Is Naturism Family Unfriendly?
Queensland, Australia is well known for its lack of official naturist (nudist, clothes optional) beaches. Although to be fair, with weather so conducive to a clothes free lifestyle, it is not a surprise to learn that plenty of Queenslanders use the unofficial beaches in the State.
Not all that long ago these included an island in The Great Barrier Reef, Fitzroy Island, a 45-minute boat trip east of Cairns – according to The Ballarat Courier (13/04/2015) – with National Park status. A secluded, boulder-framed beach, a little over 1km from the modern resort was the haunt for many naturists, although apparently they did not give the beach its name: Nudey.
Since 2010, the island resort has been owned and was renovated by property developer, Doug Gamble, who said when he announced that Nudey beach would no longer be a naturist venue: ‘this is a resort for couples and young kids. I’m not very open to nudists taking over a family-friendly beach.’
Excuse me! Where is the evidence that naturists’ make a beach family-unfriendly? In fact, what did Doug Gamble – and anyone else for that matter – mean by ‘family-friendly’? It seems to be one of those statements that is often used and everyone assumes what is meant by it, just like the statement ‘Think about the children?’ that Duncan Heenan wrote about not so long ago.
I used to live in the seaside town of Cliftonville, between Margate and Broadstairs in Kent, once the playground for much of south and east London and while its heyday has long gone, on a sunny day its beaches would still be packed with adults – young and old – basking in the sunshine while children dug holes and built castles in the sand. Some of the women on the beach, but very few mind, would be top free while some children would be naked, oblivious that in a few short years that would be considered a taboo.
No one seemed to care that the children had no clothes on and their parents’ didn’t appear to be all that bothered that they could be seen by strangers. Nor did the top free women cause a great deal of commotion on the beach. A few stares, yes, but that was only because it was such a rarity on a British beach. And still is. Most people were open about looking but would carry on walking, even if they did slow down just a little.
Is this what is meant by ‘family-friendly’? Would adult nudity cause more of a stir than a top free woman I wonder?
What I think people who use the term ‘family-friendly’ really mean by it is somewhere where sex is not publicly performed? I say ‘think’ because I don’t know and, nor I suspect, does anyone else. They are making the automatic assumption that naked equals sex, and of course, naturists are naked all the time (not true of course), so we must be ‘doing it’ all the time. I would love to engage a sex therapist one day, to carry out a survey to see if naturists do have sex more often than a non-naturist. It would really put the cat among the pigeons if it turned out that naturists are no more sexual than anyone else; my laughter would be even louder if we are less so.
NAG has issued a statement condemning public sex, not because it is illegal, which it isn’t, but because of the anti-social behaviour that it truly is. It is also extremely damaging to the idea that naturism is non-sexual, social nudity.
It’s our own fault, of course. I don’t mean just NAG’s but everybody’s. Ever since the concept of social, non-sexual nudity was first thought of, people have been suspicious of our motives. What naturism hasn’t done in the last century or more is persuade people that sex and nudity need not be inextricably linked, which in our modern age, allowed pornographers and writers of bad or lazy erotic fiction to use naturism as a euphemism for sex, and confirmed the public’s suspicion.
There have been attempts to get our message across of course, but these have often been brief and/or half-hearted affairs. Some years ago, BBC2 ran an open space slot for community groups to have their say. This included British Naturism and what I can remember of the programme all these years later, is that it was good but there was no follow up. I am not condemning British Naturism for this, because at the time the whole naturist community in this country seemed to do a collective sigh of relief. As if to say: ‘right, well that’s done now so we don’t have to worry about it,’ and pulled our heads below the parapet again.
Being British means we hate causing a fuss or creating a commotion, but if naturism is to gain the acceptance in our society that we think it deserves then we must get our message across to the non-naturist public. We must take control of the conversation and make a fuss and a commotion while doing it. And not make it a one-off effort. We have to explain that naturism is all about the family and in particular the children, so they will grow up healthier and more rounded as individuals than the previous generation. I know that some believe that by doing so, NAG is putting at risk the few gains we have had over the years, but if we don’t then the myth that naturism is family unfriendly will persist and those gains will be slowly eroded until we have nothing. Surely, we might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.