Recently a post here had a comment that brought up the naturist gender balance issue, suggesting it could actually be a matter of gender discrimination (against single men). I wrote a long reply and suspected it should be a regular post. The issue is one of the biggest problems facing U. S. naturism, and has been for a long time (like decades). It’s a very difficult issue to deal with. But the issue hasn’t been discussed much here (except for this and this), so let’s have another look at it.
It’s very wrong and unfair for a naturist club to exclude men entirely for gender balance reasons. There definitely needs to be more flexibility. But the issue is a very tough one. Here’s the main problem: If there are “too many men” at a naturist club, event, or even a clothing-optional beach, then many other men, as well as women, will be considerably less likely to participate.
This isn’t mainly because of homophobia (although that could be a small part). It’s because in most places there are about as many women and men in the population. So in many other social settings, it’s normal to have a fairly equal gender balance. And that’s a very good thing, because women and men often have somewhat different attitudes and approaches to life in general. Consequently, many people positively enjoy getting to know and socialize with people of a different gender than their own. (Of course, some social organizations are exclusively single-gender by design, and that’s OK. But some men and women simply don’t enjoy socializing with people different from themselves, and that’s unfortunate.)
When is some particular imbalance “too extreme”? That really depends on who you ask. A ratio of 10-to-1 or even 20-to-1 men over women may be acceptable to some men, and even a small number of women. But probably not in most cases. What about 5-to-1 or 3-to-1? That may be acceptable to more people, but still unacceptable to others. Closer to 1-to-1 would be much better.
The big problem is that people who find a significant imbalance unacceptable are much less likely to participate in naturism. Obviously, that hurts naturism, even for people who aren’t bothered by imbalance. Why? Because it makes naturism a lot weaker than it should be. Fewer people who participate means there will be fewer naturist clubs and fewer clothing-optional beaches. Worst of all, a (not unreasonable) perception will be perpetuated in the general public that naturism is a weird, fringe interest that appeals only to very few people. You can depend on that.
For naturism to be as strong as it needs to be in order to survive and, hopefully, prosper it must attract as many people as possible (for the “right” reasons). I’m sure there are many, even in a country like the U. S., who have few or no problems being naked around others. There have been surveys that show many people have either been naked at clothing-optional beaches, or would do so if it were convenient. But they still don’t participate in naturism very much, if at all. One reason is that too few naturists means that most others know little or nothing about naturism. However, even men and women who have tried naturist activities often skip participation because of imbalances.
This past summer I started a Meetup group for naturists in my general area. I didn’t exclude single males. Almost everyone who joined was male. Most did not have partners, naturist or otherwise. There were hardly any hetero couples, and even fewer single women. In spite of offering several events, there was very little interest. It’s my impression that most other naturist Meetup groups have had similar results. One of the problems here is that the nearby population density is low, so people are fairly spread out. So why would people be motivated to drive 50 or 100 miles to an event if a significant gender imbalance was likely?
There are a few ways to deal with the problem. Naturist clubs and resorts should never absolutely exclude single males. But they could schedule different times and events when any trustworthy naturist could attend, regardless of gender – and other times when some gender balancing is required. Clubs could do more for hetero couples where only the man is a naturist. In that case the woman will generally want to remain at least partially clothed. So the club should relax as much as possible any expectation for the partner to be fully naked, except in swimming pools and spas. That should help more women be willing to participate. Any woman who’s hesitant about experiencing naturism will probably feel considerably more at ease if she’s accompanied by a male friend or partner.
Clubs could go further and schedule events for couples (whether partnered or “just friends”) where nudity isn’t required at all, and club staff or other naturists could lead discussions of naturism and show online videos that demonstrate many aspects of naturism, including naturist women who give their perspectives. YouTube has somewhat relaxed its policies on nudity, so now there are many good naturist videos available. Another possibility for clubs could be to require men by themselves to be fully naked when it’s warm enough and there are shady areas to avoid excessive sun.
There are now what I call “naturist gateways” – activities where nudity is sensible, encouraged, and not uncommon. Some of them are things that naturist clubs could schedule as special events. For example: naked yoga, naked fitness and exercise, body painting, life modeling, etc. Some of these are things that actually attracted many people in the early days of naturism. Anyone who learns about such things may well want to try some of them at home. As a result, they can become more comfortable with nudity and therefore more interested in naturism generally.
But individual naturists, too, should take some responsibility. Everyone who wants naturism in the U. S. to be successful, should make improving gender balance a priority. Single male naturists who aren’t in a committed relationship but are dating should make an effort to find dating partners who’re at least willing to participate in naturism even if remaining partially or fully clothed. Whether or not you’re looking for a relationship, you can at least try to find a female friend (or relative) who’s not interested in a relationship but willing to come along, even if preferring to remain all or mostly clothed.
There are various reasonable ways to approach this. To begin with, don’t be afraid to discuss naturism with at least some of your friends and acquaintances. You’ll have to do that if you want to find someone to accompany you in a naturist activity. It may be better not to do that in some circumstances, such as in a place of employment, or anywhere important relationships might be affected. But there are lots of alternatives. Perhaps you often see the same people at a gym you go to. If you live in an apartment building, you’ll see other residents more or less frequently. Probably you’ll occasionally have informal conversations with some of them. If the facility has a swimming pool, that would be an ideal place to get to know others. If you’re considering a move to another residence, definitely look for one with a pool.
If you’re not already a member of a naturist group, definitely look for one or more to join. The lack of gender balance in such groups is certainly a problem. But the best way to deal with that is to find women who aren’t members, yet may be open-minded about naturism and willing to consider it. Also, some group members are probably acquainted with such women – perhaps friends or relatives they’ve already discussed naturism with. These members would likely be happy to introduce you. And you won’t have to worry about revealing your own interest in naturism to current group members.
Another approach is to find a social group of some sort that’s reasonably gender-balanced, such as a political, hiking, or running group. You may see others in the group only occasionally, but there will still be plenty of time to get to know people. Some may not like the idea of naturism at all, but probably many others will at least respect your opinion, even if they aren’t personally attracted by naturism. Some might even know of one or more acquaintances who’ve enjoyed a clothing-optional beach or other naturist activity. (“Oh, one of my nieces seems to be into that sort of thing.”) They might be happy to introduce you. Such acquaintances probably also know others who are naturist-friendly.
The general idea here should be pretty obvious. Take advantage of your current social network – and try to expand it – in order to find others who are at least willing to learn more about naturism. Social networks are the main way that good ideas get transmitted.