Friday, August 12, 2011
A Nudist Rant
The following is an angry rant I wrote after reading sentiments suggesting that clothing is some kind of a necessary barrier preventing people from behaving like uncivilized apes. It is not directed at anyone in particular, but the points contained within, while forceful, I think are strong.
I mean, if someone is pissing on a park bench, then that's a sanitary concern. If someone is walking up to people and swinging his junk in their faces, then that's a behavioral issue. None of this has anything to do with what the person is wearing. If the only problem is that a person is naked and you don't want to look at him, then piss off. That doesn't give you any recourse to the law. I've seen plenty of ugly people I'd rather not have to look at, but there's no law against them coming out in public, and it's very easy for me to just not stare at them. The whole nudity taboo is arbitrary and unfair. What if there were a taboo against showing ears in public? What about the people who don't like covering their heads? If there are groups of people who don't like nudity, then let them have spaces where they can be free from nudity, but when it comes to shared public ground (and especially private ground, no matter where it is visible from), there should be no law against it. And it is the people who are deathly afraid of nudity in any situation that are insane, not the people who think it might be nice to doff all of one's clothes on a particularly warm summer day, for example.
Following on that thought, any practical argument against nudity is conditional. Though there may be practical arguments against nudity in specific contexts (sanitation is a popular one), there are just as strong (or stronger) practical arguments for nudity in other situations. If you're arguing pragmatically against nudism, then you have no choice but to concede that in some cases public nudity ought to be acceptable (like, say, at the local swimming hole). The only convincing argument for an across-the-board ban on nudity in public - though it shouldn't be convincing - is based on moralistic beliefs about nudity that usually conflate it with sex, reinforced by a lifelong tradition of gymnophobia (you have no idea how persistent habitudes are). Neither of these conditions should trump the practical considerations (and health benefits - both mental and physical!) for a more casual acceptance of nudity. No amount of your moral outrage outweighs my right to - for example - sunbathe on my front lawn naked. If you can't handle it, you're too sheltered, and if you don't want to be exposed to such things, you're more than welcome to lock yourself up in the privacy of your own home - or, barring that, put up a fence (yes, that's your responsibility, not mine). But your moral beliefs and personal standards of decency have no jurisdiction over what I do on my property, nor my state of dress when I'm on public streets or in public parks or the like.
In all honesty, I think it's only fair that anyone spend a considerable amount of time in a nudist environment before arguing against nudism. I've spent a lifetime in a textile environment, even though I might prefer a nudist one (clothing optional is the best of both worlds), and nobody ever asked me if I wanted to wear clothes, or whether I preferred to see other people dressed, rather than nude. If you can't respect my preferences, why should I respect yours? (Aside from the fact that your preferences are conveniently written into law...)