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American nudism: Time for a proactive approach?

The words of MLK hold the ring of truth for naturists and nudists.
The words of MLK hold the ring of truth for naturists and nudists.Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

A recent Naturist Action Group article, "Report on the 'ACPO Project' & Uptake of the CPS Guidelines," not only captured my interest but also prompted me to think about ways something similar might be implemented in the U.S. to advance the cause of nudists and naturists.

First, for those unfamiliar with Naturist Action Group (NAG), as published on the website, it is "a campaign group with the sole aim of advancing naturism as a lifestyle of choice in British society." NAG was founded in April 2010 by individuals who believed that British naturists should take more control of their own destiny by working proactively to drive the naturist narrative in the United Kingdom rather than passively and defensively reacting to threats to the lifestyle and culture as such were manifested. Arguably there is a great need for a similar organization in this country.

The article referred to concerns the "ACPO project," a two-year old joint project lead by NAG and British Naturism. British Naturism is the official naturist society in the United Kingdom, the basic equivalent of American national organizations like the American Association for Nude Recreation and The Naturist Society.

In a nutshell the aim of the ACPO project is to promote a fairer and more consistent application of British Law with regard to nudity in public places. The position of NAG and BN was that personal views of police and judges on public nudity seemed to be driving the application of the law to the degree that enforcement reactions have often been disproportionate to any actual harm was done. As a result, simple nudity in public while not unlawful in the United Kingdom is quite often policed as if it is.

Basically British naturists are seeking the cooperation of authorities in not treating simple nudity as practiced by naturists as a criminal act when there is no sexual activity, lewdness or other intended harm associated with it. In other words they seek to have the law applied as written without it being colored by individual prejudices and perceptions among members of the constabulary or judiciary.

Clearly U.S. laws that regulate nudity in public places are far more stringent and oppressive to nudists and naturists than the laws in the United Kingdom. That is simply a reflection of the more repressed views on nudity in American society. In many instances simple nudity in public is unlawful in this country regardless of character or intent of it. That point serves to illustrate exactly why a strategy similar to the ACPO project is sorely needed in the U.S. However, the goal of such a project here would be significantly different.

Rather than advocating for more fairer and consistent application of current laws regulating public nudity, such a project would be more tailored toward proactively advocating for change of current laws so that simple public nudity in the absence of intent to alarm, public sexual activity or lewdness ceases to be criminalized.

It seems a given that a new NAG-like organization would be needed to achieve the aforementioned goals. Our current national nudist and naturist organizations are inarguably reactive rather than proactive. Both AANR and TNS are active in opposing new laws that seek to put further restrictions on the rights of American nudists and naturists to practice their lifestyle but little if anything is done toward advocating for change with regard to current laws on the books that regulate public nudity.

A new organization such as I propose would not be a competitor to either AANR or TNS but would simply be another layer of advocacy for nudist culture, aimed precisely at affecting change in the arena of state and local laws that tend to lump nude in with lewd. This could be better achieved by a new organization that didn't have to be concerned with the associated baggage of holding periodic gatherings or overseeing member clubs. What is described here is a national umbrella lobbying organization with local representatives in every state who would seek to build relationships with state and local legislators in an attempt to see that the interests of nudists and naturists were adequately represented.

As I have opinioned before, I believe public opinion will have to be changed before laws criminalizing simple nudity in this country will be changed. That makes the case for another discrete but complimentary role for such a new nudist/naturist advocacy organization, education. The organization would create, develop and execute strategies aimed at educating the general public about nudist culture in as many different venues as possible. This is another area that isn't being adequately addressed.

Clearly, establishing and successfully launching a new nudist/naturist advocacy and lobbing organization would be no easy task. A great deal of thought, planning and plain old-fashioned work would be needed not to mention the recruitment of a committed and dedicated cadre of volunteer advocacy leaders. As the recent petition initiative seemed to show, a localized organization of activist leaders is definitely needed to energize the base if a viable grassroots movement is to be successfully organized.

This idea is of course in its infancy and more thought will be put into it in the days ahead. In the meanwhile readers are encouraged to contribute their thoughts and opinions with regard to the viability and usefulness of a NAG-like organization in the U.S.

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