I wrote this paper for a class while pursuing my Master’s degree several years ago. I think it still holds up.
It describes the legal and societal position of casual nudity and associated activities around the beginning of this century. Within this context, it provides factual intellectual arguments, which justify behaviors. It is still valid today. It seeks to be objective, yet convincing.
In advance, the original Format was done in the APA formal style, a bit odd, but not incorrect. Then now, it has been reformatted into this:
Hidden and the secret aspects of behavior described as naturism.
There is a tremendous popular acknowledgement of the value of the act of being naked (Charles, M., et al. 2007). The internet is flowing with numerous naturist and nudist organizations throughout the world. Many beaches and other locations have been, over the years, declared liberated and are recognized as clothing optional. As millions express their humanity in social settings across the globe there are millions who are opposed to the practice of going without clothing. Social mores, that have deep roots, require bodily covering in multitudes of variations of degree and style. In the United States the mandatory use of clothing is enforced by stringent and various laws, many of which deliver powerful consequences. The act of nudity is often seen as an act of perverse and dangerous behavior, especially when it involves children. This report intends to study where and why these naturist behaviors occur outside of the carefully created social and cultural boundaries. The hidden and the secret aspect of behavior described as naturism, its context and how it may be dealt with shall be discussed.
Hidden and the secret aspects of behavior described as naturism.
Anti-nudity laws are a part of the legal landscape across the country. It is a common cultural assumption that being seen naked can get anyone arrested. This is often the fact and carried to an extreme. There are laws that prohibit nudity on one’s property and even inside one’s own house. In some places, breast feeding is treated as a crime. Art depicting nonsexual nudity is banned and if a child is shown nude in a photo, no matter how innocent the context, the print shop may report it to the authorities. Some places make it illegal to be nude in the company of a child even at home
A man in Ohio was arrested because someone across the street was using binoculars to see him nude inside his house. In Florida, a child was taken from a woman who was dancing nude in the presence of her child, because one could see her by looking up the closed Venetian blinds. In Alabama and Florida, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization laws have been introduced to eliminate naturism. RICO allows the government to confiscate property that is only indirectly used in an offense, so driving a nudist to a nude beach can result in vehicle confiscation (Foldvary, F. (1998). In some states the act of nudity can be perceived and labeled as heinous sexual behavior resulting in a lifelong listing as a registered sex offender. There is often an assumption of exhibitionism and intentional exploitation. Being nude is akin to images of a man naked under a trench coat exposing his naked body for a sexual gratification to passers by. The lengths in which enforcement is applied has been frivolous at times. Helicopters and massive manhunts have been used to find a man who was walking through the forest in the nude (B. Morton, NAC meeting October 2, 2010).
One reason for the harsh penalties is that many states have passed anti-nudity laws to outlaw pornography and commercial nude dancing. This coupled with popular uninformed belief and mores, have sometimes created unintended effect in law enforcement. This is because the language of the law also bans the practice of nudism by families at home or in social naturist clubs.
Attempting to set the stigma of the practice of nudity in the United States, as just mentioned aside, the response to the legal and social consequence in the nudist movement has centered on private nudist clubs and resorts. These have the belief that there is nothing wrong with not wearing clothing and a lifestyle that includes nudity. The American Association of Nude Recreation is a union of nudist businesses and parties involved. The associated naturist movement has focused on nude beaches, springs, and backyards. The Naturist Society has put primary focus on nude beaches, public lands and natural surroundings. This includes an affinity and respect for wildlife and the natural environment, an attempt to live a healthy lifestyle, and the acceptance of the human body as naturally good and wholesome. Both share a rejection of the culture of lust and shame regarding the nude human body. There is of course much variation of philosophy amongst the numerous members of these two organizations. Nudism is found in all socio-economic strata, cross cultures, ages and races. There is a demographic variable finding that the membership of these organizations are college educated to greater proportion than society at large (K. Bacher, K., 2001).).The Naturist Action Committee was formed to lobby for and give legal support to protect naturist related activities.
There are many questions to be answered. Is the gravity of the consequences upon a nude person justified? Is this overreaching? Is it a sexual act or is it a sickness needing treatment?
According to the DSM-IV-R, listed under paraphilias, exhibitionism is recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving exposure of ones genitals to an unsuspecting stranger. This must cause a marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.” (American Psychiatric Association, p. 255). Some exhibitionists are aware of a conscious desire to shock or upset their target; while others fantasize that the target will become sexually aroused by their display. There are biological theories, psychoanalytical theory, theories linked to head trauma, a childhood history of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders and disorders of impulse control, all linked to the possible cause (American Psychiatric Association, p. 255).
Exhibitionism is one of the three most common sexual offenses in police records. Most are male in their late teens or early twenties (Rebecca J. Frey, J. 2010).
Law enforcement often assumes that the person, who is arrested in a public place unclothed, is an exhibitionist whether that person is with someone or not. The assumption can be that the person may be fantasizing the act of exposure or looking for a victim. The exhibitionist intention is assumed, whether it exist or not. Aside from the criminal aspect of the arrest and the label stigma, treatment may be court ordered. This may include or lead to cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, twelve-step groups for sexual addicts, orgasmic reconditioning, aversion therapy, couples therapy or family therapy. Medications may be used such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors or antiandrogens (Rebecca J. Frey, J. 2010).
When children happen into the equation the situation is amplified legally. It is assumed that nudity around children is damaging to hapless victims. Originally adapted into our culture by certain religious beliefs and further enforced and secured by the influence of the Victorian era, nudity particularly around children is assumed wrong. Freud gave us the Oedipus complex. Dr. Spock tells us that seeing anyone including parents nude can produce over activity, excitability, sleeplessness, frequent masturbation, school failures or difficulties in parental management. The child can become over stimulated by seeing their parents nude. Dr. Joyce Brothers echoes concern about parental nudity, let alone exposure to the nudity of other adults. Dr. Sandor Lorand says parents are unconsciously seducing their children when “parading around” nude in front of them. In this context, attitude and common belief, judgment is taken and enforced aggressively to stop childhood exposure to nudity. It is squarely and popularly thought to be damaging or in the least dangerous (Smith, C., 1996, p18-21). It follows that law must protect children from sexual predators like exhibitionist.
These fears and concerns of mere nudity being a crime akin to exhibitionistic attacks on civil society have been refuted and tested through years of experimental nude activities worldwide. In the earlier parts of the 20th century nudism movements occurred, sparked by manifest like Richard Ungewitter’s Nakedness: In an historical, hygienic, moral and artistic light. These people exposited that nudity was indeed natural, healthy, hygienic, morally superior and desirable, when it was compared with the prevailing attitudes of the body (Ungewitter, R., 2005). This movement has blossomed into numerous organizations and numbers in the millions, particularly in Europe. Nudity has been a part of families, now going back and shared by generations. Nude recreation is now a business of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Although the free body movements have happened with the social influence of these nudist and naturist, the advent of the late 1960’s hippie culture and the increasing amount of nudity in fashion, media and culture, we still find ourselves with the afore mentioned strict laws and shock at mere nudity. Public nudity is still considered an exhibitionistic sexual act.
Looking back at the most highly notorious crime where children may be exposed to nudity, there are holes in the make up of the mores. Dr, Spock based all of his writings on his experience with his three year old son. While shaving together, a cute picture of father and son after his shower, he began to notice resentment with the child. Yes, daddy’s penis was larger, but so was every other part of daddy compared to his son including his life and authority. The contention wasn’t solely a rivalry about penis size. Spock conjured up the rest of these hypotheses based on this one sample. Dr, Joyce Brothers, a media pop personality, based her opinion on speculation, Freud’s Oedipus and popular social beliefs. There was no science. As Dr. Albert Ellis tells us, “This is an interesting hypothesis of Dr. Spock’s, but I do not know of any data that supports it.” There still is no data to support it. There is however, sufficient data to support the mentally healthful benefits of children exposed to nudity, if it makes any difference at all. The damage to the child may come from the attitude instilled in the child by parental and social influence, not by nudity (Smith C., 1996 p 18-21).
Mere nudity does not make a sexual act. It is quite the opposite. Many psychologists and anthropologists believe that modesty about exposure of the body may well be a result of wearing clothes (Rudofsky, B.,1971). Clothes enhance sexual mystery and the potential for unhealthy sexual fantasies. The swimsuit through its short history is a good example of this. It was a coverall that has shrunk more and more through the years. Each increment has been considered provocative and sexually exciting. Today it has required the shaving of pubic hair to wear, yet it continues to shrink. The common knowledge amongst naturist is the experience that the clothing beaches are much more provocative that nudist beaches. Nudity is no more essentially sexual by nature than love, shape, texture or emotions, which are turn-ons that are neither obscene nor banned. Clothing focuses attention on sexuality, not away from it. Clothing often enhances immature forms of sexuality and discomfort, rather than promoting healthy body acceptance and emotional sharing. Nudity is still a serious offense in our legal system and a black flag socially.
The daily costume is a significant component of social security. Its loss is something many compulsively perceive as a threat. Things feared are repressed. Originally the Church’s aversion to nudity derived, in part, from its roots in the cultures of the ancient Near East, where nakedness had signified poverty, shame, slavery, humiliation, and defeat. Naked, bound prisoners were paraded in the king’s victory celebration, and slain enemies were stripped of clothing and armor. The exposed state is imagined to be just as vulnerable today in clothed society. Also, as a social armor, clothing is like putting on a ‘citizen’s uniform’ and agreeing to play the game. (Bacher, K. (2001, reason 192). Nudity is seen as an undesirable threat to social safety and order.
There is an assumption that nudity is an unacceptable dire concern in most people’s opinions. This simply and demonstrably is not true. A statistical view of acceptance of nudity is dramatic. Associated nude activities are popular with as much as a one third of the United States population and even more accepted internationally. A 1983 Gallup poll found that 14% of Americans occasionally enjoyed nude recreation. In how many activities, of any kind, does 14% of the American public participate? A 1983 Gallup poll revealed that 72% of Americans don’t think designated clothing-optional beaches should be against the law, and 39% agreed that such areas should be set aside by the government. Then one third said they might try going to one. A 1985 Roper Poll agreed, reporting that 18% of all Americans, including 27% of those age 18-28, and 24% of college-educated Americans, had already gone swimming in the nude with a group that included members of the other sex. Other studies suggest these numbers are on the increase. A Psychology Today study found that 28% of couples under the age of 35 swim in the nude together. A 1986 poll conducted by People Weekly asked people how guilty they would feel if they engaged in any of 51 activities, rating their probable guilt on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 represented the greatest feeling of guilt. Nude sunbathing came in second to last with a rating of 2.76. This was behind not voting (3.07), swearing (3.34), smoking (3.38), and overeating (4.43). In Europe, a 1995 poll conducted by a French fashion magazine found that only 7% of the population was shocked by the sight of naked breasts on the beach, and that 40% of women had tried going topfree. A 1982 Harris poll found that 86% of French citizens favor nudity on public beaches. One of Brazil’s most popular T.V. shows, “Pantanal,” has featured frequent nudity. A survey conducted by the local newspaper found that 83% of viewers were “comfortable” with the nude scenes (Bacher, K. (2001 reason 107). These statistics clearly don’t support the contention that mere nudity is worthy of criminal litigation. They show that nude recreation and lifestyle is a normality. So, why are there laws and social stigmas that make nude people outcast? Is there a place to draw a line as to where nudity laws should be enforced?
The secret of naturism:
Still, within the structure of society there are restrictions on the fulfillment of enjoying ones own body in relation to the natural world around it. There is amongst us, the woman whose family would frown on her nude activities or tease and embarrass her. The husband who doesn’t want to offend his wife’s opinion with his desires, which would probably upset his domestic tranquility, if not destroy it. We have people whose social standing in the community might be jeopardized. A teaching career might be lost because of a morals clause in the contract. There are persons who don’t live in any proximity to a sanctioned nude recreation facility. Those exist who are tempted to enjoy a quiet time during a walk in the forest to bask in the sun. A person, pent up, stressed or repressed, who knows that an afternoon of nudity has the effect of a vacation, yet must hide the activity in a clandestine manner and maybe release a sense of rebellion. Perhaps the spiritual seeker who must explore the relation of the body, spirit and mind in the universe, seeks to do this sky clad. There exists the couples who live in a more remote location and wish to share their nudity with each other. In a forest, a couple of friends discover a cool swimming hole on a hot day, but brought no swimming suit. All of these will have a tendency to have a dirty little secret by the end of the day. They may have found an exciting pleasure in liberation. These are the people who singularly found others that created the nude beaches and trails and resorts that are now common. These are very often the criminals who are arrested as exhibitionist. These people, if happened upon, may be ridiculed or shamed. These people are the seeds that modern naturism has grown from.
In a corner of the vast cyber space is a website called the Secret Naturist Society. It has accumulated extensive volumes of personal anecdotal evidence of a natural response to something that has given them a sense of injustice and repression of their nature and humanity. This fascinating website provides insight into the compelling drive to shed clothing. It describes how this evolves and how it is best done. It reveals the search for why people do it, and a comradely sense of belonging, know that they are not alone, sick or a lowly outcast flasher.
Why it is done? How is it that a reasonable person is compelled to do something as odd and adventurist as wandering around naked where he or she is not supposed to be naked? An insight might be found in a manifest from a European website where by the words naked and active are contracted to make the term Naktiv:
- We’re just fine, the way we are.
- We should not need to hide our naked bodies.
- We must be bold enough to be ourselves.
- Facing our fears can release much internalized potential energy.
- It is our duty to realize our full potential.
- The health of both our body and our spirit is improved by being naked whenever possible.
- We have a right to be shameless happy.
(Gramer A., 2008-2010).
To more accurately gather information, a poll was taken at the Secret Naturist Society website (The Secret Naturist Society). Reflected, is the average for each of the following questions from 36 voluntary responses from the more frequent posters:
The idea is you have to allocate 100 marks to the following statements, depending on how close they are to how you feel. That is, make them add up to a hundred. The scenario is a straightforward outing with no enforced nudity and no undue risk of being caught – just an average situation.
The statements are:
When I am taking part in secret naturism…
1. I enjoy the feeling of freedom and liberation
2. It’s a laugh
3. The danger of being discovered is a thrill
4. I feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment
- It makes me feel like a bit of a rebel
6. It’s relaxing and relieves stress
7. I feel at one with nature
8. I like the feeling of doing something just a little bit naughty
9. Other (please specify)
The greater given reasons for pursuing secret naturism were, “I enjoy the feeling of freedom and liberation”, “it’s relaxing and relieves stress”, and “I feel at one with nature.” This is not too far away from a walk in the woods, but if this were the sole reason, then the activity would be done in clothing. “Other” response was only 1.1 by the average. This is the only place to assign sexual satisfaction. The desire to shock or upset their target is moot. There is no target. The definition of exhibitionist is not fulfilled at all. The act of rebellion or being a little naughty does not connote anything from the action, but a passive aggression striking out at social constraints. It is cheating at a game one didn’t agree to play. So, why are these people being pursued and arrested after going to great lengths to mind their own business and not getting caught? They are no less compelled or with any other motive than the naturist who frequents the accepted venues of nudity. These people are not different, but for their courage, audacity, desperation, sensitivity, or willingness to take a risk.
In the Secret Naturist Society website, the more free range aspect has expanded the list of nude activities. These include, hiking, climbing in mountains high in the Alps or the Himalayas, geocaching, boating, nature worship in sacred areas, kayak sojourns, canoeing, bike riding, running, snow shoes, camping or traveling across country, an activity called a carnuding. All of these are done in a calculated way to avoid trouble and enjoy the levity of nudity (The Secret Naturist Society).
There is much activity around the homes where a nude lifestyle includes all of the daily chores of any typical life. Like cleaning, painting, home improvement, or taking out the trash. The unusual element is the avoidance of confrontation. Always, there is a calculated game, utilizing stealth, timing, angles of view and a multitude of other tricks. These are referred to as “the craft.” This is where a sense of accomplishment is enjoyed, as a day well done (The Secret Naturist Society).
In the Secret Naturist’s website there are accounts of what has been described as an extreme hide-and-seek. Usually it is in a higher risk urban or suburban setting. This stealthy travel is through neighborhoods with more people and risk of being caught up in an embarrassing situation. As kids would use bushes, trees or parked cars for cover, the secret naturist also does. There is an alertness described, using all of the senses in an adrenalin filed romp. The described clarity obviously is an exercise in a warrior’s mindfulness. As absurd as the situation is pictured, it is a courageous leap into life and being (The Secret Naturist Society). Curiously, although most of those arrested as exhibitionist are at the ages of twenty to thirty years old, the majority of the participants of this website are 40 to 60 years old. Some might find them old enough to know better.
Throughout naturist literature and circles are accounts of people agreeing to their finding that nudists seem more friendly, open-minded, considerate, respectful, and sharing than non-nudists in general. Their children are active, and healthy, both physically and mentally. None of these testimonies, of course, compares to personal experience. A single visit to a nudist park or a nude beach will not cause permanent harm to anyone. It is recommended by naturist that to truly understand, it is best to personally visit and experience a nudist park, or situation where one is accepted without clothing.
Many of those who have vacationed in such conditions report, that after staying socially unclothed in the warm sun for a few days, there is a sense that clothing, when donned again, is found to be confining and resentment is felt. The clothing is perceived as unnatural and so begins the impedance of the life of the secret naturist.
Throughout human history nudity and naturism have been accepted as a part of ourselves in cultures throughout the world. The evidence suggest that current legal structures that impose restrictions upon our persons are unjustified and with no pretense. They create the crime and give a place for exhibitionistic behaviors to germinate and occur. Exhibitionism as a disorder cannot exist without its social context. A healthy societal response to nudity is to realize this, explain acceptance of diversity to our children, and let the social order occur without restrictions. Perhaps the best answer to the question, “Why was grandma naked in the park when we visited?” is “Because she enjoys it.”
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Desk reference to the diagnostic criteria from DSM-IV-TR. American Psychiatric Association. Arlington, Va.
Bacher, K. (2001). 205 Arguments and Observations In Support of naturism. http://www.naturist.com/resources/PDF/205ARGUE.pdf
Charles, M., Ditzler, J., Hoffman Lee, N., Mayhew-Smith, Nick., Storey, M. (2007). The world’s best nude beaches and resorts. The Naturist Society LLC, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Foldvary, F. (1998). http://www.progress.org/fold34.htm
Frey, R. (2010). Encyclopedia of mental disorders. http://www.minddisorders.com/Del- Fi/Exhibitionism.html Advameg, Inc.
Gramer, A., Gramer, W., (2005-2008). http://www.nacktiv.de/
Rudofsky, B. (1971). The Unfashionable Human Body. Double Day, Garden City, NY.
Smith, C., Sparks, M. (1996). The naked child: Growing up without shame. Elysium Growth Press, Topanga, California.
The Secret Naturist Society. http://www.secretnaturistsociety.org/VII/
Ungewitter, R. (2005). Nakedness: In an historical, hygienic, moral and artistic light. The Ultra Violet Press, Riverside, California.
Note: The man hunt referenced by Bob Morton has since been linked to an investigation into a famous serial murderer who had been operating in that area. The helicopters, etc. were not for pursuit of mere nudity.
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Great reading, very informative.