Saturday, September 18, 2010

Legislating the Human Body

Just when you thought the culture wars were over, the sexually-repressed among us rear their ugly heads with more ridiculous attempts to further control the human body, and, in the process, actually widen the spectrum of human skin areas which are defined as being sexualized.

In Federal Way, Washington, officials are considering changes to the public morals code in order to stop the spread of "bikini baristas", women who serve espresso while scantily clad.
If approved, the amendment will classify indecent exposure as a misdemeanor offense. It will prohibit a person from intentionally exposing any part of the genitals or pubic area, parts of the buttocks, the areola, nipple, or more than half of the breast area located below the top of the areola in public. Streets, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, automobiles (whether moving or not) and businesses open to the public, including those containing a drive-through window, are considered public places.
The amendment would address risque attire, such as pasties, associated with bikini baristas. Body paint or dye, tattoos, latex, tape or similar substances applied to the skin to mask any of the above anatomical areas will not be permitted in public. Substances that can be washed off the skin and those designed to stimulate the regions would be banned as well.
I guess police will now have to carry around human anatomy charts and tape measures to determine whether or not a plunging neckline or hot pants make the wearer a dangerous criminal.

I have news for you. The entire human body is covered with skin, which has many erogenous zones. Have you ever kissed someone on the neck, or nibbled on the ear? What about a foot massage, or a caress behind the knee? And is their really anything more arousing than a full mouth-to-mouth kiss, with tongues playing tonsil hockey?

No, this sort of legislative mapping of the human body, with the intent of making criminals out of anyone who dares to expose certain parts of anatomy, is way beyond reasonable government activity. This is legislators gone wild, so intent on protecting "public morals" that they are willing not only to trample on basic human rights, but directly violate the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution by discriminating against women.

And not only are these people trying to make the sight of a female breast illegal, they want to lock up "any person who touches, caresses or fondles the genitals or female breast, whether clothed or not..." So, will it now be illegal for a woman to adjust her bra in public, or scratch an itch, and will high school boys now have to grin and bear it when the urge to adjust their jock straps strikes in the middle of a game? And what about pinning on that corsage for the senior prom?

And is there an age restriction to this proposed amendment? Will 2 year-old girls be forced to wear tops while running through the backyard sprinkler? And what about women who have small breasts, or men who have large ones? Would a woman with a double mastectomy be allowed to be topfree? What about a man in the process of transgendering, who has both a penis and an ample chest? What if a man walked down the street wearing only pasties or tassels above the waist? Would that be worse than being totally topfree?

And how will areola size and location come into play? Any nudist knows that breasts, both male and female, come in all shapes and sizes. Who will be appointed nipple and breast judge in Federal Way?

And they won't even allow the sight of a breast which has been painted and taped over the "offensive" areas? Who is going to determine what these "similar substances" are? And what about see-through materials? Will it be OK for a woman to be completely covered in flimsy gauze, or clear plastic, even though the skin underneath is visible?

The arguments against this amendment are seemingly endless. It's simply stupid legislation, a knee-jerk reaction to what is perceived as a problem, but is really just overreaction to harmless human activity. By specifically targeting women, the proposed law is clearly unconstitutional, and will undoubtedly be challenged in court if it manages to pass.

All this coming on the heels of a ruling by the Indiana state appeals court which ignored the 14th Amendment and decided that banning the baring of female breasts in public is not discriminatory.
In the appeals court decision, Judge Cale Bradford wrote, "In the end, (the girl) would have us declare by judicial fiat that the public display of fully-uncovered female breasts is no different than the public display of male breasts, when the citizens of Indiana, speaking through their elected representatives, say otherwise. This we will not do.
"We conclude that Indiana's public nudity statute furthers the goal of protecting the moral sensibilities of that substantial portion of Hoosiers who do not wish to be exposed to erogenous zones in public."
I guess that the good folks of Indiana will not have to start covering up a lot more than their genitals and nipples. According to Discovery Health:
Other erogenous zones include the eyelids, the ears, and the shoulders. Many people also find that having their feet stroked is arousing. Stroking, caressing and massaging of erogenous zones can be titillating forms of sensual pleasure in and of themselves, or they can be invitations to further sexual activity.
The mouth, including the lips and tongue, for most people, is an area of high erotic potential. Kissing is one act that uses the sensitivity of this region in a sexually stimulating way.
France just banned the burqa, but Indiana is now apparently embracing it.

These attempts at controlling what people can or cannot wear are examples of the power of the state over what are generally understood as being freedoms of expression and speech, and in the case of the burqa, freedom of religion. We have plenty of things to be really worried about on this planet, such as nuclear war, climate change, AIDS, poverty, hunger, disasters, etc., but somehow in our feeble attempts to control the uncontrollable, we settle for regulating things that make us "feel" safer, or better, but in reality we are merely fooling ourselves.

Locking up women for showing a breast in public is not going to solve any of society's problems. Defining the parts of human anatomy which are unacceptable for public viewing is not going to stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, halt teenage pregnancies, or lower the divorce rate. It's just more examples of impotent government unable to solve real problems, running around shooting straw men and flailing at windmills in order to present to an uninformed and fearful public an illusion of competence.

The rise of a dangerous politician like Christine O'Donnell who wants to abolish masturbation and lust, yet hasn't a clue about fiscal responsibility or actual governance, is an example of a frightened and frustrated public, looking to people who preach about angels and demons instead of policies and decisions. Perhaps emboldened by this new breed of morality warriors which are capturing the hearts of the fringe right-wing, the Montana GOP is actually discussing once again making homosexuality a crime.

And does anybody think that 17 state attorneys general putting pressure on Craigslist to censor its adult section is going to have any affect on prostitution or sex trafficking? Of course not, but it makes headlines and people think that these elected officials are actually doing something to "protect" society from demons.

Take a look at this chart. The government's expensive and foolish war on drugs has resulted in nearly triple the number of arrests for marijuana since 1990, while the number of pot smokers has not gone down, and might have actually increased a little. But somehow ruining the lives of nearly one million people in this country is justification for what is, in truth, abject failure to actually solve the problem.

It seems to be the fate of all big governments, from the ruling emperors of ancient Rome to the juggernaut which is our own Federal system, that in order to protect the people from themselves, a few heads must roll, and it's always the heads of the weak which are the first to fall under the knife. In dealing with the bikini barista "problem", the authorities in Federal Way haven't a clue about what to do, so they take out their frustrations on the women, who have no money to defend themselves, and are merely trying to earn a living. Whether or not this is exploitation is beside the point, because everyone is exploited to some degree in society. The issue here is equal treatment under the law, and this amendment specifically targeting women is government by men at its worst: sexist, cruel, discriminatory, and oppressive.

This is precisely why I get so angry at our nudist organizations, AANR and TNS, when they let their egos get in the way of the common good for nudism and naturism. If you think that nudist resorts and clubs are exempt from this sort of government overreach, then think again. All it takes is one emboldened, crusading moralist in a position of authority to start railing about the evils of nudists and the danger they pose to the general public, and specifically to children. It will matter not if there is any truth to the demonizing, or any shred of evidence - what will matter will be the public reaction and the ensuing actions of the legislators and judges, who have shown at least in the Indiana case of the topless girl, that the 14th Amendment does not matter when the "moral sensibilities" of the people are at risk.

Our government has shown that it is willing to ignore our Constitution when votes are on the line. On one hand laws and ordinances are enacted and clarified to prevent any display of public nudity, but on the other hand, in the interest of "national security", all airline passengers are going to be stripped naked electronically to be examined by security personnel. Our bodies no longer belong to us.

So I hope these bikini baristas in Washington state stand up for their rights, and in Indiana, the case of the topless woman should be appealed to the state supreme court. Moral "sensibilities", crusading politicians, the "will" of the people, and cultural norms should not be the basis for ignoring the 14th Amendment, which is clear as an azure sky in its simplicity: "... nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Equal protection to any person, man, woman, child, black, white, Hispanic, Muslim, Jew, Catholic, gay, lesbian, and so on. There is no way anyone who believes in the Constitution of the United States can argue that the Federal Way amendment, and the decision of the Indiana appeals court, are in harmony with the basic law of the land. If a man can walk topfree in public, then a woman is guaranteed equal protection, and damned be those who would seek to legislate the human body and subvert the Constitution merely to curry favor with voters and protect his or her phony-baloney job.

So when you hear talk about repealing the 14th Amendment, be very, very afraid. These people not only want to control your body, but your heart and mind as well.


Ninja Mike said...

Interesting post. Lot of information to sort through. It might be a good idea to include some kind of action we can take right now. Something we can do to prevent this or stop it.

Alan said...

Powerful post here. Is there anywhere we can direct some of our energy on this? I am thinking of some kind of a letter writting campaign to get our view across. I don't know if it would do any good but it would give us something to do. It might generate enough interest to cause some of the local citizens to ask these kinds of questions before it is too late.

info said...

It seems like government leaders, especially on city councils, are usually older people. older = conservative. The (hopefully) aged lawmakers naturally try to stop new things involving "morals".
Most of today's teens are increasingly tolerant of skin. just like i've read that young people at one church see the gay clergy thing as a generational difference; just like rock music was being banned by the parent generation in the 50s but the young liked it.
But don't just wait for current teens to be leaders or everything will be legislated away by then. With the Washington case the only big things I can think of are court battles, go to council meetings in person, write letters to lawmakers. Overall the forecast shows skin will win eventually but not without a struggle. Other freedoms are declining.

Anonymous said...

Warning: controversial comment coming, but there's something I feel like I have to say. First of all, the ironic thing is that I pretty much agree with you on this issue. However, here's what gets me about your post. Over the years, you've made your liberal viewpoints very clear. Fine. Seriously. But I find it somewhat amusing that now all of the sudden you sound like Glenn Beck talking about the Constitution. Of course, you're not the only one who does this. Liberals seem to love the Constitution. When it suits their purposes, of course. Do conservatives do the same exact thing? ABSOLUTELY. But you're not a conservative, so that's irrelevant on this particular blog.

By the way, are you vehemently against gun control, too, as it's technically a violation of the Second Amendment? Seeing a woman topless can't harm anyone, but someone using a gun can? Of course. But the Constitution never says that you can take away a right if there's a good reason to. So, if you're such a staunch defender of the 14th Amendment because it's part of the Constitution, you should be a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, too.

Anonymous said...

Well, the Second Amendment says NOTHING about any INDIVIDUAL's right to bare arms (pun intended), only the "people," collectively. Only activist conservative justices expanded the plain language of the Constitution after 200+ years to suit their activist interpretation. VERY different from the language of the 14th Amendment.

Anonymous said...

I obviously don't want to get into a whole discussion about gun rights here, (as a nudist blog is hardly the place for that!) but what I'll say is that the Bill of Rights ARE individual rights. If not, it would have been covered in actual body of the Constitution itself. For the record, I'm actually pro-gun control myself. This really isn't about that. My point was just about people invoking the Constitution when it behooves them, which is something I do happen to be critical of.

British Naturism said...

"Defining the parts of human anatomy which are unacceptable for public viewing is not going to stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, halt teenage pregnancies..."

In fact there is strong evidence to show that it will INCREASE these problems! Arrange the nations of the western world in order of their attitude to nudity and you will find that you have have them in order of their rates of teenage pregnancy, abortions and STI's. America is at the most prudish end with 10 times the teenage pregnancy rate of Denmark at the most liberal end. The UK is in between at about 5 times Denmark's figure and interestingly if you split the UK into England and Scotland, the effect of Scotland's greater prudery can be seen! The rates for gonorrhoea are even more shocking with the US at 70 times that of Denmark. Sweden and Germany are close to Denmark's figures, but Australia and Canada are closer to the US, I'm afraid...

British Naturism said...

Please forgive a second comment, but your mention of "protecting public morals" I thought it worth pointing out that Pope John Paul II once wrote:
"The human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendour and its beauty... Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness... Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person...The human body is not in itself shameful... Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person."

How does teaching shame of our bodies help educate that personal interior into realising the truth of his words?