Inspired by this article, today we ask an unconventional nudist his opinion on some common nudist taboos.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Let's start with the issue of "clothing optional" versus "nude only" resorts. Do you have a preference?
A: As a die hard nudist, who prefers to be nude wherever and whenever possible, there are times when even I prefer to wear clothes. So I don't really see the problem with a "clothing optional" dress code. After all, it's a vast improvement over "textile only"! And it's more inclusive, right? On the other hand, I think nudists and would-be nudists sometimes need a little push, to maintain the proper environment of a nudist venue. What's nudism without naked bodies? It should be a soft push - not "disrobe or get out!" - but a push nonetheless. That's why I support having conditional rules, like "nude only" in the pool area, or in the sauna, or during sports competitions, weather-permitting. That way people can opt out if they're not feeling adventurous, but if they want the full experience, they'll have to join in.
Q: As any man who has ever considered engaging in nudism knows, the fear of getting an erection can be the source of much anxiety. How do you feel about nudists' approach toward erections?
A: The default policy among nudists on erections is to cover them up, but I'm not sure this is the best approach. Like nudity, arousal is a state of being, not doing. Sexual behavior is frowned upon in nudist contexts for legitimate reasons, but sometimes arousal occurs unexpectedly. Although it should not be encouraged, rushing to cover up just emphasizes the idea that there is something vulgar or shameful about the male genitalia in its engorged state. On the contrary, like flushed skin or hardened nipples, it is a natural and beautiful part of the human anatomy. So why hide it?
Q: Why, indeed. On the other hand, it could encourage a more sexually-charged atmosphere. Do you think nudists are too strict when it comes to the topic of sex?
A: Not necessarily. My views occupy a subtle middle ground. I think we should strive for a compromise between a sex-positive approach and a family-friendly atmosphere. I don't claim that will be easy, however. What I don't want to see is nudism being swallowed up by the swinger lifestyle. I believe that life is a sensual experience, and I think nudism is compatible with that view, but out-and-out sexual activity is another matter. When I engage in nude recreation, I want to relax with friends, and play outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air. I don't want to be propositioned by strangers looking for sexual encounters.
Q: I'm sure a lot of nudists feel the same way. You said that your view of life as "a sensual experience" is compatible with nudism. What's your opinion on exhibitionism?
A: To be perfectly honest, I am an exhibitionist. But before you jump to conclusions, I'd like to state that I don't regard the stereotype of the trench coat flasher with much esteem. I find the idea of "exposure" to be exciting, but not purely in a sexual way. Besides, even the fear of a negative reaction is enough to trigger anxiety. That's why I like nudism - I can be exposed in a welcoming atmosphere. That doesn't mean that I'm constantly aroused - 95% of the time I'm engaged in nude recreation, I'm not even thinking about exhibitionism. But if it adds a little spice to the experience, like the jalapeno on top of your burrito, then all the better. I'd be surprised if a large percentage of nudists weren't exhibitionists to at least some extent. As long as they're capable of behaving themselves, and following the rules against open sexual displays, where's the harm?
Q: I'm definitely getting the sense that you walk a fine line between what one may consider "conservative" and "progressive" views of the nudist lifestyle. Are you more likely to support beauty pageants or body acceptance?
A: I don't think beauty pageants are evil in and of themselves, but body acceptance is definitely important to the nudist ethos. I'm a person who appreciates the beauty of the human body, but I don't believe you need to be "beautiful" by anyone's standards in order to be happy, or to enjoy yourself, or just to be comfortable in your own skin. If you look good (or think you look good), that's a bonus, not a requirement for living. Nobody deserves to be criticized for their looks. Everybody has bad hair days - even supermodels - but that doesn't mean you have to give up on it being a good everything else day.
Q: I like that approach! We've talked about exhibitionism - how do you feel about voyeurism? Is it okay to look at people's bodies?
A: Sure! Witnessing the great variety of bodies people have is one of the hallmarks of the nudist experience. As long as you're polite - no staring or rude insults, and no sexual behavior or creepy come-ons - there's nothing wrong with looking. And occasionally you're bound to see something you like. That's one of the privileges of being a nudist. Being able to acknowledge the beauty of the human body is one of the things that separates nudists from the rest of the population. In the textile world, voyeurism is too often accompanied by an invasion of privacy, but nudists don't consider the sight of their naked bodies to be private in the same way.
Q: What about so-called "gawkers" - non-nudist outsiders who get a thrill from peeking at nudists? Nudists aren't generally kind to them getting an eyeful, are they?
A: No, not generally. Nudism isn't really a spectator sport - unless you're actually playing a spectator sport nude - and having people peering over the fence snickering at you is rude and uncomfortable. Those people deserve a stern warning. But otherwise, I think a lot of people are just really curious about nudism, even if they're not ready to try it themselves. Sometimes they respond in an immature way, but I think that can be part of the long process of acceptance. What the world needs is more exposure to nudism, not less. Except insofar as it protects us from very real external hostilities, I think it's time for nudism to go mainstream, and stop hiding itself behind tall fences in hidden compounds on the outskirts of nowhere.
Q: That's ambitious! Now, you said that nudists don't consider their bodies to be private, and that nudism needs more exposure. I'm curious what your opinion on photography in nudist venues is.
A: I said that nudists don't consider the sight of their naked bodies to be private, but even that is too often restricted to narrow contexts. Nudists seem to have an unholy fear of cameras. As a photographer, my opinion may not reflect the majority of nudists, but I think this is extremely unfortunate. The fact that there are a lot of unscrupulous voyeurs out there prevents me from photographing one of my favorite subjects - nude recreation. And it's ironic, because of all people, why should a nudist care if somebody snaps a picture of them naked?
Q: Right. Why do you think they care?
A: It's a complicated issue. Some nudists keep their lifestyle a secret, and are afraid that they would lose family, friends, or their job, if it should get out that they enjoy nude recreation. Frankly, I think the solution to this is for nudists to come out en masse. There are plenty of perfectly normal people in the population who are nudists - not freaks or fringe perverts - and the more the public realizes this, the less stigma people will be exposed to just for engaging in nudism. That more people would probably become interested in nudism as a result of its increased awareness is just a bonus!
Other people are concerned about anonymous perverts on the internet doing "unholy" things with their pictures. I don't know how to say this more delicately, but...who cares? Who does that hurt? To me, it seems to be nothing more than an extension of the puritanical mindset that envisions sex as a sin and a vice - that for somebody to experience pleasure from an unapproved source is unacceptable, and that we have a social responsibility to prevent that from happening. But if you ask me, if some anonymous stranger who I will almost certainly never meet - or even speak to! - happens to derive a little bit of enjoyment in what could quite likely be an otherwise dull and depressing life, just from viewing a picture of me, that's no skin off my back. More power to them.
Q: That's a noble - even humanitarian - perspective. But are there limits? What about children? Do you think it's acceptable to photograph children in nudist contexts?
A: I think it's important that we all take the necessary precautions to protect our children from the dangers that lurk out there in the "wilderness" of modern society. But I also think it's our responsibility not to take those precautions too far, to the point that they're doing more harm than good. Photographs do not capture people's souls. They're just images. And yet, it's become very rare to see depictions and advertisements of the nudist lifestyle that feature children. And I think this does a grave disservice to the lifestyle.
A lot of people question if nudism is appropriate for children, when the truth that any parent knows, is that children are literally born nudists. They have to be taught to wear clothes. People also frequently confuse nudism for an adult lifestyle. What are we telling the world when the only people who appear in nudist images are adults? We're giving them the impression that when we say nudism is "family-friendly", we're lying to them. And then when people do occasionally see an image of a child engaged in nudism, it's that much more alarming. I think nudists need to embrace nudist photography featuring children, to show the world that we have nothing to hide. Because nudism needs children - they're what's keeping it wholesome and pure.
Q: Thank you for your time. This has been a very enlightening discussion. I'm sure it will give me lots to think about over the next few days!
A: It was a pleasure!