The Nomad: A Love Story: Chapter 1

He was a big man, a stranger, a nomad from a distant country. But as powerful as he looked, he was tired, beaten, defeated. He entered the taverna to sit quietly and catch his breath, and right away I could tell he was not of the desert. His face was a burnt red, his lips black and parched like the Dead Sea. Around his eyes were lines of restlessness, and deep within them, a story.

Seeing how feeble he looked, I approached, hoping to make a profit. “Welcome to the Slaughtered Goat. I am Abissai. Have you been out in the desert long?”

The man lifted his hand to the table, and to my delight, I spied a brilliant ring about his finger. “Not long enough.”

“Whatever do you mean, good sir?”

“Ages ago, I was in possession of great treasure, a treasure like no other. But I lost it . . .” and with that, I thought the man might weep, except for that he had no water left in his body to do so.

Hearing of this great fortune, the man piqued my interest, and so I asked, “Would you care for a drink? Or something to eat? My camel looks better tended than you.”

“No need, kind sir, for I thirst for one thing only. Though my body starves, it is as nothing to me. Rather, I should wilt and die, than continue to suffer the fate that has befallen me.”

“Is it of this treasure you speak?”

“It was all that ever mattered to me.”

“Then you are on a quest . . . to find this treasure, eh?”

“I am.”

“And how long have you looked for it?”

“I do not quite remember, for time slips my mind like the sands in an hourglass. Yet, it has felt, like an eternity. Perhaps . . . twenty years or more.”

“Twenty years . . . Zarathustra be merciful! If you have been traveling for so long, you must have come from a distant land.”

“I have.”

“And your quest has brought you here, to this desert town?”

“Most of my search has been in the desert.”

“But after so much time, do you not think that this treasure you speak of, may be vanquished? Do you still believe that you will ever find it?”

“I do not believe that I will find it. I will find it.”

“Tell me, then, who are you? Abissai has an ear for a good story, if you have strength to tell it, that is.”

And from this point forward, I sat speechless, as I listened to my new friend tell his long and marvelous tale.

The Taygetos, home of Dynotus.

Part I
The Romance
Chapter 1

I was born in the Peloponnese, in the southern half of Hellena, where the mountains meet the sea, and each man may call himself king, a land sprawled across uncounted peninsulas and islands, a country the gods favor most in all the world. My mother, Alcmena, was a mortal woman of the landed classes, but her farm was small and she was mostly poor. Her husband succumbed to illness at a young age, giving her no sons or daughters, and yet she made for a young and beautiful widow, and was favored by the King of the Gods, who visited her in the form of a white stallion, carrying her away as Zeus once stole Europa. Hence, I was born, son of Zor and Alcmena. I was not but one year old when my mother discovered my great strength, and so she named me ‘strong one’ in my native tongue. Dynotus.

When I was but six, I could plow the fields with the strength of an ox. Not long after, mention of my abilities reached the ears of the ruling elite, and my mother was remarried to a wealthy land owner and aristocrat, a poet named Tyrtaeus.

I knew little of my step-father, for I was sent at the age of nine to sleep in the barracks with the other boys. It was the Spartan way, the law passed down by our ancestral king and founder, Lykourgos. We were taught harsh discipline, wrestled and ran, and sparred with the spear and the spathi, and always I exceeded the others, and was made team captain. We slept together on pallet-beds, and rarely were allowed baths or use of ointment. Instead of softening our feet with shoes, Lykourgos decreed that we should harden them by going barefoot, believing that, if this was our practice, we would climb more easily, and go downhill more sure-footedly, and move more swiftly. We ate together in the mess hall, given just enough to survive. If we wanted more, we were encouraged to steal, but were flogged and went hungry if caught. We learned to be self sufficient in all things, and in so doing, became bold and cunning. There could be no sheep among Spartan warriors. As I endured hunger more easily than my comrades, I did not hesitate to portion what little was given to the weakest among us, and in this way I made many friends. At twelve years of age, we were no longer permitted clothing, forced to go naked the whole year round. And yet, some small mercy was shown to us, during the bitterest winter nights, when Demeter most lamented the loss of her daughter, Persephone, and we were offered a single tunic for warmth.

When our troupe grew to maturity, we took our place as hoplite soldiers in full bronze armor, with spear and shield, marching to battle at the sound of the drum and to the rhyme of Tyrtaeus. One day, my fellow comrade lost his hoplon, the round shield which was indispensable to the phalanx, and as valued to a Spartan as his own life. It had been hidden away by a rival, who had lost to him in a wrestling bout. Nothing but cowardice could have so disgraced him, and so I offered my own shield, and suffered the shame of it. As we were far from the city center, I had no means of procuring another such item, and so I joined the lower legions, the peasants who did not own land and could not afford armor, and the slaves of the hoplites, those nicknamed ‘rock-throwers’. And yet, I proved my valor, with rocks and sword alone, slaying far more enemies than my better armed allies, in what came to be known as the Messeinian Wars. We did not question the rightness of our actions. All that mattered to our commanders was proving ourselves fearless, for courage is a Spartan’s most sacred weapon, forged in our hearts from the time we are born, and tempered by skill and by discipline. Our songs were only of courage, and of the shame and dishonor that comes with cowardice. There was no room in our minds for any other thing, no praise for honesty, or for compassion . . . or for love. We destroyed any who opposed us, and the city state came to rule the whole of the Peloponnese, and our King, Demaratus, became wealthy and prosperous.

After the wars, the people we conquered, those of non-Dorian blood whom we called “helots,” became our slaves, and after a time they learned of our cruelty, as did I. Disgusted by the subjugation of another people, I abandoned my station to wander Hellena naked and alone.

By my eighteenth year, I had journeyed the known world, seeing peoples of every culture and color, becoming wise in their ways, learning the secret fighting techniques from the people of the distant East, and also, visiting the Hyperboreans to the North, where I won, as a trophy, my prized and treasured ring. Though it may seem to you a mere trinket, this silver ring has decided the fate of countless lives. With but a thought, it can become any weapon held in hand, a sword, a mace, an ax, a spear.

But always, I returned to my homeland, where I visited my aging mother, and the soldiers with whom I was raised. And yet, it was the land itself that beckoned me, the green slopes cradled between the Taygetos Mountains, rich with olive trees . . . Such beauty is unparalleled in all the world. To think that I shall never look upon her like again, to speak of it and remember . . . pains me.

I decided, at last, to build a permanent home among my people, but feared they might come to worship me. Nor did I wish to incite the wrath of the king, lest he feel his authority threatened, for never have I desired a throne. And so, I built my home high upon the Taygetos Mountains, placing stone upon stone, with my own hands, where I could look down upon the city, with its white homes and stadiums and bustling populace. There, I lived in solitude, above the petty squabbles of mortal men.

One morning, I was greeted by a great white steed, which I knew to be of my father’s sacred stock. He was wild and untamed, a divine gift, and he succumbed to me without a bridle. I named him Thunderfoot. And in my growing loneliness, he was my only company.


Yearning for the camaraderie of my younger days, I went down to the agora, and always among the people went naked, like Apollo and Aphrodite, for I had grown beyond mortal trappings. The peasants considered my visitation a good omen, and I was offered riches to curry favor with the gods. Old women knitted chitoni for me and tanners their finest sandals. Warriors, seeking bravery, made sacrifices of their kills. Artists made likenesses of me in chiseled marble and in brushed gold amphora. Too often, fathers implored that I take their daughters, and unwed women sought me also. And I must admit that as my father and grandfather before me, that I was weak, and unable to resist the pleasures of the flesh. Soon, my appetites rivaled tales of my other exploits. Rumors spoke of the hundreds falling prey to my wiles. There was even talk of strange, half human partners, including nymphs, Amazons, mermaids, centaurs, titans, harpies, sirens, and young men. Of these tales, I can say only that they are, for the most part, myth.

As for King Demaratus, I was greeted with open arms. With my every visit, he was certain to arrange the finest banquet, for us to feast and drink honey wine and eat roasted lamb. The king employed dozens of maid servants, which labored over his every whim. But before the banquet, a sleeping chamber was arranged for me, where I could rest and be bathed, and then during the night, three of his most beautiful servants were sent to my room. The following morning, I would thank him for his kindness, and return to my mountain abode. In this way, the king was made confident that the gods were content, and that if war should break loose, I would come to his aid.

Life for me was like this, until my twenty fourth year. Smoke was rising up from the city, I could see, and King Demaratus knew to signal me by fire. I could not fathom the trouble. It could have been anything, from a horde of demons rising from the Underworld, to an invading legion from a neighboring city state. Never could I have imagined, in my naivety, how I was to be damned that day, how I would come to know perpetual grief.


Star Wars VII: The Same Thing

I seem to come from an alternate dimension, one in which the Star Wars prequels were great, and loved by all. In my universe, I distinctly remember my friends and I raving about Episode I, and how it made a gajillion dollars at the box office, and how even Rotten Tomatoes gave each of the three prequels a certified, over 60% fresh rating. Hell, when the Revenge of the Sith trailer played in my local theater, the entire audience cheered. And when Anakin made his slow descent into the river of lava on Mustafar, my wife cried, and she never cries during movies! But then, at some point between 1999 and today, I stepped through a wormhole to end up here, where every human hates the prequels. Though we live in a world of diversity, where some people are Creationists and others believe in evolution, some are Democrat and others are Republican, some love Obama and others think he should be impeached, there is ONE thing everybody seems to agree upon: the Star Wars prequels were terrible, terrible movies. I guess I am lucky, at least, to own copies of the prequels from my own dimension.

A downed Star Destroyer! We’ve never seen that before!

All joking aside, Star Wars means different things to different people. Nobody can quite agree on what makes it so special. Is it the story? The acting? The effects? Some combination of the three? For me, Star Wars was, and has always been, the ultimate fantasy. Now I do not use the word fantasy in the genre sense, but as a verb, as in “to fantasize” or to daydream. In 1977, George Lucas seemed to have bottled the imaginations of every 12 year old boy on Earth, to distill it onto the silver screen. A New Hope came out when I was two, so I didn’t see a Star Wars flick until 1980, with the release of The Empire Strikes Back. At the time, I was too young to fully follow the story, but I remember it changing my life. I went home to draw X-Wings and giant slugs, and looked for anything with which to live out my own space adventures, at one point using pen caps as spaceships. Being new to the cinema, I didn’t quite realize the anomaly that was Star Wars, and I eagerly anticipated more such spectacles. But despite Sci-Fi classics like Aliens, Terminator, Flight of the Navigator and The Last Star Fighter, nothing ever came close. Every other film was about a thing. E.T. was about a cute alien. Short Circuit was about a robot. Ghostbusters was about, well, catching ghosts. No other director could match Lucas’ creative audacity. For my generation, Star Wars was more than a movie. It was a window into another universe, a universe with laser swords and quarreling robots, with co-pilots that looked like Bigfoot and telekinetic wizards and moon-sized space stations that could blow up planets. Other studios attempted to reach the same levels of grandeur. The film, Krull, comes to mind, and the TV series Battlestar Galactica. But they all felt like cheap imitations. Then, three years later, Lucas really blew our minds. Everyone who watched A New Hope in ’77 wanted a sequel, obviously, and would have been content with more of the same, but George went far beyond expectation, giving us something both different and awesome, expanding his universe on the frozen world of Hoth, and with AT-AT Walkers and Yoda, and Vader saying, “Luke, I am your father!” And what kid in the 80’s didn’t try to freeze his action figures? My mother yelled at me when she found my Han Solo next to the popsicles.

Despite what you’ve heard, Lucas is a brilliant filmmaker. After all, he both wrote and directed the original Star Wars, without which there would be no franchise, no games, no toys and no “VII.” And he gave us Indiana Jones. Afterward, he could have spent his life making toilet cleaner commercials, and his reputation would in no way be diminished in my mind. But the haters never bother to mention his other great films, like THX 1138 and American Graffiti. No doubt, his style is unusual, what he himself describes as “documentary.” THX 1138, as he put it, is not “about” the future but “from” the future. What does that mean? Imagine you have a time machine that can pick up TV signals from the year 3000. Tune it to C-SPAN and, chances are, you won’t have a clue what anyone is talking about. With that in mind, the confusion regarding galactic trade agreements in Phantom Menace makes a lot more sense. Now you might be saying, who cares? Politics is boring! Maybe for you, but not for me, and not for Lucas, apparently. Besides, politics is central to the plot of the prequel films, as Anakin’s descent to the dark side is perfectly mirrored by the Republic’s transformation into the Empire. If you’re an amateur YouTube critic like Red Letter Media’s Mr. Plinkett (or whoever it is that voices the character), you might think Lucas is incompetent, that he “forgot how to direct” or that he simply “lost his way,” but anyone who has watched his earlier films knows that much of the criticism is in regards to his style. Since the seventies, Lucas has described himself as an independent filmmaker, working outside the Hollywood system, and that’s what Star Wars is, the most expensive independent film ever made and a true work of art. Why else would world renown art critic Camille Paglia describe Revenge of the Sith as “our generation’s greatest work of art”? Why else would film students, like Mike Klimo, dedicate exhaustive hours to studying the prequels as if it were Citizen Kane? Maybe you hate it, but style and art are subjective, and that is what makes it, for me, so compelling.

When I heard they were making a seventh Star Wars film without Lucas, I distinctly wrote on my Facebook page, “anyone but J.J. Abrams.” OK, I can think of a few worse directors, like Michael Bay, but after the Star Trek reboot, I realized Abrams is the anti-Lucas. He is all pop, no art and no style (unless you count his fondness for lens flare). He gives audiences exactly what the studios say we want. And the studios, unfortunately, know of only one formula for making movies: if it worked before, it will work again. Abrams is the poster child for this type of formulaic film making. Or did you really think the Trek reboot was original in any way? With its planet destroying super weapon ripped straight from the Death Star? Or Star Trek II, which copied the plot of, er, Star Trek II? Or Super 8, which was nothing more than an ugly mash up between Alien and E.T.? My biggest fear is having a Star Wars that resembles other films, one that is derivative and uninspired, and which suffers from sequelitisThe Phantom Menace, at least, continued in the tradition of expanding what we knew about the Star Wars galaxy. In Episode I, we discovered Naboo, with its Renaissance architecture and sleek, elegant ships; we watched a pod race, learned about galactic politics, and were made to “unlearn what we had learned” or assumed, regarding the genetic component of the Force (something that was always implied in the originals, if you bothered to think and pay attention). Last but not least, we were thrilled by a three-way light saber duel set to an amazing operatic theme, still the best, IMHO, fight scene in the series. It was nothing like the Star Wars we grew up with, which was why it was everything like the Star Wars we grew up with.

Some time after ’99, complaints about the prequels started to flood the Internet. Jar-Jar was no doubt a miscalculation (something Lucas was quick to correct in the later installments), and the acting and dialogue were, admittedly, abysmal (and yet, no more so than in the originals). But of the dumbest complaints were these: “Why do the spaceships look brand new? They should all look like they did in the originals,” and “Why are there robots? We can’t dress up like robots!” and most idiotic of all, “Where is the Darth Vader like character?” But my favorite one was this, written by a legitimate critic in a legitimate newspaper, “Why is there is so much traffic on Coruscant?” Lucas should know there’ll be no traffic jams in the future! It’s as if the haters wanted nothing more than a rehash of old material. When Abrams took over, he did exactly what I knew he would. He read the complaints, took them to heart, and did what he does best: he copied, adding a heavy dose of nostalgia. The newest trailer, much like the teaser, bears this out. The whole Internet had a collective nerdgasm and grown men wept. And for what?

Look everybody! Storm Troopers are back! Though slightly different. And X-Wing fighters are back! Though slightly different. And Tie Fighters are back! Thought slightly different. Hell, even Darth Vader is back! Though slightly different. And the Millennium Falcon is back too! Which is, actually, exactly the same. Is this really what the fans wanted? More of the same? If Abrams had been tasked to give us The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, do you think he would have given us Yoda or Boba Fett? With Return of the Jedi, would he have risked introducing us to Jabba the Hutt, the Sarlaac Pit, Ewoks or the Emperor? So far, the only original thing we have to look forward to in The Force Awakens is a droid with the body of a soccer ball. So . . . there’s that.

Look, the trailer looks cool, and I am confident Abrams will handle the acting and dialogue better than Lucas ever could. But without George, Star Wars will lose its artistry and its magic, the very things that set it far beyond every other 80’s movie, the very things that has us excited about a new installment forty years after its inception.

When Disney canceled the excellent Clone Wars series, leaving many loose plot threads, to replace it with Rebels, I gave it a chance. But I find Rebels to be derivative, watered down, and downright boring. I can’t, in all honesty, bring myself to watch it. But a movie with a hundred+ million dollar budget is a different thing altogether. Perhaps, by this December, I will be eating my words. Abrams might just give us something fresh and inspiring, taking the franchise to awesome new heights, and I will be made to look the idiot. That is something I am sincerely, sincerely hoping.

Oh, scratch that, this light saber has a hand guard! That’s new!


Recently, prequel fan Mike Klimo posted an amazing, exhaustive and heavily indexed research paper about something he calls Star Wars Ring Theory. Klimo proves that George Lucas’ six part film saga is an intricately woven and symbolic work of art (a considerable departure from anything Hollywood, or J.J. Abrams, is likely to give us). He shows how the prequel films perfectly mirror the originals, in an exploration of Buddhist and Daoist principles, highlighting many of the things I have long noted and admired. And yet, he still managed to blow me away with stuff I never knew. Did you know, for instance, that in Daoism, the word used to describe immortality, or the practice of attaining immortality, is remarkably similar to the name Qui-Gon? Mind. Blown. So, if you haven’t checked it out already, please go to: Star Wars Ring Theory.



Dynotus art, from 26 years ago, done on my Amiga computer

We all remember our first loves. No matter what we experience later in life, we keep a place in our hearts for what came along when we were most impressionable, when the world was still wondrous and open to infinite possibilities. So much of how we feel about our favorite things stems from our earliest memories. Our love for Star Wars, or He-Man or Zelda, has less to do with quality, and more to do with who we were. Because our first loves hold such meanings for us, we often cling to them, and are less willing to share them with others. But the nature of writing is exposing what we love most, so that the world might poke at it, or praise or ridicule it, or just simply ignore it. This is why, even among nudists, I am one of the few to use my real name, because the stories born from my mind are a thousand times more personal. My body is just a cover for what is inside, and what is inside is the Red Panther and Dynotus and Xandr and Princess Radia. Naturally, I have been hesitant to let the children of my imagination loose on the Internet, where they will likely face against the Lich of Apathy. It would be far easier to keep writing about nudism. Every post I write involving nudity gets read by thousands, and is liked and shared on Facebook and Twitter and Google +. My article about Aliaa Magda Elmahdi has been read by over 16,000 people. But it gets me nowhere closer to my true love, which is fiction. I have always believed that story speaks to a deeper truth, that we cannot hope to put into words, other than through story. It is our oldest method for sharing our ideas and beliefs and feelings, and it remains the most potent and vital. What is religion, after all, but a form of story? But in this age of instant information, where everything is reduced to a sound bite or a meme, where everything and everyone competes for seconds, we have lost something precious. On social media, we have forgotten the transcendent quality of story, what we have known since time immemorial, when our prehistoric ancestors sat about a fire listening to a bard or a shaman. This is why, popularity be damned, I continue to struggle against the Lich of Apathy, and the tower of indifference built upon the white noise of too many voices, because I long to share the passion swelling in my heart. When I was eighteen, my heart was aflame, and after many failed attempts at writing my first novel, I started work on The Nomad. 

To be fair, I was young and inexperienced at the time, fresh out of high school and just entering college. I had to struggle with basic form, with how to establish a scene and with how much description to give. But I was driven by unbridled imagination, and idealism, utterly convinced of my future as a novelist. Despite the techniques I have acquired over the decades, I long to find that old Nick Alimonos again, to have that fervor I once possessed. Being naive is a far better thing than being jaded. Ultimately, I abandoned The Nomad upon its completion, knowing I had more to learn. But looking back on it now, I wonder whether, if I had stuck with it, my entire life might be different. Unlike my second venture, The Dark Age of Enya, The Nomad is a simple story, and for an agent, a much easier sell.

The Nomad is a love story, largely inspired by The Odyssey. Like Odysseus, Dynotus searches twenty years for the woman he loves, for his wife, Sali, which has been kidnapped. And like The Odyssey, The Nomad is an adventure story, with fantastic locales and mythical monsters. But instead of the Mediterranean, he becomes lost in the sands of the Sahara.

But who is Dynotus? In many ways, he is a precursor to Xandr, a hero inspired by my love of mythology. Four years before starting the novel, I typed a short story called The War of the Gods. In an alternate universe, which I call AERTH, every pantheon known to mankind, from every nation and time period, existed simultaneously. Here, gods battled for supremacy, and the last to stand were my favorites: Zeus and Thor. But the two thunder gods ended up destroying themselves, leaving Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, to be inherited by the son of Zeus and the Japanese Shinto goddess, Amaterasu Omikami. Hence, Zor was born. Taking after his father, Zor had his way with a mortal woman from Sparta, whose offspring was unusually strong, like Heracles. And so she named him “strong” in Greek, which translates to Dynotus.

Now if all this sounds like a bad comic book, and nothing like what I aspired to in my first paragraph, keep in mind that I was fourteen. My goal, with Dynotus, was to create a myth for all people. And throughout my high school years, Dynotus spent a lot of time traveling the globe and killing monsters, and he usually did it naked. But by the time I turned eighteen, I lost interest in fighting for the sake of fighting. Having a relatable character, with real human emotions, mattered more to me. A hero who could fall in love, and know loss, and struggle to overcome that loss, became so much more interesting. This was the basis for my first true novel.

Next Week: THE NOMAD: A LOVE STORY: CHAPTER 1              


The Devil’s Advocate: Why Nudism is Wrong

After a lifetime of promoting nudism, have I finally thrown in the towel? Or in this case, thrown on the towel? Sorry, textiles, today is not the day. But as a lover of philosophy, I feel it necessary to follow the example of Socrates, and examine what I feel most passionate about in as objective a way as possible. Too often, nudist bloggers will profess their beliefs without fully thinking about them. But for me, critical thinking is crucial, the only way to determine whether the nudist way of life is truly the best way to live. 

My wife is a champion of pragmatism. On more than one occasion, after my droning in defense of some philosophy, she has shot me down with just a few words. She is, in other words, utterly immune to bullshit. In just such a way, my wife has forced me to reevaluate my most cherished notions. As a true pragmatist, she isn’t quite opposed to the idea of nudism, but neither is she enthusiastic about it. But the objection she most often brings up is this: all of the pro-nudist arguments people make, and many I have made myself, can be dismissed by a single fact. 

The genitals do not have to be exposed for that to work.

On Women and Beauty Standards

Felicity Jones, founder of Young Naturists America, bases her free body philosophy on feminist principles. In her view, public nudity helps women feel good about their bodies, by exposing the “flaws” that 99% of “real” women have. Before frequenting nude beaches and resorts, my only exposure to the female body was Playboy, where less than 1% of women are represented, most of whom have had plastic surgery, breast augmentation (paid for by the magazine) or whose photos were airbrushed. After visiting clothing optional resorts, I learned how unnatural the Playboy ideal was, and how much more I appreciated the real thing. No doubt, if more women (and men) were exposed to the nudist perspective, society’s concept of beauty would change. One nudist slogan goes so far as to state, “all bodies are beautiful.” But here we have a problem. Couldn’t the same thing be achieved without exposing the genitals? Most women who hate their bodies focus on their overall weight, and only rarely on the condition of their vaginas. While there is a new trend in plastic surgery that does, in fact, reconstruct the labia and repair the hymen, this is an aberration, and not much of a concern for textiles, who never expose themselves but to their partners. It’s enough for women to simply visit a beach (or any water park) to discover different body types. Perhaps, instead of encouraging women to go naked, we should be encouraging them to hit the beach, and conversely, discourage magazines from altering photos.

Nudism’s feel good philosophy is wishful thinking, as we will never reach a point where all bodies are considered beautiful. To be certain, beauty is a difficult thing to define, and has been debated by philosophers since the Ancient Greeks. And yet, one thing is agreed upon, that by its very definition, beauty is selective. If we are all beautiful, nobody is beautiful. It must exist as an exception, stand out from a crowd, if it is to mean anything. But beauty is also a social construct, something that exists “in the eye of the beholder.” My wife tells me that I only see her as beautiful because I love her, which I admit to being true, in part. In cultures throughout history, what constitutes beauty widely differs. During the Renaissance Age, people preferred women who were, for a lack of a better word, “plus size.” These were known as “Rubenesques.” 

Beauty circa 1600s

In modern times, supermodels starve themselves to achieve the ideal bony physique. Nudists love to point out these changes, to show the transitory and illusory quality of beauty, but they rarely question it further, as to why these changes in perception occur in the first place. From an evolutionary standpoint, beauty is a measure of health, a way for an animal to determine the viability of a mate. Species avoid intercourse with those that are too young or old to produce offspring. For a rhino, a long horn is beautiful, and sexy, as it is a sign of good health and strong chromosomes. Peacocks find colorful plumage beautiful, whereas other bird species find a male’s singing voice arousing. During medieval times, when food was scarce and disease rampant, being too thin was an indication of poor health. Today, with our overabundance of calories, heart disease is the #1 threat to our survival, and so “thin is in.” The media, however, exacerbates this quality to the extreme, and so we have teenage girls also dying from bulimia and anorexia. While nudism helps broaden our perceptions as to what constitutes beauty, it can never be defined in such a way as to divorce it from its evolutionary function, which is why we will never see boys sexually aroused by grandmothers (beyond the occasional fetish). In short, beauty can be measured objectively, not with a tape measure, but within the parameters of health and procreation.  

Nudists also contend that public nudity acts as an equalizing factor, that in sharing our flaws, we somehow cancel them out. But I think the opposite is true. Clearly, a woman with a double mastectomy would prefer, given the choice, to have breasts. I have seen women who have undergone the procedure at nudist resorts, and have always admired their courage, which is its own beauty, I admit. But who could blame a woman for wanting to conceal such a surgery? Clothing may have been invented, in part, to make the body more appealing, by hiding what in that culture was deemed unattractive. While I personally believe we are far more beautiful the way we are born, when we are naked, our differences are more pronounced. A prehistoric person, born into a world without textiles, would not have the option to accentuate their better features, or draw attention away from others.     

Twiggy started the “super thin” trend.

Nudity and Objectification

Another position embraced by nudists regards equality of the sexes, characterized by the Free the Nipple campaign, which postulates that men and women’s nipples are no different, so that criminalizing one and not the other is tantamount to sexism. Forcing a woman to cover her nipples, however, cannot be compared to paying her less money, or taking away her birth control. The latter speaks of a woman’s value, and deeply entrenched prejudices that view women as worth less than men. The former has everything to do with sexual stimulation. Men’s nipples have never aroused women, which is why they are deemed permissible. Free the Nipple, therefore, has less to do with equality, and more to do with objectification, and sexuality. There is, of course, some overlap, as objectifying women can also be viewed as a form of inequality. But the issue I am making is this: for the vast majority, a man’s nipple differs significantly from a woman’s, if only in perception.

In other cultures, however, the female nipple is a common sight, as it is more associated with feeding infants. In Morocco, for instance, public breast feeding is legal, because the role of mother in Muslim countries is given greater respect. But in Puritan America, the nipple has long been divorced from its biological roots, becoming a commodity, for titillation and male gratification. But if tomorrow, every woman on the street was to go topless, all this would change. So far, I am in agreement with Free the Nipple. But here’s the problem: if Free the Nipple hinges on the fact that the nipple is not inherently (by its nature) sexual, what of the genitals? Are they not, by definition, sex organs? If so, how can nudists make both arguments? Or does Free the Nipple not represent the nudist view? Display of sex organs in public is either acceptable or not acceptable. 

Accepting that the function of the nipple is irrelevant, we must consider how a woman’s body is used to objectify her. Conservatives have long maintained that to remain dignified, women must dress modestly, but nudists see this as damaging, as any single image, taken at an inopportune moment, can be used to ruin someone’s reputation. It also places unfair constraints upon women, to dress the way society dictates, and to be defined by the clothing they wear. Public nudity, nudists argue, frees women from objectification, by eliminating the shame associated with the body, and the sexual implications that go with it. A woman was once thought a “slut” for wearing a mini-skirt or short shorts. In some Muslim countries, women endure the same type of shaming for not covering their faces. But with nudity becoming more commonplace, nudists contend, the body loses its power to arouse, and therefore, its capacity to objectify. While I agree with this, in part, in that women should not be judged for what they wear, I do not accept the notion that arousal is synonymous with objectification. It is in our natures to be sexually stimulated. We could never, in a thousand years, make the female body so common a sight as to eliminate desire altogether. I have been a nudist for most my life, but I would be lying if I were to say that I see no difference between a naked girl and a clothed one. Admittedly, I prefer girls who go au natural, because no outfit can compare in beauty to the naked body, and because it sometimes arouses me, and any heterosexual man with healthy testosterone levels who says otherwise is being disingenuous. But this does not mean that scantily clad women are any less deserving of respect. Only when we regard people as things, and little else, can we claim objectification. This is why I take issue with and Upworthy, and sites that cry sexism whenever a female heroine is depicted in a skimpy outfit. I do not consider a female character, like Thelana (who never wears clothes) to be an affront to women, as long as that character is portrayed with emotion, intelligence, and soul. Sexuality is a big part of who we are, and by reflecting this aspect of ourselves, we add to our humanity, rather than detract from it. Conversely, it is possible to objectify a person in non-sexual ways. Consider the racist caricatures of Germans and Japanese used during World War II. Given no inherent connection between sexuality and objectification, then, the argument that nudism can somehow eliminate this trend is dubious. If every man and woman were to strip down to their bare skin, we would still find ways to objectify our neighbors. The best that nudism can achieve, is to make it so that women are judged by their actions, and not their appearance.

Health and Social Benefits

Other pro-nudist arguments involve the health benefits of sunshine and air to bare skin, which again, fails the genital test. Must we expose our genitals to produce enough Vitamin D? No. Bathing suits allow enough of our skin to breathe. Another argument involves social interaction. In nothing but our bodies, we cannot judge social class, and so the boundaries that separate people dissolve. But again, could this not be achieved by everyone meeting in their underwear? How different is a rich man’s underwear from a poor person’s? Besides, it doesn’t take much to learn whether someone at a resort is a doctor or a lawyer. Nudists will often wear their Rolexes or engagement rings in the pool, or can be seen walking out to their Mercedes’ in the parking lot. Conversely, it’s rare, in this day and age, to determine someone’s social standing simply by looking at them. The wealthy of the world no longer dress like aristocrats. Bill Gates, sitting at a Starbucks, doesn’t come across as a billionaire. Only the people wanting to make their social standing known do so, and that can happen at any venue.

Nudity and Children

Finally, nudists need to address the elephant in the room: children. At one point in time, sodomy and oral sex were illegal (and in some states still are) but the right to privacy made such laws irrelevant. The problem with reversing the naked taboo, both in perception and with regard to the law, is that public nudity is just that, public, and cannot be defended by privacy rights. People morally opposed to nudity would be forced to accept it, and the opposition’s ‘ace in the hole’ has always been, and remains, the protection of children. If the primary function of our genitals is intercourse, detractors argue, exposing genitals to children is one step closer to pedophilia. Of course, a curious thing about our species, that goes largely overlooked, is a quirk in our evolution which gives our genitals multiple purposes, sex being the lesser function. For children, genitals are for waste removal, nothing more. Still, I worry about kids at nudist venues, because resorts are not colonies. Nudism exists as a sub-culture within a much larger culture, one that almost universally equates nudity with sex. While the vast majority of human beings, nudist or textile, would never think to take advantage of a child, we cannot account for everybody; we can never know the reasons a person chooses to be naked around naked children.

Being an author, as opposed to a philosopher, I do not have to commit to the ideas I explore in my work. I cannot say with any certainty that the world would be a better place if we were all to go naked. There exist Amazon tribes that have never seen clothes, who’ve never felt the need to hide any part of themselves, but this is the exception. Other tribes, that have never been influenced by Christianity, or the taboos of western society, have come to the same conclusion, that hiding the penis and vagina is necessary. From China to India to Ancient Greece, public nudity was and remains taboo. Perhaps, it is human instinct to think of sex in sight of genitalia. A society like the Ilmar, who live naked 24/7 without thinking of sex, is a fantasy. The Ilmar are no more realistic, in this regard, than elves or dwarves or any other imaginary race.

Or are they?

Total nudity is rare even in the Amazon

I do not have all the answers, but I feel it is important for nudists, like myself, to examine each of these issues carefully, and address them honestly. First and foremost, we need to admit the reason we choose to be nudists, and it can be summed up in three simple words:

It feels good.  

Being naked feels good, really good. I am naked right now even as I write this. Why not just walk around in my underwear? Why does my penis have to be exposed to the air? Because underwear, for me, is like wearing a wool sweater on a hot summer day, like swimming in jeans, like going to bed in roller skates. If I could live in a world without having to look at another pair of underwear, I’d jump at the chance. Not everyone feels this way, of course. My wife has tried nudism at home and admits to feeling nothing special. But whatever nudists write in defense of nudism is a rationalization for how they feel. This is not, however, to dismiss the benefits of the lifestyle. Women who feel good freeing their private public parts, are also helping to minimize the objectification of their sex, while creating healthier concepts of beauty. Whether this can be better achieved through other means is a moot point. Though we may never divorce nudity from sex, lust in and of itself is not a bad thing. Rather, we should celebrate human sexuality, and regard as taboo only our inability to control our behavior. A man who rapes a drunk girl at a party, or a pedophile who exploits a child, or a drunk guy who kills someone in a bar fight, is driven not by reason, or any sense of rightness, but by their animal urges.

Ultimately, people do not make decisions based on what is rational. If that were so, nobody would ever drink alcohol or smoke tobacco. If news broke out that a ring of pedophiles had been caught at a nudist resort, textiles would blame the lifestyle, but Catholics have yet to abandon the Church even after the many sex scandals involving child molesting clergy. No matter the risks, we are comforted by what is familiar, and so most people are made uncomfortable by nudity not because of its implications, but by its strangeness. But why is nudity strange? If anything, we should be overly familiar, and comfortable, with our bodies.

Looking back through the ages, perhaps it is not that we have been too civilized to accept nudity, but not civilized enough. As a member of the human species, I would like to believe we’re better than that. I would like to believe that someday there will be no nudists, because men and women will realize we don’t need to hide to treat one another with respect and compassion. Perhaps, as in the Garden of Eden, true nakedness is a state of purity we have yet to live up to.

Nakedness: A Human Ideal?

Social change begins with artistic expression. The sexual revolution could not have happened without the music of the 60’s and 70’s, or the writings of Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame, who popularized premarital intercourse. The gay rights movement could not have gained traction in the public consciousness without gay film festivals, Ellen, or Brokeback Mountain. The beauty of speculative fiction is that it gives us a glimpse into a world different from our own, one in which the taboos that govern our culture might differ. Through storytelling, we can explore other ways to live without committing to it, whether it is right or morally reprehensible. 

In Ages of Aenya, I envision a people without shame, for whom the nakedness taboo never existed. For the Ilmar, shamelessness is congruent with a natural utopia. The heroes of this society, Xandr and Thelana, hearken to the Classic nudes of antiquity, to Heracles and Perseus and Theseus, and to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and John Carter. You can learn more about them below: