MOST AMERICAN LAWMAKERS have accepted some form of the Harm Principle as justification for laws prohibiting a given behavior. The principle states, loosely, that communities are justified in prohibiting actions when those actions cause harm to others. Robbery, murder, rape, and assault harm others, and are thus justifiably prohibited by criminal law.
As it stands today, criminal law prohibits most actions seriously harmful to others, and if not prohibited, the actions’ harmful natures: like those of second-hand cigarette smoke, pornography, and the medical use of marijuana—are hotly debated.
There are many ways of arguing for the prohibition of an action. Legal Moralists will appeal to the immorality of the behavior in question, or to its negative effect on the “moral fabric” of our society.1 Legal Paternalists will appeal to the harm the act does to the actor, such as laws that mandate the wearing of seatbelts or helmets. The libertarian strain in this country tends to balk at paternalist approaches to law, and authors of legislation usually argue for the bill’s merits under other terms.
There are variants to each of these lines of argument. A third distinct line is relevant to naturists today. More often than not, if a new law is proposed that limits the freedom to be nude, it is justified by an appeal to offense. Any of us may be offended by any number of things. Some people are more offended by certain behavior than others are.
Public nudity supposedly offends many people. But legislators are hard-pressed to show that public nudity per se harms anyone (although some are now making unsubstantiated claims about a negative effect on children). On the other hand, legislators have little footing in showing that public nudity is immoral other than to appeal fallaciously to cultural norms.2
Still, legislators often wish to ban all public nudity, or may feel pressured by constituents to do so. These days, a lawmaker who wishes to ban public nudity will often argue that public nudity offends people, and that because of the seriousness of the offense, such nudity may justifiably be prohibited by criminal law.
The issue of offense is thus of great importance to naturists in America today. A flippant naturist response is to say, “The offended parties be damned; we as naturists have the right to do what we wish as long as we are not harming anyone.” Or, “People will be offended by anything; offense thus should not be relevant to law.” These responses fail to acknowledge the complexities of offense, and do not take into account sensible principles thoughtful lawmakers, discerning judges, and liberty-loving naturists can fruitfully bring to the discussion.
Some naturists take the opposite tack. “We should not be naked in public because it will offend people and cause them to pass more stringent ‘indecent exposure’ laws,” they might say. Or, to blend an appeal to offense with a form of Legal Moralism, they might argue, “It’s wrong to offend people, so we should never be naked in public. We should limit our nudity to our homes and nudist clubs.”
Given the limitations of this discussion, the last two naturist responses can be addressed only briefly. The first merits careful attention at another time due to the concern over a legislative backlash against naturists. Suffice it to say here that rarely is ground gained for social justice without a few courageous souls moving forward, pushing cultural and legal envelopes, to make way for the more timid—albeit equally oppressed—group.
We must also keep in mind that behavior that offends is not only morally permissible at times, but obligatory. Martin Luther King, Jr. offended many people as he marched the streets of Birmingham in 1963. Mary Wollstonecraft offended many Britons as she fought for women’s rights. Jesus offended those around him in ways that left his undiscerning followers incredulous (see Matthew 15:12, for example). Offense per se is thus not morally wrong. The question is, what offending behavior is censurable and merits prohibition? When, and in what contexts?
The purpose of this discussion is twofold. First, it will outline many of the common-sense principles legislators should—and sometimes do—appeal to in considering a law banning an offending behavior. Second, it will show how naturists may effectively argue that non-lewd public nudity should not be prohibited outright by criminal law. There is not space here to develop each thread of the required argument, but its feasibility will be apparent.
This discussion does not seek to show that naturists are justified in walking down any street naked, although such a moral right may actually obtain. Nor does this discussion seek to make any comment on whether other potentially offending behaviors (e.g., public sex, “hate” speech, animal sacrifice rituals) should be free from the limitations of criminal law. The focus here is limited to the relevance of offense in crafting laws prohibiting public nudity.
It is unfortunate that many lawmakers, especially at the local level, either cannot or will not approach the complex issue of offense thoroughly and dispassionately. Moreover, when it comes to public nudity, they often feel that failure to support a ban would be political suicide and thus ignore a full discussion. This should not stop naturists from thinking through their positions in detail.
The Nature of Offense
Joel Feinberg, retired professor of philosophy at the University of Arizona, is a respected scholar in the field of social philosophy. His four-volume series, The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law, and especially Volume II, Offense to Others, outlines in clear detail many of the issues surrounding the legal prohibition of offending behavior.3
Much of what follows comes from Feinberg’s work. Although not a naturist himself, Feinberg often uses naturism as an example of non-harming offending behavior. Defenders of naturist rights will not agree with Feinberg’s conclusions at every turn, but should be grateful for his careful articulation of the principles useful in the discussion.
What is an offense? Feinberg distinguishes it from a harm. A harm, he says, is a wrongful setback of interests. That which we need to function fully and fruitfully as humans is an interest. We have an interest, then, in being alive, being healthy, retaining our possessions, being free to move about, having the opportunity to learn, having liberty to associate with friends, and so on. Any act of another that sets back such interests harms us.
For an act to be a “harm” worthy of legal prohibition, it must also be wrongful. In short, there are situations in which we may willingly allow ourselves to have our interests set back—such as when we freely enter a boxing match, play rugby, or climb dangerous mountain peaks. We may get hurt in such situations, but we have not been wrongfully harmed.
An offense does not set back our interests. To speak metaphorically, it is an itch on the elbow, while a harm is a broken arm. Still, offenses are unwanted states. Feinberg offers a list of offenses that will seem trivial or serious, depending—oftentimes—on one’s point of view.
Offenses are usually unwanted emotional states and can vary greatly. Offenses include states of affront to the senses (e.g., an ugly sight, noxious smell, or grating sound); disgust; revulsion; shock to moral, religious or patriotic sensibilities; shame; embarrassment; anxiety; annoyance; boredom; frustration; fear; resentment; humiliation; and anger (10-13).
These are temporary states we prefer not to experience, but which normally do not keep us from living a full, flourishing human life. Legislators thus are unjustified in prohibiting them as harms. When the offense is serious, however, the question arises as to whether something might not be done to discourage the behavior.
The observation of public nudity offends many people. People offended at seeing others naked describe sensations of embarrassment, anxiety, shock, annoyance, shame, and other—perhaps irrational—emotional states. The mere “bare knowledge” of public nudity—knowledge that someone, somewhere, at some time might be naked in public—might be enough to offend some with the most tender sensitivity to nudity.4 The question is, what should be the limitation of the state’s power to protect people from these kinds of offenses?
Feinberg argues that those who would grapple rationally with these questions should consider a set of factors that help determine both the seriousness of the offense and the reasonableness of the offending conduct. The more serious the offense, the more grounds there are for the state to take action in discouraging it; the less serious the offense, the less warrant the state has for interfering with personal liberties. Moreover, to the degree that the offending conduct is reasonable—all else being equal—to that degree the offending actor should have the legal right to that conduct (25-49).
Feinberg is in line with Aristotle, who said some types of questions allow for clear, precise answers, while others do not. Questions pertaining to mathematics, for instance, tend to have definitive answers. Questions on morality or politics, on the other hand, must be approached with more flexibility.
The factors Feinberg outlines provide a general, sometimes hazy, approach to determining when the state is justified in limiting public nudity. We should expect no more than this, for the line demarcating harm and offense is too often blurred. That’s just the way things are. Fortunately, there is enough clarity available that thoughtful naturists and legislators may go a good distance toward fair and just social policies in addressing concerns over offense.
Seriousness of the Offense
The seriousness of an offense may be determined by (but is not limited to) the following considerations.
The intensity of the offense. The more intense the offense would be to a standard observer, the more serious it is.5 Thus the offense from hearing a neighbor practice drums indoors for one hour each afternoon is not as serious as that which comes from hearing him practice outdoors beneath your bedroom window for two hours in the middle of the night.
Obviously, some people will find public nudity more intensely offensive than others. Courts and legislators, ideally, would try to determine how intense the offense would be for a “standard” person or for a “reasonable person.” Such estimations are often made by juries.
Public nudity will elicit a fairly strong reaction, but it may not be as intensely negative as many naturists and non-naturists imagine. Activists like Vincent Bethell, photographers like Harvey Drouillard and Spencer Tunnick, and filmmakers like Charles MacFarland have contested the standard claim that people will automatically collapse in offended apoplexy at the sight of a naked body in public. More study, however, needs to be made in this area to move beyond anecdote.
The offense taken at public nudity should not be compared only to such trivial offenses as seeing someone walk down the street in garish colors, but to those offenses that on a nearly universal level produce powerfully intense reactions, such as public defecation. In a broad context, witnessing the human body is just not that big of a deal. Negative reactions to the sight of nude humans are learned behaviors. We are not born with an innate sense that nudity is bad, but acquire it through cultural conditioning.
Still, public nudity will provide what many consider an intense offense, so that must be weighed honestly by naturists. No one should desire to offend people without good reason. Other factors need therefore be considered.
The duration of the offense. The longer the unwanted offending sensation lasts, the more serious the offense. For example, when someone walks by an egregiously smelly man on the street, the odor will offend the passerby, but only for as long as she smells the malodorous man. Once she is out of olfactory range, she may recall the offense, but is no longer suffering the offense. On the other hand, if she walks by and overhears two men using the foulest of language in discussing a particular ethnic group, her offense may last for days.
The duration of someone’s offense at seeing a naked ocean swimmer or backyard sunbather is most likely to be of short duration. The offended party may experience discomfort in witnessing public nudity, but the offended state is not likely to last much beyond the experience in question. Considering, then, only the duration of the offense, public nudity appears to be at worst a rather trivial concern and not worthy of harsh criminal sanction.
The extent of the offense. The more people who are likely to be offended by a given behavior, the greater the state’s justification for taking action to discourage that behavior. Most people would find a loud, piercing noise to be terribly irritating. But few would find, say, vintage Barry Manilow songs to be more than a mild annoyance. The state would therefore have more cause to respond to complaints about loud, piercing noises than it would to complaints about a neighbor’s fondness for bad ’70s pop music.
What would be the extent of the offense at non-sexual public nudity? According to the Naturist Education Foundation’s 2000 Roper-Starch poll, 80 percent of American adults think people should be able to swim or sunbathe nude in locations set aside for that purpose, and 25 percent of American adults have practiced some form of mixed-sex skinny-dipping or nude sunbathing.6 The poll did not address people’s tendencies to be offended at nudity in public, but did hint that the extent of offense may be smaller than many think. This is an issue that deserves far more empirical study.
The standard of reasonable avoidability. If it is relatively easy for people to avoid a particular offending behavior, then given the prima facie value to personal liberty, the state should allow that behavior. Since the behavior does not harm anyone, and since no one need be offended given the ease of avoiding it, people should have the right to act in that potentially offending manner.
This is one of the reasons why communities usually allow books and magazines to be sold in stores even if their content might offend people. It is quite easy to avoid being offended: people simply avoid picking up those books and magazines and looking at them.
On the other hand, some communities demand that magazine stands use blinder racks to shield people from nudity on magazine covers. It may be easy to avoid perusing the pages of salacious magazines, but it may be much harder to avoid seeing the covers if they are on open display in a store.
Naturists do well to draw attention to this mediating factor when arguing for a nude beach or private park. The Naturist Action Committee has argued for years that informative signs placed at the entrance of clothing-optional areas can do wonders to forestall offense. If people know that if they walk down a stretch of beach they may encounter nude sunbathers, then they can easily avoid getting offended.
The Volenti Maxim: “Volenti non fit injuria,” or “To one who has consented, no wrong is done.” This common-sense principle holds that if people freely and knowingly consent to experiencing a behavior that offends them, then they are not wrongfully offended and the offending actor is not culpable. For example, people shouldn’t get to gripe about being offended by nudity if they knowingly went out of their way to see naked bodies at a secluded beach.
Once again, naturists will point to the efficacy of signs alerting people to clothing-optional areas in forestalling unwanted offense. If signs are posted informing people that an area may be used for nude sunbathing, then anyone who continues past the sign and is offended by the sight will be doing so voluntarily, and has no grounds for complaint.
Since naturists usually request that a mere portion of, say, a coastline be recognized as clothing-optional, those offended by nudity will have many reasonable alternatives for their beach recreation (keeping in mind the standard of reasonably avoidability). Moreover, the signs alerting people to the site’s nude use serve double-duty in helping people easily choose to avoid entering an area where they may be offended. Thus only those who wish to be offended will be so.
The discounting of abnormal sensibilities. If only one person in a town is deeply distraught at the sight of purple T-shirts, this would surely be counted as an abnormal sensibility. His offense is nonetheless real. He may very well feel nauseated at the sight of such garments. Still, the state would not wish to prohibit purple T-shirts on this basis alone. If, however, the vast majority of a community experiences a seething, visceral need to retch when coming across purple T-shirts, Feinberg argues that the state is right to take this into account in prohibiting the offending cloth.
A question that cannot be addressed fully in this discussion is whether offense to public nudity is the result of an abnormal sensibility. Even if the majority of Americans would be offended at the sight of a naked person walking down the street, it does not follow that that this is a normal response. Naturists can argue that it is abnormal for any person to be offended by mere nudity, given that nudity is our natural state and merely reveals our bodily selves.
The point worth exploring is whether a society can be so twisted, mixed up, neurotic, or otherwise confused as to be guided by abnormal sensibilities. We might recall America’s “normal” sensibility regarding interracial dating or the right of women to vote. It seems that “abnormal sensibility” must refer to more than just a head count of who would and who would not be offended by public nudity.
Reasonableness of the Offending Conduct
Feinberg argues that determining whether an offending behavior should be prohibited or not requires a balance of mediating factors. So far we have looked at those factors that would provide grounds for the state to discourage—perhaps through criminal law—offending conduct. But liberty is vital to any democracy, and though people wish to avoid offense, democratic societies require a high degree of freedom to flourish. If the offending behavior is reasonable enough, then for the greater good, the state ought to refrain from criminalizing the conduct.
The reasonableness of the offending conduct may be determined by (but is not limited to) the following considerations.
The personal importance of the conduct to the actor. If an activity offends others, but it provides needed economic support for the actor, or assists her in maintaining her health, or is critical to her relationships to loved ones, then that provides prima facie grounds for allowing it. For instance, a professional bagpipe player will need to practice in order to maintain his musical skill. To the uninitiated, the pipes may sound like the dying wail of mutated herons. He should do what he can to allow people to avoid hearing him practice, but should also be given some freedom to master his craft.
On the other hand, the piper’s passion for, say, gangsta rap does not justify his playing obnoxious CDs at ear-piercing decibel levels. He has no important interest in hearing such music that loud, and communities may be justified in discouraging his doing so.
Naturists should be able to argue why public nudity is important to them. Skinny-dipping may be fun and feel good, but naturists will have to go deeper than that to establish real importance. (Such a case can be made, but this too is beyond the present discussion.) Feinberg, by the way, recognizes that naturists in particular may find a degree of public nudity important to them, and that sense of importance countsÑall else being equalÑin favor of allowing the practice.
The social value of the offending conduct. Some activities will offend many people, but are themselves so valuable to a democratic society that the liberty to engage in them must at nearly all costs be preserved. For instance, a thriving democracy depends on free speech. Without the opportunity to speak freely and caustically about our government, religious beliefs, the views of others, and so on, the citizenry cannot remain sufficiently informed to play its role in democracy. Thus the state needs to be leery of curtailing so-called “hate speech”—at least when it does not clearly pose a threat of harm—and must back away wholly from prohibiting open and often offending debate about, for instance, the role the president should play in foreign affairs or the Church’s stance on birth control.
Is there social value in non-sexual public nudity? Thoughtful naturists should be addressing this question with vigor. Given the growing trend away from body acceptance among people of all ages (e.g., high school students are afraid to take showers in front of others and college-age males are now concerned about back hair), given the unhealthy tie the entertainment industry continues to make between nudity and sex, and given the related psychological disorders of bulimia and anorexia, there is ample call for the promulgation of naturist practice and values. Clothing-optional beaches and public parks, as well as the normalizing of nudity on one’s own property, would be good steps toward alleviating a growing set of social ills.
Naturists might turn the question around and ask if blanket prohibitions on public nudity are not harmful and of counter-value to society. Given the cost in time and money of policing harmless skinny-dippers at out-of-the-way beaches, and the need to direct scarce resources to the prevention of serious crime, overly broad anti-nudity laws indicate a lack of fiduciary responsibility.
Free expression. This consideration is related to that of social value. In a democracy, free expression is of vital importance. If the offending conduct is one of expression of ideas—whether written, verbal, or artistic—then due to expression’s value, the state should be reluctant to prohibit it.
Some naturists—like Florida’s T. A. Wyner—have shown that courts will sometimes recognize a link between nudity and free expression. For the most part, however, the courts have ruled that mere nudity is not an expression, but an activity. Until naturists are successful in convincing the courts that sunbathing in one’s backyard or skinny-dipping in a public lake is a form of expression, this consideration will be of little relevance to the issue of public nudity.
Alternative opportunities. If a person does something that offends others, and there are ample opportunities for the offender to satisfy his or her desires in alternative ways, then the offender should (all else being equal) make use of those alternative opportunities. There is no moral justification for offending others when one can just as easily achieve one’s goal another way.
For instance, if a woman wishes to raise pigs and chickens in a dense urban setting, the ensuing smell may offend her neighbors. If she has the opportunity to raise such animals in a rural area, or if she has the opportunity to raise other animals with less odor, then the state is warranted in encouraging her to do so.
Naturists will have much to say about this consideration. Given that laws generally keep people from being nude even in their own front and back yards, naturists can argue that they have very few opportunities to be naked socially outdoors. Limiting social nudity to the inside of private homes would be counter to what many naturists enjoy about it. Fresh air, water, and the general communion with nature are integral to the naturist experience.
That the state should allow private nudist parks and clothing-optional public sites follows immediately from the lack of alternative opportunities most people have for nude recreation. The poor and middle class in particular are limited in their alternatives. Lack of clothing-optional beaches, then, may well be an issue of class.
Free beach activists can appeal to this fourth consideration to answer a legislator who asks, “With all the private nudist parks in the state, why should we allow a beach to be recognized as clothing-optional? Naked people have plenty of places to go to for sunbathing.”
Naturists may respond in at least two ways here. First, many people live too far away to make a visit to a nudist park a reasonable option. Also, many cannot afford to join or travel to a nudist facility. Years back, nudist parks were priced so that even low-income families could enjoy them. Today, many clubs raise the price of admission to what the market will bear. Many younger families and retired people on fixed incomes do not have nudist parks as an alternative opportunity for nude recreation.
Second, for many people, private nudist clubs are unrewarding. For whatever reason, many who enjoy social nudity prefer natural, undeveloped areas such as beaches, hot springs, rivers, and lakes. For these people, nudist clubs cannot offer the full naturist experience they seek. Select public sites should thus be open for clothing-optional recreation throughout each of the country’s regions.
The offender’s motivation. Feinberg holds that a person’s motivation should not be an issue for the state and should be respected whenever possible. He points to the motives of malice and spite, however, as deserving of no consideration. If a person engages in offensive behavior merely to get back at someone, as when a man takes off his sweaty, stinky running shoes at a restaurant dinner table to retaliate against a cigarette-smoking neighbor, his motive counts against his right to do so.
Naturists should consider sexual enticement and exhibitionism as motives that should count against the actors’ plea for liberty. Most naturists, however, are free of malice, spite, exhibitionism, or other questionable motives when they argue for expanded clothes-free opportunities.
The nature of the locality. Where the offense occurs is important in determining whether it should be discouraged by the state. A secluded woodland area may be a more appropriate place for playing bagpipes than the lawn outside a school. A gymnasium is an appropriate place to sweat and smell like old gym clothes; a public library may not be. A college campus may be an acceptable place to hear the position of the Ku Klux Klan; outside the doors of a synagogue may not be.
Locality and context are therefore something to consider when debating whether an offending action should be prohibited. Those seeking broader naturist opportunities on public lands will wisely point out any site’s tradition of nude use. The locality will thus be more conducive to continued nude use than, say, a beach that has a history of textile use only.
Naturist activists seeking new public land sites might also point out that a particular beach or hot spring is secluded, out of view of roads and homes, is easily patrolled by police, and can be signed effectively to alert people to its nude use. Such would be an ideal locale for a clothing-optional beach.
Alternatives to Criminal Prohibition
The factors discussed here do not provide a mathematical calculus with which anyone can crank out a black-and-white response for or against public nudity. They do, however, provide thoughtful people with some intelligent points of discussion. Naturists may be confident that they are on solid moral ground as they argue for the freedom to be fully human on select public lands, regardless that offense may be taken.7
One last point should be made here. Even though a good case can be made showing that the offense taken at public nudity is too trivial to warrant the harshest penalties, and that naturists are reasonable in their request for access to at least some public lands, it may be that authorities and public pressure will still demand that the state discourage all forms of public nudity. Prohibition by criminal law should be, in this case, a last resort.8 There are other more appropriate responses the state can make.
Feinberg suggests other approaches to curtail offending behavior unwanted by the majority of society, arguing that “law should not treat offenses as if they were serious, by and large, as harms.” The state may, for instance, rely on nuisance law with penalties no greater than parking tickets, or on individual civil suits, or on individual court orders initiated by police and with threat of penalty.
Authorities may issue unofficial policies directing enforcement officers to ask naturists to get dressed only when there is a complaint made by someone other than the officers. California State Parks have functioned with just this approach for years under the so-called “Cahill Policy,” to good effect.
The state may also choose to limit itself to encouraging citizens—through lectures, advertisements, and the like—to refrain from specific offending activities. Naturists will point out that simply allowing signed, clothing-optional use of a few appropriate public sites, and enforcing existing law there as it would be enforced elsewhere, is the ideal solution.
The point is that there are many options beyond criminal prohibition open to the state in response to the kind of public nudity practiced by naturists. No one has a blanket right to do whatever he or she wants. On the other hand, no one has a blanket right never to be offended. As a civilized society, we need to inquire calmly and thoughtfully about the moral limits of the criminal law as it pertains to nudity. Naturists must take a stand forcefully, cogently, and graciously in arguing for their freedoms.
Thanks to Allen Baylis for his comments on an early draft of this article. This article first appeared in Nude & Natural 22.2 (Winter 2002): 82-88.
1. For instance, note the wording from a recent anti-nudity ordinance from Simi Valley, California. “WHEREAS, the City of Simi Valley has a valid governmental purpose of protecting public order, decency and morality; and WHEREAS, the City Council finds that the appearance of people in the nude in a public place or in a place open to or visible by the public, including children, is inimical to public safety and order, decency, and morality; and WHEREAS, the City Council is concerned regarding the indecency of citizen(s) of the community who have from time to time appeared in public in a state of nudity, with no applicable prohibitive state statutes; and WHEREAS, the City Council has expressed its intention to limit or restrict such indecent immoral activities, to provide penalties for violations thereto; and WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has upheld regulation of nudity to protect the public order, decency arid morality in Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc., 111 S. Ct. 2456, 115 L. Ed 2d 504 (1991), and in City of Erie v. PAP’S AM, 2000 Daily Journal DAR 3255.”
2. For a critique of the argument based on Cultural Relativism against non-lewd social nudity see Mark Storey, “Cultural Relativism & the Morality of Naturism,” Naturist LIFE International, No. 14 (Summer 1995): 28-29.
3. Joel Feinberg, The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law, Volume II: Offense to Others (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985). Feinberg developed his discussion on offense in earlier works. See, for instance, “‘Harmless Immoralities’ and Offensive Nuisances,” in Joel Feinberg, ed., Rights, Justice, and the Bounds of Liberty: Essays in Social Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), pp. 69-109; and Joel Feinberg, Social Philosophy (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1973), especially pp. 43-45.
4. Feinberg argues for strong limitations on the state’s authority to prohibit offending behavior when the offense is due merely to bare knowledge. This, of course, has important implications for proposed bans on nudity at secluded beaches or private nudist parks. See pages 33-34, 60-71.
5. Each of these factors should be understood as within the context of all else being equal. Thus, the more intense the offense—all else being equal—the more serious it is; and so on with each factor.
6. Mark Storey and Lee Baxandall, “A Growing Nude Attitude in America,” N 20.2 (Fall 2000): 4-5.
7. With more space, I would address the question of whether we are morally justified in doing an action when we can rationally expect that a bad, but undesired, effect may result. Philosophers and theologians have discussed this issue for centuries and have hammered out a useful doctrine called the Principle of Double-Effect. For a clear and insightful discussion of this doctrine from a naturist perspective, see Jim C. Cunningham, “A Dialog of Conscience,” Naturist LIFE International, No. 8 (Summer 1993): 22-24.
8. The state of Montana may be the most draconian when it comes to criminalizing skinny-dippers. According to Montana Code 45-5-504, on a third conviction of indecent exposure, skinny-dippers “shall be punished by life imprisonment or by imprisonment in a state prison for a term of not less than 5 years or more than 100 years and may be fined not more than $10,000.”