Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Cropped publicity image from organizers of ‘GoTopless’ event
It appears that clinical psychologist Carl Mumpower and conservative activist Chad Nesbitt are making progress in their campaign to highlight the sexual content of a topless public performance in their Asheville, N.C., hometown in order to deter future such exhibitions.
They’ve sought, without success so far, official investigations into the violations of the law they say were captured on film and video, and have lobbied for a crackdown on future such events.
But now there’s evidence that their work is making an impact.
The manager of the North Carolina Mountain Fair has expressed concern that such a display of nudity could be disruptive and has posted a sign on the fairgrounds stating “Shirt and shoes required.”
The new requirement was described in a letter on the Mountain Xpress news website that condemned it.
“As someone who goes barefoot 24/7, and who has attended the N.C. Mountain State Fair barefoot for many years, I was shocked a few days ago to find several very large signs with big red letters at the gates stating, ‘Shirt and shoes required,’” wrote Kriss Sands. “The next day I contacted the fair manager, Matt Buchanan, to ask what was going on. He called me later and left a phone message in which he stated (his exact words), ‘Actually, the reason we put those signs there, I had many concerned parents after the demonstration that we had in Asheville a couple of weeks ago with the women going shirtless, and we do consider this a family event, and we had people concerned about that.’”
“I did make the statement that he quoted me on about several concerned mothers asking about our policy concerning women going shirtless,” he wrote. “The North Carolina Mountain State is a family event and we want all fairgoers to dress appropriately.”
The focus on the issue is a measure of success for Mumpower and Nesbitt, who have filed complaints with the local police and social services departments. The two men have been told that the offensive display on public property was not a violation of any law. It included numerous women, including some apparently underage girls stripped to their waists, doing a variety of striptease dances and other provocative moves in front of an audience that included camera-waving men, other women and children.
Mumpower told WND that authorities in the police and social services agencies have stated they will not prosecute anyone for anything.
Several state laws, however, forbid nude sexual exhibitions, especially in front of children. One law says: “A person commits the offense of exhibiting a harmful performance to a minor if, with or without consideration and knowing the character or content of the performance, he allows a minor to view a live performance that is harmful to minors.”
Photographic evidence of the event in Asheville documented that children as young as 3 or 4 years old were watching the nude-fest, and some evidence suggests that underage girls were among the exhibitionists who stripped nude to the waist.
One website boasted of a huge increase in traffic following its posting of images from the event.
Mumpower said the event is just a symptom of a culture of sin in Asheville, and changes weren’t expected to be quick. But he said the only way to make changes in what is acceptable in a society is to publicize what has happened.
“We’re talking about turning on the lights,” he said. “It’s not my job to make the changes. I’m not in charge. God is. My job is do turn on the lights, stir up awareness.”
He said the goal is that future decisions on similar events will be different.
“When you turn the lights on that behavior sometimes starts to change. That’s our effort in Asheville,” he said. “We’re doing every creative thing we can think.”
He said one of the plans is to rent a billboard highlighting the event and make sure that newcomers to Asheville see the city’s atmosphere.
In an announcement this week about their plans, the two said they were concerned that “no elected officials, government agencies, or churches have stepped forward to protect our children.”
“How anyone could look at the pictures posted on our website and look at the clear laws against sexual performance in front of minors and public indecency and not put the two together toward action is beyond me,” said Nesbitt, the former chairman of the Buncome County GOP.
Mumpower, a former Asheville city councilman, went a step further.
“We understand why our city and police administration and other government agencies are playing dumb and hiding behind one law allowing discreet presentation of the breasts – their No. 1 job is protecting themselves, not children.”
He continued, “What really fries my bacon is the moral cowardliness of our churches. They talk and wring their hands, but mostly they sit in their recliners and hope somebody will do something to stop our culture’s decline. The fountain strippers have demonstrated far more courage than the Christian community. It’s not possible to uplift women or breasts by performing in front of a bunch of catcalling, camera-toting frat boys, but at least they had the courage to risk. As far as I’m concerned our faith-based community has more to be ashamed of than those girls parading around as toys for little boys.”
“Charges that Asheville is a ‘cesspool of sin’ are absolutely correct. It’s ironic that a state Republican senator from another district, James Forrester, has been the only elected official with the character and courage to state the obvious. Asheville apologists will continue to pretend that there’s no rust under the paint. Reality, and a slew of pictures, will continue to prove otherwise,” the two said.
Their site includes images of the striptease performances that occurred and one man apparently reaching for a naked breast.
The city has responded to requests for comment with an email that simply cites a state statute that calls for a misdemeanor charge against anyone who willfully would “expose the private parts of his or her person in any public place and in the presence of any other person or persons” as well as a Class H felony for those who expose their private parts “in any public place in the presence of any other person less than 16 years of age for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.”
“This information reflects the extent of the city’s connection to the event,” said the spokeswoman.
Complaints that police officers refused to enforce the state’s laws and that social services agencies refused to investigate the apparent child abuse involved so far have not brought about any action.
A petition promoted to protest the event in the city stated: “We call on the City of Asheville, Asheville City Council, Asheville Police Department administration, various media outlets, and parents to … be held accountable.”
Mumpower said whether women go topless or not is not his fight, but state law does not allow it in front of children, and the failure of authorities to respond to that state law is what concerns him.
A local television report from station WLOS said the staged event was “part of a movement to raise awareness of Raelism,” described in the report as a movement led by a man who thinks he’s learned the secrets of life from aliens.
WND reported when the first complaints were filed with social services and the state attorney general. The complaints alleged child abuse on the part of the city of Asheville and its police department following the “rally” that featured nudity.
The GoTopless website promotes “Equal Topless Rights for All” and “Free Your Breasts, Free Your Mind.”
A GoTopless spokeswoman explained on its website that it’s a U.S. organization “who is standing for the rights of women to go top-free … because it is our constitutional right.”
The organization said such events were held on GoTopless Day recently in Austin, Texas; Asheville; Chicago; Chico, Calif.; Honolulu; Los Angeles; Manchester, N.H.; Miami Beach; New York City; Portland, Maine; San Francisco and Washington.
Various college towns also hold periodic “bike naked” events, and the states vary on what is allowed. Some allow partial nudity such as being topless under some circumstances. Virtually all disallow sexually suggestive activities, such as dancing in public while nude or partly nude.
WLOS quoted an attorney saying the law is clear about revealing dress – or lack thereof – while children are present, and it is an issue that will have to be addressed.