Naturists Campaigning for Naturism

“A law we didn’t know we needed.”

It is sad when a couple breaks up acrimoniously, often with many hurtful things said by both parties. As if that is not bad enough, some resort to what has been termed ‘revenge porn’ where pictures and video taken during the couples most intimate moments end up on social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter.

Everyone can sympathise with the victims and the Government has tabled an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill that will make this kind of behaviour punishable with up to two years in prison. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told BBC News (13/10/2014): “We want those who fall victim to this type of disgusting behaviour to know that we are on their side.”

Nicky Morgan, Minister for Women added: “Circulating intimate photos of an individual without their consent is never acceptable.”

Even the New Statesman (15/10/2014) has come out in favour of creating a specific offence to curb the incidences of revenge porn, simply because existing laws do not adequately target this type of behaviour. It disagreed, however, with the term ‘revenge porn’ or pornography stating that the use of the word “revenge” narrows the offence unnecessarily, while the use of “porn” or “pornography’ ‘…somehow seeks to legitimise what is an awful ordeal for someone to go through….’

However, not everyone is so supportive of the amendments as naturist writer, Rayner Otter explained to The Telegraph (15/10/2014) the kind of photographs naturists tend to take of their family and friends at the beach, club or in a private garden could be grouped into the same category. While Fiona Ashley, contributor to H&E said: ‘Revenge porn is clearly abhorrent. I also find it equally abhorrent that images of naturists are classed as pornography in this poorly conceived Bill.’

The Bill classifies revenge porn as ‘photographs or films, which show people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual way or with their genitals exposed, where what is shown would not usually be seen in public.’

The way the amendment has been worded it implies that the mere inclusion of genitalia in a picture or film (video) could see that image being deemed pornographic. That could see films like ‘The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover’ already given an 18 certificate by the British Board of Film Classification and ‘Walkabout’ (12) being re-classified as pornographic and unlikely to be seen on British television because of the inclusion of simple, non-sexual nudity. The current BBFC guidelines says that:

‘Nudity with no sexual context is in principle acceptable at all classification levels, but will not generally occur more than occasionally at U.

Nudity with a sexual context will receive a higher classification. Strong detail in such a context will usually only be passed at the adult categories (18 or R18).
(bbfc guidelines 2014: age ratings you trust, p6)

It also states when giving a definition to their U rating:

A U film should be suitable for audiences aged four years and over, although it is impossible to predict what might upset any particular child. U films should be set within a positive framework and should offer reassuring counterbalances to any violence, threat or horror.
(bbfc guidelines 2014: age ratings you trust, p15)

We have seen lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service using legislation intended for one purpose to deal with a completely different ‘problem’. For example, using the Public Order Act – designed to curb violent strikers – against naturists. It is therefore no stretch of the imagination to see the prosecuting barristers using the provision in this Bill, designed to prevent the malicious publication of intimate images taken in private as an act of revenge, as another device to restrict the legitimate activities of naturists who go out to public places.

In a letter dated 14th October 2014 to Dr Hywel Francis MP, chairman of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Lord Faulks QC said ‘…a photograph or film is private if it shows something of a kind not ordinarily seen in public… or if it shows a person’s genitals.’ The amendment is supposed to capture and prevent the malicious publication of material of an intimate or sexual nature between couples that was produced with the consent of those involved, but with that consent now withdrawn because they are no longer in a relationship. While I think Lord Faulks’ explanation to the Joint Committee on Human Rights captures that intent, I don’t think that has been captured in how the amendment has been drafted. It has been written in sloppy, clumsy English that allows other interpretations and to broaden the scope beyond its original purpose.

At the time of writing, the Bill is at the report stage in the House of Lords and will be debated again during its third reading, but prior to receiving Royal Assent, the Bill will need to return briefly to the House of Commons to agree the amendments added in October. Although Rayner Otter has now written to the Minister of Justice, Chris Grayling MP, asking for the definition between what naturists and pornographers do to be made more distinct, sadly I believe we have acted too late to affect any change in how the amendment has been written and naturists will have to suffer the consequences.

In a factsheet prepared by the Ministry of Justice on the amendments, it said that ‘The Government has looked carefully at the concerns raised by campaigners and Parliamentarians about the uploading or sharing of revenge pornography.’ [My emphasis] While I can sympathises with the victims of revenge pornography and accept that the campaigners were right to seek a change in the law as it stands, this episode shows that the naturist community needs to be vigilant about any change to statutory regulation that may affect our lifestyle.

Love them or loath them, we must engage fully with politicians at all levels and not just at election time or when something like this amendment has been added to a Bill that works to our detriment. We must reach out to the political parties, their members and activists, and educate them in what is after all just a lifestyle like any other. But the few activists we already have in the Naturist Action Group cannot do this alone; we need others to help us, to keep watch and help encourage others to contact those in positions of influence when necessary. As the saying goes, “many hands makes light work” so the more the merrier, enabling everyone to participate.

7 Responses to “A law we didn’t know we needed.”

  • Some while ago, my thoughts were that posting photos of *anyone* online, should only be done with their consent: whether they are naked or not, whether they are being intimate or not or whether they are just walking down the street. However over the last few years, it seems to become ‘fair game’ in social media circles for anyone to post anything of anyone doing anything. Although in fairness to naturists (and naturist organisations), most will still ask before taking photos and certainly before publishing anything.

    But this ‘fair game’ aspect of society has also spilled into peoples personal affairs with some ex-partners displaying their former lover’s private activities for their friends and family, their community, and indeed the whole world to see. Such behaviour causes unimaginable embarrassment and shame to the victim and their families and can also have consequences over an indefinite amount of time. Once images have gone into circulation they can be stored and pop up at any time in the future.

    So I’m with this one. If *anyone* is going to publish images of others who are in any way recognisable and it is done without their consent, and the subject is naked, showing genitals, engaged in sexual activity or anything else that might cause them shame or embarrassment for activities which took place in what they thought was private, the law should come down on them hard.

  • So am I Andy, as anything of that nature is… well not naturist. I would much prefer it if we could go back in time and have the requirement to obtain a person’s permission to publish their image – naked or not – but the genie is out of the bottle and it/he/she will not fit back in. I agree with the new law, just not how it has been drafted as I feel that it does not adequately convey the intentions of Parliament. It is too loose a definition and lawyers being the type of person they are, will try to use as a catch all, especially as it is not clear – unless you read and take into context – the entire amendment what it was actually meant to be preventing. Images of simple, nudity in a non-sexual context, no. Images of a sexual nature, including the display of a person’s genitals published maliciously by an ex-partner, yes.

  • I would go as far as to say that I think that “Images of simple, nudity in a non-sexual context” *should* also be lumped in to what is not allowed to be published without explicit consent from the subjects appearing in them.

    The problem the pro-naturist lobby have with that is that because they see naturism and nudity as normal and acceptable, simple nudity should be exempted.

    At the same time, naturist clubs have heavy restrictions (and in many cases absolute bans) on photography, which is something I have always opposed. Those who want these photography bans in place do so on the basis of member privacy and concerns about the Internet and social media.

    If it were against the law to post those innocent images featuring non-sexual nudity, without the express consent of the people appearing in them, this could perhaps help to remove these type of restrictions that the naturists place upon themselves. But that is a side benefit.

    The point remains, that no one should suffer the embarrassment of having images of them appearing naked, innocently or not, in a naturist setting or not, appearing online without their consent.

  • Again, I agree Andy. Photography is naturism’s paradox. The way we can encourage greater participation is through publishing natural looking pictures of nude people enjoying themselves on club picture galleries, but start waving a camera around in a club and you’re likely to be turfed out on your ear. So we end up with sterile pictures of immaculate lawns devoid of human existence and in time, faded memories. It would be better all round if the model’s permission was obtained first, though. Maybe clubs could devise a “code for photographers” which would be part of their rules and if the code is broken they could either have the clubs permission to take photographs withdrawn and/or their membership revoked (depending on how many chances the club would want to give). Just a couple of ideas, no idea if they are practical.

  • If we read the Bill carefully, I don’t think we have anything to be concerned about.

    Clause 33(1) says:
    ‘It is an offence for a person to disclose a private sexual photograph or film if
    the disclosure is made—
    (a) without the consent of an individual who appears in the photograph or
    film, and
    (b) with the intention of causing that individual distress.’

    Clause 35 says:
    ‘(1) The following apply for the purposes of section 33.
    (3) A photograph or film is “sexual” if—
    (a) it shows all or part of an individual’s exposed genitals or pubic area,
    (b) it shows something that a reasonable person would consider to be
    sexual because of its nature, or
    (c) its content, taken as a whole, is such that a reasonable person would
    consider it to be sexual.’

    Considered in isolation, Clause 35(3)(a) would be objectionable because it defines any photograph showing someone’s genitals as “sexual”, even if the photograph was taken in a non-sexual naturist environment. But if private naturist photos are deliberately used to embarrass and shame an ex-partner by making them available to that person’s friends, family or employer, who may well regard the photos as having some kind of sexual significance, that action surely merits being made an offence.

    Note that disclosure of the photos is only an offence under Clause 33(1)(a) if done with the intention of causing distress. So it is only the malicious disclosure of photos that is made illegal by this clause. The prosecution would have to prove intent, and anyone who shows naturist photos to others without any intention of causing distress would not be guilty of an offence.

    Although the definition of “sexual” includes any photos showing genitals, this definition applies only to the malicious disclosure of photos/films, and does not apply to the innocent taking or sharing of naturist photos. So naturists have nothing to fear from this Bill unless they deliberately use their photos to cause embarrassment.

    It’s worth noting too that the new offence does not mention the words “pornography” or “pornographic”, and there is nothing in the Bill that characterises non-sexual naturist photos as pornographic. The relevant clauses in the Bill are aimed solely at penalising those who engage in the malicious disclosure of sexual or naked photos, and I agree with Andy that the law should come down hard on such actions.

  • I think you are both wrong.
    If it is illegal to post images of someone who is naked then it should be illegal to post pictures of someone who is wearing a silly hat, or drinking a beer, or sticking their tongue out. All things that they might find ’embarrassing’ at a later date.
    People just have to accept that being nude is just another form of dress. That is what a naturist represents. That is the quintessence of the movement and you seem to have forgotten that.

  • Sorry Augustus, I have to disagree you. It’s unlikely that a photograph as you described will ever be caught under the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill when it becomes an Act, as they do not contain the sexual act, not matter how much the embarrassed person may wish to see it gone. If you read Chris Lamb’s comment, you’ll understand what I mean. We have mentioned how Facebook moderators seem to accept some truly horrendous pictures of death and destruction, but send down a ‘ton of bricks’ on anyone who publishes a picture with a woman’s nipple on show, or someone’s bum cleavage. To some people’s minds this Bill will enshrine similar thinking into British law.

    If by people you mean the general public? Essentially Steve Gough was asking people to accept his nakedness as just another form of dress and look what has happened to him. The public have been educated to automatically link the naked human body with sex. Now we must uneducate them.

    And Chris may well be right. Naturists may have no reason to be concerned because the clauses should be considered as a whole, but my concern is that lawyers being who they are, they will the provision clause 35(3)a to condemn any photograph, even if it does not contain the sexual act, as sexual in content. Even so, I still think we need a team of people to watch and organise a response to potential challenges from statute law as early as possible.

    But this is turning into a rant Augustus, for which I apologise and shall stop.

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