One of the most popular posts we’ve had on NAG’s Facebook page, if not THE most popular, has been an article from The Guardian. When I last looked, almost 3,100 people had seen it, liked by 30 and shared by 11.
It’s a short piece, so I’ll let you read it, if you haven’t already done so, but essentially Andrew Welch, described as a spokesperson for British Naturism, did what he does best; communicate what it’s like to be a naturist, using words like “free” and “liberated”. Only I’m not really certain which words are his and which belong to journalist Emine Saner, who wrote it — Shortcuts is an opportunity for The Guardian’s writers to reflect on the news. With this hot weather we’re having (now seemingly broken alas), it’s possible that more people than ever have kept cool by not wearing clothes, and may have even ventured into the garden for a spot of nude sunbathing, hence the “recent police advice about warning your neighbours if you’re going to sunbathe naked in your garden….”
Good general advice, saves on the arguments later, but how do you start that conversation when people believe being nude in public is antisocial, if not illegal?
Anyway, the article goes on: “All beaches are technically naturist beaches, but naturists tend to go to specific places where they know they will find others and which are hassle free.” Not entirely true, but we shall let that pass. What does that word ‘technically’ mean? The adjective of technical, in a legal sense, it means “an exact understanding of the rules or facts”. Then why are our public authorities determined to maintain the idea that nudity on public beaches is not allowed, even illegal, on the pretext that it’s a family beach. There is no such category as a family beach; all beaches are family beaches, it matters not what the family is wearing, if anything.
Another article, published recently in London’s The Evening Standard, by writer Radhika Sanghani gave a good account of why she has turned to naturism and the nude beaches of Barcelona, where she is spending the summer. What Sanghani found was that the locals would think nothing of stripping off on their balconies for a siesta or to sunbath, or to skinny dip mid-hike in a stream. No one around her looked like a fashion model, and still no one cared. If a country as conservative as Spain can embrace naturism, even on beaches close to the city centre, why can’t we? OK, maybe the climate has something to do with it, but we haven’t done so bad ourselves this summer, so why hasn’t there been more reports of people stripping bare on British beaches?
I think I see the problem. No one is pushing for a change of social attitude in this country, and I do mean no one. Not in a concerted, organised way. Reliance on subjective words like ‘free’ and ‘liberated’ in odd articles here and there is all fine and dandy but will it persuade the politicians, local and national? I think not.
Technically is just a word. The law might say public nudity is legal. The Crown Prosecution Service and the College of Policing may have issued guidance to help lawyers and front-line police officers to navigate the law correctly, so only those who have broken it are brought before a magistrate. But none of that stops people from believing simple nudity is wrong in their own minds; none of that will prevent police officers and lawyers from acting irrationally in a difficult situation or prevent their own prejudices governing their actions, and as long as that is the case, naturism will only be technically legal. We need to change the way people think. Naturism needs social change.
In its current format, NAG cannot achieve its aim of bringing about social change, so we need to change instead. Change is good. Look out for your opportunity to influence it.
17 August 2018
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