Monday, 3 December 2012

The politics of nude jogging [updated]

If you like to run around the house naked, that’s your business. If you like to run naked through shopping malls, however, then that’s the business of lots of other people—especially the owners and shop-owners of the shopping mall.

When you’re running naked through “public property” however—that is, when there’s no real owner to make decisions on standards of behaviour thereon—we all appear to face a conundrum.  Should it be allowed? At what hours? And if not, why not?

Nude jogger Andrew Pointon gets his kicks jogging nude around the McLaren Falls Park outside Tauranga. A public park. A government-owned park. So who gets to set the rules when there’s no real owner?

Andrew just survived an eighteen-month court ordeal in which Justice Paul Heath finally found Pointon not guilty in the High Court of offensive behaviour for this nude traverse of the Crown’s domain.

Pointon said Justice Heath ruled fairly regarding the nude jog.
"It's not offensive behaviour when you go out in the middle of the country to begin a run naked,'' Pointon said… "
It is a win for all libertarians…”
Mr Pointon's lawyer Michael Bott - a specialist in human rights and civil liberties – said…if the original decision had gone unchallenged, it would have had a "chilling effect" on freedom of expression.

I don’t agree.

Mr Bott has confused running with speaking.

It’s perfectly true that folk don’t have a right not be offended. It’s also equally true that folk shouldn’t be required to provide a microphone or a platform to those they disagree with—which is what happens when we all “own” a public place and Mr Pointon wants to run through it with his tackle all exposed. The issue of public ownership only serves to confuse an issue already confounded by widespread misunderstanding of what free expression really means.

That Pointon’s lawyer talks about the issue being about “expression” means he’s not just confused himself, but strongly suggests Pointon’s nudity itself is less about a private pleasure and more to do with shocking others. Expression, after all, has to be expressed to someone.

And even from the safety of private property, common law rightly prohibited broadcasting behaviour further afield that would diminish a neighbour’s own peaceful enjoyment of their property—especially if it were intended to cause offence. Thus for example, setting up a stage on your church-going neighbour’s boundary on which you intended a nude performance of the Nativity Scene would be prohibited, without their consent. Whereas taking a piss against a boundary tree would not.

Mr Pointon appears to have forgotten basic principles of neighbourliness. Not to mention courtesy.

UPDATE: Yes, people, “offense” is contextual. Which is why common law works it out so well. Also why Jimmy Carr gets away with the world’s most offensive jokes.  Or does he.


  1. I've been waiting for you to blog about this, and you've really disappointed me.

  2. I always endeavour to disappoint.

  3. Expression, after all, has to be expressed to someone.

    I disagree.

    A personal diary is expression.

  4. @Graeme Edgeler: I guess a diary is expressed to anyone that reads it.

    The issue of offending neighbours is quite subjective. For instance, what if your neighbour hated operatic music,and you played Wagner within earshot of him? What if you staged a Nativity scene clothed and your neighbour was an atheist? I'm not sure there are any easy answers.

    @Danyl: Why are you disappointed? Could you be more specific and provide some reasons?

  5. It wasn't that long ago that the State could insist on bathers being separated - women not at same part of beach as men; and decree the amount of coverage required. Considered to be quite silly laws now. Nudity in public places is more of a hygiene matter. (Most likely would have to declare swimming pools as private even if publicly owned)

  6. Minor factoid: Michael Bott (Andrew Pointon's lawyer) was the Labour candidate and thus one of my opponents in the Wairarapa electorate race in 2011.

  7. Richard - that's a fact. Not a factoid. Facts are things that are true. Factoids are things that people think are true, but aren't.

    And I think I diary is expressed even if no-one reads it. The suggestion that a state could ban the keeping of private diaries without infringing on freedom of expression is something I would take some convincing of.

  8. Surely the nativity/atheist or Wagner/Opera-hater issues are solved by your neighbour only buying their house if they have a caveat over neighbouring properties that prohibit things that annoy them.

    Why did they buy a House which didn't benefit from such a caveat if they wanted to avoid nativity scenes (nude or not) or Opera?

  9. The question is where do you draw the line. A couple may like to have sex in a opening along the track. If people think they will be offended they do not have to look as long as they are not having in the minddle of the track.

  10. What a pinhead decision this was. I think if someone went into the judge’s court naked, you would see the doublethink judge change his tune. This is just another aspect of liberalism that will cause more problems. In San Francisco they let these nudists go and then they began riding on buses and eating at restaurants until they had a gutful and banned them—and we are talking San Fran here, not NZ.

  11. A personal diary is self-expression. It's only expression in the context meant here if it's published. Which is the point, really.

  12. @Richard: " I'm not sure there are any easy answers. "

    Nonetheless, common law has the best of them. The "reasonable man" solution being among the simplest.

    "For instance, what if your neighbour hated operatic music,and you played Wagner within earshot of him?"

    Fuck 'im. :-)

  13. @The Conservative: "What a pinhead decision this was... This is just another aspect of liberalism that will cause more problems."

    Let's get some perspective, FFS. It's still just a bloke waving around his floppyy bits, not the end of frigging civilisation.

  14. PC, that’s exactly how they started in San Fran; the notion of a few bits then turns into exhibitionists—and we are only talking men here—hanging around parks, and then the paedophiles move in. San Fran pushes the boundaries on everything, and eventually even liberals wake up.

  15. Sorry, what is it we're supposed to be waking up to?

  16. Having recently gone to a naturist park for a dare I was surprised to find the strictest codes of behavior I have ever encountered . A anything even slightly sexual or ogling and people were thrown Out and banned without question

    1. So you don't get much space. I was surprised to find and disappointed to. E honest that there was nothing sexual at all about wandering around naked in front of people. So if any lewd or offensive behavior occurs then that should be prosecuted and. Not a. naked human being harming no one..

    2. What ? What I mean is in the right place and. Being sensitive nude jogging can be simply that .What is trolling.some nazi sight here

  17. PC, you can spin this any way you wish, but these are the facts: Liberals started nudity in San Francisco, and eventually liberals woke up and closed it down, led by Democrat Scott Wiener

    “Bloomberg Businessweek
    We’ve always had public nudity in San Francisco—in our parades, beaches, and street fairs, as well as the random naked person wandering through the neighborhood. Public nudity was part of the quirkiness and fabric of the Castro. About two years ago that changed, and it became a seven-days-a-week kind of thing. Every day there were a few, or more than a few, naked men displaying themselves at Castro Farmers’ Market and elsewhere. It created a lot of tension and anger among our residents and, of course, our businesses also weren’t fans. There’d be lines of families waiting to get into the Castro Theatre, and naked guys would be walking around with their genitals at kids’ eye levels.
    I didn’t want to rush to introduce legislation for something that might be an aberration, so I waited almost two years to see if it would go back to the way it used to be. Unfortunately, it only got more over the top. And eventually it got to the point where I needed to step in and take action. I knew there’d be significant resistance and opposition. That didn’t surprise me.

    Some of my opponents tried to paint this as the straight people with kids invading the Castro with their strollers, and that’s not the case. It was mostly gay men complaining about it. People were saying, “Nudity is what San Francisco is all about! If you ban nudity, it’s the end of the spirit of the city.” Listen, did I dream of coming into office and writing legislation with the words “anal region” in it? No, I didn’t.

    This was really a lose-lose for me, because it’s one of those issues where you’re going to upset people whatever you end up doing.
    But this is what local government is for—to respond to the issues affecting citizens where they live. I’ve been called everything: a prude, a puritan, a Nazi, a fascist. I’ve had people say I must not be well-endowed. That’s just politics. Last week after the legislation passed, people were screaming at me that I’m a Republican. I mean, come on. I’m the gay guy who represents the Castro. Really? As an elected official, there are times when there are issues you really don’t want to deal with. But you can’t just bury your head in the sand.”

  18. So what was the shocking thing that happened in San Fran. So far poor children have Been shocked for the rest of their lives because they saw the same thing that their father has .this is a sexist issue as one occasionally sees (shock horror) woman's breasts in public ,also the boobs on bikes parade.In Germany and Austria everyone of every age goes clothes free at lakes ,rivers ,parks etc. and There have been no problems.This is a quite conservative. country we live in and any dodgy behavior will be jumped on


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