Some key questions:-
- What is the general view of social nudity across the nation?
- What is the view of officialdom?
- Is our understanding of those views correct?
- Do we need a complete shift in our attitudes?
Some would say that officialdom seems to be moving towards a more prudish view although the evidence is not convincing. Others would say the general public’s view seems far more liberal, there is more unpixelated nudity on the TV, the WNBR gets police protection and cases of public nudity prosecuted in the courts generally show a victory for what we would see as common sense. Without an extensive and authoritative study of these issues the answers will remain the subject of debate but whatever they are, I am certain that we have some thinking of our own to do regarding attitudes, in particular we need to re-think our habit of maintaining our traditional secrecy.
I am fully aware of the risks, I worked for a long time in education and kept my lifestyle secret but I now regret that as a result of the realisation brought about by a number of experiences. I also regret it because secrecy breeds suspicion which increases the desire for secrecy, a never ending cycle. We need to break that cycle; it is in our power to do so and needs no change in society. I have become convinced that many of our problems stem mainly from us.
Should naturists be more assertive? Oh yes.
My recent experiences have resulted from just such a more assertive attitude, one that springs from the recognition that my world view, my beliefs and my values are as important as those of other people, that as a naturist I should not be always assuming the worst and that I should stand up and proclaim to the world what I have believed since childhood. I have risked upsetting other people in pursuit of this right to self-expression. In the same manner as the I Am A Man campaign that followed Martin Luther King and campaigns proclaiming LGBT rights, I assert that our right to beliefs and existence is not predicated on the beliefs and values of others, they do not define our lives, we do. We have the right to dress as we please even if that right is denied by prudes, such denial does not eliminate the right, it merely exposes their prudery.
But the results of this assertive behaviour has quite honestly astonished me, it is now quite clear that prudery is far less common than I had supposed. I had started with a view common in naturist circles, that “they” will or might be upset when confronted not only by nude people but even by the very idea of people engaging in non-sexual social nudity. I was wrong, generally people do not think like that. Yes, prudes do exist and often make a lot of noise telling us how to behave, but there are far fewer of them than we fear.
A few examples will show what I mean. Having come out as a naturist after a spur-of-the-moment decision on return from my first WNBR in London in 2010, I had found my neighbours on the left very supportive and encouraging. A neighbour on the other side “caught” me in my back garden when I had expected to be fully private, she was also very supportive. Just last week, her husband, knowing I was nude whilst painting a part of the house he could not see, popped over the fence to ask for a tool rather than knocking on the door, he had taken the clear decision that meeting a nude Howard was not a problem.
Screening and its implied secrecy is not the answer, far better to be open and to discover that people are not nearly as prudish as we fear, now I can chat over the fence fully nude to neighbours on both sides without a problem. Did I change their attitude or were they accepting of nudity beforehand? I very much doubt I had any effect on their attitude, the problem is with us being too fearful, not them. They did not change, I did.
Recently my sister-in-law Angela stayed here for a while on holiday from Australia. She knew about my lifestyle yet I had always remained dressed when she stayed here for fear of upsetting her. I need not have bothered, a set of unexpected circumstances led to me being nude when she came home after a day out with my wife and she seemed very relaxed about the whole situation. She said to me, “if it’s affirmation you need, you have it” and gave me a loving hug. On relating this to her daughter-in-law in Australia, Kathy answered “Thank you Howard for sharing this with me. I think it is tremendous that you are asserting yourself and are increasingly able to be open and acknowledge and share this part of you. And I’m glad you are Increasingly finding acceptance and sometimes find it where you weren’t expecting it. But of course no-one should have to assert, explain or justify themselves or be grateful for tolerance or acceptance, when they are simply choosing how they want to live without harm to anyone. So I hope you didn’t feel I need an explanation. I admire you tremendously for claiming what it is you want and need, too few of us know what that is and fewer still have the courage to challenge norms. I look forward to hearing about your successes along the way.”
Is this the expected prudish reaction that so many naturists fear? No, quite the opposite. It is also similar to the response I have had from other people. People do not express the need to join in but then that is normal, if I tell people I like photography I do not expect or witness them rushing off to buy the kit, they express interest and life goes on. The same with naturism, interest and respect not condemnation or being shunned. The much feared bad reaction is far rarer than I had ever imagined.
As a result of these experiences I have taken every opportunity to talk about naturism to as many people I can and have yet to experience a bad reaction. The very worst from a good friend was when she said “I don’t like to be nude”, but that was that, we still got on as good friends, my coming out had no effect on our lives.
My case it that much of “our” problem comes from us not society or officialdom, so what do we fear?
- Being ostracised? That has happened to a few people but has not stopped them following a naturist lifestyle.
- Losing our jobs? That has happened in only one case that I have heard of.
- Attracting unwanted attention? Not that I have heard of.
- Is the problem with the general view of social nudity across the nation? Not in my experience or by taking the evidence of what we see in the media, in fact I would suggest it is quite the opposite. The wonderful reaction from the onlookers on the large WNBR rides show this most clearly, any nay-sayers are a tiny proportion, the rest cheer us on.
- The view of officialdom? Possibly, but naturist speaking to family, friends and neighbours about social nudity will not risk any official reaction. I am not suggesting that anyone breaks the law but then it is not illegal to be nude in public in the UK as we see when we get police protection during the WNBR rides. Some police use public order legislation to harass naturists but the quicker we get out and show that society is not under threat of a breakdown in public order and that the courts usually throw out such silly prosecutions anyway, the quicker the police will regard reports of nude people as being as harmless as they actually are and do nothing. In the UK, the courts see this, the police need to catch up.
Do we need a complete shift in our attitudes? Oh yes, less fear, less shyness, more openness, better sharing of the delights of simply feeling the air on one’s skin, the freedom from clothing, the acceptance of all sorts of body shapes and sizes. In fact the whole reason we live this utterly harmless lifestyle.
I am suggesting that we are most of the problem and that we can do something about it. Get out there and be an ambassador for naturism. Life can get a whole lot better without ever trying to change society. Let’s change ourselves. Kathy’s reply says it all, “But of course no-one should have to assert, explain or justify themselves or be grateful for tolerance or acceptance”.