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54 S COOP AUTUMN 2014
54 S COOP AUTUMN 2014
’ve never seen so much flesh. Smooth, sun-
tanned, sprouting hair. Taut, slack, meaty
and ruddy. Crumpled, creamy, pendulous.
Here, somehow, it all seems the same.
I’m at a pool party in the peak of the Perth
summer, where the sun beats down, rasping and
dry. The smell of beer and chlorine hangs thick
in the air, and nineties pop blares from speakers
that look like lava lamps. The guests – ranging
from those in their late teens, to late middle
age and beyond – have migrated to the pool,
beckoned by the call of the suburban oasis.
Some wear caps and sunnies to shield the
sun. Other than that, they’re stark naked.
Nudism is reportedly one of the fastest
growing leisure activities worldwide, with record
numbers in the US and Europe. Though there are
no hard-and-fast stats for Australia, the nudism
scene in Perth seems considerable. As well as
the Perth Nudists Social Group (an informal
Facebook-based group with about sixty members
and the hosts of today’s party), there are two
established nudist groups in WA: Sunseekers,
a sort of bushland nudist country club with
about 200 members; and Phoenix, a recreational
family-friendly club with 42 – though there’s
a bit of overlap between the three. North
Swanbourne Beach has played host to Perth
nudists for almost half a century – it even has
the playfully named Naked Fig cafe, which
I snigger at when I first arrange to meet
an interview subject there. Due to the varying
legal view of nude bathing in the eyes of
Council versus State governments, however,
a war has long been waged to keep the
“People equate nakedness with sex, and they
can’t get past the fact that with nudism that’s
not the case at all,” says Mark, a 32-year-old
government worker and president of the Perth
Nudists Social Group. Fellow member Jennifer,
a 29-year old crowd controller and mother,
assumed that was the case when a family
friend introduced her to nudism years ago.
But after falling pregnant, it became painful and
uncomfortable to drag clothes over her strained,
swollen stomach, especially in high summer.
Suddenly, nudism wasn’t about sex. In fact, she
found the opposite. “It returns to the purity and
innocence of a time when the pressures of society
had not yet kicked in or been taught,” she says.
We live in a world where bodies aren’t just
layers of organs and muscles and bones and
skin. There are layers of history, too. And
religion. And the media. And it’s a hell of
a lot harder to strip these off than it is to
shimmy out of our underpants.
“When Adam and Eve took a bite from the
apple they said, ‘We’re naked, we are ashamed’,”
says Her mann Brenner, a retiree who was
brought up in Germany and moved to Australia
in the early 80s. “I think since from then, there’s
always been a bit of sexuality in the human body
itself, a source of almost evil.” To hear him speak
so seriously is a bit unnerving, as he otherwise
personifies ‘jolly’, with cornflower eyes that
crinkle at the sides and a steadfast grin. “Two
thousand years of conditioning can’t be undone
in one generation,” he explains.
“In the current culture there is a trend for
things like advertising and media that use over-
sexualised imagery,” says Jennifer. “Yet as soon
as the human body is exposed without these
expectations it embarrasses the general public.”
In ordinary life, the only time a person is nude
is to bathe or have intercourse, she says. Society
only finds nudity acceptable when it’s “to the
tune of procreation or simple sexual pleasure”.
As an administrator on several nudist
Facebook groups and forums, Hermann
speaks fluent digital. Amid the internet’s excess
of pornography, he finds Facebook policies
sit in squeamish, grim judgment. “On
Facebook, [a picture of] breastfeeding where
you see a tiny bit of nipple is against their
community policy, but the worst kinds of
violence doesn’t bother them,” he says. “There’s
this hypocrisy, this double standard.” He talked
about a hopeful time in the 60s and 70s, when
people adopted a more open-minded view
toward nudity, but worries we are moving back
to a “prudish, Victorian attitude”.
Hermann Brenner, and
his friend Jennifer.
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