on public decency

The following is a guest post written by goatman. Its genesis was a discussion about a girl in Egypt, Aliaa Elmahdy, who chose to present herself in a naked pose on her blog. The discussion evolved, as discussions do, to include the larger question of public decency and our 'cultural' perceptions of nudity.

(More about Aliaa Elmahdy can be found here at the Daily Mail Online)

"I think it was Tommy who first took us to the hot spring (details on Tommy will have to follow, perhaps on a future blog post) when we lived in Albuquerque.

The Jemez hot spring in the Nacimento mountains was a drive through the Jemez Pueblo -- a dusty place of adobe huts and pickup trucks -- up into the heights of the rocky piney forests. The spring hung off of the side of a mountain with views down into the valley and eventually the pueblo if you follow the stream. After a hike from the parking lot, we strip down and slowly enter the water, too hot really to just sit fast -- its more of an easing-into motion . . . slowly. Lie back with the others -- really not strangers at this point, and drift for hours. Someone invariably had oranges or wine or candles at night.

Once a Hopi fellow was above the spring chanting : hioo hee hee hee heeee hioo hioo hee loudly over and over . . . it just went on and on. What to make of this? We were told by a spring regular that the summer solstice ceremony was upcoming and that when the wives in the pueblo could hear his chant, he was ready to sing at the affair.

The only run in with "decency" occurred when a girl scout leader decided to lead her troop on a hike on the trail above the spring. Girl scouts and small minds were aghast and reported their apoplexy to the newspaper in Albuquerque after which were many letters to the editor and reports from those who had to check it out.

It was determined that a sign would be posted below the spring informing that there may be naked people above and to bang on the metal sign hung from a tree if they required a moral experience upon continuation up the trail (now I am being snarky!!). Upon hearing the signal we were to exit the water, dress appropriately, and wait until they passed (or decided to join in).

As the last person left the spring at the end of the day or night he would turn the sign around to a blank side --- the coast is clear. This worked very well and, as far as I know, still is the setup to this day. All were accommodated without grief or trepidation.

Attached is the exact Jemez spring of which I spoke. I am disillusioned, it has been domesticated by prudes -- too many damned people, in my opinion. "

thank you, goatman


Alberto Granados said...

A new era of purtanism is coming.
The egyptian girl will get in trouble. It was a foolish.
Once I had an Egyptian-American girl as a conversation assistant. I asked sometimes her how to fot her conservative religion to the real fact of being born in the most copsmpolitan city in the world (she was a newyorker).
She never told me a satiscatory explanation.
By the way: this link shosws the real, uncensored pic.

Regards from Granada,


soubriquet said...

The girl was not prudent, in a country where people are killed for their views.

Here I am, in Britain, where naked pictures are no longer quite so shocking, but nakedness is almost always seeen as an expression of sexuality.

Yet, having lived in, and travelled through various bits of Scandinavia, I've seen a world in which nakedness and sexuality are not the samne thing. Where you'll be driving along a country road, which comes out of the foreast to run along the shore of a lake. Look. There are three girls, naked, splashing in the shallows. Look, there's an elderly couple, naked, soaking up the sun. Look, There's a little flock of children, boys and girls, chasing each other with bird cries of laughter, on the sand.
It's a scene of happiness and beauty. You drive on, smiling.
When you reach your destination, at the friend's family's house, there's no time for introductions, the sauna's hot, just slip out of your clothes, and step inside the ear-cracklingly hot, pine-scented room. Eight naked strangers nod a greeting, then continue their meditation, no chatter, just quiet minds.
Outside, the women, towel-wrapped and pink-skinned, talk quietly.
With a roar, the first to break from the inferno darts outside, and leaps, a bomb in the quiet lake. And of course, once one has broken, there's no shame in following. We all rush out, naked, past the towel-wrapped women, and leap, like red-boiled salmon.
Then we swim back to the steps, and return to the inferno, ready for another bout.
The conversation outside continues. Are they discussing our bodies?
After a few cycles of this, it's time to wrap in a towel, and sit and talk, in the evening stillness. There's food, and there's cold beer in the bucket by the water's edge.
And this, this meeting of naked strangers, seems so natural. No uniforms, no assessing who a person is, their wealth, taste, or status by the clothes they wear.
We meet naked, we have no armour, no weapons. I lost count of the people I met that way.
The first few times? Of course, I'm english and terribly self-conscious.
After a while, though, it just feels normal.
There is the city self. The person of status, and there's the country self. When you go to the country, you're expected to leave all your manufactured persona behind, to be yourself, natural, no hard carapace, no airs and graces.
You share the chores.
And the nakedness is your introduction. A token of trust, perhaps.

goatman said...

There ya go!

red dirt girl said...

Hi AG ~

I fear you are correct about a new era of puritanism. Aliaa Elmahdy will suffer the consequences of her actions. I can only hope that the punishment is not death. Thank you for the link.


red dirt girl said...

Soubry ~ I was hoping you would share some of what you experienced in Scandinavia in regards to this topic of public nudity and sexuality.

Beautiful story. I love that last line:
And the nakedness is your introduction. A token of trust, perhaps.

Thank you.


red dirt girl said...

Hi goatman ~ Yes! And there you go. Thank you for the fine post and for allowing me to blog it here.

As we have discussed (with Soubry including), we live in a country that sexualizes youth and beauty. Unlike Egypt, we have the freedom to post our nude photos on blogs, facebook, twitter ... we are titillated when our celebrities pose nude or 'get caught' with very little clothing on. It's breaking news when our politicians are caught!

Yet there are consequences here, too. For instance, a school teacher would soon find herself without a job if she were found posting nude photos of herself on the internet. Same goes for the school's head cheerleader ... How would we feel if we saw nude photographs of our doctors? our bank tellers? our neighbors ?

It is an uncomfortable thought.


Anonymous said...

How many times has one person's imprudent action sparked real change in the world? We'll know Elmahdy's impact a generation from now. I hope she lives long enough to see it.


red dirt girl said...

Hi Dave ~

I wish I were as optimistic as you. Unfortunately, it appears that the fundamentalist Muslims are garnering the majority vote in Egypt. Elmahdy is attempting to change a centuries old religion! I'm afraid her imprudent action will be swept under a rug and forgotten ...


Anonymous said...

i have a firend in New Mexico that has not been to that particular spring, but assures me that "it is pretty standard protocol with any of the hot springs around here that nudity is expected ... hippie culture is present"

goatman said...

Hey Now . . . it's Mr. Hippie!!

red dirt girl said...

Hi cowboy ~ I think what goatman is trying to point out in this post and in his comment is that 'going nude' at a hot springs is not just the domain of the hippie culture. Non-hippies like to strip down and soak in the springs too. Public nudity is not about labeling a person. In our country, yes it is a 'statement' act. But it should not be so - like in Soubry's account. "To be yourself natural, no persona, no airs nor graces."