Morning Story: It's bad form to exhibit your bits


Once during a seminar in Wellington I was given a strange piece of advice on how to calm the nerves of public speaking.

"Imagine your audience naked," the rather lovely female presenter on stage told us. I got nervous imagining her imagining me naked in the front row.

What perplexing logic.

I assume visualising an embarrassing scenario for your listeners puts one in a position of clothed confidence over one's audience.

Heaven forbid I'm ever called upon to speak at a naturist club.

Latterly the press has been flush with tales of the unclad. Nude weddings, a reporter who went undercover, so to speak, for a story at a naturist club, a garmentless jogger in Tauranga who successfully challenged a conviction of offensive behaviour and, of course, the comings and goings of our quirky naturist clubs.

If media reports are a fair gauge of what goes on in these clubs, it seems a clear benefit of membership is the athleticism it affords; volleyballers, bikers, swimmers and tennis players the lot of them.

Seeing as I don't possess an Adonis-like physique, I can make the honest observation that nudists, despite their athleticism, don't look particularly athletic. It's like a lawn bowling club simply forgot to dress one morning.

It begs the question: Are these folk active volleyballers, bikers, swimmers and tennis players outside their naturist clubs? If not, it seems membership entails not simply exposing one's bits and pieces, but showing how dynamic bits and pieces can be. To be nude is not to be sedentary. Sloth replaces pride at the top of the list of seven deadly sins.

Public interest in these clubs is understandably high. If not more accurately, public curiosity. Hence, the necessity to report yet be discreet on these clubs' happenings has made for many challenging jobs for newspaper photographers.

The most memorable for this columnist being the precise timing of a shot of a male naturist performing flips on the club's trampoline. After spending too much time on this unwanted assignment, the photographer returned to the newsroom a broken man. Jesting, I pushed him for more detail, but stopped listening after his "catapulting" description saw me deafened with the sound of my own laughter.

Apologies for imparting that visual first thing on a Monday morning. I'm simply seeking a little empathy for the hard work our photographers do.

Nudity, if I was being fair, has its advantages.

On a first date you're at second base the instant you answer the door. But then, how many second dates has such fleshy honesty stymied?

Another naked perk, so a former university flatmate tells me, is opening your front door unclad helpfully rids your porch of those wholesome looking folk who knock and hand out leaflets.

And let's be fair, it must be liberating. It's hard to beat a little sunshine.

Yet here's the thing - I simply can't empathise with this strange ilk.

While anyone I flatted with in my younger years will be slightly bewildered at this juncture, rest assured my objection isn't based on Victorian principles.

No. Quite the opposite.

My beef with such exhibitionism is that it insidiously demystifies the human body. Naturists, through their vigorous sporting pursuits, are eroding the shock and awe of the homo sapien form.

It's why sports crowds (despite what commentators tell you on air) adore streakers. At the inaugural International Wellington Sevens in 2000, where I counted myself lucky to be among the crowd, a lone runner (we later discovered an Auckland accountant) bolted from the dead ball area and ran two diagonals of the field, completing what I called a fully-naked half Hennie Muller training sprint. The crowd, as they say, went wild. I'll never forget his face: focus, exhilaration, fame. The clothes-less cameo was the singular highlight of two days of spectacular sevens footy.

It's why I say we need at least a skerrick of prudishness to retain the power to laugh at streakers, wardrobe malfunctions and split trousers.

Mark Story is assistant editor at Hawke's Bay Today.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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