It's no secret the Seattle Times is written for, you know, an older audience, but geez, Misha Berson's hedging, halting, nudity-can-be-okay-sometimes editorial doesn't just sound like it was written for my great aunt's bridge club, it's factually wrong. I subscribe to the print edition, and as I was reading it I was writing things in the margins like "no" and "no" and "?" and "!!!" and "OMG."
After a mention of the Puritans and an assertion that only "the most jaded" theatergoers take nudity "in stride," Berson writes:
It remains, after all, taboo (and, on the street, illegal) to gad about in public sans clothing, and a display of frontal nudity in live entertainment is viewed as risque.
Not true. Unless "gad about" has a new meaning I don't know about. As anyone who's ever been to Fremont on the summer solstice knows, being on the street "sans clothes" is not illegal.
"It's absolutely not" a crime merely to be naked in public, said Sean Whitcomb, who leads the Seattle Police Department's public affairs unit, when I called him this morning. "You're correct. Nudity itself is not against the law, because it's just a naked body. But if there's any kind of lewd behavior that causes a reasonable person to be offended or alarmed, then you have a real issue."
If someone takes off their clothes at the Fremont Solstice Parade, or rides their bike down the parade route naked in front of God and everybody, that's perfectly fine. But, as Whitcomb explained, if someone starts masturbating in public, or exposes himself at a playground, or something like that—both examples of lewd behavior—then that would be illegal.
"There's nothing obscene about the human body. There's nothing obscene about nudity," Whitcomb said. "However, sometimes naked people behave in a way that makes it feel like it was done at our expense." He added that police action on lewd behavior is spurred by a person witnessing that behavior making a complaint. "If we see someone who's naked, who's not really doing anything, we can't do anything. We need a report."
The times have been a-changin' since the late 1960s, when the cast of the Broadway musical Hair broke a barrier by appearing au natural in the show's finale.
I hate to be one of those people who knows a lot about Hair, but the cast of Hair doesn't appear au natural in the show's finale. She's thinking of the end of act one.