Writer bares all exploring local nudity culture

Writer bares all exploring local nudity culture »Play Video


PORTLAND, Ore. - Mark Twain once said - "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." - but his observation might not be completely accurate, at least in Portland.

The numbers of the naked are still being crunched, but organizers hope Portland's installment of the World Naked Bike Ride this past weekend had enough participants to keep the Rose City's crown as the largest naked ride in North America.

Along for the ride, in the buff, was Brandon Seifert, a freelance writer for Willamette Week.

"I've been naked in social circumstances, but I've never been naked in the streets of a major city and there were parts of the ride where I felt like I was going to throw up," Seifert said. "I was kind of nervous."

Seifert combined his varied, yet limited, nudist experiences in his private life with his job when he wrote a story for this week's Willamette Week attempting to define why Portland seems to embrace those who shed their clothes publicly.

"The first week I was in town there was an underpants party and a couple of weeks later I participated in a game of strip Jeopardy," he said about his experiences in some of the nakedness goings on around Portland.

Around Oregon there are well-known nude beaches like the one at the north end of Sauvie Island.

Forest Park is also home to a 5K jog called the Bare Buns Run.

For those who want the bare facts on nudism, this is the year. In August, the American Association for Nude Recreation is having their national convention right here in Oregon.

That same group says nude travel has grown into a $400 million global industry with 270 clothes-free and clothing-optional destinations and nearly 50,000 members.

No one seems to track exactly how many are here in Portland, participating in clothes-free events.

"It's a liberal city," said nudist Elizabeth Kelley. "It's a fun place to go and people just come and relax."

"No one's judging you," said another nudist. "Everyone is nude, sans the politics of being in a club."

"Most of the events in Portland, people taking their clothes off would not associate themselves with nudism or naturism," said Seifert. "It's just people who are comfortable taking their clothes off."

Maybe former Mayor Bud Clark is to credit with his iconic, copyrighted and trademarked 'Expose Yourself to Art' pose, but look around town and you'll see there is not an abundance of bare art.

Portlandia, the symbol of the city, though she shows hints that certain parts could be exposed by a strong wind, is fully covered in accordance with city code. That is the one that says "It is unlawful for any person to expose his or her genitalia while in a public place or place visible from a public place, if the public place is open or available to persons of the opposite sex" (City of Portland Code 14A.40.030).

Obviously, that would put nude bikers and joggers in violation, if police enforced that law. We are told that Portland's indecent exposure law may be unenforceable due to an Oregon Supreme Court ruling that protects displays of sex acts.

When Seifert set out to do his story, he wondered if there was a connection between nudity for profit and nudity for freedom.

"In the end, I don't think that social nudity here has spread from the strip clubs," he said. "I think they both came from the same source, which is the legality and the liberal populous."