The gender imbalance problem in naturism

Here’s a new blog post from UK bloggers Hannah and Nick: Encouraging women into naturism. Almost immediately they say “Our experience is that there are actually very few who are actively against people removing their clothes in appropriate public circumstances. However, there does seem to be a gender divide when it comes to people trying naturism for themselves. Men are often keen, women less so.”

I think it’s essential to address that issue, and that just giving women more encouragement is far from enough. The bloggers remark, sensibly, that “before knowing what form any encouragement should take we need to ask ourselves why it is that women make reluctant naturists.” Their answer is basically that most women have problems with body acceptance, no matter how well their bodies conform to cultural ideals. They also note that part of the problem is gender imbalances, and “Most naturist clubs will, from necessity, need some sort of policy to avoid becoming too male heavy.” I agree with that, but the tough question is “what should that policy look like?” Ideally, though, naturists should find a way to make the problem rare – without onerous policies.

I don’t quite agree, however, when Hannah and Nick say “It is the shackles placed on us by society that result in the gender imbalance, and it is those shackles which we need to address, both as naturists and as members of society in general.” Sadly, the question of how to achieve (approximate) gender balancing isn’t squarely addressed, and I think it must be. The post does present a number of good suggestions for encouraging women to try naturism. Comments are invited. But I think there’s much more that needs to be said than easily fits in a blog comment, so I’ll offer my response here. I don’t know any simple solutions or even concise explanations of how I see the problem, but I’ll try to get the ball rolling.

In short, it’s time for naturists to admit to themselves what’s happening. Many reasons can be suggested to explain why women are leery of naturism. The blog post mentions some of them. The suggested approach to the problem is to offer women a number of reasonable arguments why the fears of naturism that women tend to have are unrealistic and that women might actually benefit from naturism.

But it may well be that, at least in the U. S. and various other countries where naturism even exists, a tipping point has been passed – in the downward direction. There are a variety of indications of this. The ratio of men to women continues to rise in naturist activities – such as attendance at naturist resorts, naturist swims, World Naked Bike Rides, and participation in online forums on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Ratios like 10:1, 20:1, or higher aren’t uncommon. That’s just not going to work.

Some male naturists try to argue that this shouldn’t be a problem. Naturism, after all, isn’t sexual, and that’s (generally) a fact, so what’s the problem with lopsided gender ratios? Isn’t naturism just about the enjoyment of being naked, not seeing others naked? There are plenty of nonsexual, clothed social activities where lopsided ratios are the norm, and not considered problematical. Motorcycle clubs, for instance, are overwhelmingly male, while sewing and knitting groups are overwhelmingly female. These are examples that seem “naturally” to appeal much more to one gender rather than the other. That’s not necessarily bad.

The problem for naturism, however, is that most women now seem to put naturism in the same category. And their evidence? Just look at the gender ratios! Case closed. Unfortunately, lopsided gender ratios in naturism lead to a snowball effect, a vicious circle, where the ratio itself persuades people who’d be in the small minority that the activity simply isn’t for them – so they stay away even if they accept the rational arguments for participation and are even a bit tempted to try it out.

Think about it. If you’re male, wouldn’t you be concerned about joining a group that’s mostly female, because you’re afraid you won’t have enough in common with others in the group to enjoy the experience? What would you talk with them about? Women wonder the same thing about groups that are mostly male. They would, at least, like to have women around so there would be a variety of women they could have conversations with about matters that males have little interest in. Some men argue that it’s only a few misbehaving male “rotten apples” who drive women away from naturism. There’ve always been workable solutions for that, so very few men with even a little naturist experience misbehave. They know what the rules are. Extreme gender imbalance raises concerns that have little or nothing to do with physical safety or the awkwardness of being a naked woman surrounded mostly by naked men.

The main problem is the social discomfort of being in a small minority of any sort. Most people simply want to have the option of socializing with others who already have important things in common with themselves. Regardless of one’s gender, social events just naturally seem to be more enjoyable if both genders are present in roughly similar numbers – because that gives everyone more options for things of interest to talk about. If you’re a woman, you might well be happy to talk with someone about football or motorcycles – but not for the entire time! Naturists believe, and need to stress, that their chosen way of socializing is, and should be, quite like other ways. That includes being enjoyable for all present – even though that’s difficult for non-naturists to understand.

Gender imbalance can be a major deterrent for male naturists too. And (at least in most cases) the imbalance isn’t because naturist men want to see naked women. After all, many have female friends and/or significant others they often see naked (and perhaps also families) – and with whom they want to share naturism. Lots of men work in jobs (high tech, trucking, etc.) with large male:female ratios. They’d really prefer to have an opportunity to enjoy social activities, including naturism, with much better-balanced ratios. The same considerations apply to women. If there are few such opportunities, even people who enjoy nudity will also stay away. The result is that many fewer naturist camps and resorts can afford to start or stay in business. Everyone loses.

This problem is real and not at all simple. It’s not going away as long as the gender ratios are the way they are, and getting worse. However, the first step in dealing effectively with any problem must be understanding accurately the root causes of the problem.

I have ideas about what to do. Hint: they involve many naturists actively working in an organized way to promote naturism to others – men as well as women. “Let George do it,” isn’t going to work. I’ve made some suggestions here and here. But I could use additional concrete suggestions for how to proceed. If you care about this issue, please add a comment or two with ideas.

10 thoughts on “The gender imbalance problem in naturism”

  1. The solution I see is to learn about and propagate the psychology of lust development. The kind of sinful lust that easily grows into an obsession and can’t be controlled by self discipline. Start with the website articles. I was about the least likely male to get into naturism, having come up with a very naked=porn mindset plus an instantly appearing automatic fear of being seen naked. But when I came to understand the benefits of naturism to normalize the body to our minds and alleviate excessive lust drive. I intentionally did it and have become quite comfortable with it. And even further in analyzing why my own lusts popped up at about puberty and attached to my own nudity. Even though everything about my life was ideal, as perfect a safe growing up environment as my folks could create. Nudity in common life was almost entirely absent. It’s the only reason my lusts could grab it to feed off of. Lust doesn’t feed off of hands or faces, why? they’re just too common. If the rest of our body were just as commonly seen, lust cold find nothing to build on. And all this excessive lust going on in society would cut way back. Homosexuality arises when boys don’t have naked men around in common nonsexual life, excessive lust directed from men toward women arises when young boys don’t have naked women around them in common life before development. So the argument against naturism commonly raised “what about the children?” As if exposing the children to common nudity would do them harm. In reality it’s actually the opposite, not exposing the children to common nudity is what’s doing them serious harm. Isolating them from nudity in common life is causing their lusts to grab onto nudity to feed off of when puberty arrives. Some more than others, but in general that’s what does it. It did it in me, even though my childhood life was virtually perfect otherwise, and I struggled with lust addiction for some 35 years until I finally came to realize what the solution is. Naturism! God did it right in Eden, we should have stuck with it. So I’m setting myself up an isolated farm where I can work naked most of the time and get away with it. Plus I’ll visit naturist resorts on occasion when I get a chance.

    1. The solution I see is to learn about and propagate the psychology of lust development. The kind of sinful lust that easily grows into an obsession and can’t be controlled by self discipline. Start with the website articles.

      That’s a religious website, so it’s the wrong place to go for wise advice on this issue, because traditional religion itself is the main cause of people confusing nudity and sexuality. Most religions teach that “lust” and nudity go hand in hand. That’s what most religions have taught for thousands of years, so it’s not surprising that most societies are so befuddled by religion that people can’t tell the difference, and even secular people in such societies are confused.

      Children should be taught the distinction from an early age. They should learn that there’s nothing at all “wrong” about people of any age seeing each other naked in a nonsexual context. At the same time they should be taught that normal human sexuality is appropriate only for young people once they are mature enough to deal with it cautiously and respectfully. It’s the same reason as they must be old enough before being able to drive a car safely. The term “lust” lumps all forms of sexuality together, so it shouldn’t be used, since it ignores the distinction between responsible and irresponsible sexuality – which are as different as normal healthy eating and gluttony.

      People need to treat each other respectfully whether or not any clothes are being worn. If men, especially, would always follow that principle, there wouldn’t be any gender imbalance problem in naturism.

      Homosexuality arises when boys don’t have naked men around in common nonsexual life

      That’s just not so. Homosexuality, in both males and females, is nothing but a form of normal human sexuality that happens to be preferred naturally by only something like 5% or 10% of the population. The fact it’s a minority preference doesn’t make it more “wrong” than other sorts of harmless minority preferences. But, unfortunately, harmless minorities of many different types are discriminated against in most societies. Discrimination against naturists and nudists is a perfect example of this.

      In reality it’s actually the opposite, not exposing the children to common nudity is what’s doing them serious harm.

      That’s exactly right. The earlier children are allowed to experience nudity, of themselves and others, the sooner they will learn about normal human anatomy. And so the sooner they can be taught what is safe and healthful to do with their bodies at any given stage of maturity.

      1. You must not have read the articles on that website. It’s all about the wrong view of the body that Christians have held for so long and ends up promoting naturism as the cure for porn addiction in such a common sense logical way it’s hard for anyone to argue it.

        And as far as lack of naturism turning a young boy into a homosexual. I’m talking from personal experience there. It happened to me, and naturism brought me out of it. No; It’s not born in, it’s not natural, it’s programmed in from early childhood by isolation from common nudity, or by way of abuse situations. Either one can do it. People are tricked into thinking it’s born in because they can’t figure out where else it comes from.

      2. [quote]That’s a religious website, so it’s the wrong place to go for wise advice on this issue, because traditional religion itself is the main cause of people confusing nudity and sexuality.[/quote]
        Not to get bogged down in a minor point, but I think you may have this backwards. It is precisely [i]because[/] folks are religious (if they are) that a religiously-based message is required to break the chains, so to speak. Secular writers can pen the most eloquent arguments supporting the beauty and worthiness of social nudity, but until a biblically-based argument is made in support of naturism, and showing the holes in the church’s dogma on this issue, believers have little hope of finding the truth. I’ll side with Reuben on this: offers a clear way out of a wrong-minded view of the naked human body – for those who are Christian or Jewish believers. I’d also argue that, since much of the western-world’s sense of morality comes through a judeo-christian lens, it is useful even for others who don’t count themselves as believers.

        1. This is definitely not the place to get into religious arguments. A religious person opposed to nudity may be more likely to listen to the opinion of a religious person who isn’t opposed to nudity. There are various religious naturist organizations, mostly online, that can be consulted for the arguments – if one side is even willing to consider the other side. However, religious people disagree among themselves about many things besides nudity – homosexuality, divorce, the role of women in the church, etc. It doesn’t seem like the two sides on any of these issues easily change their minds, regardless of what the other side says. Because most of the disagreement hinges on different interpretations of the religious scriptures rather than facts. In such debates, the opinions of non-religious people carry hardly any weight at all.

        2. much of the western-world’s sense of morality comes through a judeo-christian lens, it is useful even for others who don’t count themselves as believers.

          Yes, that’s true, and it’s a problem. Because, as just noted, the lens is cloudy – judeo-christians disagree among themselves on so many “moral” issues. So the “sense of morality” that the rest of society gets depends on which side of the issue the religious believers in a particular time and place support. Might as well just flip a coin – or better yet, take non-religious considerations into account.

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  2. I know there are polls and studies finding out the aggregates of how people view social nudity, but has there been one or two getting to this why? What holds women back? I know body image would certainly be on the list, but has it been found to be the main reason? My wife, for instance, it comes down more to the “ick” factor of seeing other people naked… which, sure, I can see as maybe tied to body image… but addressing the issue for widest effect would mean discovering what the main issue actually is.

    Overcoming the “ick” factor is not one I’ve seen yet… any ideas on that one? (smile)

    Thanks for your well-written and informative articles!

    1. The “ick factor” certainly is one part of the puzzle. But it’s a result of attitudes in the wider society. In U.S. society, nudity has generally been considered to be “gross”. But how that plays out varies a lot over time. Just among men, for example, communal naked swimming and showering became increasingly considered “gross” somewhere around 1970-80. (This may be due in part to gays becoming more open about their orientation, but that doesn’t justify prejudice against them.)

      For another example, there were almost as many women as men at nude beaches and resorts in the 1960s (lots of children too) so naturist women clearly didn’t consider nudity to be icky then – even though the broader society did, of course. But society keeps changing. One obvious trend is related to successive waves of feminism. In earlier waves, women wanted to be free to do whatever men did – including participation in naturism. There were also feminists, such as Andrea Dworkin, who were very anti-sex in almost any form, so that probably turned some women off on naturism if they decided its main purpose was to allow men to see naked women – the dreaded “male gaze”.

      In recent years, the “Me-Too” phenomenon has sensitized women to any sort of male behavior that could be considered sexual harassment. Behavior, for example, such as any sort of unexpected physical contact, even brief shoulder hugs (which men sometimes give each other). And non-contact behavior too, such as comments on physical appearance (either favorable or not). Women are more sensitive now to anything that might be considered attempts by men to “hit on” them. And they expect (incorrectly) for such things to happen much more in naturist places. (Perhaps sometimes correctly at nude beaches.) An invitation from a male acquaintance to visit a naturist place could very easily be misinterpreted as a form of “hitting on”.

      There are generational factors also. More from what I read than from personal experience, it seems that people now tend to identify as members of different generations. In particular, “Gen-Z” people (and some “Millenials”) are more sensitive about sexuality and are somewhat less inclined to place as much emphasis on sexual relations as older people. This is partly due to economics. Women want (and deserve) full equality with men with respect to occupation and salary. And for both women and men, it’s now more difficult to start a family and afford adequate housing than it used to be. So there’s more emphasis on securing suitable employment than on forming romantic relationships or any other activity (like naturism) that might interfere with their economic goals. Of course, the general confusion in our society regarding nudity and sex doesn’t work in favor of naturism. Sexuality aside, naturism is just another type of social activity in which someone might be looking for a relationship partner. If that objective is less important, there’s even less incentive to participate in naturism.

      There’s one particular problem that’s squarely on the shoulders of naturists. Quite simply, naturists in general are far too secretive about being naturists. Bad consequences of this include (1) widespread misunderstandings of what naturism actually is; (2) ignorance of how many people are actually interested in or tolerant of social nudity; (3) the reasonable assumption that if people won’t talk about it naturism must be “perverted” or something to be ashamed of.

      It’s up to naturists themselves to “come out” and be open with their friends and relatives about enjoying nonsexual social nudity. And in particular, naturists need to very clearly insist that simple nudity just isn’t “icky” at all. That is how one overcomes the “ick” factor. Let people you trust know you like being naked. They might even be OK if you want to get “comfortable”. Unfortunately, social media don’t provide help in this. These media usually heavily censor images or even discussion of nudity. Of course, there are obvious problems with identifying as a naturist when just anyone (like some associates at work) might notice. So spreading the good word about social nudity has to be done mostly on a private person-to-person basis.

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