Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Freedom of Diversity

It occurs to me, that in the spirit of freedom that these United States of America were built on, and the celebrated diversity that makes up our constitution (lowercase "c") as a nation, there should be at least one city in this country that permits reasonable nudity in public. And by reasonable I don't mean everybody goes naked all the time. I don't mean that all the business establishments have to serve naked people (or employ naked people). I mean that if somebody decides to walk down the middle of main street, in the center of downtown, completely bare-ass naked, that this particular city would defend that. People might look, even stare, some might like it, and others might not - but the bottom line is that the local police would defend that person's right to be naked on communal public property, and the majority of the people living there would be of an understanding that that's the way that city was, and would tolerate it if not enthusiastically support it. The people who really didn't like it would move elsewhere. You would think, as free and as diverse as this country is, there'd be at least one medium to large sized city located somewhere between the shining seas, where this kind of thing was accepted.

This kind of thing.

I say this because, jealous of the naked people that turn up in pictures and videos of various events (particularly the Bay To Breakers race) in San Francisco, I've tried to find out what kind of rules there are about public nudity in downtown SF - which, of all places, you would think would be the one major city where this might fly - and results are inconclusive, but not entirely encouraging. I've heard anything from, "there's no law against public nudity", to, "it's just like anyplace else", and I'm not quite sure what's correct.* But in most places, there doesn't have to be a specific law against public nudity; it's a sort of unspoken community standard - that people don't go naked in public - which is covered under other vague laws like "indecent exposure" or "public lewdness". SF may be more lenient/forgiving/accepting of public nudity than other places (maybe - and I doubt the city council would want to promote that image), but as long as it's not strictly protected, there's always that risk. That knowledge that you can try to get away with it, but if you're caught, you have noone to blame but yourself.

Lewd? Indecent? Or decent and proper?

And some people like the risk - let them have it. But my point is that there should be at least one place where that risk is absent. At least one place where the community standards include public nudity. Of all the people in this country, of all the settlements we've settled, there should be at least one for people who like to go naked in public. I've heard of a naked city in France, but even worldwide, places like that are rare. Most of the best places do not explicitly defend nudity, but merely tacitly tolerate it. There are, of course, isolated resorts and beaches all over the world where this kind of thing is celebrated - but a resort is a resort. A beach is a beach. (And with all due respect to the nudist community, they are far too uptight about photography in this nation). You'd think there'd be at least one city - and again, I'm not saying everybody would be nude all the time, they would just not consider the people who are naked to be out of the ordinary. At least one place. Just one. Is that asking too much? Am I dreaming?

A place where this would not raise alarms.

Of course, you could argue, that a city like that would attract all sorts of freaks and weirdos. But unless they're hurting people, so what? The existence of a city like this would not be a demonstration that the world has gone down the moral shithole. People walking around naked in public is not comparable to a city of sin where sadomasochistic strangers rape each other all day long, everywhere you go. Would you argue that mankind does not have the ability to endure the sight of naked flesh without transforming into unthinking predators with an insatiable physical hunger?

If this sight gives you an uncontrollable
urge to rape, you need serious help.
(Being turned on, on the other hand,
is not a public health crisis)

Even though naked people do tend to gather a lot of attention (either of the negative kind, or - if they're attractive - of the positive kind), this would lessen if it became more of a normal occurrence. Wouldn't you be less distracted by naked people if you could see them at anytime - if it wasn't a rare opportunity to make the most of? And the people who would complain about being desensitized to nudity - they would either find their predictions proven wrong, or otherwise, they could live somewhere else where nudity is not tolerated in public. The bottom line is diversity - freedom of choice. Maybe there are people out there who couldn't handle living in a public nudity-tolerant city without losing their civility, but why should that fact prevent the ones who are from indulging in it? We can't let the bad seeds ruin it for the rest of us.

All photos by nudeinsf.com. I would have loved to have illustrated this post with my own photography, but I am not much of a risk-taker. You can blame society's intolerance of public nudity.

* If anyone reading this happens to live or has spent some time in San Francisco, I would appreciate your insider's insight on how public nudity is dealt with in the city.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Naked Pictures on the Internet

There is a stigma surrounding having naked pictures of oneself on the internet. If you are a street rat or a porn star, it doesn't much matter, but if you have a reputation to uphold, being "exposed" online could be the kiss of death. If the people you know offline find out, your reputation could be ruined, your family and friends may have to reevaluate their opinions of you, and you could even lose your job - especially if you work with kids, because people who work with kids aren't allowed to have a private sex life.

But wait, the internet's not private. The internet is global, it reaches everyone everywhere, and the information on it not only flows freely, but never disappears. If it were as simple as not putting the pictures on the internet, it might be less of a problem, but we are living in an increasingly interconnected digital world. Cell phones connect to the internet. Video game systems connect to the internet. Television sets connect to the internet. It's only a matter of time before anything and everything you own that is digital, will have a link to the net. Thus, any digital image runs the risk of being leaked (maybe deliberately, either by yourself or a thief, or maybe accidentally) into the ocean of the web.

Our very concept of privacy is being transformed in this digital world. I'm not here to argue whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, or if there's any way to stop it. I wish merely to explore ways of learning how to deal with it. If you take naked pictures of yourself - for whatever reason - and want to share them with others of a like mind, then should you be held responsible if your boss or your wife or your mother happens to stumble across them? Since when is this behavior a crime, or evidence of a bad personality?

They say that posting photos of this nature on the net is an exercise in "bad judgment". Well, insofar as society has a habit of ostracizing people who do it, it does represent bad judgment. However, that's not the end of the story. Because I don't think the act itself is a bad thing. There are many good reasons to put naked pictures on the internet and share them with others. But of course, our puritan society regards anyone with an open view of sexuality as a public threat. This is ridiculous. The way to eliminate the "problem" of naked pictures on the internet is not to eliminate the pictures, but to eliminate the problem - that is, we should all stop making such a big deal about it.

But since the internet is "forever", people say you should be careful not to reveal things you'd later regret having revealed. You may enjoy posting a naked picture of yourself now, and think it's nothing but a good idea, but how will you feel years down the road? Will you regret it? Better play it safe! This is an argument that is often used when the persons with bad judgment are minors (see: sexting). These people are too young yet to understand the ramifications of their actions, and we ought to protect them from making that mistake, right? Except that I don't see any reason why an 18-year-old would have any better an idea than a 16-year-old how they'll feel about those pictures when they're 40. The only significant difference is that the 18-year-old is not legally owned by his or her parents, and thus is entitled to make his or her own bad decisions.

Yet I still maintain that this is not a bad decision. There are bad consequences that can arise, externally - and you may regret it later - but there are good reasons for it, too. One of the best decisions I made in life was to start taking pictures of myself naked when I was eighteen. I only wish I had started sooner. It makes me happy to look back at those pictures, and nobody else's opinion is going to spoil that. And so far, having shared those pictures with others has not brought me any serious negative consequences. Granted, I accept - to a point which others may not be willing to go - that I may be shunned by society for this, to the extent that it finds out. And I feel that, for me, it's something that's worth fighting for, even if that means making some sacrifices.

But my goal is to encourage a world where people can celebrate the beauty of nudity and eroticism and share it with others without having their lives ruined by puritan busibodies. And in the meantime, the more people who come out of the woodwork and admit that there are naked pictures of themselves on the internet, and that they are not ashamed of it, the less of a foothold the rest of society will have in saying that this is an uncommon and abhorrent practice that "good" citizens (the ones worth hiring and loving and hanging out with) never engage in.

So go ahead, take pictures of yourself naked and put them on the internet for the whole world to see! But don't forget to stand up for yourself when others question your judgment. Do you want to conform, or live free?