“Oh yes! We will never forget that! Five deputies came with pistols drawn! They must have thought we had horns. They were afraid of us!… and they were the ones who had the guns!” 1
Can you imagine armed policemen storming onto private property with guns drawn to arrest you and your friends for being harmlessly naked? Can you imagine being a body conscious cop having to go bust a bunch of nudies? It is absurd, and yet one can tremble at the thought… LOL.
The quote above (from someone who was there) recalls a raid on the American League for Physical Culture during the summer of 1930. In the early days of American nudism, raids such as this were not uncommon, and the American League was raided more than once, most notably on the night of December 7, 1931. They were having a meeting at their gym in Manhattan, a private setting away from public view and with doors locked. Police arrived without a search warrant and, when refused entry, broke in (prohibition style) with sledgehammers and crowbars. Everybody was arrested and quite a fright was inflicted on all involved, particularly the women and children. Once in court, the American League members pleaded “Not Guilty!” Their attorney established that they were acting privately and without lewd behavior, and the judge found them innocent of all charges. It was a key early victory that was later replicated (most of the time) in other jurisdictions around the country.
It is totally appropriate for a free society to establish legal code concerning nudity in public versus private spaces. It is also totally natural for successive generations to test boundaries and clarify that code to suit the culture of their time. The intrepid pioneers of the nascent nudist movement faced legal conditions that were both hostile and unclear. By their efforts, important legal concepts were established that continue to be relevant today. Importantly, they clarified in law that nudity is not inherently lewd or indecent but that improper behaviors for a public setting are what can render it so. Consequently, on the one hand, we have World Naked Bike Rides that occur today without mass arrest, but on the other, we have long established nude beaches that have been shut down for becoming places of excessive promiscuity.
Anyone who has engaged with the Top-Free Movement or the Free Beaches Movement is aware that law concerning body exposure continues to evolve. Distinctions between what is acceptable and what is not continue to be litigated and legislated. This is important work, and it is important to get right. Naturism/Nudism offers real benefits when rules and culture are right to bring out the best in people and inhibit the worst. It has taken generations for this social movement to get to where it is now. It will likely take generations more to achieve the best of what’s possible. We should therefore be grateful for the trail blazed by those who went before us and conduct ourselves in ways that uphold what they established and advance the cause.
1 From “Sky Farm at 61,” N Magazine, Vol. 12.4 summer 1993, p. 75.