Public nudity

Many years ago Adam got friendly with Eve, and they would enjoy each other’s company without the constraints of clothes. One day a serpent got talking to Eve, and no doubt in a suitable stage whisper, the serpent told Eve all there was to know about clothing. We don’t, of course, know if Adam and Eve were literally naturists at one stage in their relationship, or if this story is more to do with them gaining conscious awareness. It may have been this story that got Lady Godiva thinking, and eventually riding about “naked” on a horse. I am pretty sure that Lady C wasn’t a naturist, but rather she chose to go about in plain clothes, without jewels, in order to experience what “ordinary” folk felt.

I think that during the middle ages, and the early industrial revolution people had a relaxed attitude to nudity. I remember an illustration in a school history text that depicted early industrial revolution miners who had stripped off prior to being lowered into the pit – for comfort as well as cleanliness. But the rot set in in the early part of the 19th Century when people complained of naked MEN walking along Brighton seafront. Pretty soon we had the age of Victorian puritanism, which was only ended when Coco Chanel returned from her holidays in the south of France in the 1920s with a glorious suntan.

Today, our attitude to public nudity is rather muddled. Walk along Bournemouth seafront during the summer and one can see a few people naked, but they are all under 5 years of age. Cross over to Studland, and there is a beach where naturism is tolerated. I’ve walked along it a few times, and to be honest I can’t see what the fuss is. There are people who are naked, but otherwise going about their everyday business.

I’m afraid that I may just creep you out with this next line of thought – but bear with me. Imagine mum, dad and two kids on a train. We all know pretty much what their genitals look like. We even know that mum and dad have been “intimate”. And we all know that they are fully clothed. What in the grand scheme of things is the difference between that picture that I have painted, and a similar scenario that sees them on the naturist beach at Studland? Not a great deal, I suggest.

This all leads on to Steven Gough. If you haven’t heard of him his nickname is the “Naked Rambler” – a name he got from rambling around the country, naked. He’s an ex-military type who no doubt is keen on physical fitness. He also tends to get arrested at the behest of people who are offended by his…well presumably by his penis. But getting back to my clothed/naked family scenario above – surely he still has a penis when he has clothes on? The whole argument over Gough may well be because his activities make him stick out like a sore thumb, but if he went on long rambles FULLY CLOTHED would there be any fuss made about him? I don’t think that the problem is the fact that his penis is on show. Everyone who has ever seen him will know what to expect, and even people who are yet to see him know what sort of genitalia he will have. And the problem isn’t that people aren’t used to seeing pictures of naked people. Walk into any art gallery and the chances are that you will be able to view pictures of naked people. The problem is that people don’t EXPECT to see nudity when they come across Gough. But perhaps they should. There are only (broadly speaking) two possible scenarios when meeting someone: they will be naked or clothed. That’s not a lot of scenarios to consider…so maybe people should put their thinking caps on – and expect the unexpected once in a while.

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