Lets take a look at the 'feel' of the Naked In School setting. Beginning with some quotes from early authors to give a snapshot of what that world thinks of itself, or what some of the writers were trying to do or show. From there we'll talk about the mood of the genre and then break down the Reasonable Request.
But with a twist. We're going to look at the two possible extremes. We want to look at the Program as a utopian ideal that works, and as a dystopian nightmare that has managed to become some kind of monster.
These are some snapshots and quotes from early authors. They set some of the early tone to 'Naked in School', but they can often be read from multiple points of view giving multiple possible interpretations.
"Take it easy!" he cautioned me, then went on. "No, I don't. You've very pretty. It's not just me; everyone thinks so. What if you weren't? Then it would be pretty bad. What if you were that freshman girl who was so terrified she had to go to a psychiatrist? She's going to have to do it all over again another week, too. How about that? But she'll be all right, too. She'll get over her problem, and some day she'll be glad she did it. You're fine right now, Karen. Not that I think it's easy, for you or any of the girls; it's clearly not. But you're fine." --Mike, Karen Naked in School
"It's perfectly natural," Miss Hooker explained to the class. "While the specific factors which affect Karen are societally influenced, her reactions to them are built in to her, and all women, through evolution. A creationist might say they are designed for human women by God. The discomfort of shame is a societal influence, but the arousal she is experiencing as a result of it, and of her own exposure and helplessness, is a basic human instinct. Research during recent years has filtered down to the local school district level, including our own, and is now affecting policy. It affects your lives, as well, and this demonstration will help all of you to use that research." --Miss Hooker, Karen Naked in School
Oh, yeah, she said it had something to do with us learning to treat girls as something other than simply sex objects, to learn to harness our natural energies, to behave more maturely, to become comfortable with our bodies, blah, blah, blah. I was so shocked I was hardly listening. --Carl, Carl Naked in School
That led to a discussion of what this whole program was about - how it was seen as a way of ending sexual exploitation in all forms. By becoming more comfortable with our bodies and sexuality it would diminish sexual tensions and decrease sexual abuse. --Carl, Carl Naked in School
She nodded. "It's in the brochure they gave you. There are going to be a lot of changes as the program advances and more students have taken part in it," Mom went on.
On the other hand, I could see, too, that he was less than ecstatic at the idea of having to share me with the rest of the student population for the rest of the week. And how would he react the first time I had to respond to a "reasonable request" from someone? -- Beth, Beth Naked in School
."And you don't have to confine it just to school," she added. "They've changed the laws about indecent exposure, exempting boys under the age of twenty one from them."
"Amy and I talked, rather Amy did a lot of talking. I listened
a lot. She was so excited about finally being picked for The
Program. She had everything planned out from early in the
school year. What she would do, what she would not do. Some
girls allowed the boys to finger their pussies; others
allowed the boys to stick their erections partially into
their pussies; and rumors abounded that some girls openly had
sex. Amy had decided she would allow the guys one at a time
to touch her, but she didn't see any reason to let them go
-- Keiko Naked in School
My intent was to pull from the previous stories, but more as if Keiko and Amy had rumors than facts.
The last time these students had been in this room, they had been given an assignment to write about their brothers' or sisters' week in the nude in school. The school board had thought about introducing The Program in the Middle School in mid year. After reading their reports, it was decided that they would wait until the new school year. -- Dee, Naked in School, Dee's Story
It was a good question. Mrs. Jacobs had us debate it for a bit before giving her own answer. While men and women now had equal protections, society had come to recognize their fundamental differences not as inequalities as our grandparents had, but as simply differences requiring balanced but tailored treatment.
To me, it sounded a little fishy; but that was the spin they were putting on it. I was wondering how they managed to justify the laws letting only women over 21 be nude, or even something as simple as only boys being able to demand relief.
Mrs. Jacobs went on to discuss the Great Society measures of the 1960's. How the liberals of that time had chosen to take small steps -steps which could be torn down one by one as society was gripped in the fear of AIDS and a growing conservative backlash. Already there was talk of a 'New Great Society'. She showed us a few slides of congressional debates. This time around a strong radical left movement had gone straight for the throat of things; shooting for the most extreme of measures they could find and pushing it through in a time of euphoria over a new sexual revolution. The aim, as Mrs. Jacobs saw it, was to finally break the back of America's puritanical roots. "Even if a conservative movement takes hold again; they will be unable to reverse the clock on a change so drastic. Free love isn't just a mantra anymore; it's become the law of the land."-- Alandra Naked in School
"Well, that's the intention." Mrs. Jacobs said. When Ms. Magante left she added "and the road to hell is paved with good intentions."-- Alandra Naked in School
So, what I did, is I moved it. The original concept is intact, but I moved it to a different school. What I figured is, if something like The Program came into being in the type of world that Karen Wagner introduced, itíd have to start up in other schools, right? My tale takes place at Westport High, a school in a city about 50 miles away from Central. The success of The Program has caused other neighboring school systems to implement it. My tale takes place about 10 years after Karen initiated The Program at Central. The program has been implemented for two years at Westport, and it has not gone particularly well. My story takes place at the beginning of the school year of the third year of the programóa last-ditch effort to see if Westport can make it work as well as Central had. Jared and Amanda, two Juniors, are picked to start the program that year.
Authors looking at this may want to consider where they fall, and whether or not they wish to let their readers know where that is, keep it secret, or reveal it in some big surprise.
While the Program could indeed be something quite horrible - being stripped of one's clothes and put on display for others - it also speaks to a common fetish and dream of many of us of finding ourselves in that very situation. Within the utopian Program, this tends to start out scary, but turn into a mostly good thing. utopian Program characters are not destroyed by their experience, they are bettered for it and generally enjoy it.
The Program paints the picture of a world using social engineering to push its sexual boundaries with public nudity and peer pressure as the operating tool. In the utopian Program, the idea works to some degree or another. Character get through it, shift their boundaries, and find this a mostly good thing. There are sometimes a few rough edges, a few flaws, and few flawed people, but intentions tend to be good even there. What villains exist tend to be exposed for it by story's end.
The Program is not the start of this shift, it is a reaction to it. It sits in a world that has already begun to accept public nudity and sexuality, and it is structured to ensure the youth of its world accept not just the nudity but also sexualize it. Thus why only some students are nude at a time, and the nature of Requests to pose and more. The society wishes to teach its youth to see each other as sexual people they must respect, and learn to take charge of their sexuality in a highly overstimulated environment. The Program is merely a controlled example of what is going on in the outside society. With STDs cured a more secular world questions its sexual restraint and begins to go wild. The Program kicks off as a reaction to prepare the youth for this change.
Very rough themes such as non consensual acts, rape, and so on, are largely pushed to the fringes of the utopian genre. That said, these themes were present in the original story, Karen, even though there are just as many who see that as a utopian story as there are those who see it as a dystopia. While these darker themes have persisted in later utopian Program stories they are pushed 'off scene', into the background of character histories, or as failed attempts of the recently disempowered over the newly empowered.
Overall, the utopian Program is a positive genre, built around a somewhat silly and yet fun even if also sometimes a little scary premise.
In the dystopian Program, the stories have been somewhat downbeat and often abusive in nature. The protagonists may be socially backwards students signed up by a misguided parent, but are more often fairly ordinary students (or even exceptional students) who are forced into a no-option version of the program. The Program-inspired activities are often humiliating, and are commonly abusive in both physical and psychological senses. By the ending chapter, the characters may have acquired a taste for such abuse, or they may be too significantly damaged. Either way, they may be able to articulate a few positives out of the negatives.
While the Program can indeed be a pleasure for closet exhibitionists and the like, it also speaks to common fetishes and fantasies of the BDSM community. Within the dystopian Program, it starts out with reminders of the inescapable nature of the situation, and from there generally moves into humiliation and abuse. The characters may find a Nietzchian enhancement to their strength or empowerment, or they may just be permanently damaged by the experience. Either way, the experiences are often anything but enjoyable in any but a narrowly physical sense.
The dystopian Program paints a picture of a world where a well intentioned attempt at social engineering falls into the hands of the uncaring, the incompetent, and the predatory. In most such stories, the Authorities (administrators, teachers, "program guards", etc.) either actively participate in the abuse and humiliation of the participants or turn a blind eye to such abuse and humiliation at the hands of their fellow students. Or both. All the while, those same Authorities reinforce the inescapable nature of the situation, with threat, blackmail, and sometimes physical demonstration. In most cases, the participants survive the ordeal. Most even adapt to it, going with the flow rather than engaging in a futile campaign against the inescapable. All are changed by the Program. Some will try to put a happy face on the damage, others will not. And in the end, most of the abusers remain in a position to abuse the next batch of victims.
Very rough themes, such as non consensual acts, physical abuse, significant verbal abuse, and humiliation are often directly portrayed in the dystopian stories. This stands as a contrast to the utopian stories, which push most such things off stage. Another contrast is the focus of those Authorities. In the utopian stories, there is a central focus on the well being of the participants. By contrast, the dystopian stories often show the Authorities making that consideration secondary to things like personal agendas, ambition, or the bureaucratic status quo.
Overall, the dystopian Program is a negative genre, built around an admittedly unrealistic premise and a common BDSM theme of being unexpectedly imprisoned, abused, humiliated, forced to behave in a sexual manner, and eventually released.
© 2005 Jorey May.
First from the utopian angle, where it works, to show what the an Idealist Program thinks it is achieving. After that we'll take the same phrase, 'Reasonable Request', and twist it into the opposite dystopian perspective that manages to become anything but reasonable or requesting. The actual stories you read will probably fall somewhere between these two extremes, and if you are a writer you should at least be aware of both and consider how obvious you want to make it to your readers just where on the scale your story falls.
Reasonable means it cannot go beyond what a person finds acceptable. For judging this you have the standard legal test of consent. In the utopian stories, you never had to allow anything beyond looking and posing to display. You could only be punished (even handcuffed) if you covered up or otherwise tried to hide. Characters allowed more only from persuasive pressure and the desire to be seen as going along with the Program spirit. It is a REASONABLE REQUEST, not an Unreasonable Order. The difference in those two when things go right works way beyond semantics.
In the utopian Program touching has required asking and getting participant permission - Reasonable only if the participant consents to the Request. Students often tried to push the boundaries. That push is actually desired by the Program. The very goal is to set up two tests:
Knowing they won't get in trouble with touching if they have permission, students try to get that permission by making the participant who refuses into an oddball, trying to get them to think they have to, or rather that 'in the spirit of the Program' they really should. As long as the bounds of what the Program explicitly defines as not reasonable are not crossed, the students have room to work the art of persuasion. Some students then come to believe they can even demand certain things, but that sort of power is not present in the utopian Program
Early on The Program is often 'seeded' with 'social elites' they know are also easily manipulated by peer pressure to create a student 'expectation' that touching is 'normal' - only the 'oddballs' refuse. Student often try to claim certain 'requests' have to be allowed. When asked, administrators are careful to never say something is required, but rather use the double speak of 'its best if you cooperate with the spirit of the Program'. They never told you you had to do it, but at the same time they made it obvious to everyone that you would be a 'prude' if you didn't.
Some utopian Programs allow consensual touching that is specially called out as not reasonable, but only under the understanding that it does not fall under the Reasonable Requests. You could have sex or show affection for example, but only outside the bounds of the Program, such sex is thus now 'normal student activity'. These are usually schools that allow that from removing rules about 'public displays of affection'.
Outside of physical contact, the student can be made to pose, but cannot have their ability to function as a student impaired upon and cannot be made to do tasks, go places, or perform for the requester, nor even forced to touch themselves (which is after all, still touching). Posing is displaying to be seen better, not getting into silly or demeaning positions. You have to let them see any part of you they wish, but you have control over how you do it.
In the dystopian POV, the "Reasonable Request" is a code phrase instead of a literal restriction. "Reasonable" is determined, in the end, by the school and/or Program Authorities, despite rhetoric about the participant making that determination. Little short of actual rape or serious injury - or disrupting a class - is ultimately "unreasonable". "Request" is effectively meaningless; just being there and reaching out to fondle or penetrate the participant is "request" enough in many cases, as is making a verbally abusive demand. "Consent" is completely meaningless, except in the case of actual intercourse.
The difference between a Reasonable Request and an Unreasonable Order is completely out of the hands of the participants. Characters are pressured by teachers, administrators, Program functionaries, and other students to "accept" anything and everything the students attempt, short of rape or serious danger. The students are aware of the imbalance of power: they are virtually never penalized in any significant way for failing to ask first (or making verbally abusive demands or comments), but participants may be punished for refusing.
In the dystopian stories, the poses may be demanded rather than requested. In the dystopian stories, there are few or no limits on such demanded poses, no matter how humiliating or inappropriate. In some cases, the "posing" is not limited to static positions; it may include a variety of actions. In some, the school does not even enforce any policy limiting such demands to poses or actions relevant to the Program. If such demands are appealed to the Authorities, they generally either claim their hands are tied by the Program or chide the participant for failing to cooperate with the Program (and threaten or impose punishment for that failure). Or both.
Touching is a little different in the two views. While the utopian view requires an actual request and consent for touching, the dystopian view treats it much the same as looking and posing. There may be rhetorical claims about the need to ask and gain permission, but they are rarely enforced unless the "touch" in question is rape or results in significant physical harm. While the utopian approach is to allow peer pressure to push and shift the participants' sexual boundaries, the dystopian approach is often a blunt force attack to completely obliterate them. The dystopian equivalents of the above two "tests" are:
Authority, threat, and the mob mentality of the other students have been the tools by which the boundaries of the participants have been exceeded and damaged. The dystopian Program uses forced immersion in a variety of sexual activities and situations to destroy earlier boundaries and cause the participants to redefine their own sexuality.
Knowing they won't get in trouble for demanding poses or non-injurious touching (other than rape), and that the participant can get in trouble for refusing, the students escalate the range and intensity of the "requested" actions. The normal tendencies of adolescents to compete with each other and to push things to find the "real" limits combine to create a situation in which they push things to greater and harsher extremes in the group setting than they ever would have individually, weakening their own boundaries at the same time as destroying those of the participant.
Like some utopian versions, the dystopian Program usually allows the Participant to "voluntarily" go over the line into intercourse. Knowing this, the students (and often some of the teachers and administrators) will try to push that last limit "in the spirit of the program". Essentially "volunteering" participants past the limits without first consulting with them.
© 2005 Jorey May.