Naturists Campaigning for Naturism

Naturism = Antisocial Behaviour

I think we can all agree that despite naturism’s popularity, it is still only a minority of the population that sees the world as we do. But then, perhaps not every naturist sees naturism the same way either.

And no, I am not thinking of Steve Gough. His recent prison sentence imposed for breaking an ASBO is, in my mind, completely unjust when most people consider him a harmless eccentric. However, the reason for which he has been imprisoned has nothing to do with his nudity. His ‘crime’ is disobeying orders issued by judges for the benefit of society; another words, contempt of court. As an ex-serviceman, it is supposed that he would see the need for such dictates for the common good, and obey them even if he fundamentally disagrees, finding some other way to get his point of view across.

What we have, on one side, is a man who is determined that his principles shall prevail over everyone else’s no matter what, while on the other, a legal system, equally determined that they shall not. It is a mismatched contest with only one possible outcome. Gough will be trapped in a revolving door, in and out of prison, going nowhere, his voice drowned out by the sound of the gate closing behind him. In time, Gough will be forgotten, the world will move on and so shall we.

At least Gough had a voice, however briefly, unlike Russell Kingdon. A 64-year old Oxfordshire man who has been found guilty of acts not too dissimilar to those carried out by Gough and with a similar outcome. The only difference is that it is accepted that Kingdon is a naturist.

Briefly, the facts as reported by the Henley Standard (02/12/13) are that in July 2013, Diane Bowles, an early-morning dog walker, says she saw Kingdon at a local cricket ground. At first a fence obstructed her view, but as she got closer she realised that he was naked and retreated back the way she came. In his defence, Kingdon told police that he had removed his shorts on arrival at the ground and sat on a bench for a while. He then walked towards the centre of the playing field to get a better view of the pavilion clock. It was only when he turned back towards the bench that he saw Mrs Bowles and he quickly replaced his shorts. In court, however, both witness and accused said things that differed from their original police statements. Contrary to her statement, in court Mrs Bowles said she had seen Kingdon’s genitals, while Kingdon told the court that he had been wearing a mini-kilt and Bowles was mistaken in what she had seen.

Whatever the truth is, Kingdon has been convicted because he broke the conditions of an ASBO he picked up in 2012.

I don’t suppose any naturists that has made a court appearance in recent years were making a statement about naturism and its lack of acceptance by the general public, but if they continue to ignore the sentence (unless they are making an appeal) are, I believe, causing naturism harm.

Apart from the latest BN survey, carried out by Ipsos-MORI, there is no evidence to suggest that the great British public are tolerant of naturists and our desire to be naked in hot weather. This lack of evidence is used by the justice system to suggest that public nudity is not desirable in British society. Therefore, time and again, naturists have appeared in various courts up and down the land, using the same arguments to defend their belief that the naked body is not offensive. Even if the original decision is overturned on appeal at the Crown Court, it does not set a precedent, so the arguing continues. The justice system prides itself that it is part of the society it is defending. With each court appearance that supports their accepted view, reinforcing that view and creating a circular argument in favour of the status quo.

The weak link in all of this is of course the very notion that the legal system serves society. Over time society’s opinions can be changed and if we succeed in that, it naturally follows that the police, magistrates and judges of this land will not longer consider social, non-sexual nudity as anti-social but the norm. Such a journey, like all such journeys, start with the first step. Admittedly it will be a long one, but NAG is ready for it. Are you?

7 Responses to Naturism = Antisocial Behaviour

  • You say “there is no evidence to suggest that the great British public are tolerant of naturists and our desire to be naked in hot weather.” I believe the contrary is true, and there is ample evidence of the general public’s tolerance of naturists. Ask anyone who is regularly naked on beaches, in the countryside, in parks or on their bike. They will tell you that they are seen by hundreds of passers-by and almost never encounter anyone who wants to remonstrate with them. The vast majority of those who come across naturists in public are amused, indifferent or envious. Of course there are some who disapprove or think naturism is distasteful, but even these very rarely think it worth making a fuss about or reporting what they’ve seen to the police. The general attitude is one of live-and-let-live. If you don’t believe this, perhaps you don’t get out enough to enjoy naturism in public places.

  • A well reasoned, and well written article, Reg. However, I agree with Chris that most people are not much bothered by public nudity. What a great shame that the minority who do kick up a fuss get all the publicity!

  • I tend to agree too that most people are not that bothered by nudity but I think that we need to be careful not to assume that ‘saying nothing’ = ‘not bothered’. There are people out there who might not say anything but they are actually bothered by it.

    There are also people who are bothered by nudity, even though they say they are not. This might seem strange or even hypocritical but I suspect that these types want to be seen as being liberal, accommodating and broad-minded, but they are in fact quite narrow-minded, objectionable or disturbed.

    The real danger is the assumption that most people are disturbed by, or object to nudity. This is an idea propagated by those who are disturbed by nudity who are (I believe) a small minority.

    I suspect it is the majority view that most [other] people are disturbed by nudity, because that is the idea that tends to perpetuate. If you were to ask 100 people “Are you disturbed by the sight of nudity” I suspect only a small number would answer yes.

    But if you were to ask 100 people “Do you think other people generally are disturbed by the sight of nudity” I suspect a large number would answer yes.

    The great irony over all this is that people generally like looking at nudity. What they do not like is the embarrassment which may be caused by it. Nudity is still very much taboo for no reason other than it is something which makes many people a little bit uncomfortable. But then not that long ago, the same applied to ethnicity or sexuality (and probably still does).

  • Hello Chris. I should have written ’empirical evidence’. The difference is significant. The evidence you’ve described is circumstantial and carries less weight than the empirical evidence that can stand the rigours of academic scrutiny. If we can start getting that, and publishing it (or pushing it if already has appeared in a peer reviewed academic journal) then it will begin to undermine the accepted view that the legal profession is following what society thinks.

    Andy [Crawford] has a point and it is in an attempt to sort this kind of mess out that we need the academic stuff. Just suggesting what has been observed is not enough.

    Other than that Chris, you’re probably right. I don’t get out enough.
    Reg

  • I think the evidence of naturists who use public spaces is direct and compelling, and rather more than circumstantial. But I agree that it cannot demonstrate conclusively what is in the mind of those who don’t react negatively to the sight of naturists. A rigorous academic study of the feelings and attitudes of people who encounter naturists in recreational locations would indeed be invaluable. Perhaps we should try to encourage university departments of psychology or sociology to conduct such an investigation.

  • A good idea Chris and one that has been toyed with, not only by NAG but BN too. I think there is a problem though. Few students will come forward on their own without any encouragement and asking a PhD student (A masters student might be an alternative) to undertake such work would not be sufficient. I think we’ll have to offer a hypothesis for them to investigate too and provide a contribution towards their financial support while they carry out the research.

    There are alternatives of course. We could start to understand the naturist community as a whole by arranging for market research to be carried out by organisations like YouGov, but that costs. Some university departments also have a similar research function and may provide better value for money but it could still cost anywhere around £5,000 or above. Money that NAG just does not have. Looking at some commercial research might raise questions that could interest pure researchers to answer, and so we come back to the PhD student again.

    Our intuition is that naturism is beneficial to us as human beings and society in general. What we (you) observe is the end result, but we need is to do is understand the “why” and that can only be done through research and ensuring that it is placed into the public domain, where it could do most good. That way we shall begin to influence the non-naturist majority. Extremely slow, true, but a start.

  • I’ve come along a bit late to this so apologies for that, and for the length of this post.

    I just wanted to take up Reg’s point in his 26th January comment that the results of academic research will “begin to influence the non-naturist majority”. Although Reg doesn’t specify what sort of influence it might have I imagine he means that it will lead to either a more tolerant view of naturism as a lifestyle choice or that it might encourage more people to try naturism for themselves.

    Of course academic research is always welcome but I think we should be clear that it is most unlikely to influence the “non-naturist majority” (or at least no more than a tiny handful) in any way, shape or form. If rationality had anything to do with the way most people perceive things then naturists would have won the argument long ago.

    Take, for example, the “205 Arguments and Observations In Support of Naturism”, a document (in various guises) that has been doing the rounds for as long as I can remember. This document clearly sets out a rational argument in favour of naturism and is oft quoted by naturists to support their own views. And yet there appears to be no evidence that it (or similar arguments) has had any effect whatsoever on the “non-naturist majority”.

    Consider also that (to the best of my knowledge) there is not a single piece of evidence anywhere in the world that supports the notion that the sight of nudity is somehow harmful to children or other vulnerable people. Yet society as a whole still instinctively feels the need to protect children from such sights.

    Those who are familiar with the work of Daniel Kahneman (who wrote “Thinking: Fast and Slow”) will understand that as a general principle humans act on instinct and rationalize such actions by seizing on evidence which supports their instinct and, conversely, ignoring evidence which might undermine their instinct. Instinct itself appears to be formed by cultural values which themselves are derived from experience.

    A non-naturist example of this might be the view taken by individuals in the UK on the issue of whether the UK should leave the EU. Judging by opinion polls, the country is pretty much split down the middle: “leavers” will justify their views by talking about the cost of membership, the loss of sovereignty, immigrants taking our jobs and scrounging off the benefit system and so on. Those that wish the UK to remain in the EU will talk about the political benefits of a united Europe, the benefit to business, the ability to employ cheap Polish plumbers etc. From this it might be assumed that people form their opinions based on rational argument and hard information but that same information is available to everyone so why is there even an argument? Because, of course, it’s our instinct which makes us favour leaving or staying; the rational arguments for and against are essentially superfluous.

    To relate all this to naturism it seems to me that pretty much the whole population instinctively believes there is something unsavoury about nudity even though, if challenged, they’ll be unable to say exactly what the problem is but they’ll likely come down to “protecting the children” or “I just don’t like it”. If it wasn’t unsavoury they’d all do it. But the real issue here is that even naturists seem to instinctively take the same view. With one or two exceptions, you will rarely, see a naturist anywhere other than in an “appropriate place”. They will support their instinct by arguing that they don’t want to offend, they don’t want to be arrested, they don’t want to go shopping in the nude, they don’t want people to think they’re weird and indeed they’ll find any number of excuses not to be naked in public places. And yet more than anyone else they should know that nudity is completely harmless.

    If you follow this argument then it seems to me that those who campaign for greater acceptance of nudity or naturism should primarily address themselves to people’s instinct rather than their intellect. Forget about “educating” the public – that’ll never happen – but focus on creating the experiences which will help the public (and law enforcers) subconsciously revise their instincts. This approach, if you accept the findings of Daniel Kahneman, will enable people to form their own intellectual arguments to support their revised instinct. In my view the commissioning of academic research would be a costly waste of money because it addresses the intellect rather than the instinct. In practice this means actually demonstrating to people that nudity is harmless rather than trying to reason with them. Of course the trick is to find enough naturists willing to “come out” and live the life they say they believe in.

    Events such as the WNBR go some way to creating the right experience because, primarily, the concept is arguably not about being naked in public per se but about cycling. Equally, Steve Gough demonstrates the harmlessness of nudity even if the judges don’t agree with him. And I also think that constantly drip-feeding positive comments about naturism (or more accurately “nudity”) to the media helps to change instinct. Conversely events such as the BN Alton Towers outing merely reinforce the “barmyness” of naturism because it’s essentially targeted at people who want to be naked in an enclosed environment. Unfortunately there are not nearly enough WNBRs or Steve Goughs to make any significant impact on the experiences of the population as a whole.

    I recognise the irony of what I’m saying. I am proposing an intellectual thesis which supports my own instinctive view about how to persuade people to accept naturism (or indeed any major social change). No doubt those who believe in “educating” the masses will fire off a salvo of equally intellectual argument and shoot me down in flames. But d’you know what? It won’t make any difference to how I feel. 🙂

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