Nudity draws huge media coverage
Joe Courter
September 1998

With an unprecedented flurry of pre-event coverage which bordered on hysterical (take either meaning) the "X-plicit Players" from Berkeley California made a visit to Gainesville August 29. The event itself went off smoothly and seemed to be well appreciated by most who attended. What the players do is perhaps best described as analogous to a yoga session on overcoming a culturally-indoctrinated aversion to nudity and inability to separate touch from sex. Compared to all the unhealthy sex and violence in our society, it should have been seen as a positive, therapeutic opportunity for those who wished to be there--which indeed it was for most of the over fifty who attended.

But of the pre-event press coverage, there were more column inches in the Gainesville Sun and more hours of talk radio time spent on deriding, questioning, and condemning the event. For the day-before preview on Friday a full dozen police cars and a paddy wagon showed up, just in case the Players got naked in public. States Attorney and Code Enforcement had writs issued to stop the potential display of skin. (The preview moved inside the Civic Media Center and played to about twenty spectators and some press.)

This was not the first time nudity had been central to exposing the press's bias against covering real issues and dwelling on the "sensational." In May 1995, two local artists held a press conference at the Thomas Center to announce the planned opening of an art school. They drew zero press. So, under the title "Seduce the Media," they held the same press conference at the Civic Media Center, only this time without clothing. There was the Alligator, the Sun, TV20, TV 5, WRUF AM, WRUF FM.

The Civic Media Center does a lot of events, and sends out a lot of press releases. Since July, even with the more relaxed summer schedule, we had programs on the Pastors for Peace Cuba Aid Shipment, a songwriter's workshop, a program on the current situation in Nigeria with a number of area Nigerians speaking, an organizing meeting for a Leonard Peltier (Native American Political Prisoner) support group, an event on the turmoil in East Timor, a speakout on welfare reform and a candidates forum. Only the candidates forum was covered, and few had any advance coverage at all.

Do we need to do more events in the nude get coverage? Is that what makes it newsworthy?

Even more striking was that after all the hoopla, the ranting and exaggerations about the content of the event, did these press outlets actually come to the Saturday event and cover it? Not Bob Arndorfer of the Sun, not Todd Lewis of WRUF AM, not Joe Young of SkyKing, not WUFT. TV20 and Fox TV got sound bites and shots of people entering, and a talkjock from 1430 AM came by after the event and talked to people as they left. The Alligator, which didn't participate in the hype, sent reporters who actually covered the event for a post-event story.

And speaking of covering the event--the biggest amount of coverage came from the Gainesville Police, who had two undercover cops inside with a camera in a backpack throughout the event. They were identified to me by a retired cop who'd come and enjoyed the event, despite his indignation at these two voyeurs. Where will their coverage end up, at the GPD Xmas party? Was it proper for one of them to say he was a reporter for the Alligator, when casually talked to after the event?

Despite the sensationalist tone of the advance coverage, overall the sensibility of Gainesville's citizens came through. The talk radio I heard (mostly WRUF-AM) had about 40% of callers be favorable, the folks who attended seemed quite well adjusted, and I heard very good comments from Tom Barnes of Department of Children and Family, who refused to condemn the fact that an eight-year-old child of the couple who make up the X-plicit Players is sometimes nude at their presentations, saying that nudity is not itself abuse or exploitation, and that to present this situation as abuse trivializes the very real, very large problem of exploitative, violent, and appalling abuse of children that goes on every day (but isn't talked about in the media).

I would guarantee that the real abuse and sexual dysfunction of our society is not coming from body accepting, touch loving, nudity friendly people, but from those with shame, guilt, and an inability to be open, honest, and comfortable with themselves or others, who then perpetuate their dysfunction by shaming and exploiting others with violence or intimidation.

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