Nudity is a Human Right
A declaration written by Will Forest, originally published here
WHEREAS human beings manifest bodies that occupy physical volume in space as a necessity of existence;
WHEREAS human beings are born naked into these bodies and thus begin, naked, the basic acts of life through the intake of breath and breast;
WHEREAS nudity is thus the essential and most natural state in which human beings manifest their bodies;
WHEREAS the freedom to move the physical volume of the body through the elements without encumbrance is a natural and healthful practice for body, mind, and spirit;
WHEREAS human beings have devised intricate processes for crafting and distributing cloth and clothing, for use in protecting or adorning the surface of the body’s physical volume;
WHEREAS human beings have also devised layers of social significance that accompany the range of bodily clothing displays, from nudity through the most elaborately crafted costumes;
WHEREAS these layers of social significance are constructed arbitrarily according to custom, context, and cultural expression; and enforced arbitrarily by political or ecclesiastical contrivance;
WHEREAS the recognition of the right to practice diverse cultural expressions, such as freedom of religion or political party and freedom to form a family, is inherent in the protection of human rights;
BE IT HEREBY DECLARED that FREEDOM OF DRESS, or the right to wear as much or as little clothing upon one’s body as one desires, including the right to manifest one’s body in its natural state, is a human right, to be fully protected by all governments for the betterment of humankind.
Transcription of The Raw Ones
The Raw Ones (1965) transcript
Directed by John Lamb
Narrated by Ron Gans
Note: The transcription is divided into four parts corresponding to the four divisions of the film as available on dailymotion.com. I’ve tried to link to the videos, but since they are ridiculously marked as “explicit content” (the message of the film is precisely that mere nudity is not explicit content), the links don’t hold. You have to log in to the site to see them.
This motion picture presents educational, scientific, sociological, and cultural ideas that demonstrate the conviction that the human body is clean and wholesome, and that increased public understanding of this point of view will contribute to the well-being and advancement of all, whether they be practicing nudists or not. One of the strangest and most damaging mistakes ever made by humanity was the notion that there is something inherently evil and obscene about the human body. This denial and rejection of the flesh has been a dominant feature of Western civilization for centuries. But finally in 1957, the United States Supreme Court ruled that nudity is not, in and of itself, obscene.
Concealing the body has never served to correct faulty morals. Groping in a fog of superstition, some moral crusaders have not had the understanding to give up this insidious practice of concealment, or recognize the mental distortions that it causes.
It is a psychological fact that an interest out of all proportion becomes attached to any part of the body that is perpetually concealed, and we react to this with prurient curiosity. Concealing the body invariably stimulates such curiosity and gives it life. Attitudes on nudity in America range from one extreme to the other and even within the same community conflicting standards exist. Modesty is subject to widely different interpretations. For example, consider the reaction of a lady surprised in her bath by a strange man. In China, she hides her feet. In Laos, she covers her breasts. In Samoa, she conceals her navel. In Sumatra, she shields her knees. In Arabia, she turns her face away. Modesty, then, is in the mind of the individual, or does the part of the mores of a society. Nudists point out that there is nothing immodest or indecent about the human body; there are only people who think immodest or indecent thoughts.
Dr. Albert Ellis, psychologist and outstanding authority on sex and marriage, comments “I have had close contact with a good number of nudists. I find that their motives for being nudists are quite varied, but that running consistently through these motives is the theme that they stoutly want to be socially unencumbered. They want to think for themselves in a generally repressive society, and to protest actively against some of our idiotic restrictions. Social nudism is mainly an outlook on life rather than an instinctive urge. Nudists, on the whole, are distinctly more ethical and social-minded than members of the general populace, and they should not be confused with isolated and invariably severely disturbed individuals who get into trouble with the law for exhibitionistic or voyeuristic acts.”
What can be said for the peculiar people of the present time who drive long distances on weekends so that they can enjoy sunshine, swimming, and exercise together free from clothes? First: they’re different. They’re not afraid to look; they’re not shocked by what they see. Also, they don’t remind revealing their own bodies. It is done in a spirit of openness and frankness, instead of in the very different atmosphere of a peep show or nightclub. If they seem strange to their contemporaries, they know themselves well enough not to mind in the slightest. Their custom, or way of life as some like to call it, has proved so enjoyable, has increased their physical and mental health so much, that they are convinced of its rightness, and of its ultimate acceptance by the general public. Donald Johnson, author of Nudism Primer, says “Nudists see themselves as normal Americans who are perhaps a little better citizens than most. They are better schooled, earn more, and enjoy considerably greater family stability. The great majority of nudists are married and go to their favorite nudist parks as a family unit.” Yet, in spite of our inconsistencies, nudity in this country is on the upswing. So is our desire to come to terms with our natural selves. Suppression merely forces natural desires underground. Expression helps them to assume their natural place in life. Why do people insist on wearing clothes in the first place?
Back in the nineteenth century, the French philosopher Rousseau was called the Father of Naturism. He believed that children should be required to be nude. He said, “Clothes only hinder children’s growth and size and strength, and injure their constitution. Where children are swaddled in clothes, the country swarms with the humpback, the bow-legged, the rickety, and every kind of deformity. Their first feeling of wearing clothes is one of pain and suffering. They find every necessary movement hampered, more miserable than the galley slave. In vain they struggle. They become angry. They cry. Their voice alone is free. Why should they not raise it in complaint?”
The American writer Henry David Thoreau called clothes “a counterfeit, an excuse for dullness.” He likened clothes to gold: “It dazzles the eye. It hides the true nature of the person.” He wrote, “Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships. We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones. Let our mind descend into our body and redeem it, and treat ourselves with ever-increasing respect.”
For centuries, early authorities tried to control, by fear, the extremely unpredictable sexual impulses. It may have been dimly imagined that if people were frightened of sex, supposing it was part of the devil’s armament, that there would be less free expression of the sexual impulse. The result would be a tendency toward a stable family – an essential for all social groups. What was overlooked was that anything which is forbidden tends automatically to become excessively fascinating. The one room in the house which is kept forever locked, and which no one ever discusses except in whispers, is the one place which everyone is most interested in. To get into this room becomes the major objective of everyone in the house, with the purpose of seeing at last what it is that is the cause of so much mystery and concealment. This familiar negative attitude toward everything sexual has produced a number of marked problems for human beings who have been indoctrinated with it. Most important has been the alienation of man from himself. Profound inner confusion was inevitable when each child, virtually without exception, has been raised to feel and believe as a matter of truth that the related parts of his body, their functions, and the associated wishes, sensations, and ideas are evil or obscene.
Control of behavior is a necessity in any society for the preservation of a stable family. In our part of the world, control has been based primarily upon fear, not upon reason. In the attempt to control sexual behavior, a pattern of inducing guilt and fear not only about actions, but about wishes, ideas, and feelings, was developed. This has been, as Freud discovered in his pioneering work, disastrous for a great majority of human beings, who suffer neurotic guilt and anxiety as a result. In view of the significant discoveries about personality and mental ills which have been made by Freud and others, why don’t we /
[cont.] bring up children so they would, from the beginning, except all of themselves with serenity and esteem?
Some people may not realize that we are in the midst of a vast moral revolution, but anyone looking back even five years cannot fail to realize this. With greater knowledge, more education, and better communication, the idea is rapidly gaining ground that nudity is not the unwholesome thing that it has been thought to be in the past. The suppression of nudity creates a condition of special emphasis, often with disastrous results. One has only to look at the perversions rampant in our society to realize that the unhealthy and life-denying attitudes of our Puritan background have not done humans justice. The do-gooder, the prude, the bigot and the censor concern themselves with the affairs of others. A concentrated interest in the affairs of others may produce some worthwhile ends, but it can also be the basis for the meddlesome disruptions of other people’s private lives. The great majority will agree to this, yet the almost subconscious guilty feeling persists that there is something evil in the flesh of man, a carryover from the Puritanism of our forefathers, which we have rejected intellectually but which still motivates us on subtler emotional levels.
In many ways, it appears that we are a nation of hypocrites. The activity that we pompously preach about and protest against in public, we enthusiastically practice in private. We lie to one another about our bodies. We lie to our children about their bodies. And many of us undoubtedly lie to ourselves about our own bodies. But we cannot forever escape the reality that a hypocritical society is an unhealthy society that produces more than its fair share of perversion, neurosis, unsuccessful marriage, and suicide. Lyle Stewart, publisher, writes “To some people, the human body is obscene, not with clothing on, but in its natural state. The fault isn’t with the body. Kissing is obscene in some countries of the world, and kissing scenes must be removed from the movie films [sic] before they can be shown in these countries. The very definition of what is obscene varies from place to place, from time to time, and from person to person, which is why all obscenity statutes, rulings, and laws are a mockery and should be stricken from the books. All the logic of the dirt-hunters falls apart when you hold it up in the light of a fresh, sunny day. It’s fascinating that restrictions are almost always imposed on society by its psychological eunuchs. By their standards, life itself seems to be obscene. They make their own lives obscenities, and then are driven to turn their own sickness into an epidemic. The human body is not obscene, despite what the witch doctors would have you believe, and nothing written or pictured about the human body is obscene except as we elect to think it so.”
The United States Supreme Court states that the fundamental freedoms of speech and press have contributed to the development and well-being of our free society, and are indispensable to its continued growth. Publisher Hugh Hefner states, “Religiously inspired Puritanism has been allowed to subtly undermine certain of our precious freedoms. Nowhere is this more insidiously dangerous than in the continuing erosion of our constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and press, for it is these freedoms that insure the protection of all our other freedoms. It is for this reason that we are opposed to censorship in any form. The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights assure these freedoms, and our legislatures, courts and officials continue to pay lip service to their protection. But exceptions are continually being introduced: small cracks in the wall that protects our democracy’s ideals, cracks that will surely spread, and thus weaken and eventually destroy the wall.”
The right of the individual to speak and write what is on his mind, to express himself freely and without fear of any action against him by his government does not permit any exceptions. “It is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, “for its officers to interfere when principles break out into the overt acts against peace and good order. Our speech and our press cannot be half free, or they are not truly free at all.” There is, in fact, a serious school of scientific opinion that believes that so-called obscenity actually makes a valuable contribution to the mental health of a society, since it may act as an outlet for repressed desires that might otherwise take the form of overt offenses in the emotionally unstable or maladjusted. A report by a committee of Brown University psychologists concluded, after reviewing all available research on the subject, there is no reliable evidence that reading or other fantasy activities lead to antisocial behavior. Dr. Benjamin Cartman, chief psychotherapist at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC, stated in a report before the American Medical Association that contrary to popular misconception, people who read salacious literature are less likely to become sexual offenders than those who do not, for such reading often neutralizes what aberrant sexual interests they may have. Efforts at sexual suppression stem largely from fear. It is the vice crusaders’ most often repeated charge that so-called erotic literature inspires and encourages crimes. The vast majority of psychiatrists and psychologists—men and women undoubtedly best qualified to speak on this subject—share the opinion of Dr. Robert Linder, a distinguished psychoanalyst and author, who has said, “I am convinced of the absurdity of the idea that any form of reading matter, including the so-called comic books, leads to criminal behavior.”
Drs. Eberhart, and Phyllis Craunhausen, two leading pioneers in the study of psychological /
[cont.] effects of erotic literature, point out that it may actually be extremely dangerous to deprive certain very disturbed persons of this safety valve. It is not erotica that drives these few back to crimes of violence, but the censors’ efforts to block their only outlet by suppressing their interest in erotica. George Bernard Shaw wrote, “All censorship exists to prevent anyone from challenging current concepts and existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.” Bertrand Russell has written, “I think there ought to be no rules whatever prohibiting improper publications. I think that, partly because if there are rules, stupid magistrates will condemn really valuable work because it happens to shock them. Another reason is that I think prohibitions immensely increase people’s interest in the subject as in anything else.” Judge Thurmond Arnold warned about the danger of removing one source of stimulation, only to have it be replaced by another, more objectionable, one. He says, “Human beings can be trained like Pavlov’s dogs, so that they are stimulated by sights and sounds completely unrelated to the things they desire. A strict standard of obscenity contributes to such unhealthy training. Taking the pin-up girls away from American soldiers would not make their minds more pure. It would only mean that they would be aroused by some less healthy or attractive substitute. At the turn of the century, the old police gazette had a nationwide pornographic appeal. A dance called the cancan, in which the chorus girls kicked up their legs covered with black stockings, was wicked and highly stimulating. Today, a person with an appetite for pornography would not pay ten cents to see either the magazine or the dance. This is how censorship makes materials stimulating which would not be at all if that censorship did not exist. And that is why anything but the most tolerant standards creates an unhealthy psychology.”
Dr. Albert Ellis comments, “How can you ban desire? Some people go out on the street and look at clotheslines with drawers hanging on it [sic] and become aroused. Should we therefore censor clotheslines? There is something wrong with an adult who is embarrassed by pictures of pretty girls and becomes extremely agitated when the human body is treated with anything but solemnity. There are frequently people who have no more than their share of morbid curiosity about the reams of newsprint devoted, in the daily press, to stories in which there is close association between sex and sin, vice, crime, violence, and the exposé.”
History proves that obscenity laws have a stifling, far-reaching effect upon all books, including works which do not appeal to morbid interest. The very vagueness of the law invites suppression. The Supreme Court has made it clear that the Constitution does not permit the quarantining of the general reading public against books in order to shield juvenile innocence. The adult population may not be reduced to reading only what is fit for children.
If the function of democracy is to produce wise answers and solutions, then clearly it is important to permit the unfettered interplay of ideas. Morality is a field upon which there are less [sic] final conclusions than any other. In our free society, founded upon individual liberty, every adult citizen must be allowed to decide for himself what he will read and what movies he will see. As a nation we have staked our all on the power of reason and the ability of our people to choose wisely between good and evil. If the adult citizen cannot be trusted to choose the books he will read, how can he be trusted to govern himself? The fact is that true democracy works as nobly and as well in the areas of literature and art as it does in politics. Havelock Ellis, the noted psychologist, believed that books that go substantially beyond customary limits of candor in the representation and depiction of matters pertaining to the body are a necessity in modern society. Before seriously advocating a desexualized, sanitized, cellophane-wrapped society for our youngsters, we should listen to the opinions of child psychologists and experts in juvenile behavior. They are unanimous in their belief that an overly protected child will find it more difficult adjusting to an adult society after he has grown. A youngster who is reared in an environment sufficiently removed from the real world, may never fully mature and become capable of accepting the responsibilities of adult life.
Will frankly adult books, magazines, television and motion pictures tend to lead a child into patterns of antisocial and delinquent behavior? There is no evidence to suggest that this is so. Drs. Sheldon and Eleanor Gluck, leaders in the field of child behavior, published the results of ten years’ research into the causes of juvenile delinquency of a thousand boys in the Boston area in what has been termed a classical study. The subjects of pornography, or of the reading or viewing of erotic material of any kind, are never once mentioned as contributing factors in delinquency. We are all familiar with the self-inflicted censor with which Hollywood suffered through most of the 30s and 40s, when the Motion Picture Production Code required all sexual intemperance to end in disaster. If the heroine allowed herself a night of dalliance with the hero in the first reel, the movie-going public knew that not only would the next scene be a teary-eyed discovery that she was pregnant, but the rest of the picture would be one long series of heartbreaks and suffering, in which the hero usually, conveniently, became unavailable. The heroine usually became destitute and alcoholic, threw herself under a train, or died of pneumonia.
Our archaic religious teachings have pitted man’s body and spirit against one another, whereas common sense would suggest that God intended the body, mind, and spirit of man to be in harmony. What strange sort of religion have we evolved, that places the godly part of a man in opposition to the whole of his physical being? Those who fear and oppose the erotic in our literature and art, do so because of personal repressions and feelings of frustration, inadequacy, or guilt. Literature and art are a mirror in which man sees his own reflection. Only a man who carries the obscenity within himself, will see obscenity in a book, a painting, or a photograph. If you find the obscene in a work or art or literature, or in life itself, you have no one to blame but yourself for having made it obscene. If it is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, one must accept its logical counterpart that ugliness is, too.
Censors attempt to thwart our god-given and constitutionally guaranteed rights to freely use our own minds and bodies so long as we do not infringe the rights of others. The right to speak and write our own ideas expressed by others equally free. The right to worship our own god in our way, the right to associate with whomever we choose, whenever we choose, without fear or prejudice from others. By limiting our speeches and press, by disapproving certain words and ideas, the censor, in fact, tries to practice thought control. By suppressing the speech and writing that embarrasses and disturbs him, the censor unwittingly eliminates an emotional outlet that most authorities agree is healthful for society. The censor so little understands the nature of the thing he is doing, that he usually attacks first the more positive aspects of our literature and art. The book, magazine, or movie that equates sex with sin and suffering is less apt to bring down his wrath than one that makes sex seem pleasurable or appealing, for the former can be said to have a moral. That the seeming moral is in reality an abnormal and quite unhealthy association between sexual activity and ugliness, grief and guilt seems to matter not a bit to the censor. He thus quite successfully projects his own negative attitudes toward sex onto the rest of us. In a recent interview, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black expressed his personal views on our American ideal of absolute freedoms of speech and press. “I am for the First Amendment from the first word to the last. I believe it means what it says, and it says to me, government shall keep its hands off religion. Government shall not attempt to control the freedom of the press or speech. It shall let anybody talk in this country. I have never been shaken in the faith that the American people are the kind of people and have the kind of loyalty to their government that we need not fear to talk of Communists or of anybody else. Let them talk! In the American way, we will answer them.”
The Bill of Rights is intended to see that a man cannot be jerked by the back of the neck by any government official. He cannot be picked up legally and carried away because of his views. Our system of justice is based on the assumption that men can best work out their own opinions. Today, nudist magazines and movies are displayed on newsstands and in theaters in all our major cities. A few years ago, however, nudist films could not be shown in New York theaters, and magazines were forced to retouch or cover pubic areas in photographs. A court decision in 1957 changed all that, a decision that was not only to have a liberalizing effect upon all major communications media, but even more important, reflects a shifting climate toward greater freedom of expression and sexual acceptance. It seems a reasonable assumption that the smut traffic will decrease, and eventually disappear with a more accepting and open attitude toward the human body in our society, since unwholesome feelings about our bodies usually stem from repression. As for nudity, yes, it’s here to stay, and increase. Now in the United States, there are over one and on half million nudists registered and unregistered. In time to come, we will undoubtedly accept nudity more casually, as the Europeans do. We will view sex with a greater sense of proportion, not as something to be hidden, nor as the sole reason for existence, but as a necessary part of life. And we will judge the nude by its beauty and taste in execution. Any subject in photography deserves that much: to be valued for what it is, and any interpretation of that subject is in the minds of the photographer and of the beholder.
The American Sunbathing Association states the principles of nudism: “We believe in the essential wholesomeness of the human body and regard it neither as an object of shame nor a subject for degrading exploitation. We believe that sunlight and air are vital to human life and well-being, and that exposure of the entire body to these elements is desirable at such time and at such places as are fitting and proper for the purpose. We believe that we are entitled to enjoy the benefits of such exposure, without interference as long as we do not cause injury to our fellow citizens. Nudism is potentially one of the steps to greater human acceptance and, therefore, human awareness and growth. False modesty and artificial concepts of morality deny to people the meeting of each other without fear. True modesty can be achieved only when it is possible to totally accept oneself and others with unrestricted openness and honesty. Some of us have finally emerged from the fog that distorted our vision, and we have decided to experiment a little with human reactions to the disclosure of truth and God’s original plan of life. The reward has been instantaneous and electrifying: spiritual release, physical improvement, moral stamina, social integrity, and human consideration immediately become dominant factors in this program of life. It is so impressive, that we look back with wonder at the stupidity that once victimized us, and is still victimizing others. Deliverance from this bondage is realized by simply believing in the decency and dignity of the human body that God designed, and in being practical about it.”
If we want to restore sanity to our world, we must first save the young from the lies and hypocrisy inherited from generations of Puritan thinking. Modern man must find his path in a world which has become dangerous and dense. We will only survive if we start producing individuals endowed with full freedom of judgment. We need positive and personal thinking to guide us in our perilous journey ahead. The mind of man sets him apart from the lower animals. Man should use his intellect to create an ever more perfect, productive, comfortable, fulfilling, happy, healthy, and rational society. Our American democracy is based not simply on the will of the majority, but on the protection of the will of the minority, and the smallest minority in society is the individual. Each person has the right to explore his own individuality that sets him apart from the rest of mankind, as fully as he takes pride in the kinship that links him to every other man on earth, past, present, and future. Our society exists not only for the purpose of establishing common areas of agreement among men, but also to aid each of us to achieve our own individual identity. Society benefits as much from the differences in man, as from their similarities, and we should create a culture that not only accepts these differences, but respects and actually nurtures them. We will be happier living in an America in which all men are allowed to exercise full freedom of speech, of press, of religion, and of association. It is the America our founding fathers meant us to have. We should have it, now.