Of java and junk

Conflicting stories have arisen in the Erick Williamson case, though the basic facts of the incident seem clear: the guy was having a cuppa joe in his birthday suit, and someone saw him and raised holy hell.

Now to me, this is risky behavior: what if he sloshes the stuff around? Burn City.

Michele Catalano wrote the story up for PJM:

Whether it’s something simple like smoking during dinner (outlawed in most public places) or something less innocent involving nudity and preferably our partner or spouse, we feel safe and protected in our house — or at least we should, presuming the activity isn’t criminal.

But nosy people and prudish neighbors think that if they wouldn’t do it, you shouldn’t be doing it either. Maybe most of us close the drapes if we’re walking around in just our skin, but we don’t have to — no such law exists. I’m sure it did not cross Williamson’s mind, as he walked into the kitchen and reached for the coffee pot, that a woman would be walking her kid across his lawn and looking in his window.

I wouldn’t be too sure that “no such law exists”: laws vary, often wildly, from one jurisdiction to the next. Lisa Paul, who often comments here, has noted:

You do have fewer rights to privacy in your own home than you may think. If his window is visible from a well travelled walkway or thoroughfare and a photographer were to stand on public land and take his picture nude at the coffee pot, that would probably be legal. Now disseminating that picture probably wouldn’t be.

As is often the case these days, I’m fairly well torn here. Certainly I defend anyone’s right to be nude on his own property; on the other hand, one should not annoy the neighbors unnecessarily. Then again, it’s difficult to see into my house from the street, regardless of the position of the drapes and the blinds, because of topography and foliage: you have to be at exactly the right angle, and if you blink you’ll miss it.

And Eric Scheie sees the sexism inherent in the system:

[I]f I were to cut through someone’s yard … and see a guy naked inside, I’d feel a little ashamed of myself for invading his privacy. It would never, ever, in my wildest dreams occur to me to call the cops, and I would expect to be laughed (or worse) at if I did. If I saw a naked woman, I’d run, for I would expect her to call the cops. And if I saw a naked adolescent girl, I’d run even faster, lest I be accused by her mother of stalking a child.

While none of this is fair, it’s the way the world works.

In the best of all possible worlds, or even a few steps down from there, this would all be infinitely yawn-worthy: “Oh, he doesn’t have any clothes on. Big deal.” But in this Era of Umbrage, nothing is ever shrugged off by anyone for any reason.

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12 comments

  1. smitty »

    26 October 2009 · 10:55 am

    >you have to be at exactly the right angle, and if you blink you’ll miss it.

    Now, is there any need to sell yourself short like that?

  2. fillyjonk »

    26 October 2009 · 12:04 pm

    My response would be, “Crap, I shouldn’t be looking into people’s windows.”

    I mean, honestly, what people do in their own homes* is really not my business.

    (*as long as it’s not harming someone unable to protect themselves. Or committing fraud. Or any number of genuinely should-be-illegal things, instead of the increasing list of illegal-because-we-don’t-like-people-doing-it things)

  3. Meghan »

    26 October 2009 · 12:29 pm

    Hey a man wants to drink his java in the nude fine with me I don’t care as long as it doesn’t break my arm or hurt my pocket book people should be free to make their own choices

  4. Bill Peschel »

    26 October 2009 · 12:56 pm

    I love how the police are throwing out that “he’s done it before but we can’t prove it” and they’re asking the public to step forward and testify that they saw this guy nekkid before. It sounds like this case has embarrassed the hell out of them, so they’re they’re going to be all over him like they were for Joe the Plumber.

  5. CGHill »

    26 October 2009 · 1:09 pm

    Given the predilections of Fairfax County, I suspect they’ll try to bargain him down to, say, drinking non-fair-trade coffee, on the dubious basis that they have to get something for their trouble.

  6. McGehee »

    26 October 2009 · 2:14 pm

    My response would be, “Crap, I shouldn’t be looking into people’s windows.”

    That’s because you were raised right.

  7. CGHill »

    26 October 2009 · 3:49 pm

    Here’s a transcript from a washingtonpost.com chat on the subject.

  8. Dick Stanley »

    26 October 2009 · 9:52 pm

    Come on. You have to be a little weird to wander around naked with the blinds open.

  9. CGHill »

    26 October 2009 · 10:14 pm

    One of the proper functions of government is to maintain the correct distance between “a little weird” and “illegal.”

  10. Kay Dennison »

    26 October 2009 · 11:20 pm

    I’m with fillyjonk. The whole thing is idiotic.

  11. CGHill »

    28 October 2009 · 11:24 am

    The “news” “coverage,” so to speak, seems to reinforce the highly-dubious premise that normal people are dressed 24/7/365, which flies in the face (or other body parts) of reality, but so what else is new?

  12. Lisa Paul »

    4 November 2009 · 11:05 am

    Since some times I inexplicably turn twelve, can I weigh in that if said nude java drinker looked like Brad Pitt there might have been a different reaction. Okay, maybe just from me. I mean, would you call the police if that was your neighborhood morning program?

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