An Open Letter to Google: Naturism is Not Pornography

Dear Google,

As you are more than likely aware, the Internet is the greatest advancement in human communication since the printing press. What sets this new technology apart is its capacity to disseminate information throughout every corner of the globe, instantly and without censure. This advancement has resulted in the sharing of ideas between people of disparate beliefs and philosophies, and has provided people who were once without a voice, like Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, a platform upon which to stand against the injustices in their culture. 

Only by adhering to principles of free expression can we hope to achieve social progress and equality. As chief purveyors of this newest and most influential communication technology, Google is uniquely obligated to champion free speech, and likewise, has a moral responsibility to remain neutral in matters of religion, creed and ideology. Google must never stifle creative thought or weigh in on matters of morality. 

I express this view as a concerned naturist/nudist. For decades, nudists/naturists have been stigmatized, marginalized and mischaracterized by the media. Depictions of the naturist lifestyle, which include innocent portrayals of the human body, are erroneously equated to pornography. The same mentality once compared the LGBT community with rapists and pedophiles. Naturism is not pornography, but a movement consistent with feminism and the promotion of a healthy body image. As you probably know, we live in a culture where both women and men are continually objectified in magazines, TV, and in other media. This continued objectification, coupled with unrealistic standards of beauty representing less than 1% of the population, and which now includes Photoshopped models, has a considerable role to play in how young people see themselves, and is a contributing factor to low self esteem, depression and suicide. The Internet, for the most part, offers little by way of contrast, and more often exacerbates the problem by providing curious teens access to countless depictions of unrealistic, unhealthy, and abusive sexual practices. 

Through Blogger, my constituents and I have fought to provide an alternative to pornography, expressed through literature, art, and innocent depictions of the human body. Naturist sites offer young and old alike a chance to see themselves as we all truly are, in our most natural state, with all of our variations and flaws. More importantly, naturist photography, which celebrates this free-body philosophy and lifestyle, depicts women as genuine human beings, not as sexually charged body parts or pin-up dolls that only satisfy male fantasies. This is what naturism is all about, and what it has represented, for nearly a century. Since its inception, Blogger existed as a safe haven for naturists to express this healthier alternative, and in so doing, has allowed for social progress in areas of feminism and body image. However, your new anti-nudity policy, which begins March 23rd, 2015, takes a great leap backward. While pornography will continue to thrive in your search engines, greatly aided by Google’s “incognito” feature, naturist bloggers fighting objectification and hyper-sexualization will forever be silenced. 

Egyptian born Aliaa Magda Elmahdy used nudity to make a powerful statement against the sexism inherent in her country, and the harsh dress code imposed upon women, by posting a nude image of herself on her blog. She received many death threats as a result, and was eventually forced to move to Europe, but the awareness she raised and the importance of her cause, I believe, was well worth the risks. Under Google’s new policy, Aliaa’s blog would have been made private, and therefore, silenced.

While your position regarding artistic and educational nudity is to be commended, I urge you to amend your policy to include images of innocent, natural nudity, since, as your policy itself states, naturism is unarguably a “substantial benefit to the public.”

Sincerely,
Nick Alimonos
Naturist Author


SHARE TO FIGHT CENSORSHIP!

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UPDATE: It looks as though, thanks to the efforts of like minded bloggers everywhere, Google actually reversed their decision to change their nudity policy, and will NOT be forcing blogs with nudity to shut down! “We’ve had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities”, Jessica Pelegio, a social product support manager at Google, wrote. I’d like to think that, of the 500+ readers who clicked on this letter, one of these may have had some influence with Google. Even if this post was just one of the million straws to break the camel’s back, I am thrilled. Hurrah for Free Speech! 

—–

Dear Blogger User,

We’re writing to tell you about an upcoming change to the Blogger Content
Policy that may affect your account.
In the coming weeks, we’ll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually
explicit or graphic nude images or video. We’ll still allow nudity
presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or
where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking
action on the content.
The new policy will go into effect on the 23rd of March 2015. After this
policy goes into effect, Google will restrict access to any blog identified
as being in violation of our revised policy. No content will be deleted,
but only blog authors and those with whom they have expressly shared the
blog will be able to see the content we’ve made private.
Our records indicate that your account may be affected by this policy
change. Please refrain from creating new content that would violate this
policy. Also, we ask that you make any necessary changes to your existing
blog to comply as soon as possible, so that you won’t experience any
interruptions in service. You may also choose to create an archive of your
content via Google Takeout
(https://www.google.com/settings/takeout/custom/blogger).
For more information, please read here
(https://support.google.com/blogger?p=policy_update).
Sincerely,
The Blogger Team

The Road Less Traveled

The only cover that makes sense.

I’ve been getting burned by books lately. Most of what I have been reading has been disappointing, and I am extremely particular. However, I strongly believe that great fiction can come from any place: a movie, video game, comic book or novel. So when I am at my Barnes & Nobles checkout counter, I might have a children’s classic in my hands, like A Wrinkle in Time, or pop culture fare like The Maze Runneror a Pulitzer Prize winner. Now to be fair, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is my first time reviewing a Pulitzer Prize winner, so maybe I was expecting too much. The very best books change your life, or at least, show you the world in a brand new light. These are my four star reviews. But McCarthy’s book left me empty and unsatisfied. Perhaps, for a less jaded reader, it would have had a greater impact. Still, The Road is the greatest book to ever disappoint me, and with all the gushing praise from critics, I am tempted to bump it up a star. But if I am to be honest with myself, and judge it strictly by how it affected me, I find it falling short of true greatness. Like Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, The Road is best served without praise; it is a beautiful, heart wrenching story, but like its two protagonists, has very little to say, or, if some deeper meaning eludes me, I didn’t care enough to look for it. I did, in fact, search other reviews, something I’ve never done, to see if I’d missed something. But the critics had little to offer by way of interpretation, so I am left with my own.

Starting into The Road, you’ll be struck by McCarthy’s irreverent style. It has been argued in many a fiction guidebook that excessive style is to be avoided or “invisible” lest it distract from the story. But I’ve never agreed and never will. If used purposefully and with tact, style can greatly enhance any novel. It’s only when writers try their hand at poetry or philosophy without knowing what they’re doing, that these techniques get a bad rap, at which point editors throw the baby out with the bathwater. This explains the glut of matter-of-fact writing so commonly found on today’s bookstore shelves. I blame the publishing industry for the dumbing down of literature. Thankfully, McCarthy has earned enough clout to do whatever he damn pleases, and it’s his style that makes The Road brilliant and beautiful, not merely what he says but how he says it. 

There are no quotation marks anywhere in the book, even when characters are speaking, which can be confusing. He also abstains from apostrophes, except for certain words, like its and it’s. There is also a staggering number of fragments, which, while fairly common in some novels, is used here to such excess that it feels jarring. Other departures from the norm include no chapters, and the only main characters not having names, a father and his son, referred to as “the man” and “the boy.” McCarthy’s prose is bone dry and, at times, minimalist. If “the man” is preparing a meal, you’ll get to read all about finding a can, opening the can, finding brushwood for the fire, lighting a match to start the fire, and finally cooking the can. And he doesn’t do this just once. Arrangements for sleeping and eating and sleeping again are described in meticulous detail again and again. There is also frequent walking, while pushing a grocery cart, and repeated descriptions of dead trees, dead plants, and a ghostly sun. But every now and then, in the midst of all this dry repetition, some poetry breaks loose, often mid-sentence, which catches you off guard. In fact, McCarthy proves himself a master of the written word, dropping the most beautiful, gut wrenching lines, which would not look out of place in an 18th century Romantic manuscript:

Out on the roads the pilgrim’s sank down and fell over and died and the bleak and shrouded earth went trundling past the sun and returned again as trackless and as unremarked as the path of any nameless sisterworld in the ancient dark beyond.

—p. 181


If this review seems overly focused on style, it’s because there isn’t much story to speak of. Eighty percent of it is walking and looking for food, finding food and eating it, building a fire and sleeping and shivering in the cold in pitch-black night. Often, there is freezing rain, and without shelter the father and son continually risk death. At other times, there is snow, all the color of ash (or maybe it is ash). 

If you haven’t already guessed, The Road is an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world tale, its setting so bleak and so without hope it makes The Walking Dead look like My Little Pony. While there is little by way of exposition, to explain what has happened, you can tell by the absence of any life (no birds or fish or even insects) that this is a nuclear winter, the result of some nuclear holocaust, or meteor impact like the kind that wiped out the dinosaurs. The survivors are too few to call this a dystopia, as the man and the boy remark, you really could not know whether you were the last human alive. Groceries and farms have already been looted, so finding hidden caches of food is the only means of survival, but the protagonists can never linger long, for starvation has driven the last of the human race to murder and cannibalism. Suicide hangs over everything, as both a danger and salvation, and often seems the best and only option. 

This is where McCarthy’s style proves its worth, since, in a world without people, names become redundant. When the passage of time is agonizing, and the world is without destinations, chapters are counter productive. When life is nothing more than the struggle to keep living, everyday minutia is all there is, and the way in which the story is told becomes every bit as important as what is being told.      

The risk of telling such a tale is losing the reader to despair and indifference, and more than once I had to ask myself, “what am I getting out of this?” and “is it worth taking this journey?” But what keeps the reader going, and what kept me going, isn’t hope (there isn’t any) but the love that exists between father and son, without which neither could survive. What’s most remarkable about this novel, the darkest, bleakest story ever put to paper, is that it’s really all about love, and altruism, and the value of human relationships. Take away the sun and plants and animals and all the comforts of civilization, and what remains are the people in our lives, without which starvation, and death, is preferable.

Despite my disappointment, I find Cormac McCarthy to be a brilliant writer, who did exactly what he set out to do. The story is bleak and repetitive and uneventful, even boring at times, but that is the nature of the story he is telling. It is devoid of meaning or inspiration, perhaps because, with the death of the world, those things die too, but neither is it cynical. When everything burns out, the last remaining thing, the thing we cling to, is what matters most. Love.


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SNEAK PEAK #4: THE ONE SEA

Every now and again, I like to take a mental detour from whatever book I am writing, to explore the goings on of my favorite naked heroes, Xandr and Thelana. This is a very early rough draft from the upcoming sequel to Ages of Aenya and The Princess of Aenya, tentatively titled, The One Sea (originally Skyclad Warriors)Previously, as seen in parts #1#2 and #3, Xandr and Thelana decide to give up clothing entirely, even in societies where nakedness is taboo. Given their new statuses as heroes, and as gods in the eyes of many, they seek acceptance for their people and their customs, and for primitive races throughout Aenya. 

—-


Xandr followed the guards, hand-in-hand with Thelana. He could feel the moisture budding in her palm, her skin quivering. She would not release him, for his presence, he knew, strengthened her resolve. Shame could possess such power, but such power was an illusion, for it could do nothing to harm them. They had only to suffer their scorn and ridicule, and become pariahs. And yet, despite having lived much of his life in solitude, Xandr could not quell the racing of his heart, as though some predator were upon him. Ilmarin or no, he was like a beast removed from its habitat. Hundreds gathered around him, soldiers and magistrates and holy men, and families of royal birth, and his body quailed and shrank at the sight of them, his member like an ambling minnow between his thighs. And still he could not be called entirely naked, for he remained burdened by his sword, Emmaxis, weighed to his back in its scabbard.

The interior was cold and stony and lacked of wind, despite the searing sun beyond its walls, and the granite floor, patterned in semi-precious stones, was unforgiving against his soles. Every eye was upon them now, from the queen’s courtesans in their flowing silk and lace, to the magistrates in their ceremonial garb and conical hats, to the guards in their bronze and leather. Many had not gone out to the pier to receive them, and would not have known to expect their custom. 

What little air circulated the room seemed to rush out of it just then, as Xandr and Thelana exposed themselves before their prodding eyes, and waited for the jeers and the laughter with which the Ilmar were so accustomed. He was armed for battle, but could not defend against the onslaught of judgement. His only recourse was to stand there, in as proud and godly a manner as one might manage, but truly, what did he know of them and their gods? 

Arriving from port, Sif had led them to a bathhouse, where he and Thelana were washed and oiled and meticulously groomed. Their bodies glistened, and their scars masked, and not a follicle was out of place. No sign of human frailty was allowed them. So much trouble for a charade. A lie for a truth. Surely, his scabbard could be altered, with a belt to gird the loins, but Thelana was adamant that they go naked before the world, so that other primitives in hiding might come forward without shame. Even the captain took increasing interest in their stand. While she did not care to preserve their traditions, the idea of a god or gods speaking on behalf of the Delian people could only appeal to her. Even Xandr could recall how the supreme god of the Hedonians—Sargonus—wore no clothing, at least the idol he had seen, did not.

Queen Frazetta acknowledged the Delian host, showing only curiosity, as though she were looking upon some extinct species of man. 

It was a long bearded priest who broke the silence. “Who are these rabble? How come they to this hallowed place with such disregard for custom? Do you mean us insult? Have you no respect for our queen?”

Sif addressed the man before anyone else could answer, “Take care how you speak, priest, lest you damn yourself. Citizens of Thetis, we mean no disrespect. As you can see, I, Daughter of King Frizzbeard, Princess of Northendell, stand here in the regal accouterments of my station, as prudence dictates. But I stand here also, humbled before two great divinities.”

“Divinities? What do you mean by this?”

“Have you not heard of the goings-on in Northendell? Of the giant who threatened our world and the gods who cast him down?”

“Gods?” He was about to laugh, but stopped himself, to study the two naked bodies again. There was enough doubt and superstition in him for the captain to twist his mind.

“You think us mad, to bring this man and woman before you, naked as newborns? No . . . do not let your mortal eyes deceive you. Men are frail things, prone to sickness and death and injury, to the cold of high moon, to the heat of the western sun. Men have need of clothing and armor. Gods do not.”

“Jafenji, could this be true?” the queen asked him. “Might they be immortal?”

“I would ask that they grace us with their divinity, so that we may be blessed.”

“Clever words,” Sif answered, “but not so clever to hide your intentions. You wish to test them. Is that not blasphemy? To question a god? To doubt a god? You wager your very soul that they are but mere mortals?”

“I will give him proof,” Xandr said, his voice resonating from wall to wall, “so no one will doubt us.” The naked warrior moved into the center of the room, slowly drawing the six feet of steel from over his head, and where the sun painted mosaics of light against the floor, he thrust the blade down, and the sound of metal on stone resounded, followed by an unearthly rumble and flashes of light. 

All who watched were stunned to silence. Even Thelana looked on, forgetting herself entirely. Xandr released the weapon, and it remained, suspended on its tip. Before that moment, even he was unaware of it. But the sword had a will of its own, whispering instructions into his mind, that he often mistook for his own thoughts. The priest opened his mouth, but no sound came out, and at last he cowered with fear.

Standing from her throne, her arms wide, Queen Frazetta addressed them, a slight tremor in her voice, “Truly, the gods of old are not bound by custom, and may come to us in whatever fashion they so choose.” Her words were diplomatic, but whether she spoke out of some religious fear, or to appease those with whom she would seek a favorable treaty, he could not be certain. But his nakedness did not faze her, and he did not doubt that, as queen, she was accustomed to many stranger habits. Rather, it was Emmaxis that moved her. “Welcome to my kingdom. We shall do what we can to honor you.” Without hesitation, the queen moved from her dais, unfastening the gold brooch at her shoulder, and her stola crumpled about her feet, so that she stood wearing only her crown and the gold bands about her arms and wrists and ankles. String of gasps followed. A number of others looked away or covered their faces. It was a powerful act, evoking only confidence, and Xandr could not help but admire the woman. Even stripped of her clothing, she took on a regal air.

The seeds of change were planted. He could feel it in the way they watched him, and Thelana, and the naked queen. What was for ages a sign of poverty and slavery, and debauchery, would in time fade into obscurity.

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Who are Xandr and Thelana? If you really don’t know, please visit: Ages of Aenya