Clover Spa’s Ladies-and-Couples-only Weekend: Great Idea or “Discrimination”?

6 Nov

ImageThat there are significantly more male naturists than there are female is widely-acknowledged.  There are a huge number of different explanations as to why this might be the case, many of which have equal merit.  But regardless of cause, the fact is that sometimes, attending a naturist event can feel a little bit like going to a very progressive monastery – almost entirely male.  The few women attending are also almost always in the company of males – I know hardly any single female naturists myself, although I am sure they are out there.

Clover Spa, the naturist hotel and spa in Birmingham, England, have decided that they want to do something to redress this balance, and so are exploring how to encourage more women to attend their establishment.

I would reassure Clover Spa that I personally feel they are already doing a great job of encouraging women and couples to try naturism.  Their hotel and spa is new, modern, well-kept, nicely decorated and pleasant to visit.  The surroundings, friendly majority-female (clothed) staff and the fact that it is a spa (with water, steam, massage and connotations of healthy indulgence), all help to create an atmosphere where it feels safe and easy to take one’s clothes off and enjoy nude relaxation which is very welcoming to women.

Certainly, on our last visit, there were no shortage of female patrons, and my girlfriend (not a day-to-day naturist but more a “when I feel like” sort) very much enjoys visiting Clover Spa and using their hot tub in the nude, maybe more than any other naturist venue we have visited.

However Clover Spa obviously feels that they could do more to encourage women to attend, and have identified what they perceive as an issue for some female customers: namely, that they don’t feel comfortable taking off their clothes in an environment where the vast majority of people are male.  That may not be an issue for all women: I have known female naturists who run the gamut from thinking it would be nice if there were more girls, to those who don’t mind being in the minority as long as there is at least one other lady in attendance, and even girls who don’t mind being the only naked lass in an otherwise all male group.  Still, I can easily accept that for some women, it is definitely an issue.

Clover Spa’s solution is to dedicate a weekend of its use, at the end of November this year, to only couples and single females.  Single males, although reassured that they are welcome at any other time of the year, will not be given admittance on that weekend.  Essentially, if you want to use the spa or hotel on those dates, you must either be a woman or bring one with you.

It seems like a good idea.  Women are in the minority in naturism and that can make naturist venues potentially feel like oppressive environments to women.  Making an effort to remove that feeling by artificially lowering the number of males and raising the number of females in attendance makes a lot of sense, if only to help women unsure about nude recreation get over that initial obstacle of taking off their clothes in company.

However, the announcement made by Clover has led to some criticism from certain quarters that the spa is discriminating against people who aren’t female or in a couple by closing it’s doors to them over that weekend.

These are often the sort arguments which get made whenever a minority is seen to be given something “extra” or a helping hand in the name of equality.  For example, Black History Month is routinely characterised by a few sour-graped individuals complaining about the lack of a “White History Month”, and there are always some terrible people who complain that Gay Pride events should be counterpointed by having “Straight Pride” parades.

People making these arguments so catastrophically miss the point of both the reason behind these events, and the whole concept of equality, that it is seldom worth arguing with them.

In the case of Clover Spa, though, it is perhaps not too charitable to give some attention to the complaint that single males are being discriminated against by not being allowed attendance on that weekend.  After all, it must be sad and frustrating to be told you can’t visit somewhere because of your gender or relationship status.  Implicit in the idea of encouraging more women to become naturists by holding women-and-couples-only events is that for women to participate in naturism more, it is necessary for single males to participate in it less.

I do feel sympathy for any single male who had made plans to visit Clover Spa that weekend, only to be told sorry, no, ladies and couples only – especially as that comes on top of the fact that many naturist clubs take the same policy year-round in an effort to keep out perceived troublemakers.  While in the textile world the single male enjoys many advantages, in the naturist one he is much more maligned, sometimes unfairly so.

So while I applaud Clover Spa for making a real effort to create a female-friendly naturist space, I can also see the point of view of those male patrons who are unhappy with this tactic.  That doesn’t mean I feel for a second that Clover should reconsider having this weekend.  However I do see how single males could feel a bit disappointed that they are being excluded in the name of welcoming some hypothetical women who may or may not feel less likely to enjoy themselves if there are a lot of men present.

I think it is important that women are encouraged to be as represented in naturism as they are in the general population – naturism is for everybody, regardless of gender, sexuality or race.  But creating female-only environments to achieve that can be problematic for the organisers.  Segregating people along gender lines, prioritising one gender over another: these are tactics which invite more criticism than they do praise, as they may risk giving a message to men that the cost of increasing the numbers of female naturists appears to be their own freedom to engage in naturist activity.

Ultimately though, I think Clover Spa has the right idea and I am sure their weekend will be successful – I hope it will also encourage women to visit on more mixed-gender weekends.  And if there are single males who feel aggrieved about the fact they can’t attend on that particular weekend, they can at least be reassured that there are 51 other weekends in the year when the facilities are available for their use and their normal privileges are restored.

(As a footnote, it has also been raised that Clover Spa’s “no single males” weekend is discriminatory against gay men.  That is, I think, something that is almost certainly not deliberate on the part of Clover Spa, but it is nevertheless a side-effect of the terms of admission on that weekend – although it is also worth pointing out that they say they will admit “couples” – they don’t say whether this means male/female and female/female couples only, or whether male/male couples will also be allowed, and that does not make allowances for single gay males, who are still single males regardless of sexuality .  The single male/gay male dichotomy in admission policies for many naturist venues is something worth debating, but it will be a long debate and so I would prefer to leave it for a future article)

One Response to “Clover Spa’s Ladies-and-Couples-only Weekend: Great Idea or “Discrimination”?”

  1. Paul C November 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    It would be interesting to discover whether this proposed weekend for women and couples only event actually does bring more clients/customers through the door. Will anyone in journalistic circles be prepared to either cover the event or ask the owners afterwards whether it achieved any objectives, whatever they might actually be in reality?

    Frankly, I will be surprised if it has any significant impact at all. Firstly, and most pragmatically, is the issue of just getting the word out to sufficient numbers of women who might go, from an advertising and promotion perspective. Secondly, there are presumably going to be men in attendance, even if it is with their female partners. That will still be enough to put off some women. Thirdly, undoubtedly, the presence of males, especially alone males, will put off women attending but only on top of much more fundamental factors.

    It is possible, if not probable, that women are just not as keen on getting their kit off at a public venue in the presence of others, even if those others are solely other women. There are myriad reasons for this that have been raked over, ad nauseam; inherent prudery, body shame, lack of self-esteem or simple confidence, worrying more than men what others, men or women, think of your appearance, social conditioning, media conditioning or maybe simply seeing nothing positive in it for them.

    Why do some people like to get naked, particularly in the company of others? What are the salient factors that shape behaviour in that respect and do those factors fundamentally differ between men and women? If the intrinsic factors, psychologically and emotionally, really do not differ between men and women then there are external factors affecting choices and behaviour, but if they do differ intrinsically, then there is nothing that you or I can do that will ever change the status quo.

    What do we really know about individuals’ perceptions of their naked selves and how others might view them? Despite all the frequent discussion, particularly in naturist or nudist circles, is our understanding of that any better than it ever has been, particularly as it might apply to the general population, that would not regard itself as being associated in any way with the naturist fraternity? When you consider the numbers of people who would still regard a desire to be naked in public as a perversion and as a predilection to even greater perversity, such as paedophilia, sexual promiscuity or whatever other nonsense that is typically pedalled, what real prospect is there of there ever being a sea-change in general attitudes towards public nudity?

    We may well have been two-legged naked mole rats for what seems like an eternity but we have been engaged in the process of trying to disguise that simple fact for an eternity as well. I don’t think the prospects of that changing nor the dichotomy of the variance in male/female attitudes towards that is going to ever change because a nudist hotel/spa gives over one weekend in a cold wet November to promoting the cause.

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