The Issues of Nudism and Sexuality Openly Discussed:
Nudism and Sexuality is quite a hot topic these days. We at Young Naturists America get a ton of of email and questions every single day. This week we got one such email from a young person who wanted to know, how do we separate nudism and sexuality?
His email read as follows:
“How does one separate sexuality from nudity? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not attacking nudists, I want to be one. I guess my question is: When does it become too sexualized? I think that’s what gets textile people’s textiles in a bunch. Where is the context?”
Rather than ask for a straight answer to those questions, Jordan Blum decided to break them down a bit in a conversation with Paul Rapoport, former longtime editor of Going Natural.
Below is the Q & A about nudism and sexuality that followed:
What do you think of the questions?
They’re basic and important. Although most naturists may know the main answer to their own satisfaction, I’d like to start with a bit of context, as the questioner asks. Let’s consider the sex issue from a cultural perspective, and the problems it poses for naturists.
American culture, fed if not led by its media—movies and pop music as well as communications and advertising—has turned sex into big business and a big obsession. To use that obsession for commercial and political ends on a large scale, sex needs to be oversimplified and narrow.
What’s the result?
Because public expressions of “explicit” sexuality are generally banned, in traditional mass-market visual representation a few square (or round!) inches of body parts easily become the oversimplified, narrow focus for that ban. You know, “You can’t show that!”
But nudity is everywhere in the media, we’re told.
In basic mass media, only coy versions of nudity: a censored, false nudity, with “no showing this or that” always operating, and an overwhelming emphasis on young women of a certain type. All that should really annoy naturists.
But does it benefit naturism any?
Maybe, but it comes from a different place, the manipulation of the obsession with sex. That’s aimed at the main decision makers: middle-aged, middle-class, heterosexual men. Naturism’s real nudity of a variety of real people doing anything but hanging around in passive poses would wreck the game by making the manipulation much more difficult.
What’s the simplest way to attack that?
We could try logic! To most people, if there’s an image of sex, it must involve nudity. Therefore, if there’s an image of nudity, it must involve sex. Is that logical?
Naturists know the answer to that.
I’d put this to non-naturists, then: If there’s an image of a man, it must be a human. Therefore, if there’s an image of a human, it must be a man.
That illogicality is the same as the one involving nudity. Unfortunately, logic is an enemy of forces of mass manipulation.
Why don’t we just say that nudism isn’t sexual and leave it at that?
Because it’s complicated, and on a simple level I don’t think it’s true. If it were, there would be no quotas on single men at private naturist locations, no gay naturists as separate groups, etc. The issue may well be: life is sexual.
How do nudists deal with all that in practice, rather than theory?
The simplest way to separate nudity from sexuality is to keep to the practice of nonsexualized nudity. The -ed is important, making nonsexualized mean not overtly sexual. In other words, naturist activities have no additional sexual component beyond what bodies usually have when clothed.
But even that’s a tough sale. To non-naturists, eating, swimming, or playing volleyball without clothes is either ridiculous or sexually provocative. They’ve bought into the wrong two-way automatic association between nudity and sexual expression.
Don’t naturists have an even harder time understanding? They’re often critical of behavior that would be acceptable in a non-nude event.
Politically in the USA, especially during its more repressive phases, naturists have had to disavow any connection with sex. To fight the impression that they are sexual deviants or threats, they try to act less sexual than everyone else.
Part of that is a reasonable defense, especially for women in the presence of men: when clothes come off, more boundaries are on. Interpersonal boundaries are strengthened. But it may certainly be overdone.
How may it be overdone?
In the 1940s, naturists in most places could not hold hands or, in some, touch each other even on a shoulder. That seems odd now. These days, there are other naturist taboos. There must always be some. Different naturists may have different views on them.
Some say that genital jewelry is a sexualized display, or that putting sunscreen on the usually forbidden body bits in the presence of others is too much. Some say that men shouldn’t be allowed erections, or that women shouldn’t sit with their legs apart. Some naturist locations avoid lingerie or other attire considered sexy, or body painting, or body contests. Some frown on naked hugs or dances.
Could trying so much to be less sexual than non-naturists be counter-productive? If people are not guilty of something, why must they battle to prove they are innocent?
Welcome to the USA, where on a large political scale, perception is nine-tenths of truth.
In practical terms, though, overdoing the defensiveness about sex might separate naturist groups from each other as well as alienate a large segment of the population that just wants to act the same with or without clothing.
Those seem notable concerns especially for young people. But if things don’t go to extremes, there’s room for various kinds of naturism: outdoor, party, sports, religious, etc.; and let’s not forget children of very different ages. As for acting the same with or without clothing, that’s the basic idea, which young children understand better than anyone!
What would you suggest to new naturists? They won’t go into a lot of philosophy just to try the experience.
Fair enough. They might find out what’s okay or not in the naturist environment they plan to be in and act accordingly. Or the converse: find out if there’s a place or group that does things they want and avoids things they don’t.
It doesn’t hurt to ask in a general way, or to read up a little about the issues, and those seeking assurances should be welcomed.
How do you see naturism changing over the next few years with respect to these issues?
That’s too hard for me to answer. But one thing seems clear: because naturism is still small stuff in the larger picture, it gains most from major events that aren’t set up as naturist or by naturists. Examples: the World Naked Bike Ride and large-scale or well-publicized performances by artists like Spencer Tunick and Sarah Small.
Favorable legal decisions help, of course. Ironically they include cases in the sexual realm, such as repealing anti-sodomy laws (Texas) or allowing swinger parties (Québec), because of the larger world’s confusion of sexual expression with nudity. Also beneficial is acceptance or acquittal of women for being topfree, which involves an equality issue even if courts haven’t much recognized that.
It’s all about body acceptance, which shows up in many ways.
What about traditional naturist activities?
All the good news about naturist campgrounds, resorts, beaches, organizations, and activities are slowly showing the American public that naturism is not a sexualized practice and moreover has longstanding, important ties to many positive ideas and movements in health, psychology, the natural environment, and art. Continuing to emphasize those positive connections should diminish the need for naturism to demonstrate what it is not and free it to become what it aspires to.
Perhaps naturist concerns about sexuality in their practice will decrease. Wouldn’t it be nice if they disappeared?
This discussion about nudism and sexuality was published by – Young Naturists And Nudists America YNA
FG_AUTHORS: Jordan Blum