Mar 6, 2014

Court: We Are Not All Naked Under Our Clothes

Krabappel's Law
In Commonwealth v. Robertson (March 5, 2014), the Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court held that we are not all naked under our clothes. The Court considered whether the state's "Peeping Tom" statute prohibited a defendant's surreptitious use of a cell-phone to photograph under the skirt of a female victim riding the subway. 

The "Peeping Tom" statute, MA General Law, c. 272, § 105 (b) criminalizes the secret photographing of "another person who is nude or partially nude when the other person ... would have a reasonable expectation of privacy in not being so photographed." 

The Court determined that, though a skirt-wearing victim has an expectation of privacy not to be photographed under her skirt while riding the subway, she would not be partially nude "... no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing." According to the court, persons wearing basic clothes simply cannot be "nude or partially nude" even if photographic means are used to bypass the covering of the clothes and expose what is beneath. Because a woman wearing a skirt on a subway is not exposing herself, she is also not nude even if another person uses technical means to render her clothes nudity exposing.

The real impetus of the Court's decision might have been explained more transparently by reference to the rule of lenity. Instead, the court claims unconvincingly that nudity is a status which a person is either "in" or "out of." (The reader of Diogenes Teufelsdr√∂ckh's great work, "Clothes, Their Origin and Influence" certainly knows better. Anyone not familiar with it should seek out Carlyle's partial translation and biography of the great scholar.) Clothed and nude are not "either-or" states, and one may be clothed for one purpose and not for another. We all have many layers of clothing and nudity because in whatever manner we clothe our flesh, yet fundamentally we always remain clothed in flesh. So, we can never be fully nude with respect to what flesh clothes nor ever fully clothed with respect to the flesh, which always remains partially exposed.

Actually, Some of Our Greatest Men are Just Clothes
To put it in historical terms, consider: Adam and Eve were once clothed in glory and naked in the physical sense: naked and clothed. Then, they were clothed in physical leaves, but naked in the critical sense that led to God's provision of animal skins. We are today sometimes clothed with respect to one another and yet nude with respect to heavenly garments and Christ Himself. Indeed, unless we actually strip off ourselves, we are just being naked or rather nothing but clothes.

Let's leave the truth of the matter this way: "No earthly clothing is sufficient to make us clothed so we are truly, shamefully naked, remaining fully clothed in our flesh." Denying this naked fact is the great lie that the Court is playing with. There is not one of us who "fully clothed" does not stand nude and ashamed at the deepest level. This truth of clothes is metaphysical and spiritual, but not exclusively so. As the injustice to Robertson's victim shows, the meaning of nudity and clothing -- the confession that we really are naked under our clothes -- is of immediate practical importance as well.


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