Fifty Shades of Nudism

This is what shame looks like, folks!

After my first visit to Paradise Lakes clothing optional resort, I had a dilemma. To tell or not to tell? Eventually, I figured, I would never be happy unless I let the cat out of the bag (be happy I did not use the other obvious metaphor!). I eventually told everybody, family, friends, coworkers, you name it. Their reaction was odd bemusement, mostly, “You? You’re that kind of person?” Another friend asked the direct question, “So, is there lots of sex there?” This was a girl with her share of provocative escapades. Of course, I had to correct her, explaining that the place was innocent, for families with young children. I knew that if they understood nudism, their reaction would have been, “Oh, you? Makes sense.” Truth is, I am and have always been extremely conservative (but politically liberal). I do not go clubbing, have never done drugs or smoked or used alcohol (not even a taste), and married the girl who took my virginity. Amish people have lived it up more than I have. For me, nudism has always been about innocence, the fact that we can look at our bodies without thinking of sex. Once everyone knew of my weird lifestyle, everything went back to normal. Nobody ignored me or tried to humiliate me. If anything, the truth disarmed them. They just didn’t know what to say. A decade and a half later I found myself with a similar dilemma. Do I come out to the world on the Internet? Well, in July of 2012, I did just that. And, not surprisingly, did not become a social leper. Just look at the numbers:

Posts

Entry
Pageviews
Jul 3, 2012, 15 comments
10947
Dec 22, 2012, 8 comments
7056
Feb 24, 2012, 2 comments
5125
Nov 21, 2012, 54 comments
1719
Oct 22, 2013, 6 comments
1281
Jul 29, 2013, 2 comments
1144
Jun 18, 2011
1017
Apr 19, 2012, 16 comments
785
Dec 31, 2012
453
Apr 23, 2013, 2 comments
291

Besides Mass Effect 3, my top seven posts, by overwhelming majority, regard nudism and naturism. Contrast that to my Princess Bride book review. 33 views total! But wait, you say, type, “nude,” “naked,” “nudist,” or “naturist,” into Google and you get underage girls. For a long time, I assumed my blog was getting porn traffic. However, my top post, at 11,000+, contains no nudity except side butt (mine). In fact, the only pic to feature a young attractive girl (on this list) sits at the very bottom with 291 views. O.K., maybe people like to gawk at weirdos. But responses to my posts are always positive. So what’s happening here? Quite simply, there is a vested interest in naturism itself, not just men looking to ogle women, but curiosity about the lifestyle. It’s not just active nudists, but those who have thought about becoming a nudist and were afraid to tell anybody, or teens who wonder (as I used to) why we really have to wear clothes, or closet nudists who go buff at home. This is the beauty of the free information age; it allows people with unique viewpoints to communicate.

Still, even among the staunchest free body activists, there is apprehension. Visit any number of Tumblr sites and you will find countless ordinary people nude on camera. However, inspiring as it is to see so many free spirits (and bodies) out there, they remain clothed by anonymity. There is truly no way of knowing who they are. You will hardly ever find a blogger willing to post a nude selfie or their real names. One woman stated her case for not posting a pic, explaining that she was not attractive, and that her nudist blog had nothing to do with ogling. Most comments were positive, including one that said, “Never post a pic on the Internet, because you can’t get it back and who knows what people will do with it!” To that, I wonder, what nefarious plot can someone devise with a picture? Worst case I can come up with, someone plasters printouts of you on every telephone pole in your neighborhood, but even then, so what? We don’t live in Medieval-style villages anymore. No one is going to excommunicate you with a letter “N” on your chest. Look at it another way. People who visit cycling websites (as I do) do not necessarily go to see people on bikes, and yet every cycling blogger has at least one pic of himself on his bike. If you enjoy hitting the beach in nothing but your birthday suit (and how can you not?) why be ashamed to show it? Shame comes from outside, from other people. If you woke up tomorrow to find every single person naked, in parks, on beaches, at Disney World, etc., your own shame, whether you were a nudist or not, would quickly disappear. Nudists need to overcome the shame society impresses upon them if they ever hope to change the world. A big part of the gay rights movement is pride. Wherever pro-gay events are happening, the word “pride” is associated with it. There are gay pride film festivals and gay pride parades. Remarkably, gays and lesbians managed to convince the public that homosexuality is nothing to be ashamed of.

But wait, you say, not everyone is in the same boat. Some people with religious backgrounds fear the reaction of their parents or their congregations. For other people, the problem is employment. I remember one female blogger in particular, raised in a nudist household and proud of it, whose teaching position came under fire when her extra curricular activities were discovered. Sadly, and with little fanfare, she was forced to take her blog down. I urge every naturist to stand for their beliefs, but cannot judge them harshly if they are afraid to do so.

My situation is unusual. I make a living as a restaurateur, so there is no chance of my termination, but I am also an aspiring author. For the past few years, I have lost sleep wondering how my nudism might affect my literary ambitions. Interestingly, writers are told to: 1) Write your passions and 2) Be original. Every famous writer had a niche, whether Stephen King’s New England themed horror or Tom Clancy’s military thrillers. Mine is fantasy from a naturist perspective, not simply bare-bottomed protagonists, but the philosophical underpinnings of feminism, equality and environmentalism. Fantasy novels these days are ripe with rape and torture (see George R.R. Martin), so my fear is not that I may be viewed as obscene, but that I will become in the minds of editors a “nudist” writer, someone who caters to a specific subculture. I live for the written word and would give up nudism in a heartbeat for it. But these passions are intertwined. I cannot write about a character without considering his attitude toward the human body. A hero like Conan, who lusts after every scantily clad maiden, is a far cry from Tarzan, who, to paraphrase Edgar Rice Burroughs, “abhors clothing and all it stands for.”

This brings me to Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, which sold 90 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 45 languages. Ninety-million is a big number. There are certainly not that many involved in the S&M lifestyle. A larger demographic was likely curious, because fiction provides a way to step into the shoes (or in this case leather pants) of another. By and large, book buyers were not dissuaded by the subject of bondage. The same goes for nudism. There are few card carrying nudists in the world, but thanks to the Internet, a rapidly growing curiosity. Just as with the strange world of S&M, it only takes the right book and this undercurrent of interest will break the surface. For this reason, I embrace naturism, proudly exposing myself in words and pixels.

The heyday of nudism is coming. It will start with bloggers and writers and philosophers, and end with politicians. And when all is said and done, “naturism,” like any needless -ism, will cease to exist.

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