I’m feeling a bit contrite this morning.
Yesterday was Episode Two of Simply Naked, where a bunch of us naturist influencer types bantered for an hour about our personal projections as to what naturism will look like in 2021 and beyond. It was a great session, with real-time brainstorming happening right before a “live cyber-audience.”
I guess it was inevitable that at some point, we’d roll around to that weary trope that permeates nearly every thread on reddit and Twitter about the current state of organized nudism. What can we do about the “old, white, naked RV guys” that are often the predominant regulars at the local nudist park?
I’m keenly attuned to the irony of this post, in that I suspect my title likely describes the majority of the readership of my blog! And it also bears mentioning that I just had another birthday, (dammit, another one!) and depending on your benchmark, I’m rapidly approaching one of those milestones that definitely places me in that demographic, so I’m feeling sheepishly hypocritical. And while I’m in the mode of full confession, not only do I meet all the criteria of being a privileged white (aging) male, but I’ve also been incredibly fortunate that my wife and I have enjoyed naturism together since we first met. That doesn’t make me any less old, or less white, and we don’t have an RV, but you really can’t argue with the facts. One of those facts is that ageism is most certainly a phenomenon in organized social nudity, and it’s a double-whammy for those who have to go it alone.
Why was this a recurring source of banter for yesterday’s session? Well, because it’s a thing! During a recent visit to New Cambium in the Dominican Republic, I had an interesting chat with one of the female residents there who has come to social nudity relatively late in life. She was so taken with the sensation of swimming and sunning naked that she and her husband plunked down a significant chunk of cash to make that a year-round, everyday option. But in the same breath, she noted that when the gender balance gets too far out of whack, she reaches for a pareo or a shirt. She’s one of the tough ones – when others would simply say, “This is uncomfortable,” get in their car and leave, though that takes a bit of forethought on a Caribbean island.
I’ve written before about the male proclivity for social nudity, once in an autobiographical sort of way (SEE: My Obsession with Nudity), and since then, with musings about gender imbalance in regard to nudity around the house. (SEE: The Man is Always Naked) Given all of our travels to naked places all over the world, one constant has been the resilience of the male to be naked whenever humanly possible. A chilly morning walk to start the day – the woman is likely wearing sweats, and the man is completely buck naked. What is it with us dudes?
But our lively dialogue in yesterday’s session was even more specific in maligning a specific subset of the population, “The old, white, naked RV guy!” Perhaps he’s single or widowed. Or perhaps he’s in a committed relationship, but his partner simply says, “I’m not doin’ that!” and sends him off to the nudist park for the weekend by himself. While there is the occasional story of the creepy guy with wandering eyes, or even those awkward vignettes where a dude delivers an inappropriate compliment or advance to an unsuspecting female, I think most of the “old, naked RV guys” are simply trying to blend into the scenery to enjoy social nudity for exactly the same reason that young females enjoy social nudity. It just feels good. And to that end, they (We!) have a right to do so just as much as anyone else.
Brendan from Get Naked Australia (GNA) provided an intriguing insight about the evolution of his movement for social nudity, which amazingly, also has a trend with gender imbalance – that is, there are more women participating than men! (Yes, you read that right.) How did that happen? Well, that’s an interesting story. (You can hear him tell it in yesterday’s episode of Simply Naked.)
Essentially, GNA started out as a group of his friends, for whom he arranged outings to remote places where skinny dipping would likely occur, and clothing would be optional during the wilderness trek.
It was totally a word-of-mouth campaign. Two people invite two or their friends, who invited two of their friends, and as it happened, there turned out to be a preponderance of women who were most willing and eager to enjoy social nudity – among friends – within a known and safe environment. Brendan goes on to explain that he recently put a call out on social media, beyond his friend group, to see if there was general public interest from others wanting to join the group. The response was predictable: about 700 men and perhaps a couple-dozen women. (Brendan gives the exact numbers in the interview.) He knows that if the next outing is heavily dominated by men, women will be hesitant to embrace their right to clothing optional recreation, and more than likely, will never return to another GNA event.
At least here in the United States, this is further complicated by the simple economics of running a nudist park in an increasingly paranoid and prudish society. As someone stated in our online meeting yesterday, simply the cost of maintaining the pool at a nudist resort is a major expense – an expense largely borne by, you guessed it, “old, naked RV guys.” Somebody’s gotta pay the bills!
Sam and Aleah from Our Natural Life have long been involved with the Florida Young Naturists (FYN), a group that has often made deals with local nudist resorts to do a takeover event for the weekend, bringing in literally hundreds of people who don’t necessarily consider themselves naturists, but are most willing to enjoy a weekend of lively social nudity among friends. I think it’s the closest thing we have going in the States that captures the spirit of Get Naked Australia. Some resorts have embraced these collaborations, knowing that it will not only promote the concept of naturism, but will help put their resort on the map for many would-be naturists. But amazingly, other venues have rebuffed them, claiming such an event would go against the values of the establishment, (whatever those might be,) or cause too much inconvenience to the full-time residents (those folks paying for the pool maintenance). Really? Is a once-or-twice-a-year weekend event too much to sacrifice for the potential of cultivating a new generation of naturists?
If you’ve hung in this long, you might also want to read another post I wrote a couple years ago in homage to those who have kept the nudist/naturist ideal alive up until now. (SEE: In Praise of Aging Nudists) It seems with but a few exceptions, American nudist resorts are seriously on the struggle bus trying desperately to stay afloat. Some have sold out to weekend parties that extend the definition of social nudity to… ahem… “VERY social nudity,” while others are trying to figure out how they can rent their camping spaces to textile folks who are willing “to deal with” the naked people now and again for a place to park their RV all year round. That doesn’t seem helpful to the naked, old guys either, or anyone else for that matter.
The fact is, it’s time for a new business strategy, and that lies in the hands (and on the naked shoulders) of those of us scattered across the country who are hell-bent on preserving and promoting nude recreation. Brendan is definitely on to something with GNA, and it’s encouraging to see similar initiatives pop-up around the United States. Florida Young Naturists, Just Naked in NYC, and the west coast based Skinny Dippers are but a few grass roots movements that found their genesis in the passion of a few dedicated individuals who said, “We’re gonna do this!” But we need a lot more of these types of initiatives, and sadly, my own personal profile is more closely aligned to the “old, white, naked RV guy” than the thirty-something folks who could actually chart the course into the real future of naturism.
That doesn’t mean I’ve given up. Our involvement in Simply Naked, blogging about the virtues of holistic social nudity, while doing what we can go help populate Google and social media threads with content that seeks to normalize and demystify social nudity represent our efforts to create a naturist environment on this side of the Atlantic that, until now, we could only find in Europe and beyond (and those efforts go back twenty years now). In fact, I suspect there are a good number of us old, naked white guys – whether owners of RVs or not – who are eager to embolden the cause, as that can only make things better for everyone in the long run.
Please comment on this blog. Let your voice be heard. Help us make connections that can build a new GNA – “Get Naked America.” It’s hard to fathom what the nudist pioneers from Germany were able to pull together nearly a hundred years ago when the idea of social nudity first landed on American shores. Imagine what we could do today, equipped with the internet and a renewed national resolve for tolerance and inclusion. Maybe the next big event in Washington should be the Million Naked Human March. If a million of us showed up, all of us old, naked, white guys would probably end up making a lot of new friends.