guidance do we have for promoting and presenting our lifestyle to non-nudists?" Any grassroots effort needs guidance from organizations and experienced activists. In this proposed "naturist book drive", there would need to be guidelines for individuals who want to take these materials to their local libraries, how to deal with librarians, what to do if the book is refused, etc.

I think that many nudists and naturists online are looking for ways to become involved. There's a lot of untapped enthusiasm out there. Social networks, chat rooms, forums, blogs, etc. are all means to bring people together, and perhaps now it's time to give them all something to do.

UPDATE: An online search of The New York Public Library returns 72 results for the word "nudism", including some nudist magazines like "Naturally" and "Nude and Natural", all categorized as "adult". And they do have two different editions of Lee Baxandall's "World Guide to Nude Beaches and Recreation", but not the newest edition. There are 12 results for "Jock Sturges."

UPDATE 2: Lee's guide to nude beaches is also in The Library of Congress, and a search for "nudism" returns 133 results.


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9 comments:

Mike said...

Interesting topic, but is TAN's suggestion really any different than you creating a SFW version of your site? You create a version without frontal nudity, and he suggests a version of the Beach guide without pics. I don't really see any difference.

Nudiarist said...

I addressed this issue in my previous post:

I have two versions of this blog, one with nudity, and one without, but this is because my blogs are hosted on Google, a company which has its own standards and terms, and can basically shut down any blog for whatever reason it deems necessary. Facebook recently banned images of mothers breastfeeding their children, and although protest was widespread and very vocal against such action, the censorship remains. When dealing within the bureaucracy of private enterprise, nudists and naturists need to adapt.

Rick said...

Most of us are preaching to the choir. If non-nudists find us online, it's either because they're looking for information or they find us accidentally while looking for something else.

If the library at a major university or its home city has so few books discussing nudism, libraries in smaller communities probably have even less. I have trouble imagining how people learned about nudism before the Internet.

thomas said...

I understand your point of view but I am having a hard time seeing the difference between Googles Standards and Terms and the Library's. If there is a difference it is a very fine line. Google is blocking nudity and so is the library. You are blocking photos with a computer instead of a marking pen. When you get down to it, the result is the same.

Nudiarist said...

It's amazing that people cannot differentiate between public libraries, which were created for the free exchange of all ideas, and private enterprise, which exists primarily to make a profit and serve the owner.

As for Google, they could shut this blog down anytime they want, without explanation, which is one reason why I have a mirror site with no photos. I am forced to adhere to their terms of service. BUT, if I got my own server and published my own domain, I would be covered under the First Amendment. The only action government could take against me is if I was doing something illegal, such as publishing child pornography, or military secrets. Even free speech has limits.

Take the time to read the links to the ALA and the ACLU where the explain the importance of fighting censorship at public libraries.

Elton said...

I think the worst thing about censorship is that people think they know what is best for other people, so they become a self appointed authority (that is how government is created, sad!).

What is bad about this suggestion is that the book tells you how to find places to get good nude recreation. People who read the book expect some pictures of nakedness.

As for private enterprise serving the owner: they do have the right to censor in their own sphere. The owner has his own rules, after all. Although I completely disagree with the idea that private enterprise serves the owner only. After all, clothing optional resorts are usually businesses themselves -- created to provide a place for people to enjoy nude recreation.

Paul Rapoport said...

Thanks for the extensive quotation. One other thing, about signification. If a book extols nudist practice and then either has no nudity in its extensive photo representation or (worse) censors it "on site," so to speak, then a strongly contradictory message is presented.

Even if cognitively, photos and words are processed differently, it would be a very odd person who didn't pick up on the conflict between saying "nudity is good" and "nudity is bad" in the same place.

More obviously, perhaps, the integrity of the body in both literal and figurative senses is destroyed by black bars, pixellation, etc., and the same condescension I've referred to before results from the presumption that certain body parts are bad, wrong, indecent, nasty, and all the rest.

More difficult is the issue of including children or excluding them partly or totally from publications about naturism. Anyone who knows me or what I write or edit knows where I stand on that one --- strongly enough that it's a rare issue of the magazine I edit that doesn't include images of nude minors. With no reference to the famous saying about reading Playboy for the articles, people do see pictures first.

What many may not realize is that there are many visual solutions to not offending people, which is often a commercial necessity. To give a blunt example, genital areas may be up close and personal, in the distance, or somewhere in between.

Or just not visible. But too much of that begins to look like what most newspaper and magazine publishers do. It's a form of censorship also, clearly.

Is it acceptable? That looks like another discussion.

Nudiarist said...

Elton, I said that private enterprise exists PRIMARILY to make a profit and serve the owner, not SOLELY or EXCLUSIVELY. Certainly business provides many benefits to society at large, but most people start a business to make money.

thomas said...

Just to satisfy my curiosity, I went to the Pleasanton Public Library catalog and got 3 hits under nude: 2 art books and 1 by a guy named Nudelman. Apparently no censorship there.
Nude In Art Fiction : Meyer, Carolyn,; BOOK
Nude Photography -- See Photography of the nude.
Nudelman Meyer : Nuland, Sherwin B; BOOK