Social nudity in Seattle

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The Solstice Cyclists in 2005.

Social nudity in Seattle is an umbrella reference for Seattle's culture of non-sexualized clothing-optional and topfree events.

Seattle is known for having a diversity of clothing-optional events, a large degree of creative energy in a wide range of different organizations and events, and enough tolerance for such phenomena to take place.

Early years[edit]

Beaches[edit]

While Seattle is known for its naked cyclists, clothing-optional activity in Seattle goes back much farther with nude and topfree use of areas of Magnuson Park, Washington Park Arboretum, Discovery Park, and Denny-Blaine Park.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a far more rebellious mood and more group activity, including nudity. A lot centered on the University of Washington, with the main skinny-dipping area the NW corner of the Washington Park Arboretum. When the RH Thompson expressway[1] construction was stopped, folks liked to dive off the unconnected ramps, but this all ended.

Magnuson Park may not have been accessible to civilians until the late 1980s, when the Sandpoint Naval Air Station was closed. Skinny-dipping was individual or a few people, and at various spots north up to the NOAA buildings. Others may have clearer memories.

Because of the lack of safe places around town (1970s-1990s) some preferred skinny-dipping at lakes or going to Scenic and other hot springs. No formal organized use has been documented before the Seattle Free Beach Campaign came into existence in the early 2000s.

Clubs[edit]

Additionally, several clubs serve the Greater Seattle area including Lake Bronson Family Nudist Club, Lake Associates Recreation Club (LARC) near Mt Vernon, Fraternity Snoqualmie (now Tiger Mountain Family Nudist Park) on the side of Tiger Mountain near Issaquah. Fraternity Snoqualmie at Park Forestia is the home of the Bare Buns Fun Run West and Nudestock. Additionally, the Sun Lovers Under Gray Skies (SLUGS) is a non-landed naturist travel & events club located in the Puget Sound area.

Naked cyclists[edit]

The Solstice Cyclists are widely believed[by whom?] to be one of the primary groups to popularize festive and artistic nudity and have been an influence on such groups as World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) and its local affiliated World Naked Bike Ride Seattle events including WNBR Downtown Seattle, the permaculture-oriented Gardens Everywhere Bike Parade, WNBR Seattle Night Rides, WNBR West Seattle, Seafair Cyclists and Hemp Ride as well as other local Pacific Northwest clothing-optional bike rides such as Body Pride Ride as well as rides that have no specific dress code and tolerate clothing-optional participants such as Seattle Critical Mass. In fact, participants of non-Solstice Cyclists events often are assumed[by whom?] to be directly affiliated with Solstice Cyclists, or simply just known as the naked cyclists.

In fact all of the organizers of the latter naked cycling events have been participants of the Solstice Cyclists, including Daniel Johnson, Nexus, Matt and others.

2000 and beyond[edit]

Body Freedom Collaborative is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the integration and acceptance of non-sexual social nudity in a variety of public and private settings, and was formed in the early 2000s by Mark Storey and Daniel Johnson. Another popular international event that started in Seattle was World Naked Gardening Day.

Legality[edit]

While there is nothing in the Seattle Municipal Code about nudity and expectations of behavior, Washington State does have a law protecting against "obscene" behavior while being fully or partially naked. Distributing nude photographs to someone if you are underage is equivalent to someone underage receiving them and withholding the photographs in an electronic device or a hard copy. Both the distributor and the receiver will be convicted of the same crime under Washington state law. When convicted, this crime is considered a misdemeanor, but can easily be qualified as a felony. Both participants may have to register as sex offenders in their counties. This law is intended to protect citizens by discouraging the distribution of personal nudity. RCW 9A.88.010 on Indecent Exposure states "(1) A person is guilty of indecent exposure if he or she intentionally makes any open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm. The act of breastfeeding or expressing breast milk is not indecent exposure." The severity goes up substantially when an offense is made against young children.

In 2005 the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported the following:

Parks spokeswoman Dewey Potter said the parks department does not consider simply being naked illegal, and she doesn't remember any complaints during the 13 years she's worked for the city about nudity in the parks -- though a man threatened to complain if people went nude at a rally Storey organized two years ago." Still, Storey said, police have interpreted indecent exposure laws to mean that being nude in public is illegal.[2]

— Kery Muraka, reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 4, 2006

The Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation provided this explanation to those who complained about participants in the 2006 World Naked Bike Ride Seattle event:

While public nudity is objectionable to many citizens, under Washington state’s Indecent Exposure Law, public nudity in itself is not illegal. The law specifies that "A person is guilty of indecent exposure if he or she intentionally makes any open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm." In order to file a formal complaint, a citizen can contact police to report the particular behavior and register his or her willingness to testify in court if the nude person is cited for indecent exposure. Unfortunately, it is impossible to control all illegal and inappropriate activities in our parks and on our streets. Public officials cannot prevent an event from happening on the basis of its potential offensiveness, only on the basis of its being illegal. The World Naked Bike Ride you encountered was not illegal. There will always be people who push the boundaries, and from your description it sounds as though there were a few of those on the ride. I am forwarding your complaint to the organizer of the World Naked Bike Ride who, of course, is always interested in the public’s reactions.

— Kenneth R. Bounds, former Seattle Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation

Former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske had this to say to his staff about questions regarding nude participants in the 2008 Gay Pride Parade:

Washington's indecent exposure law makes it a misdemeanor to 'make an open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm.' In other words, there must be lewd or obscene behavior for an officer to take action. In order for the police to make an arrest, we must have witnesses currently in the public place where the nudity is occurring [sic] who must make a complaint. These witnesses must be willing to appear in court. Also in order to prosecute, the burden is on the government to prove that the offender was knowingly aware that their conduct created alarm and offense of others.

— Former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=3114
  2. ^ Quote from Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Nudists share the naked truth" by Kery Muraka. Tuesday, July 4, 2006. Local news. The online version is also available at: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/276327_nude04.html Interview with Mark Storey about Seattle Free Beach Campaign, public nudity, nudity in Seattle parks, BFC's Beach Rally in 2004 at Discovery Park, mention of World Naked Gardening Day.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nude Hiking and Soaking in the Pacific Northwest: Commentary on WNBR Indecent Exposure Citation Thursday, December 31, 2009
  • The Seattle Times Seattle Parks seeking to ban nudity By Erik Lacitis, Seattle Times staff reporter. Originally published November 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 13, 2008 at 8:59 AM. This city's famous tolerance for the unconventional just got a little less so. Here is a message from Seattle Parks and Recreation to all...
  • KING-TV News Nudity in Seattle parks could become thing of the past November 13, 2008 - Did you know that it's not against the law to run around naked in a public park in Seattle? That could change under a new rule being proposed by Seattle City Parks. KING 5's Linda Byron reports. (Interviews with Seattle Police spokesperson, Daniel Johnson (WNBR), Joelle Ligon (Parks Dept.))
  • Seattle Post-Intelligencer City weighs stripping nudists of bike ride By KERY MURAKAMI, P-I REPORTER. Thursday, November 13, 2008. Breaks the story of Seattle Parks & Recreation public nudity rule proposal, its relationship to WNBR Seattle. Quotes by Dewey Potter (Parks), Mark Storey (NAC), Daniel Johnson (WNBR). (Editor's Note: This story has been altered. Earlier versions, based on incorrect information from the Seattle Parks and Recreation department, inaccurately described what happened to 23 nude bicyclists during a ride in July.)
  • West Seattle Blog Two wheels, no clothes: Bicycling protesters in West Seattle Posted September 6, 2008
  • Nude & Natural (N) magazine covered Benham Gallery and Seattle Art Museum visit in issue 28.2, Winter 2008. "Naked Cyclists' Artful Idyll" by Marie Gunn. Pages 61–62. Discussion of Daniel's idea to collaborate with Marita Holdaway of Benham Gallery in Seattle.
  • Nude & Natural (N), Seattle's Solstice Spectacular/Body Positive Creativity Abounds... at the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade by John Cornicello & Daniel Johnson. Also Guerilla Nudity/Wave Makers: Introducing the Body Freedom Collaborative by Mark Storey. Issue 23.1, Autumn 2003.

External links[edit]