Naturists need to ‘Campaign’.
Why I think naturists need to ‘Campaign’.
By Duncan Heenan
This is a personal meditation on why I helped to set up NAG. It may, or may not, help you in deciding whether you want to become involved.
I have been a naturist since, in my teens, I discovered the liberating joy of being naked. I brought my family up in this way, we swam naked when we could, took naturist holidays, used naturist beaches and we eventually joined a Sun Club, and are still members, though we go there less nowadays. However, over the years, as nudity came to feel more ‘the norm’ for me, and less of a special treat, I felt cheated that I could not do some of my everyday activities without the bother of clothing. Going to the Sun Club or naturist beach was still fun, but after a while I began to resent having to travel miles or withdraw from my normal activities, just to be naked.
To some people it is enough to treat nakedness as a hobby; to go to a Club or beach occasionally and just sit around naked. Those who are satisfied with this have all they need and so don’t see any need for ‘campaigning’, unless their particular beach or club is threatened. Some like to do some recruiting and think of this as campaigning. For myself, I don’t feel the need to try to convince others to live as I do, but I do resent being forced to live as they do – which brings me to the point.
Those of us who wish to live a naturist lifestyle can currently only do so in a restricted way. The restrictions are both legal and social. The Law on nudity is actually less restrictive than many people believe, but the way most people and The Authorities react to nudity in public places treats it as if it is illegal and unacceptable, and therefore tries to restrict it. Much of this response comes from the social attitude towards those who prefer to be clothes-free. The reaction varies, but it is not uncommon to be viewed as an eccentric crank, or a pervert, and consequently as a potential threat. Equally, the stereotype of ‘nudists’ developed in jokes and seaside postcard humour, makes it difficult to be taken seriously as a valid lifestyle choice, as it comes over as something a bit ‘naughty’, to be kept quiet. The automatic equation of nudity with sex is still very strong in much of society. Paradoxically though sexual nudity seems to be becoming more commonplace and less condemned, non-sexual nudity is viewed with increasing suspicion. All sorts of sexuality are accepted nowadays, even considered as chic, and yet non-sexual nudity is condemned because many people can not accept that it is non-sexual, and harms no one.
We now live in an age of acceptance of diversity. The general rule in society now seems to be that so long as it doesn’t harm any one else, anything goes. To me, this is a healthy approach for society. Who is to say what is right or wrong in how we live our lives? Leaving individuals to determine their own way of life seems right, but a naturist is still heavily restricted in doing so, and for no reason I can really understand. How does my simple nudity harm anyone else? The human body is not ‘rude’ or shocking, and any attitude which considers it as such is derived from complex social conditioning the origins of which are no longer valid – and I doubt if ever they were. We need to ask people to question this social attitude, which so many blindly accept as if it were self evidently true.
That’s why I feel we ‘naturists’ need to campaign. Because the freedom to live as we wish ultimately depends on others’ willingness to allow us to do so, be it Authority or simply the social acceptance of others. If we do not campaign, we leave it up to others, such as comedians or newspaper columnists, to form opinions about us – and look where that has got us so far!
How we campaign, and exactly what for, is not my concern here, as it needs a lot of discussion to develop a proper strategy. I hope that within NAG, like minded people can come together to develop those ideas, and find common ground. If we do, we will develop strength both in numbers and in ideas. Ultimately we may even develop the freedom to live fully as we wish.