Quick warning here. If male nudity bothers you, go no further. There is some – and it is anatomically correct.
I’ve been some kind of nudie as far back as my earliest vague memories. I don’t know why. Naked was somehow… better… more fun. My home was in the land of the Church of God, cold winters, moderate summers, and vast clouds of mosquitoes. My naked places were full of briars and sand burrs – and guilt.
When my parents were out I’d live around the house naked and when they were home I’d head into the forest, the river, and the abandoned fields that constituted our property at the time for summertime nudity. Sleeping naked even on the coldest winter nights and feeling pleasantly guilty about it. Streaking when I was a teenager and feeling rebellious about it. Nude modeling in college and feeling very cold on winter days.
I have long since given up any attempt to figure out why I have this drive to be naked. Probably at least related to my Asperger’s and my failure to socialize “properly”. My informal understanding is that quite a few Asperger children have a strong dislike for clothing. Perhaps I resisted the reeducation camp that is socialization.
I saw no harm in it. Aversion to nudity seemed illogical. However, being different from everyone else in yet another way – in a way that I couldn’t rationalize – made me feel perverse. I had to keep it hidden or some people would be happy to destroy me for it. It is was as fundamental to me as being straight or male, defying all efforts to change it. God said it was evil and sick. There were days I hated myself for it. It was far from my only stress but it made things worse.
A quick aside on terminology. There is a good deal of argument over
what the differences are between a “nudist” and a “naturist”. You won’t find any good solution in a dictionary, it is all personal opinion. “Nudist”
is the traditional term while “naturist” is a more recent creation. I think
the only real difference is that “nudist” is a term more associated with a
developed resort with a formal membership list. “Naturist” is more
associated with nature lovers, environmentalists, and off-the-reservation nude recreation. Clubs that do not own land are
more likely to call themselves “naturists” but there are no rules.
Personally, I kind of like the term “nudie” as an even more generic and
informal term. I am too undisciplined and rebellious to adhere to a long set of rules or to pay dues. I use all these terms interchangeably – unless otherwise
indicated by context.
And don’t you dare refer to resorts as nudist colonies.
Sounds like a bunch of lepers.
I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family and neighborhood so it behooved me to stay in the closet (even in the era of Woodstock) until I left home. The closet is an important resource for people who would suffer extreme consequences if their secret got out. However, you need to keep trying to leave that closet.
I did some modeling in college. The first time round I had a minor anxiety attack, based on what I thought was going on inside the artists’ heads and the kinds of experiences I’d had in the locker room as a young teenager. It was very embarrassing but I overcame it. Soon I became an in-demand model at both local colleges I attended and other nearby community colleges.
Part of me still felt perverse. I was still different in a “strange” way. Even as a model I wondered if I were posing for “bad” reasons. The best of people will doubt themselves if they are an outlier.
Once I had moved from conservative northern Michigan to “progressive” Southern California, the actual need for a closet was gone and I proceeded on that basis. As an adult, I made sure there was nobody close to me who would dis me for my (legal) life choices. I chose new friends who at least were tolerant of the idea and the surviving parent I left behind could stay in his bubble. I remade my personal world in order to be true to myself and to hide no more. Or at least not as much.
Forty+ years ago. A “model” student.
What inspired me to rethink things was an odd situation. When I first arrived I was still tweaked in the head, desiring social nakedness while at the same time feeling I was a “pervert” for wanting to do so. I saw a psychologist about this. She was convinced that I would overcome my “problem” if only I could work out all that pent up anger at my parents. She had me reciting every evil thing that happened to me as a child and beating the crap out of her sofa with something she called a “bataka“. This was a club made out of very soft foam covered by fabric. One couldn’t have injured a mouse with it but it made very satisfying thuds.
I felt remarkably silly doing this. She said to do it, so I did and she was happy. I mean it was a fun thing to do but if taking out my frustrations that way really helped, I doubt I’d
needed to see her.
What I did get from her was the importance of protecting and nurturing my inner child. Once I accomplished that, she felt my desire to “act out” would recede. Well, there was a problem with that. It was my inner child who wanted to run naked and free in the fields and streets and everywhere else. I wasn’t rebelling against my parents, I was suppressing the real me.
Once I accepted and loved that inner child I still enjoyed nudity, social or solo. I just stopped feeling guilty about it. I came out of hiding and started seeking kindred souls. I was as matter of fact about it as my love of photography or my love of nature. I would now seek the freedom to be me – and acceptance of the real me.
Boy, was she surprised!
The bottle was uncorked and the genie got out. I did strip-o-grams and erotic dancing in my 20s. (I have a wild side and am a bit of an entertainer.) Haunted nude beaches and a local naturist club called Elysium, out in Topanga Canyon. (No longer in business.) Modeled for anyone who’d draw or photograph me. If there was a party and there was a pool, my first question was if it was clothing optional. (They almost always said yes.) Pushed the limits around Halloween. The one thing I always tried to do was make sure no one present would be offended. (At least not seriously so.)
Sometimes landed nudist resorts remind me a bit of reservations. Or to use a harsher term, ghettos. They are places of safety, communion, and confidentiality but they are also closets, tho large and comfortable with all the amenities.
It is altogether too easy to imagine you still need the closet when you don’t. Closets offer so much emotional comfort that one can voluntarily turn into an agoraphobe. It is easy to build up a life in an unnecessary closet that makes it necessary again. Don’t do it! If you don’t currently feel that you are free to be you, your priority should be to change your life so as to have that freedom.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
I think it is wrong to get all evangelical about nudism. I think it is misguided to try to coax other people out of their clothes. (And it is easily misinterpreted!) I certainly don’t want people trying to coax me into getting dressed. How would it be any different? Freedom is all about letting people come to their own conclusions. The struggle is the freedom to be me, not trying to make you more like me.
It doesn’t happen just in nudism, it happens in any belief system. I’ve seen it in every area of public affairs and it is little different than the pressure applied by a religious proselytizer, political radicals of all stripes, or a hungry used car salesperson.
The best sales tactic for an idea is simply to be a good person who models the idea in a
non-threatening way. No sales pressure needed. Or allowed. That is why opportunities for nudies and textile impaired to mingle in a non-threatening way are so important. You can’t “model” something if nobody is there to see it.
I don’t care if you are a nudist. I am not about to try to convert someone or even raise my own children to be nudists. All I care about is that you don’t care if I’m one.
If you know me for any length of time it is likely you’ll know I’m a nudist. If you can’t deal, you’re not going to be an important person in my life. And I deliberately do not make forays into social groups where disapproval would be likely. Why court enmity? (I have yet to meet anyone out here who simply can’t deal with it. They may think it humorous but I’m not feeling a lot of moral judgment.)
There are nudists who refuse to coexist with clothed people. I think it a mistake and a residual effect of the closet.
Probably a much higher percentage of the textile impaired refuse to coexist with the nude. It isn’t like vast numbers of nudists suddenly appear and push the textile impaired off the beach. What really happens it that some self-appointed moral guardian or an overprotective parent or a pandering politician will see a beach that is traditionally clothing optional and decide to use local indecent exposure laws to get the nudies fined, driven off and maybe jailed. Or maybe a developer who thinks the nudies lower the value of their property.
At the time I moved to California (the late 70s) it was a lot easier than it is today. “Clothing optional” was comparatively popular out here. Only a few years earlier nudity had been legal on Venice Beach. The Elysium club was going strong just out by Topanga. (It closed.) Unofficial nude beaches lined the coast.
I was also in an organization called Mensa. It was full of Aspie’s like me. This club had many special interest groups within it and some of them were specifically naturist and some were clothing optional. (Today, Los Angeles Mensa is a shadow of itself.)
All the local colleges of the day needed nude models for their art classes, something much less common today. Hell, even cold conservative northern Michigan colleges used them. Educational cowardice now runs rampant in academia. Can’t afford to offend anyone. Hecklers’ veto wins.
Male strippers for ladies’ parties were all the rage and I took advantage of it. Cal. State University Northridge even had an official nudist club called Au Naturel. It is gone too.
Used to be, unofficial clothing optional beaches could be found up and down the coast. I
still have a 1980 Guide to Nude Recreation by Lee Baxandall. At least in the southern half of California, almost all locations are gone. Between Black’s Beach in San Diego and Pirates Cove near Avila, there isn’t a single place you can go without risking ticketing or arrest.
There’s one beach by UC Santa Barbara (More Mesa) where the students go without being hassled (much), and another out by Gaviota that is simply so isolated nobody notices, but it is still technically illegal and tickets could potentially be given, should the sheriff get a fly up his/her butt.
If you live in LA it is hours of drive time and hundreds of miles to a safe nude beach. (Note: We seem to have won back the far northwestern end of Bates Beach, south of Carpenteria. And SLO County has agreed not to ticket at Avila Beach, while SLO City has revised its nudity ban to only encompass Mardi Gras. We hope they don’t change their minds!)
What happened was that in the 70s, under the Jerry Brown administration, there was something known as the Cahill policy. (Named after the then State Parks supervisor.) Essentially, nudity was accepted on State Park land. If someone objected, the ranger could ask you to cover up for the day. No ticket unless you refused. To me, it sounded like a reasonable compromise so, obviously, it couldn’t last. It led to there being many small isolated beaches on state land where nudity was common.
It didn’t. They rescinded it. State Parks and Rec Dept. now has a “no nudity” regulation. It also has the option of creating nude beaches but refuses to do so.
There is no state anti-nudity law in California, only local and departmental ordinances. And a lot of places didn’t have a local ordinance. Since then the counterculture has abandoned their roots, freedom of expression has become a lot less important and the religious right has received a heckler’s veto. A lot of local ordinances have been enacted.
What we have left are landed clubs, non-landed clubs, private homes (with high walls), special events and backcountry locations. I have little patience with landed clubs. Too expensive, too far to drive, too worried about “gender balance”, too many rules, and too many people. Gates and security may keep you safe but they are also very limiting. That’s not real freedom.
But for what is lost, something is often gained. Today we have the internet.
It is easy to find fellow citizens with common interests in the most uncommon fields. Nudism, even though the participation rate is probably well below 1% of the general population, has a strong web presence. (On most social media it is a Bowdlerized presence.) Even if only a tenth of that could be reached, that makes 8000 people just in the Greater Los Angeles area.
Don’t do a Google search. Most of what you’ll get is porn. Hentai.
A good place for naturists to start would be the Naturist Society or the American Association for Nude Recreation. Most of the fora and bulletin boards are pure dreck, don’t go there. (A few female contributors being chased by hundreds of horny men.) Instead, do a search in Meetup.com to find groups near you.
Non-landed clubs like the Southern California Naturists hold events at friendly locations. A group like that can rent a facility for private nudist use. (I got involved in nude theater and acting through them). Typical tract construction does not allow for the kind of privacy you need if your neighbors are pissy about it but people with high walls, money or acreage can pull off outdoor home nudism.
Special events are vitally important. How else do you demonstrate peaceful coexistence is even possible? Local ordinances can be ignored or amended to allow for them. Examples of such events include the World Naked Bike Ride, which takes place in many cities annually, even a city as constipated as Los Angeles. (Cities in the Pacific Northwest seem to be a lot friendlier to this sort of activity.) This year’s in LA was be on 6/22/2019.
A judge ruled somewhere that organized nudity for the purpose of political protest or art was a form of protected speech but just being naked wasn’t. (Spencer Tunick breathes a bit easier.) And in LA, with the right permit, you can do almost anything.
Another event is the Bay to Breakers race/parade across the city of San Francisco (3rd Sunday in May) which, thru benign neglect by the city government, allows participants to be nude. World Naked Gardening Day (first Saturday of May) never really caught on here like it did in Britain. The Summer Solstice has become a kind of informal World Naked Hiking Day where the daring doff their clothing on the national trail system. Events like this are important because they allow the general public to see and associate with nudies and learn it ain’t no big deal. With clothing optional beaches taken away, there is no other way to show that nude is just another fashion choice, no other way to integrate with the clothed world.
I have been known to throw “birthday suit” parties where I invite my friends to a clothing-optional birthday party at my residence. They can decide for themselves what they want to wear. They have turned out to be a lot of fun.
My personal first choice is backcountry naturism. The other people who go deep into the wild aren’t the kind who care. (If you get far enough into the bush, there is nobody to
care.) The times and places I go there are few people and no cell coverage. Only been completely surprised twice in 50 years so I’m not too worried. (Actually the same person, a bird watcher, on two consecutive weekends. It was a positive experience.)
Even if I do encounter someone, what would they do? There’s no state law against nudity and the local national forests or BLM lands have no anti-nudity regulations. The county of Los Angeles even conceeds that simple nudity is not illegal on local Federal lands.
I’ll give anyone I encounter their space, even do a quick cover up if a close encounter is imminent. I’m doing this to respect their potential insecurities – not mine. In the absence of objection, the “cover-up” gets dropped and conversation ensues. I want the encounter to be as free of perceived threat or animosity as possible. (I’ve talked about my proclivity for nude hiking in greater depth in another post in my blog.)
Unlike nude beaches (which local entities can instantly shut down) there are hot springs and known skinny-dipping holes on Federal land beyond the reach of the local sheriff. Some of them have large numbers of both nudies and the textile impaired mingling together in perfect acceptance. Sadly, like the very few beaches we have left, they require hundreds of miles and hours to get there.
Two of them are Deep Creek Hot Springs and Saline Valley Hot Springs. Both of them get a lot of tourists from Europe and East Asia. There are also quite a few hot springs along the eastern Sierra, especially around Mammoth and Bishop (Welcome to the Long Valley Caldera, America’s forgotten supervolcano.) and along the Kern River. The Transverse ranges also have a few hidden gems.
Nudity isn’t asexual. It is just as sexual as clothing – no more, no less. People will still get just as excited about a possible mate whether they are clothed or nude. The fact is that the more you hide the sexual cues that bodies put out, the more everyone becomes hypersensitive to them. The face, by itself, becomes more and more important as the rest of the figure is hidden. We start looking for proxies for the visual and pheromonal cues we are denied. Status, which is easily expressed in clothing, also gains in importance. Take this to its ultimate expression and we will all wear burqas but will be still just as sexual as we ever were. This contradiction is a recipe for disaster. (Sharia law, anyone?)
The nude life desensitizes one to those visual cues. If you see (or are) something often
enough, it doesn’t pay to get all hot and bothered about it because there is nothing special about it. Arousal becomes a product of context and contact – instead of speculation over visuals and negotiations over revealing them. Guys who don’t get this will be ostracized very quickly. Even apparent “oddities”, like piercings and jewelry in unusual places and shaved pubic regions, disappear into background noise. They only matter if you care about them.
Yes, I know. People fear there’d be mentally unbalanced people out there that would see this as an opportunity to go masturbate in some girl’s face. You don’t see this in Europe (where there are vastly more naturists and the people much less prudish) or on the few nude beaches in the US so, I suspect, the fear is far greater than the reality. My suggestions for an appropriate response are hysterical laughter, pepper spray or a kick to the groin, in that order. The few square inches of fabric in a swimsuit is not what prevents this from happening on a clothed beach. It is, rather, social stigma and fear of retaliation.
And of course, the inevitable shrill screams of, “What about the children!?” If you teach your children that being seen naked is traumatic, then nudity will be traumatic. If you teach them it means nothing bad, then it becomes… nothing bad. Same thing about teaching them that seeing someone naked is shocking or… nothing to get worked up about. Do you want your child to be easily shocked and traumatized? You don’t have to be a nudist or even want to raise your child as a nudist to do this. Lack of body shame is a good thing for everyone.
This is where nudist resorts are the most useful, in providing a controlled environment for nudist parents to let their children experience social nudity. (Nudist training wheels?)
Good clubs heavily vet their members and your kids are safer there than a city park. Still, the distance of the commute is often great and the cost of the dues are considerable. Parental supervision and instruction are always required for children, nudist or textile impaired, in ANY public venue. (Wish I didn’t have to emphasize that!)
Even children who have spent their formative years in a nudist environment may push back, if not when they realize that this isn’t what their peer group is doing, then when they hit puberty and things start going out of control. I think parents are duty bound to place their child’s need to fit in with their peer group above the more abstract benefits of nudism. If they reject the lifestyle, then so be it. They may well return to it as adults. Even though my own children sometimes ran around naked and went skinny dipping with me, once they went to school, fitting in was more important.
From about 10 to 16 I was probably erect more often than I wasn’t. I had some exceptionally wild hormones going on. Might be fine for solo nudism but other people likely would not have been forgiving.
Clothing is one way of denying the aging process and all the other “faults” we imagine in ourselves. (Along with plastic surgery, Botox and Photoshop.) Sagging breasts, small breasts, missing breasts, graying or too much body hair, stretch marks and wrinkles, large moles, birthmarks, extra weight around the middle or butt, jiggly thighs, man boobs, shrinking musculature, small penis, operation scars. Yup, a cover-up for all these things, a way to pretend we are not all bound by entropy.
An expensive suit is still attractive, even if the sagging paunch it conceals is not. (Perhaps another reason nudism never caught on big.) Easier for someone to hide their wrinkly patchy skin when picking up on someone 20 years younger. He doesn’t have to worry about his penis being compared and found wanting before he can even deliver the pickup line, while the correct bra makes her sagging boobs look perky. It grates on me that others’ insecurities dominate my own choices. Heavy sigh!
One day, millennia ago, the goddesses
Truth and Falsehood went for a swim.
When they emerged from the water,
Falsehood took Truth’s garments,
leaving Truth a bit chilly.
But rather than don Falsehood’s trappings,
from then on, Truth went naked
It may be inevitable that humans with something to
hide would want to make truth illegal.
Most nudists are older people who have come to accept and love their imperfections. Mayhaps the time for game playing is over and clothing is just another tool in the game. They earned every one of those imperfections. They are proof of having lived.
There are young nudists, though not as many. (I think I was one from birth.) The perceived physical and social vulnerability and the fear of not measuring up to an impossible ideal keep younger women from baring all. And due to mini-cameras and the internet, even same-sex nudity in locker rooms is all but extinct.
On a positive note, “Free the Nipple” is catching on as a feminist issue using the “Equal protection under the law” clause of the 14th amendment for legal cover. The Venice Beach community association voted to allow top-free on Venice beaches once again and there is every reason to hope the LA city council will concur.
Young men are just as averse to being compared to an ideal as women (usually penis size and muscle definition) and conflate male social nudity with being gay or a sexual exhibitionist. They may also have an exaggerated fear of spontaneous erection. (It rarely happens and is easily covered by a towel or a jump in a cold pool if you are not in accepting territory.) Over the long haul, it is just a matter of acclimatization to a novel environment.
Middle age is also a time of greater freedom and greater personal resources for most. (Did I mention that club memberships are expensive?) The kids are out of your hair, maybe even off to college. You are probably hitting your peak earning years. Time to join the club you’ve been denying yourself. Visit a clothing optional B&B. Maybe even time to go on a nude cruise ship to some warm and exotic port. Nude cruises have become a growth industry.
So, here I am in my retired years. (And broke.) My wife isn’t a nudist but doesn’t have any problems with me being one (unless I get arrested). My children are both grown and not an issue. I wish our yard had a taller wall. I am tired of driving hundreds of miles just to be free and au naturel but I have more time to do it.
I do nude singing and acting in a little theater and have good friends from there. I hike often and if the weather and trail traffic permits, I hike nude. I am a member of a couple of naturist clubs that hold events and camping trips and whatnot. I see it as a good thing that I want to expand freedom of choice in clothing or the lack thereof. The laws against simple nudity and the public uneasiness regarding it arise from the same constipated attitudes that the old laws against gays and unease with LGBTQ+ issues did. They need to change.
Just because you can’t deal with freedom doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be allowed to be free.