Not so long ago, I came across two surveys that reportedly gave an insight into British sunbathing habits and supported the notion that nude sunbathing is as popular as ever, if not more so. The first was by CruiseCompare.co.uk, which asked 1,271 people if they had ever sunbathed nude while on holiday, and astonishingly, nine per cent said they had. Of that nine percent, over half (59 per cent) then went on to say that they felt more comfortable (secure) sunbathing naked while on a cruise ship.
In the same survey, 17 per cent of all respondents said they had visited a nudist beach while on holiday and a further 11 per cent said they would like to, just out of curiosity.
The other survey was much more straightforward. This came from TripAdvisor.com who simply asked their respondents: would you bare all at a nude beach? Of its UK respondents, 49 per cent said yes compared to 30 per cent who said no, with the remainder undecided. They got similar results for Australia, US, Canada and Europe (which presumably means everywhere but the UK). Perhaps surprisingly, all five regions surveyed provided positive results in favour of nude sunbathing. Both Europe (55 per cent) and Australia (52 per cent) saw more than half of the respondents answering yes, while the US equalled the UK’s figure with Canada trailing just one percentage point behind. In the US, just 32 per cent of the respondents said they wouldn’t ‘bare all’ and in Canada it was even fewer, 29 per cent.
These figures are quite remarkable, considering all the negative news we hear from North America, and suggest that naturism – or at least sunbathing in the absence of clothing – is becoming more commonplace in much of the old world and English speaking nations.
Only lets look at those two surveys again. While they certainly give a positive spin on the idea of social nudity, the first is obviously an advertising puff by CruiseCompare.co.uk to support its business; to get more holidaymakers onto cruise ships. A question you would have to ask is where did the company find its 1,271 respondents? From its own customer database! Then of course the majority of its customers, who admit to sunbathing nude, will say they prefer doing so onboard a ship. The second survey from TripAdvisor.com is hard to understand because there seems to be no logic to it or its publication. The Internet site allows individuals to post reviews of where they have been on holiday or ask vox pop questions. This particular question was asked by someone who admitted to being in the undecided camp, fearful of getting “a nasty sunburn or… sand stuck in a sensitive area.” So we are left with a survey that has an unknown number of respondents for each region surveyed, who selected themselves for an unknown reason other than to get the Internet site’s name mentioned in the news media, which some would say was reason enough.
To put it bluntly, these two surveys are so full of holes they could be used as a sieve, if necessary and are of little use to naturism. That does not mean, however, that a survey will not be beneficial.
News that British Naturism will be going ahead with a new survey about the acceptability of naturism in the UK has slowly leaked out and this is very welcome news. It gives them, and naturism in general, the means to better understand the British psyche when it comes to nude recreation, which is so important when campaigning groups marshal their arguments in support of the lifestyle.
I have long advocated the repeat of the 2001 survey for two main reasons. First, it acts as a check against the original results, now a decade old, to see if more or fewer Britons find social nudity acceptable. Secondly, it allows BN an opportunity to refine the survey, to obtain more accurate results. I know I’ve mentioned this before but one of the weaknesses of the first survey was how it asked a good opening question but didn’t get underneath the answer given, which would have provided a stronger result. For example, one of the questions asked if the respondent had ever swum or sunbathed naked. The way it was asked, the answer yes could be given, even if they were a 20-something at the time and were now in their 40s or 50s, if not older, and had never been nude in public again. This – unfortunately – puts doubt on BN’s claim to represent 1.5 million naturists in the UK.
But lets end on a positive note. For all of its faults – and there aren’t many – BN’s survey is important because of what it represents, a move away from subjective arguments in favour of naturism to objective ones, based on field work conducted by experts. The reason why the Naturist Action Group is an evidenced-based campaigning organisation is because objective arguments make it easier to persuade politicians and businessmen and women to listen to us than if we used arguments that relied purely on conjecture or someone’s opinion. Naturism could follow those commercial surveys mentioned above, of course, but any flaws in them will soon be discovered and exploited by our opponents.
NAG continues to gather the data that will enable us to understand the justice system’s attitude and current practice when it comes to legal public nudity. This will enable NAG to put a strong case to organisations like ACPO and the Home Office that, while naturism may be lawful, the different parts of the justice system treat naturists who come into contact with it, inconsistently. This is not a project that will be quickly resolved; diligent work is slow and painstaking. We are also considering information gathered from the London Question which, if successful, could have implications far wider than just the capital. To be successful, however, naturism will needs to show the various authorities in London that the great British public are not ‘alarmed or distressed’ by the sight of a naked person, just as they are not in Germany and elsewhere in mainland Europe.
While we await the full details of the questions to be asked in the BN Survey, if it is an evolution of the first questionnaire from 2001, I am convinced that it will be a good addition to our armoury. So, well done British Naturism and thank you for making this commitment. And thank you too, to everyone who contributed and cajoled the EC to go ahead.
An edited version of this is blog will appear in the August issue of H&E Naturist.