Naturist hate: Is it a crime?
Uncovering truths and seeking justice in the naturist community
I didn’t expect I’d be returning to the subject of media so soon, but recent events over the Christmas period have forced my pen. I spoke about why my husband and I are happy to appear in the media in an effort to normalise naturism and to free people from the shackles of society and its view of clothing. I also spoke about some of the negativity we had experienced. However, what happened over Christmas was next level stuff!
Wider British society, like many societies around the world, is constantly reinventing itself. This is natural and to be encouraged for the sake of human progress. As a popular meme quoting author and activist Maya Angelou says: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Unfortunately, progress always meets with resistance from traditionalists, who fear change will destroy what they know as ‘normal’.
But what is ‘normal’? It’s something different for everyone, and anything that doesn’t fit with a person’s day-to-day view of how things are is, therefore, by definition, ‘weird.’ The problems start when something regarded en masse as normal in society is challenged. And the idea that a person can live their regular everyday life without feeling pressure to clothe themselves when there is nothing to protect themselves from, is one such social challenge.
We are not concerned about being seen nude, yet there is an important distinction to be made between wanting to be seen, or ‘exhibitionism,’ and simply not being concerned. When nudity is part of your normality, your state of dress is of little to no concern when you are having a picture taken.
So, I willingly agreed for a journalist to write about our Christmas 2021, supplied images, proofread the article, and ticked the box. What I hadn’t realised, is that by ticking the box, anyone could run the story. (Every day is a school day!) And they did. It went “Viral,” and each publication that ran it edited the original story slightly, losing the original intent of the article. The positive message seemed lost entirely on many, who simply did not read more than the headline and came only to gawp at the pictures. The reactions in the comments section and on social media were sadly very predictable.
The view of nudity in wider society is shaped by a lot of ignorance, and it showed. There were many in the vein of ‘not for me’, and that is fair enough. We’re not looking to convert the nation, but rather just asking for acceptance as a minority group.
There were also those that cited the heating costs, and again fair enough, but that did show that they assume we are nude 24/7, which, regardless of fuel prices, is only really feasible during the summer months in this country. We feel the cold as much as anyone; therefore, clothing is usually a requirement at this time of year. We are only nude if there is no reason to wear clothes. In fact, that’s what clothing is ultimately for—protection. Protection from injury, from the cold, and from ignorance. We’re just normal, respectful people. If anyone objected to our nudity, we would of course cover up.
Then the ignorance really started showing. Some questioned our hygiene. “I wouldn't want to sit on their furniture or eat anything they cooked'' and “Bet their couch smells lovely…” were two of the less graphic comments.
Our sofa has a fleece blanket covering it, and our dining chairs are wipe-clean. When we go out, we sit on a towel, as per naturist etiquette. As Douglas Adams says in ‘Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,’ “A towel ... is about the most massively useful thing [you] can have.”
But more importantly, skin is skin, no matter where it is on your body. Naturists are most likely to be the cleanest people you will ever meet. What is more, when not enrobed in tight-fitting cloth for hours on end, sweat and bacteria don’t build up. Skin has a natural ability to balance itself when not affected by artificial coverings.
It’s not sexual
A lot of the comments mocked and made jokes that used sexual innuendo. We are often accused of ‘sense of humour failure’ when not finding funny comments that involve references to looking at his/her baubles, or being careful when picking up cocktail sausages, or “bet the turkey wasn’t the only thing he was stuffing.”
The fact is, we aim to normalise the sight of all of the body and not have parts of it focused on. Media censorship actually doesn’t help here, pixelating female nipples, for example. That only further entrenches the idea that they are something to hide. Censorship in the media needs to be redefined to pixelate sexual context, not physical body parts.
The fuel for a lot of all this is the widely held misconception that nudity equals sex. We are taught from a young age that we must always be clothed to prevent others from having sexual thoughts about us, and as we become adults, the only time we should ever find ourselves naked in front of anyone else is if we intend to have sexual intercourse with them.
This has far-reaching effects on the attitudes and judgments of others. It's at the heart of the ‘put it away’ culture, where we have this idea that we should not see genitals in a non-sexual context, that they are somehow ‘privates,’ and doubly so if we do not find the naked person ‘attractive.’ The philosophy behind naturism punches through this false morality and disconnects the concept of sex from the state of being nude.
Non-sexual social nudity is not only a real ‘thing’ but is actually good for you. Research by Dr. Keon West of Goldsmiths University demonstrates that “communal naked activity increases body appreciation by reducing social physique anxiety”. Spend just 10 minutes at any naturist club and you’ll see just how wrong society has got it.
However this is as yet not widely appreciated knowledge. The sexual misconception creates a level of vitriol in the comments sections that borders on hate crimes. Comments like “I’d be concerned about a man of that age who was pretty bloody happy to be around my teen with no clothes on. Turn your brain on ‘mum’”; “Odd very odd, they need investigating”; and “There’s a reason there is such a thing as euthanasia”—are not only grossly misinformed at best, and very hurtful at worst, they are actually very dangerous, verging on incitement of hatred.
Little recourse against hate
Indeed, if naturism were recognised as one of the protected types under current hate crime legislation, then offences would have been committed. The law protects a naturist’s right to be naked anywhere in the UK, recognising that the state of being naked is not something that can be illegal in its own right and that only action or intention can constitute criminal activity. What is more, the onus is on the other party to positively demonstrate the intention of the naked person to cause alarm or distress for nudity to be part of an offence.
Naturists never intend to cause offence and only want to be accepted as they are. But there is currently no protection in law for naturists from those ignorant of naturism or the laws surrounding it from hurling abuse, or worse, assuming there must be a child protection issue. Particularly horrific are the comments like “If anyone took their children here they all need locking up,”; “Think the social need to be informed this is not right,”; and “So he would be alone with the 15-year old daughter? Not On Normal Courtyard Exercise”.
As naturists who have allowed ourselves to be in the public eye, we have had to develop a thick skin, and as middle-aged adults we know the comments say more about the individual writing them than anything about us, and we try not to take them personally. But to a 15-year-old girl, reading such comments about her parents is deeply distressing. And having the article picked up by outlets known for ‘shock and mock’ stories, such as LadBible, which is popular with that age group, it was only a matter of time before she felt like the laughingstock of her whole school. Not once, in any publication, was she named or photographed, but her peers had made the connection and tagged her in the comments section. On a positive note, though she has handled it all beautifully, which probably speaks volumes about the maturity of children brought up in a naturist environment, and her school has been very supportive. LadBible has also since responded and removed their original post.
Let me wrap up by saying we weren’t naïve and of course knew this was likely to happen, even if the scale surprised us. And if anything it has only strengthened our resolve to continue pushing further into the mainstream media. But with that, there is a collective responsibility issue here for everyone.
To the naturists and all those who understand non-sexual nudity, do not stay silent in those comment sections. When the majority of comments are negative, a snowball effect occurs, and they believe they are speaking for the masses. You may feel it’s not worth the fight, but your words may be read by another viewer who has an undecided mind, and you could just swing the balance of their opinion. Don’t argue with people, but rather explain to the audience why they are wrong. 🪐