Freedom of Expression and the Case of Public Nudity

This is a paper about public nudity. It asks: what, if anything, is the problem with public nudity? In a number of jurisdictions, public nudity is conceived of as problematic in some way: a conception that is reflected in and reinforced by restrictions that are put in place in relation to it. The purpose of this paper is to examine, through the lens of the right to freedom of expression, examples of these different restrictions, their underlying constructions of ‘the public’, and the broader legal discourse surrounding public nudity through the lens of the right to freedom of expression. Drawing on a number of case studies from different jurisdictions it makes a case for the treatment of public nudity as a form of expression, and suggests that portrayals of a tension between public nudity and freedom of expression are a product of a problematic and unstable construction of ‘the public’.