Tag Archive | toplessness policy

Building Consent Culture Acorn

“… i will personally escort you off the property”  Belladonna is serious about consent. And if you don’t embrace how it is done at Acorn, your visit might be cut short.

She created this workshop (one of the very few visitor orientations) in response to a real need in community.  Perhaps one quarter of the visitors rejected for membership by Acorn over the last two years are due to failures to understand our consent culture.

Typically, these were not gross sexual assaults, but rather were mistakes by basically fine people who were not familiar with or paying attention to our culture.  Sometimes they were intoxicated, sometimes part of the problem is they come from a culture where people don’t ask others before they touch, sometimes guests misinterpret non-verbal signals,  sometimes they were fooled by parties where the consent rules appeared to be relaxed.

It looks simple, but there is a lot going on.

It looks simple at first, but there is a lot going on.

Don’t be fooled, the rules are never relaxed. The purpose of the workshop is to insure that the community is a safe place for members and guests alike and that these recent mistakes become a thing of the past.

While the topic is heavy, the form of the workshop is accessible.  Belladonna and Rejoice do short skits to demonstrate both problems and proper approaches.  There is more laughing than lecturing.

New concepts are introduced to many of the participants.  You can’t ask for Green Light Consent, it has to be offered.  Green Light means you have a prior agreement with someone about permissible physical or sexual interactions and it is delineated. “You can always hug me” someone offers.

clear messages - these might not work in the dark

clear messages – these might not work in the dark

A visitor asks about how shaking hands as an introduction fits into the culture, but then quickly figures out themselves that there is an effective non-verbal communication built into this ritual.  You would never grab a hand which was not offered back.

Sometimes failures are well meaning.  At the communities conference there was a blind participant who was occasionally asking for help in her process of mentally mapping the site.  A helpful person lightly turned her in the right direction, this was not what she wanted at all, because the “helpful” contact was not explicitly requested nor approved.

There is an introduction to toplessness.  Acorn tries to be a liberated zone and when it is hot, both men and women can choose to go without shirts.  This is novel to many visitors and rather than being surprised by it, this workshop both warns of it’s likelihood and encourages people to not stare nor presume there is a sexual message where there is not one.

And there is compassion for the stranger to our culture.  If you are uneasy conversing with someone who is topless, better to say something and take space than to act strangely pretending that nothing is wrong when you are uncomfortable.

i walk away from this gathering proud of us, knowing that this is the way things get better and we are building the place we want to live.

Careful language,

Careful language when understanding the state. Don’t consent to search.

4 pages of nudity policy, single spaced

We had More Magazine in here recently and they did a minimally adequate job of covering us.  While i enjoyed the writer of the piece, i knew that the piece was too ambitious.  The magazine wanted her to cover three significantly different communities in 6000 words, then they cut the words she had to describe all three of us in half.

The article rightly criticizes Twin Oaks for being overly bureaucratic.  And one of the specific examples of this is our policies (aka agreements) around toplessness and nudity on the farm.  This policy (which is below) we are told by More is 4 pages long single spaced.  Clearly, the implication is that this is excessive detail.  But i would encourage people to read it.  In some ways it is classic Twin Oaks.

there are no nudity police where i live

We recognize that this problem is complex in terms of our own exposure to nudity, kids comfort, local relations etc.  Not to mention the many different faces the community posses to the outside world. As i read this policy, lots of it is explanation, rather than only restrictions (tho there are lots of specific restrictions, which are done in a zoning type of way).   It is in several places more like an ongoing conversation than a set of requirements.  Which is why it is so long.

What the policy does not reflect as strongly as our culture does is the strong sense of solidarity around toplessness which has our restrictions applied equally to men as to women.  If there are areas where women can not be topless because they contact the outside world, the expectation is that men will not be topless in these areas as well.

4/6/88 – passed by Cps (Community Planners)


This policy is to serve to codify a set of community agreements about where and when nudity is OK.

Some of us want the options of nudity, or shirtlessness for women; others prefer not to see nudity.

Some of us have concerns around local relations.

If the local populace was aware of our casualness around nudity, we would very likely suffer a lot of harassment and perhaps spark a movement by local officials to try to drive Twin Oaks out of Louisa.

It is pretty clear that we are expected to wear clothes when we are likely to come in contact with outside people. This includes business people, hammocks customers, tour groups, food delivery people, the UPS person and the mail person.

The long term direction of Twin Oaks is to make all residence areas private and to put all public functions that are open to “outside” people clustered around the ridge road driveway, thus making this the Community’s front door.

The list below delineates where nudity is OK and where it’s not, but this policy shouldn’t supersede common sense or common courtesy.


Places Where Nudity Is OK

your own bedroom

other people’s bedrooms

the river

the woods (except close to our property lines)

the tipi

the retreat cabin


High South

Inside any residence (in general, though SLGs have the authority to make their own norms)

the STP

in Zhankoye during dances (unless the dance is planned in advance as otherwise)

the hammock shop after 9 P.M.

the sewer line between ZK and Tupelo

in courtyard after dark

in Clothing-optional Areas in the courtyard and at ZK (to be fenced/screened off for sunbathing):

the solar shower

Oneida front balcony

behind the old walk-in freezer

ZK deck, east end

Places Where a High Degree of Awareness is Necessary

Full nudity OK (but keep pants handy):

Degania, the chair shop, and the video space

the courtyard during a heavy rain

Shirtless for women OK (but keep shirts handy):

the garden

behind Oneida

outside Tupelo

Ridge Road between ZK and Tupelo

M*/Courtyard path

ZK Kitchen (but also see below)

Degania yard

on Saturdays, anywhere tours are apt to go

Places Where It’s Not OK to be Nude

anyplace on our property where our neighbors can see us

adjacent to TO property (including 697)

hammock shop before 9 P.M.

outside the buildings in the courtyard

in Llano Kitchen before 9 P.M.

ZK (including slate walk area and picnic tables) except as noted above

the basketball court

the driveway by the garden

the garden path

the office

the Aurora Road

Ridge Road from ZK to the gas pump

Tobacco Barn Road

Aurora (because guests, parents, etc., will be housed there)

Places of Special Consideration Because of Safety Factors

ZK Kitchen

industrial areas (MT, EC, Oz)

Llano food processing

A note on Clothing-Optional Areas…

We’ve defined the solar shower (already a nude OK zone), the Oneida front balcony, behind the old walk-in (now that the old greenhouse is gone), and the east side of the ZK deck as areas which could be adapted for sunbathing/sunworking in security. Here’s how..

The Solar Shower – a sunbathing area – screening the west side from Llano, screening the east side by the solar collectors – wooden screens/fences for now; perhaps a permanent hedge/shrub for permanent screening.

Oneida Front Balcony – sunbathing and work area – cover the railing with a bamboo/plastic rollaway screen, to be put up and taken down by the users.

Behind the old walk-in – for sunbathing and nude weaving – screening off both sides, probably diagonally. It’s an area much easier to secure than behind Llano. Hedges/shrubs to replace the fencing eventually.

ZK deck, east side – for nude dining and sunbathing – a folding screen in front of the window, a bamboo/ plastic rolling cover for the railing, a folding screen to block off the east side of the deck. This will provide room for two picnic tables for nude diners and their friends, on warm days in Spring and Fall. For mid summer days when the deck is too hot, we propose one or two picnic tables be moved to behind and below the deck on the east side, eventually putting in a stairway off the east end of the deck to the ground.

If these are successfully implemented, we could add Behind Oneida (Izzy’s already planting there) and the TaChai Beach (if the SLG is so inclined) sometime in the future..

III. Special Concerns

1. Dealing With the Outside World. As long as we interface with the outside world, be they retail customers, sales and delivery people, or straight friends and relatives, we need to maintain a high degree of awareness and responsibility. To the outside world, nudity is embarrassing, uncomfortable — and often illegal. We cannot gain the respect of our neighbors, and the safety and security this provides for our continued existence here, if we refuse to acknowledge and respect their values and feelings. Because of this, we have to define nudity at Twin Oaks according to outside norms, and that, unfortunately, means shirtlessness for women, as well as pantlessness for all. A high degree of awareness means that even in nude OK zones, we have to balance our individual desire for freedom and comfort with the Community’s need for safety and security.


2. Our Kids. Our older children are in a particularly vulnerable position. Lacking age peers here, we send them to outside schools, armed with our values and support, but at the same time told to find their friends among their classmates out there. Many of us, as teenagers, suffered from teasing and loneliness because we were different or didn’t fit in’ surely we don’t want to put our children at risk for this kind of painful rejection. This means extending ourselves to find ways to make Twin Oaks home for our children as well as for ourselves.

3. Special Concerns around Shirtlessness for Women. When dealing with shirtlessness in no-nude zones, especially around the courtyard, the hammock shop deck and ZK, we must cop to outside norms for our nudity code. Because of this, we immediately create a condition where men can do something where women cannot.. Many people feel that this is unfair, and that raised consciousness and sensitivity around these feelings would be appreciated.


IV. Implementation of The Policy

a note about work areas..

The Llano food processing area, the ZK kitchen, MT, EC, and Oz are areas where for protection, clothing is often necessary, even on the hottest days. In addition, these are areas where deliveries may be made, or other outside people arrive unannounced. Common sense in attire for safety is called for, as well as an awareness around outside people suddenly appearing. For ZK, we propose installation of a buzzer outside the loading dock door as a “shirt alert.” The blue ZK aprons can be worn as protective coverings by food processors, cooks and K-shifters in lieu of shirts when the temperature calls for it. Keeping shirts handy at Oz and EC seems wise, at times when deliveries are apt to happen. At MT, an extra high degree of awareness is necessary as the parking lot becomes increasingly more public.


a question of balance..

We think that establishment of safe, accessible, clothing-optional areas for those who prefer nudity requires a balance for those who would prefer that our norms were more conservative. With safe places to go in the courtyard and at ZK, there should no longer be the necessity to bare it casually. Accordingly, we are changing some of the Committee’s originally designated nude-OK areas to Higher Awareness or Not OK. The Degania yard and the front of ZK, for example, as we look to the day when the MT/ZK intersection becomes the Community’s front door; ZK dining and lounge areas, to provide a place for our members and older children to entertain guests in the evening.


We also need to remember that on Saturday afternoons, our home is officially open to outsiders who may have some connection with TO, or who may be merely curious. We’d like to make it a strong norm that tour guides check before entering a residence or “high awareness” area, and that we all be extra aware on Saturday afternoons, keeping clothes on whenever possible during tour hours.


The norm continues to be that hosts post 3×5’s in advance of their guests’ arrival, and indicate how these guests feel about our mores. There is also an equal responsibility on the part of members to keep themselves informed about potential guests by checking the 3×5 regularly (perhaps we could have a section of the 3×5 as Guest Info). The host should be able to state clearly what potential problems might be, and take responsibility for shielding guests/members from each other when appropriate. But it is also OK for those whose home this is, especially our kids, to ask for special consideration around special guests, and for the Community to take responsibility for accommodating these needs.

It is the responsibility of hosts to tell their guests about our nudity policy and to make sure that members, as well as the guests, are not made to feel uncomfortable. Guests who might be uncomfortable with nudity and our open bathroom policy should be housed in Aurora, if at all possible.

TO is our home, but not of all TO is anyone’s personal private residence.” Living in community provides us with a larger degree of freedom than we could probably find anywhere else, but also exacts a large measure of personal responsibility to ensure living in harmony with each other.