The Weekly Nudesletter
Vol. 1, No. 11
April 23, 1998


Article: A Surfeit of News

Nudity in the News

Notes on Nudity: Jock Sturges

A Surfeit of News

It's my own fault for getting so far behind in putting out this newsletter. Sometimes, of course, there is almost no real "news" to report. But the past month wasn't one of those times.

As a result, we have quite a bunch of news stories about nudity to offer. Perhaps it's just the advent of spring in the northern hemisphere, but it seems as though people are going naked more than ever - or at least the press is reporting it more. And often, surprisingly, in an even-handed, responsible way. That may be news in itself.

In any case, we'll forego most of our other usual content this time in order to sample the latest news of the nude. And we'll try to have the next issue out much more promptly.

Nudity in the News

Body Shop's Ruby too frightening for Hong Kong
Demonstrating that the American midwest is not the only "modern" society afraid to confront the appearance of real women, Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway has rejected Body Shop posters of "Ruby" on its premises. Ruby is a full-figured, nude doll which has been used in Body Shop's ads for several months. (See the news item in the Vol 1, No. 1 issue for some history.) A spokesman for the MTR claimed that Ruby "would cause offense to passengers". Of course, MTR regularly does allow lingerie ads with semi-naked fashion models.

TV fashion show presents a fair program on nudists
Well, it wasn't really about the joys of wearing nothing at all, but it was probably much more than one would have hoped for from a television show called Fashion Emergency Makeovers on the E! Channel. Why would nudists be concerned about "fashion"? Well, the premise is that a young nudist couple is suddenly presented with the necessity of attending a clothing-mandatory dinner party arranged by the man's parents, and they want to make the best possible impression on Mom and Dad.

We can pass right by the details of what the show's producers thought might be an improvement on nudity and note some of the positives. The main thing is that the people were treated fairly as reasonable people, some time was spent explaining nudism, and it was treated as a legitimate lifestyle. The last part of the segment even allowed the couple to turn the tables on the experts and present nudist fashion tips. These included sunblock, the 'N' terrycloth wrap, various coverups and robes, and the TNS T-shirt.

There's a summary of the show here.

Nude joy rides
Nude joy riding may be on the upswing. In Tallahassee, Florida, a nude teen-age couple out for a bit of fresh air had the misfortune of running into another vehicle at an intersection. But all was not lost, since they did bring clothes with them. The driver managed to put on her underwear before rescuers were able to extricate her from the car. You can find more details here.

Unfortunately, it's still possible to get into trouble driving nude, even if you don't have an accident. A 46-year-old woman was chased by police from five agencies in the small college town of Alma, Michigan after other drivers called to report a naked motorist. Evidently, this is the a matter of compelling interest to Michican law enforcement officers. The miscreant nudist was eventually apprehended after a chase at speeds of up to 110 mph.

Another federal court ruling against women
Following the lead of the Supreme Court, which refused to consider an important "topfreedom" case late last year (see Vol. 1, No. 5), the federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has ruled that male and female breasts are not equal in the eyes of the law. The court found that "public exposure of the female breast ... almost inevitably convey's sexual overtones." Of course, it is primarily to men that such overtones are conveyed, while the "overtones" which might be conveyed to women by men's chests are, apparently, irrelevant. And is it possible that Court hasn't noticed that "sexual overtones" are not exactly uncommon in many areas these days? (Well, it's long been said that justice is blind.) The thinking is no less backward than that in Muslim countries where women must be entirely concealed, out of concern for the sexual "overtones" that men might discern even in a woman's smile.

A copy of the court's ruling may be found here.

Naked tax protest
Or perhaps, just a publicity stunt. In any case, April 15 has a way of inducing out-of-the-ordinary behavior. One example: a rock music station near Washington, D. C. offered free concert tickets to anyone who would bare their hindquarters at the IRS headquarters to pass out morning donuts to employees. Two people took them up on the offer.

A tax on nudity?
Meanwhile, out in the hinterlands, officials in Wisconsin, desperate for new things to tax, are struggling with how to apply a tax on "pornography". However, since no coherent definition of that term has ever been discovered, they are faced with the vexing question of whether the law, as written, may require a special sales tax on raunchy candy, risque greeting cards, or nude house-cleaning services.

Austrian nude ski resort
It isn't really news, since the Schilcherhaus guest house in Obertraun, Austria, has been in business for 15 years. But the fact that the Schilcherhaus is a popular base for nude cross-country skiing in the Salzkammergut lake district has apparently just come to the attention of a Reuters feature writer. The guest house is located at an altitude of 5800 feet in the Austrian Alps, and the town of Obertraun is described as "Europe's nudist skiing mecca". Since this is Europe, the local tourist board is proud rather than embarassed by the attraction.

Nude skiing isn't as cold as it may sound - with enough exertion and high-altitude sunshine, frostbite is less of a danger than sunburn. But if the idea is daunting nevertheless, the town has an answer: during the summer Obertraun features a clothing-optional beach on the lake.

Park Service proposes to ban nudity at traditionally CO Hawaiian beach
Back in the US of A, however, some places remain hostile to clothes-free recreation. The National Park Service has just published a notice in the Federal Register of a proposed permanent ban on nude use of the traditionally clothing-optional Honokohau Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. The claim is that "The existing practice of recreational public nudity is in conflict with the enabling legislation of the park and the traditional values of native Hawaiian culture." There is plenty of room to dispute these "traditional values", however. Visitors to Hawaii little more than 100 years ago noted that nudity among the native people was common - such as the report by Mark Twain in our article in Vol. 1, No. 8. But the proposal is still open for public comment. Take a look at the NAC Alert on this matter for much more background information. (And review the other Alerts while you're there to get some idea of how many similar threats to nude recreation there are currently in the U. S.)

Mazo Beach problem
While nude recreation opportunities are under pressure almost everywhere in the U. S., there are encouraging signs that reason is able to prevail when naturists and public officials actually cooperate. At Wisconsin's popular Mazomanie Beach a problem has arisen due to inappropriate behavior by non-naturists who misunderstand the meaning of nude recreation. The hopeful sign is that officials recognize that naturists themselves are upset by this and want to work with authorities to clean things up. As one official pointed out, "The traditional people are offended by this, and they've brought it to our attention." Here's a news article to check for more details.

The University of Michigan Naked Mile
Nudity is controversial in our society; there's no doubt about that. The problem isn't the nudity itself, but rather a combination of tendencies in our society towards selfish and immature behavior. Those tendencies are in action at Mazo Beach (above article), and in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Since 1986 there has been a tradition on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for (some) students, on the night after classes for the spring quarter are over, to drop their clothes and run naked through the streets. The event has come to be known as the "Naked Mile". It is estimated that about 1000 students participated last year, and about 250 of those were women.

Unfortunately, selfishness and immaturity have tarnished a great thing. The 1997 run attracted a crowd estimated at 10,000, and in any group that size, it seems, there must be a few bad apples. City officials put out warnings a few days before this year's run regarding videotapes of past events being sold on the Web, lewd comments directed at women, and even gropings.

To their great credit, the authorities stopped there and did not attempt to prevent the run or arrest any runners. And the worst fears of violence and assaults proved unfounded. But the warnings did significantly diminish the runners' ranks to only about 500, with perhaps only 60 women. Officials would still like to "tone down" the event in the future. Let's hope they find a way to address the real issue: the bad manners of some of the boozed-up spectators, rather than by curtailing a great experience for the participants.

As one young woman observed, "It's just so free. You're running down by the place where you go to classes every day and you're butt-naked." It would be a shame to lose that opportunity.

Go here for more on this year's run.

Ann Arbor YMCA rents its pool for clothing-optional swims
Overall, the attitudes towards nudity in Ann Arbor, at least on the part of people who aren't too immature and boozy, seem to be pretty fair. The Southeast Michigan Naturists club has had no problem renting YMCA facilities for their private swim parties. Officials of the local Y see this as no different from renting to any other responsible group - and the local paper found this fact newsworthy enough to report it.

Charges dropped against X-Plicit Players
In another college town, on the West Coast, reason and good common sense have also prevailed. Berkeley, California (of all places) has for several years had an anti-nudity ordinance. But a street theater group known as the X-Plicit Players has stubbornly resisted this infringement on legitimate artistic freedom of expression. (See our review of their Web site in Vol. 1, No. 9.)

Local authorities have repeatedly tried using the city ordinance to prosecute these uppity naked people. But they have been foiled when juries simply refused to deliver convictions on the misdemeanor charges (which speaks eloquently about "community standards" in Berkeley). So officials tried to change the charges to an "infraction", for which the defendants could not demand a jury trial. They have been foiled again, when a judge ruled against this type of legal chicanery, and dismissed the latest charges. Maybe now they'll stop wasting Berkeley taxpayers' money on frivolous prosecutions.

Art Bar Opens in Philadelphia
Speaking of freedom of artistic expression... impecunious artists needing live models to inspire their efforts with sketching, painting, or watercolors often can't afford to hire individual models or find affordable public art classes. Now, thanks to Philadelphia entrepreneur David Simons, they have an alternative.

Three times a week the Art Bar brings in an experienced (nude) artist's model to pose for would-be art makers, who in "real life" may be teachers, librarians, or graphic designers. Liquid refreshment (beer) is also available for sale, and the proprietor attempts to package it all in a suitably bohemian atmosphere with music, poetry readings, and dim lighting. Customers (including many women) describe the ambiance as "relaxing" and "cathartic".

More information here.

Notes on nudity

Report on a talk by Jock Sturges

The following first-person report was written by William C. Mitchell and is used here with permission.

On March 7 Jock Sturges gave in imformal talk at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery (138 N. La Brea Ave (213) 937-0765) His show at the Gallery runs thru April 14 and opened on March 6. The talk was publicized in the LA Weekly Issue of March 6 - 12. The talk was to start at 3 PM and I got there about 2:30 I looked at the 25 16x20 prints was I worked my way up to the counter. The small gallery was packed with people. The prints were beautiful and as a photographer myself I know what hard work goes into creating fine art. I bought a signed copy of the one book that I did not have. When Mr. Sturges got into the Gallery it was decided to split the talk into two parts because of the crowded conditions. So some people left and had to come back at 4 PM.

Mr. Sturges stood in the middle of the gallery and pointed at the photographs as he talked about the stories of his subjects. And when you hear the man talk about the people he photographs you learn quickly that "subjects" is the wrong word to describe the relationship between this artist and the individuals and families he works with. If the critics of Mr. Sturges could hear him talk, perhaps they might understand. The story of Fanny was very moving. I wish Sturges or Fanny herself would publish her story in writing. The story of Misty Dawn who attended the opening was also a story worth putting into print.

Another "Model" (I think friend is a better word) was there at the Saturday talk but I am not sure of her name. She said that after 5 minutes she forgot that everyone was nude, when she described a trip to France.

There were some questions about being a naturist. I think I was not the only naturist present. Sturges also talked about the legal problems that he is in. Seeing the artwork and hearing the artist talk made for a very nice afternoon.

William C. Mitchell
March 1998

More about Jock Sturges

The story keeps generating a lot of press. Here are some additional references.
Sturges interview in Metro
This interview with Jock Sturges in Silicon Valley's Metro weekly newspaper is must reading. There are some samples of his work here too.
Availability of Sturges' books
A related article in the same issue of Metro points out that local Barnes & Noble store managers may be reluctant to discuss or sell Sturges' books. Don't worry. Barnes & Noble isn't the best place to buy books anyhow. Try your local independent bookseller, or one of the online stores like Alt.bookstore or
Statement on the Jock Sturges controversy
By the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Borders Books and Music. (Issued in October, 1997.)

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