Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Nude Vanguard

The Nude Vanguard:
Debbie Nathan reviews How Sex Became a Civil Right. She explores how the ACLU shifted from defending speech about sex to defending the acts themselves:
The early ACLU leadership vacationed together at Martha's
Vineyard. On isolated beaches there, many practiced nudism. Nudists
today are largely winked at if not ignored. But in the 1930s and
'40s, they saw themselves as an avant-garde movement. Going
undressed, they believed, would strengthen democracy by challenging
the class distinctions so visible in clothing. They also thought
the sight of people casually strolling in the buff would cool the
frisson of obscenity.

In 1934, ACLU started not just defending nudists' right to
publish material depicting them and their families naked, but to
gather that way in private. The organization thus entered a new
arena. Heretofore it had defended speech deemed sexually
inappropriate. Now it spoke up for acts in the privacy of
the bedroom—including, a generation later, homosexuals' right to
commit "sodomy."
(Detail from 1953 article on nudists by Flickr user x-ray delta one)

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