In the previous week, two short videos were deleted by Tumblr staff from my secondary blog as “sexually explicit”. Troubles never comes alone. A few days later my Vine account was suspended, due to “sexually explicit content”, I suppose. Those videos were related to my personal naturist lifestyle and I was ready for something like that. So I’ve decided to close Vine account and undertake my own investigation into the dark world of forbidden and obscenity. What content should be allowable? Or, much more widely, what restrictions may society impose on the individual? May society impose lifestyle rules? I’ve started from the theory of law.

In 1859, John Stuart Mill wrote the classical essay On Liberty. The object was “to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control”. Mill has come to conclusion that “the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” [1]. This point of view is known as so-called harm principle. In contrast to Mill, paternalists (from the Latin pater – father) want to “protect people from themselves, as if their safety were more important than their liberty”, having in mind not only to prevent doing harm to other people, but also to prevent self-harm [2].

In both approaches, the main issue remains unsolved: What is harm? In our context, is nudity to be restricted on grounds of harm [3]? Is public nudity harmful? Or does it represent an act “often criminally prohibited”, but, in fact, victimless and harmless?

Whilst it may be questioned whether “violations of good manners” (such as going nude in public place) are genuine harms, Mill “appears to take the view of some contemporary writers that they may be banned because they cause avoidable distress or embarrassment” [4]. In some sense, Mill contradicts his own statement that “we cannot expect to be protected against things which offend us but do us no actual harm”. You may dislike someone’s habits, political beliefs, or clothes he or she wears (or does not wear), but the problem is with you and not him or her. You have no right to insist that someone change lifestyle to make your life more comfortable.

This is not just a theoretical problem about good and bad manners. “For decades, the US courts have struggled with how the law should treat materials that may be offensive to the general public” [5]. According to the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, “nudity alone is not enough to make material legally obscene”. The Court’s 1973 guidelines for defining obscenity, laid out in the case of Miller v. California, are still being used today as the basic test to determine if something is obscene [5,6]:

  • the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest
  • the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law
  • the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Law experts explain that “in simple terms, it’s not obscenity unless is shows “hard core” sexual conduct that’s clearly and plainly offensive. There’s no national standard or rule about what’s obscene and what’s not. It’s up to you and other members of your community to determine that. What you and your neighbors consider obscene may not be so to people in another state or city” [5].

Since, on the one hand, “nudity alone is not enough”, while, on the other hand, the only more or less unbiased criteria of obscenity is “patently offensive” sexual conduct, we can propose our very simple principle that may be helpful in solving the problem. Imagine you observe nude people on the beach, or that you see a photo or video depicting people in the nude. Then, in your mind, cover the nudity with some clothes. If, after that mental procedure, you decide that you are observing a conduct which is definitely non-sexual, it was non-sexual even before the addition of that imaginary clothes.

A few words in conclusion. “The Netherlands instituted a policy in 2006 of showing prospective immigrants an official educational video on Dutch culture that includes scenes of the country’s nude beaches” [3]. Maybe educational videos that include scenes of nudist living should be shown to a wider audience.

References
[1] John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, London: Longman, Roberts, & Green Co. 4th edition, 1869.
[2] Christopher B. Gray, The Philosophy of Law: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, Taylor & Francis, 1999.
[3] Anita Allen, Unpopular Privacy: What Must We Hide? Oxford University Press, 2011.
[4] Geoffrey Scarre, Mill’s ‘On Liberty’: A Reader’s Guide, A&C Black, 2007.
[5] Pornography, Obscenity and the Law BY LAWYERS.COM
[6] Art on Trial: Obscenity and Art

It’s hard to write something new about selfies. Everyone knows that the word “selfie” was announced the word of the year for 2013 (by the Oxford Dictionaries). Wikipedia defines “selfie” as “a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone. Selfies are often shared on social networking services” [1].

The first photographic portrait ever taken is considered by many to be the first “selfie”. It was taken in 1839 by “an amateur chemist and photography enthusiast from Philadelphia named Robert Cornelius” [2]. Another point of view is that “people have taken self-portraits since the 1880s, when camera shutters with self-timers were first available. This increased in 1900 with the debut of the portable Kodak Brownie box” [3]. According to Oxford Dictionaries, the earliest usage of the term – “so far anyway” – was in September 13, 2002 in an ABC Online science forum posting [4,5].

People are taking selfies, trying to find self discovery and self-acceptance, due to boredom or simply for memories. “The abundance of selfies also quite simply allows us to see more images of a far wide range of people” [6].

If you are a nudist and you take a selfie, there’s a high probability that it would be a nude selfie. Many people are outraged by nudity for unknown reasons and, of course, those offended by the sight of naked man or woman cannot “just look away” [7]. There’s a dilemma. On the one hand, you don’t want to harm anybody’s feelings. On the other hand, it seems quite ridiculous to put on clothes just to take a selfie.

The wrong cultural understanding of nudity has a long history. More than 400 years ago, Michel de Montaigne opposed treatment of nudity as something taboo. In his Essays (Book III/Chapter V) he wrote about men’s “natural furniture”

… it were a chaster and more fruitful usage to let them [women] know the fact as it is betimes, than permit them to guess according to the liberty and heat of their own fancy; instead of the real parts they substitute, through hope and desire, others that are three times more extravagant …

and continued

what do we know but that Plato, after other well-instituted republics, ordered that the men and women, old and young, should expose themselves naked to the view of one another, in his gymnastic exercises, upon that very account … [8]

Montaigne argues that “the wearing of clothing for humans is only a custom” [9]. And there is nothing wrong in having different views on customs.

References
1. Selfie – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
2. Robert Cornelius’ Self-Portrait The First Ever “Selfie” (1839) | The Public Domain Review
3. Albert Costill, 13 Things You Should Know About the ‘Word of the Year’ – Selfie | Search Engine Journal
4. Australia stand up and take a ‘selfie’
5. This photo, posted on ABC Online, is the world’s first known ‘selfie’ – ABC News
6. Jill Walker Rettberg, Why people say they take selfies | jill/txt
7. Rosie Yates, Why are we so outraged by nudity? – Concrete
8. The Essays of Montaigne by Michel de Montaigne, translated by Charles Cotton
9. Stefanie Hollmichel, Montaigne the Nudist?

Self-portrait 04/01/13 by Vadim aka t-maker | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Nude Selfie. Self-portrait 04/01/13 by Vadim aka t-maker | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

P.S. This selfie is from the set uploaded to Flickr. The images were taken with iPhone using a Hipstamatic app for iOS.

Spring has come, time to do some cleaning. I personally feel great, when I have an opportunity to work in my birthday suit. I used to think that (almost) everything we do can be done in the nude. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to make a small investigation and discovered that:

  • “Many witches like to work in the nude, for the subtle energies of the body are more free without cloth to restrict them” [1].
  • “Apparently (and historically accurate), working nude in the day of Jesus was quite common. Men in the fields were known to work nude. Carpenters worked nude on hot days… to see a man or a gardener working in the garden without clothes was not uncommon or shocking” [2].
  • Ritual nudity has been explained with a variety of provenances, including Celtic practices, the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris, ancient Greek and Roman practices of working nude or in ‘loose flowing garments'” [3].
  • “The Bible records that Peter was working nude at fishing” [4].
  • “Working nude has some virtues. So much of our artificial social identity is bound up in our clothes, when we cast them off we become better able to perceive our essential being. Unfortunately, the drawbacks of working naked outweigh the advantages. Most people simply cannot disrobe and be at ease in the company of a group of others” [5].
  • “… as early as 1946, Adolph and Molnar (1946) reported that when working nude at 0°C [32°F], subjects became exhausted and confused within about 1 h even though they were exercising at a rate that they could easily sustain for 4 h in warmer conditions” [6].
  • Going to work in the nude is something most of us only experience in our nightmares. But for thousands of Australians who work from home, it’s a dream come true. Today, the advantages of working from home will be celebrated with Work In The Nude Day… Dozens of brave solo business people will bare all while going about their usual work day” [7].
  • “Author Cynthia Froggatt (2001) refers to the increased tendency for people to work from the privacy of their own homes as ‘working naked’, and points out its many advantages to both organizations and individuals, including enormous savings of time previously spent commuting from home to work, enormous savings of money previously used to rent and maintain workplaces, and increased flexibility, creativity and productivity” [8].

References
1. Teresa Moorey, First Steps in Witchcraft: Flash, Hachette UK, 2011
2. Hol = An opening + Ly = for the living
3. Joanne Pearson, A Popular Dictionary of Paganism, Routledge, 2013.
4. Dale E. Arskware, New Days of Glory, Dorrance Publishing, 2010.
5. Donald Tyson, Ritual Magic: What It Is and How to Do It, Llewellyn Publications, 1992.
6. Thomas Reilly, Advances in Sport, Leisure and Ergonomics, Routledge, 2003.
7. Celebrate Work in the Nude Day
8. Rodney H. Jones, Christoph A. Hafner, Understanding Digital Literacies: A Practical Introduction, Routledge, 2012.

Me sweeping the floor. The photos are partly inspired by the German edition of H&E naturist. All images can be found in my Flickr Photostream and deviantart gallery.

There is one mystery that continues to evade scientists of numerous disciplines like “archaeology, anthropology, and zoology, as well as the evolutionary, psychological, and sociological branches of biology”: “why, comparatively, man’s penis is so disproportionately large” [1,2]?

It is true that “virtually all human penises are big in comparison with those of the other 192 primate species. Flaccid, the penis of the gorilla and the orangutan, both with much bigger bodies, is virtually invisible; erect, it reaches 1.5 inches or less; the chimpanzee, man’s closest relative (sharing 98 percent of his DNA) achieves an erection twice that of the other two apes but still only one-half the average human one” [2]. It seems obvious that this human superiority cannot be explained solely by the requirements of sexual reproduction, since “the male ape successfully propagates his kind with much less”. So another theory is put forward that “the human penis has also become an organ of display, like a peacock’s tail or a lion’s mane” [3].

Jared Diamond states in [3] that “the human penis is an organ of display … intended not for women but for fellow men” and the main role of this organ is to pose a threat or emphasize a status. But, I think, there is one problem with this explanation. Not only human males are generously endowed by the nature. “Human females are unique in their breasts, which are considerably larger than those of apes even before the first pregnancy” [3]. The simple rough charts below demonstrate that men and women show the same tendency in exceeding their ape counterparts.

Image: The length of the erect men’s penis and size of the women's breasts in comparison with primates, respectively

Image: The length of the erect men’s penis and size of the women’s breasts in comparison with great apes, respectively

The real explanation must be applicable to both genders. It is highly unlikely that women’s breasts are organs of display for “fellow women”. It is probable that men’s and women’s organs are indeed intended to be displayed, that is why, their sizes are so noticeable. Also it is notable that here we are dealing with primary and secondary sex characteristic, which allow to distinguish with certainty one gender from another. So, in my opinion, the display in both cases is addressed to both genders and it has some social function. There might be definite scientific grounds for nudist practices not to cover the body with clothes from time to time, since man and woman have evolved to be nude and not afraid to show it.

References
1. Thomas Hickman, God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis, Soft Skull Press, Berkeley, 2013.
2. Thomas Hickman, Slate: Average penis size
3. Jared Diamond, The rise and fall of the third chimpanzee, Vintage, London, 2002.

According to the art historian Michael Camille, the traces of direct physical attacks can be seen “in hundreds if not thousands” of “medieval illuminated manuscripts” [1] (see also [2]). Specific texts, images, or parts of images were found offensive and destroyed by “the owners, guardians, or users of these books”.

It is believed that images acted more powerfully upon the viewers in the Middle Ages than today. It can be explained by some aspects of “medieval theories of vision itself, which gave an active role to the eye in the process of perception. Vision entailed the eye’s actually taking an imprint of the thing seen” [1]. Medieval scholars have thought that either the eye is sending out rays to see the object or the object is sending rays to the eye. Vision was active, dangerous and “prone to sin”. Pregnant women were not allowed to look at “very disgusting animals” (like apes or monkeys) in the face, because they could give birth to children “similar in appearance”.

It seems interesting that “thirteenth- and fourteenth-century illuminators were not worried about” depicting human genitals. The earlier medieval period, “certainly up to the fourteenth century”, might be described as a time when images of naked human bodies were rife, and “when no danger was seen to exist in explicit representations of bodies” [1].

It all began to change at the very end of the Middle Ages, “not before the fifteenth century” [1] (compare [3]) . The medieval church established a control over public decency. In 1402 Jean Gerson, bishop of Paris, wrote a treatise on the corruption of youth, “which urged the secular and ecclesiastical authorities to introduce laws against the exhibition and sale of obscene pictures”. As a result, “postclassical” pornography was invented “at around the same time”.

Starting from the later Middle Ages, the numerous images of male and female genitals were erased from manuscripts. It continued up to Victorian times, when some collectors of manuscripts took a hand in the process in order “to prevent the penis being seen by wife and children” [1].

Scenes showing naked female characters were often erased from books. “The majority of excised female figures in medieval manuscripts suggests the work of later male clerics” [1]. There was a solid theoretical background for it. In Gemma Ecclesiastica by Gerald of Wales [4] one can find a chapter entitled ‘On not staring at women’. A medieval clergyman wrote: “Just as one should avoid the company of women, so too should one avoid staring at them or being stared at by them” [5]. He quoted St. Augustine: “Even if your eyes should fall upon a woman, you must never fix your gaze”.

Michael Camille wrote at the end of his essay [1]: “The fact that male and female genitals are still blocked in television representations of the body makes us heirs to a tradition that began in the later Middle Ages, when those heirs scratching out offensive and dangerous things from the beautifully illuminated books they inherited, or making representation itself the veil that covers rather than reveals, saw the obscene for the first time”.

Adam and Eve by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)

Adam and Eve by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)

Image: Adam and Eve by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) (From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository)

References
1. Michael Camille, Obscenity Under Erasure, in Obscenity: Social Control and Artistic Creation in the European Middle Ages / ed. by Jan M. Ziolkowski, Leiden, Brill, 1998.
2. Art Historian Michael Camille, 1958-2002
3. Vadimage Blog: History of one delusion
4. Gerald of Wales – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
5. Suzannah Biernoff, Sight and Embodiment in the Middle Ages, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002

For the first time, I’ve learnt about nudism from the summer catalog published by Oböna Reisen, which bills itself as Europe’s largest tour operator for naturist holidays [1]. It was the first half of the 1980s and I was a teenager. At that time I lived in a country called Soviet Union, where anything that wasn’t sanctioned by the primitive, poverty-stricken form of imperial ideology was forbidden – or at least considered suspicious. The images in the catalog gave me a chance to glance at the world of naturist clubs, some of the photos even seemed to tell short stories about people and places. The Oböna catalog (the latest one can be found here: [2]), which fell in my hands by accident, was my only source of information about nudism for a few years. In some sense, it was like something from the ancient world, when the people had limited access to information.

In the Middle Ages, the largely illiterate population relied more upon visual representations of important information (such as different religious events) then the printed word [3]. Now the situation is different. “Nearly everybody in America and western Europe has learnt to read and write nowadays. Illiteracy recedes everywhere”, wrote Herbert George Wells in 1929 [4] . But the tendency to focus on visual representation of information in many areas of human activity does not vanish. We are visible creatures. “We depend on our sight more than any other of our senses and amazingly, 80% of what we perceive comes through our eyes; and our memories are 80% imagery” [5].

“Photography is one of the most compelling and authoritative forms of visual communication, challenging the viewer and demanding an emotional response” [6]. It is not surprising that photography “played an important role in spreading the word about naturism”, not only in my case. “In the early decades of the twentieth century”, when nudism emerged as the “cult of nudity in the concept of the simple life”, photographs “helped to convey in visual form evidence of the pleasures of being without clothes, to suggest a range of activities with an emphasis on life out of doors, and to attract new supporters” [7].

The first naturist magazines “could only print the most circumspect of poses and still risked prosecution. Photographs of naked men were carefully posed so that the genitals were concealed by arms or legs or the figure was shown from the side or from the three-quarter view; from the rear the figure could be safely shown completely naked. <…> Women rarely appeared in naturist photographs until the 1920s and 1930s, when they too went through a similar de-sexing process which involved masking out bodily features such as pubic hair and the dark circles around the nipples on the photographic print” [7].

“The air brush (‘pneumatic pencil’) was invented in the 1890s and proved excellent for use on photographic prints to tidy up the image and remove unwanted detail. It produced a thin fine pencil spray of neutral coloured paint which could be judiciously applied to photographs of the nude.”

“Naturists and the publishers of nudist books and magazines fought a constant battle with the various authorities for the right to print honest and accurate ‘life’ photographs, showing the outdoor activities of the nudists and the lives they led without censoring the image.” “It was not until the 1960s in the UK and the USA that any major success was achieved: naturists won the right to print untouched photographs” [7].

The principles of the American Sunbathing Association state: “We believe that sunshine and fresh air in immediate contact with the entire body are basic factors in maintaining radiant health and happiness. We believe in creating beauty in all things and therefore encourage men and women by daily care and culture to create for themselves the body beautiful. <…> We believe that presentation of the male and female figures in their entirety and completeness needs no apology or defense and that only in such an attitude of mind can we find true modesty” [8].

I believe that the modern nudists should continue spreading “the word about nudism” and, in full agreement with principles stated above, provide visual evidence of nudist lifestyle “as a healthful and moral practice”.

References
1. FKK-Urlaub mit OBÖNA Reisen‎
2. Katalog – OBÖNA Reisen FKK-Touristik
3. Book Review: Gothic: Visual Art of the Middle Ages 1150-1500
4. Herbert George Wells, The Work, World and Happiness of Mankind, Greenwood Press, 1968.
5. EYES 101: Basic Facts and Anatomy
6. Digital Photography | Ravensbourne
7. Emmanuel Cooper, Fully Exposed: The Male Nude in Photography, Routledge, 2013.
8. Elton Raymond Shaw, The body taboo: its origin, effect, and modern denial, Shaw Publishing Company, 1937.

The technical definition of exploitation movies is cheaply made pictures distributed by roadshowmen or by local independents called states’-righters. A major studio was opening, in those days [the 1930s and 1940s], 400 prints. An exploitation picture never had more than 15 or 20, and they moved around from territory to territory…[1] (David Friedman)

Wikipedia defines “Exploitation film” as a “film which is generally considered to be low budget, and therefore apparently attempting to gain financial success by “exploiting” a current trend or a niche genre or a base desire for lurid subject matter” [2]. According to exploitation producer David Friedman, “exploitation pictures are as old as film itself” [1]. It is not surprising that “many exploitation genres relied on nudity as a source of spectacle” [3]. Eric Schaefer, an author of “meticulously researched, interdisciplinary study” of exploitation films [3], calls the “nudist films” (something about “unashamed nudists”) one of the “cornerstone genres of classical exploitation focused on the spectacle of the nude body”.

Recently, while browsing Internet Archive (which is a “non-profit digital library with the stated mission of “universal access to all knowledge” [4,5]), I came across the classical exploitation “nudist film” called “Expose of The Nudist Racket” (see [6]; it also can be found on Vimeo [7] and YouTube [8]). It was filmed in 1938 for “Hollywood Producers and Distributors”. Producer is, in fact, unknown. The Short Format film is now distributed under Creative Commons license (Attribution 3.0).

Image: frames from "Expose of The Nudist Racket" (1938)

Image: frames from “Expose of The Nudist Racket” (1938)

In the first half of the 1930s, the American press considered nudism mostly unfavorably. “Crude jokes were made and the reporters liked nothing better than going to a nudist camp and teasing the members for a story, which was usually written up in disrespectful ways”. Later “nudism came to be viewed by the press as a benign, if unconventional, practice” [3].

Film producers used different strategies “for bringing nudism to screen”, in order to “legitimize” the subject. For example, it could be a pseudoscientific, “anthropological approach” with references to “customs among primitive peoples” [3]. The “Expose of The Nudist Racket” took a different attitude. The creators of the film tried to be funny employing “titles and narration for comic effect”. Jokes about fat women are the height of their humor capacity.

Eric Schaefer admits that “some spectators went to see the films to satisfy their curiosity about the nudist movement” , but he insists that “the nudist exploitation films were designed to create sexual arousal in, or at the very least titillate, viewers”. However, “despite the exploitation films’ sexualization of nudism, the nudist’s advocacy of sunshine and simplicity of life found an ideal vehicle for expression in the movies, in part because of their overlapping ideology” [3]. “Nudism was presented as a middle-class lifestyle option” and “a possible antidote to modern life”. The nudist films pointed to the “precedent of social nudity in ancient Greece, which was “simple” yet highly “civilized” according to modern standards”.

“Expose of The Nudist Racket” can convince you that time goes by, but nothing changes. The nudists still want “publicity for their movement”, while the second word in a word-combination “social nudity” remains the key one for most people.

References
1. David Chute, Washes of Sin: An Interview with David F. Friedman, Film Comment, July-August, 1986
2. Exploitation film – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
3. Eric Schaefer, “Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!”: A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959, Duke University Press, 1999
4. Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine
5. Internet Archive – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
6. Expose of The Nudist Racket. : uncredited : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive
7. The Expose Of The Nudist Racket (1938) on Vimeo
8. Expose of The Nudist Racket. – YouTube