December 14, 2009
If you’re a nudist, then you probably already know that the state of Oregon doesn’t ban nudity or have a crime of indecent exposure.
If you’re not a nudist, then you’re now either changing your airline tickets so you can spend a few extra days in Oregon, or you’re changing them so you can land in the state of Washington, because in your mind it’s practically the same thing.
But even without this state ban of public nudity, there aren’t herds of naked people grazing along the Oregon highways.
There aren’t basketball games of Shirts vs. Pants happening in the local park.
And there aren’t naked families chilling at the Drive-In, taking in double features in the bed of a reversed pick-up, arguing when it’s still safe to eat dropped popcorn.
Off of Mom, yes.
Off of Dad, judgment call.
Off of Adolescent Ned, not unless you like your popcorn topped with gym sweat and happy trail hair.
It should be noted that many cities and towns in Oregon have local laws banning public nudity in parks and in their downtown areas.
And that’s how it is in the town of Ashland, population of about 20,000. You can’t strut your stuff down Main Street and you can’t sunbathe without tan lines in one of their parks, but if you happen to slip off to a secluded area of Ashland Creek and do a bit of skinny dipping, no one is going to call the cops.
They may call their friends and they may call you names based on your physical haves or have-nots, but they’re not going to call the cops.
(Stick with the interview below for a link to some naked Oregonians.)
It’s been going on like this for a century or so.
But then a guy from the Bay Area, Tony Cooper, vacationed in Ashland this past summer in not much else than some sneakers and fanny pack.
The town’s folk were a little annoyed by the 66-year-old guy walking their streets in the nude, but then attitudes changed substantially when he unknowingly entered a school zone.
You know what they say: “It’s one thing if I catch a glimpse of your bobbing bird, but it’s another thing if my grade-school daughter sees it, comes home and draws its likeness all over her bedroom wallpaper, and then goes on to draw a big old penis on our favorite photograph of Grandma.”
They do say that.
Look it up.
Might be in Deuteronomy.
In response to Cooper’s school-side jaunts, Ashland thought it was time to legally ban nudity within 1,000 feet of a school, but the mayor sided with three of the six members of the City Council, asking that the people vote on the initiative themselves in the future.
See, this was just one instance of a nude dude around a school in however-long, and this nude dude has since gone on record apologizing for being near a school and promised the next time he visited he’d only go outside au naturale after 10 pm.
No reason to overreact, the mayor thought.
It’ll all blow over, many said.
Two years ago, if you remember, the small town of Brattleboro, Vermont, faced an eerily similar situation.
They were lax on their views of public nudity until, according to a Reuters story:
“The weather grew hot and a couple of dozen teens took to holding hula hoop contests, riding bikes and parading past stores wearing only their birthday suits. The disrobing has resumed this summer.
But many locals say it has gone too far. Some cite a case in which a senior citizen from Arizona strolled through the center of town wearing only a waist pack and sandals.“
A fanny-pack wearing old man was fucking it up for everyone.
Just like this summer in Ashland, Oregon.
Brattleboro went on to ban public nudity altogether for 30 days, but the national attention of being called an intolerant town seemed to sway them into letting the ban lapse and letting the free-wheelin’ to continue on.
Ashland’s story continues up in the Pacific Northwest.
With yet another fanny pack.
Because the town did not go on to ban public nudity in school areas, a man from Minnesota went to Ashland to be purposefully be naked in front of their schools.
According to the Ashland Police Chief, the man intentionally walked around the high school naked, save for his fanny pack, while students were present, and then was later hanging around the school’s parking lot wearing clothes.
And now, tomorrow, the City Council is voting on banning nudity across the board.
No more skinny dipping in Ashland Creek.
No more sunbathing topless in the backyard.
No more carefree walks from the shower to the bedroom, because if the ban passes, Eric Navickas, City Council member, says that you could be arrested for indecent exposure in your own home.
I interviewed Navickas via email:
GB: Are you naked right now?
EN: Bare naked; ask what you want.
GB: Good. Glad to know you’re taking advantage of the opportunity while it’s still legal in Ashland. Aside from Ashland Creek and in front of their computers, where else have citizens of Ashland been getting naked that hasn’t caused a public outcry?
EN: There have been several events associated with nudity that have been generally popular. The first that comes to mind was the “Buns not Bombs” protest at the outbreak of the war in Iraq. About ten people marched through downtown with body paint on their bare bodies. Another protest around that time entailed about thirty nudes forming a large peace symbol out of their bodies in the front lawn of our downtown park. We’ve also had citizens celebrate the World Naked Bike Ride event; an international event to raise awareness to fossil fuel consumption. I’ve seen other events associated with the First Friday Art Walk that included nudity; usually again with body paint. All of these events seemed well received and resulted in little or no public outcry.
As well, we have many people who just enjoy nude sunbathing in their yards or hot tubs that would be affected by the proposed ban if they are visible from a public place.
GB: So no more nude hot tubbing in your backyard if this thing passes. Ashland would be going from naked peace signs in the park and naked bike parades to having to worry about getting arrested for walking in front of their front window on their way to the shower. Do you blame this guy from Minnesota for this, or do you blame the citizens of Ashland?
EN: I believe the Council is to blame for responding with a knee-jerk reaction to an unusual circumstance. We really don’t have naked people walking around schools every day. I believe it is important for legislators to maintain a level head in these circumstances and not immediately jump to passing another restrictive law that may have broader implications. More than likely we’ll never see another naked person walking around a school.
I’m disappointed this guy from Minnesota provoked the Council into responding in this manner.
GB: Have the discussions been civil or heated in city hall? I’m imagining something dramatic where someone arrives to a meeting in the nude and yells: “Look at me! I said, ‘Look at me!’ Am I a monster, or am I human? And could somebody check out this mole on my lower back? I think it’s gotten bigger but my wife says I’m crazy.”
EN: This round of discussions have been fairly civil and, unfortunately, Council has heard more from those with fearful attitudes toward their bodies who wish to associate nudity with sexual predation or indecency.
I found these old pictures, however, from the previous time the Council discussed this some years ago when they limited the ban to the downtown and parks. This protest was staged on the front lawn of the Council Chambers (NSFW): http://rogueimc.org/en/2004/07/2970.shtml
GB: You voted against the proposed ban around schools and you plan on voting against the city-wide nudity ban that’s coming up on Tuesday. What’s your biggest personal worry here? That the slope is as slippery as they say? Did you have a nude production of “Annie Get Your Gun” coming up and you’ve already sold out, and the thought of having to pay everyone back would be a major headache? Or are you worried that Ashland would look lame in the eyes of other Oregonians? Is Oregonians a word, or did I make that up?
EN: I will be voting against the proposed ban. I believe the healthiest society is one that is very disciplined in protecting civil liberties. Nudity in itself is entirely harmless and I’m proud to live in a community that to this point has been able to tolerate and even celebrate occasional eccentric behavior. Ashland is an artist community that is suffering from rapid gentrification. To myself, this is in many ways a symbolic death of our community as anything unique; we’ll now be another Fox News, Big Mac, fully dressed, all-American, normal town.
There is no damage to anyone, including children, in seeing a nude person. In fact, studies show that societies that have a healthy attitude toward accepting public nudity have many fewer social problems with unhealthy sexual behavior. I believe the establishment clause of the First Amendment that defines us as a secular state and restricts the establishment of religion limits our right to legislate morals. This moral legislation that has no place in a secular state.
In practice this law will simply be another tool to harass the counter-culture of our community. Conservatives and many of the business establishment in this town have a nasty history of finding insidious ways to “clean things up.” A couple of hippies playing guitar, the aging crystal toting neighbor with saggy boobs who likes to sunbathe, a couple of bike punks bumming change, or the single mom with tattoos going for a soothing skinny-dip; these are undesirable victims of this growing intolerant attitude in Ashland.
Also, Oregonian is a word; how about Chicagonian?
GB: It’s Chicagoan. You got a little ‘N’ and ‘I’ happy there, like me when I watch “Wheel of Fortune” by myself. Now the part that interests me the most about this story is this guy from Minnesota who came directly to Ashland to get naked in front of school children. I’ve gone back and forth on who this guy is. He is either 1.) Some dude who saw the opportunity to live out his perverse dream of letting little Sally and Timmy see his wang without getting arrested, or 2.) He’s some rogue conservative who is taking one for the team, showing you what happens when you purposefully don’t ban nudity around schools. I believe it was the latter. A guy was teaching you all a lesson so that you had no choice but to bring the idea of banning nudity back to a vote. What do you think?
EN: I’ve tried not to speculate as to what motive this individual had but the facts of the story are so unusual it leads one to speculate. The most conservative member of the Council brought forward the initial proposal to ban nudity within school zones. Most on the council felt that there was really no need to put this type of law on the books as we really haven’t had a problem with lots of nudes around schools. It seemed to be a means of framing the argument to build support for his personal issues and prudish attitude. We’ve seen similar tactics with some of the anti-homosexual legislation conservatives have brought forward here in Oregon that attempt to frame the discussion around “protecting children;” perverting their intolerance into an interest social good.
Anyway, several days after a majority of Council refused to support this proposal, a nudist claiming to be from Minnesota arrived and began walking around various schools. This lasted about two days and then he was gone. The action was so specific to the Council decision that it was hard not to think it was specifically contrived to provoke the city into banning nudity. There has been a lot of speculation as to whether the individual was paid, but that would be very difficult to prove; we are left discussing this in the context of having a real problem with nudists around schools. Perhaps our own miniature version of the Reichstag fire that we’ll never know the facts on.
GB: I wish you luck with your crusade to keep the town of Ashland liberal, free, and unique. Any final argument for someone who thinks public nudity is a one-way ticket to hell?
EN: I see it as nothing less than degrading to humanity as a whole to legally define the human body as something that is inherently le or indecent. I personally subscribe to the Platonic/Vitruvian view that there is something sacred to our form that we should celebrate not condemn.
The Ashland City Council votes tomorrow.
And from what Navickas has told me, it sounds like it’s going to be 4-2 in favor to ban public nudity.
But we shall see.
Check the comments on this post tomorrow evening, or follow along on their newspaper: The Ashland Daily Tidings.
While I wait, I’m left with my conspiracy theory. I’m still trying to put the Arizona guy who almost ruined public nudity for Brattleboro, VT, in the same fanny pack as the guy from Minnesota who might have ruined public nudity for Ashland, OR.
If it’s the same person – if it’s one man who flies around the country on a mission to make small liberal towns fearful of the naked human body by getting naked himself, if it’s one conservative man who stares at the mirror and tells himself he’s a star, a big bright shining star, before he snaps that fanny pack on and terrorizes mothers and the Christian Book Store employees with his old penis – then I am in awe.
Then I want to make that documentary.
Then I want to write his book.
Then I want to recruit him to help me fight my causes, those who parade around with infanticide posters and those who use text/instant messaging shorthand.
We’ll fight them at the same time.
We’ll join the maniacs at a popular university intersection and wear white shirts and black ties, and we’ll attach blown up photographs of toddlers eating Big Macs and drinking Pepsi to long sticks, and at the bottom they’ll read: “MERICA 2 FAT 🙁 :P” and “I DID HAZ Cheezburger LOL!1!”
And we can store our fliers in our fanny packs until it’s time to pass them out.