An Imperfect System

FOR DOWNLOAD MORE GALLERY Logan Jenkins wonders if nudists have a "de facto" right to party.
At San Onofre State Beach, complaints about nude 'n' lewd excess at Trail 6 are testing the laissez-faire policy that has ruled for more than 30 years.

Like tokers at outdoor rock concerts, naturists have grown to expect a public zone of tolerance at this clothing-optional refuge...It's a basic principle: Once you grant a de facto right to someone, it's awkward to take it away. Once again, we're facing the conflict between a dubious, but time-honored, activity in public and the public's right to enjoy public land without being faced by what, in any other public context, is patently offensive and illegal.
It's an interesting analogy, but it fails on one major point: nudity is legal in the home, on some beaches, at resorts, in locker rooms, etc., but pot smoking is illegal everywhere, except for a few places where it can be used for medicinal purposes. We are all born naked, and we are all still naked under our clothes. The idea of swimming or sunbathing while wearing clothing is a 19th century invention. Nudism is a 20th century movement to return people to a more healthy and natural state, and the folks who frequent San Onofre beach to be nude in nature are only trying to reclaim some of that lost freedom.

This issue goes beyond mere "de facto" rights, it's a human rights issue, where government forces people into a specific dress code. Some jurisdictions have been passing laws and ordinances which ban the wearing of saggy pants, or prohibit the showing of underwear, and ultimately these actions will likely fail the constitutionality test.

Gradually society has been undoing its mandates on dress codes. During Victorian times even the sight of a woman's ankle was considered scandalous. Both men and women wore full body woolen swimsuits when bathing at the beach. It wasn't until the 1930s that men regained the right to be topfree in public. In the 60s the topless bathing suit for women was introduced, which began the era of topfree sunbathing in Europe. In America, today, women have the right to be topfree the same as men in several states, such as New York and Ohio. And on the beaches, people can be nearly nude, required only to cover genitals, anal areas and nipples.

Jenkins concludes that we have an imperfect system, which outlaws certain activities, yet turns a blind eye in certain situations. This is basically the "safety in numbers" maxim that I have professed. If enough people join in, there's nothing the law can do to stop them from doing nearly anything. Take the porn industry, for example, which is purported to be as lucrative as all major US sports leagues combined. Even though people are being paid to have virtually every kind of kinky or perverse sex for money and profit, the government can do nothing to stop it. Porn is on cell phones, on the Internet, in hotel rooms, in dorms - accessible from just about anywhere, anytime.

Instead, it's the soft targets like nude beaches which get attacked, giving people the illusion that government is "protecting" the public from "offensive" behavior. It's the John Ashcroft move - cover up the bare-breasted statue in the Justice Department with expensive taxpayer-funded curtains as an empty symbolic gesture to the prudish masses.

So the assault on San Onofre has less to do with "de facto" rights than it has to do with government oppression and the loss of human freedoms. Yes, it's an imperfect system, but that does not mean we have to accept it, and it's our duty to work to make it better.

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