Young and Bare Down Under?
August 21, 2007 12:00am
THE next issue of The Australian Naturist magazine - TAN for short - looks at some of the clothes-free movement's newest pastimes.
"We are looking at some of the more alternative new features of naturism, like fire dancing," says Les Rootsey, the magazine's publisher based at Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast.
Rootsey's choice of lead story is aimed at attracting younger readers.
Recent reports suggest that in the US a failure to appeal to the younger generation means naturism (or nudism, the terms are generally interchangeable) is being left out in the cold.
Most 20-somethings, one resort owner in the US complained, don't want to sit around in the buff with people who look like their parents.
It is a problem which Rootsey obviously has his eye on.
TAN sells 20,000 copies every quarter in Australia, and a further 10,000 or more across countries such as New Zealand, Canada, the US and Britain.
Rootsey says he has "lots of younger readers" but they don't tend to join official groups.
"Younger people don't see organised activities as the way to go any more," he says.
The president of Queensland's Adam and Eve Social Group, who asked to be identified as Bill Evans, says the shortage of young blood makes him worried for the future of the naturist movement.
The group has about 100 members spread across Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, but the majority are aged well over 40. Club members meet every two weeks to spend time nude in each other's company.
They will hire out boats, restaurants and take advantage of the acreage properties of some of the members. Occasionally, more so in winter, club members engage in "textile activities", where clothes are necessary, such as watching professional sport.
Evans, 50, compares naturism to the gay and lesbian movement, which has slowly emerged from its cloistered state to variable degrees of acceptance across the world. "They got courageous and came out of the closet. They are not as covert as in the past, but that can't be said for our movement. I think it is fair to say there is concern for the (nudist) movement going into decline."
Evans says the lack of legal nude beaches in Queensland is exacerbating the problem, but he says that "more generally, the movement seems to lack appeal for younger people".
As in other states, public nudity is against the law in Queensland. The offence in question is wilful exposure, and is contained in the Summary Offences Act 2005. The law states a person "must not wilfully expose his or her genitals, unless the person has a reasonable excuse" either in a public place, or somewhere close enough to be seen from a public place. But unlike other states, Queensland has no legal nude beaches, despite the efforts of lobby groups such as Free Beaches Australia.
But that's not to say that nude bathing doesn't happen, and there are a number of unofficial nudist beaches along the Queensland coast, the most famous being Alexandria Beach on the Sunshine Coast.
So the only legal place for naturists to be in their preferred unclothed state is in private resorts and retreats.
Lisa Wright, 43, runs the Eureka Road Naturist Retreat, about 60km northwest of Maryborough, with husband Darryl, 46.
The couple has owned the retreat for 13 years and get about 80 couples a year. Singles and families with children are not allowed.
Lisa says the movement is "extremely healthy", but admits most active nudists are in their 50s. She says the only younger people their retreat attracts are Europeans, in particular Dutch, Swedish and Danish travellers.
But Wright says the emergence of porn on the internet has led some people to confuse the innocent values of naturism with the sex industry.
"If you punch in the word nude, you'll get porn, and that then reinforces that grey area of not knowing," she says.
She regularly fields calls from people who think their retreat is a place to indulge in sexual deviance, which it is not.
Newcastle-based photographer Alex Giles, 32, is trying to give nudists an unambiguous presence on the web with a newly launched website.
Operating as a sort of online nudist colony, the site gives people the chance to have professional nude pictures placed on the web in non-sexual poses.
"We set it up because we thought there was a gap on the web for everyday people to appear nude," Giles says.
"Historically there have always been problems getting young people attracted to nudism because it is a lot about accepting your body image."
First launched in 2005, the new site has more than 500 members who pay a subscription to view the pictures of themselves and others.
But doesn't that sound remarkably like a pornographic website? Giles insists it is not.
"There's no question of it being porn and we make it clear that it is not an adult site or a porn site," he says.
"It's purely just people without clothes. There is a debate about whether that alone is porn, but we assert that it is not."