Obviously not something you’ll want to read unless you are interested in the issue of nude rights.
My anime fans will appreciate the featured image I chose for this post.
I believe we are not that far from acceptance as “Just Another Lifestyle” in a few local areas. Other areas are far less tolerant of diversity. For example, Utah is not going to become more tolerant any time soon. Even if the law were to force legal acceptance of topfree, social tolerance is still far away. I suggest Utah nudists ought to vote with their feet.
I have certainly tried to participate and promote where I can. The best way to promote a lifestyle is to simply do it in an unthreatening manner and to be the best person you can be while you are at it. Evangelism drives the people who are already nervous about it away. Becoming obsessive about it makes you seem like a kook. Suggesting other people get undressed with you makes you seem like a creep. So does staying nude near other people who clearly aren’t accepting of the nudie ethic.
Showing up for your local club’s private event is good for moral support and confidence-building but does zero to promote a more generalized body freedom or nude rights. I am convinced we need to desensitize the general public. The aversion to nudity is a learned reflex that can be extincted with enough exposure of a non-threatening and positive manner. The trick is to not reinforce the bad associations people have been told to expect.
What is needed now are more opportunities for nude and clothed people to interact in an environment that feels safe for both.
My experiences have been varied.
The World Naked Bike Ride is one. It has been going on in LA for a few years now. There was a bit of hassle from one unhappy viewer in an early one. He assaulted a rider. The police treated it as a possible hate crime! That is very good.
It has spread to even less accommodating cities, like Chicago. That is good as well.
I’ve done it 3 times now. One time there was a homeless woman telling us we were going to Hell but nothing serious. Another time a woman was videoing the ride on her cell phone while covering her toddler’s eyes with the other hand. (She was laughing so I don’t consider that a negative response.) Far and away the reactions were positive, horn honking, thumbs up, people asking what the ride was for, etc.
There were no traffic accidents due to distracted drivers.
Nudity is not illegal in the city or county of Los Angeles (Parks and Rec have a separate ordinance only for their property.) and I am unaware of any attempts to pass such an ordinance. (They do have other ways to harass you if there is a complaint.)
If 500 mostly naked people riding bicycles around downtown Los Angeles on a weekend morning and afternoon happens regularly without major objection, I’m going to say that simple nudity is not a big issue. We win.
Nudity in San Francisco used to be legal. My understanding is that gay males were wandering about nude in the Castro district. It was bothering the former Mayor of SF who was now a US Senator, one member of the city council and a few businesses that were worried about what it would do to the tourist trade. In the absence of easily proven legally lewd behavior, the lazy solution they came up with was to simply ban nudity. It passed 5-4 in a fractious city council session.
I interpret this not to be a rejection of nudity but rather a rejection of “borderline” behavior. This view is supported by the fact that nudity is still perfectly legal if you are part of a permitted event.
I’ve done the “Bare to Breakers” nude a half dozen times now, including the last three. If someone stared, so what? If anyone turned their head away, I didn’t notice it. Again, so what? My ratio of positive to negative reactions is about 100 to 1. After about the first couple of miles, I don’t think any of the other runners even notice anymore. They are too tired. You’re just another runner.
And that is a very good thing!
Nudity as part of a permitted event appears quite common in SF and not at all controversial. And Portland had 10,000 participants in a recent WNBR. Obviously a very nude tolerant community.
Note here: I often have posts that are labeled NSFW. I also have posts that are not. I believe that expands the number of viewers as most of my readers are not nudies. I’d like to have people who are uncertain about the whole naked thing read what I have to say. If possibly seeing dangly parts leaves them feeling queasy, they know what to avoid. So I label them as such in the title or early in the text. If you think that’s too much of a compromise, too bad. I want nervous people to feel safe around my blog posts.
Second note: I generally will not post a face of an identifiable person unless it is my own. I won’t even try to ask for permission, even if it would be a great shot, because I am not an aggressive person. There are circumstances where I might get a signed release for a professional article or artistic photography but that hasn’t happened for a very very long time. The only exception is at a public event covered by the press and where there is no possible presumption of privacy. I want nervous people to feel safe around my camera.
Third note: My blog isn’t just about naturism. Let me suggest that yours shouldn’t be either. A blog about just nudity would not reflect my entire being, of which running around starkers in public is just a part. I have a wide range of topics, whether it be depression, Asperger’s, hiking and backpacking, off-road driving, philosophy, and my own dysfunctional families. “Self-care” is a very important topic. Anime is probably the biggest single topic I write on.
I do many things in my life. Some happen to be nude. I would no more hide the nude aspect than I would hide my Aspergers. I don’t consider myself obsessed about either. Accept me as a totality or walk away. It will include nudity, Asperger’s, intermittent depression, dysfunctional family stories, hiking and backpacking, nature photography, occasional science lessons, my fascination with anime, that dirty 4-letter word “work”, cute dog photos, and random philosophy.
When I do include a nude I try to make it part of a story. I’m doing something and I happen to be nude. It doesn’t need to include dangly bits though I am not bothered when it does. I make an effort to make it appealing in some vague artistic sense and edit for composition, contrast, and color in a photo editor. Nobody wants to see pictures of me just sitting on the sofa, full-frontal, with my legs apart. Or shots taken in the bathroom mirror. Especially not nudists. My ideal is: Never use a photo that isn’t a part of a story, one not demonstrating some point you want to make or one that lacks artistic merit. Better no photo at all than a poorly composed one or one that could be interpreted as a mere dick pic.
In California, if a county or National Forest unit does not have an anti-nudity ordinance,
you are legally entitled to hike nude in the national forest there. If there is any threat to this, it isn’t gymnophobic fundamentalists. It would be from men who use nudity and exposure to other people as a source of sexual arousal.
This is illegal. Neither textiles nor nudies accept this behavior in public. So far, I haven’t heard of any complaints.
I think we are more often embarrassed by our fears. We read our unease into other people’s minds, prejudicing and sabotaging the encounter. I approach every encounter with “I’m ok and you’re ok.” Too often we look with our fears thru the other person’s eyes seeing only what we feel insecure about, be it our weight our appearance, our clothing or the lack thereof.
If somebody stares, who the hell cares? Not my problem. They just haven’t seen enough nude people yet.
The more you worry about someone, anyone, finding out, the deeper in the closet you are. Families may be doubly deep in the closet for valid reasons. Closets are not rooms of guilt and shame but rather fear. A closet is as much a prison as it is a fortress. Still, it can be very necessary.
So I feel free to hike the trails of my nearby national forest and BLM land nude while taking care not to offend people I encounter. Don’t invade their space in the campground, go somewhere else. Step well off the trail to let them by. Drop my broad-brimmed hat down just out of courtesy until I can judge the encounter. I suppose if someone did take offense, I’d play it by ear. Not going to worry about it.
I walk softly and listen to nature. I am very rarely completely surprised, though I have encountered a few people and not had any negative reactions. Hiking naked in remote areas is a good way to model responsible nudism. Hot springs and secluded swimming holes are also places where the nude and the textiled often mix without hostility.
I do other things as well. There is a bit of nude theater I sometimes do at the Two Roads in Studio City for a nude audience. Part of me wants to do a nude solo monologue about growing old for a textiled audience where I might toss in a good word for the nude life. Another part of me doubts my acting chops, my ability to write something interesting, and my ability to remember the damned thing. The older I get the less confidence I have. Or perhaps I’m just becoming a coward.
There’s also the Nude Art LA show. They have a separate showing one day just for nudists. The opportunity for modeling nonthreatening nude behavior arises during the textiled showing. There is a public ongoing session of live nude modeling for anyone who wants to sit down and draw. Textiled folks get comfortable with watching a nude model do his/her thing and maybe even interacting during breaks. There are also stage performances that can involve nonsexual nudity. It doesn’t sound like much but it is a step in the desensitization process. Desensitization needs to be gentle.
Something else one might do is to ensure that local colleges have live nude figure drawing in their art curriculum. That used to be almost universal and I posed for a lot of classes when I was younger. I haven’t checked out the college scene lately. A heckler’s veto may have shut some of them down.
I believe that there simply aren’t enough nudies out there to be a political force. A small but vocal and demanding minority is all it takes to stop progress when the majority simply doesn’t care. One contributor’s objection can derail a favorable ordinance or advance an unfavorable one and, unless you can threaten an even bigger contribution, you have a problem.
So, if we want to progress, we have to ally ourselves with others. We need to use finesse and not attack head-on. We need to look for flaws in the laws to challenge them (good luck finding the money to do so) and loopholes we can move through. And, at least initially, we’ll be tiptoeing through a minefield.
The WNBR started as an environmental and bicycle safety protest, not a nudist demonstration. But by allying with them we form a larger interest group capable of making a politician notice. We have to ally ourselves with free speech movements and feminists (Free the Nipple). Spencer Tunick’s photo compositions started as an artistic effort and became a body freedom event, so we need more Spencer Tunick types.
Even though the nude rights movement is not sexual, the LGBTQ+ community is an important ally in some localities. And we have to continue to look for other events and groups who might be sympathetic and to try to advance our own. The more ordinary people see nude people and discover it isn’t a big deal, the less resistance to more such events.
Clothing optional beaches are also good opportunities to mix nudes and textiles. Harassment and lewd behavior haven’t been big issues at any of the nude beaches that I’ve been to here in California. However, getting them designated seems to be a difficult thing to do. It is an example of how a small and vocal group can derail actions that most people don’t care about.
With enough events like this, simple nudity can become nothing special. Textiles react to live nudity because it is strange. They have been told bad things about it and predictions made that become self-fulfilling prophecies. The novelty of public nudity may be frightening or exciting. One leads to fear and the other to arousal and neither is good news to a nudist. With exposure to nudity without any negative consequence, the public can become desensitized. (Europe is farther along than we are on this.) Then perhaps restrictions can be loosened a bit. I believe progress will begin with tiny baby steps in favorable locations and spread outward. Perhaps glacially at first but any movement is good.
I like the word “glacially”.
The big issue is the concept of “We”. There is no national umbrella organization that unites all nudies. Maybe the Naturist Society comes closest. Many are simply too anarchic to belong to an organization. Others are deep enough in the closet not to want to risk it. Most people who would only want to be able to sun themselves in the back yard or wander around the house without having to pull shades, swim naked in their own pool, or not to have to cover up every time someone came to the door do not belong to any organization at all.
The action is all going to be local. National groups have limited support they can offer. Dozens of small skirmishes across the country. Win one, lose three but keep coming back. That is slow progress but progress none the less.
I’ll take it a step further. Most of “We” are still deep enough in the closet that “We” won’t make the slightest overt effort to better our situations. We accept bad things as good enough. Such is the overwhelming power of social conformity and it is something that just has to be accepted.
My own experience in fundamentalist northern Michigan filled my already “neurodiverse” Aspie brain full of a mixture of self-loathing, depression and rebellion. I understand the pain that intolerance can cause. I understand the closet all too well. It took many years and a 2,000-mile change of location to start to work thru it all. Some scars never heal but you learn to live with them.
“We” has to be expanded to include people who do not necessarily label themselves as nudists/naturists. As I mentioned before progress in nude rights is going to be local and may be glacial. If you are fortunate, there will be that critical mass and a tipping point will occur. (There are some states one should not hold one’s breath for.)
After that tipping point, you get a country like England where uncomplicated nude rights are legally protected. (Not just, “Legal but we’ll find a different way to harass you if we don’t like it.”) That doesn’t mean nude people will be wandering the streets with any regularity. They don’t in Britain. Nudity in the B2B is perfectly legal and yet only a hundred out of forty thousand avails themselves of it. Top-free is legal in many US places but still a rarity. There is still social pressure and private insecurity to consider. But that is ok. That’s battle each person has to fight in their mind space, not a legal threat.
I’m not interested in selling nudie-ness to anyone. All I want is the freedom to do my own thing in my own time without being harassed. I figure if I model being a good person who just doesn’t happen to have any clothing on and help others to understand, that’s all the promotion I can do.
Just don’t give up!