The Spirit of Nudism

41g8znQS2YL._SX289_BO1,204,203,200_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,Β 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:

That First Venture Out… (part two)

IMG_3037.JPGIn my last post, I realized I published another first venture out – an actual full Vermonty photo. I never thought I would, so why did I?

Two posts ago, I talked about how I think about a lot of things and I led off with authenticity. As someone who was born a nudist, I know that there is no issue with the unadorned body. But, I’ve also swallowed a lot of the prevailing messaging that links all forms of nudity with shame. So, if I truly want to advocate for the principles of nudism that have been built for nearly a century in this country, was I being authentic to my worldview by keeping part of me hidden? And what was my hangup that led me to keep myself hidden?

The hangup, quite easily, was fear of judgment from the outer world. Fear that the wrong person will somehow try to use this against me. But as an advocate for nudism, the principles of non-sexual nudity in social situations, what am I, really, if I don’t own the fight? We have but one life to share, so it makes sense to make the most of it. In doing so, I am honoring the deepest part of my spirit, my truly authentic self. There’s little worse in my book than hypocrisy.

Folks, accepting myself as a nudist has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my existence. When I struggled with body image (which still creeps in) and was treating my body poorly, it was embracing the nudist part of my life that saved me from myself. I’m not a nudist to be seen, but if being seen helps someone else accept themselves, however they show up in life, then I am doing the best I can to spread the core values of nudism. I am paying back those within the movement who helped me find self- and body-acceptance. And, in turn, I am making myself whole.

If you’re a beginner, here’s what I find beneficial about nudism:

  • A supportive, non-judgmental community that helps you accept yourself where you are in the moment.
  • A feeling of freedom like no other, especially when in nature connected to the water, wind, soil, and sun.
  • A spiritual connection to existence that I never found within the confines of the walls of the religion in which I was raised.
  • A journey of self-acceptance about a body I haven’t always appreciated.
  • A connection with my truest self, the me I was born to be.

Not everyone was born to be this way. Some people make the choice. I think that the choice aspect is what creates discrimination against people like us. People tend to feel okay with bigotry against something different from themselves if they feel or believe that the person could just choose to change who they are. But whether it’s part of your DNA or you’ve made it part of your life, you deserve to live freely without discrimination or harassment. You deserve to be able to enjoy the fruitful tenets of the naturist/nudist movement that has been paved for us until now.

You deserve to be yourself, however you show up in life. Living honestly can set you free.

Peace.

 

That First Venture Out…

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Back in Maui whilst honeymooning.

I was 29, alone, and 5,008 miles from home, a continent and half the Pacific Ocean between me and most everyone I knew. I scaled the craggy bluff of volcanic buildup that separated the very-much-clothed Big Beach from the very-much-unclothed Little Beach at Makena State Park on Maui.

“These people have got to know where I’m going,” I thought as I began my ascent. Of course they knew where I was going, because everyone knew what was on the other side. The only question would be whether I was there to be a participant or a gawker. And then, if I was a participant, was I going to be worried about being gawked at?

On this warm, sunny, tropical afternoon on the southern coast of the island, I peaked over the top and saw a small, but sizeable enough beach flecked with beachgoers wearing nothing but their skin. After years of being closeted, of feeling out of place, I knew I had found my people and felt immediately at home.

I did not feel immediately confident though and I squirmed out of my clothes and lay down on my blanket. Almost immediately, gawkers appeared and I kept myself breathing rhythmically to remain calm. But I realized something in that moment. These gawkers were out of place. They were the ones who were suddenly different, whose provocation of any reaction would be to make us feel out of place where we all actually belonged.

I looked around. I was the only one who really noticed the interlopers. Everyone else was just chilling and having a good time. So, I steeled myself, said “this is who I am” to no one in particular, and focused on the hues of blue in what would turn out to be the warmest ocean water I’d ever touched. I stepped into my future that day.

A little later in my stay, I was able to get there again. And I have to say, while it was relaxing, it wasn’t fun to be there alone. Three years later, I returned on my honeymoon and had a much more vibrant time. Of course, by then I was confident and had also visited Pirate’s Cove in California (while also finding relatively private spots on some Malibu beaches). And on that honeymoon trip, I managed to be alone enough to disrobe at a variety of waterfalls you’ve seen on this site. The closeted nudist had become a naturist.

If you’re a beginner, trepidation is natural, because the messaging we’ve had pounded into us is consistent. We are not a kind society when it comes to differences, so the shame is instilled while we are young and those earliest lessons are the toughest to let go. But it will get easier and you’ll find yourself and your place in our world. And if you’re as lucky as I’ve been, you’ll learn at all these stops that the naturist community is among the finest and nicest out there.

As a Nudist, I Think a Lot…

fullsizeoutput_ba70As a nudist, I think a lot.

I think about authenticity and what it means to be true to ourselves when we are shoehorned into a society where no one really wants anyone to step out of line. I think about how being my authentic self, as a nudist, could mean that someone might be alienated by me. Perhaps even someone who has known me for a long time. For the many years I was fully closeted, I was worried a lot because I was going around in secret enjoying myself. It was a lonely existence.

As a young adult, I lived in an apartment with a childhood friend. I wore little and was told that that made him uncomfortable. We shared a bedroom and when I tried to sleep nude, I was told in no uncertain terms that was forbidden. I thought if I can’t be myself with one of my best friends, then who else is going to be ticked off? Maybe that set me back a few years.

As I hovered around thirty, there came a point where I couldn’t take it any longer and I told select friends and family. Part of it was due to the fact that I was now occasionally going to a nude beach and I felt weird lying about it. I didn’t need anyone to know about this part of me, but I didn’t want to hide either. I wanted both of my “selves” to meet each other. When I told those first people, there was a collective…. acceptance. I was surprised and relieved.

When I was in a graduate program, it was with a group of people who were relatively hippie-ish, and that is perhaps where my nudism was met with the most positive reaction. And so then I told a friend here and there, pretty much anyone I felt was trustworthy. A family we hang out with now has a pond and the husband once surprised everyone and jumped in naked. I joined. Then we warmed by the fire – naked among the clothed – and it was perfectly normal. The husband told me for years he had been trying to find someone who would jump in. I sense a tradition in the offing.

As I’ve crept into my forties, I’ve been more and more able to land within my own authenticity. Though I closed the TFV Twitter, I do keep an account where I’m clothed in it, but I identify nudism as an interest and will comment on or like some posts. I have connections there who probably, unless they examined my page before we got in touch, didn’t know this aspect of my life, even though I’ve known them for most of it. It’s a quiet way I’m working for normalize naturism. Why have the discussion come just from a naturist page?

I think about marginalized communities and what it means to be considered less than. Less than the prevailing winds. Less than what society’s culture has decided for everyone else. Less than what is considered normal or polite or decent by those who conflate nudity and nudism with sexual activity. I have tremendous sympathy for all the communities that are searching for acceptance in our increasingly polarized and mean country, who just want to exist without having to be preapproved by those inclined to disapprove.

As nudists, many of us are familiar with the closet, as I noted up above. Those who deal with their own closets – whether it’s stigma attached to mental illness, body shame and shaming, the inability to express their attractions or to be ostracized for daring to express their gender identity – should be a mirror to our own struggles and should allow us to flow empathy in their direction. Nudism is built on non-judgment, on self- and other-acceptance, on living and let live.

I think about the tenuous political position we are in. Here in Vermont, Democrats have tried to outlaw nudity every few years in our legislature. Their laws typically go nowhere, but it can put a stressor on things if they misunderstand that the openness we have with our bodies has nothing to do with the sexual activity they are afraid of. That’s not what nudism is. Republicans are no better, historically, when it comes to nudism either and the current rulings by judges of all stripes regarding free nipples should help us realize that our wonderful community needs to remain together.

It’s why I cannot understand how a nudist, a member of such an accepting community, can support the current president, a symbol of not accepting pretty much anyone. I’ve never worried if someone supported a Republican, Democrat, or other party’s politicians, even if their politics are different from mine. But I cannot figure out howΒ this guy gets any of our support.

I think about the peril of our natural resources. The Earth can go on without us on it, but I’ve rather been enjoying my stay. But with rampant wildfires, powerful hurricanes, increased tornadoes, and fluctuating temperatures, the Earth is telling us that it is sick of what we’re doing to it. And at some point, we won’t be able to go back. If it’s not already too late. And that’s where my naturism comes in.

As a naturist, I am never as calm as I am when quietly nude in nature. I thank the planet for sustaining me and do my best to be sustainable. A warm summer breeze, fresh water to play in, and aged rocks are all subject to calamity if we continue on our path. Food and water will dry up and we won’t be able to provide our children or subsequent generations with the general joy we shared while here. When I see these disasters, it seems that greed will always prevail, but we cannot accept that with finality. As naturists, again, our community can help turn the tide by reminding people what we’ve had and could have if we change our ways. But only if we can influence the powerful to change there. So, as we advocate for our own rights, we should never lose sight of the big picture.

There is nothing I like more than zoning out and just being, but as a nudist, I think a lot.

 

 

Unobstruct the Mammary Papilla

The Free the Nipple campaign took a hit in the legal system when the Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal of the three New Hampshire women who were arrested for going topless at a beach in 2016. The women believe (rightly, I’d say), that the rule violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution, because men can go without shirts while they cannot, putting an unequal and undue burden on them to cover their breast.

And it’s silly really, since men with larger and more pronounced breasts than women are allowed to be unclothed. This is due to a misogynistic sexualization of the female body by men over the course of history. So, rather than promote equality under the law and do away with deeply held, but nevertheless erroneous, impressions about the body, the Court let the ruling stand.

In Utah, a woman whose stepchildren saw her topless in her own home faces jail time and a ten-year stint on the sex offender list after a judge did not strike down a lewdness law. The judgeΒ amazingly claimed that she could not second-guess what lawmakers consider lewd conduct. At last check, judges strike down bad laws all the time, because it’s their job, literally, to judge things. So, in abdicating her responsibility, a topless woman faces an uncertain and damaged future. She still can appeal this decision.

Meanwhile, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an unequal law that required women to cover up in Fort Collins, Colorado. Though there has been some confusion about whether the law applies to all states in the Tenth Circuit’s jurisdiction, towns in Colorado are addressing their “decency” codes. The town attorney of Breckenridge has alerted government officials that their law is now in violation of the ruling.

So, a step forward and two steps back. All the more meaningful for #NormalisingNaturism in our society, so we can do away with all this craziness.