A reNewd Narrative


Opoutere Beach

I made a surprise visit to Opoutere beach located at the base of the Coromandel peninsula on Good Friday. I’d been in Tauranga for business the previous day, and decided to check out this unofficial clothing optional beach on the way home as it was only a short detour.

I was aware some clothed people would be there. I was also under the impression they tolerated nudity so once I got past the immediate crowd, I stashed the towel I’d wrapped around my waist.

As I walked the length of the beach I passed a number of clothed people uneventfully. As I got back to the more crowded part of the beach, I figured a towel draped over my shoulder was sufficient. This was actually more for my own comfort than theirs. Nobody paid me any attention.

This is a NZ narrative about public nudity. This is the reality in NZ because most people tend to readily accept nudity. Even on the forest path back to my car. The couple of people I passed said hello. No shock reactions.

It’s with this context that I read with interest a post by BoP Badger whose blog I keenly follow. I couldn’t help feeling that aspects of the narrative being expressed were somewhat influenced by a North American attitude towards public nudity.

What I’ve personally observed over the last ten years at least, is that this North American narrative of social intolerance to nudity has come to dominate the naturist conversation far too much. Conversely, based on what I’ve seen, heard and personally experienced in NZ. This conservative narrative doesn’t reflect reality elsewhere. Not in NZ or the UK where nudity isn’t illegal.

It’s from this perspective that reading Steve’s plea that naturists “just want the same consideration from others, and not be forced to wear clothes all the time ourselves,” is perhaps based on a self imposed limitation derived from the U.S. narrative.

Whose specific permission or consideration do naturists think they’re seeking?

What seems to be relatively clear, observing the many times people walk dogs off the leash irrespective of signage to the contrary. Drive cars on the beach despite the law and signs prohibiting it. People tend to do whatever they think they can get away with. There are near endless examples of this. Are these the same people whose consideration we are seeking? Are they even worthy of our consideration when they so blatantly ignore directives anyway and do as they please.

A key point of difference in NZ and the UK is that the law is on the side of the naturist. Unlike those ignoring signage, there is no statute prohibiting public nudity. Therefore, people are quite within their rights to swim, walk or otherwise be naked in public.

I can’t help feeling this is the narrative that should be promoted far and wide.

Every beach is a clothing optional beach if you get naked on it. If on the off chance people do get upset, which is doubtful. If they question your nudity you can always act naively. “Oh really? A friend of mine told me it was a clothing optional beach. It’s not actually illegal to be naked in NZ so I didn’t think it would be a problem anyway.”

It’s worth bearing in mind whoever sets the standard is the standard.

This brings us full circle to my Opoutere Beach visit. Short of behaving in a threatening, menacing or offensive way, there’s little to no reason why anyone would get upset or offended by nudity on a beach. Particularly if it’s a remote beach. Passing clothed people felt completely normal.

It’s this narrative I feel we should be should be relating to others. If the U.S. is stuck in a previous century where so much is prohibited in spite of their claims about being “Home of the free,” let them crawl their way into the 21st century. Meanwhile, let’s make the most of our legal liberties and human rights, and promote the fact we can enjoy our part of the world clothes free.

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