What Are the Rules Around Sunbathing Naked at My Own House?

Guache, straight-up illegal or neither?

By now, hopefully, we’ve all settled into a nice little routine in relative COVID isolation that involves getting out of bed each morning, walking 10 steps to work in the other room (or, let’s face it, rolling over in bed and grabbing the computer), #riseandgrind-ing for X number of hours, possibly working out against the nearest wall in your house, eating dinner at some point and then watching TV until you fall asleep.

Rinse, and repeat.

Venturing outdoors for a little quality sun-time has factored very little into most people’s days in quarantine, for better or, more likely, for worse (considering we all need a little vitamin D). Look: We all know sun damage is a real thing, and that you take your skin’s life in your hands each time you walk outside with nary a dollop of sunscreen on your body. But — earmuffs, dermatologists — sometimes we crave the real thing, and a little sun on our epidermis can go a long way. 

Cue some nude sunbathing. (Hey, don’t knock it till you try it.)

But is lying out in the sun, in the buff, in the comfort of your own home (or, more likely, backyard) good etiquette, considering the threat of prying puritanical eyes happy to claim “Obscenity!” at the next HOA meeting?

It’s a valid question. In 2019, for example, a Utah woman was charged with lewdness for being topless in her own garage. And in 2009, a Virginia man was actually found guilty of indecent exposure for the crime of standing with his junk out in his picture window. 

In an effort to determine whether sunbathing nude from the comfort of your own home was gauche — if not actually illegal — I sought out America’s foremost etiquette expert, Jacqueline Whitmore over email, and received the following response: “As long as you’re discreet and don’t offend your neighbors, I see nothing wrong with sunbathing in the nude at your own home. Etiquette is all about discretion.”

That, of course, settles the etiquette question. But what about the legality? After all, people seem to be getting arrested and charged. 

Turns out that, as you might have guessed, whether or not you will ever be charged for the crime of indecent exposure just because you’re naked in your own home has a lot to do with whether you intend for people to see you naked in your own home. Here’s the relevant passage from legal resources website HG.org

“Generally, the person in a private apartment or another unit will realize that he or she can see others or others can look into the unit through windows. In these situations, when the person is naked, others can view what he or she is doing. At that point, it is the intent of exposure that may lead to possible valid charges for indecent exposure. Intentional interactions with neighbors and strangers through purposely walking around or performing various activities without any clothing are what lead to the valid charges for these crimes. The person may even willfully only get naked when others can see.”

So there you have it: From an etiquette perspective, you’re perfectly allowed to strip down to your birthday suit to catch a little sun. From a legal perspective, though, catching a little sun better be the only thing on your mind.