Is Clothing Optional the way forward for Naturism?
With NAG launching its photo competition later this month and having nothing to pontificate on, I thought I’d take the opportunity to pick up on something that one of our supporters said recently: “I am happy to help [NAG], but I do have serious misgivings about NAG’s wish to promote the need for ‘dedicated outdoor naturist open space’. As you know, I believe that the attempt to get official recognition of specific naturist locations is misconceived. Official approval of one or two particular naturist places would simply reinforce the common perception that naturism must be unlawful everywhere else. In my view what is needed is a more general recognition that naturism is acceptable anywhere where it does not cause serious disturbance to others.”
The thing is, we don’t actually have a written policy on this and perhaps we should. As this is so central to our purpose, rather than dictate a policy from the top down, I’d like to give what my own view is – the one I’ve based NAG’s public stance on so far – and see if anyone disagrees? I appreciate that a good proportion of registered users are not resident in the UK, but your views and comments are just as welcome. Silence will be taken as tacit approval.
Here in the UK, in itself, being naked in a public place is not illegal but causing harassment, alarm or distress to others is. (Section 5, Public Order Act 1986) Recent amendments to the Section, which both NAG and BN made an input towards, has led to the word ‘insulting’ being removed from the text but Steve Gough’s legal action against the Director of Public Prosecutions appears to have muddied the water once again. What our project The London Question told us, is that it is difficult to find anywhere in a built up area that does not have the potential to ‘cause serious disturbance to others’ Yet, what our researchers also found is that – particularly in the larger open spaces in and around London – naturists are finding somewhere as discrete as possible to sunbath naked, which can lead to the type of confrontation that will do no one’s blood pressure any good.
I believe NAG will eventually persuade society that non-sexual nudity in a public place is not the ‘evil’ they believe it to be and even if they do not participate themselves, people will accept those who use the park space naked, wherever it may occur. Until that happens, however, I imagined what could happen now if managers for London’s open spaces accepted that nude sunbathing is already happening: an area – not defined by posts or notices – adjacent to a large body of water for swimming (perhaps) would be set aside for naturists, but not for their exclusive use. By not having fixed boundaries the size of this area can be adjusted according to its popularity on the day. Park police (or CPSO) will then be able to ask those found ‘outside the area’ to relocate, in order to protect them better, but they will not be able to arrest them unless an actual crime is being committed.
Similarly, I believe that all beaches in the UK should be clothes optional. This is similar to the policy in Denmark and there, it is generally accepted that if the first people on a beach are nudists then the beach is a nudist one. Naturally, if they are textiles then it will be a textile beach. The beauty of having clothing optional beaches though, is that if it is long enough naturists can be at one end and textiles the other, with the naked and the clothed possibly mingling in the middle. Naturally, as naturism becomes more widely accepted, the length of the beach where this division is visible will shorten. Until naturism has gained that wider acceptance then we should campaign for more clothing optional beaches, in less out of the way locations and with better facilities. This will make naturism as a concept more accessible to the curious interested public.
Now I know a policy advocating clothing optional has its own problems with supporters and detractors for both sides of the argument, but I believe that this is the best solution to this particular problem. If you know of another one, I’d love to hear it.
So over to you, is this a sensible basis for a settled, written policy or does it need modifying?