Guidance for journalists when writing about nudity in general, and Naturism in particular.
This brief guide is offered, because though there is good, responsible writing about naturism, there also seems to be some very poor reporting, even from journalists who on other subjects produce good work. We seek here to identify common failings and offer some help in approaching naturism in a way to produce good quality writing and a proper respect for the subject.
The most common fault is to assume that nudity always means sex. In some contexts it might, but this would be an extreme rarity when the nudity is part of a story about naturism, as naturism is a lifestyle involving non-sexual nudity. Sex is often implied or injected into a story in order to try to get readers or editors interested in something which has little other appeal. Naturism is a minority lifestyle, albeit a substantial and growing minority, so it is unusual, and sometimes attracts attention for that reason alone. As most of society has little experience of nudity outside of the bedroom or bathroom, the vocabulary used to describe it often resorts to silly euphemisms about the body, childish language, jokes and puns, often to get a laugh. The problem is that this trivialises the subject and encourages the reader to treat it superficially, and this can reflect on how the writer is viewed also. Put simply, it seems that faced with nudity, too many journalists seem to eithrer turn into Frankie Howerd impersonators (…..ooh er, Missus!), or recreate the old News of the World mock horror.
Why report nudity at all?
There are two basic reasons for reporting nudity. Firstly if there is an arrest. Secondly because it is unusual.
Arrests for simple, non-sexual nudity are a rarity nowadays (see later regarding the law). Of course there are still a few flashers around, and these cases should be reported along the lines of any crime report, with the emphasis being on accuracy, balance and objectivity.
The unusual nature of social nudity sometimes attracts initial attention, however it is usually soon discovered that naturists are doing exactly the same things as clothed people, except without clothes, such as swimming, sunbathing, socialising, rambling. This can look mundane (largely because it is!) and can lead to some writers seeking some way of spicing up the story. This temptation should be resisted, as should the embellishment of any story. Nudity is no big deal to naturists, and it shouldn’t be to journalists either. This applies to the style of the article as well as the content.
Things to avoid
There are some clichés and puns which get recycled every time nudity is mentioned. Their use not only kills any serious points elsewhere in the writing, and they represent lazy writing, usually aimed at getting a cheap laugh. If you want people to take what you say seriously, and read to the end of the article, avoid all these overworked and inaccurate terms. Examples are:
The bare truth; naked ambition; getting to the bottom of the matter; raising a titter; keeping abreast of events; letting the cracks show; papering over the cracks; wobbly bits; standing erect; prancing around; brazenly parading; barely visible; a bum deal; nudies; covering his/her modesty; ‘manhood’ (meaning genitals); indecent exposure; the great cover-up… etc.
Who are the naturists, and what do they do?
Two surveys commissioned by British Naturism in 2001 and 2011, carried out independently, concluded that there are some 3.8 million people in the UK who at some time enjoy some form of naked recreation. In other European countries there are higher figures. These are ordinary people of both sexes, all ages, all social groupings, who happen to enjoy being naked sometimes, either for its own sake or to enhance some other activity such as swimming or sport. Because of repressive social attitude in the past many naturist clubs were developed where this could be done in privacy, but in recent years, and often influence by continental holidays, naturists are wanting to be able to be naked in other places, such as their own gardens, the beach, camping grounds, the countryside, swimming pools and even hotels and other leisure facilities. And there is increasing acceptance by facility providers, and the public at large, of naturist use of public places and facilities. Naturist Clubs still exist, but it is probably a minority of naturists nowadays who are members. Even the ‘National Representative Body’, British Naturism has only about 8,800 paid up members. It seems that ‘organised naturism’ is now giving way to do-it-yourself naturism. However, there are still incidents sparked by the public myth that it is illegal to be naked in public.
Some people will say “ but what about the children?!”, echoing a vague myth that nudity is somehow harmful or shocking to children. There is no evidence that nudity is in any way harmful to children, and what academic research which exists indicates psychological benefits. Naturism is a lifestyle for all ages, and there are many families who enjoy naturism together.
What is the law on nudity?
Simple, non-sexual nudity is not, and never has been illegal in England & Wales, though many people still believe that it is, and in the past it has occasionally been treated as if it were illegal. In the past there have been arrests for Disorderly Behaviour under 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, but following a series of failed prosecutions, and increasingly enlightened attitudes by the Courts and the public, in 2017 the Crown Prosecution Service issued guidance to Police and Prosecutors on the subject. This concludes that simple non-sexual nudity in a public place should not normally be prosecuted. This was followed in 2018 by the College of Policing’s guidelines on the subject, which also concludes that, in the absence of any aggravating factor, nudity in public does not in itself require a police response. Similar guidelines have now also been adopted in Scotland. There is some time lag between these guidelines’ issue and their universal understanding by The Authorities, so very occasional misunderstandings do still happen, however if they are reported on at all, it should be against the background of the actual Law and guidance.
‘Flashing’ is an offence, usually prosecuted under s66 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, and it should be reported along the lines of any other crime report. To obtain a prosecution, it has to be proved that the offender intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress. The term ‘Indecent Exposure’ is still wrongly used by both the police and public, and should be avoided as it fell out of the law in 2003, and is now archaic.
Some flashers and pornographers have claimed to be naturists, though this is nearly always shown to be false, by the actual behaviour leading to a prosecution, or the nature of the material.
In reporting naturism, journalists should avoid trivialising the subject or poking fun at the people being reported on. It is a legitimate subject for journalism as it is a widespread and growing way of life, but prurient interest is not welcomed and will usually get a bad reaction. Reporting should be factual and well researched, and free of personal bias as far as possible. The best way of researching the subject is to try it for oneself.