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Community Standards Vote 2008
-a vote on the current Community Standards regarding attire – or lack thereof – at a Public Beach in Alberta.
[note: this vote was intended to apply to an undesignated, unposted area of a Public beach or other recreational area in Alberta, Canada. Although this was not explicitly written on the ballot, this researcher instructed the voters verbally that this was the case.]
This was a privately sponsored vote taken on the beach of Sylan Lake Provincial Park during the summer and fall of 2008. There were 136 voters: 107 were eligible voters, meaning, they witnessed that they were over the age of 18 and were residents of Alberta. Voters were not asked for proof of age or residence.
Of the 136 total voters, 29 formed the non-eligible group which consisted of three sub-groups: 1. Teen Female Voters, 2. Non-resident Voters, and 3. a miscellaneous group. Although the non-eligible group were allowed to fill out a ballot, their votes were collated separately from the Eligible Voter group and their results were listed for comparison purposes only. The Teen Female Voter group consisted of 13 Females who were between the ages of 15 and 17 and who were residents of the Town of Sylvan Lake. The Non-resident Group of Voters was 11 persons, all in their early twenties: eight from provinces in Western Canada, two persons from Ontario, and one from provinces in Eastern Canada. The miscellaneous group of voters consisted of five persons. Three were, as I recall, teen males under the age of 18 who did not write down their age. The remaining two persons were older adults who did not specify their age, so could not be included in the Eligible Voter Group. A couple of voters did not specify their gender, but that fact did not exclude them from the Eligible Voter category since they only had to witness that they were over 18 and a resident of Alberta to be counted in the Eligible Voter tally.
The average age of the 107 Eligible Voters was 34.9 years old, and the median age was 35.
There were 17 propositions overall. Sixteen dealt with two broad subject areas: 1. nudity (of persons or body parts), 2. swimming attire. The remaining single proposition dealt with the perceived consequences of a Town Policy of ‘tops optional’ for all women in all public swimming areas.
The Voters instituted five negative rules and five positive rules as follows: (each of these rules apply to an undesignated or unposted areas of a public beach or other recreational area)
1. Adults may not be nude,
2. Females with breasts may not go topless,
3. Males may not wear a thong,
4. No one may wear swimwear that exposes their anal sphincter (commonly called ‘the poop hole’).
5. No one may expose pubic hair.
1. Men who have large Mammary Glands (breasts) commonly called ‘man-boobs’ may continue to be topless.
2. Women may expose their breasts on the beach while in the process of breast-feeding a baby.
3. Adults may allow their babies to go nude at a public beach, (‘baby’ was defined, on average, as under two years old.)
4. Female children may go topless [in general, up to the age of first signs of breast development],
5. The swimsuit of a female does not have to be of such material or design as to conceal a nipple-erection. Females do not have to conceal their nipple-erections.
Proposition: 17a to 17f:
If the Town of Sylvan Lake instituted a ‘Tops-optional’ Policy for all Public swimming areas (for example: beach, swimming pool, wading pool, etc.), the consequences would be:
a. more tourism,
b. undecided effect on business activity,
c. no change in property values,
d. diminished family life,
e. less pride in one's community,
f. definitely not a reduced chance of getting laid*
* [ Note: a majority voted for ‘improved chances of getting laid’, with a lesser number voting for ‘no change in the chances of getting laid’, but statistically speaking, there was no difference between the two categories. Both these categories were statistically larger than the ‘reduced chance of getting laid’ category.]
Propositions where there was no clear winner
1. P10: Revealing swimwear for men, for example: Speedos
2. P4: Boobless topless Woman
3. P7: A person, of a certain age, in a thong.
4. P3: A nude boy
5. P14: A nude 'child'.
Discussion of Propositions where there was no clear winner:
The results for five propositions were too close to call. They cover subjects of current disagreement.
The first subject of disagreement was revealing swimwear for men, for example, the brand-name Speedos. Voters were split over the topic of speedos so no rule was implemented.
The second subject of disagreement was the topic of whether a breastless women (i.e. a woman who has had a double mastectomy and therefore, has no breast material and no nipples) may go topless. There was no statistical difference between the ‘for’ and ‘against side.
The third subject where voters were split was on the topic of thongs. Proposition number seven proposed that it was a violation of Community Standards for a person ‘of a certain age’ to wear a thong. It was the intention of the author that this proposition was to be applied to older persons. I thought the phrase ‘of a certain age’ could only apply to middle aged persons. But voters wrote comments to the effect that young children should not wear thongs and further, wrote that the minimum and maximum age to wear a thong ought to be, on average, 16 to 35 years old respectively. A further complication is that, in another proposition (number eight), voters ruled, by a majority, that males may not wear a thong. This means that proposition number seven ought to be reinterpreted to apply only to females. Although the final tally was 42 votes for and 38 votes against (females?) wearing thongs, this was not a large enough majority to exceed the margin of error, so the ruling cannot be applied to the Community as a whole with the statistically demanded: 95% confidence level
The fourth subject of disagreement and the topic of two different propositions, was the subject of child-nudity. Voters were evenly split on this issue, but there appeared to be two distinct sub-groups which defined ‘child’ differently. One sub-group, who voted for child-nudity, defined ‘child’ as, on average, four years old or under. Another sub-group, who voted against child-nudity defined ‘child’ as ten years old or greater, so these two sub-groups were speaking about different age-groups of children.
By combining the results from four different propositions, I was able to calculate the upper limit for socially-acceptable child nudity- meaning, the age of a nude child who would have a simple majority of eligible voter support (50% plus one vote). According to my calculations, the age of a nude boy was eight and a half years old, and the age for a nude female child, who did not have any breasts, was approximately nine years old – approximately the average, earliest age of the onset of puberty. Using a similar procedure, I calculated the upper limit for a topless female child, who did not have any breasts, to be 13 years old – approximately, the age of late-onset puberty.
As a general guide for parents, it appears, that the general rule, under our current (2008) Community Standards, for nudity and toplessness for a female child is that they can be both nude and topless up to the age where breasts first begin to develop. In short, pre-pubescent nude and topless children on the beach is ok.
Voters were given the opportunity to add the prefix ‘strongly’ to their vote. By comparing the relative number of times voters used the prefix ‘strongly’ as opposed to a regular vote without the prefix ‘strongly’, I was able to create a list of propositions, ranked according to how strongly the voters felt about their subject matter. The results are that propositions dealing with the subject of child-nudity were ranked lowest of all the propositions. This means that voters were, generally, apathetic about the subject of child nudity – they didn’t care one way or the other. The subjects ranked highest were exposing the poop hole, adult nudity and the subject of man-boobs. The subject of topless women on the beach. was outranked by the subject of topless men with man-boobs by 30%.
Calculation of the appropriate area of a ‘more Liberal Social Values’ section of the beach:
Based on initial expressions of interest judged from voter comments and also based on calculations of the numbers of voters who voted in favour of pairs of ‘more Liberal’ propositions, at this time (2008), it is estimated that about 15% of the general beach goers would be a potential client base for such a more Liberal designated area of the public beach and 9.5% would be a potential client base for an adult nude designated area. These estimates should be considered as upper limits and merely a rough guide.
A Proposal for ‘Designated Area System’:
I propose that public beaches be designated according to Social Values practiced on that area of the beach. I propose a colour-coded system:
1. Royal Purple Designated Area: for the current, Conservative Social Values: approximately, as voted by Albertans in this Community Vote. This value system should be described and thought of as Conservative Modest, and Discrete.
The rules I propose should be:
1. bathing suite bottoms mandatory after age 5,
2. bathing suit tops mandatory for females with breasts, except when breast-feeding a baby,
3. no thongs.,
4. no exposed pubic hair.
2. Turquoise Designated Area: for the next most Liberal Social Value System. It would be, approximately, half-way between the Conservative Social Values and a Nude Beach.
I propose that there be only two rules on such a beach:
1. bathing suit bottoms are mandatory by age 13 – such bottoms can be of any shape, size, design or description, including thongs, Speedos, etc.,
3. Green Designated Area: for a nude beach.
There should be a two-colour, diagonal stripped sign indicating a transition zone between any two colour zones to give people notice that another zone is close. For example, a sign with alternating diagonal Royal Purple and Turquoise would indicate that another group is close. There must always be a Turquoise area between a Green area and a Royal Purple area to avoid a nude area being next to a Conservative area.
Discussion of Colour-Coded Designated Areas:
Moving the controversial ‘thongs’ to the more liberal section of the beach, avoids the problem of the rule against exposing the ‘poop hole’ and also avoids the sexism of allowing females to wear thongs but not males. Judging from the history, in fifty years, we’ll all be naked on the beach, so all these issues will eventually be resolved.
Proposed Size of Each Area:
From our calculations in the Area Calculations Section, we should view 15% of the general beach population as a estimated potential client base for a more liberal designated area (a Turquoise Area), and 9.5% for an adult nude designated area (a Green Area). These should be considered as an initial estimate and an upper limit.
In practice, it takes time for the public to adjust to something new. If designated areas were to be introduced, I propose a staged approach. Introduce a Turquoise Area on an initial, three year trial period and see how it is accepted and how many people use it. I would suggest an area of no more than 5% of the total beach area: 3% as the Turquoise Area, with 2% as a transition zone between the Turquoise Area and the adjacent Royal Purple Area. The size of such a trial area can easily be adjusted based on its usage. A Green Area would only be introduced if it was justified, as indicated by heavy use of the Turquoise Area.
From my discussions with people on the beach, it appears that people do not wish these Community Standards to be enforced through a law or bylaw. From my discussions, I get the impression that people want them to be guidelines only and that there be room for: social change, personal choice and the practice of tolerance. Of course, this is antidotal evidence and should be the subject of further research.
The fact that many voters had strong feeling about these topics and forbade some behaviour on an undesignated public beach does not necessarily mean that they disapprove of that same behaviour in a designated area of a public beach. For example: the Teen Female group voted almost unanimously against a topless beach, but, at the same time, 15% (2 of 13) wrote in the comments section that they would use a tops-optional section of a public beach and come topless - and these two voters voted 'strongly agree' to the proposition that 'it is a violation of Community Standards for a woman to be topless on a public beach'. Another example, is that those who voted 'strongly' against an adult being nude on a public beach, wrote in the comments section, that it was alright if in a designated area.
I, therefore, recommend that such Designated Areas be un-enforced, and be considered general guidelines only – a social tool to herd and usher the orderly evolution of Community Standards. There ought to be some areas in life that are un-enforced.
Sincerely, Bob Crawford,
researcher and volunteer.
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