The Naked Rambler now in prison for 6 years for nudity
March 25, 2012 7:34 AM   Subscribe

The Naked Rambler now in prison for 6 years for nudity Six years ago, Naked Rambler Stephen Gough's hike from Land's End to John O'Groats brought him media fame – and a prison sentence. Then another, and another, and… why has he been locked up ever since?
posted by novenator (127 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
An excellent use of tax dollars.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:37 AM on March 25, 2012


Pounds leotrotsky, Pounds.
posted by pharm at 7:38 AM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Sorry, that probably came out snarkier than I meant it.)
posted by pharm at 7:38 AM on March 25, 2012


You brits and your weird slang: lorries, lifts, pounds.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:44 AM on March 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


Hey! Quit pounding on leotrotsky!
posted by hippybear at 7:45 AM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


hippybear: "Hey! Quit pounding on leotrotsky!"

Naw. Leave them alone. It's kinda hot.

grabs popcorn and soda
posted by Samizdata at 7:48 AM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was a really great article; thank you for posting it.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:48 AM on March 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Here is the only other Mefi post I could find on this subject, from his second nude hike that got him arrested prior to his current stretch of time behind bars
posted by novenator at 7:49 AM on March 25, 2012


The law is a covered ass.

This isn't about nudity, and hasn't been about nudity for some time. This is, as I see it, about the justice system protecting its right to respect for the decision it makes and the laws it has to enforce.

I find Gough fascinating. He is like a Shakespearean jester, using the most absurd of means to make the most serious of points - that individualism, victimless individualism, is no crime.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:51 AM on March 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


I'm sure this is the guy that used to hang round the entrance to the Green fields at Glastonbury Festival with a placard and not much else
posted by devon at 7:51 AM on March 25, 2012


He should have done it with eight other guys......

/obscure reference
posted by HuronBob at 7:52 AM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Eventually Gough's case was heard at Scotland's appeal court, where it was found that breach of the peace should indeed be interpreted to criminalise his behaviour. Since then Scottish sheriffs have fallen in line; his sentences have steadily increased to the maximum and, should he keep refusing to dress, he will be caught in an endless cycle of two-year sentences. He insists if he were allowed to return home naked to Eastleigh, he'd cease being naked in public "when I don't have to do it any more".

So the only reason he's not free is that he refuses to temporarily put on clothes to leave his cell and go to court? I mean, I get that it's absurd that seeing a penis is apparently enough to cause enough "fear and alarm" in the public to arrest someone, but I also get why his teenage kids aren't writing to him anymore.
posted by mediareport at 7:52 AM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sad and unconscionable and noble story.

The judge said his hands were tied. Seeing a man's penis was felt to be enough to cause fear and alarm.

Seems like it almost might be worth it to be able to say that your penis has terrorized the land.
posted by XMLicious at 7:53 AM on March 25, 2012 [15 favorites]


We I was a juror I wore my very best paisley. I was hoping a judge would tell me I couldn't be on the jury. Now I see I should have come naked.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:57 AM on March 25, 2012


Letting this man loose could prove quite beneficial.

Hook a generator to Mary Whitehouse's corpse, then whisper "there's a NAKED MAN wandering freely in the UK," and its constant spinning could provide electrical power for millions.
posted by delfin at 8:00 AM on March 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I was hoping a judge would tell me I couldn't be on the jury.

This is a really terrible way to be.
posted by curious nu at 8:02 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was hoping a judge would tell me I couldn't be on the jury. Now I see I should have come naked.

So they'd have to declare it a hung jury?

you knew someone would
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:06 AM on March 25, 2012 [15 favorites]


I get that it's absurd that seeing a penis is apparently enough to cause enough "fear and alarm" in the public to arrest someone

Well, since the article can't be bothered to show us the offending appendage, we, the public will never know (unless we are at exactly the right place at the right time, and who can afford to keep going to Perth prison?). Am I supposed to just take some judge's word for it?

More seriously, it's pretty sad that he seems to have alienated almost all his friends and family over this. I mean, everyone picks their own hills, but this seems more like an almost pathological stubbornness than a principled stand.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:07 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


You don't think that WANTING to be on a jury is even more unusual than showing up naked in front of one?
posted by delfin at 8:07 AM on March 25, 2012


This is a really terrible way to be.

Yeah, I was kidding. Sorry. I did were my best paisley and fuck any judge that says I wouldn't wear it. I consider jury duty to be the most important civic duty one can do as a civilian (nearly tied with voting).
posted by cjorgensen at 8:10 AM on March 25, 2012


this seems more like an almost pathological stubbornness than a principled stand

Every day in prison adds to the investment, and giving in to the arbitrary rules of the Scottish judicial and penal system would at this point, to him, betray all of the sacrifice already made. Not sure if you can take the idea of "sunk costs" into consideration with these sort of absolute moral stands. This is how martyrs are produced.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:10 AM on March 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


Seeing a man's penis was felt to be enough to cause fear and alarm.

Wow, how big IS this thing?
posted by desjardins at 8:12 AM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is how martyrs are produced.

I think you only get to be a martyr if a fair number of people approve of what you are doing. He seems to be down to a community of one. Which is not to say that your analysis isn't right, but it makes it all the more sad to my mind.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:13 AM on March 25, 2012


I can't imagine that anyone who's had their piece of mind disturbed by Stephen Gough would wish him to be locked up for six years. This is a brutal punishment on someone who is, at worst, eccentric. I'm not about to to go wandering about in my nakedness but I find it loathsome that Gough should be locked up for doing that.

I can't quite tell what it is exactly that has me so bothered by this, I think it's probably because on some level it is so ridiculous. The injustice somehow becomes even starker.
posted by Kattullus at 8:15 AM on March 25, 2012 [18 favorites]


this seems more like an almost pathological stubbornness than a principled stand.

Well, apparently there aren't actually any laws against public nudity in the UK, so they've had to find other reasons to hold this man in prison.

At least here in the US there are various laws which say exactly what constitutes nudity and therefore goes to far, and what doesn't and thus exactly how naked you can be in public before you cross the line.

It seems to me his principled stand is twofold: 1) he had a profound realization about life which led him to realize that the social strictures around him were worthless and could be ignored, and 2) there are NO ACTUAL LAWS against what he was doing.

That he's maintaining his stand against the full force of society's legal representatives only shows how deeply (1) has affected him, because (2) shows that it truly is only social strictures which have created the circumstances of his punishment.
posted by hippybear at 8:16 AM on March 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


You don't think that WANTING to be on a jury is even more unusual than showing up naked in front of one?

I would love to be on a jury; then I could chime in on all those legal AskMes aas if I were some sort of expert.

Actually, I really would like to be on a jury; I have had an interest in the law since I was young (considered law school for a time) and the chance to see it in action would be fascinating. Also, the lawyers I know have all sorts of good courtroom stories (and from the few times I have been in a courtroom I know it can be a pretty entertaining place). The fact that it is an important civic duty where you really can impact someone's life is just icing on the cake.

If this guy came to court and I was on the jury it would be jury nullification all the way. Does that concept apply to UK juries?
posted by TedW at 8:16 AM on March 25, 2012


down to a community of one

Well at least two, and I'd guess more. Man wants to go naked, leave him the fuck alone - what's this bullshit of arresting him out in the parking lot every two years, just let him walk away and leave him be. At this point it is a contest of wills and demand for random obedience to the state, nothing else.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:18 AM on March 25, 2012 [15 favorites]


Does that concept apply to UK juries?

British juror Edward Bushel invented the whole idea in the trial of William Penn.
posted by localroger at 8:22 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Make me three! This guy makes me think of a naked George Fox, or one of those wonderful folk from the 1600s who weren't afraid to do and say what they thought, like John Bunyan or Gerrard Winstanley. Maybe that's overdoing it, but I'm as glad for him as I am for them.
posted by Jehan at 8:23 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, since the article can't be bothered to show us the offending appendage, we, the public will never know....

Someone didn't follow the link in the article.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:24 AM on March 25, 2012


He's standing up for his rights as an individual human being and pointing out the arbitrary, pointless and inexplicable nature of our modern civilization.

I both applaud him and weep for him.
posted by Avenger at 8:25 AM on March 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


I have a deep respect for this person and I hope he doesn't back down.
posted by hermitosis at 8:25 AM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Someone didn't follow the link in the article.

You are quite right; I missed it among all the other links. In my defense, though, the photos are all rather coy; you still really can't judge whether this penis would be likely to cause "fear and alarm." On the other hand, the "show larger" links caused the usual titters.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:32 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's not the only one, though it doesn't appear Teri Webb is still incarcerated.

It also made me think of the Doukhobors, a group I found out about while doing 1909 newspaper research on something else entirely. Their naked protest walk across Canada was quite the sensation. Their protests were about being over-controlled by the Canadian government, but they also burned their own houses down to demonstrate against the evils of materialism.
posted by RedEmma at 8:33 AM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


This guy makes me think of a naked George Fox, or one of those wonderful folk from the 1600s who weren't afraid to do and say what they thought, like John Bunyan or Gerrard Winstanley.
Or one of our greatest poets, Blake, naked in his garden. They tried to fit him up on charges too.
If he was causing genuine distress or up to anything creepy, you could justify some sort of intervention, but he doesn't appear to have offended anyone. Even if he had, this cruel farce is clearly unnecessary.
posted by Abiezer at 8:35 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, it's easy to snicker. But victimless deviance like this and the outsized institutional response it provokes brings the reality of the Carceral archipelago into sharp focus.

Public nudity I'm not so into. But reminding everyone of the arbitrariness and bloodless savagery of the bureacratic state? Ramble on, Mr. Gough.
posted by R. Schlock at 8:36 AM on March 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


I can't quite tell what it is exactly that has me so bothered by this

For me it's 1) that a judge could quickly and easily arrange to release him, naked, on the promise that he'd put clothes on if he came to the neighborhood in the future, and be done with this atrocity of justice* and 2) that he's spent 6 years in jail away from his two children on a "contest of wills," to use Meatbomb's phrase, over a perfectly understandable point his kids might think was less important than having a father around.

*(I'm assuming, correct me UK folks if that's wrong)
posted by mediareport at 8:36 AM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


on the promise that he'd put clothes on if he came to the neighborhood in the future

He would never make that promise.

And so, here we are.
posted by Artw at 8:45 AM on March 25, 2012


Not that he doesn't have a point, but it does seem like he's not all that uncomfortable in a small locked room.
posted by sammyo at 8:48 AM on March 25, 2012


he's spent 6 years in jail away from his two children on a "contest of wills," to use Meatbomb's phrase, over a perfectly understandable point his kids might think was less important than having a father around.

Considering how much of this comes down to his personal beliefs, I wonder whether the "think of the children!" contingent would feel the same way if this was about a man being held indefinitely on charges related to his atheism, while his religious children no longer returned his letters?
posted by hermitosis at 8:51 AM on March 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Sounds like he had plenty of chances to stay out of jail. Hard to feel too bad.
posted by planet at 8:57 AM on March 25, 2012


He would never make that promise.

Uh, he already sort of has:

He insists if he were allowed to return home naked to Eastleigh, he'd cease being naked in public "when I don't have to do it any more".

I guess there's some wiggle room in that last bit, but if he wanted to push it he could come back to Scotland in the nude sometime in the future and get arrested again. But I got the clear impression he'd agree to leave them be if he could walk out of jail naked just this once.

Also, I'm almost never in the kneejerk "'think of the children!' contingent," so it's an interesting feeling to be accused of it, for sure. Bottom line is he could easily find a strategy for pushing the boundaries on Scotland's ridiculous enforcement of anti-penis laws that *didn't* involve denying his kids a father for six years. I do respect his conviction, don't get me wrong. I just think his strategy is kinda dumb at this point.
posted by mediareport at 9:07 AM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sounds like he had plenty of chances to stay out of jail. Hard to feel too bad.

That's true, he could have just unquestioningly followed the arbitrary rules laid out for him by his government (although, since apparently according to the comments above there's not actually a law against what he's doing, I guess the rules were laid out after the fact, but I can't see how that makes them any less fair). Since he didn't, it's definitely okay for him to be imprisoned indefinitely.
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:09 AM on March 25, 2012 [15 favorites]


That's kind of the way civil disobedience works. You break the law, you go to jail. And either the law breaks, or you do.
posted by empath at 9:13 AM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Stephen Gough seems to be pointing out that social fictions are, well, fictitious, and some of them are silly. Between the naked truth and the naked penis, maybe it's not the naked penis that's dangerous.

I suppose the authorities may just have to put him on the hook, then have draft horses pull him asunder, or whatever punishment modern Scottish fictions have evolved since medieval times. Or else they can just keep him there until he dies and they no longer have to worry about him, or themselves.
posted by mule98J at 9:14 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seems amazing that, given that they know what he's going to do, they don't evacuate the area when he's about to leave to avoid the terrible damage to society he will cause if he is seen.
posted by XMLicious at 9:34 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It sounds like he is actually in jail for contempt of court. There was a story in the news recently about a (US) judge who had a defendant thrown in jail for contempt of court for wearing a tanktop or shorts or something. I don't have a link.

I found this article about a judge, in the US who got in trouble for throwing public defenders in jail on frivolous contempt charges. Apparently she was known as the 'miniskirt judge' for wearing miniskirts herself, while I was looking for instances of that kind of thing.

Anyway, seems like 650 days is insane.
posted by delmoi at 9:37 AM on March 25, 2012


Sounds like he had plenty of chances to stay out of jail. Hard to feel too bad.

You can't change the rules if you just blindly follow them. The absurdity and subjectivity of the modern judicial system only really becomes apparent when people prove it.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 9:59 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I clicked on the GIS link provided by cjorgensen, and got a series of naked pictures. Then I noticed that Safe Search was on, so I clicked it off, and Google returned less naked people. WTF?

That being said, interesting article and he seems like an interesting person to talk to.
posted by Harald74 at 9:59 AM on March 25, 2012


mediareport: "So the only reason he's not free is that he refuses to temporarily put on clothes to leave his cell and go to court? (...) I also get why his teenage kids aren't writing to him anymore."

My father is a principled man, also. As a son, I'd far rather endure the sacrifices he's made for principle, than the shame of compromise.
posted by klanawa at 10:03 AM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I seem to recall from years ago that the difference between the Scottish and English was this: in both there was no law against nakedness, but in both you could be arrested for breaching the peace with your nakedness, however in England there must exist a complaint of distress, whereas in Scotland hypothetical distress is enough. I don't know if that's exactly right, but it sounds like the kind of difference you get. Not hugely different laws, but a difference in process and requirements.
posted by Jehan at 10:08 AM on March 25, 2012


The Sexual Offences Act 2003, section 66, states that "a person commits an offence if (a) he intentionally exposes his genitals, and (b) he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress". But it would be hard to convict Stephen Gough under this law, as he doesn't appear to have intended to cause any alarm or distress.
posted by verstegan at 10:12 AM on March 25, 2012


I was hoping a judge would tell me I couldn't be on the jury.

This is a really terrible way to be.


The truly terrible way to get out of jury duty is to show up for jury duty with a hard sciences degree. Seriously, I know someone who got off jury duty because she knew what the "poly-my-rase" chain reaction was.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:14 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I wrong to think there might be a streak of male exhibitionism in traditional Scottish culture?

We all know, for example, the de rigueur underwear for Scottish kilts, namely none, and there's that joke about the Scotsman who falls dead drunk by the side of the road with his kilt in disarray, then two mischievous girls come along and tie a blue ribbon around his penis, and when he wakes up to piss, he exclaims "I don't know where ye've been, Jock, but I see ye won first prize!"

Not to mention the intensely phallic content of many of the off color Ozark folktales, generally considered to have Scottish roots and which were passed around among the descendants off the Scottish immigrants who were prominent among the original white settlers of the Ozarks, and which were gathered by Vance Randolph in Pissing in the Snow. I'm tempted to post the very short tale that gives the book its title, but you can find it at the beginning of the linked page.
posted by jamjam at 10:25 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


This guy has been kicking up a fuss for years... there's no way he'd just stop if they let him have his way. I get the impression if that he stops doing this he'll have nothing else in his life so he keeps fighting. By coincidence read something yesterday on the lines of if you never compromise ever to reach an understanding then you will just end up marginalised and looking a bit weird.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:26 AM on March 25, 2012


On this matter, as on all others, he had his own peculiar views. He thought that the Gymnosophists of India, the ancient Britons, and others of whom History tells, who went naked, were, in this, wiser than the rest of mankind, -- pure and wise -- and that it would be well if the world could be as they. From the speculative idea to the experimental realization of it in his own person, was, for him, but a step; though the prejudices of Society would hardly permit the experiment to be more than temporary and private.

At the end of the little garden in Hercules Buildings there was a summer-house. Mr Butts calling one day found Mr and Mrs Blake sitting in this summer-house, freed from 'those troublesome disguises' which have prevailed since the Fall. 'Come in!' cried Blake; 'it's only Adam and Eve, you know!' Husband and wife had been reciting passages from Paradise Lost, in character, and the garden of Hercules Buildings had to represent the Garden of Eden: a little to the scandal of wondering neighbours, on more than one occasion.

Alexander Gilchrist, Life of William Blake (1863)
posted by verstegan at 10:30 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Verstegan - that's the English law, but the Scottish law is almost the same; it's only illegal if you're doing it for "sexual gratification" or your intent is "humiliating, distressing or alarming" someone.

I had no idea that the guy was still in prison. I wonder if retaining the support of the Wee Free end of the party is a reason for the government not to intervene? Because, as jamjam points out, if you want to get public penis exposure around here you just have to walk past a wedding party on a breezy day. Or go to an enthusiastic ceilidh.
posted by Coobeastie at 10:34 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


There has to be a middle ground between "throw the guy in jail for years" and "just let him walk around naked creeping people out," doesn't there?

I mean, to me, "naked in public" (out of a context where that's agreed upon as appropriate like a clothing-optional beach) is like "drunk in public" (where someone's not driving or otherwise posing a danger to others). "You're creeping people out with your inappropriate behavior" seems like a reasonable place for the law to do something, but a multi-year prison term seems draconian.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:35 AM on March 25, 2012


By coincidence read something yesterday on the lines of if you never compromise ever to reach an understanding then you will just end up marginalised and looking a bit weird.

See, this is my dilemma. I guess I can respect the guy for his adherence to principle and being willing to serve years in prison to make a point, but the point he is making really seems to be more "I can walk around naked if I like," which doesn't seem to be a clear-cut as "there is no law against it." If the article is correct and the Naturists (surely his closest allies) have stopped providing visible support for him, doesn't that suggest that they don't agree with this crusade?

So, is it possible to say that I support his resistance in theory, and I think the judiciary has been unnecessarily harsh on an apparently harmless individual, but I think his basic issue is a little week and his family and one-time political allies think so, too?
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:40 AM on March 25, 2012


"Clothes make the man."
-- Mark Twain.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:48 AM on March 25, 2012


There's a lot of less selfish things one could be a martyr over.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:53 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would not "choose this hill" per se, well I'm personally an "Ella", but resisting arbitrary authority always matters. Can we get a hero tag?
posted by jeffburdges at 10:56 AM on March 25, 2012


Am I wrong to think there might be a streak of male exhibitionism in traditional Scottish culture?
Gough's English though, isn't he? Just happened to be the Scots leg of his perambulations that he fell foul of the law on.
posted by Abiezer at 11:04 AM on March 25, 2012


Seeing this shake out, it's clear that the Naked Rambler falls perfectly into the MetaFilter interstice between penises and politics.

For all those who are considering this a quixotic indulgence or narcissistic attention-seeking, ask yourselves what might have happened in a less bureaucratized society. Would a state that depended more on integrated, decentralized networks of trusting citizens have blindly returned this man to the same prison cell, time after time, unable or unwilling to deviate from its juridical script? Wouldn't a culture that depended on human judgment rather than bureaucratic procedure have found a way to satisfy Mr. Gough's need to make a point about public nudity while still preserving the integrity of its institutions? Couldn't a human face have reasoned with this man, sought an acceptable compromise and offered, in some fashion, redress of his grievance?

The substance of Gough's protest is totally irrelevant here. What's remarkable about this story is the state's continuing inability to do anything but punish him robotically with sanctions that effect neither remorse nor rehabilitation. Didn't Einstein say that insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

The state cannot make Mr. Gough clothe himself, so it wraps its stone walls and iron bars around his body instead. If Orwell were alive, he'd be laughing his ass off.
posted by R. Schlock at 11:21 AM on March 25, 2012 [15 favorites]


Gough's English though, isn't he? Just happened to be the Scots leg of his perambulations that he fell foul of the law on.

I have a cunning plan:
1) declare English independence,
2) tell Gough that as he's English he's already managed to walk around "his" country naked long ago,
3) fella puts his chuddies back on and goes home happy,
4) but if that fails we offer Berwick to the Scots as a ransom for King Starknaked.

This is foolproof.
posted by Jehan at 11:28 AM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


In Scotland, breach of the peace is partly defined as "conduct which does, or could, cause the lieges [public] to be placed in a state of fear, alarm or annoyance"

Seems like that'd cover pretty much anything anyone does.

Fuck that.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:30 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was thinking more along the lines of Scotland finally declares independance und has him deported back to England, Jehan. They seem rather desperate to get rid of him. They just have run out of ideas how.
posted by ZeroAmbition at 11:33 AM on March 25, 2012


Ironic, given that Scotland, um, rocks out with its ...
posted by scruss at 11:43 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


They really can't find people to testify that his nudity bothers them? I love Europe.
posted by salvia at 11:47 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, "I love England and Scotland" to be precise. Not sure if it's the same throughout the continent.
posted by salvia at 11:48 AM on March 25, 2012


It seems to me his principled stand is twofold: 1) he had a profound realization about life which led him to realize that the social strictures around him were worthless and could be ignored
Does he get to make that choice? What with it being a society 'an all.
posted by fullerine at 11:55 AM on March 25, 2012


fullerine: " Does he get to make that choice? What with it being a society 'an all."

When it comes to something that doesn't harm (or even really affect) others, shouldn't he be allowed to make whatever choice he likes without interference from the state or society?
posted by wierdo at 11:56 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I had kids, especially daughters, I wouldn't want this guy around exposing himself to them. Yeah its cool that he's so comfortable with his body, but not everyone else is. This isn't about individuality or whatever is touted above, its that there are some people in society who shouldn't be exposed to his old balls and peener.
posted by karathrace at 12:02 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah its cool that he's so comfortable with his body, but not everyone else is.

Yes, because it's the people who don't have the hang-ups who need to cater to the people who are tightly wound.

Similar to the "I don't care if they're queer as long as they don't flaunt it in public" statements which continue to be so popular.
posted by hippybear at 12:13 PM on March 25, 2012 [21 favorites]


When it comes to something that doesn't harm (or even really affect) others, shouldn't he be allowed to make whatever choice he likes without interference from the state or society?
As long as he doesn't interfere with the state or society, which he clearly seems to be doing.
I think it's interesting, but if one of the costs of living in this society is people have to wear clothes then that's cool by me.
If I felt different I'd probably be living in a different society.

I don't have an issue with the penis, I have an issue with the entitlement.
Similar to the "I don't care if they're queer as long as they don't flaunt it in public" statements which continue to be so popular.
Perhaps he should be forced to wear a suit made out of straw.
posted by fullerine at 12:18 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


There has to be a middle ground between "throw the guy in jail for years" and "just let him walk around naked creeping people out," doesn't there?

Indeed, and Marks and Spencers are well known for providing this compromise.
posted by biffa at 12:29 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah its cool that he's so comfortable with his body, but not everyone else is.

This is why most people are equipped with necks that swivel.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:35 PM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


So... at his trial, Gough is hauled before the judge. Gough still refuses to wear clothes but agrees to wear plastic food wrap as a compromise. He is to be released on grounds of insanity.

He walks into the courtroom and the judge says, "I can clearly see you're nuts."
posted by MuffinMan at 12:37 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man finds way to get ground up by the exposed gears of society, and proceeds to repeatedly insert himself into gears so he can be ground up.

This is essentially a line-drawing conflict. Gough found a place where sticking one toe over the line draws a disproportionate consequence for his specific case. What few here seem to acknowledge is that we draw somewhat blunt and less-than-accurate lines because the cost of perfectly deciding and drawing every single line is absurdly expensive and exhausting out of all proportion to the benefit of doing so.

One detail in the story that tipped things over for me was when he decided to repeat his walk because he wasn't naked enough the first time. He was looking for the confrontation, not the nudity. He's exactly where he wants to be right now.
posted by fatbird at 12:38 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Am I wrong to think there might be a streak of male exhibitionism in traditional Scottish culture?
Gough's English though, isn't he? Just happened to be the Scots leg of his perambulations that he fell foul of the law on.

Excellent point, and I was imagining Gough as an extreme expresser of a cultural tendency he'd grown up with, but my observation could actually work better as a explanation of the punishment rather than the act punished, because if something we've decided is anti-social is also something people have a stronger tendency to do in our particular society than in others, we might resort to stronger laws against it.
posted by jamjam at 12:40 PM on March 25, 2012


What few here seem to acknowledge is that we draw somewhat blunt and less-than-accurate lines because the cost of perfectly deciding and drawing every single line is absurdly expensive and exhausting out of all proportion to the benefit of doing so.

England and Scotland seem to have included the offender's state of mind or purpose in their statutes, which is difficult to prove and makes for sticky legal situations. A great deal of the US has specifically drawn out what is considered legal and what isn't. Bandaids over the nipples, paint-on latex, thongs that cover the genitals but expose everything else... These are all dividing lines in various indecent exposure laws in the US, and make it very clear when someone has passed the line or not. It's really not that difficult to draw this particular line.
posted by hippybear at 12:45 PM on March 25, 2012


One detail in the story that tipped things over for me was when he decided to repeat his walk because he wasn't naked enough the first time. He was looking for the confrontation, not the nudity. He's exactly where he wants to be right now.

I have great respect for someone who identifies a silly law and puts his freedom at risk protesting it. That said, I don't know that this particular injustice is worth spending six years on.

If nothing else, Gough is an example of the oft-quoted theorem that the problem with nudists is that most aren't the perfectly-proportioned types most would WANT to see nude.

Can we get Karen Gillan to hike nude across Scotland to test this?
posted by delfin at 12:48 PM on March 25, 2012


his old balls and peener

Ageist phrase. We all get old. It's nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to have to hide.
posted by salvia at 12:56 PM on March 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yes, because it's the people who don't have the hang-ups who need to cater to the people who are tightly wound.

Yeah, seriously. Children are so tightly wound about adult genitalia. What assholes.
posted by karathrace at 1:02 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


fatbird: "This is essentially a line-drawing conflict."

Aside from the a reading of the law in question requiring more than simple nudity for nudity to be criminal.

karathrace, as far as your hypothetical daughters are concerned, wouldn't you be more offended by me wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with gore and profanity? Or is seeing a man's weewee in a nonsexual context really going to scar your precious little snowflake for life?

(My personal opinion is that prudishness is worse for special snowflakes than any amount of seeing people nude)

fullerine: "As long as he doesn't interfere with the state or society, which he clearly seems to be doing."

Yes, walking is a great interference worth jailing someone over.
posted by wierdo at 1:03 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


What few here seem to acknowledge is that we draw somewhat blunt and less-than-accurate lines because the cost of perfectly deciding and drawing every single line is absurdly expensive and exhausting out of all proportion to the benefit of doing so.

Isn't that what the judge is for? For making the necessary adjustments on a case by case basis between the law as written and the law in spirit, to see that justice is done and avoiding the unintended and unjust consequences like 6 years for dropping trou?
posted by -harlequin- at 1:04 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


My personal opinion is that prudishness is worse for special snowflakes than any amount of seeing people nude

I don't think it's "prudish" to suggest that there are appropriate contexts for public nudity, and inappropriate contexts for same.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:21 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was always told that it was illegal in England and Wales to show your 'sexual parts' ie genitals, and for women, breasts; i'll check now, but i was always told that for women, unlike men, it's illegal to go topless.
posted by maiamaia at 1:27 PM on March 25, 2012


Karathrace: can you explain a bit about why girls should be protected from naked men? Is it to do with the girls' potential embarrassment? Or do you think penises, even in a non-sexual context, are something that girls just shouldn't see? Or something else? [I'm not meaning to be snarky. I'm genuinely trying to understand your perspective.]
posted by beniamino at 1:32 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I consider jury duty to be the most important civic duty one can do as a civilian (nearly tied with voting).

When I first read this as "vomiting," it seemed to make more sense.
posted by ackptui at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2012


Yeah, seriously. Children are so tightly wound about adult genitalia. What assholes.

You said nothing about your hypothetical children's attitude toward a naked adult man. Your words were "If I had kids, especially daughters, I wouldn't want this guy around exposing himself to them." That is YOU speaking about YOU, and doesn't say anything about any non-existent child's feelings about naked adults.
posted by hippybear at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why do parents not cover up in the presence of their children, but expect other folk to do so?
posted by Jehan at 1:38 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


And really, it is the same attitude as "what if the children see two men kissing". It speaks volumes about the adult and says nothing about the hypothetical children at all.
posted by hippybear at 1:43 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, given that Scotland's legal system put a man on the sex offenders' register for performing a sex act with his bicycle in a private hotel room, I wouldn't put indefinitely detaining an eccentric nudist past it.
posted by acb at 1:46 PM on March 25, 2012


Heck, you can get six months in Glasgow now for having your derailleur uncovered indecently.
posted by delfin at 1:56 PM on March 25, 2012


If I had kids, especially daughters, I wouldn't want this guy around exposing himself to them. Yeah its cool that he's so comfortable with his body, but not everyone else is. This isn't about individuality or whatever is touted above, its that there are some people in society who shouldn't be exposed to his old balls and peener.

Yes, it's important that young women only be exposed to youthful and attractive male genitalia.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:16 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Scotland's legal system put a man on the sex offenders' register for performing a sex act with his bicycle in a private hotel room

it's every man's dream to have a bespoke lover
posted by pyramid termite at 2:20 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


In my childhood searches through the archives of "the Black Man's Playboy", I saw photographs of many peoples who left adult female breasts uncovered, some who left adult female genitals bare, and none where adult men walked around with their penises completely naked.

The closest anybody came to that was one group in which men had a penis sheath with a string attached to it that was tied to a waistband, which had the effect of pulling the sheathed penis up against the abdomen.
posted by jamjam at 2:21 PM on March 25, 2012


really, it is the same attitude as "what if the children see two men kissing"

And yet, the gay dads I know would prefer it if their children didn't see naked strangers out of contexts where nudity is expected, like bathing or sunning.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:41 PM on March 25, 2012


In the fast-paced 21st century, some of us need to do our sunning on-the-go.
posted by hermitosis at 2:50 PM on March 25, 2012


For a crime this serious, they should really send him off to a penile colony.
posted by salvia at 2:52 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


And yet, the gay dads I know would prefer it if their children didn't see naked strangers out of contexts where nudity is expected, like bathing or sunning.]

It's entirely possible to be a gay man with children and still be a prude about naked people.

But why? There's nothing inherently bad about the human body. The man in question in this FPP wasn't fondling himself or doing anything other than simply being naked. The assumption that naked = bad is entirely a social construct.

His basic purpose with his stand against the system is that there is nothing wrong with the human body and that being naked is only something which our culture has taught us is something to be ashamed of.

Your response really only shows that the culture is dominant, and doesn't really offer any basis for the prohibition at all outside of "this is what is acceptable". When, perhaps, it isn't truly a bad thing at all, and it is the attitudes of those participating within the culture who are getting all knotted up about something trivial.
posted by hippybear at 2:55 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


You know what I don't want to see? Young women wearing tights as pants -- especially the lighter colors where you can totally see the outline of their bulbasaur* through the fabric. But seriously, would we be somehow better off if he merely crammed himself into a flesh-colored body-stocking? And yet the law would probably leave him alone if he did.

It's totally arbitrary and absurd. What's that quote? "Obscenity is Whatever Gives a Judge an Erection."


*girls have a bulbasaur, boys have a squirtle.
posted by hermitosis at 3:03 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


But seriously, would we be somehow better off if he merely crammed himself into a flesh-colored body-stocking?

I was also wondering what would happen if he dressed normally except wore a t-shirt printed with a photo of himself naked. Possibly the universe would implode.
posted by XMLicious at 3:11 PM on March 25, 2012


The assumption that naked = bad is entirely a social construct.

I feel bound to point out that the assumption that *Anything = bad is entirely a social construct. Bad, itself, is a social construct. Nothing wrong with questioning the various associations of bad with other things, but I feel like criticism non-blanket acceptance of nudity, on the grounds that it's a social construct, is kinda begging the question.
posted by smoke at 3:25 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I ask how he is. "Well, you know. You adapt."

Evidently not.
posted by Right On Red at 3:36 PM on March 25, 2012


Near-nudity, ie wearing just a G-string thong or whatever, is legal practically everywhere, yet very, very few people do that. Nudity has strong cultural associations with low status, sexual availibility, and/or insanity; someone naked in public is assumed to be not much restrained from jumping on cars and masturbating wildly, or attacking people.

There are jurisdictions in Europe where public nudity is completely legal yet it remains rare except at swimming and sunbathing places. People dress to go to and from these locations.

I think legalizing public nudity is a fine idea, as in itself it is harmless (and prudishness about it is far more harmful), however I expect it would remain extremely uncommon, except perhaps at festivals of various kinds during warm weather.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:39 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least his lawyer didn't leave him hanging.
posted by salvia at 4:02 PM on March 25, 2012


Sidhedevil writes "There has to be a middle ground between 'throw the guy in jail for years' and 'just let him walk around naked creeping people out,' doesn't there?"

Ya, people need to stop being creeped out by a naked person.

I've seen Canada move from public boobies = indecent exposure to public boobies = A-OK and I sure hope we get to the point where any bit of naked body isn't a crime. It's crazy that bits of our bodies can be considered creepy in a non sexual setting.
posted by Mitheral at 4:38 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


How does one write to Mr. Gough? Are prisoners in Scotland allowed to correspond?
posted by Mitheral at 5:31 PM on March 25, 2012


Yeah, seriously. Children are so tightly wound about adult genitalia. What assholes.

I don't think kids weirded out by the sight of a naked human are assholes, but I do think they've been really fucked in the head by adults who have wrong ideas and bad opinions. There's nothing harmful about nudity.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:37 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's nothing harmful about nudity.

This is really the entire situation in a nutshell. You don't need to be naked to be creepy, and you don't need to be clothed to be safe and normal.
posted by hermitosis at 5:41 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Its funny, but I ran into something similar to this about a year ago. Coming home from getting groceries and it was just above 78, bit of humidity. All of a sudden, this old lady ahead of me just stops, decides that its too warm, and pulls off her shirt and bra.

I had to say that I was rather upset at the time, looking back I think it was due to never having seen such a thing done before.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:48 PM on March 25, 2012


Are prisoners in Scotland allowed to correspond?
Yes. There are some limits on non-letter items such as books which are otherwise permissible. Here is a basic howto guide.

How does one write to Mr. Gough?
Prisoner, Prisoner number
Prison Address
His website lists this address:
      Stephen Gough
      Prisoner No. 81590
      Segregation Unit
      HMP Perth
      3 Edinburgh Road
      PERTH
      PH2 8AT

posted by tallus at 8:22 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


If I had kids, especially daughters, I wouldn't want this guy around exposing himself to them. Yeah its cool that he's so comfortable with his body, but not everyone else is. This isn't about individuality or whatever is touted above, its that there are some people in society who shouldn't be exposed to his old balls and peener.

But you agree that putting him in prison is bad, right?
posted by krilli at 8:26 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I had kids, especially daughters, I wouldn't want this guy around exposing himself to them.

Also, exposing yourself TO someone is a far different situation than just being generally exposed. It's about intent. There's no evidence that he's specifically trying to freak people out with his nudity, or gets a sexual thrill from it -- he just happens to be nude, and that freaks some people out.
posted by hermitosis at 8:37 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil: "I don't think it's "prudish" to suggest that there are appropriate contexts for public nudity, and inappropriate contexts for same."

I disagree. Unless the guy has a raging boner and is leering at women or is masturbating or something, I don't really see the harm, and even then I don't see any problem beyond a clothed person doing the same thing. Is there something wrong with the human body?

I could understand an argument coming from the direction of hygiene, but even then, I don't see how that should reasonably translate to a blanket ban on public nudity.
posted by wierdo at 11:23 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


delfin: "One detail in the story that tipped things over for me was when he decided to repeat his walk because he wasn't naked enough the first time. He was looking for the confrontation, not the nudity. He's exactly where he wants to be right now.

I have great respect for someone who identifies a silly law and puts his freedom at risk protesting it. That said, I don't know that this particular injustice is worth spending six years on.

If nothing else, Gough is an example of the oft-quoted theorem that the problem with nudists is that most aren't the perfectly-proportioned types most would WANT to see nude.

Can we get Karen Gillan to hike nude across Scotland to test this?
"

Only if we can get her shipped over here for a matching walk. The U.S. seems so eager to be a proper Euro chum/top that I figure we should get some perks from that sort of relationship at the grassroots level.
posted by Samizdata at 11:52 PM on March 25, 2012


I was always told that it was illegal in England and Wales to show your 'sexual parts' ie genitals, and for women, breasts; i'll check now, but i was always told that for women, unlike men, it's illegal to go topless.

I think you're right. Although there has been the odd story of men being barred from supermarkets for entering topless (most pubs won't let men in without a shirt). There are a few nudist/naturist beaches and resorts, but in general public places it's illegal.

Although, I was under the impression that it is illegal to walk around with 'fuck' or 'cunt' written on your clothing, and yet I see people with sweary T-shirts all the time, so who knows whether it's actually enforced.
posted by mippy at 4:41 AM on March 26, 2012


Karathrace: can you explain a bit about why girls should be protected from naked men

Because some people get a sexual thrill forcing their sexuality on others by masturbating in public. Rather than have jury trials asking if the intent was sexual, just banning open display of junk makes a lot more sense.

It is very much about being able to control our sex lives.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:41 AM on March 26, 2012


I disagree. Unless the guy has a raging boner and is leering at women or is masturbating or something, I don't really see the harm, and even then I don't see any problem beyond a clothed person doing the same thing. Is there something wrong with the human body?

Because every person who wants to masturbate in front of some one's daughter will claim they were just a nudist at trial.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:45 AM on March 26, 2012


I'm pretty sure even an incompentent court can manage to differentiate between someone merely not wearing clothes and some one actively masturbating.

Besides someone with a pair of sweat pants or a trench coat (among many options) can masturbate in public while keeping their junk covered. Clothing isn't the problem rather the public masturbation.
posted by Mitheral at 7:18 AM on March 26, 2012


You can masturbate through clothes, ya know.

(on preview, what Mitheral said.)
posted by hermitosis at 8:10 AM on March 26, 2012


Hohum. As someone who grew up with very nudist neighbors (Berkeley, amirite?), I can attest to the fact that children are not scarred for life by viewing naked old people.

I believe that Berkeley's ultimate solution to the problem of rampant nudity was to change the classification from a misdemeanor to an infraction. Instead of wasting police and court time, nudists get the equivalent of a "fix it" ticket. Which, I suppose, is written by the fashion police.
posted by Wavelet at 8:16 AM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"You're creeping people out with your inappropriate behavior" seems like a reasonable place for the law to do something

No, it doesn't.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:11 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The nice thing about prudishness is it provides low hanging fruit for a pleasant afternoon's attack. Women faint and gentlemen loose their words. ACK! A NAMED MAN!

Without the aid of lasers!

Which is to say, pish and tosh. That is, get real. This is left over bullshit from the pre-enlightenment days, when the Church ruled with an iron fist of ecclesiastical bullshit.

It's skin. Everyone has skin. Stop the insanity. Skin isn't to hide. You won't turn to salt from the sight of a penis. Even an old floppy one.
posted by Goofyy at 9:07 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


where NAMED=NAKED obviously
posted by Goofyy at 9:08 AM on March 27, 2012


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