Pervert Power

Earlier this week, this post at Eschaton about a girl being prosecuted for “sexting” made me recall an event that used to take place every year at this time – the Ann Arbor Naked Mile.

As a freshman at the University of Michigan in 1993-94, my roommate was a junior on the crew team. According to his version of events, the crew team started the Naked Mile in the late 80s by streaking across campus at midnight after the last night of class. In the years following, the event grew significantly larger. Throughout the school year, my roommate tried convincing everyone in our hall to run with him. I had a pretty strong anti-authoritarian streak in me by then, but it still took a little bit of coaxing to get me on board.

On the night of the event, there were four of us assembled in our room downing shots (my roommate was over 21 by then, so that was only partially against dorm rules) and drinking Mountain Dews. The route of the Naked Mile went across campus from east to west, basically taking us back to our dorms. Despite it only being in the 40s, I headed across campus wearing only a pair of soccer shorts and sneakers. When I got to the starting area, though, much of the nervousness about doing this was going away. There were hundreds of people there milling about naked, waiting for midnight. It was like a giant co-ed locker room outside in the cold. I took off my shorts and waited for everyone to start running.

The weird thing about the run is that you don’t get to do it as a herd. Because of the massive amounts of people who were now showing up for the event, the runners end up doing much of the race in a single-file line through the crowd on the main part of campus. The run began somewhat uneventfully at first, but as we approached the arch that separates the shops on South University from the campus diag, the route got blocked by the crowd. My roommate, cool as a fucking cucumber, yells out “anybody got a cigarette!” Someone in the crowd hands him a cigarette. He yells out “anybody got a light!” An outstretched hand held a lighter. He smoked it as we all stood around waiting for the path to clear.

We weren’t at the very end of the runners, but we were pretty close. My roommate’s smoke break separated us from the rest of the runners enough so that people in the crowd ahead thought that the run was over. As we finally made our way through the arch and into the diag, we were even more enmeshed in the crowd. By the time we got across the diag to State Street, we were way off course. In order to get to where we knew the end point was, we decided to cut through a small landscaped area just across State Street. After we jumped in, though, we realized that the ground inside that area was lower than the sidewalk we’d just jumped from. After we’d climbed up through a tall hedge to get back onto the sidewalk, I still vividly remember hearing my friend behind me saying, “Damn, I think I scratched my scrotum.” Still makes me laugh to this day.

When we arrived at the Cube sculpture where the “Mile” (it’s not even close to an actual mile) ends, we met up with some of the clothed members of our co-ed hall. And despite the fact that the run was over and I was hanging out with the girls from the room next door, I didn’t even feel the need to get dressed again. It’s something that you’d never expect, but once you’re naked in public with a good excuse, you can begin to feel very comfortable with your nakedness very quickly.

I wound up running it all four years I was in Ann Arbor, but I never had as much fun as I did that first year. In subsequent years, I began to notice the things that would eventually bring an end to the city’s and the University’s tolerance of the event. The major problem was that despite there being about 8 to 10 male runners for every female one, the event brought out the perverts in full force. Even in that first year, the size of the crowds amazed me. Then, with each year, the amount of video cameras just multiplied. One year (I believe my junior year), I let my drunkenness get the best of me and got thrown to the ground by a man whose very expensive video camera I’d just broken.

In my senior year run, some runners around me ran while also chanting “PER-VERTS” to the assembled gawkers. Unfortunately, gawking wasn’t the only thing going on. My girlfriend ran with me that year and said that she nearly got groped by some guys along the way. Several other girls who ran said the same thing, and some had actually been grabbed and pulled to the ground. We tried to find a police officer (Ann Arbor police tolerated the event and even did crowd control), but couldn’t find one interested in helping. Within a few years after that, the University tried to shut the whole event down.

I was thinking back on this history when I read the original post above, where a young girl who’d taken revealing pictures of herself with her phone found herself in a courtroom where a bunch of old men were planning to review the evidence and potentially punish her for doing so. On the one hand, I recognize the desire to keep teenage girls from doing this, as many of them have no fucking clue how populated this country is with sexually repressed and psychologically disturbed individuals who might do them harm. On the other hand, though, attempting to charge them with a crime is arguably the dumbest possible way to dissuade them from doing so. As the girl in the article realized, the biggest punishment that could occur is for creepy old men to see her naked.

It’s been tempting to conclude that the overeager prosecutor in this case, George Skumanick Jr., is focusing on these cases simply because of his own perverted desire to see revealing pictures of teenage girls. It’s certainly possible. But it’s also possible that he’s just another product of a justice system that far too often sees its role as moral nanny, and refuses to acknowledge the dangers of taking a heavy handed approach to getting teens not to make risky personal choices. It’s also kind of interesting that this case is happening so close to where the recent scandal over funneling young people to jail for money took place.

Another major concern here is that unless we clearly push back against the idea that anyone who doesn’t guard their own nakedness with sufficient zeal as a child pornographer, we’ll continue to expand the ranks of “sex offenders” beyond the point where it makes sense. The term sex offender should refer to actual dangerous people, who have victimized other people in a sexual way (like the perverts who grabbed and assaulted female runners at the Naked Mile). When we start trying to label people as sex offenders who make moral choices that sexually repressed members of our justice system are offended by, we completely undermine the purpose of having that distinction in the first place.

A few years after the Naked Mile was shut down, they made an American Pie movie that was based on the tradition. Not surprisingly, it was the same kind of idiotic overly-sexualized view of the event that wound up bringing hundreds of perverts out of the woodwork to line the streets of Ann Arbor every April. Back in the early-to-mid 90s, pictures posted from the Naked Mile on University of Michigan student websites were some of the first instances of web porn out there (which probably didn’t stay up for very long). On today’s internet, it probably wouldn’t even pass for porn, just blurry pictures of naked people running.

Today, the trend of “sexting” is the new thing, and a lot of kids simply haven’t been smart enough to realize that when they send a photo to their friends, it’s a short journey to the internet where the whole world can see it. As cases like that become more and more common, more and more kids will be smarter about not doing it. It doesn’t require that law enforcement officials spy on our teenagers’ phone traffic. It doesn’t require that District Attorneys threaten them with a “sex offender” tag that would haunt them their whole lives. It just requires explaining that there are a lot of freaking weirdos out there and expecting kids to be smarter.

Comments

  1. 1

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    Very telling that a thread is called “pervert power” and all the HA regulars stayed away.
     
    I wonder if all of them felt they were being called out.

  2. 5

    Piper Scott spews:

    @2…Marvin…

    Hits too close to home for them all…That’s why they’re the HA HAPPY Hooligans. Amazing how well they keyboard while using only one hand.

    The Piper

  3. 6

    Steve spews:

    “Pervert Power”

    Goldy must be trying to up traffic by titling posts in such a way that attracts Republicans.

    Oh my, judging by posts 1 thru 5, it’s working.

  4. 7

    Steve spews:

    It’s common knowledge that Marvin’s a perv, but Piper, you too? And here I thought you were just a “no-nothing”, self-adulating twit. My bad.

  5. 8

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    7. Steve spews:
    It’s common knowledge that Marvin’s a perv,

     
    Common knowledge just like Palin saying she could see russia from her porch.

  6. 9

    proud leftist spews:

    “Damn, I think I scratched my scrotum.”

    Damn, that’s good alliteration. Lee, great tale. Reaganism, which reached its acme with GW Bush, took the joy out of living–college pranks, such as you’ve described, became some sort of evil among the Rush/Hannity crowd which currently dictates where the GOP is headed.

  7. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    This is a strange country. We prosecute kids for passing around nude pictures of themselves, but don’t prosecute adults for torturing innocent people. Weird.

  8. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Another example of how bizarre America has become is that some people have a problem with spending $225,000 of taxpayer money to immunize kids against deadly diseases, but the same people have no problem with giving $225,000 of taxpayer money to Stefan Sharansky.

  9. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    As a former public records officer for a public agency, I can tell you that trying to mine the Public Records Act for dollars has become a regular cottage industry. The penalty provision of the PRA has spawned a slew of work-at-home enterprises. Public agencies are inundated with purposeless records requests from people whose sole objective is to trip up the agency so they can collect penalty monies. Needless to say, even when agencies comply with the Act and avoid penalties, it’s very expensive to respond to requests for thousands of documents which the requesters have no use for and simply toss into recycle bins. The PRA penalties is unlike the whisteblower laws, which expose real corruption and result in real savings for taxpayers. These manufactured PRA penalties provide no public benefit; they’re mere predation on taxpayers’ wallets. The Legislature should revisit the enforcement provisions of the PRA; surely, there’s a better way of encouraging public agencies to give citizens access to public records than creating financial incentives to harass the agencies purely for the sake of personal profit at taxpayer expense.

  10. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    As a former public records officer for a public agency, I can tell you that trying to mine the Public Records Act for dollars has become a regular cottage industry. The penalty provision of the PRA has spawned a slew of work-at-home enterprises. Public agencies are inundated with purposeless records requests from people whose sole objective is to trip up the agency so they can collect penalty monies. Needless to say, even when agencies comply with the Act and avoid penalties, it’s very expensive to respond to requests for thousands of documents which the requesters have no use for and simply toss into recycle bins. The PRA penalties is unlike the whisteblower laws, which expose real corruption and result in real savings for taxpayers. These manufactured PRA penalties provide no public benefit; they’re mere predation on taxpayers’ wallets. The Legislature should revisit the enforcement provisions of the PRA; surely, there’s a better way of encouraging public agencies to give citizens access to public records than creating financial incentives to harass the agencies purely for the sake of personal profit at taxpayer expense.

  11. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    As a former public records officer for a public agency, I can tell you that trying to mine the Public Records Act for dollars has become a regular cottage industry. The penalty provision of the PRA has spawned a slew of work-at-home enterprises. Public agencies are inundated with purposeless records requests from people whose sole objective is to trip up the agency so they can collect penalty monies. Needless to say, even when agencies comply with the Act and avoid penalties, it’s very expensive to respond to requests for thousands of documents which the requesters have no use for and simply toss into recycle bins. The PRA penalties is unlike the whisteblower laws, which expose real corruption and result in real savings for taxpayers. These manufactured PRA penalties provide no public benefit; they’re mere predation on taxpayers’ wallets. The Legislature should revisit the enforcement provisions of the PRA; surely, there’s a better way of encouraging public agencies to give citizens access to public records than creating financial incentives to harass the agencies purely for the sake of personal profit at taxpayer expense.

  12. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    When I was posting on Sucky Politics a few days ago, one of the trolls over there asked me for a proposal. Well, here’s my proposal. I’m not saying it’s the best, maybe someone can come up with a better idea, but it’s certainly better than the situation created by the current requesting-records-for-profit system.

    Public agencies would still be required to give citizens access to public records per the provisions of the PRA, and would still be penalized for noncompliance; but instead of paying the penalties to the individual requesters, the fines would go to a special fund that would return this money to the taxpayers.

    In other words, if an agency violates the public access provisions of the Public Records Act, money would be taken from its budget. That money would go away; it wouldn’t merely be shifted to somewhere else in the agency’s budget. It’s a real financial penalty.

    The special fund is the mechanism by which the money would be returned to taxpayers. The money coming into this fund from PRA penalties could not be spent; it could be used only to reduce or refund existing taxes. For example, if King County paid $225,000 in PRA penalties in a given year, this money could be used to reduce King County property taxes by $225,000 in the following year — and for nothing else.

    This proposal is a win-win: Public officials who violate citizens’ rights to access public records would be penalized by loss of funding for staff, programs, etc. Taxpayers, instead of being forced to enrich private individuals because of conduct of bureaucrats they have no control over, might lose the public services that the penalties taken from agency budgets represents, but they would get the money back.

    Under this approach, elected officials and bureaucrats still have an incentive to comply with the PRA, but taxpayers aren’t on the hook for their failure to do so, and the private industry that exists solely to exploit the PRA for personal gain would be shut down.

  13. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Dunno why #14 posted twice — I clicked “Submit Comment” only once. There’s no “Edit” function in this thread, either.

  14. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Too bad Dunmire doesn’t give Goldy some money so Goldy can get better software than this junk.

  15. 20

    YLB spews:

    LMAO!!! The wingnuts @1-5 were on to the pervert angle of this thread like flies to feces!

    They are so out of power for so long!

  16. 21

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    19. Roger Rabbit spews:
    Too bad Dunmire doesn’t give Goldy some money so Goldy can get better software than this junk.

     
    Another example of how bizarre America has become is that some people expect stuff for free instead of the old school method of earning it.

  17. 22

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    12. Roger Rabbit spews:
    but the same people have no problem with giving $225,000 of taxpayer money to Stefan Sharansky.

     
    Have you noticed how left wing hacks routinely attack private citizens instead of the government employee that intentionally caused the problem?
     
    You mentioned DEMOCRAT sims only once. You mention stefan in almost every post about this issue. The difference between you and all the other HA regulars, you don’t pretend to be fair and balanced, you admit you’re a hack.