Nudity, Censorship and Discrimination

Facebook

Imagine you are a gay man or woman happily married to someone of the same sex. To celebrate your love, you post a vacation photo with your significant other, kissing on the beach. None of your friends or family members object to the image, because they have known you and your spouse for many years, and they are accepting of your relationship. Except, of course, for Uncle Fred. Uncle Fred is a Bible-thumping evangelical, and he strongly opposes gay unions. For him, homosexuality is wrong. What’s more, Fred believes that the sight of two men kissing is harmful to his children. They might get the wrong idea, he argues. God forbid, his kids might even turn gay! So Fred contacts Facebook, marking your content as inappropriate. You are hence banned from Facebook for a week. In addition, you are told that if you post such an offensive image again, your account may be suspended for life. The message this sends is clear. Being homosexual is wrong, and for the “good” of the community, you must hide your perverse lifestyle from the public eye.

Gay Pride Is Celebrated In London
In today’s enlightened world, Fred’s complaint would go unheeded. We now recognize that anti-gay rhetoric is discriminatory. We accept the LGBT community because we know that different forms of sexual identity are not the result of mental illness, and that the sight of two men kissing will not harm our children. We have sufficient evidence that children born to gay parents turn out to be upstanding and productive members of society. Whatever harmful beliefs were once directed at the LGBT community were largely based on the Book of Leviticus, and early Judaism, and have no place in our modern world.

And yet, Facebook continues to discriminate against a minority group. Naturists were once treated with the same level of condemnation and hostility as the LGBT community. Like social lepers, early nudists lived as outcasts, in the most isolated parts of the country, and were subject to police raids and arrests, even when their activities were hidden behind closed doors. Most naturists I know do not tell people what they do on weekends. Many of us live in a state of anxiety (I know I do) over how we might be judged. I have met people who traveled outside the country just to be free of clothing, yet refuse to visit the club a mile from their house for fear of being discovered. I have known people who have lost their jobs because of their online naturist profiles. But while acceptance of the LGBT community continues to grow, naturists remain marginalized and misrepresented. By acting on our beliefs, we risk placement on the Sex Offender Registry List, to be forever associated with rapists and pedophiles. While nudists are permitted to promote their ideology in writing, we are never allowed to act upon that ideology. In being censored, we are silenced, and our arguments made ineffectual. There is no greater proof of nudism than to see whole families, on the beach, at campgrounds or in family pools, naked and innocent.

IMG_1426

I have heard the argument that the nudist movement cannot be equated to the LGBT movement, because people decide whether or not to become nudists. But a similar point was made against homosexuals. Because they are not a race, it was argued, they could not be afforded civil protections. But what mattered to the courts, ultimately, isn’t whether someone chooses to be gay, but whether a person has the right to make that choice. Just as we have a right to choose how we live our lives, whether to be Christian, Jew, Muslim or atheist, we have the right to live without shame. But while many will contend that we have that right already—nobody is arresting nudists in their homes anymore—how can we say we are free, when we are banned from social media for expressing what we believe, or arrested in public for acting on it? Would we say that a Christian was free to be Christian, if we were to ban photos of him at church? Or arrest anyone wearing a cross in public on the grounds that it was indecent and offensive?

Disapproval of naturism stems from the same archaic traditions that once stigmatized homosexuality. After eating from the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil, man realized that he was naked, and that he should not be so. To challenge this view is to challenge the story in Genesis, and by extension, a belief in God. Fortunately, we no longer base our ethical intuitions on the writings of sheep herders who lived thousands of years ago. In the study of social science, we concluded that the LGBT community poses no harm to others, but this same methodology is neglected with regards to nudism. It is assumed—on no evidence whatsoever—that the sight of nudity must be harmful to children. On the contrary, statistics show that greater censorship is detrimental to our youth. Compare teen pregnancy rates in the United States to countries where nudity laws are lax or nonexistent. According to the CDC, teens in America are six times more likely to become pregnant than in The Netherlands, four times more likely than in Germany, and three times more than in France. Clearly, our beliefs regarding nudity, children and censorship does not stand up to scrutiny.

IMG_1430

Kids grow up differently in Europe.

What is most hypocritical is the fact that, even if we were to ignore the evidence in favor of religious dogma, we cannot truly shield our children from nudity. The question is not whether they will see it, but when, and in what form. Will it be natural and wholesome, or perverse and degrading? Your child is going to run across a penis or a vagina at a friend’s house, or when they become curious enough to search Google. Whenever it happens, they are more than likely to learn the wrong things about themselves and their bodies. If they watch porn, they are going to develop unrealistic and harmful conceptions about intercourse. With a partner, they may be told, at some point in the relationship, that they are too fat or too skinny, or that they don’t measure up in some way. Without reference, they may begin to hate themselves. By censoring all nudity, no matter the context, social media platforms like Facebook rob its patrons from learning what humans look like, and by extension, perpetuate the very unnatural, unrealistic and unhealthy depictions of nudity permeating the Internet. Some people will counter that it is not up to social media to teach kids values, but studies show that parents have a small influence on their children’s lives, as little as 20%. Kids are smarter and more curious than we give them credit for, and they will seek answers on their own. So just what are we teaching them, when the only nudity they are ever exposed to is a Google search? All the while, my children are subject to scenes of violence, drug use and torture, none of which Facebook chooses to censor.

IMG_1429

I was told by a close friend that Facebook has the right to ban me, because I agreed to their TOS (Terms of Service). In the same way, African Americans acquiesced to “Colored” restrooms at their place of work, and gays in the armed forces agreed to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. “If you don’t like it,” my friend told me, “don’t use it.” But with over a billion customers, Facebook has become more than a business. It is an essential part of modern life, a crucial way to connect to friends and family, a virtual space for people of every background and belief system to meet and exchange ideas. It is a place where everyone is free to express his or her identities. Except nudists.

To be fair, Facebook has rewritten their TOS policy dozens of times as a response to public outrage. Breastfeeding mothers were the first to win the battle against censorship, followed by women who have undergone mastectomies. Frederic Durand-Baissas, a 57-year-old Parisian teacher and art lover, had his account suspended without warning, for posting Gustave Courbet’s 1866 “The Origin of the World,” a painting Parisian schoolchildren can see on field trips to the museum. Since then, Facebook has included special concessions for paintings.

image6

The Origin of the World. Makes sense.

Now a case can be made, that if Facebook can censor pornography, why not nudity? Where does one draw the line? But acts of sex, by and large, are private matters. To my knowledge, there are no social movements advocating for public sex. While exhibitions may put their sexual activities on display, their intent is to shock and offend. There is also an element of sexual gratification to exposing oneself. Nudists, by contrast, do not care to be seen—and most nudists I know are shy, abhorring attention altogether. For a nudist, nakedness is a non-issue. We wake up naked, eat breakfast naked, watch TV naked, and go to bed naked. It is a way of life.

Facebook bans two things outright: hate speech and nudity. And yet, it is utterly absurd to equate those things in any way. Hate speech incites hatred, which in turn causes harm to others. But how does censoring nudity help anyone? The only thing nudity can inspire is confidence, the confidence to love and accept oneself. By equating nudity with hate, Facebook places nudists, the KKK, Nazis, and other White Supremacist groups, into the same camp.

A supporter for the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederate flag yells at opposing demonstrators during a rally at the statehouse in Columbia

Allowed on Facebook

There was a time when people were offended by the sight of a black man dating a white woman, or in seeing two men or two women kissing. In both cases, offense was used as a justification for discrimination. Even when offense is justified—I am offended, for instance, by the Confederate flag—I do not insist that my eyes be protected from it. I respect those who disagree with me. If Fred the evangelist hates nudists, he has the option to block my account, or to curse me out. To live in a free and just society, is to allow both the exchange and rejection of ideas. Only in this way can we find what is true and do away with misconceptions. But when expression is censored outright, understanding is censored, and acceptance is censored, and then censorship becomes the very thing it purports to defend. To censor expressions of identity is to censor the people who hold and cherish those identities, and in doing so, marks those individuals as something lesser, immoral. It is to discriminate and ultimately, to hate.

IMG_1213

Not allowed on Facebook: This is what I was banned for!

 

Fighting censorship and discrimination is a recurring theme in my work. Ironically, the nudist heroes in my book, Xandr and Thelana, are often confronted by the same kind of prejudice as their portrayals in real life. Time and again, I have had to fight Facebook for the right to advertise even the most innocent depiction of them. Not a nipple, butt-crack, or genital orifice is visible, and yet they reject it on the grounds that it is “implied nudity”—whatever the hell that means. This makes promoting nudism, and by extension, healthy depictions of the human body, all the more challenging.

The only way to fight censorship is exposure. The sight of the human body must become commonplace in all of our media, on TV, in games and in movies. And yes, in storytelling, which has a time honored tradition of challenging and reversing the status-quo.

AoAFrontCover

NOW AVAILABLE

 

16 thoughts on “Nudity, Censorship and Discrimination

    1. It’s good that there are places for nudists to go to feel accepted, but if we are forced into hiding our lifestyle online as we are in real life, how will we ever find acceptance among the general public? If we act as though we have something to hide, it will only validate the misconception that what we are doing is shameful. Facebook is for everyone, and should make everyone feel welcome, including nudists.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Excellent article. I have been trying to change the laws on nudity in my area, but with no success. I even went to the town council meeting last spring and made a plea to change the laws, but again, no success. I go out and check my mail every day and once a week put my garbage out and bring it back in, all while nude, since I live on a quiet street at the end of a cul-d-sac. This afternoon a cop came to my door and said they received a call from a guy who had been down at the small park on this same street, separated from me by one house between me and the park. The guy had seen me go out and bring in my garbage can “naked”. The cop asked me if I had been outside naked and I said “No,” since first, he did not advise me of my rights before questioning me, second, there is NO law against nudity in this city, as the cop stated (most cops don’t know what the nudity laws actually say), it’s just I can’t allow anyone to see my penis and anus, and I guarantee the guy at the park saw neither, and third, as I told the cop, “I’m never naked,” and I’m not. I’m nude. There’s a difference. Still working on getting those laws changed…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel your pain, Jacob! I sometimes get the mail naked too, and take strolls around the block in the buff, but I do this in the dead of night. So far, I haven’t been caught …

      It is completely insane that such a simple experience—feeling the cool night air on my skin—should be illegal, while so many other things that cause so much death and destruction are not. Alcohol is legal. Smoking is legal. Buying an arsenal fit for the military is legal, and with deadly consequences, as we found out in Las Vegas. I am not arguing that we criminalize these things. But I am saying that if my kids have to suffer from second hand smoke, and if I have to worry about drunk drivers on the road killing me, and if I have to fear that at any moment my family might get gunned down—all in the name of freedom—then why the Hell can’t I drop my shorts at a public park? Nudity has never harmed anyone and has never killed anyone, and yet it is treated as the most heinous of crimes.

      That being said, I don’t think the solution, at this moment anyway, is to petition the courts. Homosexuals did not win the right to marry before winning in the court of public opinion. The battle for gay rights started with Ellen, and Brokeback Mountain, and other media outlets that informed the public that being gay wasn’t just some sick perversion. We need to show the world that the same is true for nudism. We aren’t perverts or rapists or child molesters, or mentally deranged. On the contrary, I have found that nudists are less obsessed with sex. Nudism brings out the best of human nature. We treat one another, male and female, with greater respect. This is why we must fight against censorship, because we can never prove that our cause is just if we are never allowed to show it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do my walking through my neighborhood at night, too, Nick. I know others who do the same. It’s pathetic that we’re relegated to doing what’s perfectly natural in the dead of night, the same as criminals who are trying not to get caught,and all because the “law” is currently against us.
        Perhaps the best way to approach this is as you said, through changing public opinion first, but in all likelihood that will take decades and at my age (61) I don’t have that much time to wait. Had I not recently undergone knee replacement surgery, and it not been the weekend coming up when sitting in jail would have meant waiting until Monday before going to court on a misdemeanor and sitting in jail for the entire weekend, I wouldn’t have told the cop at my door what I did, but rather would have filled that cop in on what the local law actually says and admitted to being nude while bringing in my garbage can, since I know for a fact that the person at the park who saw me did NOT see my penis or anus, the only two things listed in the local law that I am not allowed to expose in public. The only way to challenge an existing law, so I understand, is to be arrested for violating it, and once I’m arrested the court will supply me a lawyer to get me out of jail (this “crime” is only a misdemeanor, as I said) and then I can contact the ACLU and hopefully get an attorney through them that will be better suited for overturning this law.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am 42, and I predict that I will be in my 80’s before public nudity is generally accepted. While it is true that many gays were arrested, and suffered from violence, in their fight for equality, we don’t all have to do the same. I do not risk getting arrested because I have a family, and would not want my actions affecting them. But there are many other, legal ways to protest. This is why I write. My blog is my soapbox. I am also hoping that my novel, Ages of Aenya, with its naturist heroes, Xandr and Thelana, will help in some small way to change people’s attitudes toward nudity, in the same way “50 Shades of Grey” brought S&M into the mainstream. My influence is negligible, of course, but if we work together, we can become threads in a tapestry of change. Or as Gandhi put it, “be the change we want to see in the world.”

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Europe is no more liberated when it comes to social nudity than is the US, and getting worse, what with the massive influx of muslim migrants (not getting into the politics around it, but their culture, which most of them are unwilling to give up, is extremely hostile towards nudity).

    On paper it’s more acceptable, in practice it’s not.
    Take the Netherlands (which I know as I live there) as an example:
    Public nudity is a criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to 750 Euro per incident here.
    TECHNICALLY it’s legal, but the law is written in such a way that it is effectively illegal. The law here states that “nudity is legal except in places where it is deemed inappropriate or within sight of a public roadway”.
    Problem is the terms “where deemed inappropriate” and “within sight of a public roadway” are left undefined, leaving it up to the arresting officer to determine whether the law was broken or not.
    Technicallity again, officially only a judge can decide that an area is “inappropriate”, in reality it’s often a police officer or city council deciding on a whim that a place where nude recreation was happening for decades is suddenly “inappropriate” and people get arrested in the middle of a forest.
    Only recourse is to either pay the fines or let it go to court and go through an expensive legal battle with no guarantee you’re going to get your right.
    The Dutch naturist foundation has a full time legal team dedicated to helping members who face such legal battles.

    Some examples:
    Police patrol boat spotted a yacht sitting idle several miles from the waterway they were patrolling, miles from land, and decided to investigate. Using binoculars they spotted the occupants peacefully sunbathing nude.
    They approached and boarded the yacht and arrested all on board.
    Took over a year before a judge decided that this did not constitute “being visible from a public roadway”.

    People on a stretch of quiet beach that had been a marked nude beach for decades suddenly find themselves arrested because it was supposedly “inappropriate”.
    The local council had decided to remove the signs to “stop indecent exposure”.
    Again, took a year or more for a judge to find the city was wrong, and that it was not allowed for them to make that decision.

    Such cases happen here every single year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is discouraging to hear. Immigrants from more conservative nations have been having a negative impact on liberal societies for millennia. I have long maintained that the Orthodox Christian invasion of Greece changed Hellenic society for the worse, having made nature-worship and sexuality things to be ashamed of (though we still, by and large, harbor a love for the Classics). I remember in the early 80’s, many more nudes in the Greek isles, before stupid prudish American families started imposing their misguided values on us. I have often wondered how people from the Middle East can fail to recognize the benefits of freedom, after seeing it first hand, what has led Europeans to a more peaceful, educated and scientifically literate society. The very reason they are seeking asylum in Europe, and not their neighboring countries, is due to the secular values they oppose! We are in the middle of a global culture war, and I believe nudism can serve as a metric by which to gauge this war. In fundamentalist Muslim and Mormon communities, women are treated like property and are required to cover themselves. By contrast, nudist women are freer than any other women on the planet.

      That being said, I know that in Germany and in France they have recently set aside urban naked zones, and in Spain there are no laws against public nudity. In Greece, nudity is technically forbidden, but I have never once had to deal with authorities, because nobody on the beach seems to care whether you are naked or not. In America, the police would get called in fast. Another big difference between Europe and America is with regards to media. I have seen billboards in Athens where topless models advertise ice scream. Europe is also full of museums, showcasing Classical and Renaissance art. We have similar museums here in America, but they are rare, and no schoolchildren are taking trips to see Michelangelo’s David.

      If Europe were a naturist paradise, I would move there tomorrow. The fight for secular freedom continues, amidst our current right-leaning wave, but I think it is a fight we will ultimately win.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I realize you’re most likely correct in how to affect these changes in public attitude as well as how long it will take. I’m simply impatient, because I know it won’t happen in my lifetime and want so desperately to walk freely nude wherever I want without being harassed for it.
    I include nudity in many of my novels, from “Parallels,” to “The Solarian,” where the heroes are nude at least part of the time, to my nudist novels, such as the two so far in the “Chronicles of a Bare Naked Nudist” series, and two I am currently writing that cover the world being transformed into nudist societies (one is a modern day drama, lightly science fiction in its concept, “The Gymnos Contagion,” while the other is a strong “space opera” of the Star Trek/Star Wars variety, “Through Naked Space”) due to a virus that spreads globally. I’m hoping through these books to change the acceptance of nudity, as well as show how ludicrous it is for textilers to be so fearful of being naked.

    Like

    1. Well, if I were you, I’d move to a naturist community, like Paradise Lakes or Caliente, both in Land O’ Lakes, FL. The neighborhoods are big enough so that you feel nudity is legal nationwide. Good luck with the writing.

      Like

  4. SOO good to read the above… I concur 120% & look forward to the day when we are ALL allowed to walk FREE & EASY, as we love to be.. Naked, & UN ashamed of HOW God made us, ALL t be…!!

    As it was SOO often said, in Star Trek… ‘MAKE IT SO’….!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It is unfair for public nudity to create horror or to be banned by law. I would be glad to do things outside naked, in warm weather, as walk around the neighborhood, take an outdoor bath or shower, or gardening, with no one complaining. No one is told to not learn a certain language, to not become parents if they want to become parents, to have to practice a religion even if they don’t want to or not to have a pet even if they don’t want to, so why should we make anyone wear clothes? Freedom includes being nude without involving sex, as to allow to take and own nude photographs, be naked in public, attend social nude events, be naked a home, practice nudism with family and friends, do things naked as much as would do clothed as long as nude is appropriate for that thing and have that be a choice. Nudism should be available for everyone and everywhere. Learning any language, becoming parents no matter of how many children to wish to have, owning pets, practicing any religion or none at all are socially acceptable and so should being nude or as bare as we dare. Body shame should be as condemned as racism, killings, kidnappings, rape, child/elder/sexual abuse and bigotry. By allowing the atrocious stuff like war and violence rather than nudism, that is really unfair and creates more problems. I want to be nude with no one complaining. Nudism should be public and private, and ought to not be just confined to private times and places or be frowned upon.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s