I’m always struck by the paradox at the heart of naturism in Ireland; people who want to ‘bare all’ often have to ‘cover up’ the fact by exercising extreme discretion and make pragmatic compromises so as not to ‘offend’ Victorian attitudes that are at best completely obsolete and would be ‘Father Ted laughable’ if they didn’t have serious potential implications for people’s lives. Were somebody convicted of ‘indecent exposure’ they could be added to the sex offenders register and face personal and professional ruin. Outdated attitudes (and legislative interpretations based on them) belong to the same body of historic collective opinion that denied women’s basic rights such as property rights and a vote, and criminalised homosexuality. They also echo current practices in fundamentalist states where a woman can be stoned for not covering her face in public. Surely it goes without saying that the human body is not shameful, sinful or offensive.
So many of us Irish naturists who have discovered the simple joy of being naked and free in a non-sexual way find ourselves in fear of being criminalised. Imagine – in a 21st Century European Democracy women can get arrested for taking their top off! But it has happened recently here in Ireland. Were the Gardai at the Knockstockan Music Festival enforcing the law or imposing laughably outdated Victorian prudishness? If the Gardai were right, the logical conclusion must be that every mother who breastfeeds in a public place should be arrested.
Attempting to criminalise the human body is an illogical, offensive notion that must be clearly rejected for once and for all. It would shock our Victorian predecessors who formulated the ridiculous attitudes to nudity that we’ve inherited that women can now own property independently of their husbands (!), our LGBT brothers and sisters can marry (!!) and the naked body can be seen constantly on tv, in the printed media and on the internet (!!!) but still here in Father-Ted-Land if you dare to undress in a public place you risk being branded a pervert(!!!!)… we have no official clothing optional places in Ireland – we are the ONLY EU country where this is the case.
To treat nudity as intrinsically offensive is perverse and to presume that a naked person on a beach is automatically engaged in a sex act is as ridiculous as arresting every chef in the country in possession of a set of knives for knife crimes! Is nudity intrinsically sexual? Is a person helping an elderly or infirm relative to take a shower involved in a sex act? Are parents bathing their children involved in a sex act??? Is a mother who breastfeeds in a café being exhibitionist? Rhetorical questions I know, but they do serve to illuminate the daftness of automatically associating nudity with inappropriate / undesirable behaviour or intent. Let’s be clear, naturism is about non-sexual social nudity which is a million miles away from the swingers’ parties or lewd behaviour that some non-naturists often associate with nudity.