Thursday, March 9, 2017

Advertising Nudism

I have a bit of a dilemma, regarding a subject I discussed back in December, on the question of whether nudism should be represented by attractive models (which is the standard in advertising), or average people. One of the things I'd, hypothetically, like to apply my photography skills to is selling the nudist lifestyle. As an aesthetic artist, my personal instinct would be to use attractive model(s) with attractive bodies, to make the lifestyle look more appealing. I deal in fantasies, and idealism. It's what people desire. And though the reality may fluctuate (wildly), to this day one of the things I admire most about nudism is the potential to find oneself in a paradise of naked beauty (which is rare, but not unheard of). It's not necessarily a sexual motivation - but I won't deny that it is superficial in nature.

And though I'm willing to admit that I would support measures to make nudism more closely resemble this ideal vision - by recruiting more young and conventionally attractive people, and emphasizing things like physical health and fitness - the fact remains that I have not and will not turn my back on the democratic principle that underlies nudism: namely, that it is for every body. Because as wonderful as nudism might look if every participant was "objectively" beautiful, once you start making it about appearances, and not about being comfortable in your own skin - no matter what it looks like - the lifestyle loses much of what makes it so appealing (in all but a visual sense).

Nor can I ignore, as a potential recruiter, the possibility that a great many "average" people (including beautiful people who think they're average) will be instantly turned off by an advertisement featuring "perfect" bodies not like their own. Nobody, on their way to a relaxing time of naked fun, wants to feel like they're about to be appraised and judged on their appearance, or be made to feel anxious while surrounded by people more conventionally attractive than they are. It'd be the gym locker room all over again (and, incidentally, this competitive atmosphere is largely the reason why you never see any nudity in locker rooms anymore).

But there's a frustrating dichotomy at play here. If you use attractive bodies to advertise nudism, people will feel like they don't belong. But if you use average bodies, you'll get people complaining about how "it's always the people you don't want to see nude..." (and that may be accurate, but it's not the image I want for nudism). Perhaps it's not possible to please everyone - and the people who are more forgiving of normal bodies are probably the ones most likely to be willing to try nudism. But I still want to make nudism look like a naked paradise. And, what's more, there's the practical consideration that advertisements featuring beautiful people are given more leniency in the public square. Maybe this isn't "fair" or "right" (I might be inclined to defer to social Darwinism on this point - beauty is popular for a reason), but it's true, and it's worth considering strategies that take advantage of this fact.

On the one hand, we're taught to put our best foot forward. Why, then, shouldn't I want to make nudism look as appealing as I can? But it could be said that some part of the appeal of physical beauty is sexual in nature. It certainly is true that sex sells, but wouldn't it be irresponsible to use sex to sell nudism? Perhaps I'm overlooking a simple solution - advertising nudism without images. But I want an excuse to advertise my images. And if I want to do that for a broader audience, it has to be non-sexual. And the best excuse for non-sexual nudity is nudism. Sure, there is "fine art" - but the focus there is still on the bodies (maybe even to a greater extent), which could be perceived by some as being an improper obsession. Nudism has the advantage of promoting a whole outlook on life beyond a love of bodies - and a positive one, at that. There's a clear and direct, non-prurient reason for the nudity (whether the viewer is on board with it or not).

I'm a very visually-oriented person. Maybe that makes me not the perfect representative for the nudist lifestyle, which I myself have described in the past as "being nude, not seeing nude". I've agonized over whether I can even represent nudism at all, since I'm "too" attractive (not to mention very sex-positive). I don't want to feel like I'm taking advantage of nudism as a medium through which to display my work. But I am a nudist. I support the lifestyle. And I support its ethos (if maybe I disagree on some of the finer points - though as a member of the lifestyle, I feel I deserve to argue those points). I don't mind there being a difference between depictions of nudism and the reality - that's true of anything that's received the advertising treatment. But then again, if we're talking recruitment - and the more people on our side, the less of a struggle it will be getting society to accept our lifestyle, and give us more opportunities to practice it - I don't want to misrepresent the lifestyle. You want it to look appealing and accessible. And an ad that gets rejected by Facebook because it suggests nudity in an unappealing, not-socially-acceptable way (as opposed to what you occasionally see on the cover of such mainstream magazines as Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, and Rolling Stone) isn't accessible to anyone. I'd say it's got me in a bit of a quandary as to how to proceed.

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