Monday, November 23, 2009

The Same Old Tired Arguments

Nudists and naturists are not stupid, we all know that nudity is illegal in most areas of the United States, and is being threatened in the very few jurisdictions which still have no laws on the books specifically requiring the wearing of clothes.

One such place is Oregon, which does not prohibit nudity, but due to a couple of people pushing the envelope, the city of Ashland has recently voted to ban nudity within the city limits.
Ashland resident Ralph Temple, a member of the ACLU, said Ashland hasn't experienced a rash of public nudity, and therefore shouldn't sacrifice people's personal freedoms.

"Civil liberties are fragile," he said, adding that they are the first things to be discarded when difficulties arise.
Such laws are passed out of irrational fear. No substantive argument is ever made as to why nudity is dangerous, harmful, of even offensive to people of all ages, because it simply is not. We all have human bodies, we all see them when we change clothes or bathe. If the sight of genitals or other body parts was harmful, we would all be dead.

But somehow over the centuries, due to religious and cultural influences, we have, as a society, deemed the human body to be something that is unacceptable to be seen in public. The idea that we even put on clothing to swim is so contrary to natural instinct as to be utterly ridiculous.

What is it that we hate so much about the human body? After all, our museums are full of what we consider to be masterpieces depicting nudity in painting and sculpture. Michelangelo's nudes are considered to be the epitome of human creativity. Books, magazines, advertising, movies and all other mass media use the human figure in virtually everything. We spend billions of dollars adorning our bodies with clothing, jewelry, and makeup. Anyone studying out culture would come to the conclusion that we absolutely worship the human body.

And in many ways we do, just not when it comes to nudity. Being nude in public and social situations is still very much a taboo.

Trying to come up for a reason for this is very difficult. Laurie Baden, writing in the Ashland Daily Tidings, manages to make all the old familiar arguments against public nudity, without once coming up with one solid reason for what she refers to as "indecent exposure".
Let's talk about rights. What gives an adult, a complete stranger to a child, the right to scare or upset him or her and disrupt a child's environment by exposing their naked body? Isn't this an infringement on a child's right to know that he or she can expect people to appear appropriately — i.e., clothed — in public? Isn't this a violation of my right to not see someone naked if I don't choose to?

And what is to say that, if we have this "right to be nude in public" law, that it won't be a cover for pedophiles to have more access to the most vulnerable members of our community, our children? Where could the line be drawn by police when an adult is being inappropriate with a child in public?
It's stunning to me how people can talk about free expression and "rights", and then deny similar rights to others. There's no such things as "my rights" or "your rights", there can only be "our rights". This is the essence of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Laurie also writes that she is "all for free expression", but adds nudity as something she simply cannot tolerate. It's like saying she's all for equal rights for minorities, but those African-Americans can stay out of her neighborhood.

Fine, there are plenty of anti-nudity laws, but they have nothing to do with free expression or equal rights - they are the products of societal and cultural traditions. There is no "right" to not see nude people, only the laws created by public consensus. All this talk about pedophiles and potential harm to children is all hysterical nonsense with no basis in reality. Some of the worst abuse of children recently happened under the "eyes of God" by men wearing long robes and white collars.

Yes, civil liberties are very fragile these days, and people like Laurie Baden are making the situation worse by advocating the denial of liberties to people she simply does not agree with. Unfortunately, many laws in this country are passed out of irrational fears and not from intelligent decisions based on facts.

We need numbers, people, to stop this rapid erosion of our natural human rights.

1 comment:

Tom Roark said...

It seems like there are ideas that are irreducible, and ones that are composites. The idea that clothing is superior to nudity is one that's probably a composite or special case of another. It'd be nice if it were a rule of etiquette that irreducible ideas are faux pas.