Saturday, July 14, 2012

Freedom of Dress

I think the idea of "nudity required" is exciting - because I'm a nudist, and I enjoy nudity. I like being nude, and I like the thought of other people (inevitably including some attractive people) having to get nude whether they're comfortable (let alone enthusiastic) about it or not. Also, I think a significant portion of the population would warm up to nudism if they just gave it an honest try (although forcing them to isn't the kindest of terms).

But that's just a fantasy. I want people to like and respect and embrace nudism, but I also respect individual choice, and I don't require that everyone in the world agrees with me on the subject of nudism. I do, however, demand tolerance and equality. The great thing about "clothing optional" is that people can go naked or wear clothes as they feel comfortable. Everybody's individual choice is respected, and no one is left out.

Let me put it to you this way: "nudity forbidden" is no more tolerant than "nudity required". Most people are lucky because they're not nudists and the "nudity forbidden" rule doesn't significantly impact their lives. That doesn't make it right. "No gays allowed" isn't a justified rule just because the majority of the population isn't gay, and/or doesn't tolerate gays. People don't want to have to look at other people's naked bodies, but a lot of people are offended of being reminded that gay people exist. That doesn't mean it's right to sweep them under the rug and force them to hide in the closet.

I'm not even a "militant" nudist, or what have you. I'll go so far as to concede that in many places, nudity either isn't practical, or it's allowance not enforcible. Private institutions, perhaps, who have a problem with nudity, may or may not have recourse to ban nudity - that's an issue for discrimination laws, not for nudism specifically. And some places, there may be practical reasons against nudity, like working in the kitchen at a restaurant. There may be plenty of other examples.

It's not that people should necessarily have a fundamental right to strip to their skin anywhere and everywhere, regardless of the environment and social atmosphere. It's that this wholesale ban on nudity across the board is overly restrictive. I want laws based on reason, not emotion. If it's a hundred degrees outside, and you're sitting in a public park sweating through your clothes, what sense does it make to have to keep those clothes on?

What if you're walking home and it starts to rain, and you want to strip naked on the street or sidewalk simply because you like the feel of the rain on your naked body and you hate the feel of wet clothes clinging heavily to your body? What if you go to the pool or the water park? There's no reason whatsoever to have to wear a swimsuit, except for modesty - and many women's swimsuits are hardly modest, so I think that rather than modesty, it has to do with the hysterical fear of genital exposure.

Of course, we can't talk about nudity without broaching the subject of sex. I think this is unfortunate. Nudists scream themselves hoarse trying to emphasize the point that nudity doesn't equal sex, because people who think it does have a tendency to wrongly assume that nudist resorts are orgiastic amusement parks. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, whether it's inherent in the concepts themselves, or a result of our cultural ban on nudity except in a sexually charged atmosphere, when nudity comes up, too many people can't ignore the issue of sex.

Funny, we can go around in our clothes and not succumb to our base animal desires, but as soon as the genitals are laid bare to the world, all decency recedes and a massive sex orgy commences? Actually, the existence of nudist resorts where this is NOT the case lends evidence to the contrary. People can be naked amongst one another and not find themselves involuntary slaves to their sexual hormones.

I do wonder, though, if maybe people in the nudist community are a special breed, and that other people (probably including the people who try to enter the nudist community but get thrown out on their asses because they don't understand that nudism isn't swinging or just can't keep their libido in check), don't have as much self-control. But that's a really grim assessment of humanity, and moreover it presupposes that a person is not responsible for his sexual behaviors.

Think about it. A person makes decisions on how to behave sexually, and is responsible for those decisions. A person may feel incredibly turned on and have the desire to fuck some attractive stranger, but it's within their power to reason that doing so would be massively antisocial, and prevent himself from acting on that fantasy desire. People who don't are considered sociopaths, and are a menace to society, and generally tend to find themselves behind bars.

So what does a person being nude, as opposed to dressed, have to do with anything? Is it the temptation? Are people really thinking, "yeah, I can probably control myself, but I don't want to be teased constantly". Are you not teased by an attractive person dressed? I think naked attractive people are incredibly alluring, but I'm hardly less intrigued by any dressed attractive person I see on the street.

Honestly, I've seen lots of arguments against nudity in public. Some people are worried about seeing attractive people nude. Other people are worried about seeing unattractive people nude. Nude, dressed, frankly, I don't see that much of a difference. Of course, if you're not used to seeing people's naked bodies, it's going to be weird for you. But chances are, it's something you can get used to, and anyway, if you can't get used to something as natural as the naked human body, it begs the question of whether it's you or the nudist who has the problem.

One argument I've heard is that people don't want to dull the allure of nudity. They think that too much exposure will eventually make them uninterested, and then naked bodies simply won't have the excitement they used to. This is a plausible argument, but I think it's flawed. I've been looking at naked bodies for quite a while now - both attractive ones and unattractive ones. The unattractive ones are easier to stomach (or ignore), which is a good thing, right?

But what about the attractive ones? Yes, perhaps, the raw excitement of nudity has been dulled somewhat by frequent exposure. That's more or less inevitable. But do I not still greatly enjoy looking at attractive naked bodies? Of course I do! I like them because they're fun to look at, not just because of the thrill of getting to see something you don't often see.

I heard the same argument once about the thrill of nudism itself. A person asked me, if I started practicing nudism regularly, would the thrill of it wear off? And to some extent it has. In the beginning, I would feel charged when I had the opportunity to take my clothes off. Now that I spend so much time naked it just feels normal, and wearing clothes is a pain in the ass. But I still think I'm better off naked, because it has more appeals than just 'the thrill', and even then, there are times when I still get 'the thrill' under various circumstances.

Of course, this brings up an issue of conflicting values. If one person thinks hiding nudity enhances the quality of their life, and another person thinks they have a right to be naked in public, how do you reconcile those differences? I think for most people it would go like this: one person wants to 'inflict' their nudity on everyone else, and another just doesn't want to be exposed to that. Easy answer: ban nudity.

But that argument is seriously flawed. The truth is, one person is demanding that his decisions for 'sensible' dress (which includes comfort as much as social expectations) include nudity. The other person demnads that, for the construction of his own ideal world, everyone else he comes into contact with has to abide by his desire not to be exposed to nudity. Clearly, the nudist deserves his right to dress himself as he sees fit, and the prude needs to either accept the fact that he can't control the world around him (especially how the other people in it behave), forcing them to conform to his wishes, or go hide out in a gated community of like-minded bigots.

I'm being harsh. I'm sorry. But honestly, people who hold mainstream values tend to have this belief that the enforcement of those values are somehow justified, and any minority who comes along who holds differing values doesn't deserve as much of a say in the way society is run on account of being smaller in number. No, freedom and equality isn't about "let's construct a society where the largest consensus gets to live comfortably at the expense of the outliers".

No, freedom and equality is about "let's foster an atittude of tolerance and inclusivity, and encourage those in the majority to make room for those who are disadvantaged by being in the minority". The whole concept of "genitals are indecent, and must be hidden from public view" is a subjective belief, and therefore using the law to enforce it is a trespass against justice.

People in a truly just society wouldn't hold the opinion, "I think genitals are indecent, and so therefore people who think differently should be punished for it". People in a truly just society would understand the difference between values and ethics, and wouldn't make laws that punish people for holding differing values. Seeing genitals hurts people? Really? Get a grip.

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