Accepted clothing requirements are arbitrary and inconsistent.
102. Clothing standards are inconsistent.
For instance, a bikini covering is accepted and even lauded on the beach, but is restricted elsewhere–in a department store, for example. Even on the beach, an expensive bikini is considered acceptable, whereas underwear–though it covers the same amount–is not.
103. Clothing requirements are arbitrarily and irrationally based on gender.
Until the 1920s, for example, female ankles and shins were considered erotic in Western cultures, though men wore knickers. The Japanese considered the back of a woman’s neck erotic, and contemporary Middle Eastern cultures hide the woman’s face. During the 1991 Gulf War, female U.S. army personnel were forbidden from wearing t-shirts that bared their arms, since it would offend the Saudi Arabian allies. Women (but not men) were forced to wear full army dress in stifling heat.
104. Today in America, women’s breasts are seen as erotic and unexposable, even though they are anatomically identical to those of men except for lactation capacity, and no more or less a sexual organ.
Medical experts note that men’s breasts have the same erotic capacities as women’s. In addition, studies suggest that women are as sexually attracted by men’s unclothed chests as men are by women’s.
105. The arbitrary nature of clothing requirements is reflected by different standards in different cultures.
For example, a review of 190 world societies in 1951 found that, contrary to the standards of our own culture, relatively few considered exposure of a women’s breasts to be immodest. Julian Robinson observes, “few cultural groups agree as to which parts of our bodies should be covered and which parts should be openly displayed. . . . Indeed, many people find it difficult to comprehend the logic behind any other mode of clothing and adornment than what they are currently wearing, finding them all unnatural or even uncivilized. The thought of exposing or viewing those parts of the body which they generally keep covered so frightens or disgusts them that they call upon their lawmakers to protect them from such a possibility.”
106. The arbitrary nature of clothing requirements is reflected by history. Even in the same culture, taboos about what parts of the body could or could not be revealed have changed radically over time.
For example, until statutes were amended in the 1930s, men were arrested in the United States for swimming without a shirt. Many of the paintings and sculptures today considered “classic”–for example, Michelangelo’s Last Judgment–were considered obscene in their day. The body taboo reached its height in mid 19th-century England and America, when it was considered improper to mention almost any detail of the human body in mixed company. Howard Warren writes: “A woman was allowed to have head and feet, but between the neck and ankles only the heart and stomach were permitted mention in polite society. To expose the ankle (even though properly stockinged) was considered immodest.” On the other hand, in the early part of the 19th century, women’s clothing fashions in France were so scant that an entire costume, including shoes, may not have weighed more than eight ounces. Lois M. Gurel writes: “One must remember that clothing itself is neither moral nor immoral. It is the breaking of traditions which makes it so.”
The degree to which women’s breasts may be exposed has varied especially in Western cultures. At various times in history, women’s necklines have plunged so deeply that the breasts have been more exposed than covered. Historian Aileen Ribeiro notes that in the early 15th century, “women’s gowns became increasingly tight-fitted over the bust, some gowns with front openings even revealing the nipples.” Breasts came back on display throughout the early 17th century, and again in the 18th century, especially in the Court of King Charles II of England. Ironically, in this latter period, a respectable woman would never be found in public with the point of her shoulders revealed.
Naturism is growing in acceptance.
107. Most world societies are much more open about nudity than the United States. For example, many cultures, especially in Europe, are more open to nudity on beaches and in other recreational settings.
A 1995 poll conducted by a French fashion magazine found that only 7% of the population was shocked by the sight of naked breasts on the beach, and that 40% of women had tried going topfree. A 1983 poll found that 27% of French women went topfree on the beach on a regular basis, while another 6% went nude. A 1982 Harris poll found that 86% of French citizens favor nudity on public beaches. In Munich and Zurich, topfree and nude sunbathing are permitted in many parks. A Zurich municipal ordinance in 1989 officially accepted nudity in municipal pools after a public opinion poll found only 18% opposition. Two separate polls conducted in the mid-1980s found that 68% of Germans did not object to nude bathing. A 1983 public opinion survey in Greece found that 65% of the population favored legislative establishment of four official nudist facilities. A 1984 poll found that 82% of a cross section of Lisbon residents approved of nude beaches reserved for that purpose. In Denmark, judicious nudity is legal on the seashore except on a few specifically clothed beaches! Sweden’s coastline is nearly as tolerant as Denmark’s. Beach nudity has also become the norm in inflation-stricken Romania, where the average monthly wage is about $65 and a swimsuit costs from $4 to $20. Saunas are ubiquitous in Finland, with a sauna for every 3.5 inhabitants, and are always used nude, commonly in mixed company.
108. Participation in nudist organizations is high in other parts of the world.
In Holland, 1 in 422 members of the population is a dues-paying nudist. In Switzerland, the number is 1 in 519; in France, 1 in 630; in Belgium, 1 in 890; in New Zealand, 1 in 1250; in the U.K., 1 in 2784; in English-speaking Canada, 1 in 5200; and in the U.S., 1 in 6856. According to a French survey, one in ten members of the nation’s population have tried nudism at least once, and an equal number are ready to give it a try.
109. Naturist vacations are a significant part of the tourist trade in many countries.
As of 1983, about 2 million people vacationed at French Naturist clubs and resorts each year. Before its devastating fragmentation and civil war, more than one hundred thousand tourists visited Yugoslavian nudist camps and resorts every summer. According to the president of the Naturism and Camping Department of Yugoslav Tourism, Naturist vacations in 1984 accounted for 25% of the foreign tourism income. And while American travel brochures make almost no mention at all of nude or topfree beaches in other countries–essentially lying to vacationers–foreign travel agencies offer opulent, uncensored brochures, and openly advertise and promote Naturist resorts.
110. Nudity is much more common in foreign media.
For example, one of Brazil’s most popular T.V. shows, “Pantanal,” has featured frequent nudity; a survey conducted by the local newspaper found that 83% of viewers were “comfortable” with the nude scenes. A University of Sao Paulo survey in June 1990 counted 1,145 displays of nudity in one week of television.
111. Public nudity, including clothing-optional recreation, enjoys growing acceptance in North America.
A 1983 Gallup poll revealed that 72% of Americans don’t think designated clothing-optional beaches should be against the law, and 39% agreed that such areas should be set aside by the government. One third said they might try going to one. Fourteen percent said they’d already tried coed nude recreation. A 1985 Roper Poll agreed, reporting that 18% of all Americans–including 27% of those age 18-28, and 24% of college-educated Americans–had already gone swimming in the nude with a group that included members of the other sex; other studies suggest these numbers are on the increase. A Psychology Today study found that 28% of couples under the age of 35 swim in the nude together, 24% of couples age 35-49, and 9% of couples 50 or older, and that such activities tended to correspond to a higher level of satisfaction in the marriage. A 1990 Martini and Rossi poll reported that 35% of Americans would “bare it all” on a nude beach. A 1986 poll conducted by People Weekly asked people how guilty they would feel if they engaged in any of 51 activities, rating their probable guilt on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 represented the greatest feeling of guilt. Nude sunbathing came in second to last with a rating of 2.76, behind not voting (3.07), swearing (3.34), smoking (3.38), and overeating (4.43).
In 1991, visitation at Wreck Beach, British Columbia on a nice day was estimated at 15,000, and 90,000 beach users were recorded in one month on a single access trail. A survey conducted by West Area Park Staff revealed that half of those visitors go nude. When that option was threatened in 1991, more than 10,000 people sent letters or signed petitions to protect the beach’s clothing-optional status.
Given the opportunity and license to do so, women do take advantage of the option of going topfree. During the 1984 Olympics in L.A., Police decided not to arrest European women who went topfree on local beaches. American women, noting the double standard, took their tops off too, and feigned inability to understand English when told to cover up. Police called it “taking advantage of the relaxed rule,” though it should more accurately be considered “taking advantage of a more civilized custom.”
112. Membership in nudist organizations is growing rapidly.
Membership in the American Association for Nude Recreation, for example, topped 40,000 in 1992, up 15,000 in just five years! By 1995, the number had climbed past 46,000. According to a study commissioned by the Trade Association for Nude Recreation, participation in nudism is currently growing by about 20% per year.
113. The tourism industry is discovering that it is in their economic best interests to accept clothing-optional recreation.
When it became a favorite vacation spot for Europeans in the mid-1980s, Miami Beach began permitting G-string swimsuits on its beaches, and ceased enforcing its ordinance against topfree swimming and sunning. Dade County is the only county in Florida that experienced an increase of tourism in 1991, a year of deep recession. All other counties, and Disney World, had significant losses in tourism. Nikki Grossman, director of the Ft. Lauderdale Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, acknowledges that “requests for nude or top-free beaches rank among the top five priorities of international conventioneers,” and Fodor’s Travel Guide has observed that “nudism” is “tourism’s fastest growing sector.” Nudism, in the United States, brings in about $120 million per year in direct revenues alone.
Constitutional support for Naturism.
114. In a free society such as the United States, one’s lifestyle should not be dictated by anyone else (majority or otherwise), especially if that lifestyle does not infringe on anyone else’s rights.
In the words of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: “Our Constitution is designed to maximize individual freedom within a framework of ordered liberty.”
115. The Constitution was, in fact, written to protect the rights of minority points of view. This principle alone should justify the right to recreate peacefully in the nude without government interference.
Justice William O. Douglas, for a unanimous court in 1972, wrote: “These amenities have dignified the right of dissent and have honored the right to be nonconformists and the right to defy submissiveness. They have encouraged lives of high spirits rather than hushed, suffocating silence.”
116. The Constitution has been interpreted to protect individual freedoms except where they are overridden by a “compelling state interest.” It is never the responsibility of individuals to justify their freedoms. It is rather the responsibility of government to justify any restriction of freedom.
Justice Douglas enumerated three levels of rights: “First is the autonomous control over the development and expression of one’s intellect, interests, tastes, and personality. Second is freedom of choice in the basic decisions of one’s life respecting marriage, divorce, procreation, contraception, and the education and upbringing of children. Third is the freedom to care for one’s health and person, freedom from bodily restraint or compulsion, freedom to walk, stroll, or loaf.” Douglas would permit no state restriction of the first level of freedom; only narrow restrictions on the second; and in the third, “regulation on a showing of ‘compelling state interest.’”
117. Naturism has always claimed that nudity offers “freedom from bodily restraints.” Such freedoms may only be restricted in the case of “compelling state interest;” if none can be shown, the restriction is invalid.
Unfortunately, though the courts have “recognized as a protectible, if minor interest . . . an individual right concerning one’s own appearance and lifestyle,” especially where supported by tradition and custom, in the case of public nudity such protection is not “fundamental” or directly “constitutional” and thus can be overruled or limited by other considerations, such as environmental concerns or “community standards.” Often the reference is to moral principles. These can usually be shown to be “overbroad” by constitutional standards, because they prohibit innocent behavior (such as skinnydipping) along with behavior of legitimate government concern (such as lewd conduct).
118. The Constitution has repeatedly been interpreted to protect the right of individuals to associate with others of similar philosophy, and also to raise their children in the context of a particular philosophy. This principle protects the right of nudist families to associate and recreate in the nude.
119. The First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of expression. This protects every other form of clothing, and should protect the right not to wear clothing as well.
120. Recent court decisions in Florida, New York, and elsewhere have upheld nudity as part of the expression of free speech.
Unfortunately, the courts have consistently concluded that mere nudity per se (for example, nude sunbathing on a public beach), without being combined with some other protected form of expression, is not protected as free speech under the first amendment. The courts have distinguished between protected First Amendment beliefs and actual conduct based on those beliefs, arguing that going nude on a beach is “conduct” rather than merely the natural state of a human being.
121. The “body language” of the nude human form has extraordinary symbolic and communicative power which should be protected by the First Amendment.
Examples may be seen in painting, photography, sculpture, drama, cinema, and other visual forms of communication throughout history.
122. The Supreme Court has ruled that people can’t be forced to communicate ideas they oppose (for example, saying the Pledge of Allegiance). It has also ruled that clothes can be a protected form of free speech (for instance, students and public employees had the right to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War). It is unconstitutional to force Naturists to express conformity to ideas of modesty and body shame that they disagree with, by forcing them to wear swimsuits at the beach.
As attorney Eleanor Fink says, “If people are allowed to wear the clothes of [Nazis], should they not also be allowed to wear the clothing of the Creator?”
123. The courts have thus far permitted the publishers of pornography to express attitudes which are exploitative of women, on the grounds that this is protected free speech; but it has been unsuitably reluctant to grant the same protection to the natural expression of body freedom through casual, non-exploitative nudity on the beach.
124. Clothing is both publicly expressive and privately symbolic, connoting identity in a particular cultural group. Restricting the state of dress of nudists is no less restrictive than prohibiting any other cultural group from wearing the clothing particular to their group. Preventing nudists from going nude is equivalent to preventing a person of Scottish descent from wearing the family colors, or preventing a priest from wearing his robes.
125. With the emergence of national organizations promoting nudism as a doctrine, nude recreation may eventually come to be seen as a protected medium of speech expressing that doctrine, and as an example of protected free association.
126. The Ninth Amendment makes it clear that no freedoms shall be denied that are not specifically prohibited. Thus, mere nudity is not illegal except where there are specific laws that prohibit it.
Most laws prohibit only lewd conduct, not nudity per se; and there is in fact no universal legal prohibition against nudity on public land.
127. Many prohibitions against nudity stem, historically, from the political climate of the early Christian church. Even today, much of the objection to nudism is based on religious principles. The constitutional separation of church and state should make this an invalid argument.
128. Extensive legal precedent suggests that laws requiring women, but not men, to conceal their breasts are sexist, discriminatory, and unconstitutional.
For example, in 1992, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, unanimously overturned the conviction of two women found guilty of exposing their breasts in public. The ruling held that the state’s anti-nudity law was intended to apply only to lewd and lascivious behavior, not to “non-commercial, perhaps accidental, and certainly not lewd, exposure.” Herald Price Fahringer, the women’s lawyer, said that the ruling meant that women in New York State could sunbathe topfree or even walk down the street without a top, as long as this was not done in a lewd manner, or for such purposes as prostitution. Judge Vito Titone pointed out that women sunbathe topfree in many European countries, adding: “To the extent that many in our society may regard the uncovered female breast with a prurient interest that is not similarly aroused by the male equivalent, that perception cannot serve as a justification for different treatment because it is itself a suspect cultural artifact rooted in centuries of prejudice and bias toward women.” This ruling, however, is just one of many statutes and legal precedents nationwide that uphold the position that breast exposure is not inherently indecent behavior.
Additional legal support for Naturism.
129. Case history demonstrates that laws requiring women to cover their breasts are not justified by cultural prejudices and preconceptions.
130. Laws requiring women, but not men, to cover their breasts are written entirely from a male perspective, assuming that men’s bodies are natural and normal, and that women’s bodies must be covered because they are different.
Reena Glazer observes that “under sameness theory, women can get equal treatment only to the extent that they are the same as men.” Physical differences among the races do not justify discrimination, and neither should physical differences between the sexes.
131. Laws requiring women to cover their breasts are not justified by claims that women’s bodies are significantly different from men’s; nor by inaccurate claims that breasts are sex organs; nor by the fact that breasts may play a role in sex or sex play; nor by the fact that breasts are prominent secondary sex characteristics.
It can’t be argued that women have breasts and men don’t, because both do; nor can it be argued that women have larger, often protruding breasts, because many women are flat-chested while many men have large breasts. Breasts are not sex organs, for they are not essential to reproduction, and in fact have nothing to do with it. A woman with no breasts can have a baby. Breasts serve the physiological function of nourishing a baby–but this is a maternal function, not a sexual one. Breasts may play a role in sex play, but other body parts do too, and are not censured–particularly the hands, and the mouth (which, incidentally, is veiled by Shi’ite Moslems, partly for that very reason, though only on women). And while breasts are secondary sex characteristics, so are beards, which are not restricted on men.
132. Mere nudity is not in itself lewd or “indecent exposure,” a distinction upheld by extensive legal precedent nationwide.
133. Mere nudity cannot be offensive or immoral “conduct”–for it is not conduct at all, but merely the natural state of a human being.
It should be no less legitimate to be in this natural human state than to be clothed. One’s ethnicity is also a natural state of being, and discrimination on this basis is illegal. It should be equally illegal to discriminate on the basis of appearing in the natural state common to all humanity.
134. Given the challenge of defining modesty standards, which are by nature ambiguous, legislators have often found it to be more complicated to prohibit nudity than to sanction it.
For example, in the local anti-nudity legislation of St. John’s County, Florida, we find this painstakingly elaborate definition of “buttocks:” “The area at the rear of the human body (sometimes referred to as the gluteus maximus) which lies between two imaginary straight lines running parallel to the ground when a person is standing, the first or top such line being a half-inch below the top of the vertical cleavage of the nates (i.e., the prominence formed by the muscles running from the back of the hip to the back of the leg) and the second or bottom such line being a half-inch above the lowest point of the curvature of the fleshy protuberance (sometimes referred to as the gluteal fold), and between two imaginary straight lines, one on each side of the body (the ‘outside lines’), which outside lines are perpendicular to the ground and to the horizontal lines described above, and which perpendicular outside lines pass through the outermost point(s) at which each nate meets the outer side of each leg. Notwithstanding the above, buttocks shall not include the leg, the hamstring muscle below the gluteal fold, the tensor fasciae latae muscles, or any of the above described portion of the human body that is between either (i) the left inside perpendicular line and the left outside perpendicular line or (ii) the right inside perpendicular line and the right outside perpendicular line. For the purpose of the previous sentence, the left inside perpendicular line shall be an imaginary straight line on the left side of the anus (i) that is perpendicular to the ground and to the horizontal lines described above and (ii) that is one third of the distance from the anus to the left outside line. (The above description can generally be described as covering one third of the buttocks centered over the cleavage for the length of the cleavage.)”
135. A large portion of state and local government anti-nudity regulations have been legislated by individual high officials or small groups, without public review. This is undemocratic and contrary to the principle of due process.
Florida, for example, closed most of its nude beaches in 1983 without public review.
136. By extensive legal precedent, it is unquestionably legal to be nude in private, on private property.
137. Many state or local governments have also explicitly legislated the right to be nude in designated public areas, such as legally-sanctioned nude beaches.
Legal nude beaches are rare but not non-existent in North America. British Columbia, for example, currently has one legally sanctioned nude beach, and Oregon has two.
138. There is no universal federal prohibition against nudity on public land. In general, public land agencies view nude recreation–conducted with discretion and sensitivity to the varying values of others–as “legitimate activity.”
Many state and local governments (notably Oregon, Vermont, and the California Department of Recreation and Parks) have followed the federal policy as well, without conflict.
William Penn Mott, a former Director of the National Park Service, wrote: “NPS must consciously seek to respect and accommodate wide ranging differences among visitors and professional colleagues in lifestyles and values with sympathy, dignity, and tolerance. I believe that parks are a place where the human spirit is more free, more capable of permitting people to be themselves, closer to a oneness with universal truths about humankind and about our relationship to nature and the sacred truths by which we live. . . . I believe it is too easy for government employees–all of us–to think there is only one way to enjoy and use the parks and that when the visitor enters ‘our parks’ they must ‘do it our way.’”
139. The nude use of most federal lands is, in fact, constitutional because there is no universal federal law prohibiting it. The Ninth Amendment specifically says that no freedoms shall be denied which are not specifically prohibited.
140. The mandate of public land agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service provide for diversity of recreation. Historically, provisions have been made even for extreme minority forms of recreation. Recreational diversity ought to also include provisions for nude recreation.
A 1983 Gallup poll found that 14% of Americans occasionally enjoyed nude recreation. How many activities does 14% of the American public participate in, of any kind? Surely not hunting, snowmobiling, mountain biking, or the use of off-road vehicles, all of which have designated areas set aside for their use!
141. Clothing-optional recreation is less offensive to most people than many other forms of recreation which are openly tolerated and even promoted on public land.
A study by Dr. Steven D. Moore of the University of Arizona demonstrated that encountering nude bathers on public land is five times more acceptable to the public than encountering hunters.
142. Naturists certainly deserve at least as much consideration by land management agencies as resource-damaging activities such as off-road vehicle use.
As Pat O’Brien points out, “avoiding nude people in places where they’re expected to be is easy. That isn’t true when it comes to other sanctioned uses of our public lands and waterways. The roar and stink of a snowmobile or other off-road vehicles can’t be ignored, and you’d best not overlook a jetskier in the water near you. Why then is it so objectionable for us to ask to use a small amount of space on a non-exclusive basis, in ways that do not pollute and do not drive others away?”
143. The Wilderness Act of 1963 defined wilderness areas as “lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition.” They are to be managed in a manner that maintains them in as natural a state as possible. It follows that human should be able to enjoy wilderness areas in their own most natural state, free from the artificial constraints of clothing.
144. Public wilderness areas ought to be places where human freedoms, including nude recreation, are observed more freely than anywhere else. Wilderness should be our measure of carefully controlled anarchy, our refuge free of any but the most necessary intrusions by government rules and regulations. Do we not go to wilderness for these very reasons, and would it not be compromised by undue outside interference, such as unnecessary clothing regulations?
145. Recreation managers unfortunately often “solve” the issue of nude recreation, not by managing it, but by ignoring it.
Thus managers “permit” nudity on remote beaches without facilities or lifeguards, then point to litter, drug use, and other problems as a consequence of the nudity rather than the lack of active management.
146. If public nude recreation can be widely accepted in societies considered repressive by Americans (for example, formerly-socialist Yugoslavia, once-communist East Germany, Orthodox Greece, or Catholic France), it ought to be tolerated in democratic Europe and in America, “the land of the free.”
Lee Baxandall has reported that “almost every town [on East Germany's coast] has an FKK [nude] beach, some 90 sites serving 200,000 campers/lodgers annually; more FKK than textile beaches. A GDR poll found 57% of the population approving of nude recreation, 30% had no opinion, and only 13% opposed.” Unfortunately, with the reunification of Germany, the West has exported to the East both pornography and beach restrictions: now that East Germany is “free,” many of its beaches aren’t. A June 1992 UPI dispatch from Ahlbeck noted that “the controversy stems from the introduction of western German-style regulations on traditionally nude eastern German beaches.” Ironically, authority for the new prohibitions of nudity stems from a Nazi-era regulation carrying the signature of Heinrich Himmler.
147. Anti-nudity laws are demeaning because they replace individual responsibility with state control.
148. It is inappropriate to use police resources to crack down on peaceful bathers at a beach simply because they are nude, while taking valuable resources away from other more urgent needs.