There have been quite a few interesting comments on a post of mine from about 3 months ago: Gender balance in naturism. I’ll discuss my responses to a couple of the comments on it. But first, it’s necessary to call attention to a post from Alexis, a female naturist blogger: Giving Up Nudism?.
This is a long post, so if you’re short on time you can find a summary of the main points at the end, but you’ll miss the reasoning behind those points. If you do have time, it would be a good idea to read (or re-read) Alexis’ post and the comments on it.
For simplicity, I’ll summarize some of her main points. Only the parts in quotation marks are Alexis’ own remarks.
- Alexis’ blog has currently been around for almost 3 years and is one of the most interesting and well-written naturist blogs out there.
- In the post of interest here, she is questioning whether she should “Stop Being a Nudist”
- She says that “the dramatic shift into a nudist lifestyle has been a godsend for me, and when my life was falling apart around me, it was the solace of my nakedness that brought me through that time.”
- However, she makes the dramatic assertion: “Nudism is tainted. Plain and simple. I feel that nudism is so tainted with bad connotations, horrible exposure, and endless marketing from porn sites and news media” Of course, naturism/nudism is not directly responsible for this state of affairs – as most of us will probably agree.
- But she goes on to suggest that “there will be almost zero chance the community will be able to overcome this type of view from those outside of our lifestyle.”
- Then, still not explicitly blaming our community for what she fears, she observes “Nudism has become the face of young naked women frolicking through the woods just begging for men to come searching for them. To me, it’s turned into a sexual fantasy that people search for because they want [to] be naked all the time for sexual purposes.”
- But she considers this situation to be “a major reason why you don’t see people claiming the nudist lifestyle, and beating down the doors at resorts and clubs. If you say you’re a nudist, people immediately have a weird reaction.” And the reason for the negative reaction to identifying as a nudist is “you’re immediately judged as having a weird kink, perversion, or some other abnormal sexual interest.” Those are very important observations.
- She notes that typical nudists “live a somewhat naked lifestyle, but they are more private in their expression and don’t tell anyone.” Most unfortunately, that’s quite true.
- And that being so, “This group of people is the greatest opportunity to prevent the lifestyle from dying out.” Stated differently, it’s critical that naturists/nudists stop being so secretive about their lifestyle and tell others what is so good about it. So the prevalent negative attitudes among non-nudists towards a naked lifestyle need to be challenged head-on.
In general, the negative public attitude towards naturism/nudism is significantly worse in the U. S. than in otherwise similar countries where our lifestyle is better accepted – such as France, Germany, Spain, the UK, etc. In countries like those, naturists are generally less secretive and more open about their lifestyle. In the UK, for example, public nudity is actually legal (as long as it’s not deliberately offensive to others). In that country there are numerous clothing-optional beaches (despite a less than ideal climate), local and regional naturist clubs, many landed naturist camps and resorts, and a strong national organization (British Naturism) that sponsors many events around the country every year. All this is known to the public in the UK, so a much larger percentage of people than in the U. S. understand that naturism is a non-sexual, non-threatening lifestyle whose participants aren’t afraid to let others know that they enjoy naturist activities.
Alexis’ answer to the question of whether to stop being a nudist is basically “no way!” She says “I will continue to live and breath a clothes free, naked lifestyle”. And most importantly, “I want to talk about my experiences and how my nakedness has played a role in my decisions, health, and almost every aspect of my life. … I’m just going to be naked, nude, and clothes free, and when asked about it I will say I see no need to be dressed all the time, especially when I am alone or in the company of others who are like minded.” Protecting one’s privacy is often important. But both naturists and naturism suffer if people who enjoy naturism don’t try to be as open and unsecretive about it as possible.
So let’s go back to the statement that “nudism is so tainted with bad connotations, horrible exposure, and an endless marketing from porn sites and news media.” That observation, at least regarding the U. S., is certainly true. As a result, nudism has “turned into a sexual fantasy that people search for because they want [to] be naked all the time for sexual purposes.”
There are many serious misconceptions that most non-naturists have about nudism/naturism, and many or most of them result from the mistaken idea that naturism is mainly a sexual interest. Such misconceptions are the chief reason that too many naturists are afraid to be open and unsecretive about their interest in social nudity. Consequently, most people who enjoy a naked lifestyle – or actually think of themselves as nudists or naturists – are quite secretive about the pleasures of being naked. So that’s one very negative result.
But there is a second very negative result. It’s that women themselves do not want to be associated with a naturist lifestyle – let alone actually talk about it with others. In fact, most women who have nothing against nudity per se and may enjoy it privately, have little or no desire to visit clothing-optional beaches or naturist places like clubs and resorts. And this quite likely explains the much-lamented “gender balance problem” at naturist places.
Why has this problem become increasingly worse over the past few decades? It seems probable this is because of how feminism has come to take a very legitimate and vocal stand against sexual abuse and sexual harassment in all its forms. So it’s hardly surprising that naturism/nudism is something that most women want no part of as long as it’s perceived as essentially sexual.
There’s a chicken/egg problem here. In order to dispel the mistaken idea that naturism is all about sex, naturists – especially female naturists – need to speak out to spread the word that naturism is wholesome, healthy, and not about sex. But both male and female naturists are afraid to do that precisely because of the erroneous connection in most people’s minds between naturism and sex.
So how do we deal with a problem like this? Do we first try to handle the misperception that naturism is about sex? Oe do we try to deal with the gender balance problem first? Or must we work on both at once?
It seems to me that we should address the gender balance problem first. If we can do something meaningful about that, then there will be more women participating in naturist activities. Consequently, they’ll be able to communicate to others a woman’s favorable view of naturism. That will then attract more men to naturism also. As a result, in a few years there could be many more people willing to be open about it and to tell others about their enjoyment of naturism. It’s helpful if they talk about “naturism” as a particular belief or lifestyle. But it’s enough just to talk about the non-sexual things they like to do clothesfree – even if that’s just hiking, gardening, or working around the house.
At the same time, the gender balance problem is clearly very worth solving. That is, first, because many naturists are quite unhappy about the problem itself. But also, second, because doing something about it will motivate many more women (and men) to tell others about why they enjoy being non-sexually naked, at least, and perhaps participating in non-sexual social nudity as well. If and when that happens, many more people are likely to think favorably about it – or even try it out for themselves.
Trying to change the opinions of the general public that associate naturism with sex is a very important goal. But that’s already been assumed not to be the place to start. So how do we induce more women to participate in naturist activities in order to attack the gender balance problem? I think the answer may be found in a couple of recent comments I added to the discussion of the aforementioned post on this blog about naturism’s gender-balance problem. So let’s take a look at that.
One of the comments on that post agreed that gender balance is important. But it insisted that promoting balance shouldn’t be achieved by placing limits on participation in naturism by single males. Even if not placing limits results in a very large imbalance. But I have a problem with that opinion, because achieving some reasonable gender balance is critical for naturism. That’s because, as already explained, it’s needed to refute the bad misconception that naturism is mainly about sex. I definitely agree that single male participation shouldn’t be limited. However, reducing gender imbalance as much as possible should be a top priority.
A major reason that gender balance is so important is that for naturism to flourish, people of any demographic category should participate as much as possible in proportion to their representation in the general population. So it’s not just a matter of gender, but also of age, ethnicity, education level, income level, occupation, etc. Ideally, people who participate in naturism should reasonably reflect the population at large. Why? Because the best way to attract the most people to naturism is to include everyone who enjoys being naked and also understands and respects naturist principles.
There are a number of ways that men and women already involved in naturist activities can interest women who might consider becoming involved. But that’s a large topic that deserves much more discussion than can be included here.
As far as gender balance is concerned, the basic problem is assuring women that participation in naturism can be just as safe and rewarding for them as it is for men. Therefore, we really need to fully understand why women are reluctant to participate. And then identify what can be done to eliminate or at least minimize the factors responsible for women’s reluctance to participate. This is why the present post began by discussing Alexis’ post on her blog. An important insight from her post is that a major reason why women are reluctant to participate in naturism is the prevalence of the mistaken idea that there’s a close connection between naturism and sex.
I’ll conclude with another important point that’s occasioned by another person’s comment on my gender balance post. This is the comment (and my response): “We simply must do better at getting our message to the world! Then and only then, the gender parity problem will solve itself.”
Again, I fully agree with the first part, that our messaging to the world must greatly improve. But I strongly disagree that doing that alone will be enough for the gender balance problem to “solve itself”. For the sake of completeness, I’ll incorporate it here (slightly amended and with omission of redundant material).
Yes, naturists definitely need to improve messaging – by an order of magnitude. Far too many naturists don’t “message” at all, because they think they need to be secretive about enjoying naturism. That’s the first thing that has to change. And the second thing is clarification and enhancement of the specific message.
But even much more and better messaging, although it will help, probably won’t be enough for the gender parity problem to “solve itself”. Our society is changing and evolving – as all societies do over time. So naturism itself must evolve as well. In what way, specifically, should it evolve? Here’s the thing: in the U. S. it’s quite clear that women in general, and young women in particular, have become much more sensitive to issues concerning harassment, objectification, and equal treatment. This is true in the workplace, in public and private organizations, and in public locations generally. If anything, women’s concerns about these issues are better addressed in naturist places than most other places in society.
The problem is, first, that naturist messaging now isn’t good or frequent enough. But, second, even if it improves greatly, it’s still up against other developments in our society. One of these is the aggravation many women today feel about mistreatment they experience from many men in our society. Related to that is how advertising and popular media in general favor using images of “attractive” bodies of both women and men – often showing as much skin as “acceptable”. The competition by our media to attract attention is intense.
Our society has come a long way from the oppressive religious prudery of the past. Sexuality is now much more openly discussed in both traditional and online media, in public school classrooms, and in private conversations. Exchanging “nude photos” has become almost a “normal” part of dating relationships. On the whole, the trend isn’t necessarily unhealthy. So naturists should feel more comfortable and willing to discuss nudity with others, even though its relationship with sex is far weaker than generally assumed.
Naturists know the pleasure of socializing naked with people who share naturist principles, camping or hiking naked, or just being naked at home. And none of that is inherently sexual. What’s so shocking to explain that to others? However, as Alexis has noted, society’s trend has also enabled pornography that women consider degrading to become much more easily available. More openness about sexuality is one way our society has evolved, for better or worse.
Naturism must evolve to deal with new realities. It’s complicated to figure out just how naturism should respond. But clearly, part of the message has to be that naturist nudity is healthy and has nothing to do with nudity that’s exploitative or degrading to women. That can happen only if naturists are much more open about promoting what they’ve found to be so good about naturism. Fact: naturism just won’t work if its participants don’t have a very good understanding and respect for “boundaries”. So the message that both men and women need to learn and trust is that naturists fully comprehend this fact – and always act accordingly.
It’s been argued here that solving the imbalance problem is probably the most effective way to deal with the problem of the misconception that naturist nudity and sex are closely related, rather than the other way around. And that correcting the imbalance problem is not only worthwhile in itself but also a good way to correct the misconception too. Furthermore, correcting the imbalance can and should be done without restricting single males from participating in naturism.
It’s also been asserted that the first step to dealing with the imbalance problem is for people who enjoy non-sexual nudity to be more open and non-secretive about why and how they experience this enjoyment. By doing that, they’re better able to persuade women (as well as men) to take an interest in enjoying nudity both in private and with others. However, very little has been said here about how to actually have this discussion in conversation with others.
Even less has been said about what to do next when others show an interest in learning more about naturist activities – and possibly even participating in some way or another. Finding women who show this interest can lead to their participation, and therefore chipping away at the imbalance problem. But presenting ideas for how to do this is a subject for further serious discussions.
Well, this post has covered a great deal of material. So let’s just conclude with very brief statements of the key points to take away.
- There’s a very widespread misconception in U. S. society (and elsewhere) that naturist nudity is closely related to sex, and therefore should be considered a cause of “immorality”.
- Something that causes “immorality” should be considered immoral itself and therefore avoided.
- A prominent female naturist blogger is very unhappy about the current state of naturism – because it’s confused with porn and exploitation of women – but she’s not going to give up.
- Fear of being wrongly perceived by others has caused most people in the U. S. who enjoy naturist activities to be too secretive and not open about their interest, due to the general confusion with sexuality.
- Because of fears due to the large misunderstanding of naturism in the U. S., the popularity and acceptance of social nudity in this country is considerably less than in similar countries in Western Europe (and elsewhere).
- Increasingly in recent years women have, justifiably, become more sensitive about sexual discrimination and harassment.
- The widespread misconception of naturism’s close relation to sexual immorality is a serious deterrent for the participation of women in naturist activities.
- The resulting non-participation of women in naturism is a direct result of the misconception, so it’s responsible for the gender imbalance in naturist activities.
- The imbalance itself is a major additional deterrent to women’s participation, so it makes the imbalance more extreme.
- There’s an ongoing difference of opinion within naturism about whether to prioritize refutation of the misconceptions about naturism or encouragement of gender balance and women’s participation in naturist activities.
- There are good reasons that encouragement of women’s participation in naturist activities should be prioritized in order to significantly improve gender balance.
- Achieving some reasonable gender balance is critical for naturism.
- Encouragement of women’s participation in naturism doesn’t and shouldn’t cause discrimination against participation by single males.
- As the imbalance problem is reduced, the misconception that naturism is mostly about sex will also be reduced, so even more women (and men too) will become involved in naturism.
- Women who’ve found that they enjoy naturist activities can be the most effective people in persuading others that naturism isn’t a sexual thing, increasing the chances others will learn about naturism and then participate themselves.
- The strength and prevalence of the misconception have occurred as one aspect of how our society has evolved.
- Naturism itself needs to evolve in order to deal with society’s evolution.