Should skinny-dippers be required
to register as sex criminals?
13 States Think So!

          Skinny-dipping and nude sunbathing are innocent, widespread and longstanding traditions throughout the United States. A recent Roper Poll conducted for the Naturist Education Foundation reveals that one in four Americans have been skinny-dipping or nude sunbathing in mixed groups of men and women at a beach, at a pool, or somewhere else. That same poll shows that fully 80% of the American public believe that people who enjoy nude sunbathing should be able to do so without interference from officials, as long as they do so at a beach that is accepted for that purpose. The NEF/Roper Poll also indicates that half of those Americans with opinions even feel that governments should set aside public land specifically for the purpose of nude recreation.

In thirteen U.S. states, however, lawmakers have decreed that those convicted of mere nudity must register as sex offenders.

The thirteen are listed below. Click on a state to view its law requiring convicted skinny-dippers to register as sex criminals.

Alabama
Arizona
California
 

Colorado
Delaware
Idaho
 

Iowa
Massachusetts
Michigan
Montana
 

Nevada
Oklahoma
South Dakota
 

The Naturist Action Committee is working to reverse this travesty and prevent additional states from adding themselves to the list. Recent legislative efforts have been made in Washington (1999 and 2000) and Nebraska (1999 and 2000) to make mere nudity an offense requiring sex offender registration. In both states, NAC played a prominent role in defeating the legislation.

The move to place more people on state sex offender lists is a result of qualifications the U.S. government has placed on states that wish to receive Byrne Grant funding for state and local law enforcement efforts. To be qualified to receive millions of dollars in federal money, states are required to implement registration schemes for so-called "sexual predators." The penalty for failure to establish such a list is a loss of funds on which the states have come to be totally dependent.

The impetus for all this comes from the federal Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act of 1994, (PL103-322) and the "Megan's Law" amendment to it (PL104-145, 1997). Jacob Wetterling and Megan Kanka were children who were killed by recidivist sex offenders.

At least a dozen acts of Congress and countless pieces of state legislation have made clarifications and revisions to the Jacob Wetterling Act and Megan's Law. However, there has never been anything in the federal legislation that specifically requires those who have been convicted for mere nudity to be included by the states as "sexual predators." That fact hasn't prevented a handful of state lawmakers from threatening their colleagues with a loss of federal funding if they do not place skinny-dippers on their state's list. A head count of  "predators" is submitted each year to the federal bureaucracy for approval. Increased counts, bloated by adding hapless nude sunbathers, help establish that the state is serious about complying.

Skinny-dipping and nude sunbathing are not the activities of predators. With significant and increasing nationwide participation by average citizens and overwhelming acceptance by Americans, nude recreation deserves better than having its participants criminalized as sex criminals. Nor is simple non-sexual nudity the "first step toward becoming a sexual predator," as some lawmakers have characterized it. While having little to do with reality, such statements reveal volumes about the persons making them.

NAC anticipates further attempts by state legislators to force skinny-dippers onto the list of sex offenders who must register. Watch for NAC Action Alerts, Advisories and Updates on this topic.