Taking the Long View
On 27th September 2013, in Huntsville, Alabama, USA teenager Christian Adamek ran naked across the field during a high school game of American Football. One week later, he was dead. Christian (15) hanged himself.
According to a report by AL.com dated 4th October 2013, at first the streaking incident was passed off lightly by many of his peers with social media comments calling Adamek a ‘legend’. However, on 1st October, and before Adamek had been identified publically as the streaker, school principal Michael Campbell told WHNT-TV news that he ‘faced serious consequences, including a potential charge of public lewdness,’ adding that it was being referred to the Madison County court system. Adamek committed suicide the following day.
By the 18th October, AL.com was reporting that rumours had surfaced suggesting that Adamek would be labelled a sex offender for the incident, although it didn’t say if these had reach Adamek himself. In the same article, Madison County Assistant District Attorney, Tim Gann, said the DA’s office was never contacted over the incident, while confirming that public lewdness did not have any Alabama sex offender registry implications. He also added that this case would have gone to a juvenile court. Other reports – mostly in the comments made by readers – suggested that Adamek wasn’t naked at all and therefore not strictly speaking, streaking.
To bring the story to this side of the Atlantic, NAG has heard of a young man who has been threatened with section 66 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for a similar prank as Adamek’s, which does lead to a name being added to the sexual offenders register. Fortunately, we have not heard if it has ended the same way. No news is good news, as they say.
Last year (2012), while I followed the Portsmouth WNBR I distinctly heard a woman from the crowd shout at the two police officers (one a female PC) riding with the protesters “Aren’t you going to arrest them then?” The officers ignored her and I followed suit; perhaps she had not known about the protest ride that day and the scene had come as a shock to her, who knows. But her demands for immediate action demonstrated that she thought the protestors’ nakedness was somehow illegal and showed her lack of understanding of the law as it currently stands. It also illustrated how vocal the minority that thinks as she things can be.
Yet, we cannot escape from the fact that, if Campbell – the school principal – had been more tolerant of a teenager’s prank and more guarded on his pronouncements then Adamek may be alive today, having enjoyed his brief moment of fame on YouTube. Instead Campbell is facing calls for his resignation. Likewise, if the woman had been more tolerant of public nudity and aware that what the protesters were doing was legal then her brief moment of public outrage, embarrassing all those around her, would not have occurred.
Obviously, it is not our role in life to teach the law to every single citizen in the United Kingdom, but if we begin to argue that simple nudity is not a threat to public order, but a deep-rooted belief in self-respect and of others through mass media techniques then, over time, society will become more tolerant towards naturism. Our reasoning behinds this is that we have had roughly 100 years of keeping our heads down, staying out of sight and where has that got us? Perhaps we are not the social pariahs we once were but we are nowhere nearer to our ultimate goal of inclusion into society and I think its time we changed our tactics. This is why NAG campaigns on the basis that we need to change the public’s opinion of social, public nudity whether it is on a beach, in large parks or in your own garden. Through a change in public opinion, we shall also be exerting an influence over two other important groups: the law enforcers (Police, lawyers and judiciary) and the lawmakers (politicians).
This is not going to be an over night solution and it does mean that naturism – and by implication – individual advocates for the naked lifestyle will need to have a more visible profile among the public. The few activists in Naturist Action Group and British Naturism cannot do this alone, we need the support of many more people who are prepared to carry out simple, little tasks in the background as and when the need arise in support of the lifestyle; in support of naturism. So, if this is you, why not tell us who you are? We need you.