When I began writing “Kevin and Denise,” I was responding to the idea that a world could exist where kids could be forced to be naked while attending school. These stories—almost 200 of them have been written—are set in such a universe, one which could exist only if the government adopts laws which ignore moral norms and interfere with people’s rights and their personal lives. Of course, that sounds just like our current government, right? The only difference between our government and the one in the Naked in School universe is the premise that in the NiS stories, educational psychologists have decided that the maturing of teenagers would be improved if the teens were forced to surrender their modesty and be made to submit to sexual exploitation by their peers. These psychological “experts” then had convinced lawmakers to adopt laws which require all high school students to spend a week going to school completely naked, with a small number of selected students chosen to participate each week while the rest of the students remain clothed. This is the underlying premise of the NiS story genre and each story starts using that background. How each author handles the telling of their story provides immense variety in plot, tone, and approach.
My own interpretation of the idea behind the NiS universe is one of denial—the source of my pen name. Not only do I want to deny that such a universe is possible, I also want to challenge the very notion that a society could require kids to be naked in school. While I was writing, I soon realized that the premise of the NiS universe could be viewed as a metaphor for government overreach into private lives. And that got me thinking about that metaphor—and the story which created it as an allegory...
In creating the “Naked in School” universe some fifteen years ago, Karen Wagner may not have realized that the ideas underlying her story’s premise was actually an allegory condemning a government’s overreaching its legislative powers; in Wagner’s story, government authorities used pseudoscience masquerading as psychology to justify the creation of an educational program which had great potential to cause physical and psychological injury to its innocent victims.
In Wagner’s original vision, an unnamed authority—”the state”—decides to adopt an educational program to force young, unwilling teens to conform to a standardized version of human sexuality in a one-size-fits-all requirement where selected teenaged subjects are compelled to allow their naked bodies to be used for the gratification of not the subject, who becomes an unwilling victim, but for the other students who are allowed to fondle, molest, humiliate, and otherwise torment the victim. The first story in this genre, Wagner’s, began as a fairly dystopian view of the heroine’s situation but over the course of the story, she began to accept her situation, embracing her newfound exhibitionism and the voyeurism of her fellows (see “Karen Naked in School”).
Later stories by other authors explored the limits of both a dystopian and a utopian viewpoint of the NiS Universe with stories elaborating on both points of view. And these stories explored the whole range of human sexuality, not only involving teens with a lesbian or gay preference, but delving into other sexual orientations like bisexuality, transvestism, transgenderism—and even asexuality.
The government’s enactment of laws mandating the imposition of nudity in schools was obviously required to assure that there was no possibility of opting out; the resulting compulsory nudity allowed the themes of forced sex, sexual objectification, humiliation, and domination to be used in story plots. And this is where Wagner’s allegory lies.
Governments seek to control their citizens in many ways. The most direct way is through the laws that their legislative bodies enact and many of those laws regulate personal and private matters. Typical examples are laws about who may marry and laws prohibiting abortion. Sometimes laws can be quite discriminatory; an extreme example is the denial to women of many rights granted to men in the laws of some countries.
In 1852, Massachusetts enacted the first state law which made primary education compulsory for children; also in the U.S., states are responsible for determining the regulations for the education of children and states allow parents to select from among several choices of how to educate their children, including public, private, or home schooling. But the education laws don’t specify the details about what is to be taught in schools; those details are left to local authorities but are mostly subject to varying degrees of state control.
However, there are some religious or cultural groups whose members believe that the government exerts too much influence over their children’s education by teaching subjects which they find objectionable. Examples of objectionable topics in the news recently have been evolution, sex education, and climate change.
Another area where government mandates exist and where religious or cultural opposition is encountered involves childhood immunizations. Immunization laws require that parents surrender a limited amount of self-determination for their children’s health to achieve a public health benefit for society, but most states allow for limited exemptions for religious or other reasons.