Barricaded in my Naturist Cyber-Fortress

So I read the Nick and Lins piece about naturism on Facebook the other day on Naked Wanderings when they lamented the many ironies of social media policies where simple nudity is forbidden, while all sorts of other atrocities somehow slip through the cracks. To be sure, navigating the internet in search of reliable information about people who are earnestly interested in social nudity is a slippery slope that will almost certainly lead your favorite search engine into various porn sites, while helping you find “new friends seeking benefits,” not to mention an unsolicited fan club willing to send you pictures of their genitalia. Who could have imagined any of this back before the digital age?

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But here’s a thought for the day: What about all of us who feel so passionately about the naturist cause that we’ve barricaded ourselves in the naked cyber-fortress. That is, surrounding ourselves in naturist propaganda, if you will, until we actually lose perspective of how one’s quirky desire to doff his clothing is actually perceived in the greater context of the textile-loving masses.

Here on the eve of the 2018 mid-term election, I have grown acutely aware of how deeply people have aligned themselves to very specific ideologies. Of course, at the moment, most of the attention is on political perspectives and how those will influence the upcoming election, but it seems to me that the unintended consequence of social media is the emergence of so many factions who mainly pride themselves on their inability to understand the other side of the argument, regardless of what that argument is about.

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What does that have to do with social nudity on the internet? Everything! As my blog has developed over the years, I’ve cultivated my own news-feed from other naturist bloggers, keeping a particularly keen eye out for those that are up-to-date and insightful for the greater naturist cause. (Clothesfree Life, Felicity’s Blog, and Naked Wanderings are regular go-to outlets on this front.) But over time, I have found Twitter, reddit, and Instagram also to be good sources of information when looking for news stories about the naturist cause, or finding a new place to explore during our next nakation. While the nudism and naturism boards on reddit are well moderated, it’s taken a bit of time and tweaking to develop a Twitter feed that’s not overrun by stuff I really wasn’t looking for, but even with the harsh policies regarding nudity on Facebook and Instagram, there’s no question that those two platforms reach a wider audience, and arguably, do more to bring naturism into mainstream consciousness than most of the others combined. In fact, I just read an article this morning about the naturist movement afoot in Australia where over 8500 photos have shown up on Instagram with the hashtag #getnakedaustrailia, which has started to bleed into mainstream media threads normalizing nudity for 20 and 30-somethings. That seems like progress.

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But to my point…

I have spent so much time on naturist social media platforms that it’s difficult to imagine what I might find there that I would find shocking or offensive, including all that stuff that doesn’t belong on a naturist forum. That’s where the barricade thing takes hold! Begin each day with a fifteen minute dose of naked news, and after awhile, you no longer notice that anyone would go to social media with the expectation of seeing anything else? It’s a slightly different argument than becoming desensitized to nudity itself; it’s just that you don’t think it odd that there is casual nudity all over the internet, as one loses total perspective – the perspective that not only would my friends mark most of these threads NSFW, but may actually be downright offended.

“Offended? It’s just nudity!” we say.

Strangely enough, I have become most sensitive to this phenomenon while listening to several podcasts as people wager various opinions about the possible outcomes of the upcoming election. I thought two of these programs to be particularly thought-provoking: the first one that talked about the influence of “nationalist websites” on recent acts of violence, and the second that included an interview with a Russian journalist whose job is running a website known widely as an American news source. [Yes, you heard that right!] In the case of the latter, the news “factual” and drawn from real sources, but carefully selected to elevate fear and despair among citizens of the U.S. of A. Each of these examples represent the barricades of social media, as we all sit by our glowing computer screens absorbing opinions we already embrace about “stuff we already know!”

Despite the fact that my political leanings are probably well defined by my podcast playlist, that’s not actually relevant to this post. What IS relevant, however, is that in 2018, we can easily barricade ourselves within an impenetrable fortress in a forever “lock-in” with others who think, see, and feel exactly the same way we do! How many studies have we all seen about lonely people who spend night after night surfing the web, looking for community or someone to talk to, whereas twenty years ago maybe they would have joined a bowling league, or a model train club, or a sports league at the YMCA in an effort to connect with other humans… Other humans that would have that one thing in common (bowling, model trains, or basketball) but would surely have differing opinions on the big ticket issues, like religion, politics, and even social nudity.

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Bury yourself in the naturist communities of Twitter and Tumbler, and you will be inundated with memes and one-liners that relentlessly preach to the converted that nude is the new normal and the rest of the world just needs to deal with it. But the rest of the world is emphatically screaming at one another right now, making it clear that “We believe what we believe, and don’t even try to clutter my mind with an opposing perspective!”

I admit, when I think about the gravitas of promoting social nudity in comparison to some of the other pervasive causes out there on the internet right now, my default position is, “Pfff… my cause is harmless by comparison! Just let me go on nakation and soak up some Vitamin D.” But I think we – the naturists – are being unrealistic when we fail to acknowledge that some will be as deeply offended by our Twitter feeds as I would be by any number of social media sources crowding the airwaves right now spreading highly biased rhetoric that will most certainly shape the future of the human race.

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Ironically, I think I have always thought of social nudity as a channel of tolerance, that in the best case would read something like this…

You don’t have to practice naturism, and I will respect you for that, but I hope you will return the favor by letting me enjoy total exposure at my local beach or on a forest walk.

But tolerance is not particularly in vogue at the moment. And while that may not be the best news for the naturist movement, it seems that should be the least of our worries when we think about the level of intolerance and single-mindedness that is gripping the minds and hearts of humans all over the planet right now.

At the risk of concluding with a message of cynicism, I offer you these immortal words of Kermit the Frog:

“Take a look above you.

Discover the view.

If you haven’t noticed, Please do. Please do. Please do.”

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A shout-out the DeAnza Hot Springs in Jacumba, California for their most excellent memes included in this post. They convey a great message, and they run a beautiful operation in the high desert. You should grab a friend with opposing views and go for a naked walk in the high desert – maybe even take a moment to discuss something you don’t agree on!

 

 

Naturism & Exhibitionism: Enemies or First Cousins?

Some people dismiss streakers, naked protesters and even nudists and life models as ‘exhibitionists’ without fully appreciating that we are all, to a greater or lesser extent, motivated by exhibitionism. We learn to be that way in order to stay alive. A baby needs to be seen and to be noticed by its mother, and this need continues to operate in us throughout our lives… Every human being is motivated by this deep desire to be seen, to have attention paid to them, to be noticed and to be heard.

Philip Carr-Gomm, A Brief History of Nakedness, 2012

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

I keep trying to figure out how the social media thing coincides – in a meaningful way – with the naturist cause. I recently re-established my presence on Facebook and Instagram, (simply waiting for someone on a minimum wage salary to shut off my account for too much butt cleavage), hoping I might reinvigorate my web/blog presence to keep spreading the word that naked is not as weird as some have made it out to be.

But I have to say, forging the shark-infested waters of social media can be daunting! I’m less than a week into a new Facebook profile, and I can’t even count the number of “friend requests” from “beautiful women” who all have the same bio and no profile, or even more bizarre (to me!) private messages that routinely follow this same script:

Them: Hi. How r u

Me: Well, thank you. Trying to get a lot of morning stuff done.

Them: r u naked?

Me: Ummm… (In fact, I probably am.)

Them: Full body shot focused on genitalia appears in thread.

Me: Wow. Nice work there. Gotta go, Have an 8 o’clock meeting!

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

I’m a blogger. And a middle aged white guy who spends a lot of time at the computer. You’re going to have to go a long country mile to even begin to register on my shock value meter, but really? Isn’t there a better place to show your wares than finding Facebook friends who call themselves nudists? There has to be a more direct route than that to finding what you’re looking for. Actually, what are you looking for?

But back to the point. Sometime ago, I wrote an entire blog post about Philip Carr-Gomm’s book, A Brief History of Nakedness; a book I would strongly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves fascinated with naturism, nudism, or simply shedding one’s clothes. I found the entire volume to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, in the best sort of way, but especially when he got to talking about the exhibitionist thing. My take-away from his assessment, and quite frankly, a belief that I’ve held for quite a long time is that that humans spend quite a lot of time, energy, and money trying to shape the way other people see us. You could begin with the fashion industry, and work your way down the ladder to how much you pay for a haircut, but truth be told – we care about how we are visually perceived by people me meet from one day to the next.

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Naturist or Exhibitionist?

I think that Carr-Gomm would make the case that from that perspective alone, we are all exhibitionists. We present ourselves in a way that we’d like people to perceive us, implicit of all sorts of information about our religiosity, our political or sexual persuasion, our social status… you name it. The bizarre part of this conversation, however, is how people see us when we’re naked?! I made quite a rant in a previous blog post called The Demographics of Nakedness suggesting that nudity is not quite the equalizer that we like to think it is, but that not withstanding, a person without clothing will be perceived someplace on a scale of vulnerable to seductive, with so many variations in between, that it is simply too simplistic to say that nudity is genuine, real, and forthright. Nudity has a full palette of social cues that are no less complex than those in the textile world, especially in front of the lens of the camera.

My personal sense of purpose on this front is quite clear. In a perfect world, I come home from work, feel constrained by clothing, remove said clothing, then seek the nearest warm spot that provides the necessary conditions for nakedness, such as the chair in front of the wood-burning stove or immersed in the hot tub in the winter, or simply walking out into the Mid-Atlantic balmy heat in the summer.

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

But tomorrow, we’ll load the dog into the car to spend the weekend at a naturist retreat some four hours from our home, (A long drive!) to spend a day or so with other naked people. I am fortunate. We have the space and the freedom to be naked at home, and to a large extent, behind our home. Our neighbors know about our proclivity for nudity, but we’ve made the appropriate adjustments to “protect them” from a chance encounter with our unclothed beings. But alas, we’ll make the long drive anyway to get naked, and be naked with other humans, who also have this strange affinity to be naked with us. I reiterate, we are a monogamous couple that is not on the prowl for new sexual conquests, and we are intentional in choosing places that uphold those values so there is no confusion as related to such personal boundaries.

But do we enjoy seeing other naked people? Well yes. In the same way, I suppose, that you enjoy seeing what the celebrities are wearing this year at the Academy Awards, or more aptly, the joys of simply people watching while sitting in a shopping mall or train station. “Hmm… that’s an attractive person. I bet s/he has an interesting story to tell.”

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Naturist or Exhibitionist?

Carr-Gomm says that humans are inherently voyeurs, and essentially implies that such is necessary simply to perpetuate the human race. That’s a dicey argument in this age of political correctness, but quite frankly, I think he’s right. Social nudity is validating in knowing that you’re with other people who like to be naked, but it would be a bit disingenuous to suggest that naked people don’t derive some level of “pleasure” in looking at other naked people, in the same way that humans take pleasure in simply looking at other humans – even when fully clothed. For many, especially when fully clothed!

I realize this is dangerous rhetoric amidst the super wholesome values and guidelines implicit of nudist club creeds, which seem particularly out of sync with the “so called nudist folks” who keep popping up on line that are all too eager to show me more than I asked for. But I think this is a critical part of the dialogue if we’re going to elevate naturism to a place beyond dumb jokes about nudist colonies and worn-out clichés about the people who frequent such places. Truth be told, a person who can find comfort in a social setting, bedecked only in his or her own skin, has found some sense of peace within themselves. I have to believe that’s really a thing.

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

When I’m naked in a social setting, am I guilty of gazing upon the other naked humans around me to admire the artistry of the human form? Yes, of course I am. And am I at least a bit self-unconscious about the parts of my physicality that I wish were a bit more gaze-worthy? Of course I am. I am human. We are hard-wired to admire, and we wish to be admired in return. Not sure that’s shameful. It simply is what it is.

Sorry… I’ll get back to the travel reportage stuff soon, but I do think these are conversations that need to be had.

All images in this post were lifted from Tumblr under the search prompt of “nudist” or “naturist.” Suffice it to say, I left out the extremes on each end.

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

Talking to your children about the POTUS and porn-stars, school shootings, and the dangers of seeing a nude person on the beach.

What on earth is going on?

So first the first time ever, I felt badly for Donald Trump Jr. yesterday when I came across a news-feed that says he’s taking a lot of heat for letting his 3-year-old daughter play at home without a shirt on. Really? Are you kidding me?

So let me see if I can grasp where things are at here in 2018…

  • Whether you read the New York Times, or watch Fox and Friends, you can scarcely get through a single day without hearing the name Stormy Daniels, and at least some diffused reference to Russian prostitutes peeing in a Moscow hotel room. (Just to be non-partisan here, do we remember all the sordid details of how Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman!) In either case, the suggestion that these things didn’t actually happen simply ramp up the imagination to warp speed, causing one to wonder, “Huh! What would that have looked like?”
  • I remember the utter horror while the Columbine Shooting was unfolding on TV, some 20 years ago – simply unfathomable that such a thing could happen in what should be a known safe-haven for our children. Today, an event of that magnitude barely makes the evening news.
  • In the meantime, Netflix and Amazon Prime have all but replaced network television, completely changing the norm for (sexual!) nudity if you choose to watch anything other than the Disney Channel. Let me clarify the rules – It’s OK to see naked people on TV as long as they’re locked in a sweaty embrace, undulating in passion.
  • But turn to page two of the local newspaper and you’ll likely find some wacky story about a person who held up a 7-11 Store in the nude, or heaven forbid, exposed her breasts at the seashore or dared to breastfeed a child in a shopping mall.
  • Dare I even mention the ritual of “sexting” as that now appears to be part of the normal courtship routine for your average middle-school kid? Thank you Snapchat for creating a tool that (supposedly) destroys the evidence after 10 seconds.

I suspect my point is self-evident by now, especially to those open-minded enough to read a naturist blog. What on earth is going on with our collective sense of values? And beyond that, how do you have a candid conversation with your 13-year-old when he comes home and asks whether you think the porn-star payoff was actually drawn from campaign contributions? “My U.S. history teacher says it’s Watergate all over again.”

Our children are now in their late twenties. They grew up with the internet, and while we took to the normal parental precautions of having computers in public spaces, monitoring browser use, etc., smart phones didn’t become common until our youngest was a senior in high school. They had to discover the joys and perils of phone sex on their own time and their own dime.

We had (have) a very frank relationship with our children, ascribing to simple advice offered to us shortly after our first daughter was born. “When your kids ask difficult questions, answer the question directly with age-appropriate, but real information” But only answer the question, then stop talking. If they need to know more, they’ll ask more questions. Of course, we had also been taking them to naturist places from the time they were old enough to go to Disneyland, which pretty much negated the need for them to ask questions about body parts and pubic hair, not to mention the natural process of aging. They did, however, have some awkward questions about the old naked drunk guy who ran his golf-cart into a tree at a local nudist resort. That was when we decided American nudist resorts were difficult for families, and moved our naturist endeavors to France.

But honestly, I just don’t understand how children or adults are supposed to sort any of this out in relation to any kind of value system. Our most conservative friends will cite – chapter and verse – religious principals that provide a clear framework to establish right and wrong, but seem to have no reservations whatsoever about a President who does not appear to be contesting that he partook in intimate activities with porn stars and prostitutes, but whether such activities constitute collusion or fiduciary impropriety! Don’t even get me started on the people who attack teenagers who rally for gun control. Spend that time instead gathering up a few statistics about how many children have died after seeing a penis or a breast at the beach, then compare those numbers to how many have lost their lives as a result of going to school when a shooter cut loose.

I suppose critics of this argument would say, “You’re talking apples and oranges, dude! What’s your point?”

My point is that the most adamant critics of Donald Trump Jr. about letting his daughter run around without a shirt on, chastised him for “not teaching his daughter a proper sense of modesty.” Funny, our children never once got confused about when and where they could/should be naked. We never got a call from the principal telling us our son forgot to wear pants today. Nor did they ever get a French naturist resort confused with a textile campground or the pool complex at Disney World. “Hey! You can’t go to the mall naked” we said to our teenage daughters exactly never.

They were, however, of age about the time we had to explain the stains on Monica’s blue dress, while rationalizing whether oral activities did or did not constitute having “sex with that woman.” And having grown up during the the evolution of the various Nintendo systems, my children have a much higher threshold (or I should say, are completely desensitized) for violence in movies, video games, and on TV. Post a video from a European naturist resort on Facebook or YouTube and get your account shut-down. Put up a clip from the latest feature film with 90 minutes of death and destruction and your worst case is having the clip removed for copyright infraction.

I understand that not everyone was born to be a naturist. Some people don’t like going to the beach at all, with or without a swimsuit. And we all have our own issues with looking in the mirror each morning, and to what degree we can stand to look at ourselves in the altogether. That’s all fair.

But if we had to make a list of the top ten – top twenty? top ONE-HUNDRED? – things that are contributing to the moral decay of humanity, does seeing a naked person lying on the beach really make that list? Here’s a research study for an eager doctoral student someplace: “Compare the number of people who have fallen victim to a naked person, including fatalities, severe injury, or even lasting psychological damage, to the number of people who are completely adrift right now from other social phenomena.” Adrift because they struggle with porn addiction in an era where Stormy Daniels is a household name. Adrift because they are utterly confused about fake news and why lying is the new truth. Adrift because they lost a loved one in a school shooting, and nobody seems the least bit concerned about the prospect of giving guns to teachers.

Perhaps we should sell bumper stickers:

What’s more dangerous? A naked person or a teacher with a gun?

Good luck parents of the Class of 2036! Be sure to unplug the TV, home-school your children, don’t read fake news, and for heaven’s sake, don’t take them to a beach or a campground where they might see body parts similar to their own.

So many rules!

2018 – from the naked eye…

As so often happens during the cold winter months, I’ve fallen away from my blog. Winter is a particularly crazy time for me at work, and there simply isn’t much time to write, let alone give much thought to/about meandering naked.

But the weather is starting to turn here in the eastern United States, and it seems hopeful that despite blizzard like conditions all the way into April, there is some hope that it will soon be warm enough to work on the all over tan on the back deck soon. So in quiet anticipation, I thought it might be interesting to take a quick inventory of the developments in the naturist cyber-sphere that I’ve noticed over the past year.

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I was sorry to see Felicity and Jordan give up the fight for YNA (Young Naturists of America) after working so diligently in advocating for normalizing social nudity. If you don’t know Felicity, she is a 20-something that grew up in a naturist family frequenting a club in New Jersey, and she and her partner Jordan were incredibly progressive in their efforts to move nude recreation into the mainstream of their peer group. I have yet to meet them, but it seems the task simply became too onerous, and I suspect they simply encountered “too much weird,” as so often can be the case when working for a cause considered deviant by many, intentionally exploitative by some. In any case, it’s a bummer. You can still find some of the best content from their old website on Felicity’s blog, though she has ramped up her banter about feminist causes in this new incarnation. I get it, especially in this political climate, but it does diffuse the energy a good bit as related to the naturist cause. One would like to think that people who embrace naturism have already gotten past things like gender bias and discrimination, though as I said in an earlier post, (The Demographics of Nakedness) about the only thing naturists have in common is being naked. So there it is.

She’s also started a series of interviews with everyday people from all walks of life who frequent Gunnison Beach near NYC. Interesting project. Interesting read. The Real Nude Beach: A Body-Positive Photography Project on Gunnison Beach.

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I’ve become an avid fan of Nick and Lins from Belgium and their most excellent Naked Wanderings website and Instagram accounts. Was hoping I might actually meet them this spring as they are currently exploring naturist places in North America. They’ve amassed a huge following, and it appears they are somehow able to make a living writing about social nudity. In any event, they are wonderful ambassadors for the cause, and their website is becoming one of the best resources for naturism that gives a glimmer of hope to the under-fifty crowd for figuring this whole thing out.

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Clothes Free International seems to be making a comeback. Back in the early 2000s they were a significant force in the young naturist movement, particularly on the west coast, developing a series of video shorts called Nudes in the News that highlighted news stories about social nudity, along with a nice variety of trip and beach reports. For a long time, the CFI message boards were about the best thing going for finding other naturists and discovering places to become one, but alas, the incessant banter about pubic hair and erections were about the only threads that could sustain themselves into oblivion. I, personally, became disenfranchised when one of the moderators erroneously deemed one of my previous blogs to promote swinging as he had misread one of my trip reports. Despite repeated attempts, I was never quite able to sort that out, and ended up jumping ship from their forum. But in any event, they seem to have a new crew with new energy and renewed optimism for the cause. And with ever-improving technology, their production values are quite excellent. A good resource, for sure.

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It’s been someplace between amusing and astonishing to watch the Topfree in Ocean City debate burn up the airwaves, a perfect recipe for media frenzy. Seems a few determined women are eager to enjoy the rights of their male counterparts, but the mayor of this beachfront resort town is certain this will destroy the family values of what most would consider to be a ticky-tacky boardwalk wonderland. Have no delusions, Maryland is anything but progressive on matters like social nudity, with strict referendums passed a few years ago that banned discreet nudity on some of the most remote beaches of Assateague Island, where about the only beings you’re likely to offend are the wild horses who run there. I always wonder if scuffles like this one are more helpful or hurtful to the cause, especially in this day and age when narrow-mindedness is increasingly in vogue. I also wonder how hard one would have to look to find a topless woman on this expansive beach in the Mid-Atlantic? My guess is that you have a better chance of winning the Powerball than seeing a naked breast in Maryland.

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In a somewhat related story, a young woman from Australia took on the establishment, or more specifically, the highly restrictive rules regarding the posting of nude photos on Instagram. Nude_YogaGirl had her account suspended, but instead of simply deleting her page, she fought back with a media blitz in the Australian press – and it worked! Her account has been reinstated, and as of this post, she is enjoying over 786,000 followers! A quick perusal of her photos suggests she had to agree to cover nipples and the pubic region, but it’s still a big step for nudity on social media, which has apparently garnered the support of nearly a million people who are not too offended to follow her account.

So here we are in 2018. Evermore paranoid about the exploitation of children to the point where their faces are pixelated in everyday newspaper articles, and absolutely freaking out about nippleage on Instagram and on the beach. All the while, stories about the President’s sordid doings with porn stars and Russian prostitutes surface daily on every channel of the media, which must be putting most parents in a way more awkward position for answering questions about morality and behavior that stretch far beyond simply acknowledging the existence of human anatomical parts.

It’s difficult to identify the naked truth when both words… naked, and truth, have become so controversial.

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Dad!?! What the Hell are you Doing?

We made some new friends today at lunch during our first day (second visit) at Skinny Dippers Resort on Mallorca. As was the case during our stay last year, the typical introductory visit follows a fairly predictable script; Where else have you done the naturist thing? How did you get into nude recreation? And, if the pre-screening test goes well, the inevitable, “Do your kids know you’re here?”

As it happens, our kids do know we’re at a naturist place. We had a FaceTime session with our 29-year-old daughter today (appropriately undressed for the occasion) and her 27-year-old sister will join us (here at Skinny Dippers) for a few days in the coming week. As I have mentioned before, each of our daughters are naturist-friendly, or more directly, “we will undress for a free vacation.”

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Es Trenc Playa

Turns out that we are the exception to the rule by way more than a country mile! In fact, in our informal survey of other parents we have met at naturist places over the past ten years, there are approximately zero subjects who have told their children, “Yeah, we’re going to lie in the sun naked for two weeks – come join us if you’d like.” Which leads to an amusing story our new friend told us at (naked) lunch today…

Seems he and his wife were visiting a clothing-optional beach in Great Britain when their (now-adult) daughter was about six years old. Having completed a rejuvenating swim, the father came ashore with swim-trunks in hand, surrounded by naked people,  wringing out the seaweed and salt-water and enjoying a brief dose of fresh-air-all-over. To which the daughter replied in horror, [insert charming British accent here,] DAD!?! What the HELL are you doing?

What the hell, indeed!?!

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I find myself more introspective than usual during our world travels, with an unusual amount of time to read, and even a few minutes to catch-up on a few reliable news-feeds by the likes of John Oliver and Seth Meyers. (Sorry friends – if you’re an avid Trump fan, you may want to X out of this page now and get on with your day. Don’t let my little rant here diminish your appreciation for my blog.) Today’s confluence of events, besides this delightful story delivered with passion from my Brexit disdaining comrade, also included time on a floaty in the pool – naked, of course – while reading Bassem Youssef’s Revolution for Dummies, and the discovery of this handy little flow-chart that attempts to explain the terms of engagement for the President of the United States and the first lady of France.

Donald! What the hell are you doing?!?

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Thank you for setting the bar for us, President Trump.

In the case of the Youssef book, he walks his readers through the Arab Spring and the Egyptian revolution, step-by-step, so that westerners might have some insight into the rise of radical Islam, and just how that aligns with the other religious-gone-political campaigns the world over. Today’s lesson was, “Liberal thinking leads to discussion, which leads to democracy, which leads to freedom of thought, which leads to women baring skin (and driving cars!), which leads to… wait for it… mass orgies in the streets in every city and town the world over. You would think these observations to be ridiculous until you realize that Youssef struck such a nerve with his ironic humor that he was forced into exile, and now resides in asylum in the United States of America. (Don’t tell Donald.)

So let’s be clear. I’m one of those professor types that works pretty hard to draw conclusions out of non-sequitur ideas, but I have to say, we live in a bizarre age when the leader [sic] of the free world can essentially make a pass at another diplomat’s wife, when women of the Arab world are banished to a life of physical (fabric) and psychological (everything else!) imprisonment, and a six-year-old child is shocked by the appearance of her father’s penis at the distance of fifty meters on a clothing-optional beach.

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And for that matter, we are only frank with our adult children about our naturist doings because we had the audacity and resource to be naturists with them while they were children, though we had to travel all the way to France to make that seem normal and acceptable for them.

My point exactly? Well really, I just wanted to tell that humorous story from lunch today. But that aside, my desire to create a blog in the first place was to create a place on the internet where social nudity assumes its rightful place in this bizarre and chaotic world in which we live. In America, we even have children’s books that help us teach our children that “this is an elbow, this is a toe, and this is a penis.” If you’re really progressive parents, maybe you have those books in your house that help explain to your children that at a certain age you grow hair on your body and things start to protrude.

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But really? How does a child understand the oppression of women in the Middle-east, let alone the behavior of an American president, if they can’t see a penis or a breast without reeling in horror and disbelief? Especially in this day and age when they are simply a Google search away from the most extraordinary elements of sexual deviance, and god knows what else.

Clearly, my mind is warped in favor of nakedness, along with body acceptance, truthfulness, and a realization that humans have a finite number of body parts that make them human. If there are, indeed, orgies on the street, I don’t think you can ascribe those to the nudists. Truth be told, anecdotal evidence suggests people who are into sexual deviance (orgies, et al…) are quite shy about total nakedness. Too vulnerable. Too real.

“Dad? What the Hell are you Doing?”

“I’m being human, dear one. Go back to playing in the sand.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Demographics of Nakedness

[Photo credit to Spencer Tunick for the featured image]

Hello naturist followers and friends,

Dare I even write this post?

I’ve fallen behind again on my blog. I never got back to finishing my travelogue for our trip through naked Australia, with reviews yet to be completed of the luxurious BB at Byron Bay, or our final stop at the famed little resort near Tambourine known to loyal followers as BoBrene. And since then, I had a brief stay in Thailand that afforded a visit to a new resort in Phuket called Lemon Tree Resort – a very sweet little naturist retreat just a short drive from the waterfront, including a boat trip out to a makeshift naturist beach on a small mostly deserted island.


But alas, I feel a sudden urge to trump – if you’ll pardon the expression – my typical agenda of travel writing with a brief outburst of a philosophical nature, spawned in large part by some lovely people I’ve met in recent days during our first visit to a bucolic little resort in Honduras called Paya Bay. (Yet another review to be written!)

As is usually the case in making new acquaintances with naked people, the first topic of conversation was something of a naturist travel roll call. “Have you been to that little place near the Mexican border? How about one of those Big Nude Boat sailings? You were on the Royal Clipper to Venice when? Hey! I think we were on that boat!”

Then comes that awkward silence. We both prefer naked travel. We’ve been to many of the same places. You have a penis. I have a penis. (No gender neutral confusion there!)  Let’s see… what else?

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My wife and I have been naturists since about 1986 when we made our first visit to a nude beach near Santa Cruz, California. We are among the lucky ones as this was not a late-in-life discovery for us, but instead, a unique attribute of our relationship that has evolved as everything else does in a marriage of 32+ years. And the achievement of getting our kids through college and out of the house has afforded us many more choices for seeing the world – with clothes or without. Which leads to this somewhat meandering post that will attempt to take on a few myths about naturism that have long challenged my curiosities, most frequently leading to a final assessment of… “Huh!”

Alleged Myth #1: People at naturist resorts are much more social and friendly than those at typical (textile) resorts.

I think this is largely true, if for no other reason, you have a non-verbal starter right out of the box. “You’re naked. I’m naked. Let’s talk about how cool that is for a few minutes.” Talk about an ice-breaker! And truth be told, if you go to a Westin resort on Maui and invite yourself to join another couple at their table on the veranda with the opening line, “Hey, is this your first time wearing that ill-fitting bathing suit to a posh, overpriced resort – MINE TOO!,” you’re likely to get something between a stink-eye and a sudden escort from the resort bouncer.

Nudity is most certainly an immediate common denominator, and those who have been at it for a while understand the almost (?) competitive business of amassing destination pins in the naturist world map. “Oh, well if you like that place, you’ve got to try this other place with the naked zip line course.”

In all fairness, this is, all at once, an opportunity to boast about one’s naked accomplishments, while at the same time, conducting all so important naturist reconnaissance. Hours of digging through Trip Advisor Reviews will never compare to the candor and nuance of a travel conversation with a seasoned naturist, much of which involves a certain flavor of non-verbal communication that provides context for said reconnaissance data. But more about that later.

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Alleged Myth #2: The nice thing about being naked is that you are stripped of all the artificial barriers that put people at odds with one another in normal life. “A naked doctor and a naked plumber are on a level playing field while sipping a fruity drink on a nude beach.

It’s later!

I have heard this argument on the beach, in the hot tub, at the restaurant, in the pool, and on the veranda of a cruise ship. “The great thing about nudity is that it makes us all equal! We are all the same once stripped of our uniforms that provide cues about social status, income, education, and personal ideologies regarding motorcycles and the human qualities of cats.”

False.

Well, even if I could completely embrace the initial premise, this all changes pretty quickly once the first person breaks the ice with, “Is this your first time at a naturalist [sic] place? The wife and I never [sic] done this before.”

If you’re still reading and haven’t simply deleted the link to my blog as you dismiss me for being a pompous ass with an intolerance for people from varied walks of life, then you have tapped into the very essence of my point.

In fact, if you really think this myth to be a truth, try visiting the teachers’ lounge at Any School USA to see how those birds of a feather flock together. (Or not!) We are not all the same, even when most of our life choices regarding career, church, and family would indicate that we are, and the lack of clothing actually does very little to hide those differences which really matter.

I truly wish this wasn’t the case. When we first began our naturist explorations, we were much more optimistic about meeting people at naturist venues who would share our interests, values, and ideals. But in reality, I would put the odds someplace in the same ballpark as on-line dating. Once you’ve finished the obligatory conversation about “Isn’t it great to be naked and free?” You’ve got to have something else to talk about.

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Alleged Myth #3: Naturists are more open minded and accepting of alternative lifestyles, political and religious perspectives, and a general sense of live and let live.

In an effort to figure out what the hell is going on in the world right now, I’m reading two interesting books, each of an autobiographical nature, by political comedians who felt it timely to share their stories. Trevor Noah is the late night talk show host who replaced Jon Stewart, and Bassem Youssef was the Egyptian equivalent of Jon Stewart, until he was forced into exile after his rants about the complexities of the Arab Spring, albeit in a humorous manner. (And now you know something about me… I really like Jon Stewart!) Their stories are largely the same, each having found the absurdity of living under intense oppression, Noah growing up as a mixed race child in South Africa during the fall of apartheid, Youssef narrowly escaping his homeland when the government elevated his humor to a threat to Arab civilization. Their writing is all at once poignant and laugh inducing, in each case providing abounding evidence of how people fall short of relating to one another in a thoughtful and compassionate way, even when it would be in their best interest to do so.

Here at Paya Bay, this is the first time I’ve been naked in public since the United States of America decided we are far from united when it comes to what we think are the inalienable rights that bond us together. And perhaps I can evoke a bit more drama in suggesting (recognizing ?!?) that the motivations of one side of the political discourse is deeply intertwined with a particular religious perspective that suggests that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten resources to the US of A, so that he who was not born here shall suffer and perish.” Youssef and Noah drive that point home with stirring anecdotal evidence that compassion, while considered a virtue, is a country-mile stretch for the average human being.

So there it is. My political opinions – neatly packaged for consumption – that would die a sudden and violent death in a typical room full of naked people. From my perspective, it really should go like this. “Hey! Look at all of us! We all have essentially the same body parts, so we can put that part of the conversation to rest! So what say we tussle a bit about the other things that make us uniquely human, like the ability to reason, engage in thoughtful discourse, and simply agree to disagree in the spirit of tolerance and a commonality in the reverence for life, and living it to its fullest. (You are, after all, standing here naked! Isn’t that living life to the margin?)

But like everyplace I have gone since late November 2016, new acquaintances are regulated by a delicate pas-de-deux of feeling out one’s personal convictions before you blunder into a Cold War of philosophical dissension, or maybe even alienation and ridicule. But probably not. Better to play it safe and stay on script, “So this is your first time at a naked place?”

My point? Some naturists are liberal. Some naturists are conservatives. Some are quite tolerant, and others are not. It turns out that one’s desire to walk around without clothing has surprising little to do with any of those other factors. Each human is a complex organism influenced by the social environment in which s/he he lives his or her daily life.

For me, that was a “Huh!”
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Alleged Myth #4: Naturists are simply 21st century hippies who simply can’t let go of the good ol’ days in the Haight-Asbury, with all the accompanying affinities for weed, free love, and communal living.

Don’t I wish! As the youngest of four, my older siblings brought up the rear of that generation. In fact, my brother even went to Janice Joplin concerts at the Filmore, though I’m pretty sure he stopped short of free love in Golden Gate Park.

But it seems to me that a part of America died when the hippies grew up and got jobs in corporate America. Ironically enough, the free love thing sort of morphed into a swinger thing, (which the Millennials seem to have repackaged as friends with benefits. Just wow!) and this has become the very antithesis of what us high-minded naked people like to call naturist values. But the other piece that seemed to go under the bus was tolerance. Though one could make the argument that hippies and non-hippies may have spent a lot more time and energy talking about tolerance than actually being tolerant themselves.

Here again, so much rhetoric in the naturist community is given to body acceptance, though in my estimation, that’s pretty hit and miss as well. It amazes me how much humans obsess over another one’s piercings, tattoos, or distribution of body weight. Isn’t the point, “Here I am! Naked and unafraid! You don’t even have to love me, but is it so much to ask you to simply co-exist?

We have made several visits over the years to the infamous Cap d’Agde in the South of France, which might be best described as a place where, if you can imagine it, you will find it – and then a bit more. I find it to be an intriguing show where you can sit for hours at a sidewalk cafe watching the world go by; a man on a studded leash, a woman adorned in sparkly string that accentuates her crotch, or any number of genital piercings that would never make it through a metal detector. (Not to mention the amorous couples at the hotel pool who are less than subtle in their public displays of affection.) For my wife, it’s a good bit over the line. She couldn’t even tell you why, exactly, as we have never been approached by others to “come out and play,” nor have we had any reason to feel threatened by behaviors we would never engage in. But in the end, it’s beyond our daily repertoire of acceptable behavior, as if they’ve crossed that line, you wonder where the next one will be drawn.

I suppose that’s the very essence of society’s suspicious about naked people in general. Allow them to walk naked on the beach, and the next thing you know they’ll be naked in the streets, and the movie theaters, and maybe even at Disneyland. (I could launch off onto an entirely new tangent about yoga pants at this juncture, but maybe that’s for another day.)

If we’ve learned anything about people in recent decades, it’s that despite all of our insurance plans, extended warranties, and declaratory promises from various politicians, we are a fearful people, largely fearing those things which we don’t quite understand. You can see naked people undulating on the big screen entranced in the most intimate of human experiences, and maybe even get a glimpse of full frontal nudity, but catch a naked couple walking hand in hand on the beach, and clearly we’ve gone off the rail. That was the stuff the hippies were made of, and we see what happened to them!
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Alleged Myth #5: Given the assertion that at least 75% of the above assertions are true, any naturist community is a convivial community, where values are largely the same, and potential soulmates are just standing around naked, waiting to bond!

So at this point, this seems a bit redundant. Naked people really only have one thing in common. Nudity. And no doubt, if you’ve arrived at that point of life where you’d rather have a root canal before wearing nylon in a swimming pool, and you find yourself looking for a new soulmate, you are faced with an onerous task indeed.

Many have responded to my blog seeking advice as to how they might coax a naturist unfriendly spouse to give naturism a whirl. Seems bizarre. Most everything in their lives has aligned; they may have “connected” two human bodies to make more human bodies,  and they undoubtedly (but not always!) have seen one another naked, but making that step into the arena of public nudity simply violates too many social norms. Now with the proliferation of random photography and cameras hidden everywhere “for security purposes,” it seems a significant change to those social norms is not on the immediate horizon.

That said, getting yourself a ticket for a ride on a big boat with 1000 other naked people must increase one’s chances of finding others who at least are willing to embrace the naked part of the equation. But beyond that, it seems to me it’s just about like everything else. Each human is wired uniquely. It’s what makes us so interesting. It’s also what makes us so complicated. Turns out that so many of us are apparently just wolves – in no clothing!

Dogs seem pretty comfortable naked. Maybe we could learn a few things from them.

Huh!


Dedicated, with gratitude and affection, to Randy, Greg, Judy and Ann; two lovely couples we met at Paya Bay this past weekend who weren’t afraid to say, “We like to be naked… with people we like to be with!”

Wow. Thought provoking!