Over on the social Internets, there has been a bit of a debate this past week that strikes at the soul of the nudist movement. An argument is afoot about where nudism ends and sexuality begins, with some advocating for an intentional blurring of the lines. That, by definition, is something other than nudism, but the argument has persisted, with those who understand the need for the separation of the two being chided as scolds or “purists” or whatever pejorative comes from trying to bend something to your will that was never intended to be that way.
Nudism has always held a tenuous position in American society. (A little history, such as the book Nudist Society, demonstrates the struggle for acceptance.) In fact, since my grandfather’s age of open skinnydipping at the river in the 1930s to the rampant gymnophobia and hypersexualization of the body today, perceptions of human skin have only got worse over time. There is a strong reason why people drew distinct lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior in nudist spaces and it persists today: Nudist spaces draw that line in order to ensure that the spaces are safe for everyone to participate – from age 0 to 120.
Choosing to blur the line of nakedness and sexuality could obliterate the progress made in the past century, because one would be intentionally erasing the truism that nudity does not have to equal sex. Pretending otherwise is either ignorant or an intentional undercutting of the few privileges we have achieved. And blurring that line will make it a lot easier for people to shut down nudist spaces.
There are, of course, many places to bring one’s sexual interests, but in the same way you don’t (or shouldn’t) bring those to work or to the bank or to the grocery store or to church and so on, you shouldn’t see the removal of clothing in nudist spaces as an excuse to bring it there. Ethics are a necessity and if some want to flout the nudist ethic, it shouldn’t be we who are protecting those spaces who get called out as puritans or some such nonsense.
The best thread I saw on this topic sprung from the brilliant and engaging mind of Almost Wild. If he’s not on your blogroll, include him now. Here’s the Twitter trail, which says it better than I did up above: