First of all, generally speaking there is nothing wrong with skinny dipping, it is not a crime and can be extremely liberating. However not everyone is a fan and some people may feel extremely uncomfortable if you decide to bare all on a group swim. It is considered polite to ask if anyone minds but the trouble with this is people may feel uncomfortable to say no and so say they don’t mind when really they do! Some people also have jobs where skinny dipping is definitely a no go and so we need to be considerate.
So we Bluetits think the best way is to say specifically if a swim is skinny or anything goes. If a swim is not advertised as skinny or anything goes then you should assume a swim is ‘clothed’ only. You should feel free to ask the person who posted the swim in advance but don’t be offended if they say no. There is nothing to stop you from arranging your own skinny dip.
For those of you that really want to know the law, this bits for you. While skinny dipping is not a crime there are some crimes that cover nakedness in public places outraging public decency is one and indecent exposure is another. Both of these require more than just being naked.
Outraging public decency requires an act that is ‘lewd, obscene or
disgusting in nature’ (it’s really old law), it’s probably most often used for people committing sexual acts in a public place (so yes, sex on the beach is a crime if it’s not the cocktail and someone might see you!)
Indecent exposure requires someone to intentionally expose their genitals and to intend that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress. It was designed to prosecute so-called ‘flashers’ and is highly unlikely that someone just having a naked swim would qualify. I mean if you swim in the fountain in Trafalgar Square and then run around shouting ‘look at me’, you might be risking it!
There is one other possible offence and this is where using your discretion comes into it. There is an offence under s.5 of the Public Order Act where a person uses ‘threatening or abusive words or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress’.
Being naked in a public place could be considered ‘disorderly’ if that place were, for example, the embankment of the M25 in rush hour or a beach full of young children. It is highly unlikely you would be arrested or prosecuted for just taking a naked swim but discretion is clearly key. Are their people around who are going to be upset by you swimming naked?
In summary. If you want to skinny dip make sure in advance you have picked or arranged a suitable swim. Don’t set out with the intention to upset anyone and be considerate of those who may not want to see everything you have.
Happy dipping, clothed or otherwise!