Saturday, May 5, 2018

World Naked Staring Out A Window Longingly Day

So, it's World Naked Gardening Day, and I know that WNGD purports to be a non-political event - preferring to stay light-hearted and avoid weighty discussions of the law and society. But while this is a laudable approach, it's very hard to dwell on the virtues of nudism without butting up against the myriad issues that keep this lifestyle pushed to the margins. So it is that I can't help thinking about the politics of nudity and the law every time WNGD comes around, due in no small part to the fact that I don't feel, in this ostensibly "free" country, that I am actually free to participate in this holiday to the extent that I'd like.

So, as an act of protest (albeit born of necessity, I'm afraid), I am not sharing a photo of me gardening naked (indeed, I have done no naked gardening this day), because I do not currently live alone, and I may not have as sufficiently private a yard as I thought (due to a neighbor's overhanging porch), and, altogether, I do not feel that my individual liberties are sufficiently protected in this country for me to participate in this celebration today.

I hereby designate this day, instead, to be
World Naked Staring Out A Window Longingly Day

Consider, as a hypothetical, if it were "Doing Yard Work In A Skirt Day" instead. Although women would barely be affected, men the nation over could choose to celebrate this holiday by putting on a skirt and doing yard work, and the worst possible repercussion they'd face is social ostracization. The difference is that for nudity, people can use the law against you. So there is not only social, but very real legal discrimination at play here. And insofar as nudity is inextricably linked to sex in our cultural consciousness, there are some extremely heavy penalties possible for committing what could be construed as a "sex crime". Maybe a little public indecency charge isn't such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it lies on the tip of a very large and threatening iceberg, and do you really want to gamble on the possibility of ending up on the Sex Offenders Registry? This is what we call "the chilling effect" in action.


Now, an argument could certainly be made that I've spent a lot of time on this blog blurring the line between nudism and exhibitionism. And I have no ragrets about giving voice to the grey area that separates the regions of black and white on this issue. But it took a conversation with my SO to realize something. I was lamenting the injustice of having to cover up before stepping outside, and she inquired as to whether my desire to go outside unclothed was in any way motivated by the thrill of being seen naked. And, indeed, I realized that it was not.

By way of proof, I considered whether, if I had a place where I could go outside and be naked with 100% certainty that nobody else would ever see me, would I still do it? Yes, absolutely! In fact, that's exactly what I want. Because when you introduce the possibility of being seen, it doesn't get me excited, it actually makes me nervous, because I'm afraid somebody's not going to like what I'm doing, and then that freedom will be taken away from me.

As for what does motivate me to want to engage in nude recreation, I've just spent the better part of the last year exploring the myriad potential reasons. In this case, what motivates me on a fine, summer-like day to want to go outside clad only in the sky tends toward the spiritual - being at one with nature, and feeling closer to the Earth. There is something psychological about the nude state - it is raw, it is taboo, it is forbidden and can be beautiful. There is a thrill to it, no doubt. But it's not necessarily sexual, and it's not necessarily the thrill of being seen, so much as the thrill of simply being - the way we were intended to be, unfiltered by the at-times arbitrary and counterintuitive mandates of a man-made society.


Now, I'm not denying that there is a potential thrill in being seen naked - even a sexual one. But context is key. I don't want to force my nudity on random strangers, because I don't know if they'll like it, and I have no desire to shock or offend anyone. But I do know for a fact that there are people out there who do like seeing people naked (especially when those people are attractive). I know - because I'm one of them. And that's why a lot of my naked alone time involves taking pictures. It's not because the only joy I get out of being naked is the thought of being seen. It's because I know that being seen can be an additional joy, and that by pursuing this pleasure through photography I can not only apply an artistic touch, but share that joy selectively with those whom I know are likely to appreciate it.

Now, I might argue that I should be allowed to go naked in front of random strangers (surely, I do argue this from time to time?). But it's not because I'm dying to be seen by them (and admired, I suppose). It's because being naked feels good to me, and I'd prefer to be able to practice it more regularly, and under less isolated circumstances. What I'm really arguing for is not the freedom to shock and offend unsuspecting passersby (even if this is ultimately what it boils down to). Rather, I'm arguing for a higher standard of humanity - that is, people who recognize, like me, that naked bodies are not worth getting worked up over, and who have the maturity to simply look away if they see something they don't like, understanding that in a free country, not everybody is going to look and act the same way.


Allow me to make one last point. I would argue that nudity is the natural state of being, and that I am more "normal" (as nebulous as that word is) than the majority of the population (at least in this one respect). But I understand the nature of our society, and that one cannot simply go around nude, just because one sees it as natural (even if it's true). Yet, even discarding the rational basis for my preferred state of dress, and if we were to assume that my desire to go nude is some unnatural, fringe inclination, it is still an inclination I possess, and one that I take much pleasure in. Whatever your opinion of it, it is harmless to me, and I cannot see any reasonable argument against my participation in it - at the very least, in private.

I'm not asking the world to join me in this activity. I invite the world to join me, but I will not force them to, if they'd rather not. All I require, at a bare minimum, is enough space and privacy to enjoy my nudity - alone if need be - on a regular basis (indoors and out). I don't believe that I am necessarily entitled to have this - that the government or somebody owes it to me - but I don't think it's unreasonable for me to want it, either. Because it means enough to me in my life that I want to pursue it, as an integral part of what I consider to be my happiness. And I'm willing to make it a priority. But opportunities are limited.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm willing to come to a compromise. I don't demand to be able to walk down the street naked (even if I think this should be a guaranteed freedom in any enlightened culture). It's when designated nudist spaces are constantly under threat from the pressures of "community standards", and above all when I can't go naked on my own property, because somebody who doesn't like it could find out, just by looking - and god forbid anyone should visibly engage in an alternative lifestyle that's not approved by the mainstream, inappropriately flaunting their individual liberty in the faces of well-behaved, conforming citizens - I say, it's these situations that raise my hackles. And not unduly, I hope.

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