Go naked; it’s good for everybody (but particularly for women) (Part 1)

// 4 March 2012

bearly clothed.jpg

Image shows several topless people on bicycles, viewed from the back. They are taking part in the 2010 World Naked Bike Ride. One is wearing a furry hat/mask and has the words “BEARLY CLOTHED” across her back. Shared courtesy of anemoneprojectors under a Creative Commons License.

This post is the first part of a 2-part piece on naturism.

A couple of weeks ago I was an observer at the trial of Nigel Keer at Leeds Magistrates Court. Nigel was convicted, and fined, simply for going on a ramble across the local moors at Otley Chevin, naked except for walking boots and a rucksack. He was afterward featured as “the naked rambler” in the press.

The trial was a travesty of justice and proved my old maxim that there is no justice, only law. Why? Because Nigel is a naturist, who sees going for a ramble on the moors as nature intended as entirely reasonable and normal, as do many naturists all over Europe. The fact that he was convicted when so many people who really hurt others get off showed just how low we have sunk as a nation in terms of natural justice.

Furthermore, Nigel was convicted on purely circumstantial evidence, as shown in the testimony of an off duty police officer who arrested him when meeting him on a run across the moorland. That testimony hinged on the presence of a woman, a woman who may have been distressed or alarmed, which was enough to convict him under the Public Order Act. This Act was meant to control riots and other anti social behaviour, not naturism, but it was used in that way in court. The woman did not come to court to testify; she made no complaint to the police; she was not interviewed, spoken to nor ever identified.

The verdict offended me deeply as a woman. I would be appalled if someone were convicted of a crime on the basis that a male police officer decided what I had thought and felt. As a lifelong naturist, I would see a male naked walker, especially one wearing boots/rucksack and walking on countryside paths, as just that, a naked walker, probably also a naturist. He wasn’t flashing (you can’t really flash naked!) nor was he bothering anyone or drawing attention to his body; he was just walking.

The sexist assumptions of the police and judiciary run deep; a naked man is always a predator; a woman is always a victim. Talk about patriarchy!

I have been a naturist virtually all my life. My first memory of feeling that being without clothes was normal and natural, and my utter puzzlement at the prudery around me, dates from the early 1960s when I was about 7. Until then, like most young children I had always run around naked on a hot day, in the garden or on a beach, but my mother clearly felt that I was now too old to do that, and called for me to come and get dressed behind a large towel.

Refusing to do the towel dance, I asked why. (I was always asking “why” in a loud voice, and wouldn’t accept “because I say so” either.) When my mother tried to explain that it was “because people might SEE you” I was utterly bewildered and ran off naked down the beach, having to be chased, caught and chastened! But I didn’t understand, and still don’t. What is wrong with a child’s body? What is wrong with anyone’s body? Everyone has got one!

I went home that day feeling that all adults had the wrong end of the stick, but by the time I was 18 or so, began taking the opportunity to sunbathe nude or skinny dip when the weather and the environment were appropriate. First sea bathe was on the remote central area of Druridge Bay in Northumberland, in the hot summer of 1976, but there were many quiet dips in mountain streams or pools, and sunbathes in secluded places. I was quite body conscious then despite my liberal instincts, so tended to hide away, but as I grew older I met other naturists and realised that was what I was, a naturist. I introduced my husband to naturism (it’s often the other way round, but hey..) and have been on many naturist holidays. I attend a local naturist swim and am a member of naturist organisations.

A while ago, I was forced to retire earlier than I wanted to. I was at the top of my profession. One of the reasons is that my employers found out I am a naturist. It was a lot more complex than that, but basically they took the word of a bigoted male neighbour that I was guilty of wrongdoing. This blog is not the place to go into that whole fiasco in more detail, but it set me thinking about naturism and feminism.

The bigot next door objected to me, as a slightly overweight middle-aged woman, being naked in my private garden, even though to see me required intrusion on his part. It dawned on me that what he really objected to was that I wouldn’t stay in my place. A woman in her 50s who has the body confidence to be a naturist is emphatically NOT in her place! And I am not on a diet. I eat healthily, exercise regularly and enjoy the feel of the sun and air on my body, which I’m not ashamed of. But the repression of healthy nudity, and its equation to illicit sex, is a common means of control of women by patriarchy.

To be continued in Part 2…

Comments From You

Julian // Posted 5 March 2012 at 2:51 am

I dispute naturism’s assumption of naturalness – humans have co-evolved with simple technology for long enough that clothes are as natural to us as ant-hills are to ants. I do agree that nakedness should have no stigma. However you won’t get that in isolation.

The idea “men are sex predators who should be restrained, women are sex prey who should be covered up” is simply the “moralistic” flip side of compulsory heterosexuality and women being the sex class. Society demands men act as raging beasts and then demands they be restrained, demands women make themselves available for sex to men and then demands “but not too available”. It’s all part of the same pattern and we are going to have to destroy it in entirety to get even a side issue like public nakedness made legal.

Laura // Posted 5 March 2012 at 9:01 am

I totally support your right to be naked in your own garden, and your neighbour’s behaviour was outrageous. I also appreciate your feminist analysis of female naturism. However, I have to say that I don’t think a man going for a naked ramble in a public place is a good idea.

Yes, not all men are sexual predators, and walking naked doesn’t necessarily equate to predatory behaviour, but the sad fact is that many, many women have experienced sexual violence at the hands of men and seeing a naked man when you’re out for a walk could well make a woman feel threatened, and could even trigger her. Just reading the above reminded me of when a man flashed and groped me in Barcelona when I was sixteen and I now feel on edge. I think men should take this potential to cause fear and distress into account when they consider public naturism.

I actually think it’s pretty entitled for a man to stride out naked like that. Yes, in an ideal world it would be nice if he could do so, but we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where men rape and sexually assault women every single day and I think women’s right to feel safe on Otley Chevin should trump a man’s wish to ramble with his penis out for all to see. He might prefer to be able to do so, but it’s hardly hurting him to ask that he put on a pair of shorts. I love the Chevin and spent a lot of time up there as a child, and I sure as hell don’t want to be reminded of when I was sexually assaulted next time I go up there.

Rose // Posted 5 March 2012 at 11:28 am

When I was 11 I went to my first Glastonbury.

I was really nervous sitting in my tent on the first morning, not sure how I could fit into such a strange world, but I got up some courage, and stuck my head out of the tent.

The first thing I saw was a naked man facing my direction, talking to a group of largely naked people. That was the first naked man I ever saw.

I was shocked, and flung myself back into the tent. A couple of moments later I reemerged no longer worried about my ability to fit in. I found the presence of the naked people really reassuring. I can’t quite explain why, but it’s like they made just existing okay.

A naked man walking alone looks kinda vulnerable to me, and I’d frankly rather a man was butt naked than clothed but staring at me.

Naked isn’t bad.

Jess McCabe // Posted 5 March 2012 at 1:20 pm

It’s good to see this being talked about in terms of feminism. When I was a kid my mum often took me to naturist beaches, etc, and being naked was definitely no big deal. She wasn’t fully into naturism, but I think it was really positive.

‘Famously’ in my family, one time when I was about seven, some of my cousins (about the same age as me) came to a party at our house. It was in the summer and as usual the sprinkler went on and I and most of the kids at the party were running about nude having a great time in the garden. My cousins (and their parents, who were/are Orthodox) were completely shocked and appalled. (We didn’t see them that often!) This still gets talked about at wider family reunions – most of my extended family on that side is quite conservative, but still!

Felicity // Posted 5 March 2012 at 6:48 pm

This “naked rambler” is a really interesting case. It reminds me of a similar one I know of in Canada where a man was caught doing virtually the same thing, hiking nude on some nature trails, and by an off-duty officer also! However, this story had a happy ending- the naturist won his case because the judge decided his nude hiking was not doing harm to anyone else nor intended to cause harm. The outcome may have been different if he were walking through downtown streets, but he was hiking on trails in the woods. And why should he be denied this enjoyable exercise? (I interviewed him for the Bare Times & you can read more about this here: http://baretimes.org/canada-naked-drive-thru-cropper ) It sounds ridiculous, the way they charged the rambler. He should be allowed to walk nude in nature peacefully by himself, without being considered a threat to public order.

I can understand how a lone woman would feel if she comes across a naked man while hiking or walking and how she might jump to conclusions. As you say, a naked man in public is often an assumed predator. But a man’s state of dress, whether he’s clothed or naked, doesn’t make a difference if he is in fact a real predator. At least a naked predator can’t hide his weapons! Hehe. And you’re right, we get all rallied up about a lone naked man when there are much bigger criminals and crimes to worry about.

By the way, I hope you will tell your story about nude gardening and how you ended up losing your job! Many naturists worry about this, but we’ve heard of very few cases where it actually happened..

(~Felicity of Young Naturists America)

Alasdair // Posted 5 March 2012 at 11:01 pm

Please, don’t make the ‘naked rambler’ guy into some sort of naturist hero, or representative of naturists. My family are naturists, but we don’t walk around naked in public, only on private property or designated naturist beaches and campsites. The vast majority of naturists are the same, and respect the wishes of ordinary people not to see nudity where they don’t expect it.

It’s one thing to say ‘society needs to change its attitude to naked bodies, there should be nothing offensive about nudity’ – broadly, I agree with that. But in the world we live in, plenty of people do find it offensive, and there’s simply no reason to go out of your way to offend them when you can just put some clothes on. It’s not about adhering to the commands of an oppressive clothes-enforcing tyranny, it’s simply about showing a little respect for other people’s feelings.

mike george // Posted 8 March 2012 at 2:58 pm

I have posted on other sites about the Naked Rambler’s conviction, (which I think will be overturned on appeal!) as I take part in this pastime, but in order not to offend or embarrass anyone I always try and cover up my manly bits if I see anyone approaching,occasionally I don’t have time and I will always say good-day and smile and explain I’m a naturist walker. I’ve only had 1 negative reaction(yes from a woman) but I must say that most people are more amused than shocked by simple nudity!

Alasdair says that they only walk around private areas,and “designated” beaches, but the Law is clear and several SENIOR police officers have stated that nudity in public is NOT illegal(witness the nudes on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Sq., and the thousands in the naked cycle rides in cities around the world inc London,Brighton,Manchester etc), so I don’t want to pay to go into a private area(why should I) and can’t get to a “designated” beach(surely all beaches should be clothing optional).

Yes, we should show a little respect for other people’s feelings, but conversly, shouldn’t respect be both ways?

Shown on screen // Posted 29 March 2012 at 2:18 pm

In my youth I was a keen naturist coming across naturism by accident following a visit to Scandinavia.To me it was a breath of fresh air and a pastime I really wished to participate in totally.When I turned 21 years of age I visited Corsica on my own and stayed at a resort having enjoyed it so much I let my parents and sister know on my return only to find I had to promise never to entertain my ideals again. The body was taboo in our household and no mention of sex was ever mentioned yet that feeling of shame was driven home.

When I turned 24 yrs I left britain for Australia where I have lived for 40 plus years except when I went on a one way ticket to Canada where I lived for over 2 yrs,only to return to the Sunshine State which is Queensland to marry an Australian girl.

Out of all the Australian States this is the most prudish as beach nudity is an offence although clubs exist to join you have to have a female partner.For more years than I care to remember I encouraged my wife to join but it has never been the outcome.

There is the notion that the sun is evil and too much causes cancer and its exactly that which my dear wife contracted and now she feels its her life having to deal with cancers of one kind or another whilst I will go out into the garden or use our pool in the buff my wife always remains inside hiding from the sun.

I hope I am not encroaching on your feminine friendly site with a tail about my male experiences.

I am firmly of the opinion that if one grows up in a family where there are more liberal views then there exists openness and acceptance of views.

One would assume that with our tropical climate which can be rather oppressive that a certain lax attitude would prevail but its to the contrary .Sunbathing was once quite the thing at the beach and then skin cancer took over so there are few people on the beaches lying although one can find the younger generation looking as if they have just come out of the pan .

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