Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Wednesday 18 July 2012

The naked truth.

THERE can't be many people that enjoy seeing an unmotivated male member.

They're not the prettiest of things. They're quite silly-looking, they droop and dangle, and bounce around like a deformed chihuahua with no hair and a silent yap.

There's never been one of my acquaintance which caused me fear, alarm or annoyance. The giggles, yes, a roll of the eyes, even a degree of fondness in exceptional cases. But nothing that could really amount to distress, unless you count trying not to laugh out loud.

Seeing the same item in a state of excitement is a different thing altogether. There have been a couple of memorable ones that caused some alarm, and there's been more frequent annoyance especially if too much beer had been drunk or the goods were less than advertised.

I can understand why we don't let them on the telly while in full glory, and why we're not too keen either on looking at them when they've nothing much to do. They seemed silly when I was a child, I was appalled at them as an adolescent, and sometimes I look at a room full of people and think about all the silly things they've hidden away.

But I've never been offended by a willy to the point where I felt the owner should be locked up.

A series of Scottish sheriffs however took great exception to a man called Stephen Gough because he persisted in letting his little man dangle wherever he went.

After walking naked from Land's End to John O'Groats and being dubbed 'The Naked Rambler', he decided he needed to do it again, this time without putting his clothes back on every time he was questioned by police, which was often.

During his second attempt he got through England largely unscathed, apart from one attack by some youths, but in Scotland was arrested and convicted of breach of the peace which requires proof that his behaviour did or could cause fear, alarm or annoyance.

Mr Gough, a man who keeps to his principles if not his underpants, served a short sentence naked, was released naked, and promptly rearrested and convicted. The pattern repeated itself several times, with Mr Gough racking up further convictions for contempt of court after representing himself in court while in the buff.

Today he walked out of HMP Perth - naked, of course - after a total of six years in jail.

Let me say that again. SIX YEARS. That is as long a sentence as handed down to a Teesside man who killed during a drunken row, an American businessman got for embezzling $1.7million, and a German priest got for 250 counts of child abuse.

In fact, when you consider that with good behaviour a sentence in the UK can be halved, we're looking at him serving the equivalent time as someone who has committed extremely violent robberies, rapes or murders. It cost the taxpayer £500,000, too.

And he passed it all in solitary confinement, because he wouldn't put his clothes on.

There was no particular need for Mr Gough to do it, of course. There can't be much doubt he's what you might call 'touched' with an obsession which - while he is entirely sane and has managed six years living naked and with barely any human contact, which takes great mental resilience - is so extreme as to put him in a minority of one.

Despite having walked the length of the country naked, he chose to do it again because he felt he hadn't done it right the first time.

He said: "I kept thinking I'd been compromised. Why did I put on clothes when the police stopped me? That was wrong; it defeated the whole point." And so he did it again, "without compromises" or his undercrackers, hitting Scotland with epically bad timing in the middle of winter.

His ex-partner isn't too impressed with him; nor is his mum. His two teenage children stopped writing to him a while ago. Jail has aged him - he's 52 now, going grey and saggy, and doesn't look as good naked as he did when he started.

It all seems rather silly, doesn't it? Except that his reason for doing it was to show that in a world where we are repeatedly told we are bad - that we eat the wrong thing, think the wrong thing, that we are not up to scratch somehow - that we are born good.

He said: "The human body isn't offensive. If that's what we're saying, as human beings, then it's not rational."

What the sheriffs who jailed him never got their head around was his argument that it was putting clothes ON which he found offensive - that saying the way we were born is offensive to others is offensive in itself.

And he has a point. We are expected not to have wobbly bits, or saggy tummies, or grey hair. We are told to wear control pants or push-up bras, use the same razor or spray as a sportsman, so that we look like people in magazines who, if we saw them in the street, we'd think were freakish.

That's why young girls want long blonde hair, fake eyelashes and tan. It's why young men think they need to dress like the musicians they enjoy, why children starve themselves to look thin, it's why I don't like my bum and squeeze my spots.

There's not a mascara advert in existence that doesn't feature computer-generated eyelashes, or a shot of someone advertising hairspray or swimwear that hasn't been touched up. Tom Cruise being papped holding his daughter looks sweaty and short; Elle Macpherson has wrinkly sun-damaged legs; Katy Perry is plain without an inch of pancake on.

Yes, we prefer to look at Katy when she's made-up, and well-lit shots of Elle's amazing legs and Tom's chiselled torso. We'd rather see ourselves in the mirror as less hairy, less wobbly, more toned, and with better eyelashes, but that's because we're told that reality simply isn't good enough and we need to be perfect.

All our bodies are silly things, walking chemical plants with rogue hairs, scars and parts that are only roughly in the same proportion as others'. The fact that they exist beneath our clothes is not offensive to anyone sensible and it beggars belief that a man walking around au naturel gets locked up for six years while no-one is offended at the air-brushing, tweaking and lies which tell us we're not good enough every single day.

Mr Gough is now walking home to Hampshire naked, after he promised to avoid major towns and the Scottish authorities realised they were on a totalitarian hiding to nothing. I hope he gets a cheer and a pat on the bum everywhere he goes.

If any great achievement should be immortalised on the empty plinth at Trafalgar Square, it's his six years in solitary confinement for the crime of reminding everyone that there's nothing as silly as a willy pretending it's not there.

Stick your fig leaf where the sun don't shine.