Because maybe your neighbours aren't quite as comfortable with nudity as you are.
I’ve been making a habit of spending more time nude in my backyard this summer, but that doesn’t mean I’m treating my yard as a miniature naturist resort. After all, I want to be a good neighbour and also avoid any trouble (legal or otherwise).
There have been some recent cases in the news where neighbours have opposing views on things like nude sunbathing or gardening. This example from New Zealand ended up in court! I have a pretty good relationship with the neighbours on both sides and I’d like to keep it that way.
Nudity and the Law
In some countries, the law is more clear about what is and isn’t considered a crime as it pertains to public nudity. In the UK for example, simple nudity with no intent to offend is fine. Nude hiking or gardening is “a-ok” as a result.
In Canada, things are a bit different. According to Section 174 of the Criminal Code, it’s unlawful to be nude while exposed to public view and that includes both public and private property. You could read that as meaning you can’t be nude in public or on private property, but you could also read it as meaning you can be nude in your home or backyard (or anywhere, really) as long as you aren’t in public view.1
Canada’s law is a consensual approach to nudity where both parties — the nude person and the person seeing the nude person — must consent. If I enter a naturist resort either as a guest or perhaps someone making a delivery or doing some work there, it’s obvious that I’ll see nudity and I’m consenting to it by entering. The same applies to going to a clothing-optional beach that is signed as such. Nobody should be surprised by naked people at Hanlan’s Point2 in Toronto as there is plenty of signage letting everyone know what to expect.
Non-consensual displays of nudity are frowned upon in Canada. Skinny dipping and nude sunbathing at Wasaga Beach3 is not what the vast majority of beach-goers are expecting and you will likely end up in a conversation with the Ontario Provincial Police if you tried it there.
In the UK, where public, non-sexual nudity is permitted, the public is more generally aware of the fact that they may run into a nude hiker now and then. Or if they peer into the gardens of their neighbours, a few might be out there without clothes. It’s consensual because their society has deemed that nudity should be permitted and therefore expected in these certain situations.
Personally, I think it’s extremely disrespectful to be nude in situations or places where nudity is unexpected. It’s not shame that motivates me, but rather respect for those around me.
If I’m nude in the proper context — at the clothing optional beach, a naturist resort, etc. — then it’s fine. But outside of those contexts I feel that it’s my responsibility to be respectful in my practice of naturism to avoid causing any distress or offence to those around me.
I’m not especially concerned about being nude in my home and I don’t see much point to putting on clothes to go from the shower to the bedroom, for example. But I generally try to keep our light drapes closed on the windows with a view to the street out front and I certainly wouldn’t venture outside into public view without covering up.
As far as my backyard is concerned, if my private property doesn’t include public view, then there is no concern about Section 174. Adding some privacy shades, plants and fencing was more than enough to create a private area outside that allows for sunbathing and working in the nude without having to keep an eye out for neighbours or passers-by.
What’s your thoughts?
Some would point out that this particular statute is not often applied in Canada as it requires consent of the Attorney General to initiate proceedings. Suffice to say, if you are seen nude a time or two through an open window as you walk through your own home, chances are you’re fine. Taking the recycling out in your birthday suit every week may be a different issue.
Toronto’s only official clothing optional beach. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlan's_Point_Beach