By Bill Schroer, AANR Executive Director-AANR
In a recent issue of the NUSA Sun, a nudist publication widely distributed in the Southeast, a staff columnist wrote a two-page critique of AANR and its direction. The author, who is not an AANR member, is entitled to her opinion. However, we felt the column deserved a reply and the publisher of NUSA Sun graciously accepted our offer of a response. See the original article online at http://nudistusa.com/news.php?
The American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) has an 80 year history of standing for social nudism as a philosophy of living that is healthy, positive and family friendly. We also believe we are worthy of inclusion at the table of mainstream society. That, however, is a work in progress.We recognize the bias regarding social nudism in this country and have worked carefully to change perceptions. While columns in this and other nudist publications routinely discuss nudism as if it were an everyday practice those conversations are the “inside baseball” of nudists talking to each other. The greatest part of the American public know little or have never heard of social nudism. When awareness does exist it is clouded with misperceptions of what we do and how we behave with some still believing us cloistered in “colonies.” A significant part of our (AANR) charge is to “introduce” social nudism to an American public that is (still) largely unaware of our existence.
It has, in fact, been a long road from 1930 and the American Sunbathing Association (former name of AANR). Those who brought social nudism to America from Germany selected the strategy of “bathing in the sun’s rays” with the entire body as plausible reason for societal tolerance (if not acceptance). The approach was critical, for conservative as American society is now, in the 1930s we were immersed in a post-Victorian puritanical hysteria…the echoes of which are still with us. Any suggestion nudism was accompanied by even a hint of sensuality (it actually feels good to be or live nude) let alone any sexual overtones would have led to an outlawing of the practice if not a few lynchings to boot.
Nudists today feel secure in the comfort of their nudist resort or club or on one of the (very few) public nude beaches but police raids on private nudist facilities were common until the 1950s. A court case which helped turn the tide occurred in Battle Creek, Michigan at Sunshine Gardens Nudist Resort. A police raid there in 1955 led to an (unusual) appeal from the nudists resulting in “Hildabridle vs. State of Michigan”. The resulting win for nudists was based on the State Supreme Court’s interpretation of the statute:
“that the statute is vague. indefinite, fails to define “open” or “indecent” exposure, is not sufficiently explicit to inform persons as to what conduct will render them liable to its penalties, and that it is, for these reasons, repugnant to the due process clause of the 14th Amendment and void; that it does not, by its terms, apply to the organized practice of nudism; that it is not violated by nakedness on private property; that nudity, per se, is not obscene and every exposure of the person not indecent, particularly when the exposure does not offend the morals or sense of decency of those present and there are no other overt acts of indecency or obscenity aside from the bare fact of nudity.”
Without dragging us through other cases and opinions, I will note this case reversed an earlier case (People vs.Ring) and demonstrates an open and thoughtful view of protection under the 14th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure) and the notion simply being nude is not indecent in and of itself.
AANR has the experience and understanding of history to recognize the progress we have made in the courts and with some legislators is neither complete nor “carved in stone.” To presume we are free to demonstrate nudism is an accepted way of life with attendant sensual and sexual components suggests a level of understanding among the American public we believe is not now present.
We have a clear view of the goal…acceptance of social nudism as a mainstream choice among ways to live in this country. This vision includes the ability to be nude in your home and on your property..even within view of others. It includes the ability to drive in your car nude, take your family to a nude beach or even to a grocery store nude. While everyone may have a different idea of what the future vision of nudism in America looks like we certainly want the “tent” to be large enough to include the full spectrum of living and recreating nude. The question of the strategy we use to get there is often the debate. Some accuse us of not moving fast enough, or of not recognizing that sensuality or sexuality are a part of nudism. Believe me, we recognize those realities. When and how we choose to overtly advocate for these elements to be accepted today by a public still largely unaware or understanding of our cause calls for intentionality and thoughtfulness.
We at AANR have the long view. Do we need to go faster, place ads in the New York Times, sponsor body painting contests or engage in any of the many tactics to heighten awareness and acceptance of social nudism in America? Moving forward to increase societal acceptance while minimizing the risk to hard fought gains is a delicate and important part of our work. Healthy debate regarding how and how quickly we get there is an important part of the democratic process and we invite more robust discussion on this very topic.