Last Saturday I had the pleasure of participating the Worldwide Naked Bike Ride in beautiful Los Angeles, California. The weather was perfect for a ride through the city and my friends and I had a great time joining 250ish others in the peaceful event. Like most things it meant different things to different people, some were advocating for green energy, body positivity, both, and neither. The participants themselves were generally courteous, polite, and friendly. There was also great variety in what people “wore”, our group was mostly body paint but some people had costumes, masks, and “au naturel”.
As a self-proclaimed sex-positive, body-positive advocate I felt incredibly comfortable laughing, talking, and biking with people in their birthday suits. It is just skin and it is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. I strongly believe that the world (and America in particular) could benefit from more non-sexualized nudity. Making the the body taboo is harmful to every individual and society as a whole. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees and many of those who disagree did not believe in passive, peaceful, respectful dialogue to voice their disagreements.
There were two times during the ride when I actually felt a bit unsafe. While I am comfortable being naked in public and private it is not the optimal condition if I need to defend myself or others. The first time was when the route took us down skid row. I’m not sure who planned the route but I feel like this was a mistake. Skid Row is a generally impoverished area of Los Angeles where many homeless people settle. While most of the people we encountered either ignored us or laughed when we were in the Skid Row area we were met with profanities and sexual comments being shouted at the women. It quickly became uncomfortable when people started leaving the sidewalk and approaching us on the street. Luckily things did not escalate and we were on our way quickly.
The second time was a little more concerning. We were all riding along a beautiful bike trail along the Los Angeles river when we passed a group of men who did not appreciate the beauty of the human form. Instead of ignoring us and waiting for us to pass they ended up trying to fight one of the organizers and threw at least one punch. Regardless of your views on public nudity, sexuality, or anything else you should not resort to violence. I do wonder what these individuals who were shouting homophobic slurs at us would have done if our crowd of 250+ naked people would have decided to defend ourselves with force. I can’t imagine it would have ended well for them. A few minutes later along the bike path we passed a park where a women had two small children playing, she started yelling things like “faggot”, “gays cause AIDS”, “I wish you would all die”, and such at us. I’m not sure how she could look at a naked body and determine sexuality (I sure can’t) but this definitely confirmed that homophobia is alive even on the Left Coast, and the example this mother was setting for her children is that anyone who is different deserves death. A scary thought.
But, I hate to dwell on the negative. It was an incredibly positive experience. The VAST majority of people who saw us waved, honked, flashed peace signs, and laughed at our group as we passed them. I’m sure their are dozens (hundreds?) of videos of us on YouTube, I’m tempted to check them out just to see if me and my body make a random appearance. There are some pics floating around and we had a camera which was misplaced, but hopefully it will materialize soon so I can share some. I had a lot of fun and I look forward to doing it again next year, though I should definitely wear more sunscreen.
Well, it seems my backside made the news, I have “Your Body Is Beautiful” painted on my back. Most of these articles show nipples and penises (THE HORROR):
LA Weekly Article, LAist Article, Grist.com, Huffington Post