“I’m sorry sir. This is a clothing OPTIONAL establishment. Will that be with, or without your trousers?”
Clothing optional has always baffled me. It is something you don’t want to bump into by accident, and it is an issue where it helps if everyone is on the same page.
We bumped into a ‘clothing optional’ beach once when we took the kids camping. It was right next door. “Mommy, mommy, why are all those people bare naked?” is not what you are wanting to hear from your five-year-old.
Speaking of bare naked, we in Canada seem to flip-flop back and forth on this issue. Some years back the musical group The Bare Naked Ladies was playing a public venue, and the city of Toronto banned them because they found the name offensive. Until people complained. “No, we WANT bare naked ladies… I mean……”
It IS legal to go topless at least, in Canada whether you are a guy or a girl. This was established in the court ruling regarding defendant Gwen Jacob.
To quote Wikipedia, “On July 19, 1991, a very hot and humid day, Gwen Jacob, a University of Guelph student, was arrested, after walking down a street in Guelph, Ontario, while topless after removing her shirt when the temperature was 33 °C (91 °F) and was charged with indecency under Section 173(1)(a) of the Criminal Code. Police stated that they acted following a complaint from a woman who was upset that one of her children had seen Jacob topless.
Jacob stated she did it because men were doing it and she wanted to draw attention to the double standard. She was found guilty and fined $75. In her defence she argued that breasts were merely fatty tissue. In finding her guilty, the judge stated that breasts were "part of the female body that is sexually stimulating to men both by sight and touch," and therefore should not be exposed. She appealed, but her appeal was dismissed by the Ontario Court (General Division), and she further appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Jacob was acquitted on December 9, 1996, by the Ontario Court of Appeal on the basis that the act of being topless is not in itself a sexual act or indecent. The court held that “there was nothing degrading or dehumanizing in what the appellant did. The scope of her activity was limited and was entirely non-commercial. No one who was offended was forced to continue looking at her” and that furthermore “the community standard of tolerance when all of the relevant circumstances are taken into account” was not exceeded.
You see, it is a rare and delicate equation which factors in if you would like to be naked, if others would like you to be naked, and if in consenting to be naked, you are not offending anybody or making any money from it.
No one seems to care in Europe about this stuff. The beaches are fairly loaded with mutually consenting nudists, Madonna pits bared to the wind. Of course we here are in Canada and you might think that even if you leaned toward life in the all-together, it would be a seasonal activity at best. We have a ‘nudist resort’ not far from here that I am sure gets no business in the winter. In the summer it might be too sunny, too breezy, or too many darned mosquitoes just drooling over all that exposed flesh. Nudity might not come naturally, even for the naturalists.
The delicate balance of who gets to be naked and who objects can be a bit dicey. “Don’t look if you are offended”, they say. That is because a lot of times the people who get naked are not the ones you might wish to see in their natural state.
When I went to Art College, my mother was scandalized that we would be drawing from nude models. She had visions, no doubt, of Playboy Bunnies strutting their stuff up on a podium. The idea did cross my mind, until I actually started classes and realized that the human body comes in all shapes and sizes, and knowing all of them may not be the treat you were looking for.
This was established first day when we all had our drawing pads out, and a woman of a certain age climbed up onto the podium and struck a pose. She looked down at all those 18 year old guys looking vaguely embarrassed, and laughed. “Don’t worry honey” she said, if you are here you had better get used to a bit of nakedness. “Just pretend I am a telephone” she said.
And then there was a model named George who had settled into life in his birthday suit a long time ago. He was a large man, likely tipping the scales at around three hundred and fifty pounds or more. He was quite happy to be naked. He would not even put his clothes on during break time. He would wander around with his cigarette and perpetual can of Coke, handing out opinions on the various works of art. It was a bit awkward when he would show up behind you in all that nakedness and you would feel him brushing up against your back. Fortunately for all, George’s stomach stuck out further than other certain bodily appendages. Still, beauty notwithstanding, it was kind of discomfiting to see anybody the age of your parents completely naked.
We get this at home, and it perhaps establishes that we are of a certain age. “Oh my God, Dad, put a shirt on!” I get from the girls. My wife gets the same treatment. “What?” she will say, baffled. “We are family. What’s wrong? You never saw anybody naked before?”
Of course this comes down to the issue that one man’s meat is… I mean, what suits the goose does not necessarily suit the gander. There is an annual event, the Bare Naked Bike Ride. I am not sure who thought of this, but my eldest daughter stumbled upon it by accident when a bunch of naked cyclists suddenly rode past her in downtown Toronto. If you are planning for such an event is one thing, surprise is another matter altogether. Some people are always offended, and others enjoy looking at all those dangly bits bouncing around in total freedom. It is obvious that the subject of nudity is completely subjective, and will remain so despite what anybody says.
The fact is, if beauty were the standard, very few people should ever be naked, and certainly not past a certain age. If you are beyond your best-before date, you had better find another mutually consenting person of like age to be naked with. It makes me wonder in the Garden of Eden just who came to the idea first, that bit about the fig leaves. “Adam why are you looking at me in such a funny way?” said she, who knew no sin (yet).
There are those people for whom nakedness is part of their profession. I am talking about doctors of course. They don’t get a choice and it is likely they have to keep their personal opinions to themselves. I wonder if they ever get to the point where it is just another day in the sausage factory, seen one, seen them all. Or do they inwardly wince in relief when they can say, “ok, your clothes are over there. You can cover up now.”
“Naked I was born, and naked I will leave this world”, said Job in the Bible. We will get our share of being covered and uncovered in the course of a lifetime. Whether everyone agrees at the same time that it is a great idea, well that is another matter altogether. You may gaze at your clothing-challenged three-year-old and think that nakedness is endearing, still others may gaze upon your unclad form and think that modesty was the greatest invention, EVER. Clothing optional. Viewer discretion is advised.