Recent articles on nudity and naturism, 10/18/19

It’s quite striking how much better-accepted naturism is in the UK compared to the US, considering how many other things (including language, to some extent) the two countries have in common. Although UK naturists are still definitely a minority, the articles discussed here should make US naturists very envious of the Brits. (The previous collection of articles also had much evidence of this.)

  • Hundreds strip off and brave North Sea in the nude in mass autumn skinny-dip
    Since 2012 British naturists in Northumberland have participated in a skinnydip at the beach on Druridge Bay close to the time of the Autumn Equinox. Almost all participants this year waded in completely naked, even though the beach is in the north of England on the North Sea, near the Scottish border – and the event began at sunrise. Daytime high temperatures in the area during September average about 60°F (16°C). The organizer of the event, however, said the temperature was “the warmest it has ever been”. He also explained that “I think people are trying to understand what we are trying to do a little bit more. It’s not just about taking our clothes off[;] it’s about taking a risk, connecting with nature, celebrating life and embracing our own bodies.” For some participants it was their first experience with social nudity. And unlike many naturist events, there were about as many women as men. But it wasn’t just a naturist event, as it also had the purpose of raising money for a local charity. The official count of participants was 737, probably a new high, and each donated £15. More than £50,000 had been raised in the previous 7 years. The event was widely reported in British news media and elsewhere, such as

  • Royal Academy visitors are invited to brush past naked man and woman in recreation of 1977 performance artwork
    Performance artist Marina Abramović came up with the simple idea of having two entirely naked performers stand facing each other in a narrow passageway and inviting members of the public (fully dressed) to squeeze between them. Marina herself and her then-boyfriend put on the first performances at an Italian art gallery in 1977. The performance was called Imponderabilia. It’s now scheduled to be repeated at London’s Royal Academy of Arts main galleries from late September to early December in 2020 – where it will be available for the general public. Two young artists will recreate the performance under Marina’s supervision (and possibly with her own participation). Although members of the public are expected to remain clothed, the piece is intended to challenge their reactions to very close interaction with others who are naked, and to “confront themes of naked vulnerability”.

    Britain’s The Sun tabloid persuaded their reporter Amy Nickell to do a reenactment of the performance together with a male model (Miguel) – both appropriately naked. Pictures of various people squeezing between Amy and Miguel give the impression (for the most part) that both handled the experience pretty well, although some of those who were required to navigate between the two did so with less equanimity – especially those of larger girth. Nevertheless, Amy reports “I was glad when I got dressed again.” Perhaps – but would she admit it if she actually enjoyed the experience? Here’s an earlier article from The Sun about the forthcoming Royal Academy of Arts performance.

  • The Yorkshire naturist club and why we shouldn’t be embarrassed by our bodies
    This is a reasonably positive article on Britain’s Yorkshire Sun Society, which was founded in 1932 and is the second oldest naturist club in the country. Patrick Galbraith, whose article this is, does remove his clothes at times. But he doesn’t seem entirely sold on the idea initially, as he begins with the admission that “It had been at least a decade since I’d seen another man in the buff and I was immediately overcome with the urge to apologise to him profusely before running away.” Although he doesn’t quite answer the implied question in the title of the article, by the end of his stay he does have this thought: “I had gone in search of the weird and discovered that it is perhaps people beyond the gates who are the weird ones – those like you and I who sweat like mad on a hot summer’s day because of some inherited belief that thighs and tummies are inherently sexual or offensive.”

  • Naked cleaners wanted in Devon and Cornwall – and they earn £45 an hour!
    What real naturist wouldn’t want to have other naturists handle tedious house cleaning chores (if the price were affordable)? It sounds almost too good to be true, so one might be a bit suspicious that a business of this sort is actually legitimate. Yet, apparently, it is. There have been a number of articles in the (British) news media about such businesses, and the article here is among the latest. The company is named Naked Cleaners (duh). According to the website, the company operates “throughout the UK”, but it is based in London. As you’d expect from a legitimate business, customers are expected to observe a number of rules, spelled out in their FAQ. For instance, touching, photographing, or videoing the cleaners isn’t allowed. Also, nobody except occupants of the home or apartment may be present – but they may be naked themselves. (They’re naturists, after all.)

    The rate for naked cleaners is £45 per hour (about $58 US). But that’s what the company is paid – presumably the cleaners don’t get all of it. Although the cleaners work naked, they aren’t necessarily long-time naturists – let alone “adult entertainers”. They may be quite new to working naked. One cleaner, quoted in the article, said “I was new to naturism. I had never done it before – I hadn’t even been on a nudist beach or anything like that. I’d just done it in private. I wasn’t nervous because I’m quite comfortable being naked.” However, she explained, “I found the first time quite liberating if anything, because I like being naked. If I’m by myself or with my close friends or a boyfriend, I’ll walk around naked. I’m not sure exactly why I like it, I just feel more comfortable that way.”

  • Student animal doctors strip off for naked calendar to raise money for drought-stricken farmers
    We turn now to Australia, another English-speaking country where naturism is (probably) more successful than in the US. Since we’re nearing the end of 2019, ’tis the season for a new spate of calendars to make their appearance for 2020. Last January we asked the question Why are calendars featuring naked people such a fad in Britain? It was noted then that Australia also had such calendars – and the latest for 2020 is also from Down Under. According to the article
    Student vets have stripped off their scrubs for a cheeky naked calendar to mark the end of five gruelling years of study. The calendar has become a tradition for veterinary students at Australia’s James Cook University – and this year’s class are no exception. Striking nude poses with strategically placed hats, 40 classmates took part, with the proceeds going towards their graduation ball and a local charity.
    Although whoever decides such things (pusillanimously, as usual) didn’t allow any full-frontal nudity, the calendar pictures are generally entertaining and imaginative. The calendar can be purchased online for $20 AUD (about $14 US) plus S/H at Vets Uncovered. Quite a bargain. Another article on this is here.

  • 10 Biggest Fears of a Beginning Nudist and How To Overcome Them
    The hyperactive (and non-US) bloggers at Naked Wanderings list some of the most common fears that intimidate prospective naturists. The list will be very familiar to current naturists. And the truth is that if a prospective naturist will actually give social nudity a try in a suitable environment, all but one of the fears on the list will quickly be perceived as small problems, at most. The one remaining fear, unfortunately, is the biggie: “How will I explain this to friends and family?” This one needs a lot more thought and effort to overcome.

    The advice given in the article for this fear is really too skimpy. For instance “The easy solution: Just don’t tell them. It’s none of anyone’s business if you prefer to spend your free time at a nudist resort.” That is, of course, quite unrealistic unless you’re a hermit living by yourself – in which case you may already be used to getting along with few or no clothes. Not only is the advice unrealistic, but the tendency of many or most naturists to be secretive about their enjoyment of nudity is most unfortunate. It’s probably the biggest reason that naturism has struggled so long and so unsuccessfully to really catch on. Simply put: people who become curious about naturism probably have at least some relatives or friends who share their interest – but aren’t aware of that since the others are also secretive. So people who are curious about naturism have much difficulty overcoming the other fears in the first place. A good approach would be to bring up the subject of naturism casually in conversation, perhaps by mentioning news stories like any of the above. If done often enough, others who don’t have a negative attitude towards nudity could be found. It’s also important to become convinced that enjoying nonsexual social nudity is not doing anything wrong. After that, it’s easier to figure out how to explain this fact to others.

Naturist theater

Many stage plays have been produced in which one or more actors are fully naked for large parts – or all – of the play. But most of these aren’t exactly “naturist”. They may have major themes like shame and embarrassment, sexuality, exhibitionism, prostitution, or something else entirely. Classic plays may also be performed with naked actors – such as Shakespeare plays. Some nudity may even be appropriate in a few Shakespeare plays, such as Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, and The Tempest. (There was a major film version of the latter, titled Prospero’s Books, with abundant nudity.) But for present purposes we don’t consider any of these to be “naturist”.

Nevertheless, there are a few plays which really are “naturist” – but just a few. Probably the great majority of these have been performed only in experimental theaters, on college and university campuses, and similar venues. Most of these, I think, have never been published so that they may be used by other theater companies. Perhaps the only example that has been published and is in any sense “well known” is Barely Proper, by Tom Cushing. Cushing was an American playwright who had a modestly successful career with several plays being performed on Broadway between 1910 and 1930.

Barely Proper was published in 1931, but subtitled “An Unplayable Play” – because Cushing couldn’t imagine it being performed at the time, as most of the characters are always naked. A film with the same title was released in 1975, but with a different plot. The play was eventually performed on Broadway, in 1970, but got poor reviews. It’s not a literary masterpiece, but it is a competently written play – although not one that would especially appeal to non-naturists, and it’s not fully satisfying to naturists either.

Cushing may have hoped the play actually would be performed within a few years, since nudism had just begun to gain some traction in the U. S. in the early 1930s. Perhaps the play’s lack of success motivated its author to turn to other pursuits when he was in his early 50s, since he had no other plays that made it to Broadway after then.

The play’s weakness is that the plot is rather formulaic. Frieda Schmidt and Derek Leet are engaged to be married. Frieda is German and is an avid nudist, having been raised in a thoroughly nudist family. The family is wealthy and quite serious about nudism – even their maid works naked. Derek, however, is a prudish, stolid British twit. The stereotypes are obvious. What Frieda may have seen in Derek isn’t clear, but the couple’s devotion to each other is apparent.

Unfortunately, Frieda hasn’t been honest with either Derek or her own family. She hasn’t told her fiancé that she and the rest of her family are avid nudists. Derek learns this only when he visits Frieda’s family for the first time. The family tries to be understanding and educate Derek on the nature and virtues of nudism, but he is unpersuaded. The resulting denouement is unconvincing, and may have been the real reason the play was never successful. It’s possible that if the play were acted by professionals who could lend more depth and credibility to the characters it could be enjoyable. That, however, hasn’t been the case. The play is occasionally performed in nudist/naturist groups, but that’s for a rather forgiving audience.

Barely Proper has been reprinted in a small collection of naturist plays. Sadly, the other plays in this collection are much shorter, more formulaic, and do even less to show nudism/naturism in a positive light than Barely Proper. Don’t bother trying to find a copy, since it’s out of print and virtually unobtainable.

The remaining five plays in the collection have a lot in common. All of them are short, performable in about 15 to 30 minutes. A nude beach is the setting for each of them, entirely or in part. The plot in each case centers on a conflict between individuals who are either romantic couples, siblings, or (nominally) friends. Most of the characters have dysfunctional personalities in some way or other. And, predictably, part of the conflict revolves around a reluctance to get naked. Seriously. Naturists will be quite familiar with the latter problem. Non-naturists might just take the conflict for granted, assuming that hardly anyone would want to be naked with strangers around.

One good thing about the collection is the Introduction by the collection’s editor, Mark Storey, a well-known naturist. It’s mainly about the initial and later history of Barely Proper, in particular how it has been performed and interpreted by various nudist/naturist groups.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have some plays in which the main characters are naturists, who are usually naked, but the plot centers on issues of more universal interest? Such plays would normalize nudity, while only intermittently alluding to the societal hang-ups that make a naked lifestyle difficult. The message of the plays might be, “See, you don’t need to wear clothes in order to experience – and overcome – the vicissitudes of human life.” Off the top of my head, I can think of a variety of plots. For instance, consider a middle-aged naturist couple who have adult and teenage children (who are also naturists). One of the parents is hospitalized with a serious illness. The spouse and children want to visit the ill parent daily, and must deal with the disapproval of their nudity by some members of the hospital staff.

There have recently been a few theatrical productions that have featured considerable nudity – including of the audience as well as the performers.

  • Parisians brave nippy temperatures to attend play – in the nude (1/23/19)
    Actors are known for baring their souls on stage. But the cast of a new French play went a step further — and so did their audience. The one-off performance of “Nu et Approuvé,” or “Naked and Approved,” which took place at the Palais des Glaces theater in Paris on Sunday, required all audience members, as well as the actors, to get naked.

  • Naked Comedy DISROBED Unveiled For Hollywood Fringe Festival (5/25/19)
    The producers of the immersive hit “Love the Body Positive” return to the Hollywood Fringe Theatre Festival this June with the full-length comedy “Disrobed: Why So Clothes-Minded?” The play has been adapted and updated by Steven Vlasak, the award-winning author of “Nights at the Algonquin Round Table” from the British naturist classic “Barely Proper” by Tom Cushing. It’s “Meet the Parents” with a twist: A bashful buttoned-up groom-to-be arrives to meet his fiancé’s family, only to discover that they’re all Naturists (Nudists), and for the festival performances so is the audience.
    Presumably, since this production is based on Barely Proper, the plot is quite similar. It would be more interesting, however, if it were altered in some important aspect. This could be done in various ways. The male and female roles could be reversed, with the former being the naturist and the latter the non-naturist. The final outcome of the plot could be reversed. Or, more dramatically, the setting could be a society in which nudity is normal, and wearing clothes (for instance, by a small religious sect) is outside the norm. Or any combination of these things. Many other variations are also possible.

It’s encouraging that naturists are still working at presenting their lifestyle on the stage. The problem, though, is that the performance is limited to an audience in which everyone is agreeable to being naked. It is, at this point in time, the general non-naturist public that needs to be “exposed” to the naturist world, in all its variety.

In order to appreciate the different sorts of plots that could be explored, I’d recommend checking out a couple of short videos, whose script could easily be adapted for a theater stage.

  • Nude Not
    The plot here is, refreshingly, quite different from that of Barely Proper. Even so, it plays with the tension between being naked and being clothed. It’s short and isn’t at all “realistic”. How different characters perceive “reality” is the crux. It would be interesting to develop this one into something longer, while retaining the same twist.

  • Guys 1st Naked Party
    (Note: This is on a porn site, but the video is very naturist and definitely not porn.)
    The plot here is actually quite similar to that of Barely Proper. There’s a romantic couple where the female is a naturist and the male is not. Everything comes to a head when the couple attends a naturist party hosted by the woman’s parents. One has to wonder why more dissimilar plots haven’t been tried, even simply making changes as suggested above. The problem is that we live in a society where everyday nudity is, unfortunately, very much not normal, so it’s difficult to come up with believable plots where nudity of the characters isn’t a major plot driver. However, the theater has a long tradition of playing fast and loose with “reality”. Just think of Waiting for Godot or many of Shakespeare’s plays.

Would anyone who actually has experience with theater and drama care to comment?