I am proud to say that I am a nudist, and that I live my life sans apparel whenever possible. Since I was twelve years old, I have loved being naked, and I have known that clothing is unnecessary, a matter of habit and little more. But what does it mean to be a nudist or a naturist? Is it all about sex? Gawking at privates? Shocking strangers with your dangly bits? Quite the opposite, actually. We become obsessed with genitalia, and sex, the more we keep these parts a mystery. For a nudist like me, a naked person is just a person, not a thing to be lusted after. If I had to sum up our beliefs in five simple words, those words would be: the human body is innocent. That’s it. We believe that men and women have the capacity to respect one another, with or without clothing, without succumbing to animal instinct.
Your naked body is you. It’s the vessel that carries you through life, and there’s nothing embarrassing or shameful about it. The only indecent thing is to be taught that our genitals are offensive, and that we should be afraid that someone will see them. Your penis is no more wicked than your nose. Your vagina no more obscene than your elbow. These are just parts, making up what we are, and the only thing that matters is how we use them.
Growing up, I never understood our obsession with sex and, paradoxically, our Puritanical attitude toward the human body. The United States of America is an insane place, where you can legally carry and conceal a gun, but risk imprisonment should anyone see your genitals. We live in a world where, under the banner of free speech, YouTube permits videos calling for racism, sexism and homophobia, but Facebook censors a mother breastfeeding; we live in a world where “Mature” video games like Grand Theft Auto entertain children with fantasies of murdering innocents, while a game showing a nipple earns a much stricter “Adult” rating; we live in a world where the Westboro Baptist Church can rally at a gay soldier’s funeral with signs that read “God Hates Fags” as police stand idly by, but should a man or woman show up in nothing but the body we are all born into, they would promptly get arrested for indecency.
Clothing serves to protect against the elements, but is otherwise unnecessary, a matter of social conditioning. People were never meant to wear clothes. We are born far more beautiful, and can experience the world far more intimately, in nothing but our bare bodies. But this philosophy is nothing new. For tens of thousands, if not more than a hundred thousand years, mankind was oblivious to nakedness. At around the time of the Ice Age, we adopted textiles to retain body heat, and yet communal nudity remained commonplace throughout the ancient world, in Greece and in Rome, in Celtic Europe, and among most native cultures. But with the spread of the Abrahamic religions came the concept of body shame, and what was once a matter of practicality turned into a global neurosis, and a hatred for what we look like without our clothes. Or, conversely, we came to fetishize and obsess over beauty and sexuality.
And yet we are becoming a far more accepting society. No longer do we demonize people based on race, religion, or sexual orientation. In the media, the objectification of women is on a steady decline. More and more, humanity is seeing itself less apart from nature and more as part of nature. These ideals align perfectly with naturism, which is why athletes, actors and singers pose shamelessly for magazines, TV shows, and on social media, without the career ending outrage of bygone eras.
I am not suggesting that throwing away our clothes can solve society’s ills. But if we are free to live in the skin we are born into, to live without shame or judgment, without outdated taboos, might this world not become a better place?
For me, naturism means much more than a life without shame. It is a spiritual philosophy, a reverence for nature and life. It gives me a sense of awe, for our species and for our place in the universe. Only when we recognize our shared humanity can we hope to overcome the definitions that divide us.