There has been a lot of talk on prostitution going around the Students For Liberty site as of late, enticed by my own article (sorry, guys!) and it got me thinking about another right that deals first and foremost with what people are allowed to do with their own bodies. The topic is tricky, and we have actually debated it in one of our meetings if I remember correctly, and the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became of my conclusion.
The human body is a wonderful thing, and it’s something that all of us happen to have (go figure, eh?). However, concealing the human form, hiding it from sight, has been in practice ever since the beginning of the written human history back with the Egyptians, and far before that. Whether you believe we hide the human form due to the modesty and shame that Adam and Eve acquired upon being cast from Eden or due to some other, evolutionary mechanism, my question here is this: why is it such a big deal?
Public indecency laws exist in every state with different penalties and severities, but the fact still remains that, for some reason, we seem to feel that the government needs to step in to indicate when, where, and under what circumstances it is okay for someone to choose not to wear clothing. Wearing clothes is a personal choice. We all have different tastes, but those tastes can’t legitimatize wearing nothing at all. I don’t understand this. The human figure is natural and normal, why is there such a big fuss about it?
Most of our problems with public nudity are cultural. Within the American culture, the naked human body is seen as something obscene and strictly sexual. The only time many of us are exposed to seeing a completely nude body other than our own is within the confines of a rated R movie or trashy magazine, and this only further identifies it into that negative stereotype. Due to this, the naked figure is torn to pieces and further demonized, strengthening the social taboo.
However, half-clad women are all right on the cover of Cosmopolitan and Allure as long as they are sexy celebrities, and the un-sexy ones are allowed for the sake of gossip on People. From what I can see, our views on nudity and sexuality are skewed. Risqué and sensual, half-naked men and women are completely acceptable, whereas being naked in a totally normal, everyday, non-lewd fashion is still prohibited by law.
Simply walking around nude is perfectly acceptable. As far as I’m concerned it infringes upon no one’s rights, and if someone so chooses not to wear clothes I see absolutely no problem with that. The mere act of being naked is entirely normal and natural, and it is not something the government should tell us we can or cannot do. I chose to put clothing on this morning, but if I hadn’t who am I really hurting? The people who are lucky enough to see my beautiful, naked form? I think not.
I know what you’re thinking. “Not everyone is as stunningly good-looking as you are, Mary! This logic is ridiculous!” But I have to disagree. It isn’t about whether or not people look good naked, it’s about whether or not they have the right to choose to be, and I believe they do.
But it still stands: is the fact (and yes, sadly, it is a fact) that it could offend people enough to condemn it? I think not. No matter what anyone does, we cannot remove every ounce of offensive material from the world. Have you ever driven down the highway and seen a billboard hanging high that says, “Jesus saves?” That right there could be considered offensive material, because I certainly have never seen anything preaching about Buddha, Muhammad, or Satan up on those boards. What about the Montana Meth Project? Not everyone appreciates being exposed to everything they see every day, and yet we let it slip through. Why should the naked body be any different?
Of course, there are things that really would not be okay publically. Sexual conduct, for example, but merely walking around without clothes on is far from that. There is a very big difference between being inappropriate and being, well, naked.
Yet there are less “moral” reasons that speak against public nudity, but none of these are completely justified either. Sanitation is the biggest issue I’ve run across. Sexually Transmitted Infections are the major worry, but it works much the same way as any other sickness. If you are infected, it is your responsibility to take care of yourself. What do you do when you have the flu? You certainly don’t go about and infect the whole world, do you? You get yourself to a doctor and make yourself healthy again. There are ways to prevent spreading illness, with or without clothing.
But then there are the STIs you can’t ever get rid of, such as HIV, HPV, and herpes. What do we do about those? Viruses actually don’t live long outside of the human body, so HIV, HPV, and herpes wouldn’t be a problem. The only way to contract many of these diseases is through intercourse, needle sharing, or any other situation where bodily fluid is directly exchanged or skin-to-skin contact is made, and if left stagnant on non-human surfaces they will die and become harmless.
There’s more than that, though. Safety could very well be an issue, as well, but not a big enough issue to demand its illegalization. Walking around naked could, theoretically, increase the chance of one getting attacked, whether verbally or physically, and potentially raped (as my sister and roommate pointed out), but again this is not necessarily true. The way we dress already dictates how certain people treat us sometimes. Being naked is as much as a lifestyle as dressing in any stereotypical fashion. If I were to wear the hijab I would be instantly classified and, potentially, judged based on that.
As for rape, I’m sorry, but I doubt that someone would randomly pick a woman up in broad daylight if she’s not strolling down some questionable neighborhood. Unless she is waltzing around town alone at midnight in her birthday suit, which isn’t a smart decision whether or not she is wearing clothing, this chance is minimal. I do not believe that the rape rate would rise simply because some women would make the conscious decision not to wear clothes.
Sexual promiscuity is also questionable. Would the fact that there are people walking around without clothing on make the society a more sexually rich environment? I don’t believe so. Think of it this way: just because being naked would be legal, we must take into consideration the human condition. How many people, in reality, would make that choice? I highly doubt that there would be enough nude people walking around to promote such a thing. Just legalizing it would not mean that everyone would choose it. I would be willing to bet that less than ten percent of the population would actually do so. However, even if that number was as high as fifty percent, would it really be a problem?
There are many situations where the vast majority of the population is naked. Nude beaches, clubs, and resorts are common in some places. Within these societies, there is no increase in sexual promiscuity, diseases, or anything of the sort. Nothing that we worry about with public nudity in our society actually comes to life within these institutions. If places where everyone is naked aren’t any worse than places where no one is, why is there such a fear of mixing the two?
The point still stands that my body is mine to do with what I will. There is nothing wrong with nakedness, and the government doesn’t need to step in and tell me what I can and cannot do. If I get to choose the kind of clothing I wear, why can I not simply choose not to wear any at all?