Monday, 11 June 2018

'Brave Nude World' and the World Naked Bike Ride

As someone who recently published a novel about a world in which public nudity is permitted under law, I thought I would write a short post here about an event, which takes place in cities all over the world, in which public nudity isn't just permitted, but is largely the norm - the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR).

I've participated in the WNBR once, in London a few years ago, and I found it a mostly positive experience.  I'd do it again except my calendar never seems to align with the event, but maybe next year or after I will be back there.

The book Brave Nude World, and the social change that it depicts, was in part inspired by things like the WNBR. At the WNBR, you see people who might well balk at the prospect of being naked in public at any other time seeing the event and thinking, why not?  Either because they want to help support the ride's message, or simply because it would be a new experience to ride a bike naked through the streets of one of the world's major cities; the participants go outside the social norms and (hopefully) find something positive in that.

That concept inspired my writing because I wondered about the experiences of those who took part in the WNBR and went fully naked (not everyone does), having never done anything like that before. Were they inspired by others to join?  Were they fearful or uncomfortable?  And did that fear pass?  Did the experience prove enjoyable, and did it lead to them re-evaluating how they felt about being naked in front of others?

These ideas, in part, led to the character of Rachel in Brave Nude World, someone who has previously not ever considered behaviour as radical as going naked in public but, now in an environment where this is more acceptable and where others are doing it and enjoying it, opts to not be a bystander but a participant, and as a result changes her worldview.

That said, however, the fictional world of Brave Nude World would, perhaps, not be compatible with the message of the WNBR.

In Brave Nude World, the nudists want public nudity to be not just legal (which it becomes) but unremarkable.  "As normal as putting on a sweater on a cold day" is a phrase which the book uses often.  The normalisation of public nudity is a key theme of the book.

But an event such as the WNBR demands resistance to the idea of public nudity as "normal". In order for its message (calling for a world in which cyclists are more numerous and, crucially, safer, as a means to encourage an end to dependence on fossil fuels) to be heard, it must stand out from the norm.  That is why the cyclists ride nude.  Because naked people are not the norm, and it makes them difficult to ignore.

That's why I've always disputed the idea that the WNBR is a "naturist" event, an annexation some naturists attempt because, well, naked people are naked people (ignoring the reason why the WNBR riders are naked).  But just like the "nudies" in my novel, naturists promote the idea that being naked is completely normal. The WNBR relies on it not being.

Perhaps, then, the WNBR would be a better fit for one of my other characters: Becky in Best Friends With a Naked Girl

Becky would love the WNBR, because she could be naked in public with maximum enjoyment and zero negative repercussions.  In fact (spoiler for Best Friends With a Naked Girl ahead) I almost considered using the WNBR as the setting for the finale of Best Friends..., but ultimately decided it would be more fitting for the girls to take part in an event where the number of naked people was a lot fewer and they were therefore much more individually noticeable.

In the fictional world of the novel, I like to imagine Becky as one of those people who lines up every year, naked on her bike, having a great time. 

Perhaps she even takes part in multiple events around the country where she can? And why not? Just as long as she doesn't drive to them - I genuinely have a huge objection to "naturists" driving in cars to London or Brighton in order to participate in a protest against reliance on cars, just so they can be nude in a public place. Take the train guys!

Brave Nude World and Best Friends With a Naked Girl are available on Amazon Kindle now.

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