Taking the Wrong Approach on Parental Rights of Naturists

FOR DOWNLOAD MORE GALLERY Michael Beals of the American Naturist Families Association (ANFA) has posted an article on The Bare Times entitled "The Legal Sexualization of our Daughters". There is no doubt that the sexualization of people of all ages is a problem in our society, with the media promoting unrealistic body images that are causing unhealthy self-image.

But Mr. Beals in his zealousness on the issue has chosen to attack child beauty pageants as "shocking" events which only serve to destroy self-worth, cause relationship problems, and ultimately groom some of the young girls for "preteen and teenage prostitution".

The problem here is that Mr. Beals has a website promoting an enterprise called "Bare Scouts", a program for "naturist and non-naturist kids ages 8-17". Aside from the possible trademark difficulties with the name, especially when the Bare Scouts are openly compared to the Boy and Girl Scouts, there is the issue of hypocrisy in operating a naturist program for children which is subject to the same faux moral outrage from society at large as Mr. Beals directs towards child beauty pageants.

I'm not a fan of child beauty pageants, but the last time I checked they were legal, and there is even a reality television series "Toddlers and Tiaras" on TLC which has been on the air since 2009. In addition, there is no definitive study that any children are being harmed from their participation in these pageants, just some opinions here and there on both sides of the issue which are inconclusive.

Mr. Beals cites the case of Jon Benet Ramsey, who was murdered in her home, as an example of what can befall a child who participates in pageants, yet there is no evidence whatsoever that Miss Ramsey's beauty experiences had anything to do with her death. He also notes that some pedophiles are found with child pageant materials in their possession, but fails to note that these same pedophiles are also found with naturist photos and videos.

In an article which I wrote for Bare Times entitled "The War Against Youth Camps", I detail the various ways government officials in Florida, Virginia, Texas and Arizona worked to draft legislation to ban naturist youth camps, going as far as to try and ban children from naturist activities in general. There was no evidence that any children were in any danger emotionally, mentally or physically, but the arguments against the camps were very similar to the ones Mr. Beals now makes about child beauty pageants: that children were being exploited, and that they were magnets for pedophiles.

Mr. Beals then goes way over the top in his closing argument:
Ask yourself before you send your daughter to a school beauty pageant or county fair or organized pageant….”Who is in the audience?” And “Do I want MY little girl to be the next victim of rape?”
This is reckless hyperbole, and does nothing to further the cause of family naturism.

During the youth camp crisis of  2003-2005, one of the most positive government statements came from then Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who said “The rights of parents to impart their values in their children and raise their children as they see fit are sacred.”

Children are an essential part of the naturist philosophy, and have been for over 100 years of the modern movement. The societal hysteria over protecting children from just about anything and everything that even has a slight perception of potential harm is endangering their participation.

It is destructive for any nudist or naturist to express moral indignation over how other people choose to raise their children, unless there is clear and irrefutable evidence that there is real danger. An attack on the parental rights of others is an attack on the right to raise your own children in the manner you see fit.

Mr. Beals finishes by warning those who do not heed his message: "I pray that your child will be protected by God, because you obviously aren’t doing your part to stop the exploitation.". More irresponsible fear-mongering.

I have no reason to believe that Mr. Beals has anything but the best of intentions. His organization is non-profit and he works to support several charitable enterprises. What I do object to is his method of tearing down the free expression of others as a means of supporting his own. We don't need naturists acting like "Focus on the Family" which wants to impose its "Christian" viewpoint on the public airwaves, in movies, and in our bedrooms. These are the very people who potentially threaten nudism and naturism, who would equate it with strip clubs and pornography, and tell parents how to raise their own children.

There are many things in a free society which are distasteful to others. Everything is offensive to somebody. Family naturism must be promoted on its own merits, not by contrasting with something else that is controversial. Mr. Beals has made a mistake with his article, as well-intentioned as it is, and it only adds to the already widespread and over-hyped fear of "stranger danger".

Morley Schloss, who operates a successful naturist youth camp at Sunsport Gardens in Florida, strikes the right tone when he says: "Let’s be proactive. In words and photos, we must portray children and their families having fun at naturist resorts and naturist youth camps."

It's important to recognize the challenges faced by family naturism today, but it's equally important to remain positive and work to show society how safe and beneficial it can be for all ages. We cannot be "proactive" when we try and tear down the freedoms and parental rights of others.