If you are going to either of the two World Naked Bike Rides in London (9th June) or Bristol (10th June) then you have the opportunity to meet other Naturist Action Group supporters beforehand (see attached). We could also do with a little help, by printing and distributing the leaflets to other participants who may also be entranced by the naked lifestyle, just as you are but unsure how to promote and encourage a lifestyle that is body positive.
If you do that for us, you’re a star and it is much appreciated.
What prompted this question was an article written by journalist Douglas Belkin, and originally published in The Wall Street Journal. I know; it’s like the Financial Times publishing a long article about British naturism by… oh picking a name at random, Stephanie Flanders. Anyway, the WSJ article told its readers how the memberships for The Naturist Society (TNS) and AANR had either flat-lined or declined steadily over the years, and what they were doing to correct the situation.
Of course, this is not a new problem and it is not confined to the US. Mark Storey looked at the issue for N Magazine and found declining memberships around the world. British naturism hasn’t been immune either. As I understand it, the latest membership figures for BN continue to show a slow, steady decline year-on-year. This is for individual memberships of course; the number of clubs is more-or-less static.
From the US perspective, Nicky Hoffman of The Naturist Society made perhaps the most telling remark. ‘The problem is, most… resorts aren’t geared [towards] young people. They’ve become like retirement homes; they’ve sort of calcified.’ What Ms Hoffman meant by this is that many of the resort (or clubs in the UK) have remained static offering nothing to entertain the more energetic beyond Miniten or volleyball. In the end, such places become somewhere for the very old and the very young as grandparents look after their children’s children during the school holidays. Meanwhile, those between are either too busy with their careers or prefer to be with people of their own age. Belkin wrote of a young man (22) who visited a resort for the first time in 2010 and said he enjoyed being naked until he spotted someone he knew from work and roughly his father’s age. He then spent the rest of the day avoiding him. ‘It’s not that I have anything against old people,’ explained the young man. ‘I just don’t really want to hang out with them at the pool.’
Well! There’s nothing like plain speaking I guess. Being someone born more than 50-years ago and likely to be a contemporary of that young man’s father, I guess I’m now officially old!
The answer that TNS and AANR have hit on is to let the ‘younger’ members tell people of their own age what naturism is like. The young have also done something for themselves using methods, like the different forms of social media. For example, Young Nudists and Naturists of America – again according to Belkin’s article – held a ‘naked dinner party in a loft in New York’s financial district to recruit members.’ Having naked dinner parties are not new of course, or original, but it is where they were holding it that mattered and the people it was likely to attract. Can you imagine something similar being done in the City of London?
One Facebook site that readers might remember is Skinbook, which at one time boasted a membership reaching into five figures, but was then closed down by the original owner, for reasons not all that clear. A new Skinbook has emerged, with the same goals, but it is just a shadow of what it was, although it is still comparatively new. Another young naturist doing his bit for the cause is Andre Lawson-Walters with his website, iNaked.
So, it seems the young have plenty of ideas, could it be that the older generation isn’t listening? If not then I find that rather ironic, as people in their 60s and 70s now, were the first “teenagers” and rebellion against what went before is in their blood. Some might consider the actions of teddy boys and rockabillies to be the beginning of the end as far as society goes. Then again, others may think it was a big mistake getting down from the trees in Africa! The point is we were all young once, finding our way in a world that seemed not to be made for us. If naturism is to advance at all, then we need to encourage the younger generations to come forward and, in time, take control. But first, we must listen. Now, what would YBN suggest to help British Naturism, if asked?
I cannot let this moment pass without a few words of appreciation for Michael Farrar. If you’re not familiar with the name, he was chairman of British Naturism until last June, when his resignation was announced, a year earlier than planned, and after many years of voluntary service to BN. We may not have agreed with his actions, however he did them believing them to be right, and that is the best any of us can do. So, thank you Michael, for all your hard work.
Apologise to our regulars but issue two of our (occasional) newsletter is now available to download from the website. You’ll find it under ‘Downloads’
Not so long ago, I came across two surveys that reportedly gave an insight into British sunbathing habits and supported the notion that nude sunbathing is as popular as ever, if not more so. The first was by CruiseCompare.co.uk, which asked 1,271 people if they had ever sunbathed nude while on holiday, and astonishingly, nine per cent said they had. Of that nine percent, over half (59 per cent) then went on to say that they felt more comfortable (secure) sunbathing naked while on a cruise ship.
In the same survey, 17 per cent of all respondents said they had visited a nudist beach while on holiday and a further 11 per cent said they would like to, just out of curiosity.
The other survey was much more straightforward. This came from TripAdvisor.com who simply asked their respondents: would you bare all at a nude beach? Of its UK respondents, 49 per cent said yes compared to 30 per cent who said no, with the remainder undecided. They got similar results for Australia, US, Canada and Europe (which presumably means everywhere but the UK). Perhaps surprisingly, all five regions surveyed provided positive results in favour of nude sunbathing. Both Europe (55 per cent) and Australia (52 per cent) saw more than half of the respondents answering yes, while the US equalled the UK’s figure with Canada trailing just one percentage point behind. In the US, just 32 per cent of the respondents said they wouldn’t ‘bare all’ and in Canada it was even fewer, 29 per cent.
These figures are quite remarkable, considering all the negative news we hear from North America, and suggest that naturism – or at least sunbathing in the absence of clothing – is becoming more commonplace in much of the old world and English speaking nations.
Only lets look at those two surveys again. While they certainly give a positive spin on the idea of social nudity, the first is obviously an advertising puff by CruiseCompare.co.uk to support its business; to get more holidaymakers onto cruise ships. A question you would have to ask is where did the company find its 1,271 respondents? From its own customer database! Then of course the majority of its customers, who admit to sunbathing nude, will say they prefer doing so onboard a ship. The second survey from TripAdvisor.com is hard to understand because there seems to be no logic to it or its publication. The Internet site allows individuals to post reviews of where they have been on holiday or ask vox pop questions. This particular question was asked by someone who admitted to being in the undecided camp, fearful of getting “a nasty sunburn or… sand stuck in a sensitive area.” So we are left with a survey that has an unknown number of respondents for each region surveyed, who selected themselves for an unknown reason other than to get the Internet site’s name mentioned in the news media, which some would say was reason enough.
To put it bluntly, these two surveys are so full of holes they could be used as a sieve, if necessary and are of little use to naturism. That does not mean, however, that a survey will not be beneficial.
News that British Naturism will be going ahead with a new survey about the acceptability of naturism in the UK has slowly leaked out and this is very welcome news. It gives them, and naturism in general, the means to better understand the British psyche when it comes to nude recreation, which is so important when campaigning groups marshal their arguments in support of the lifestyle.
I have long advocated the repeat of the 2001 survey for two main reasons. First, it acts as a check against the original results, now a decade old, to see if more or fewer Britons find social nudity acceptable. Secondly, it allows BN an opportunity to refine the survey, to obtain more accurate results. I know I’ve mentioned this before but one of the weaknesses of the first survey was how it asked a good opening question but didn’t get underneath the answer given, which would have provided a stronger result. For example, one of the questions asked if the respondent had ever swum or sunbathed naked. The way it was asked, the answer yes could be given, even if they were a 20-something at the time and were now in their 40s or 50s, if not older, and had never been nude in public again. This – unfortunately – puts doubt on BN’s claim to represent 1.5 million naturists in the UK.
But lets end on a positive note. For all of its faults – and there aren’t many – BN’s survey is important because of what it represents, a move away from subjective arguments in favour of naturism to objective ones, based on field work conducted by experts. The reason why the Naturist Action Group is an evidenced-based campaigning organisation is because objective arguments make it easier to persuade politicians and businessmen and women to listen to us than if we used arguments that relied purely on conjecture or someone’s opinion. Naturism could follow those commercial surveys mentioned above, of course, but any flaws in them will soon be discovered and exploited by our opponents.
NAG continues to gather the data that will enable us to understand the justice system’s attitude and current practice when it comes to legal public nudity. This will enable NAG to put a strong case to organisations like ACPO and the Home Office that, while naturism may be lawful, the different parts of the justice system treat naturists who come into contact with it, inconsistently. This is not a project that will be quickly resolved; diligent work is slow and painstaking. We are also considering information gathered from the London Question which, if successful, could have implications far wider than just the capital. To be successful, however, naturism will needs to show the