No Nude Dancing In Harvard Sq

The Mass. Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that Ria Ora can be prosecuted for "open and gross lewdness" for dancing nude in the Harvard Square kiosk area. That's a felony punishable by up to three years in state prison, so you all might want to consider keeping your pants on from now on.

Ora had been expressing herself, unclothed, in an "anti-Christmas" protest, on June 25, 2005. I'm not sure how nude public dancing speaks to the over-commercialization of the celebration of Jesus's birth, but who am I to say -- being neither an expressive dancer nor a Christian myself, I feel particularly unqualified to judge.

Anyway, Cambridge Police arrested her. A judge dismissed the charges, ruling that such an interpretation of the underlying statute (enacted in 1784), would constitute a blanket prohibition on public nudity, contrary to the First Amendment.

The SJC overturned that decision today, declaring that the statute can indeed be applied, because Ora's nakedness was A) imposed on an unsuspecting or unwilling audience; B) was intentional and meant to alarm or shock; and C) actually did produce alarm or shock.

I have to wonder about that last criteria. As the SJC notes, the "alarm and shock" must rise above simple "nervousness and offense," to the level of causing "serious negative emotional experience." There's an awful lot of things that go on around the Harvard Square kiosk that can cause negative emotional experience, and I'm not sure I believe that anybody in the Square on a June afternoon was really all that alarmed or shocked at Ora's performance.

Well, lesson learned. Stay covered while protesting in the Square.

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