I had a bit of a minor epiphany as I was lying awake in bed this morning. Admittedly, I have some fairly non-mainstream views on nudity, but my base line goal for society is simply a more natural approach towards the human body - a compromise that would strip away all the neuroticism and permit, as I like to say, "responsible nudity in reasonable contexts".
Consider, for example, the way the average person feels about "underwear". Nobody (for the most part) is showing up to work, or picking up groceries, in their underwear. People dress up to go out and do their daily business - that's normal. At the same time, if you stopped over at somebody's house, and they hadn't had time to get dressed, and they, say, answer the door in their underwear, nobody is going to scream bloody murder. Some may consider it a social gaffe, but that's largely a matter of taste and opinion, and only the most uptight of persons would make a serious case out of it. And what's more, if they did make a case out of it, I think the majority of the population would shrug and say, "no big deal".
That's what I call being reasonable. It's not that people aren't allowed to be offended by something like that. And there's no problem with preferring to see a person dressed rather than in their underwear. The point is that, regardless of your views, there are times when being in your underwear just makes more sense (just as there are other times when being fully dressed makes more sense), and I seriously doubt anybody would make a federal case out of seeing somebody in their underwear, even if they happened to be picking up the newspaper at the end of their driveway one morning.
All I'm saying is that we should have a similar approach to nudity. There are times when nudity makes perfect sense (swimming, for example), and if it weren't for all the puritanical modesty bullshit, and the absolute fear of discovering what Homo sapiens' genitalia looks like (despite the ironic fact that every person with this fear possesses at least one set of those genitalia that s/he can't possibly avoid looking at, at some point during their day-to-day life), I think we all could survive (thrive, even) with a more reasonable attitude toward nudity - much like the nudists already do.
The nudists are awesome in that regard. They are far more enlightened than mainstream society. They are not, however, perfect. I think that, on an individual level, nudists are in a good position to have a healthier approach toward human sexuality (and a lot of them probably do, although attitudes will vary just as much as in any group) than the mainstream. However, the limited acceptance that society gives nudists to practice their lifestyle (i.e., in isolated communities where they won't spook the normies), pretty much depends on debunking the popular misconception that nudism is a front for swinging sex orgies. As a result, nudists like to err on the side of promoting a "clean" image, since they have much, much more to lose from allegations of sexual misconduct (or any sexual conduct, really) than just about any other subset of the population.
I have no desire to turn nudism into a sexual utopia. While, again, I have pretty radical views on human sexuality, I think the majority of the population is, unfortunately, unprepared to act in a more evolved way toward one another sexually (although unlike most, I'd be willing to put that to the test, in the interest of science); and, besides, even if some of us were ready, the forces of chastity are far too powerful to allow such a thing to succeed. In any case, adding any kind of element of overt sexuality at all to the practice of nudism would be a surefire and fast track method of destroying pretty much everything that's good about nudism in this social climate. There's a reason I'm a nudist, but not a swinger (in spite of how sexually open an attitude I have).
And so we come to the issue of erections. Most guys (understandably) have questions about how erections are dealt with in a nudist situation, and most nudists say that it's not a big deal. Because in truth - it isn't. Men's anxieties are certainly not unfounded, but experience tends to show, and rather quickly, that the problem of unintended erections is much less than it's made out to be. They do occasionally have a tendency to pop up - and any reading of male sexuality that presupposes that an erection is always the direct result and guaranteed precedent of specifically sexual stimulation is woefully inadequate. But most nudists profess to be reasonable in the case of unexpected tumescence, so long as the "victim" of said tumescence discourages any further development, in as discreet a manner as possible.
And I believe them - it's just that it's the sort of situation where if everything works out right, you'll never notice it's happened. And I honestly can't remember a single time I've ever seen a man at a nudist resort with an erection. Of course, with some guys (especially the ones who are overweight), you might not be able to tell the difference. And there was that one black guy I remember seeing flopping around, but I'm sure he was just exceptionally endowed (I know, stereotypes are bad - especially when they're true :p). To be fair, this situation works out pretty well, as far as compromises go. There are other problems in nudism I would address first before complaining about the lack of erections (bear with me, for a moment) - like the obstacle of access to nudist environments (having to drive to the middle of nowhere, and then having to pay admission just to enjoy some outdoor, social nude recreation), or the fear and paranoia surrounding the use of cameras at nudist resorts (except the security kind), and nudists' reliance on keeping their lifestyle secret from their friends, families, and coworkers.
So, unless you're some kind of sex pervert (like me - and I'm not even generally attracted to men), you're probably wondering what exactly the problem is with keeping erections under wraps in a nudist context (as with everywhere else, except bedrooms and the sets of porno films). Well, as hinted at above, it breeds anxiety about our bodies, above and beyond the social imperative to encourage people to behave in an appropriate manner. It's a subtle thing, but as I mentioned before, erections are not simply and always about direct sexual stimulation. Sometimes they really do pop up, and that doesn't necessarily mean that they are entirely random, but the trigger could be something benign, such as a certain tactile sensation (the wind or sun), or pressure (lying on one's stomach, which is, ironically, often cited as a solution to the erection problem - it keeps it hidden, yes, but I find that the pressure is anything but discouraging to the erection), or motion (like the slapping of one's member against the thigh during athletic activity) that is entirely unpremeditated and wholly nonsexual in nature.
Even something psychological, like being unexpectedly treated to the sight of a beautiful specimen of humanity in the buff - which may actually include an element of sexuality - is still very much harmless, in my opinion, so long as it is permitted to run its course unaided and not progress to any kind of behavior or activity that would be inappropriate in such a semi-public, social context. That's just the thing, and it's something that's easily overlooked when people have clothes on, since the erection can literally just be ignored (as it is already covered up). Physical arousal is an entirely involuntary response, to use a scientific term. Though you can do things to deliberately stimulate arousal, tumescence is not a muscle you can simply flex by will alone, like your biceps. (This was the topic of a huge debate between a student and my biology teacher in my high school class, and the teacher, unsurprisingly, had the right of it).
The point is that you cannot consciously control erections (if you could, the distributors of Viagra would go bankrupt). You can do things to encourage or discourage them, but if some unplanned-for trigger unexpectedly starts the ball rolling, there may be some level of visible tumescence that just cannot be avoided. Sure, we can cover it up to spare others the sight, but I don't see the point. Nudists believe that nudity is a state of being, not a state of doing. Well, sexual arousal is the same. We can do things to incite arousal, and we can do things while aroused that would be explicitly sexual and, thus, inappropriate in most settings (especially nudist environments). But sometimes we feel some level of arousal independent of our deliberate intentions, and when that happens, it's as natural and innocuous as simply being nude. Erect - like nudity - is a state of being, not doing. People should be held responsible for what they do with erections, and even what they do to encourage or discourage them, but they should not be held responsible for simply having them.
I know, this is probably one of my radical positions, and I respect that. But my point stands. (Not literally - at least, not at this moment :p). Tumescence is just a natural feature of the human penis. Yes, it's connected to human sexuality, but it, in and of itself, is not sexually explicit. The very same argument comes up in the art vs. porn debate, on websites like deviantART, for example, where artistic nudity is permitted, but erections are treated as porn and disallowed. I don't think erections should be treated as porn. Being erect is not the same thing as sticking that erection somewhere or otherwise doing something with it. Being aroused is not the same thing as being engaged in sexual activity (whether intercourse, or masturbation, or what have you), and, wherever nudity is allowed, women are (discriminatorily) permitted to be photographed in an aroused state with immunity. I don't understand why if a person is permitted to view the penis in its unerect state, there's something wrong, then, with that person seeing it erect. It's just one of those things that penises do, and if you've advanced to the point where you're not specifically offended by the mere sight of them, then you should be able to handle them whether flaccid or erect.
Again, I'm not saying this is a big deal that needs to be made a priority in terms of social reconditioning. But it's one of those subtle, straightforward things that I think demonstrates how much human beings jump through hoops just to hide the reality of life - the fact that we're sexual beings, and the way in which our bodies work. Sure, plenty of people are offended by sex - and they're entitled to make their best efforts to try and avoid it in their daily lives - but it goes deeper than that, because we're actually legally mandated to hush up about the reality of sex, lest kids find out the reason they exist before we, as a culture, are comfortable letting them know about it (i.e., on their 18th birthday, and even then, only begrudgingly, since restricting the sexual rights of adults is impossible - so we just make sure they don't enjoy it as much, by undermining education, discounting facts, and instilling a strong sense of shame and self-loathing surrounding people's bodies and their sexual experiences from a very young age).
Bottom line? If I wake up in the morning, and my roommate has a guest over, I should be able to get up out of bed - having slept nude, and with my morning stiffy (that has nothing to do with sex) - and walk to the bathroom without needing to feign modesty and scrounge around for some form of coverup, in my own home. I'm not unreasonable - I'm willing to cover up when I go out, to protect the modesty of others, even though I don't agree with them. I'll even put something on to answer the door, since you never know who it might be. But one thing I really hate is feeling trapped in my own home, and being forced to act the part of embarrassment and modesty, which not only do I not feel, but am actively against, just because I know the other person is (probably) uncomfortable with my nudity. It's insincere, and there's nothing I hate more than not acting honest and truthful with people. If they're upset with my nudity, then let them react to it. I'm not going to express their reaction for them, just to save them the opportunity to be offended or uncomfortable. In my own home. And if they really don't like it so much, maybe they'll just stop coming over. No skin off my back.
Uh-oh. I'm one of those roommates, aren't I? But I just like having a sanctum somewhere, a place where I can be free and feel comfortable just being myself. A place I can retreat to when I don't want to deal with the rules and the compromises of wider society. A place where no other can intrude, without my invitation. Is that so bad? I think it should be one of the fundamental civil rights, along with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - the right to an inviolable sanctuary - not a place of total privacy where the law doesn't apply, but simply a place a person can go to be alone and relax, and not deal with the hassle of other people, and their expectations.