According to stereotype, nudists are either sex-crazed fiends who enjoy engaging in public orgies (false), or asexual puritans who abhor eroticism in all its forms (also false). The truth is somewhere in the middle. Nudists are just people. Some of us are prudes, and some of us are perverts. I happen to be the latter, but you shouldn't take me as an example of nudists on the whole.
So I was watching a perverted Japanese anime ('nuff said), and I encountered what I interpreted to be a nudist-positive scene. And it got me thinking: wouldn't most nudists reject citing an unambiguously sexually-charged form of entertainment as having a positive example of nudism? Probably. But to me, this was very clearly a demonstration of nudism, and not sexuality. One of the characters was relaxing at home, alone, in the buff. It's clear that she wasn't doing it for sexual gratification, and that she had no intention of being seen by anyone (ruling out an exhibitionist motivation). Later, she even explicitly ascribed a nudist-friendly explanation to her actions, after being unexpectedly interrupted by a knock on the door, and engaging in a mad dash for her clothes that any nudist who's ever secretly practiced nudism in the midst of an unforgiving textile culture will recognize.
But does the fact that she was almost certainly drawn not to spread nudist awareness, but for the viewer's titillation, undermine the character's own motivation (and, subsequently, my interpretation of the scene)? Does the fact that people do fetishize nudity - and, even, nudism - in some way taint or corrupt actual recorded instances of nudism? To describe a controversial example, does a legitimate nudist documentary become pornographic the moment it's marketed to perverts?
I can tell you that in all the media I watch, it is extremely rare to find scenes or characters that espouse a deliberate nudist philosophy. Occasionally, I'll come across one that is not explicitly nudist (and, taken in context, nudists will often criticize it for "sexualizing" nudity, since these scenes, even absent overt eroticism, are usually included for the sake of titillation), yet can be loosely interpreted in that way. It's something I might call "situational nudism", where a character is not necessarily or consciously a nudist, but takes part in what could be described as a nudist-friendly activity (e.g., walking around naked in the locker room, going for a skinny dip, posing for an art class) just because the opportunity arises. But for me to encounter what appears to be an actual, true-blue nudist outlook is rare and very exciting. Must the fact that the media in question be a perverted one, and that the nudist character also happens to be an author of erotic literature, detract from that experience? I am an erotic photographer, yet still a genuine nudist. How much, then, do appearances count for?
People are too on-or-off about sexuality. They treat it like a binary step function: something is either completely nonsexual, or else it's all about the pursuit of orgasm. There's not enough consideration for the broad spectrum of sensuality that characterizes our daily lives (something I've been writing about since I started this blog seven years ago), from explicit encounters on one end, to subtle eroticism on the other.
A shirtless dude washing his car in the driveway could be interpreted in a sexual way by some ladies walking down the street - and the dude may even derive some enjoyment from showing off for those ladies - but only a religious nutjob with a hair trigger (cultivated by years of sexual repression) would interpret that as a sex act (in public - and broad daylight, at that!), and I would hope that it wouldn't be considered an inappropriate sight for children. Otherwise, we'd have to reevaluate our understanding of pool culture, perhaps coming to the same conclusion the ignorant masses sometimes do about nudism - that it's a thinly-veiled cover for wild sex orgies (although...have you been to the pool lately? lol).
If real life can be unthreateningly erotic at times, why can't nudism be the same way? If somebody happens, under the right circumstances, to become sexually aroused by the sight of naked bodies (heaven forbid!), that doesn't turn nudism into a sex act. We're right to emphasize that sex is not involved in nudism, but is it a problem if sometimes nudism is interpreted as being sex-y? That 'y' makes a lot of difference.
Can nudism be sexy?
Some critics suspect a link between sex and nudism. But I wouldn't call it a link, I'd call it an overlap. Because we're human beings, and human beings are, first and foremost, sexual organisms. Which is why the effort nudists regularly expend to try and disprove this specious link is, nevertheless, futile.
It's possible for nudism to be "sexy", while still not being sexual. We just need a sufficiently mature population who can recognize that distinction. The problem is that many nudists are trying to market nudism to an erotophobic population. And while nudism is, indeed, not sexual, people are (even nudists!).
We will never be able to make nudism completely asexual - especially if we're not talking strictly about people's behavior at nudist resorts (which can be regulated to a reasonable extent), but also the reputation nudism has in the wider culture, particularly online (which, barring a full authoritarian takeover accompanying the abolition of free speech - undesirable for many reasons - is impossible to control).
This dichotomy between the nonsexuality of nudism and the sexuality of humanity will never be resolved, until such time as our population overcomes its erotophobia. Which is why I believe - despite agreeing with and supporting the nonsexual nature of nudism - that addressing the problems with sexual adjustment we have in this culture (as opposed to ignoring them, as we are currently doing) can only benefit nudism, in the long run.
Continuing to sweep the sex problems of modern society under the rug - because "what does that have to do with nudism?" - promotes only a superficial and easily dispelled illusion of nudism as a sexless "utopia". Nudism will never reach its full potential in a sexually neurotic society (unless we were factually asexual, which, barring a small minority, is far from the case).
We cannot simply drop the issue of sexuality and expect to enjoy nudism unmolested by the greater context of society in which we reside. If we truly want to foster nudism's growth, we need to address our sexual dysfunction first. To promote a world in which casual links to sex made by a predominantly sexual population are not powerful enough to erode the reputation of nudism. A world where participants have the maturity to denote the line between sexual and nonsexual practices in their own behaviors according to context. And a world with a population secure enough not to exaggerate the slightest hint of a sexual undertone into full-blown hysteria.
I come from the future, from an enlightened race. This is what paradise looks like. Do you want to join me? Or are you perfectly happy with the way things are now?