Commentary on INF’s letter to Stéphane Deschênes of 17th April 2017
By Duncan Heenan, Naturist Action Group, UK
In January this year Stéphane Deschênes resigned as a member of International Naturist Federation’s (‘INF’) governing body, after 3 years’ and 5 months’ service, including being INF’s Assessor For Non-European Countries. Deschênes had previously been President of the Canadian Naturist Federation for about 10 years and is the owner of Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park, which he took from a small sleepy club to being the largest and most successful naturist club/resort in Canada. He also has a successful business career outside naturism.
In resigning he wrote an open letter to INF, setting out a number of issues he felt were essential to be addressed if INF was to become an effective agent of naturist progress. His resignation was the culmination of years of frustration at trying to breathe new life into INF, but being met with stuck-in-the-mud attitudes which saw change as impossible, unnecessary or unwelcome. Deschênes’ belief that change was needed was founded mostly on the lack of any real evidence of INF’s effectiveness over many decades. (This and the letters referred to are in an earlier post)
INF responded to Deschênes’ letter in April. Despite both letters being made public on naturist websites, it has elicited little comment. This may be because naturists know or care little of INF, or it may be because they have ‘seen it all before’ and consider INF a lost cause anyway. To help those new to the subject, I copy both letters at the end of this commentary.
However, I feel a proper and open debate is necessary. It is significant when someone of Stéphane Deschênes’ experience and stature feels moved to resign from a world body – and INF is naturism’s only world body. This should not be ignored. INF is funded by a per-capita levy on the membership of every National Naturist Federation which is affiliated to INF, so it is naturists’ own money which is at stake, and value for money should be something we should all care about even if we do not care about the wider acceptance of naturism. In an attempt to stimulate debate, I am writing this short commentary on the exchange of letters. If you agree with me, say so. If you disagree with me, say so. If you have any comment, say it. But please don’t just let this issue die from apathy and indifference. If you care about the progress of naturism, or if you believe in value for money, speak up; or an opportunity for real change will be missed, yet again. But say it where it will be heard by those who can change things.
If you have read the correspondence referred to (if not, please do), you will see that Deschênes, makes 14 specific comments and suggestions on INF. I do not have the inside experience of INF’s machinations to make much detailed comment on these points, though I shall make some general ones based on some 36 years of observing INF as a member of British Naturism (including having been BN’s Treasurer), and as a co-founder of Naturist Action Group ( www.naturistactiongroup.org ). However, I would like to start by considering the general tone of the reply, and how INF handled it.
The INF response to Deschênes’ comments ignores the fact that he felt it necessary to resign because of the overall lack of effectiveness of INF. By responding only on individual issues, INF is not seeing the wood for the trees. Deschênes’ comments list some of the symptoms of an ailing organisation, but the response looks only at the symptoms, and not the underlying condition. To an impartial observer INF appears to be in denial of its problems, and as a result no real consideration seems to be given to the specifics raised for debate, let alone the background to them and what they imply. Deschênes’ comments are addressed more to the National Federations which own INF rather than to the central INF body, and yet the response from ‘INF’ shows no real sign of the National Federations being involved in considering them. Indeed, though signed on behalf of the Central Committee, it is clearly written by the EC, and shows no evidence of Central Committee involvement. INF has ignored the whole point, which is not surprising in the context of its history of rejecting all criticism, however
Once upon a time, streakers were considered daring if not outlandish exhibitionists eager for their 15-minutes of fame, considered by Andy Warhol to be everyone’s entitlement. Now though some quite respectable institutions – like the London Zoological Society – are encouraging streakers to run in aid of charity.
London Zoo got some 200 people* to run around their central London site naked in aid of tiger conservation. In my opinion, this creature is the one of the most beautiful in the world; it is just a pity that there are those who find hunting tigers a sport, or that their body parts are used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.
Then there are the polar bears. If predictions for climate change prove to be anywhere near accurate then it is quite probable that they will loose their home as the Arctic ice disappears. To aid Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s conservation efforts on behalf of the polar bear, Andrew Calow, BN’s Yorkshire Region PRO had the idea to get people to run a half-mile (800 metre) course around the park, naked. It gave an opportunity to those who would streak for a tiger but could make it down to London, to do their bit for nature conservation.
Andrew Welch, representing BN, even told The Star, when promoting the “Bares for Bears” event: ‘Nude events in “public” locations are on the increase with members of the public realising what fun it is and how good being naked in the open air feels.’
Are they really? As far as the public is concerned, the prime motive for both events was to raise awareness, and perhaps money, in order to carry out conservation work on behalf of tigers and polar bears. Naturism hardly comes into it, even though Andrew Calow put the “Bares for Bears” event into the Park’s mind. It is like the other mass nudity ‘event’ The World Naked Bike Ride. It is a protest against car use and for the old pushbike, although other smaller protests are tagging along for the ride (forgive the pun) as it draws a substantial amount of local media. Again, at no point does naturism get a mention.
I am not suggesting that naturists shouldn’t act as an organiser of such events – as they do with the WNBR – or not participate but they should be aware that social nudity is just the means to get media interest and naturism is not the main purpose. Don’t be fooled into thinking that by streaking for tigers or polar bears that it will also advance the idea of naturism as a lifestyle.
What these events do tell us though, is that on the whole people do not have a problem with public nudity when it is linked to a good cause, like nature conservation. True, it is only anecdotal, but it is a start. What is not clear is if the non-naturist participants, like the keepers from Marwell Zoo, Clare Sweeten and Amy Wellings, thought about recreational nudity in any other context? They told The Telegraph that they looked after the big cats at Marwell and they were their passion. “Anything we can do to kind of help their survival in the world is like a really good thing,” Wellings told the reporter. Including running around London Zoo naked it seems. There is no reason to think that Sweeten and Wellings then went on to think how wonderful it felt to be naked in the open air or that they thought about becoming a naturist.
However, we could use this apparent acceptance as fertile ground to plant a seed, the idea, that clothes free living can be beneficial to the mind, body and soul of human kind. To do that we need a ‘hearts and mind’ campaign reaching out to the general public. Relying on the silly season articles from journalists or more events like WNBR and tiger streak – great as they are – will only further enrich the soil.
* In an earlier piece for H&E Naturist I said the number of people streaking for tigers at London Zoo was 700. The correct figure is ‘some 200’ as quoted by The Telegraph and the error is all mine.
After the Naked Chef (sorry Jamie), the Naked Restaurant is coming London: The Bunyadi. This story has gained traction on social media especially, but the earliest article I could find about it was in Time Out London (19/04/16) where it is described as ‘a dining experience “removed from the trappings of modern life”’. The restaurant is divided into two sections, clothed and unclothed, those who choose the unclothed section will be shown to a changing room to undress and put on a gown. Total nudity is optional. The waiting staff will also be nude apart from one item of clothing, an apron presumably.
The Bunyadi is a pop-up and here only for the summer. At the time of writing there were already 23,500 people on the waiting list, so…. If you’re really desperate to have a naked dining experience then you might have to slip the headwaiter (waitress) something to get in. Just be careful about where you put it.
NOTE: As of 21 May 2016, there were nearly 38,000 people looking to eat at The Bunyadi.
When Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik won his court case seeking a more lenient prison regime, fellow reprobate Duncan Heenan asked on the BN Forum, ’Should Steve Gough seek redress for his decade of ‘inhuman treatment’ from the Prison Services in England and Scotland?’
Heenan was more than likely just being mischievous but Neo-fascist Breivik, who murdered 77 people in two attacks, in July 2011, spends up to 23 hours per day in solitary confinement (at time of writing), with no interaction with other prisoners, while contact with the prison staff was through thick glass. Judge Helen Andenaes Sekulic said this amounted to ‘inhuman treatment’. Of course, in my opinion, the essential difference between Gough and Breivik is that Gough could have ended his ‘inhuman treatment’ by putting some clothes on. Tell us what you think by writing to HEN’s letters’ page.
Following on from the open letter by Stéphane Deschênes about reforming the INF, they have now replied with a point-by-point rebuttal, denying anything is wrong or putting the blame for inaction elsewhere.
The only positive move is a promised workshop on naturism being a philosophy or an ideology, but I won’t be holding my breath. They have held workshops on this or that in the past and what came out of them? It is just my opinion, but to me the INF-FNI lacks drive. It lacks a focus, and perhaps more importantly, it lacks a purpose for it to exist. Deschênes’ idea of turning the INF-FNI into a naturist UN will give it a purpose and focus, but drive? That can only come from the people in it.
Spencer Tunick in Hull
Another item that has seen a lot of interest, as Spencer Tunick is planning to carry out one of his art installations in HEN’s beloved Hull. There is still time for you to sign up for this event as it doesn’t happen until 9th July, or you can volunteer for a different event if you wish, but you must be over 18 to participate. Hull is the UK’s City of Culture for 2017.
In early March, Kim Kardashian posted nude selfies on Instagram and whatever you might think of the pop/reality starlet, they have sparked off discussion about what the naked female body has to do with feminism on the Internet. Writing in Huffington Post (US edition; 29/03/16), Katherine Ripley asked ‘What do we want our children to learn about nudity?’.
While some posters pointed out that nudity could be empowering, others in response to the same picture said it sent the wrong message to young women. Nailing her colours to the ‘anti’ pop-singer Pink said that women feel more “pride and self respect” if they used their brains and talent instead of their bodies.
This is undoubtedly confusing for young girls who look up to these entertainers, whose advice do they follow? As Ripley wrote, it’s ‘complicated’.
‘I want my daughter to see nudity as neutral. But I don’t want her to be taken advantage of by a world that still thinks nudity is sexual, and sees it as a reason to objectify and denigrate women,’ Ripley adds. ‘How do I say to her, “Nudity is no big deal, but you need to be very careful about whom you’re sending nude photographs to”?’ continues Ripley. ‘How do I say to her, “Women should be able to show their nipples on social media, but you probably shouldn’t do that because you might attract attention from creepy men online”?’.
It’s very sad and damming for the human race that men can think so little of women, when we are two sides of the same coin.
Yet more evidence that sunshine, taken in moderation, does you good.
An article from BBC News tells of research findings presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology by a team from Leeds Teaching Hospitals, suggests that vitamin D supplements could help people with heart disease.
The team studied a group of people who had low levels of vitamin D, even in summer, and had an average age of 70. They were either given 100 microgram of the vitamin or a sugar pill each day for a year.
Early indications suggest vitamin D supplements could be just as effective in increasing the amount of blood the heart can pump around the body as more expensive drugs.
It isn’t clear why the vitamin is improving heart function and a larger study is needed. In the meantime, medical advice is that there is no safe way to suntan but the skin’s reaction to sunlight produces more vitamin D than oily fish, eggs and other foods.
Came across an article by Felicity Jones of YNA describing the “making of” a US reality show ‘Project Runway All Stars Naturist Episode’. The host, former Charmed actress Alyssa Milano, is an advocate for body positive attitudes and public breastfeeding, and it was her involvement that led YNA to agree to do the show.
Over three days, 10 naked ‘models’ – including Felicity herself – were provided with a bespoke winter coat. The idea of them providing ‘breezy, but functional summer clothing’ considered too easy for the designers.
It might be strange to have a fashion show feature naturists but it certainly got people talking about nudity in American society, both for and against.
What’s happened to Nudist Clubhouse?
At the time of writing it has been more than a month since the Nudist Clubhouse was taken off the Internet, following a cyber attack, allegedly from Ukraine.
A statement by Nudist Clubhouse management just says ‘We are currently working to protect things, and are unsure what the future holds at this time.’ Surely they have an idea by now? Can its many users have some news please!
click on the above for details. The meeting is open to all naturists.
John Paine, Management Collective
As with last month, News from NAG – published in H&E Naturist is month – is here to provide links to interesting blogs and websites. If you don’t already subscribe, please take a look and give support to the world’s oldest Naturist magazine, having been in continuous publications since 1900.
Membership New Zealand
Two items published by Stuff.co.nz last December might be pointing to a brighter future for naturism – at least in that part of the world. Canterbury Free Beach Nudist Club told Georgina Campbell that while the over-60s still made up the largest portion of its membership, about a fifth of their group was made up of the under-30s.
Sunbathing at Hikuraki Bay, Fiona Guest told Stuff.co.nz that she found naturism to be: ‘empowering for women to shake off the modern expectation of what the female body should like,’ and in later life she was: ‘free to have a bit of tummy flab.’
The article said there were only 100 members of the free beach club. This is less than half of the current membership for Auckland Outdoor Naturist Club, which number about 250. Back in the 60s though it had more than three times as many members and the current caretakers of the club – husband and wife team, Don Boughman and Minca Englebrecht – told Ciara Pratt that they were keen to expand the park and ‘get it back to its glory days.’
Boughman remarked to Pratt that: ‘There’s a saying that the first lie you tell is the clothes you wear – take those away, it’s just you.’
Both these clubs are reaching out to the under 40, what harm could it do if you reached out too.
A Lady Bishop for Nudists
In November, with typical Daily Mail outrage, we are told that the next Bishop of Sherborne is Karen Gorham with the headline: “Bless me! It’s Britain’s first NUDIST Bishop” and the eighth woman selected by the Church of England.
Archdeacon (as I write) Gorham was brought up in a naturist family but the article suggested that she is no longer a practicing naturist, have stopped ‘disrobing in public’, during her teenage years, which isn’t, sadly, all that unusual. However, by all accounts she continues to be a strong advocate for the lifestyle.
Archdeacon Gorham told journalist Jonathan Petrie that: ‘Naturism is often misunderstood, so people jump to the wrong conclusion.’ Not everyone is please with Gorham’s selection, however, with the Rev. George Curry, former chairman of the Church Society stating that her ‘comments made her unsuitable to be a bishop’ adding that naturism was against ‘traditional teaching’.
Naturally, the Daily Mail and Rev Curry were not the only ones to pass comment on Karen Gorham’s advancement. For it reminded Fr. Dwight Longenecker, an American Evangelical minister turned Anglican vicar turned Catholic priest, of a post he put up on Patheos.com in 2009. Using an ultra ego of Rev Humphrey Blyterington, Fr Longenecker tackles in his own way the subject of nudity and faith, and might be worth reading regardless of the depth of what you believe – from non-existent to very deep. Could the Adamites make a comeback?
A book on Christian ethics and social nudity written by Karen Gorham, 15-years ago with Dave Leal: ‘Naturism and Christianity: are they compatible?’ can still be bought through Amazon.co.uk.
Ethics are not just the preserve of the religious. A post on the Young Naturists America website pointed me towards The Humanist Experience, a podcast by Seráh Blain and Evan Clark, and this episode is focused on the issue of body shame how it is viewed in American culture. Although Blain and Clark are work colleagues and share a house, they are not a couple so when it came to seeing each other naked for the first time, they were – not unnaturally – a little nervous. It was a quite charming to listen to really and just as you don’t have to be religious to read Fr Longenecker’s skit-blog, you don’t have to be an atheist to listen to the podcast.
CO beach could be worth Aus$50 million to Queensland Economy
I’ve mentioned before that the State of Queensland, Australia is the only one without an official nudist beach, but not for much longer if the Australian Sex Party – yes you read correctly – has its way.
The ASP has proposed that Alexandria Bay, in Noosa National Park be deemed as a ‘clothing-optional beach’ according to Noosa News.  The Australian Sex Party’s acting president for his Queensland branch, Dr Mark McGovern, said it would only be making official what has been happening there unofficially for the last 70-years, and could be worth Aus$50 million to the Noosa economy. In its submission the ASP said that more than 80 per cent of the local community supported the creation of a legal clothing-optional beach. Although it should be noted that according to the website Beachsafe, this particular beach is only approachable by foot and has hazardous swimming.
Tourism Noosa is committed to Queensland rebranding itself as “Australia’s Nature Coast”, in an effort to entice more tourists, Europeans especially. The ASP submission said that given the greater acceptance of nudism by Europeans, having a CO beach would assist in that drive for more tourists, it also cited The Economist magazine, stating that 18 per cent of Europeans would ‘highly value’ access to a nude beach. The article said that Tourism Noose, themselves, were not available for comment.
For some months now, NAG has asked people to support our campaign for open space naturism in London, taking its inspiration from the German parks like those in Munich. We have received a lot of support, not only from those in the London area but from many other parts of the UK and Europe too. It has got to the stage where we need to do something with the data we’ve collected and in order for us to do that without having a moving ‘target’ NAG’s Management Collective have decided to bring the petition to a close.
We thank everyone who has participated and will let you all know what we shall be doing with the information once we’ve scrutinized the entries and compiled the report. In the meantime, the links on our website to the petition have been disabled and its appearance will be amended in time.
Member of NAG’s Management Collective, Duncan Heenan wrote in response to Daniel Finklestein, who argued that although he has not done anyone any harm, Steve Gough deserves being locked up. As I have remarked before, Steve Gough divides opinion among naturists, not only society, but I disagree as does Duncan and he made his opinions known through a letter in The Times.
In case you’re wondering, The Thunderer is a nickname for The Times newspaper published in London.
For everyone that doesn’t know anything about me, I listen to the radio far more than look at the TV. I find the pictures are far better and have been in HD for decades. Over the holiday season I’ve listened to two programmes that I think you might enjoy too.
Late Night Woman’s Hour is a short series that allows the topical woman’s magazine programme to discuss subjects in a fashion that – at times – can be far more forthright than if it was in its usual mid-morning slot. First broadcast on 30th December the title of this show is: Naked for the New Year.
Hosted by Lauren Laverne, it features:
Inna Shevchenko from leader of FEMEN;
Miss Glory Pearl – the naked stand-up;
Vikke Dark, ex-model and now feminist academic who campaigns against the ‘glamour’ industry;
Shahidha Bari, lecturer in Romanticism at Queen Mary’s University, London, and;
Natasha Porter, a photographer under the name of Natansky and one of the collective organising the London leg of the WNBR.
The other show I’d like to draw your attention to: Desert Island Discs, a long running radio programme, first broadcast on 29th January 1942. This is an episode of the re-run series, Desert Island Discs Revisited broadcast on Radio 4 Extra on 27th December 2015 featuring American folk singer Peggy Seeger, and available for 26 days (from 31-12-2015). Quite early on, Peggy confirms that her parents didn’t believe in clothes unless they were necessary, a brief insight into early family naturism in America. True, not much of a connection to naturism, but a wonderful listen just the same. Originally broadcast in July 2001, Seeger moved back to the US following the death of her husband, Ewan MacColl, but according to Wikipedia, she came back to live in the UK in 2010, to be closer to her children.
Following the General Election in May 2015, the Naturist Action Group wrote to Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, asking for clarification on her party’s policy on naturism and the discrimination felt by many naturists.
Although the dust from the election had not quite settled, at the same time we also wrote to David Cameron, the Prime Minister, Harriet Harman, then interim leader of the Labour Party and leader of the official opposition, Tim Farron, the newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party and First Minister of Scotland, and Angus Robertson MP, deputy leader of the SNP and party leader in the House of Commons. None of the letters were identical, but were all broadly similar to the one sent to Natalie Bennett.
I would just like to take a moment to give a brief explanation of how HM Government functions, if you already know this perhaps you would prefer to skip the remainder of this paragraph and the next. Located in central London, Government for the UK is headed by the Prime Minister on one side, with the Loyal Opposition on the other. MPs from other parties usually sit on the Opposition benches in the House of Commons. Since 1999 however, some matters specific to that nation have been devolved to parliaments in Scotland (Edinburgh) and Wales (Cardiff) with a Government led by a First Minister, who can be from a different party to the Prime Minister in London. Northern Ireland is different again. A more detailed explanation can be found from Wikipedia.
We wrote to the Prime Minister (Conservative), the leader of the Loyal Opposition (Labour) and to the leader of the third largest party in the House of Commons, the Scottish Nationalist Party. We wrote to the Liberal Democrats because they are still considered a major party in UK politics, even though they only have eight MPs and the Greens because one of our supporters wanted to attempt to change their policies in favour of naturism. All are based in London. As the leader of the SNP – Nicola Sturgeon – is a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) and not an MP in London, we wrote to her in Edinburgh.
Of all the letters sent, only those to the Prime Minister and the First Minister were acknowledged and full replies subsequently received.
The reply from Downing Street came via the office of the Rt. Hon Mike Penning MP, the Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims. It is a brief letter and said:
“Nudity in public is not an offence where there is no [intention] to cause harassment, alarm and distress. There are powers for the police to deal with any such acts and how they enforce the law in any particular case is an operational matter for the police.”
This is making reference to section 66, Sexual Offences Act 2003, which states:
(1) A person commits an offence if—
(a) he intentionally exposes his genitals, and
(b) he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.
Penning would not comment on any individual case, namely Steve Gough, and we would not expect him too. It is a pity, however, that he would not comment on the wider point we raised about the unequal treatment naturists get from the justice system when the Conservative Party had a manifesto commitment for: “Promoting equal treatment and equal opportunity for all in society proud of its tolerance and diversity.”
In our letter to the First Minister of Scotland, we said that while the SNP had a comprehensive policy for gender equality and discrimination, nowhere among their policies could we find a specific mention of a right to a private life and a right to choose how they might express themselves, which could include public nudity.
The reply came from Ronnie Fraser of the Criminal Justice Division of the Justice Directorate in Edinburgh, and is somewhat more substantial than the reply received from Penning and refers to Scots Law. In it, he states:
“[T]here is no specific statutory offence concerning public nudity in Scotland, but under Scots Law, exposure of the naked body in certain circumstances may be considered by the courts to be a breach of the peace. This is because the conduct, although not indecent or aggressive … may yet be likely to cause fear and alarm or distress to a reasonable person.”
The text for the Sexual Offences Act in Scotland is identical to England and Wales. It is therefore interesting that Fraser uses the word ‘likely’ a lower test than in the Act itself, which states that alarm or distress should: “be caused….”
Naturally, it is up to the court to determine if the provisions of the Act had been broken and will need to consider the individual circumstances of the case but Fraser referred to the Appeal Court case of Webster v Dominick 2003. He summed it up by stating that public nudity “is criminal only where it affects public sensibility”.
A discussion about Webster v Dominick is outside the scope of this article, but I believe it does point the way for future campaigning and not only for Scotland.
We know that the Crown Prosecution Service have published guidelines for police services and front line officers in England and Wales to consult when dealing with incidents involving public nudity. What NAG has learned so far is that it is not compulsory for them to use the guidelines but if training based upon it and developed by the College of Policing is given to station custody officers then maybe fewer files involving naturists will be passed to the CPS for prosecution. That, after all, is the general aim of the guidelines.
With its separate judicial system, the CPS Guidelines do not apply to Scotland, so getting something similar there is one avenue we could explore. In the meantime, I can reveal that BN have produced an information sheet explaining public nudity in relation to Scottish law, similar to the one they produced for England and Wales, and it will be launched at their AGM, this October. It will fold down to credit card size and would be useful for anyone who’s right to be nude in a public place is challenged.
NAG is beginning to work on getting training on the CPS Guidelines included for custody officers’ but it is clear that the Conservative-led Government is continuing with the austerity started by the previous coalition Government, so Chief
Earlier this year, San Francisco-based body freedom activist George Davis, together with Stacey Lunin – another activist from New York – staged a protest in Washington DC. The event didn’t go to plan and George ended up arrested, but I will let him tell the whole story.