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The tyranny of the intolerant

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In May 2013, WVTM Channel 13 in Birmingham, Alabama, published an article on the news channel's website, "13 INVESTIGATES: Alabama's Nude Ranches." The piece primarily focused on the establishment of a new nudist resort in Blount County, Alabama, by Cindi and Lee Beasley. The new resort had proven controversial and caused a good deal of consternation on the part of the Beasley's neighbors.

The Beasleys constructed a fence on the boundaries of their property and another around the pool area. They maintained that all nudity was confined to areas screened from public view by the fences but some neighbors maintained that the fences were insufficient and that naked people on the property of the resort were routinely seen from the public road.

Most critical of the resort cited concerns about children seeing nude adults. But based on the interviews conducted with neighbors by Channel 13, at the heart of the controversy was simply the fact that many neighbors simply opposed the idea of having a nudist resort in their community. That is very evident from a few of the online comments appended to the article.

[More from Dallas Nudist Culture Examiner: Modesty is a state of mind]

One person identifying as a neighbor wrote, "I am also a neighbor and was friends with the Beasleys. They were great neighbors but this is disrespect when they knew no one wanted this. It's time for us to speak out. Their property isn't some tucked away resort. It's only 3 acres surrounded by children. These parents do not want their children exposed to such immoral behavior. I could care less if they were naked on a secluded spot. That just isn't the case here. I go to church with those sweet kids and to know they have to go through other children bothering them about this hurts my heart. You want to be naked go ahead. Go somewhere private and don't push your lifestyle on us."

Another commenter wrote, "This county & world has enough problems without having people with little to no morals parading around showing our children that as long as you are behind a fence you can be naked."

This example from Alabama illustrates a couple of things. The good citizens of Blount County, Alabama, who view simple nudity as immoral and indecent on the basis of their conservative moral views charge the Beasleys with "pushing their lifestyle on them" and object. Clearly they don't see a problem with the fact that they are at the same time pushing their beliefs on the Beasleys and everyone else by demanding that everyone should be subject to their prudish, old-fashioned moral conventions.

The other thing this situation demonstrates is that opponents of nudism and naturism aren't ever going to be satisfied with stamping out just public clothing optional areas. They also quite clearly feel entitled to try and stop people from practicing nudity on their own property even when reasonable precautions are taken to keep nudity out of the public view.

As alluded to many times, this country is shifting towards greater moral conservatism. The referenced story from Alabama is one example of that. But consider another example mentioned in the article. In 2000 the Naturist Education Foundation commissioned a survey that found that 80-percent of the adults polled thought nude sunbathing should be allowed in designated areas. In a similar poll commissioned by NEF In 2006, that number dropped to 75-percent.

[SAY YES to more clothing-optional access by signing the petition: Learn more here]

In 2009 another similar poll was commissioned by NEF where adult residents of California were polled and only 70-percent of those polled agreed that areas should be set aside for people who enjoy nude sunbathing and swimming. In addition only 68-percent agreed that people have the right to be nude in their homes or on their property, even if they may occasionally be visible to others.

Reasonable people can concede that people exposed to nudity without their consent might be distressed or offended due to their own prejudices with regard to simple nudity. The questions such unenlightened individuals should ask themselves is why viewing nudity provokes such shock and disgust and whether those are really healthy responses.

There are three fundamental reasons why most people feel uncomfortable when confronted by unexpected nudity, says Brian Ferris, a psychologist from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

  • "It is the fault of our parents. When we were children, our parents discouraged us from showing our genitals at a certain point, and made us uncomfortable with running around naked. That’s parental teaching and we never quite overcome it.”
  • "Nudity causes conflicted feelings. At one level we want to accept it, and at another level we want to condemn it. When we have conflicting feelings inside us that causes stress that leads to anxiety.”
  • "Nudity forces us to make the connection between nudity and sex. Young children will not feel the least bit self-conscious at a nude beach or a nudist colony. But then when they hit their teenage years, suddenly it becomes very weird. At that point the nude other person can potentially provoke feelings. And we become anxious because we’re pushing down our feelings. What makes us anxious is not the feeling of attraction but trying to get rid of the feelings. It has little to do with morality.”

It isn't naturists and nudists who are weird and anti-social. It is actually members of clothed society who cling to archaic social norms regarding morality and modesty who could most benefit from some psychological counseling to rid themselves of their deep-seated ambivalence about something as normal and natural as the naked human body.

Those who enjoy and practice clothes free living and nude recreation don't try to push their lifestyle on anyone. There are a number of religious sects that go uninvited to people's doors and attempt to push their philosophies on others but nudists don't do that.

Aren't there a few more pressing matters to occupy the minds and energies of people who spend so much time worrying about the fact that some people enjoy relaxing without clothes on? Pervasive violence and intolerance often cloaked in politically correctness to make it appear palatable are a couple that come to mind.

There is a word for those who self-righteously condemn nudists and naturists as immoral. The term is intolerant. Intolerance is an unwillingness to accept view, beliefs and behavior that differ from one's own. The tyranny of intolerance is really what's immoral.

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