Hi everyone! Thanks for your patience. I know it has been a minute since I’ve posted something new or engaged much in social media. I’ve had some tumultuous—yet mostly good—events arise out of seemingly nowhere which have taken up a lot of my time, energy, and attention. I’m still here, just with a head full of anxiety and cautious optimism! ✌🏼
Ah, the age-old debate around tattoos and pubic hair. Let’s also throw in piercings because that seems to get almost as much attention in online nudist circles as the other two. In every online nudist community that I have ever joined, be it the cloud of nudists on Twitter, an online forum, or Reddit, the question of tattoos, pubic hair, and body piercings inevitably springs up. So let’s talk about that. Not the tattoos, pubes, and piercings themselves, but why we keep returning to the topic.
First, not all questions about these big three “issues” are created equal. They tend to range in depth and agenda, but most of them fall either under the category of curious inquiry or moralistic judgment. To be completely honest, I have seen both of these angles discussed ad nauseam, but it’s the moralistic judgment category that I find most problematic. The reason it can be problematic is that it asks people to discuss and debate whether nudists ought to have tattoos, whether we ought to shave our pubic hair, or whether we ought to have body piercings. The problem here is not the tattoos, pubes, or piercings, but the willingness to judge others based on what they choose to do with their own bodies and to then pervert the debate by implying that true naturists and nudists don’t have tattoos, don’t shave their pubes (or do, depending on whom you ask), or would never pierce their genitals or nipples. Placing moralistic judgment on what another person does with their own body feels very contrary to the principles of naturism and nudism to me.
Here’s my question: Why do we care? Why in the world would I care what another person decides to do with their body, and why in the world should I think that my own preferences on how to interact with my body should dictate how others should interact with theirs? I do not think that most people who engage in these discussions online really care or have prejudices against tattoos or shaving, but when the question is posed and the discussion starts boiling, it’s not long before someone declares that if you are a real naturist and you really respect your body, you would not get tattoos or piercings. And here I am wondering to myself if the people sharing those views understand the hypocrisy of what they are saying. How can a nudist promote a lifestyle of body acceptance and body freedom and not value others’ right to do with their body as they please? It’s not like we nudists debate how we should style the hair on our head or whether we should wear makeup, after all, which brings me to a quick side note…
Why the obsession with genitals? Yes, obviously being nude reveals our genitals. That’s part of the package. But why draw attention to them? I don’t think this would strike me as quite so odd if there were just as many discussions circling the Internet around the way that nudists style the hair on our head or what we do with our armpit or leg hair… it’s that the pubic hair debate is always the prominent one. I will concede that one great thing about nudists is that we don’t look at any body part as taboo, whether in art or in conversation, which means talking about pubic hair is, of course, perfectly normal. OK, side note finished.
It seems perfectly innocent when the discussion revolves around what we prefer to do with our own pubic hair or what tattoos or piercings we have. It can be fun to talk about our personal likes and dislikes, our own grooming habits, or our aesthetic preferences, so I completely get it. And if we’re not wearing clothes, these are the things we are left with to personalize our style. I admit that I enjoy telling people about my tattoos if they are interested, and if I had piercings, I would probably enjoy swapping stories with other people with piercings. I wonder, though, if the discussion keeps coming back to tattoos, pubic hair, and piercings so often because there is still a debate simmering about whether nudists should have/do these things at all. Like I said earlier, nobody is discussing how we should be cutting or styling the hair on our head or how we should do our makeup, because we are all very used to the idea that each of us has free rein to do with our locks whatever we want (though I imagine you could find some negative opinions about unnaturally dyed hair in an online nudist community somewhere). When it comes to the hair on our head, nudists tend to completely avoid the discussion, as though we acknowledge that other people’s beauty routines are none of our business and that it would be silly to discuss it. When it comes to pubic hair and body modifications, suddenly it’s fair game. Fine. I won’t fight it because I do think it’s harmless, but let’s at least recognize that it is a little strange. Maybe we just run out of other things to discuss.
Regardless of any one person’s feelings about tattoos, pubic hair, or piercings, I think we all regularly get enough external input about what we should or should not be doing with our bodies, what we should or should not be eating, what we should or should not be wearing. It isn’t helpful to get that same kind of judgmental input from other nudists, people we should be able to count on to be free of judgment. As long as you are happy with the way that you decorate, groom, and adorn your own body—or choose not to—that’s all that matters. Let’s let each other make our own choices, let’s talk about it, share our experiences, share advice, and support each other’s choices even if they are not the choices we would make for our own bodies, and then let’s appreciate the fact that we have built a community where we can be as open and accepting as we are. I have always really enjoyed the diversity of body grooming and decoration that goes on in naturist and nudist circles, and being without clothes makes for an even greater canvas for creativity.
So do it, or don’t. Get your pube trimming on if that’s your thing. Get your full-body wax on if that’s your thing. Get your full bush on if that’s your thing. Get your genital or nipple piercings on if that’s your thing. Get your tattoo on if that’s your thing. You do you, I’ll do me, and I’ll support you regardless. It’s your body, enjoy it how you want to.
Finally, since I know you’re all wondering what I do with my pubes, I’ll tell you: Sometimes I trim them. Now you know, you wonderful naked weirdos, you.
No nipples, no genitals, no butt cheeks, no pubic hair: The perfect human, according to the content restrictions on most social media platforms. Fortunately, I’ve had all of these surgically removed so not to offend anyone online.
All jokes aside, of course we can’t just have all of the “offensive” parts removed from our bodies, but we do go about our online lives mostly as thought bubbles, talking heads, or fully-clothed mannequins, particularly where we spend the majority of our time, like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. I suppose you could argue that online interactions only really require our minds, not our bodies, but the Internet, thanks the increasing prevalence of photo and video media, has become much more than a place to share text-only information. The Internet is a reflection of nearly every aspect of real-world life, from art galleries and marketplaces to community centers and libraries. If there is room on the Internet for every aspect of human life—the good, the bad, and everything in-between—then there must be room on the Internet for the human body.
To an extent, there already is room for the human body on the Internet. We do have Twitter and MeWe, after all, along with TrueNudists and myriad forums, resources, and pages. Isn’t that enough? No, I don’t think so. Being relegated to the darkest corners of the Internet isn’t quite what we had in mind. One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that there is virtually no limit to how we can use it and what we can share on it. The limitations imposed by individual websites, media providers, and social media platforms only exist within the confines of those sites, and I don’t disagree that they should have the right to decide what is and is not allowed there, especially if they are catering to a specific group. But what happens when a single social media platform like Facebook becomes so ubiquitous, so unavoidable, that it becomes synonymous with social media itself? What happens when one social media platform becomes the preferred space to keep in touch with loved ones, friends, and acquaintances both new and old? Does that platform still have the right to dictate what can be shared?
There is an important distinction here between spaces that are created with a specific group in mind and spaces that are created to be shared by everyone, and this applies to the real world just as it does to the Internet. Online and offline, we have special spaces set aside for religious groups, advocacy groups, people who share special interests and hobbies, people within certain age ranges or who have certain professions. And that’s great. Nudists have these spaces as well. So, wonderful, but what about Facebook, right? Does human nudity have the right to exist on Facebook? In the real world, nudity tends to be criminalized in public spaces, so the strongest case against allowing nudity on Facebook, I suppose, is that we already have a precedent in the real world for restricting nudity in common areas so that nobody sees anything they don’t want to see—the park doesn’t have content filters, so there are rules. But Facebook is not just one giant common area: Facebook is a collection of private spaces shared between consenting individuals, making it more like a gated community than a public park. When we share something on Facebook, we are able to choose who amongst our contacts can see that content or whether it is visible to the whole world. We can also decide whether we want to see the content that our contacts are sharing or if we would rather not. This, to me, is much more akin to inviting friends or family into your home and deciding what you want to share with them while they are there. Do you take down the photos from when you visited the nude beach earlier this summer? Do you put away everything political? Do you shove the dirty magazines back under your mattress? Do you change what you’re wearing or fix your hair?
And what about YouTube? If Facebook is a gated community, YouTube is… well… I’m not sure. What YouTube has demonstrated, though, is the feasibility of restricting access to content through age verification and “inappropriate content” filters. Even though they have shown that it can be done, YouTube still has nebulous enforcement against content containing nudity, allowing it for the purposes of documenting an event but not for recording people who just happen to be nude or topless. If these filters and content settings exist, why does YouTube need to decide for its users what they should be able to watch or share? Let the viewers decide what they want to see; let the creators decide what they want to share. And if someone does something illegal, deal with that separately. Circling back to Twitter briefly, we can also see that it’s possible to foster an environment where any content is allowed, and where the user’s experience is fully formed by their own online behavior: If you follow porn, you will see porn, but if all you follow are political activists, that’s all you will see. It’s an interesting model that may not work for other platforms, but it does show that a social media platform does not need to assume responsibility for what its users can see and share.
My real question, though, goes a bit further: What makes social media so different from other forms of communication that technology has brought us? Nobody is stopping anyone from mailing nudist magazines and brochures through the mail in sealed envelopes (not anymore, anyway). Nobody is restricting what you can talk about over the phone. Nobody is censoring the emails you send. Nobody is restricting what you can say or share in your text messages. All of these means of communication are more or less off-limits for censorship and everyone gets to use them. I wonder, then, if social media built for use by everyone (as in, not created specifically for use by one group), should also fall into this category. If social media is the de facto way that most of us are keeping in touch with one another, should there even be restrictions on how we are allowed to use it and what we can share? Should Facebook’s own ubiquity limit its right to censor its users? I think there is an argument to be made that, in the twenty-first century, social media should be mostly off-limits for censorship, and that we as users should be the ones who shape our online experience through filters and privacy settings. The problem is that I don’t know who will fight for this cause and actually make progress. How do you convince a corporation to ease its stance on nudity in an environment where online platforms like Tumblr are becoming increasingly restrictive? It would be great to see national (or even international) nudist organizations stepping up and working directly with platforms like Facebook and YouTube to find practical solutions. At the end of the day, not being able to share nudist and naturist experiences online means less exposure for nudism and naturism overall and diminished ability to promote the movement, so it could benefit the national organizations to advocate for this.
In the meantime, I don’t know if repeated indignation shared only amongst ourselves over naked bodies being censored on platforms that we know have puritanical content policies is helpful… but… suggesting pragmatic solutions, advanced filters, and better privacy settings just might be. Explaining the situation to non-nudist friends so they can see how these rules affect not only us but them as well just might be. Pressing national organizations to advocate for better systems just might be. Writing about it just might be. And for now there’s Twitter, which, let’s be honest, is a larger, more active platform than we could have ever expected to give us a space online to be nudists… or pretty much anything else. Cheers to that.
Remember the early days of naturism when physical activity was an integral, even enforced, part of naturist philosophy? Remember the days when members and visitors at naturist clubs were required to take part in daily exercise?
Me neither, thankfully. That sounds exhausting.
I wasn’t around back then, and I am fairly certain that none of us were. It seems so authoritarian now, to think of a club putting so much emphasis on exercise and physical form. We have come a long way in society in terms of respecting each other’s dietary and life choices and promoting acceptance for a more diverse array of body shapes and sizes—which is a great thing—but it has not stopped us from policing each other’s bodies regardless. Advertisements and media still idealize skeletally thin women and bulging muscles on men, we are convinced to associate guilt with food, and we internalize those messages whether we realize it or not. For example, is it not second nature for many of us to automatically congratulate each other when we lose weight or to criticize ourselves for eating fattening foods? No one needs to be told what to do with their body, what to eat, or that their body is not acceptable the way that it is, because that is no one’s business but the person to whom the body belongs. The idea of a nudist or naturist club in the twenty-first century pushing its members to exercise as was done in the early twentieth century sounds absolutely terrible, so I am glad that things have changed and we can allow people to enjoy a naturist or nudist lifestyle without dictating the way they take care of their bodies
Naturists and nudists do still like to tote the health benefits of being nude, perhaps as a quaint homage to our heritage of enthusiasm for wellness. When an article or study is released that lauds the advantages of sleeping nude, of exposing the skin to sunlight, or of not wearing a bra, naturists collectively rejoice and shout, “See! We told you so!” I bet there is an article out there somewhere on the Internet that vouches for the health benefits of doing almost anything naked, and these are not even naturist media sources but mainstream news and pop culture sites. While we bask in the media attention around how healthy it is to do all sorts of everyday things nude, we don’t talk much about fitness for the sake of fitness, or healthy eating for the sake of healthy eating. It may be true that the sun is good for our skin, that going to bed nude helps us sleep better, and that going bra-free is better for our circulation. It’s also true that exercise and a healthy diet are good for our bodies. Acknowledging naturism’s historical overemphasis on physical fitness, I do think it is OK to give those healthy behaviors some attention, too, as long as it is not done in a didactic, overzealous, or demoralizing way.
This is the part where I introduce a personal anecdote: First off, I am not a fitness fanatic. I only started exercising regularly about a year ago, not to lose or gain weight but to improve my overall health after moving into a very sedentary desk job. I do not especially like working out: It is tedious and I struggle at it. But do you want to know a really annoying secret? It does feel good. And working out naked has its own benefits, including a deeper appreciation and understanding for the way the muscles contract, how each joint bends or rotates, how the skin stretches and folds. My own personal experience exercising is completely my own and does not represent any kind of “ideal” wellness routine but it really has helped me feel more comfortable in and connected to my body than I did before. I am not saying that you should work out. I also won’t tell you whether or not you should see a counselor, eat healthier, or practice meditation, but those things might help you feel more comfortable in your body as well. Surely there are naturists out there who can attest to the ways that any and all of those practices have helped them feel healthier, more whole, or more fulfilled. What I will say is that nudism and naturism can be a much more holistic experience when we find new ways to appreciate and care for our bodies and minds and I encourage you to explore what that means for you.
There is no one right way to practice naturism, no one correct way to take care of your body, no one right way to show appreciation for the human form. We all do these things in the way that best fits with our own lifestyle and we all have a different relationship with our bodies. And that’s good. I don’t want to live in a world where someone tells me I have to exercise, eat or not eat certain things, wear or not wear certain things, meditate or attend counseling. I am glad that the emphasis on physical form and fitness that was prevalent in the early days of naturism has waned and made way for a more personal relationship with our bodies, but don’t let that keep you from exploring those practices at your own pace if you feel so inclined. I do think that taking care of your body, in conjunction with respecting and loving your body however it is, can be an important, personal part of naturism. You just cannot let magazines and websites convince you that fitness and health can only look like Cristiano Ronaldo or Gisele Bündchen. That’s ridiculous. I mean, good for them, but… ridiculous.
Moral of the story: You do you. Take care of yourself, love your body, respect your body, and show that love and respect however works for you… even if it involves lifting cats over your head. Cheers.
This is a proposal that I have seen floated on more than one occasion. “If the gays can do it, then we nudists should be able to do it,” “if the gays can have a flag, then so can nudists,” or “we should latch onto the success of LGBTQ activism,” etc. It seems logical. Nudists feel vulnerable and want basic rights, and this is an area where the LGBTQ community has made steady headway. We both have identities outside of the norm, and we both face undue criticism. So, is nudism the new LGBTQ movement? Is naturist the new gay?
I think my instructors from graduate school would advise heartily against answering the central question of this post before fully exploring all the information but, no, nudism is not the new gay. I know, I know… Why not? We are a persecuted group like the LGBTQ community. Well… no, we are not… not in the same way, anyway.
Firstly, I should be forthright with my own status as both gay and a nudist. I think that’s important because I am writing as someone with experience and knowledge of both worlds. I will admit that there are striking similarities between the two groups, particularly in the language that we use to discuss our experiences. Nudists and LGBTQ folks both talk about a “coming out” experience, complete with the fears of rejection that surround it. We both tend to share stories of self-discovery, of the moment we realized that we were queer or that we enjoyed social nudity. Both groups also form communities and create spaces where we can gather away from the gaze of disapproving eyes. You could even say that both groups have put up with being an easy target of public mockery: Think of all the commercials and sitcoms where simply being naked is the butt of the joke (“I was in the pool!”), or where the humor is derived from implied same-sex attraction. They’re both tired tropes.
Similarities or not, there is a fundamental difference between being LGBTQ and being a nudist: LGBTQ folks do not have a choice and nudists do. Nobody chooses to be homosexual or transgender, it’s just the way we are and the LGBTQ rights movement has sprung up to fight for acceptance, protections, and recognition. LGBTQ folks are regularly targeted for simply existing, for walking down the street, for trying to get a job, for holding hands, for just being who they are in public, whether or not that identity is even outwardly expressed. Nudists, on the other hand, have chosen a lifestyle that they enjoy and suffer no harm from putting on a pair of pants to go to the grocery store. Nobody is out to hurt or silence nudists; no church or politician suggests lining up nudists and gunning them down. The similarities between the LGBTQ and nudist communities end where physical violence and legal discrimination begin, and this fundamental difference has rippled through history: Gay Germans were imprisoned by the Third Reich whereas German naturists were more or less left alone; while police were raiding the Stonewall Inn and arresting members of the LGBTQ community in 1960’s New York, white, middle-class nudists were quietly gathering in lush, remote oases without incident; gay and transgender individuals face threats of violence and death while nudists face verbal disapproval from family and possibly fines for public indecency. The point is that to equate the experiences of everyday nudists with those of everyday LGBTQ folks is offensive and reckless in this day and age. Suggesting that nudists should ride on the coattails of a marginalized group who has suffered violence and aggression is insensitive to those who have fought to end stigma and secure basic rights for the LGBTQ community. As a gay man and also a nudist, I have to say that it’s really not a great look for nudists to make comparisons like this.
Another difference between the LGBTQ and nudist communities is the origin of the respective movements in the public sphere. The LGBTQ rights movement was born of societal and legal persecution, as a unified voice to counter the violence and discrimination that homosexual and transgender people were facing during the middle of the 20th century, and it has been a long, hard-fought battle that has only recently begun to bear fruit in the form of marriage equality, but that still falls behind when it comes to job and housing security, parental rights, and overall safety. The naturist movement, on the other hand, was born of white, heteronormative privilege, as an escape for wealthy and middle-class Christian Americans to escape the diversity and clamor of the big city… and the nudists of the early to mid-20th century were able to do this with very little trouble. Sure, there were some scandalous news stories and prying eyes, but nudists were fairly successful in carving out their own safe spaces, plots of private land with gates and “no negroes” signs. LGBTQ history is one of resistance and a fight for inclusion, whereas the history of nudism has too often been one of exclusion, and this is an important factor to consider as we carry nudism forward into the 21st century.
Now that that’s out of the way, yes, nudists do face forms of persecution and public ridicule unique to our community. Self-disclosure, for starters, is a risky prospect for many nudists who fear the loss of their job or potential criticism and rejection from their community or family. That is a reality. I myself was far less open about my nudism while I was working in education and I am still very careful about the people I tell for fear of creating unnecessarily awkward interactions. Many nudists simply choose not to “come out” and are still able to enjoy a clothes-free lifestyle, but it is never healthy to feel that you need to hide a part of yourself. Being closeted sucks, right? Nudists, especially those who push the boundaries a little further than others, might also face fines or temporary jail time for indecent exposure. Laws and conditions like these are unjust. It is, in my opinion, a violation of human rights to criminalize simple human nudity, the act of just existing without man-made coverings. It is wrong, yes, but laws like these are generally not targeted persecution against nudists, and therein lies a very important distinction. Laws against “public indecency” were not created to justify aggression or legal action against us.
These are laws are generally intended to combat inappropriate sexual behavior but drastically overcompensate and impede on everyone’s rights. (Check out this great article by Jillian Page in the Montréal Gazette that discusses this idea further.) Likewise, the public ridicule and the deep-rooted stigma that nudists face for suggesting that we should be allowed to be naked in our own homes, in our backyards, at the beach, or—gasp—in public spaces, is harmful for every single human being on the planet. Every single human being has a naked body, was born naked, and is then forced to buy man-made garments to cover up in order to not face legal and social consequences. Our plight is not just our own, but everyone’s plight… they just might not know it. I think that’s another interesting similarity between the LGBTQ and nudist movements: The LGBTQ movement aims to increase acceptance of its own community and secure its own basic rights, and, as a result, all humans can feel more comfortable being exactly who they are and expressing themselves in the most authentic way; the nudist movement challenges the infringements on the right to be nude, to be human, particularly as it affects the ability to enjoy clothes-free recreation, and, as a result, it expands rights of everyone to simply be human, without shame. Each movement’s goals expand beyond its own core group.
It can be frustrating as nudists when we struggle to advance our own cause and see very little progress against prohibitive, anti-nudity laws, while other causes have gained the attention of the media and have become a part of public discourse. Those other movements, though, have earned their place in the spotlight. The #MeToo movement, transgender rights, Black Lives Matter… all of these movements occupy a very important place in our contemporary zeitgeist, regardless of any one person’s political leanings. As passionate as we may be about our cause, the right to be nude is not a terribly pressing issue in 2019 and our movement may never gain that kind of attention. And that’s OK. The discussions around these other contemporary movements are important, and they should be given their time. We can continue to focus our individual efforts on living and promoting the clothes-free lifestyle that we love and on spreading understanding and body-positive messages. We can (and should) even speak up about those other movements and support marginalized communities. Eventually, our time will come and it won’t be because we co-opted another movement.
A strong, concerted, nudist movement, whatever form that should take, can stand on its own two (bare) feet as long as we clearly communicate that there is a real human rights concern in criminalizing and ridiculing human nudity. We have a strong case that involves and affects everyone, nudists and textiles alike. Of course, there is no reason we can’t take cues from other successful movements, no reason we can’t fly our own flag of nudist pride, but we should also be very mindful that our movement is its own entity with its own unique history, and that other movements have theirs. If we truly want a popular nudist movement, we will have to identify our unique goals, highlight the ways that our movement will better the lives of individuals (even textiles), make our movement distinct and relevant, and be willing to confront some oft-unspoken issues within our own community, just as other movements have had to do.
So I suppose what I really want to say is that we got this. We got this all on our own, because our message as nudists is valuable and important all on its own.
[Edited on 1/22/2019 to clarify and strengthen the author’s views]
After nearly four years, my brother-in-law has finally moved out. Praise be. Don’t get me wrong… I love the kid, but it was time for my partner’s brother to find his own place, spread his wings, and begin his adult life without his immediate family right there to support him. I’ve taught him everything I can: how to iron a pair of pants, why you don’t put antique serving platters in the dishwasher (may she rest in peace), and how to use seasonings when cooking chicken. He was twenty-five and it was time. I am twenty-nine and it was time for me, too. Time for me to be the best nudist I can be, that is.
Before my partner’s brother moved in with us, we had lived for about six years bumbling between a few apartments, but it was mostly just my partner and myself. Before my partner’s brother moved in with us, I admit, I did not fully appreciate the importance of privacy. Until I could no longer roam my own home completely naked at any hour of the day, until I had to dress before getting up to make breakfast on the weekends, until I had to start closing the door before taking a shower or using the toilet, I took my privacy for granted. As soon as he moved in, bless his heart, everything changed. No more naked nights in front of the TV. No more sleeping nude. No more breakfasts in the buff. And no moment to grieve, because it seemed silly to feel sad over losing my ability to just be nude. Because my partner’s brother moved in with us as much out of necessity for him as for us, it was hard to be upset with him for it. We had all fallen on hard times and joining forces was the best way to move forward and support each other. We all made sacrifices.
My partner’s brother did not know when he moved in that I was a nudist. I didn’t want to impose on him, make him feel uncomfortable, or imply that I wish he weren’t around all the time. He knows now, of course. I eventually got tired of waiting for him to move out and, just within this past year, I became a lot more open with him about nudism and activities I like to do nude. He didn’t care one bit, but he didn’t want to see me nude, either, which I respect. It was difficult. Even with the patchwork of nude time I was able to work in around his work and social schedule, getting naked at home was a chore. What I lacked was the privacy I needed, and it occurs to me now what a common experience this is for people my age.
I cannot count the amount of other young nudists I have met around my age who are constantly struggling to find a time and place to get naked. It sounds like this: “My roommate is out this weekend, so I might get in some nude time!” Or maybe something like this: “My roommates are always around so I just settle for wearing basketball shorts at home.” It’s a lot of us. Whether it means living in a college dormitory, renting a room in a house, living with parents, or sharing an apartment with a friend or family member, the millennial experience tends to include cohabitation. That comes with more issues that just arguing over chores and bills. We give up the freedom to live the life we want. We can’t come home and practice the drums all night long, we can’t leave our art supplies all over the house, and we can’t just be naked whenever we please. Millennial nudists are by and large repressed nudists. Having a space of one’s own is, in this day and age, a privilege. To be able to live alone or with just a romantic partner is almost a luxury for younger people and, while we pride ourselves on our ability to form micro-communities and share resources (you might have heard about the “sharing economy“), it’s not by choice but out of necessity that we live this way.
All this is to say that I fully appreciate my newfound freedom and am grateful to be in a better financial situation now that allows me to live with just my partner and just… be. I appreciate my privacy from the outside world. The ability to enjoy my home the way that I want—let alone to just have a home at all—is truly priceless. I won’t take it for granted this time around and if you find yourself in a position where you enjoy the requisite privacy to live your life how you please, be it as a nudist, an artist, a musician, a writer, a gamer, or any combination thereof, I hope that you will not take it for granted, either.
And here I am. It’s a Tuesday night. I have a full belly, I’m completely naked, I’m working on my nudist blog while watching TV, and I’m dreaming of a glass of wine. And I am so grateful and fortunate for all of it.
So, cheers. Cheers to the first week in nearly four years that I can get undressed as soon as I come home and truly not worry about getting dressed again until it’s time for work the next morning. Cheers to the first weekend in nearly four years that I can roll out of bed and cook breakfast for my partner without first having to get decent. Cheers to my partner letting me just be me. Cheers to this moment.
As a nudist, you probably know at least a handful or two of real-life nudists and you probably follow even more on social media. You may also have noticed that some of the nudists you follow prefer to post photos of other people rather than photos of themselves, rather than updates about their own lives. Maybe you have gone to someone’s online profile to try to learn more about them and wondered, “Well, which one of these photos is them? Are any of these photos of them?”
Literally, who knows? And does it matter?
It is something I have mulled over this past year, which has left me with three questions: Where do these images come from and why is no credit being given to the sources? Do the people in these photos know that their photos are being passed around the Internet as nudist promotional material? Why post images of people you don’t know rather than posting photos of yourself?
Perhaps it’s the smoldering embers of academia left in me, but the first question here seems the most troubling simply because of how widespread the “copy-and-paste-and-pass-off-as-my-own” trend is online. It’s not new, and nudists are not exempt. When I first became interested in nudism as a teenager, I took my first steps by doing research online, browsing site after site with images of people who most likely had not written the articles. I eventually joined a now-defunct forum where there were loads of genuine nudists and where it was accepted and even encouraged to scour the Internet to find “nudist” and “naturist” images to share to the gallery. It never occurred to me until recently that it might not be entirely ethical to take content that did not belong to me and share it with no credit given to the photographer or the people in the image, especially when these are images that many would consider to be very personal or sensitive. It is also worth noting that just because an image contains nudity, it doesn’t mean that it is nudist or naturist.
In the 21st century, crediting the content that you share online should be easier than ever, especially if you are following sources directly. “Retweet with comment” is available in one form or another across almost every platform, allowing you to provide your own caption or personal commentary while retaining the information of the original source, the creator’s profile and website just one click away. This does not just apply to images, but any content you can find and share online can be linked back to its source. It’s easy.
Also, context matters. An image is just an image, until it’s not. A nudist friend of mine once posted an image featuring a nude man and an innocuous quote relating to nudism. The man in the image I recognized as a well-known gay adult film actor who had been causing a bit of a buzz at the time due to his problematic political views. I considered sharing that information with my friend, but I decided against it. If nobody else recognizes the actor in the image, does it really matter that he is not a nudist or that he works in the adult film industry? Does it diminish the intentions of the image and quote? For most viewers, probably not, but I would argue that it is worth choosing images carefully, being aware of what baggage an image might carry before using it to promote nudism.
If context matters, so does consent. Nudists tend to be painstakingly careful with our own identities online and in real life. We respect each individual’s choice of whether or not to disclose our nudism, to whom we disclose, and to what extent we want our personal information and images to be shared. And yet, while we all understand the basic principles of consent regarding our own exposure, we don’t think twice before disseminating images of people we do not know at all, people who have very likely not consented to their images being trafficked across the Internet. The simple fact that a nude photo of a person exists online does not mean that they consent to it being shared. If I, for example, share a nude photo of myself within a closed group of trusted nudist friends, I am certainly not consenting to that image being taken and posted online where literally anyone might find it, where it might be used for purposes that are not in line with my own values. I should have control over my own image and you should have control of yours. Now, if I ever use a nude image of myself as an album cover, à la John Lennon and Yoko Ono, please feel free to share it far and wide and help me sell some records. In any case, be it album art or a personal photo, “retweet” and “retweet with comment” give the source of the material a heads up that you are sharing it, and a chance to have a say.
That brings me to my last question. Why would you want to post photos of people you don’t know, anyway? I like to play video games: Would I ever post photos of people I don’t know playing video games? No, probably not… but for nudists, sharing photos of other people enjoying nudism is basically part of our community’s culture. It is one of the quirky yet quaint things about nudism, and I do not expect to convince anyone to end that age-old tradition dating all the way back to the first quarterly and monthly nudist publications and documentary films. The difference between those mid-century magazines and the situation at hand, though, is that publications and filmmakers operate under more stringent expectations to credit their contributors. We are a community, after all, so boosting visibility and exposure for those of us who want our work to be shared has the potential to advance our cause. Also be aware that, just like those original quarterly magazines and documentaries about nudism, anything you share online might be consumed by non-nudists as sexual content.
Finally, circling back to an earlier point, many nudists are either not comfortable or not in a position to share nude photos of themselves online. Others of us may simply choose a life of less disclosure, and that’s perfectly fine. We all have that choice, and the quantity of images we post of ourselves online is not a reflection of how much of a nudist we are in real life. For many nudists, especially those who do not have the luxury of being able to post their own photos and share their own experiences online, sharing photos of others enjoying nudism may be one of the only ways they feel they are able to connect with the community, and that seems a perfectly valid reason continue the tradition. We do, after all, value the freedom of nudity, so it feels right to celebrate that however we can.
All things considered, I think there is room for improvement when it comes to giving credit where credit is due and respecting others’ right to decide how and with whom their images are shared. We can build a better community by promoting one another, and a more respectful community by being considerate of one another’s preferred degree of disclosure (and that of complete strangers who probably have no idea their image is circulating the internet). It also costs nothing to decide to share images of real people, real nudists, and give them credit, or to share images of yourself for that matter, if you are able to do so.
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.