Inevitably, whether someone accepts my reality or not, the questions come up: Why are you a naturist/nudist? Why would you want to see other people naked? How can you be naked around other people? And many variations on the theme.
These questions come from our Puritanical roots, of course, and are the product of a society built on fear of the body and body shaming. So, I don’t blame the people who ask. How could I? The cultural messaging is clear: Unless used to sell things, human skin is evil, shameful, disgusting. A body must look a certain way to be acceptable nude. Nakedness is gross.
We’ve come a long way backward from my grandfather skinnydipping in the river near his house with friends in the 1930s and his sister once saying in the 80s about a topless woman sunbathing, “It’s just skin.” School showers are a thing of the past. Even people who properly using adult gym locker rooms are mocked in various media. While at the same time, we use skin and the false equation that nudity = sex as a marketing tool to a) sell things and b) make the buyer feel inadequate. So, the message compounds and no wonder everyone is afraid of their own shadow, and worse, their own bodies.
The questions from the curious mentioned at the top serve to put anyone receiving them on the defensive. What they’re saying is: Justify your way of being to me. Make your excuse because you don’t conform to societal, cultural, and my expectations.
Again, these questions and the demands behind them are fear-based, conditioned responses from people who can’t imagine an alternative way of being. In an open and understanding way, we could answer their questions with a question of our own: Why aren’t you? It will give them something to ponder and hopefully they can come up with a mature response. We don’t need to put them on the defensive, of course, but we can remove the aggression of trying to make us lose our footing in the conversation.
Maybe we then invite them to try it, with us or on their own. My recent revelation to one friend (who had questions, but never put me on the defensive) has led to him finding himself as part of our community. In fact, he’s said it’s one of the best things he’s ever done for himself.
As for me, when I’ve accepted the defensive posture, I’ve been clear that I have always been this way, though I suppressed it for many years to the detriment of my own health. That I don’t necessarily want to see other people naked (as in, I don’t go through life picturing everyone with their clothes off) but that I do want to be around members of my community and that comes with the territory. And because I am who I am, being nude among my community is perfectly normal, as in context as wearing a tux as part of the wedding party, we just happen to be nude among each other as a clothing optional community.
For those of you who have dealt with aggression or lack of understanding, maybe this will help.