There’s nothing quite like swimming naked in the ocean. Swimming naked is always so much more invigorating and life affirming than wearing bathers.
I’m not a naturist. I’m one of those people who sees a deserted beach, strips off and has a swim, and would really like not to be fined because society has developed some weird hypocrisy around the human body that seems to be okay with hardcore porn being accessible on your phone but not okay with the non-sexualised activity of nude bathing.
Today I checked out Tyagarah’s newly appointed clothing-optional beach: 800 metres of beach where people can legally swim, stroll, sunbake, and even play volleyball in the buff. Of course they can also wear pants. That’s what ‘optional’ means. It’s possibly the most inclusive 800 metres of beach in the Shire.
Today was their family fun day, so it was possibly busier than most days. As I arrived at Grays Lane a bunch of skydivers were scurrying into the carpark ready for pickup; 200 metres along I spied the group who had to fight so hard to defend their right to beach usage. The group I had heard described as the ‘honeypot’ for sex predators. I wonder if anyone who used this term had actually attended the beach.
Honeypot is not the word I would use. I would probably describe the Photoshop-perfect bodies of the under-25s in brazilian bikinis on Byron’s Main Beach in that way, but not those at this beach. These were older men and women. Grandmas, grandpas, possibly even great grandmas and great grandpas. A dad and his young son. A woman who’d had a double mastectomy. Bodies weren’t pumped and preened. They were unashamedly normal. Sagging, hairy, gender diverse, chubby, thin, old, and young.
Are normal bodies offensive? Is this what upsets people? Are we only comfortable with artifice? Are we the imperfect supposed to be unseen? I watched a few comfortably round people enjoying a game of cricket and thought how wonderful that they were proudly enjoying their bodies on a beach where there was nothing to hide. Where they felt included and accepted. This truly was body positivity in action.
Society spends so much time shaming us about our imperfections that this simple act of very normal ordinary people shamelessly enjoying the body they inhabit becomes somehow deviant.
I love seeing the bodies of older women because it tells me of what is ahead for me. The powers that be don’t want us to see these bodies. They don’t want us to ever truly like ourselves, in case we stop getting botox, or attending boot camp, or joining gyms.
When I was in Munich we spent a day in the English Gardens and swam in the river. One side of the river is clothed, the other is not. That’s about five metres of river separating the groups. I got a wonderful photo of an old naked dude with a giant donger walking with two women in burquas beside him. No-one seemed to have a problem. It was so refreshingly healthy I took a photo but I can’t show it on Facebook because it’s owned by Americans and they censor healthy humanity. Giant boobs pushed together in a bra commercial for Victoria’s Secret would be okay though. Objectification is fine. Just don’t show us anything real.
You don’t have to be a naturist to support a person’s right to a clothing-optional beach. It’s about Beach Usage. I don’t like dive boats going out at The Pass because it makes it congested and wrecks my quiet swim, but I understand that other people get something out of it. The beach has many users: commercial and non-commercial – like beach weddings, horse riding, dog walking, surfing, fishing, boot camp… it’s clear that we must share this incredible resource. And hey, there is enough to go around.
In Queensland there are no clothing-optional beaches. In NSW on a coastline that extends for 2,137km there are only 2.4km designated clothing-optional beaches. There are 79,000 skinnydipping / naturist beach users in NSW – so on that allocation that gives about 3cm of space per person!
The argument against our CO beach has been around safety for women. If we were to look at targeting sexual-assault hotspots in our region, we’d have to stop selling alcohol and close down Byron’s main streets.
People are responsible for their behaviour. You can’t limit the freedoms of everyone else to ‘control’ a minority of sick people. I am proud that I live in one of the few progressive communities in NSW that has a clothing-optional beach. If Byron Shire ever loses that, if we become another conservative town, then who are we?
You may as well pave paradise and whack in a McDonald’s.