YouTube: Naturism and Ages of Aenya

I have been writing about nudism/naturism since 2012, and created my nudist heroes, Xandr and Thelana, back in 1999. You might think that after two decades, I’d be as forthcoming as anyone about my free-body philosophy, but you’d be wrong. The fear of social ostracism remains paramount in my mind. There was even a time, for about nine years, when I pretty much abandoned the lifestyle altogether. But my biggest fear was that nudism would adversely affect my writing career.

That being said, I am continually amazed by the many ways in which society is changing. I grew up at a time when boys were expected to become MEN!. According to my dad, MEN do not collect action figures, or watch cartoons, or play video games or read comics. I am not sure what exactly MEN of my father’s era were supposed to do for fun; I think just smoke a cigar and play pool. Flash forward to 2019, and we’ve got toys made specifically for adult collectors, X-Rated anime shows, and video games and Marvel films raking in a lot more than all the pool halls and bowling alleys in America. If you had told me, just five years ago, that Dungeons and Dragons would become popular again, I would not have believed you.

I’ve recently started seeing a therapist, and I guess there is no shame in that. As part of my recovery, she suggested I start telling people I am a writer. See, when you earn most of your money selling pizza, it feels disingenuous to tell anyone differently. Maybe I suffer from some form of imposter syndrome. But my therapist urged me to express myself. Another big part of my identity is nudism. Being a nudist is sometimes like being in love—you want to tell the whole world how great it is—but I don’t. I often wonder how many of my friends, family or coworkers would shun me if I told them. Or ridicule me. Or take offense. Or maybe, just maybe, some of them are nudists too, and just as afraid as I am to let people know.

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Reading naked? What could be better!

From the day we’re born, society teaches us that being naked is wrong, but nudists believe the human body is beautiful, and innocent, and nothing to be embarrassed about. And the more we express this philosophy, the more it’ll come true. Because societal taboos only really exist in our minds.

The world is full of strange and wonderful weirdos, and the Internet is giving us the means to connect with and express our own weirdness. As Madonna put it, “If you want it right now, I can show you how, express yourself.” We all need to let the world know that it’s OK to be different, whether that means you’re LGBTQ, or some other letter. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, why should it matter? Hell, we’ve got Flat Earthers and Anti-Vaxxers now, which is far worse than letting the sun shine on your butt, methinks.

Nobody ever became famous by playing it safe. If anything, I should be embracing all the ways in which I am unique. Because we really don’t need more Tolkiens or Rowlings or Stan Lees. We need the next new thing, and maybe that’s me. Or you. Who knows? Express yourself and find out.

As part of putting myself out there, and the actual reason I started writing this post, I would like to introduce the FIRST of many-to-come YouTube videos, in which I discuss naturism, and how it has inspired Ages of Aenya. Please check it out by clicking the image below:

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The Problem of Sex

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I don’t like sex. Yeah yeah, I can hear the jokes already. Comedian Dimitri Martin did it best in his book, This is a Book, in a chapter titled, Better than Sex, where he lists all of the things he once considered better than sex, which includes most anything and everything. He then proceeds to list what is, for him, “worse than sex.” The punch-line? He really hadn’t liked his old girlfriend, and she was his first. All joking aside, that’s not what I mean by “I don’t like sex.” In fact, I enjoy it quite a bit, thankyouverymuch. I am far from an asexual person. When I say “I don’t like sex,” I am referring to the whole enterprise, and all of its societal implications. Like Punky Brewster explained (I know, look it up) after her mother gave her “the talk,” sex is hilarious, from the perspective of an alien unfamiliar with Earthling biology.

First and foremost, we should consider what sex is for, because people tend to forget it’s all about babies. From the increased arousal that comes with puberty to the change in pitch in a woman’s voice to its ejaculative climax, the goal has always been babies babies babies. Of course, we tend to ignore Mother Nature’s designs because sex is, and has always been, a messy and wasteful production. Without bothering to Google it, I can confidently say that I—by myself—can repopulate a small country in an afternoon. And women could, should they grow their eggs in tubes, bring twelve new people into this world every year, if not more. So what are we to do with all of this extra, er . . . stuff? Have fun, that’s what! But here we run into a plethora of problems, problems which society has repeatedly struggled to rectify, with limited or disastrous results.

When it comes to A+B, evolution has developed in us contradictory instincts. On the one hand, we desire as many partners as possible, to more broadly spread our genetic information. Conversely, we have also evolved to commit to a single partner, to aid in the difficult and often life-threatening birthing process, and to better raise children. Between these two extremes, humans have long played a psychological and sociological tug-of-war.

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My ethics professor told us in class that sexual morality runs the gamut between one partner, for life, to the rules of tennis. In this analogy, you can have intercourse with anyone you can play tennis with: a woman, a man, two women at once, a group of people, a relative, you get the picture. From the Ancient Egyptians to the Puritans, rules regarding who gets to do it with whom has constantly changed, with nary a satisfying consensus emerging. Religion is often blamed for what some consider excessive prudishness, but the rules established by religion are but a manifestation of our own biases and emotions. Until recently, gay sex was regarded taboo, only because the majority of the people making the rules were not gay themselves. A case was put forth that homosexual intercourse is unnatural, in that gay sex cannot lead to procreation. This, of course, ignored the obvious point that most sex acts never lead to offspring. Confusion about sexual mores, particularly when it comes to homosexuality, has led to violence against gays, and in many countries to this day, can mean a death sentence.

Jealousy drives our values. It is the reason marriage vows regarding intercourse exist, and why women, often viewed as property, were confined to the home in earlier times. In Saudi Arabia and Iran, women are still forced into bags, to cover the parts of themselves that may lead to unwanted sexual attention, and in some parts of Africa, young Muslim girls are subject to genital mutilation to curb their desires. The Free Love Movement of the 60’s attempted to rectify this, adopting a philosophy whereby anyone was free to boink anyone else, but the movement failed, because jealousy remained too great a factor. And it isn’t hard to see why. Up until a half century ago, determining with any certainty the father of a newborn was impossible. Men feared infidelity because they did not wish to rear a child who did not bear his code.

Looking beyond social norms, we find trouble stemming from the desire for sex. To satisfy our driving need to copy our DNA, we’ve invented prostitution and pornography, which has led to legal complications, the mistreatment of women, the proliferation of drug-use (in some instances) and an entire underground society of second class citizens. We are already seeing efforts to normalize this kind of work, now called “sex work,” and though I do not wish to delve into this debate, I will say that I could never condemn someone for doing something that causes no harm, but at the same time, never be content should one of my children (boy or girl) become involved in such a career.

Far from what the Lifetime Channel will tell you, divorce is rarely the result of infidelity. People in happy, committed relationships do not seek excitement “on the side.” That being said, infidelity remains a symptom of unsatisfied urges, and it only takes a single moment for a marriage to dissolve to the point of no return. Without this highly symbolic and hurtful action, loving unions might find greater opportunity to endure, and families to remain together.

Of course, if we’re going to talk about the problems of sex, we can’t ignore rape, and by greater extent, child molestation. The #MeToo movement has only recently shed light on the numbers of sex related victims. By some estimates, one in four women will be sexually abused in some way in their lifetimes. Even among those fortunate enough to escape victimhood, most women live in a state of fear, never quite knowing who to trust, or where to find a safe space. Usually, it’s not so much a matter of a stranger jumping out of a bush, but a coworker or employer, or even a boyfriend who pushes just a little too hard to get what he wants. Even decent, innocent guys (and there are plenty of those too) suffer from abuse directed at women, and the backlash of the #MeToo movement, afraid of being perceived as dangerous. This has led, unfortunately, to a counter-backlash, and to the rise of misogynistic groups like (some) Incels, and the rabid anti-SJW movement on YouTube, who’ve made the Ghostbusters reboot and the recent Captain Marvel films matters of unending controversy. 

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What really broke the camel’s back, for me, is the deeply disturbing Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland. I recommend it only if you can stomach it, but if you’re a child of the 80s who grew up with Jackson’s music, like I did, you will find it heartbreaking. And yet the documentary helps shed light on the way in which those in positions of influence, like musical celebrities or, in the case of the Catholic Church, men of the cloth, abuse their positions to satisfy their urges. As Leaving Neverland makes clear, pedophilia is a mental disorder, as the idolized megastar could not have had much difficulty finding women to sleep with him. But Jackson did not show any interest in women, or in adults of the same sex. Instead, he manipulated the trust of the children who worshipped him, who believed their hero could do no wrong. As the documentary shows, the web of lies these children are forced to bear, even into adulthood, becomes as damaging as the abuse itself.

Taking ALL of this into account, it is difficult to see how such a simple biological function can be worth the damages. If by ridding the world of sex, we also rid the world of fear and harassment, the mistreatment of women, the breaking up of families, and the irreparable damage resulting from rape and child abuse, is this not a fair exchange? The best aspect of sex, IMO, are not the minutes (seconds?) of pleasure derived from the act, but the emotional bonds formed in the process. As an expression of love, sex is hard to beat, but we need to recognize that it comes at a serious cost.

Now, if this argument sounds bizarre, maybe even a little cult-like, not to fear. Although Christian monks were known to castrate themselves, like dogs, and to wear spiked rings (with the spikes on the inside) over their penises to prevent nocturnal emissions, among other sins, I am not suggesting going the Heaven’s Gate route and neutering ourselves. Destroying a part of what makes us human isn’t the answer. Like any societal ill, we must tackle these issues head on, by adopting the Socratic method, and examining ourselves with openness and honesty. We must recognize that we are sexual beings, and subject to desire, but that above all else we must learn to treat one another with love, respect and compassion.

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There is a popular meme that has been going around for some time, featuring a topless girl, with the the words “Still Not Asking For It” written over her body. While I agree with the overall sentiment, in that women own their bodies and should not be subject to harassment, I have long found the meme to be misleading, because it suggests that women cannot be sexual beings, and cannot have their own desires. Some women do, in fact, dress for sex. It is hardcoded into our DNA, just as birds sing and peacocks spread their wings to find a mate. And the problem is, men know this, and become angry when a half-naked woman struts by them, only to reject their advances. I think a better, more honest meme would be, “Not Asking You For It.”

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A nudist woman is neither “asking for it” nor “not asking,” she simply is.

Ultimately, this brings us to my pet philosophy. Contrary to popular belief, nudists are not anti-sex. But what we have long argued, rather, is that we do not need clothing to prevent us from raping and molesting one another. We believe that human beings have the capacity to treat one another with respect, without suffering abuse or harassment, regardless of what a person is wearing, or how they are posed, or whether they appear to be “asking for it.” While there are uncomfortable similarities between children being indoctrinated into abusive relationships and children born into nudist households, in that both deal with societal taboos, the differences between them are crucial. People who prey on the innocent rely on secrecy and deception. Nudism is first and foremost about openness and honesty, which is why so many children born into the lifestyle go on to raise their own children in the same way. Nudism is uniquely optimistic with regard to human potential, trusting in humanity’s capacity to rise above its animalistic nature. In being naked and innocent around friends, family and those of the opposite sex, we learn to see one another not as objects of lust, but as fellow human beings. While pornographers and exhibitionists continually mistake the movement for a fetish, nudism is, at its core, about innocence. In a Buddhist-like sense, the goal of nudism is to free ourselves from unwanted desires. But while I would not go so far as to say nudism is the answer to the problem of sex, it is definitely a step in the right direction. Only when we learn to overcome our instinctual drives can we begin to conquer our moral failings.

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Nudism frees us from our desires

 

The Problem of the Penis

Warning: This article contains the word penis. It actually comes up, a lot. (Sorry). You’ve been warned.

I think it’s time we talked about the elephant in the room, and by elephant, I mean penis. Nudists like to wax poetic about the feeling of freedom you get from discarding your clothing, as do I, while ignoring what most people find objectionable about public nakedness. Let’s be honest, nobody outside of Saudi Arabia is really opposed to seeing your epidermis, and men aren’t being arrested for wearing speedos in public. Rather, it’s that tiny, 5% region of the body we criminalize, and that extra 5% nudists are fighting to make normal. For a nudist, a bikini is too much of a burden. What we want is to be completely, entirely, 100% clothes free, and that means exposing our genitals. And therein lies the problem.

For most textiles (that’s you non-nudists), the thinking goes something like this: genitals are sex organs, and the only people who should be seeing them are those with whom you are about to have intercourse. Displaying your penis or vagina to innocent bystanders is tantamount to propositioning them for sex, and, following this line of reasoning, exposing oneself to a minor is equivalent to pedophilia. Not surprisingly, outrage erupted over a nudist event at a Waterworld in Britain, with textiles fuming, ‘Good grief. Under fives go free. Horrendous. I’m genuinely shocked. This needs to be stopped.’ Another person asked: ‘Why can’t they make it adult only? No issue with that. But no kids.’ While a third wrote: ‘This is vile having NAKED children around NAKED adults is not ok, simple as that.’ Well, of course these people are outraged, and I would be too, if my kids were being invited to some sort of sexual event. But that’s the whole point of nudism: it isn’t sexual. 

If nudists ever wish to live in a world free of body taboos, we must tackle these misconceptions head on. We must change people’s perceptions when it comes to genitals, because while a true nudist isn’t focused on these parts per se, the textile community is.

But between the two varieties of male and female organs, the penis is by far the bigger offender (these puns write themselves, honestly!), and the reasons are multifold, I think. One reason may be that, unlike the vagina, which is largely internal, the penis just sort of sticks out there, demanding attention. So rarely do we see a penis outside of pornography, we tend to forget that its basic function, 99% of the time, is for waste removal. The unrealistic and often grotesque depictions of the male organ on the Internet also leads to unhealthy obsessions over appearance, and further the notion that the penis can only be seen in a sexual context. The artist portraying my naked hero, Xandr, gave the character an “enviable” package, but I’ve always imagined my hero closer to Michelangelo’s David in scale. After all, it’s hard fighting a monster with your most sensitive parts flailing around. Realistically, Xandr has to be a “grower,” which leads me to wonder whether the Ancient Greeks competed in the Olympics without a stitch and without a qualm owing to similar, more manageable physiques. Unfortunately, pornography has taught us that anything less than an infant’s arm is unmanly and embarrassing.

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Too big for battle?

Unfortunately for us in the real world, the penis is too often the star of the show in cases of sexual misconduct. Comedian Louis C.K. became a pariah after masturbating in front of two female coworkers. Billionaire film producer Harvey Weinstein found himself in similar hot water for casually leaving his bathrobe open for aspiring actresses to behold. Nudism does not condone this kind of behavior, of course, and Weinstein wasn’t a nudist, but still we must ask where, precisely, does one draw the line? Ignoring the numerous other, more serious charges against him, what if Weinstein had claimed that he just felt more free in the raw, and believed there was no shame in the human body? For men and women alike, the unexpected sight of a nude person can feel like a violation, or at the very least, an unwanted invitation. I avoid telling friends and coworkers about my lifestyle for fear they will misinterpret my intentions.

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You can just feel the creepiness!

All this is exacerbated by the increasingly troubled and confusing time we are living in. A lot of men avoid women they may be attracted to, never showing signs of interest, for fear of being deemed a creep. Sure, there are plenty of genuine creeps out there, but this has made women all the more wary of men, and men all the more afraid to come across the wrong way. So what is a genuine male nudist to do? While I’d never recommend suddenly stripping in front of a female coworker, particularly in a private setting, sometimes the line between misconduct and freedom becomes blurred. Imagine a female jogger on a long stretch of beach, suddenly crossing paths with a strange man sunbathing in the nude. Despite the jogger having encroached upon his space, does he suddenly become a sex offender? Even though, as any reasonable juror might determine, the man showed zero interest in accosting her? Now let’s consider a similar scenario with a slight tweak. Another man, let’s call him Fred, knows a woman who likes to jog along the beach, so he walks to the end of it and strips himself bare, waiting for an “accidental” encounter. Is Fred acting like a creepy predator? Hell yes! Because context, or intent rather, is everything. Convincing the world that there are other reasons for wanting to be naked, that are entirely innocent, is the biggest challenge facing the nudist community. And when I say naked, I don’t mean it in some vague, artistic sense, but really naked, as in putting your vagina or penis on display, for any innocent stranger to come upon (damn these puns!).

Even if we were to avoid Weinstein/Louis C.K. type situations, this bit of exposure is a hard sell, because the penis remains the boogeyman of the free body movement. It’s what scares textiles the most, and what even genuine naturists often shy away from. Sure, we like to let it all hang out, but pretend we don’t notice the baggage between every male’s thighs. If a nudist posts vacation photos, only rarely does the penis make an appearance. I, for one, get outraged when someone sends me a “dick pick,” even though you could say, “A penis is natural, like an ear or an elbow, and you wouldn’t get incensed by an ear pick, would you?” Clearly, there is a difference between the two. And yet, I maintain that body parts—ALL body parts—are inherently innocent. Just as the middle finger is no more offensive, in some cultures, than any other, or the word “fuck” could either mean sea lion, in French, or flashlight, “fucko,” in Greek, the penis isn’t offensive on its own. Consider the penis of a toddler who is running playfully around the living room, or that of a dead man being prepped for autopsy. But when an erect penis unexpectedly rears its ugly head in your Twitter feed, there is intent behind that image. The poster intended to offend, shock and provoke. And, contrary to nudist philosophy, a dick pick focuses on the genitalia and nothing else, divorcing that part of the anatomy from the person it’s attached to. It’s offensive because it is dehumanizing, and because it can only be interpreted as sexual in nature. Clearly, we need intent to find offense, and this is the message naturists need to be making: We are not coming on to you. If you see me naked, if you see my penis, it isn’t because I want to have sex with you. Sorry.

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Letting it hang out

Now you might be saying, why all the fuss over a penis? Can’t you just keep it in your pants, you dirty dirty sicko? A valid argument, to be certain. We can sing the joys of nakedness all day long, but so could any pedophile. We need, rather, to defend our position on the grounds of freedom and innocence. This isn’t to say freedom is absolute. We can’t argue in favor of rape and murder, but public nudity does no harm, neither physically nor psychologically, and so then becomes a matter of personal choice. The case could be made that such a personal choice may lead to an increase in sexual misconduct, and to be entirely honest, I cannot know with certainty whether that would be the case. I can only assume that in a world without nakedness taboos, sex crimes could only decrease. In normalizing every part of the body, we excise the Pavlovian reflex that results from ogling the flesh, and instead, become aroused for nobler and more socially acceptable reasons. We would get excited by love and intelligence, and by the person within. If that sounds like empty rhetoric, consider other countries with lax or nonexistent nudity laws. Heck, the Catholic Church is rife with child molestation charges, but how often do you hear the same about a family nudist resort?

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Church is a far more dangerous place to send your kids!

Now let’s imagine that in 2020, we elect our first nudist president (hey, it could have been Benjamin Franklin!) and let’s assume he pushes to make public nudity legal. Great! But then, after a few years’ time, statistics show sex crimes skyrocketing. Where there were tens of rapes per year, there are now tens of thousands. Barring no other catalyst, I would be inclined to admit, “Hey, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” But such a social experiment has yet to happen. Instead, we live in a world where we are free to drink, resulting in thousands of motor vehicle deaths per year, and buy cigarettes, which results in thousands of cancer deaths per year, and buy guns, which results in tens of thousands of fatalities per year. All the while, cannabis has only recently become legalized, after decades of unfounded fears over the harm it could cause. Clearly, our laws do not reflect our most rational thinking. We do and should restrict certain freedoms for the greater good, and yet we base what is good and what is harmful on personal biases and assumptions, rather than on hard data. And of course, the profit motive is a big influence, yet no one has figured out how to make money off public nudity, only private nudity in the form of strip clubs and pornography.

Laws will change. But not before we change minds. As more and more people become exposed to the innocence of the human body, penis and all, we will be more inclined to let go of our irrational taboos, just as we let go of taboos against premarital sex, interracial coupling, and gay marriage. It will be a slow moving shift in the fabric of social consciousness, a fabric of a million-million threads, each a blog post (like this one), or a natural selfie, or just one friend or family coming out to another and saying, “Hey, it’s 2040, who cares?” Let the penis out. Be free.

 

Want more articles like this? Check out my Naturism Page!

 

“The Nudist Writer”

underwood_nude_1910sIt should come as no surprise by now that I choose to live my life sans clothing. Naked is my default state. I long for the day when I can be free from the branding of Polo and Ralph Lauren. I only feel myself when I am wearing nothing.

But far more important to me is writing. I eat, drink and breathe storytelling. On many occasions I have gotten out of bed with a plot in my head. From the time I was six, I have been coming up with adventures, and that was thirty-seven years ago. Story matters. As Ursula K LeGuin put it, “We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel … is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”

While Mark Twain famously advised to “write what you know,” LeGuin said, in response, that she writes about dragons because what she knows is dragons. Fantasy storytellers draw from personal experience while adding from the fruits of their imagination. Herman Melville tapped into his experiences on a whaling ship to create Moby Dick. In the same way, I know what it’s like to leave my clothes behind to explore the woods, to search rocky shorelines without a stitch to my name, to socialize without body taboos. I have also experienced the sense of shame imposed upon me by those who would judge my lifestyle as perverse or just plain weird, as have my naked heroes, Xandr and Thelana.

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Nudism informs my writing, even when my characters don’t think the way I do. Shame is a universal trait, and I would be a poor writer to neglect it. But what we wear, or don’t, is a big part of who we are. It is entrenched in our history and religion, and reflects strongly upon our values. A society’s attitude toward the human body speaks volumes about that society. Do they consider themselves a part of the animal hierarchy or apart from it? Do they shun the physical world, and the senses associated with it, or seek a more spiritual reality? Answering these questions provides a fictional world of greater richness and realism.

Having a unique perspective, we are told, is a good thing. But unlike atheism, LGBTQ+ or even, if Fifty Shades is any indication, bondage porn, I increasingly get the sense that nudism is just too different. Time and again, agents have rejected Ages of Aenya on the grounds that the concept isn’t “trending.” When I attempted to advertise my novel via social media, both Facebook and Twitter called the book, with its innocent cover of Thelana, “sex services.” Even Barnes & Nobles shied away from my offer to host a signing event, despite the many racier covers adorning their shelves. It would seem nudity is OK, but only in a sexual context.

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Sex services. Obviously.

It isn’t as though our sense of touch is entirely alien. Who doesn’t enjoy sunshine on their bare skin? A hot shower? Cool bedsheets after a session of lovemaking? Advertisers, all the while, continually use words like “nude” and “naked” to suggest their products are honest and all-natural. Clearly, nakedness is a good thing, and on some deep level we all know this.

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The nude archetype persists in our subconscious. We all wish for the same confidence, strength and beauty embodied by the heroic nude. It is an expression that has been with us since the Ancient Greeks, and continues to this day in the form of the superhero, who is all but nude but for the coloring of the skin, and in ESPN’s celebration of athletes.

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The heroic nude in modern times

We are simultaneously repulsed and attracted by the human form. This dichotomy, I believe, stems from an overemphasis on demographics. Fiction must be placed either in the Children, Adult, or YA sections, and nudity can never fall into any category but porn, because in our modern world nudity = porn. And it should be noted here, that DC’s recent adult comic, Batman: Damned, showcasing Bruce’s penis for the first time, is far from a nudist portrayal, as his genitals are made the emphasis of the panel, existing for no other purpose but to shock.

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Enlightened heroines are expected to wear full plate armor, without so much as hinting at the female shape beneath. This is considered progress, an improvement over the hyper sexualized covers of the 60s and 70s, and likely the reason Thelana isn’t trending. But it is progress leading to a more sterilized world, where neither sex is recognized. Equality could just as well have been achieved by giving the female hero agency, and stripping the male of equal parts clothing. Gone are the gods and heroes of church ceilings and museum walls, the renderings of mankind so proudly and masterfully born of the hands of Leonardo and Michelangelo, and this to me is a tragedy, because in censoring how we portray others, we turn every person into a potential object, a thing to satisfy our most basic urges.

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The modern heroine

This isn’t to say women in chainmail bikinis are preferable. On the contrary, Brienne of Tarth, and Netflix’ She-Ra, is a welcome change. What I am saying, rather, is that a woman need not be objectified, regardless of what she is or isn’t wearing, and that we need not choose between our sexuality and our humanity. In our current MeToo generation, we pretend to have matured beyond smut, while creating secret identities to wallow in the worst of PornHub. Instead of learning to express our desires in meaningful, honest and healthy ways, or reaching out to better understand the opposite sex, we have chosen to don the facade of robots devoid of passion. This societal schism, this partitioning of people into categories, cannot lead to a better world. More than anything, we need the heroic nude, our David and Heracles, our Mowgli and Tarzan and John Carter and, dare I say, our Xandr. We must embrace role models that embody the full gamut of what it means to be human, sexuality and all.

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Fantasy covers of the 70s

I am a nudist and a writer, and my fear is that I will be pigeonholed, that my work will be confined to an esoteric niche group. After all, we don’t typically call people gay writers, or Catholic writers, or Japanese writers—or by any other aspects of their identity—unless that identity becomes a focal point of their work, “feminist writer,” for example. Still, nudism is far from a fetish. It addresses a much broader spectrum that includes feminism and environmentalism, and it speaks to our most revered cultural values. While you may not see Sam Harris or Jordan Peterson debating the merits of nudism any time soon, it should be noted that they both conform closely to societal norms, of not simply wearing clothes, but wearing very specific types of clothing. Whether it’s President Trump or Barack Obama, Ken Ham or Neil deGrasse Tyson, ties and jackets are mandatory if one is to take your arguments seriously. This only goes to show how entrenched body taboos have become in our world. But while my upcoming second and third novels will have no naked heroes in it, to shy away from calling myself a nudist would betray everything I am, and rob the literary landscape from a rarely heard voice. Like Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman and Robert Heinlein, all of whom shared nudist proclivities, I stand outside of convention, and challenge the status-quo. I am Xandr standing at the gates of Hedonia, calling out against hypocrisy, searching for the lost innocence of Ilmarinen.

It’s time to end race.

If there’s one area in which I can agree with the KKK, the white race is going the way of the dodo. According to Neo-Nazi “literature,” white people are like glasses of milk. Add a drop of Hershey’s syrup to the mix, and BAM! you’ve got yourself chocolate people. Now  supposing we could be certain as to who a white person is (according to her medical records, my brown-skinned wife is white) racists should have figured out by now that their entire team is woefully pathetic, in that they can be wiped out by a single drop of impurity. The black race, by contrast, is seemingly indestructible. Consider our first African American president. Technically speaking, Barack Hussein Obama is half-white on his mother’s side, but nobody ever mentions this. One father from Kenya is all it takes to represent an entire race. White-supremacists consider this a negative, but for me, it’s a super power. You can’t un-chocolate your chocolate milk, but you can always make it darker.

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It doesn’t work the other way!

The problem of racism falls under the much larger umbrella of tribalism. It’s the conflict that arises due to people’s differences. You don’t need racism to hate. Religion will do, or sex, or political affiliation. If Naked & Afraid has taught me anything, it’s that survival on the African savannah was tough. For a couple million years, humans fought over limited resources, and those resources could only be gotten by smallish groups, or tribes. So while one guy tended to the fire, his wife was thatching roofs, his son was gathering kindling, and his cousins were out chasing buffalo. This arrangement helped guarantee survival, until, that is, strange-colored people arrived with their weird hair, weird face-paint, and even weirder clothing, to steal your hard-earned dinner. This is where our apprehension for differences comes from. Feelings of racism were, at one point in time, a survival instinct. But we’re not living on African bushland anymore (well, not most of us, anyway). The tribalism that leads to racial strife is the same that leads to religious and political conflict. Our pattern seeking brains are constantly working to determine who is the “us” and who is in the “other” crowd. This is why people in cities tend to be more accepting of different cultures. New Yorkers living and working around Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs can more easily accept foreign-born groups into their tribe. “Hey, we’re all New Yorkers here!” Unfortunately, midwesterners from tumbleweed towns find more in common with white Russian hackers than “Black Lives Matter” protesters.

When you really think about it, we’re all just monkeys. Stupid, stupid monkeys, acting on very primitive programming. Here we are in 2018, with nuclear weapons and the Large Hadron Collider, and yet we’ve still got Flat Earthers and people voting for “In God We Trust” signs to ward off school shooters. The Internet has given the least evolved of us a platform, which is how we ended up with an illiterate president, but also, the constant rage machine directed at “forced diversity,” SJWs, and “identity politics.” Yes, folks, this isn’t your grandfather’s racism, this is Racism 2.0! And hey, how’s that for hypocrisy? Everyone who complains about identity politics never seems to shut up about “the left.” To be fair, not every anti-SJW is a racist or sexist. Sam Harris appears genuinely interested in doing the right thing, and yet he is oblivious to the ways in which a vocal majority can turn otherwise sensible arguments into weapons of hate. According to The Bell Curve author, Charles Murray, black people tend to have, on average, lower IQ scores than white people. This has turned Murray into a villain on the Left, to the point at which he received threats of violence, and is banned from speaking at universities. Free speech aside, I am forced to wonder, did Murray really not think of the consequences of his study? Did he never consider how such a book might empower hate groups the world over?

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This brings us to the very real important issue of our day: Star Wars. If you haven’t been on YouTube lately, just type “Star Wars” into the search box and prepare for the floodgates of Hell to open! Everyone is entitled to hating works of art, but bullying actresses like Kelly Marie Tran to the point that they quit social media, or calling for the termination of Kathleen Kennedy or Rian Johnson due to their “pro-feminist agenda” is simple absurdity. When the Ghostbusters reboot becomes the most down-voted video IN YOUTUBE HISTORY, you have to wonder, what the fuck is going on? Did these same people not see the equally horrific Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remake? Or any of the vomit-inducing Transformers flicks? I think they did, but then again, Optimus Prime wasn’t turned into a girl robot. Look, I get it. For many of us jaded 40-somethings, these franchises are sacred. We don’t want to grow up. We want to fly on pixie dust and fight pirates forever. Making She-Ra with smaller boobs and a longer skirt forces us to see change, and change reminds us of the inevitability of aging and death. Take it from me, a guy who watched She-Ra religiously in the 80s, and wrote She-Porn in college, I understand the sex appeal. And yet, all of our manly, sexist arguments dissolves to nothing when we recognize that the children of today are currently living their own childhoods, and could care less that the original Ghostbusters were a bunch of dudes, or whether Adora’s boobs make her look like a boy. My eight year old loved the new Ghostbusters, and my thirteen year old can’t wait for Netflix’ She-Ra. Consequently, none of my kin so much as noticed the “SJW agenda” in The Last Jedi. For my girls, Rey was unquestionably the hero, in the same way I never once bothered to ask myself why Luke Skywalker had to be a boy. Love her or hate her, Rose Tico is now a part of Star Wars canon, and while I am sure my kids didn’t think much about her Asian features, I am equally certain that many Asian children were only too happy to (finally) see themselves represented in Star Wars. (Seriously, name ONE Asian character from the original Star Wars. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

 

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Asian: a new alien race

 

The anti-SJW crowd have become outraged by all of this “forced diversity,” despite the fact that for over a hundred years, every non-white race has been forced to sit through the opposite, and every woman has been forced to see herself depicted as little more than a damsel in distress. Let me make this perfectly clear: there is no such thing as forced diversity, only diversity that happens to bother you. If you’re saying to yourself, “why’d they have to put a black guy in this?” but you’ve never asked, “why’d they have to put a white guy in this?” guess what? You probably wear a MAGA hat! But even if we need to force ourselves to recognize that other races do, in fact, exist, isn’t that a good thing? How can the supreme white male be so insecure as to want anything less? Again, I can agree with the KKK in that we may lose our whiteness, and white skin can be pretty nice, I suppose. My hero growing up was the Nazi ideal, with his blond hair and blue eyes. Heck, he even wore a German Iron Cross on his chest, and fought lots of colored villains, including a blue Skeletor, a red Beastman, and a green Merman! He never had a black friend until Clamp Champ, who wasn’t introduced until the very last year of the toy’s run. And let’s not forget his perfectly Aryan sister, She-Ra, now a pawn of the SJW-agenda due to her lack of boobage.

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The new She-Ra: Ruining 40-year old virgin’s fantasies.

 

Whiteness isn’t a culture, a heritage, or even a race. It’s nothing more than an aesthetic, and is not worth keeping, not at the expense of countless lives—lives that do, in fact, matter—not when millions can be made to suffer as a result. We need to grow up and accept the inevitable change happening in our world. If women takeover, I say bring it on. For ten-thousand years, men have called the shots. We’ve had a good run, but in many ways managed to screw things up. If the human race is to turn brown, I say, let’s chocolate it up, baby. The only real solution for racism was discovered two-thousand year ago, by Alexander the Great, who forced his Greek soldiers to marry Persian women. Racism is a continuing problem in America, and there’s only one real solution. We need to end race. We need to fuck our way to a better future.

Digital Heroin

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Remember chatrooms? Thirty or more strangers blinking from your computer screen, with names like poonsnack6324, rambling simultaneously and incoherently, with tortured spelling and non-existent grammar, while that one guy tried to impress everyone with his keyboard doodles as half a dozen others are engaged in a text-orgy? Those sure were the good ol’ days, amirite?

Nope.

AOL was a black hole, destroying all sense of decency, nuance and meaningful discourse. It revealed to the world the darkest and most depraved inner workings of the human animal. Before AOL, I used to think the world would be a better place if we all had telepathy, if we knew what everyone was thinking. Now we know that what everyone is thinking is gross. We are in dire need of a filter, a tradition of civility to keep civilization from descending into chaos, what is sorely lacking when social interaction is coupled with anonymity. As if chatrooms weren’t bad enough, we have also discovered the dangers of Instant Messaging, and random profile searches. This early feature appears, at first, like a vast technological improvement over Facebook. Want to talk to someone from halfway around the world about your favorite My Little Pony episode? Just look for MLP, under Hobbies, and you’ll find someone, maybe a guy or girl who lives nearby, or is of the same age, or potentially a romantic interest. The problem became apparent when men—mostly men—started stalking preteen girls, pretending to be girls themselves. The producers of To Catch a Predator, a show built around catching online predators, were shocked and dismayed by the success of their show, owing to the sheer number of adult males looking to rape underage girls. Eventually, AOL got rid of their pedophile search feature, but they couldn’t remove the ugly truth we learned about humanity.

Back in the 90s, we were enamored by AOL. It was never as interesting, fun or helpful as a visit to the library, but we were amazed by the technology. Suddenly, you could talk to anyone anywhere from the comfort of your own bedroom! Problem was, we just didn’t know how awful other people could be. We assumed, as we often do, that newer means better.

In hindsight, the AOL era seems absurd. It’s like we collectively fell under a Jonestown-like spell, and now that it’s over, we are embarrassed by the hours we wasted on it. This begs the question: will we eventually come to feel about other social media platforms the way we do about chatrooms and Instant Messaging? I think the answer is already coming to fruition. Facebook users are dropping like flies, especially among the youth, who no longer see it as the thing of the future. Nobody cares what you had for breakfast, or wants to see your vacation photos, or your newborn baby. And what kind of narcissist do you have to be to share the minutia of your everyday life anyway? Do we really need to connect to everyone we’ve ever known since elementary school? Over the years, Facebook has morphed from a virtual space for friends and family, to a pop culture news channel. I use it to learn about D&D and Marvel movies, so there’s that.

Nevertheless, social media remains a powerful force in our lives, and the kids have moved on, to Instagram and Snapchat, and stuff I am too old to care about (I stopped at Twitter). What differentiates these forums from previous ones isn’t that they provide more features, but less. Twitter gives you 280 characters (up from 140) to get your point across. Instagram exists primarily for photo sharing, because nobody has the time to actually read what you have to say. Thanks to a never-ending bombardment of information, we’ve lost our ability to focus, and still hunger for more. We struggle to keep up, to separate everything that might interest us from the noise, but it’s sensory overload. If you’re reading this, you may start to wonder why you’re even here, when you could be watching Netflix, or finishing the last thing you bought for PS4, or better yet, reading a book. Our attentions have become the world’s greatest commodity, and entertainment companies are competing over it the way governments fight for oil.

Now I want you to ask yourself a simple question. Do you love Facebook? Or, if you don’t use it, some other platform? Have you ever heard anyone say, “I love Instagram!” the same way they might talk about their favorite heavy metal band or movie or book? I haven’t, and I am betting you haven’t either. And yet, according to TIME magazine, Americans look at their phones 8 billion times a day, or 46 times a day on average per person, and it’s not just for Angry Birds (fuckit I’m old). But if we are not loving what we are doing, what could be the cause of our obsession? The answer, I think, is obvious. Social media is digital heroin. I have spent my life avoiding addictions, abstaining even from beer, and yet here I am, hooked on this little plastic rectangle in my pocket. Even when I am watching my favorite TV show, I’ll pause to check the damn thing. It’s a demon that’s taken over my life, and that might be a good thing, if I truly loved my phone, but I don’t. I feel about it the way an addict feels about heroin—he doesn’t want it, but he needs it.

Like any other drug, there is a chemical component to this addiction. Every time we receive a like, or a positive comment for something we’ve written, a tiny dose of endorphins gets released in our brains. I am always looking for that next fix, and I can get pretty high whenever somebody tells me they loved my book, or found my latest post worthwhile. But just like heroin, the reward-center of our brains fails to deliver over time, and we are forced to do more just to get the same feeling. When we can’t get a like, when we feel that nobody out there truly cares, we fall into a depression.

Life is chemistry, and what separates happiness from despair is simply a matter of the chemicals running through us. Almost everything we do is for the sake of those sweet sweet endorphins, or dopamine or oxytocin; or serotonin, which you get from love and chocolate. This makes anything and everything a drug, and our brains is the biggest dealer. Food is a drug. Sex is a drug. Exercise is a drug. Drugs are drugs. But this isn’t to say that all drugs are equivalent or necessary. The purpose of our happy-chemicals is to make life rewarding, but when we choose something like heroin over, say, friendship, we are cheating the system, and this more often results in destructive consequences.

Social media is cheating the system. We become addicted to ‘likes’ because we crave approval, because we are inherently social creatures. We all have a need for belonging, for acceptance and love. But there are crucial differences between interacting online and a face-to-face chat. Online, we remain anonymous, and can disappear at a whim. Imagine walking up to a person, saying hello to them, and then watching that person simply walk away without acknowledging your existence. Such behavior borders on the cruel, and yet it happens everyday on Facebook. Aside from how we treat one another, we miss out on seeing a human face, reading another’s expressions, or hearing a tonal inflection. Wordless communication is as important as the words themselves. Social media also doesn’t take into account the sense of urgency, the sense of presence and sense of the present one finds when sharing physical space with another person. You are forced to pay attention to your loved one when they are focused on you. This makes your time together all the more meaningful, because you can’t scroll past them. This is what Facebook has failed to provide us, and as we spend more time away from real human beings, we begin to lose our sense of self. We become invisible, begin to feel inconsequential, because to almost everyone you meet online, you are.

This isn’t to say we need to rid the world of social media. Facebook brings people with diverse beliefs and opinions together. Atheists, nudists, and those among the LGBTQ community can find each other readily, particularly if they are living in the Bible Belt. Before the Internet, I used to think I was the only one who liked to go nude, or collect action figures, or play D&D. Now I know that I am not alone, that my interests are in fact common.

We need to find a sense of balance. You can have your online-only friends, but it’s just as important, if not more so, to spend time with actual flesh and blood people. But it’s not just social media that’s robbing us of our humanity. Too many of us spend hundreds of hours in front of a screen, whether it’s binge-watching Netflix, or substituting life with their favorite MMORPGs.

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Real fun with real people!

Good thing is, society is waking to the dangers of this infant internet technology, which might explain the sudden and unexpected explosion in board games. Twenty years ago, you couldn’t find a lonely chess set at my local bookstore, now there’s an enormous section of everything from Pokemon cards to Catan. Honestly, if you had told me five years ago that D&D would enjoy it’s most profitable year in 2017, I would have laughed in disbelief. But video game systems, despite their exponentially growing processing power, cannot replace genuine human interaction. When I am sitting at a table with friends and family, rolling dice, I get a sense that I am having a real experience, something I will remember and cherish. I can also say the same for the books that I’ve read. Sure, it’s all imaginary, but it’s still more rewarding than a funny meme, because there is a greater depth of meaning to be found in the pages of a carefully crafted story. Books, board games, sports (ok, I don’t do sports) endure the test of time because their value lasts in our memories, and the endorphins we get from them push us not away from life, but toward it. That’s why I can say I love D&D, and reading, and riding my bike. But I may not do those things as often as I should, because things of lasting value take time to earn, and to attain these things we must remember how to focus, and how to have patience.

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A day of cycling never feels wasted

 

I guess what I am trying to say is, click the X in the corner of this screen and pick-up a book. Or a d20. Or, use your phone as phones were intended and call a friend. Get off your lazy butt and do something. Reality is waiting.

Nudity, Censorship and Discrimination

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Imagine you are a gay man or woman happily married to someone of the same sex. To celebrate your love, you post a vacation photo with your significant other, kissing on the beach. None of your friends or family members object to the image, because they have known you and your spouse for many years, and they are accepting of your relationship. Except, of course, for Uncle Fred. Uncle Fred is a Bible-thumping evangelical, and he strongly opposes gay unions. For him, homosexuality is wrong. What’s more, Fred believes that the sight of two men kissing is harmful to his children. They might get the wrong idea, he argues. God forbid, his kids might even turn gay! So Fred contacts Facebook, marking your content as inappropriate. You are hence banned from Facebook for a week. In addition, you are told that if you post such an offensive image again, your account may be suspended for life. The message this sends is clear. Being homosexual is wrong, and for the “good” of the community, you must hide your perverse lifestyle from the public eye.

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In today’s enlightened world, Fred’s complaint would go unheeded. We now recognize that anti-gay rhetoric is discriminatory. We accept the LGBT community because we know that different forms of sexual identity are not the result of mental illness, and that the sight of two men kissing will not harm our children. We have sufficient evidence that children born to gay parents turn out to be upstanding and productive members of society. Whatever harmful beliefs were once directed at the LGBT community were largely based on the Book of Leviticus, and early Judaism, and have no place in our modern world.

And yet, Facebook continues to discriminate against a minority group. Naturists were once treated with the same level of condemnation and hostility as the LGBT community. Like social lepers, early nudists lived as outcasts, in the most isolated parts of the country, and were subject to police raids and arrests, even when their activities were hidden behind closed doors. Most naturists I know do not tell people what they do on weekends. Many of us live in a state of anxiety (I know I do) over how we might be judged. I have met people who traveled outside the country just to be free of clothing, yet refuse to visit the club a mile from their house for fear of being discovered. I have known people who have lost their jobs because of their online naturist profiles. But while acceptance of the LGBT community continues to grow, naturists remain marginalized and misrepresented. By acting on our beliefs, we risk placement on the Sex Offender Registry List, to be forever associated with rapists and pedophiles. While nudists are permitted to promote their ideology in writing, we are never allowed to act upon that ideology. In being censored, we are silenced, and our arguments made ineffectual. There is no greater proof of nudism than to see whole families, on the beach, at campgrounds or in family pools, naked and innocent.

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I have heard the argument that the nudist movement cannot be equated to the LGBT movement, because people decide whether or not to become nudists. But a similar point was made against homosexuals. Because they are not a race, it was argued, they could not be afforded civil protections. But what mattered to the courts, ultimately, isn’t whether someone chooses to be gay, but whether a person has the right to make that choice. Just as we have a right to choose how we live our lives, whether to be Christian, Jew, Muslim or atheist, we have the right to live without shame. But while many will contend that we have that right already—nobody is arresting nudists in their homes anymore—how can we say we are free, when we are banned from social media for expressing what we believe, or arrested in public for acting on it? Would we say that a Christian was free to be Christian, if we were to ban photos of him at church? Or arrest anyone wearing a cross in public on the grounds that it was indecent and offensive?

Disapproval of naturism stems from the same archaic traditions that once stigmatized homosexuality. After eating from the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil, man realized that he was naked, and that he should not be so. To challenge this view is to challenge the story in Genesis, and by extension, a belief in God. Fortunately, we no longer base our ethical intuitions on the writings of sheep herders who lived thousands of years ago. In the study of social science, we concluded that the LGBT community poses no harm to others, but this same methodology is neglected with regards to nudism. It is assumed—on no evidence whatsoever—that the sight of nudity must be harmful to children. On the contrary, statistics show that greater censorship is detrimental to our youth. Compare teen pregnancy rates in the United States to countries where nudity laws are lax or nonexistent. According to the CDC, teens in America are six times more likely to become pregnant than in The Netherlands, four times more likely than in Germany, and three times more than in France. Clearly, our beliefs regarding nudity, children and censorship does not stand up to scrutiny.

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Kids grow up differently in Europe.

What is most hypocritical is the fact that, even if we were to ignore the evidence in favor of religious dogma, we cannot truly shield our children from nudity. The question is not whether they will see it, but when, and in what form. Will it be natural and wholesome, or perverse and degrading? Your child is going to run across a penis or a vagina at a friend’s house, or when they become curious enough to search Google. Whenever it happens, they are more than likely to learn the wrong things about themselves and their bodies. If they watch porn, they are going to develop unrealistic and harmful conceptions about intercourse. With a partner, they may be told, at some point in the relationship, that they are too fat or too skinny, or that they don’t measure up in some way. Without reference, they may begin to hate themselves. By censoring all nudity, no matter the context, social media platforms like Facebook rob its patrons from learning what humans look like, and by extension, perpetuate the very unnatural, unrealistic and unhealthy depictions of nudity permeating the Internet. Some people will counter that it is not up to social media to teach kids values, but studies show that parents have a small influence on their children’s lives, as little as 20%. Kids are smarter and more curious than we give them credit for, and they will seek answers on their own. So just what are we teaching them, when the only nudity they are ever exposed to is a Google search? All the while, my children are subject to scenes of violence, drug use and torture, none of which Facebook chooses to censor.

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I was told by a close friend that Facebook has the right to ban me, because I agreed to their TOS (Terms of Service). In the same way, African Americans acquiesced to “Colored” restrooms at their place of work, and gays in the armed forces agreed to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. “If you don’t like it,” my friend told me, “don’t use it.” But with over a billion customers, Facebook has become more than a business. It is an essential part of modern life, a crucial way to connect to friends and family, a virtual space for people of every background and belief system to meet and exchange ideas. It is a place where everyone is free to express his or her identities. Except nudists.

To be fair, Facebook has rewritten their TOS policy dozens of times as a response to public outrage. Breastfeeding mothers were the first to win the battle against censorship, followed by women who have undergone mastectomies. Frederic Durand-Baissas, a 57-year-old Parisian teacher and art lover, had his account suspended without warning, for posting Gustave Courbet’s 1866 “The Origin of the World,” a painting Parisian schoolchildren can see on field trips to the museum. Since then, Facebook has included special concessions for paintings.

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The Origin of the World. Makes sense.

Now a case can be made, that if Facebook can censor pornography, why not nudity? Where does one draw the line? But acts of sex, by and large, are private matters. To my knowledge, there are no social movements advocating for public sex. While exhibitions may put their sexual activities on display, their intent is to shock and offend. There is also an element of sexual gratification to exposing oneself. Nudists, by contrast, do not care to be seen—and most nudists I know are shy, abhorring attention altogether. For a nudist, nakedness is a non-issue. We wake up naked, eat breakfast naked, watch TV naked, and go to bed naked. It is a way of life.

Facebook bans two things outright: hate speech and nudity. And yet, it is utterly absurd to equate those things in any way. Hate speech incites hatred, which in turn causes harm to others. But how does censoring nudity help anyone? The only thing nudity can inspire is confidence, the confidence to love and accept oneself. By equating nudity with hate, Facebook places nudists, the KKK, Nazis, and other White Supremacist groups, into the same camp.

A supporter for the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederate flag yells at opposing demonstrators during a rally at the statehouse in Columbia

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There was a time when people were offended by the sight of a black man dating a white woman, or in seeing two men or two women kissing. In both cases, offense was used as a justification for discrimination. Even when offense is justified—I am offended, for instance, by the Confederate flag—I do not insist that my eyes be protected from it. I respect those who disagree with me. If Fred the evangelist hates nudists, he has the option to block my account, or to curse me out. To live in a free and just society, is to allow both the exchange and rejection of ideas. Only in this way can we find what is true and do away with misconceptions. But when expression is censored outright, understanding is censored, and acceptance is censored, and then censorship becomes the very thing it purports to defend. To censor expressions of identity is to censor the people who hold and cherish those identities, and in doing so, marks those individuals as something lesser, immoral. It is to discriminate and ultimately, to hate.

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Not allowed on Facebook: This is what I was banned for!

 

Fighting censorship and discrimination is a recurring theme in my work. Ironically, the nudist heroes in my book, Xandr and Thelana, are often confronted by the same kind of prejudice as their portrayals in real life. Time and again, I have had to fight Facebook for the right to advertise even the most innocent depiction of them. Not a nipple, butt-crack, or genital orifice is visible, and yet they reject it on the grounds that it is “implied nudity”—whatever the hell that means. This makes promoting nudism, and by extension, healthy depictions of the human body, all the more challenging.

The only way to fight censorship is exposure. The sight of the human body must become commonplace in all of our media, on TV, in games and in movies. And yes, in storytelling, which has a time honored tradition of challenging and reversing the status-quo.

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NOW AVAILABLE

 

Can Nudism Save the World?

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Image courtesy of Searching4Eden

Can nudism save the world …?

Not really. No. Thanks for stopping by.

OK, wait. There’s more! But you probably guessed that, right? Nudism/Naturism won’t save the world, but it can make the world a better place. Now, I am not going to go into the usual spiel about body acceptance and freedom. Too much nudist rhetoric is hyperbole, and its end-goals arbitrary. Like I wrote in my earlier post, Why Nudism is Wrong*, we don’t need to expose our genitals to see that humans come in all shapes and sizes. Rather, I intend to examine the concrete, practical effects of a world without clothing taboos, a world where public nakedness is not only accepted, but the norm, a world where words like ‘naked’ and ‘nudist’ are superfluous. What kind of world would that look like? And what benefits could we derive from such a world?

First and foremost, we should dismiss the idea that rape, or sexual violence, would increase in a naked world. Compare the rights of women in Scandinavia, where body freedom is more commonplace, to those in repressed states like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. We might instead end up with a more sexually liberated community, but this in itself isn’t a bad thing.

In the middle ages, much like today, there was the fear that nakedness could only lead to sex. More specifically, the patriarchal societies at the time feared wanton sexuality in women. As acts of rape were sanctioned by the Church during the Crusades, wives awaiting their husbands to return from war were said to be forced into chastity belts. Myth or no, the chastity belt emphasized the need to curb female sexuality, as an unwanted pregnancy was a great burden, and having a bastard childborn of a cuckoldwas a worser fate.

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But we are living in a post-Pill age. Moving into the future, newer contraceptive technologies are divorcing the age old connection between sex and childbirth. For women, this has had mostly positive effects. Women are no longer required to devote their lives to raising a dozen or so children. Like no other time in history, they are free to choose the life they want to live, whether that means earning a college degree or starting a career. And they can do this without giving up sex. More importantly, birth control leads to less children being born, which is a net benefit for the environment and on humanity as a whole.

Almost every problem we face today can be directly related to population. With more people comes a greater need for land, water and food. A shortage of these resources leads to poverty, starvation and war. An increased human population causes an increase in pollution, resulting in the devastation of our oceans, the razing of our forests, and the mass extinction of animal species. According to Seastewards.org, Americans generate 10.5 million tons of PLASTIC waste a year but recycle only 1 or 2 % of it. An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash–most of it plastic–is dumped in the world’s oceans every year. Christine Dell’Amore, at the National Geographic, reports, extinction data revealed a rate of 100 to 1,000 species lost per million per year, mostly due to human-caused habitat destruction and climate change. […] That analysis revealed that before humans evolved, less than a single species per million went extinct annually. The study authors suspect that the extinction rate will only increase if trends continue—possibly resulting in what scientists call the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history. 

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I can foresee a future where children are born outside of the womb, in birthing pods. This would give women even greater freedom, from pain and the health complications associated with delivery. Birth defects could be detected earlier and more easily. DNA editing, enacted outside the body, could affectively eliminate diseases like diabetes and cancer. In this not-so-distant future, sex will exist purely as a social construct, for pleasure and ritual. It will become, for better or worse, what kissing is today. In such a world, fear of nudity leading to sex will not exist, because fear of sex will not exist.

Now, we might look at the above example as putting the cart before the horse. Certainly, we don’t need to be naked to become more sexually liberated, or to curb unwanted pregnancies. We should not confuse correlation with causation. However, there are other major benefits we can directly relate to a global nudist movement.

 

Clothing and Resources

There will never come and time when humans stop wearing clothes altogether, and no nudist or naturist I’ve ever spoken to has entertained the possibility. And yet the myth persists, that nudists want to do away with clothing in the same way textiles (that’s you non-nudists) enforce mandatory dress codes anywhere and everywhere. From a nudist’s perspective, the textile world is utterly obsessive. When you sleep, you wear pajamas, or underwear. When you wake up, you take a shower and immediately put on something casual, like an undershirt and shorts. You leave the house, you change again into a T-shirt and jeans. You visit the beach, the pool, or go camping, you need a bathing suit. It’s just clothes, clothes and more clothes!from the moment you are born to the moment you die. Even when you’re lying dead in your coffin, you’re in a tux. Nudists, on the other hand, dress when appropriate. You won’t find me in zero degree weather without a coat on. That being said, why do I need clothes on a perfect day? Every summer, I find myself sweltering under the Florida sun, my shirt and pants trapping all of the heat trying to escape my body. Why do I suffer? For no other reason but an outdated, cultural taboo.

Now imagine a beautiful spring day. It’s 74 degrees, without a cloud in sight, and there’s just the slightest breeze, and your body is simply begging to experience the sensations around you. In our post-textile world, boys and girls could run freely about the lawn, dashing through sprinklers, jumping in mud, perspiring, drinking Kool-Aid, without any concern for stains. If it rains, take a second to towel off, and you’re dry as a bone. All the while, dad can do yard work, wearing only gloves, without the hems of his clothes turning green. If the temperature pushes past a hundred, there’s no better way to adjust to the heat than allowing the body to regulate itself. Want to jump in the pool? Or into the lake? No need to run home for a bathing suit.

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As the sun melts into the horizon and the mosquitoes start to wake, the family gathers inside. Nobody needs to change. Everyone sits on their bare butts for dinner and, later on, a movie. Mom doesn’t need to do laundry, as she only ever washes for winter and the occasional formal outing. It’s a beautiful, practical world, although a bit 50’s inspired. The future is likely to be far stranger. But in our hypothetical nudist world, we could greatly help the environment by saving on water, and by using our land exclusively for crops. We would also eliminate the pollution that comes from clothing production.

The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world … second only to oil,” Eileen Fisher, industry magnate, told a stunned Manhattan audience earlier this year. Fisher was honored by Riverkeeper for her commitment to environmental causes.

When we think of pollution, we envision coal power plants, strip-mined mountaintops and raw sewage piped into our waterways. We don’t often think of the shirts on our backs. But the overall impact the apparel industry has on our planet is quite grim. Fashion is a complicated business involving long and varied supply chains of production, raw material, textile manufacture, clothing construction, shipping, retail, use and ultimately disposal of the garment.”

While Fisher’s assessment that fashion is the second largest polluter is likely impossible to know, what is certain is that the fashion carbon footprint is tremendous. Determining that footprint is an overwhelming challenge due to the immense variety from one garment to the next. A general assessment must take into account not only obvious pollutants — the pesticides used in cotton farming, the toxic dyes used in manufacturing and the great amount of waste discarded clothing creates — but also the extravagant amount of natural resources used in extraction, farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and shipping. While cotton, especially organic cotton, might seem like a smart choice, it can still take more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Synthetic, man-made fibers, while not as water-intensive, often have issues with manufacturing pollution and sustainability. And across all textiles, the manufacturing and dyeing of fabrics is chemically intensive. Globalization means that your shirt likely traveled halfway around the world in a container ship fueled by the dirtiest of fossil fuels. A current trend in fashion retail is creating an extreme demand for quick and cheap clothes and it is a huge problem. Your clothes continue to impact the environment after purchase; washing and final disposal when you’re finished with your shirt may cause more harm to the planet than you realize.

As a nudist, it seems utterly absurd to me to waste so much energy and resources, when a lack of energy and resources is fast becoming the greatest challenge to human survival. There are certainly times when clothing is necessary, for comfort and survival, but those times are far and few. Mostly, we dress because society expects us to.

 

Our Warming World

Most of the electricity we use goes to lowering the temperature in our homes. But if cultural norms did not dictate that we remain clothed even indoors, we could greatly diminish our dependence on air conditioning, saving energy, and reducing our carbon footprint. According to the Department of Energy: Three-quarters of all homes in the United States have air conditioners. Air conditioners use about 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of about $29 billion to homeowners. As a result, roughly 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year. This is an awful waste, just to maintain a taboo from the middle ages.

The irony here is that, as the carbon in our atmosphere increases, the global temperature continually rises, necessitating a greater need for AC, requiring more and more energy. 2017 was the hottest year on record, followed by 2016, which held the previous record, as did 2015 before that.

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We are seeing a definite, upward trend toward a hotter, muggier world. Clothing was largely developed during the Ice Age, when most of Europe and North America was covered by glaciers. Today, the glaciers are receding, as other icy landmasses, like Antarctica and the Arctic circle, are disappearing. Perhaps, in our inevitable future of hotter temperatures, communal nakedness will become the only practical solution.

 

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Security and Safety

OK, you may be thinking that the environment isn’t all that important, or that changing the culture to lessen the effects of global warming is a long shot. How can nudism help me today, you may be asking? This is an inherent problem when dealing with global issues. Having lost jobs in coal, many Trump supporters care little for rising sea levels. We haven’t yet evolved to consider the impact of our actions on the people who live furthest from us.

That being said, there are still everyday, practical benefits to a clothes-free world. Imagine a gunman trying to shoot up a school, where the only permitted uniform is bare skin? Forget taking your shoes off at the airport, if everyone were to simply board the plane naked, terrorists would have nowhere to hide their guns, knives or bombs. This may seem ridiculous, at first, until you discover how lax airport security really is. According to Fortune magazine, Just a few days after the busy summer travel season started—a time when inexperienced and nervous air travelers clog the nation’s airports—word leaked that the TSA screeners missed 95 percent of mock explosives and banned weapons smuggled through checkpoints by screeners testing the system. This means that if a terrorist were to try and sneak a weapon onto a plane, airport security would only catch the guy 5% of the time! Now, if we were to ban both carry-on luggage and clothing, that percentage could only go up. Heck, I can’t imagine anything short of 100%. Even if we were to contemplate a man fitting a bomb up into his anus, it’s unlikely anyone of the Islamic faith would attempt it. For one thing, nudity is forbidden in Islam, and secondly, any member of ISIS posing as a nudist could only recoil at the sight of hundreds of naked women. Again, boarding a plane in the buff may seem absurd, until you ask, why do we think so? Many things were considered absurd before becoming commonplace. More importantly, planes will be hijacked, no matter how much money we throw at security. Are the lives of hundreds of people worth maintaining an outdated cultural taboo?

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Health

So far, we have looked at the environmental impact of clothing manufacturing and the effect a nudist world would have on terrorism, but how well do these arguments hold up to the genital test? I discussed the genital test at length in my other post, Why Nudism is Wrong*, the basic premise being, we don’t have to go Full Monty to attain many of these benefits. Surely, we can trade in our pants and shirts for simple briefs. We can hold on to our modesty, or taboowhichever word you preferwhile greatly diminishing waste. And a terrorist may be just as hard pressed to hide a weapon in his underwear. But there are still other, undisputed benefits to nudism that require we expose our genitals.

Firstly, nudism is more hygienic. Some people consider the opposite to be true. The fear is that fecal matter and urine spread more easily, unconstrained by clothing, onto surfaces that then come into contact with your (in this case) exposed skin. But most infections we suffer from are cultivated by our own bodies. Poop is poop and urine is urine, and whether it’s someone else’s or your own, it’s just as unsanitary. Usually, we are forced into the same undergarments throughout most of the day, without a proper place to change. There is nothing more disgusting than (sorry!) the soiled textiles we keep pressed against our nether regions. This often leads to urinary tract infections, which is caused by bacteria, bacteria that grows in dark, damp places (where the sun don’t shine!). In my nudist world, I would have a shower kiosk (similar to those at the beach) stationed randomly throughout town, where anyone could clean themselves should the need arise. These could be as common as bathroomswould literally be bathrooms. Think about it this way, we wash our hands only so far as our hands are exposed.

Secondly, and far more importantly, nudity offers early warning signs of serious illness. When I last visited my dermatologist, he told me I had a lot of moles. Too many. I’d say I have more moles than there are stars in the universe, but I digress. He recommended he check me over, finding a number on my back that looked questionable. “Six months,” he said. “All it takes is a six months, and if it’s cancerous, you could be the richest man on Earth and it wouldn’t matter. There’s no cure.” But here’s the thing, the doctor checked me everywhere except … you guessed it, my private area. Why? I imagine it had a lot to do with my least favorite taboo. So, even as he’s stressing the dangers of cancerous moles, he’s neglecting a large section of my body because of what some Christian monks impressed upon our culture a thousand years ago. And, as it so turns out, I do have them “down there,” and I did have him check, and more were removed. You could argue that I check myself in the mirror, but how easy is it to see yourself, every part of yourself, even in the best of mirrors? In our naked world, hundreds of eyes would be upon me, everyday, all the more to notice something dangerously wrong.

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Nude is more hygienic and more environmentally friendly than sportswear

The Future 

Cultural taboos are often difficult, if not impossible, to change. But all that is required is the will to change. Nobody could have imagined, twenty years ago, how embraced the LGBT+ community would become. As I suggested in Nudity is the Future, in forty years time, what we deem indecent will undergo a dramatic shift. Our nation has been leaning left for hundreds of years, our religion is losing its influence, and we are fast becoming a society in which personal identity is paramount. Current and future generations will be raised on PornHub. We simply cannot remain prudes forever. Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus and Orlando Bloom, among others, have already exposed themselves with little to no outrage.

One day soon, nakedness will take the place of bathing suits. Nudity will be a thing for the home, for backyards and public parks, for beaches, pools and camping. Showing up naked at a restaurant, school or office building will not invite shock, or calls to the police, but amusement. Clothing will continue to be worn, of course, but its function will change. It will no longer be associated with status, morality or shame, but be customary, a matter of tradition, of personal expression. Just as no one is judged by their sexuality or sexual orientation, no one will be judged, or condemned, by what they wear or don’t wear. This is the world I dream of. Perhaps by then, our cities will have moved, our religions will have become myths, and a hundred-degree weather will be the norm. But it will be a better, freer, more enlightened world.

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I’d like to give special thanks to the amazing photographers over at Searching4Eden, who continue to capture the spirit of naturism in their art!

You can find them on Twitter and Instagram and support them on PATREON!

 

It Can Happen Here 3: Orwell’s 1984

 

1984

This can’t be a coincidence 

 

Whoo-boy

 

Rarely do words fail me like this, but after finishing George Orwell’s 1984, I am utterly at a loss for what to say. Nothing I can put into words, other than the words Orwell uses himself, can accurately describe the depth of despair, the hopelessness, the utter nihilism bound in this book. The most tragic ending you can imagine cannot begin to prepare you for the story Orwell has written. Something along the lines of Hamlet might as well be a Disney cartoon. At least Hamlet gets his revenge, and is ultimately vindicated. Nothing of the kind can be said of 1984. In the world of the book, there is no glory, no heroism, and no possibility for happiness. You couldn’t make a heavy metal song about this, because even the darkest metal lyrics contain an element of rebelliousness, a strength fueled by rage and angst. This kind of fuck you to the world is not permitted in Orwell’s universe, because freedom of thought is not permitted. What I once regarded the ultimate expression of nihilism, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, cannot even come close to 1984, because the life of Hester Prynne, however awful, becomes a stepping a stone to a greater future for others. I am also reminded of the absurd controversy over the ending of Mass Effect 3, with its supposed “nihilistic ending,” that somehow ruined the franchise. To these people, I say, you do not know the meaning of nihilism until you’ve read 1984.

Even if the entire world were obliterated in a nuclear holocaust, I would greatly prefer it to the future imagined in 1984. Or send me to Westeros on the worst day. In the Hub of All Worlds, board up the door leading to 1984 and let’s never speak of it again. As you may have probably guessed, 1984 is a dystopian novel, the standard by which all other dystopias are judged. Having read Brave New World, The Hunger Games, Cloud Atlas, Never Let Me Go, The Giver, The Man in the High Castle and The Plot Against America, among others, I thought I was ready for this book. I wasn’t. And yet, 1984 is of paramount importance to the literary world, serving as a warning, and a very likely prophecy we must do everything in our power to escape.

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Imagine a world where you are not allowed to think, or to believe, what you want. Imagine a world where your sense of logic, your reason­—sanity itself—is torn down. To resist is to commit thoughtcrime, and thoughtcrime can be anything that contradicts Big Brother, the physical embodiment and face of “the Party.” It isn’t simply a matter of professing allegiance to a particular ideology. There is no real ideology in 1984, only total—not obedience—but agreement with the Party. Obedience is too easy, as it leaves room for hope, and for freedom within one’s own soul. Anyone can be made to obey, while sheltering rebellion in his heart. The black plantation slave could still sing about freedom while imagining a better day for himself or for his children. Under the Party, the Negro would be forced not only to work under the lash, but also to love working under the lash.

Long before the start of the novel, the Party has determined that the only way to maintain total control is to force its people into agreement. To avoid the Thought Police, you must believe, in you heart of hearts, that what you are being told is true. The Party manages this by brainwashing everyone from birth. Every book, film, newspaper, and TV channel is a carefully manufactured work of propaganda. No evidence contradicting the Party is allowed to exist, and when propaganda is the norm, it becomes impossible to separate the truth from the lies. In essence, the lies become true. Even the dictionary is used as a tool of obfuscation, as no words are permitted within the language to allow for seditious thought. In the most disturbing example of the politicization of reality, the main character, Winston Smith, is forced into believing that 2 + 2 = 5. Again, he does not have the luxury to simply state the truth of this claim. He must literally believe it. Winston is also forbidden from having basic human emotions, other than devotion to the Party. No one can love their spouse, or their children, only Big Brother. This might not be so bad if the world were composed of unfeeling robots, or if the Party was in possession of some Borg-like technology, but the price for thoughtcrime is imprisonment and torture. If you are even suspected of guilt, you are made to suffer until you sincerely believe you are in the wrong.

The truly scary thing about 1984 is how plausible it all is. We will likely never be invaded by aliens, or be taken hostage by AI, but the Party feels right around the corner. Orwell paints so complete and convincing a picture, in fact, it all seems inevitable. The technology now exists, from hidden cameras to microphones, to record everything a person does, from your facial expression to the pitch of your voice, to determine what you may be thinking. Modern day computers can make the process even more efficient. We know, thanks in part to Edward Snowden, that the NSA can be watching your every move. Before Orwell, I had never fully appreciated the Right to Privacy. I had always considered, quite erroneously, that if I had nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of, privacy doesn’t matter so much. But when a political party comes into power that criminalizes the things you strongly believe in—being a nudist, an atheist, or LGBTQ+—then privacy is the only way in which you can be protected. Already, we are seeing our right to privacy being eroded. Add to this the dilution of our cherished values, the right to a fair trial and laws against torture, both of which were diminished following the Patriot Act, and 1984 edges closer to reality.

I started this series, It Can Happen Here, as a response to the Trump election. But even after comparing Trump to Hitler, I am hesitant to mention Orwell’s Party in the same breath. There is no greater evil than Big Brother, no more Hellish a place in all of literature than the world of 1984. Mitch McConnell’s wildest imaginings have yet to touch upon such a dystopia. That being said, Orwell has forced me to reevaluate and even to course correct some of my earlier assumptions. The Party is, after all, a government institution, and conservatives have long maintained that the greatest thing to fear is big government. Between the out-of-control capitalist corporatocracy in Cloud Atlas and the Party of 1984, I’ll take the former any day. No doubt, many conservatives turn to Orwell to reaffirm their ideals. But the most pressing question at the moment is whether the current administration resembles the Party in any way. To this I would answer that the parallels are too close for comfort, particularly when it comes to matters of science, history and, to a finer extent, truth itself. Consider how conservatives perpetually strive to rewrite the history books, to omit the atheist assertions of Thomas Jefferson, to refute slavery as the cause of the Civil War, to continually insist that America was founded as a white Christian nation. Consider their opposition to evolution and climate change. In 1984, the very idea of history and science, and of objective reality, has been expunged, politicized to the point of losing all meaning. What is true or not true is based on the dictates of Big Brother, which is how 2 + 2 = 5.

Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes; only in the mind of the Party […] Whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth. 

p. 222

While the relative nature of truth may seem absurd, at first, Orwell’s antagonist argues the point with such twisted logic, he almost convinces the reader. After all, how can we be certain that 2 + 2 = 4? Or that George Washington was America’s first president? Or that the year is really 2017? Or that the Earth is round? Everything we know or think we know was taught to us in a school, and public schools are government institutions. The same paranoid sentiments are echoed today by the Flat Earth Society, who accuse teachers of brainwashing children with the “globe theory.” And while we can make simple observations to determine the shape of our planet for ourselves, it is easy to see how everything we believe could turn into a matter of politics, particularly if we are forced into a left or right leaning bubble, wherein lies become omnipresent.

To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient […] to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies …

p. 191

Considering the book was written in 1949, it is remarkably prescient when looking at how carelessly Trump lies, and how his adherents are expected to deny or to accept objectifiable truths. We have never seen a political movement like this before. It has given rise to anti-intellectualism, anti-science, anti-vaxxers and the Flat Earth Society. At this very moment, the Trump administration is robbing us of our health care, our clean air and water, and every institution established to help the sick and the needy. They threaten anyone who stands beyond their control: the free press, the scientific community, any and all educated “elites” who disagree with them. All the while, those who voted the administration into office stand to lose the most, and yet they are convinced that every action taken by Trump and his cronies is for their own good, that while big government is the enemy, it also, paradoxically, represents their own interests.

All that was required of them [the lower classes] was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations.

p. 63

Orwell called this doublethink, holding two contradictory beliefs in your mind simultaneously. So while millions of the poorest Americans will lose their health care, it’s all for the best, because the government says so. In this nation, facts are ceasing to matter. You can no longer argue objective reality because reality has been politicized. Stating that a million people attended Trump’s inauguration, or that hundreds of thousands of voters were bussed-in from other states to vote illegally, is equivalent to two plus two equaling five. Evolution, climate change, even the shape of the Earth is being called into question. And so now I ask you, what year is it? Are we living in 2017? Or are we closer to 1984?

I can think of only three authors whose names have become adjectives: Shakespear(ean), Lovecraft(ian), and Orwell(ian). What greater mark on society can a writer hope to achieve? Without question, Orwell is deserving of his spot on this mantle. His brilliance is effortless, his writing without flaw. But more impressively, his insight into human nature, political philosophy and metaphysics and the interplay between them is without peer. 1984 is a timeless masterpiece. It is a story that, quite frankly, needed to be told. And it is as important today as it ever was, perhaps more so.

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Sex, Nudity and Science

Generally speaking, young children are more boisterous than their parents. Much of this has to do with physical limitations. My seven year old does handsprings across the living room all day long, while my seventy year old mother would likely break in half attempting the same. Doubtless there is a mental, as well as a physical component to these differences. Older people don’t do cartwheels largely because they don’t feel like doing cartwheels, just as collecting dolls or watching cartoons loses its appeal after a certain age. Likewise, when a girl in first grade asked me to be her boyfriend, I told her no, because eight year old me thought kissing was gross. I was also deathly afraid of showering in the buff in view of my classmates. Not surprisingly, puberty changed my mind about locking lips with girls, and also led me down the path to becoming a nudist.

As we move through life’s stages, chemical changes in our brains determines our perceptions, our feelings, and our behavior. Neuroscientist Sam Harris asserts that every decision we make, however innocuous, stems from brain chemistry. For this reason, he argues, free will is merely an illusion. What you perceive as choice is, in actuality, something beyond your control. Now, while I do not fully prescribe to this claim, I do believe that a great deal of our lives is dictated by chemistry. Whether you’re waving a rainbow flag at a Gay Pride Festival or holding a sign that reads “God Hates Fags,” it’s the neurons firing impulses across your gray matter that’s making it happen. And it makes sense, if you think about it. Our brains are products of our inherited DNA, and can differ widely between race, sex and gender. Consider what would happen if you could turn a KKK member into an African American, or change a Bible thumping anti-gay pastor into a homosexual. OK, it’s been said that the most vociferous anti-gay proponents are gay themselves. Oftentimes, self-hate is the greatest hate of all. But I do not doubt the old wisdom about walking a mile in another man’s shoes, or the adage that states, “nothing happens until it happens to you.” Our nation has not been this divided since the Civil War, and understanding why and how we differ is as important as ever.

I came to realize the affect brain chemistry had on my nudist proclivities several years ago, when I mysteriously lost interest in sex. My doctor prescribed Cialis, because, as I suspect, he thought I was trying to boost my performance. What he had not understood was that my problem was entirely mental. I regarded the unclad female form to be the apex of beauty in the universe, but on that day in his office, women were pretty in the way you might call a flower pretty, or a rainbow, or a painting. A part of my brain had stopped working. When I looked at a girl who was, for lack of a better word, au natural, nothing was activating, and it scared me. Beyond just a lack of libido, I felt like I had aged about thirty years, like I was closer to sixty-five than thirty-five. At about the same time, I gave up on nudism. It isn’t as if my ideals had changed. I still believed in the basic right to be nude in public, and could find nothing offensive about the human body. But on a personal level, I just didn’t feel like it anymore. The longing to visit a beach or a resort, the desire to feel the wind and sun and water on my body, just wasn’t there. And the weird thing is, while I did not quite miss being naked, I did miss the wanting to be naked. Like sex, nudism had given me a great deal of joy, and now that part of me was missing. Months later, I had an MRI and was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. The tumor was blocking production of testosterone, but thanks to a tiny round pill, the blockage shrank to almost nothing and I felt myself returning to normal. My libido shot back up, as did my enjoyment of nakedness.

For a naturist, nudity is innocent and natural. Textiles, by contrast, may see the unclothed body as crass, repulsive, or simply sexually stimulating. Scientists say DNA determines 80% of our personalities, from whether we are late or morning people to the types of foods we like to eat. In the same vein, the DNA of someone who loves being nude must differ from that of a person who dresses immediately after a shower. Genetic variations affecting behavior are manifested in the brain, but how and why environmental stimuli can alter it remains a mystery. For this reason, I would suggest that naturists themselves do not fully understand what drives them to the lifestyle, and that there is a lot more going on internally than a mere a longing for comfort.

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Naturists see things differently

Nudists have long insisted that there is no correlation between nudity and sex. I have made this claim myself. But after taking a trip down low-T lane, I am not so certain. What I do know is that the human brain is much more complex than we realize, and our sense of sexuality is equally complex. I am not suggesting that nudists are in it for the sex. This is patently untrue, as I have never seen an orgy breakout at a resort, and overt displays of lewd behavior will typically get you thrown out. But this isn’t to say that, at the level of the neuron, there isn’t something being triggered by the sight of genitalia. Sexuality plays a role in almost everything we do, from using the bathroom to our choice of swimwear to the way we dance. Subtle changes in facial expression, in body language, even in the pitch of our voices, can send signals of interest to the opposite sex without you even being aware of it. Sex is an integral part of being human and goes far beyond A + B. To suggest that nudism has “nothing” to do with sex, I feel, is either disingenuous or a symptom of mere confusion.

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Innocent but sexy

Why is it that every nakation travel brochure features young, attractive models? Even The Bulletin, the American Association for Nude Recreation’s own magazine, tends to display their more attractive members. The stars of pro-naturist films, like Free the Nipple and Act Naturally, are typically younger, and bloggers Felicity Jones and Lady God1va have many more followers than I will ever have, in part due to their sex and, let’s be honest, their attractiveness. At a naturist resort I visited with my wife in Cancun, the athletic young couple who happened to be vacationing there were treated like celebrities. That being said, I am not calling nudists out for hypocrisy. On the contrary, I am a firm advocate of the pro-body philosophy, and in fighting the harmful stereotypes of beauty so narrowly defined by Barbie dolls and Playboy. However, even nudists cannot deny the basic processes that go on in the brain, and that we all, on some level, harbor our own sexual biases.

The problem, I believe, stems from our lack of understanding how the brain works, and how it works in relation to sex. What we need is more research in this area, and while I do not have the means for it, I am calling for those in the nudist community to scrutinize the lifestyle from a scientific standpoint. If we are to be honest with ourselves, we must consider the possibility that when we slip off our clothes, the parts of our brains associated with arousal also light up.

It would not surprise me if some nudists were to protest this idea, in that it may somehow derail the movement, in that textiles will say to us, “Aha! I knew it! You’re all a bunch of perverts!” But for me, honesty and transparency has always been an integral part of nudism. In going naked, we choose to hide nothing. And when it comes to our inner thoughts and feelings, we should be equally forthcoming. Doing this might even help our cause. For too long, we have pretended that we see no difference between a clothed and a naked person. Even to argue that everyone is equally attractive is, I feel, disingenuous.

No matter our beliefs, we should never be afraid of scientific scrutiny, because science does not dictate moral action. The purpose of science is to help us make informed decisions. It may turn out that there is no relation between sex and nudity, or that, what I feel is more likely, that the associations we make are largely dependent on the individual. But even if it turns out that there is a greater connection between them than we like to let on, I do not feel it should dissuade us from our core principles. Naturism is the belief that human beings, regardless of sex or sexual orientation, have the capacity to treat one another with respect. And in showing the world that nudists are, in fact, human—that we have desires and prejudices and biases like everyone else— we may become more relatable, and the movement more attractive to newcomers.

***

For this article, I wanted to reach out to two of my fellow naturists, people I have known for a long time, who have devoted much of their lives to the movement. Keep in mind, the views of two people is statistically insignificant, and does not make for scientific study.


 

Steve Willard has been a naturist for 40+ years, and is the founder of All-Nudist, an online resource dedicated to separating real nudist sites from those peddling smut.

NICK: How old were you when you got into naturism, and what drove you into it?

STEVE: Growing up, my family was pretty casual about nudity, but not serious about it. I’d always been attracted to it and got naked, inside and out, whenever I could. Real beach and club nudism began in my mid-forties with my former wife. Not long after that I started All-Nudist as a counter to the smut usually found on the Web. We’ve tried to maintain a benchmark of social nudism that folks, especially newcomers, can use to compare with other versions they run across. Not everyone agrees with our viewpoint, but we feel that a conservative approach shared worldwide is a good start!

NICK: I agree there are a lot of so-called nudist sites that do not represent the movement at all. People seem to be stuck in this mindset, that it’s either all about sex or that we belong to some anti-sex cult. There is no happy medium. It should come as no surprise that people gravitate toward pictures of younger, attractive females (and males). Even your logo, I would argue, has an element of sexuality to it. What is your view on this?

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Sexy logo?

STEVE: Mea culpa, our logo could be seen as somewhat of a sexual appearance. Or is it ‘art’? Our original one was a line drawing of Adam and Eve, but this one is more ‘attractive’ and implies more than just old-fashioned concepts. But you won’t find gratuitous pics posted just for the sake of viewing; they’re used to illustrate an article just like any other legitimate information source does. Porn is and will continue to be associated with nudity, but a greater danger comes from those who wish to be part of social nudism, but want to change it to suit THEIR desires. They dilute and weaken the bonds that have formed over a hundred years. Those folks never embraced what nudism/naturism is in the first place.

NICK: No need to apologize for the logo. I really like it. But my point is, I feel that despite our beliefs, we cannot separate ourselves from our basic natures. Let me ask you, were there ever times in your life when you doubted the whole thing? Or, maybe you just didn’t feel like being nude anymore? Or are there days you’d rather just not be nude, even if it’s warm?

STEVE: Doubted? Never. I would be naked 24/7 if I could. Unfortunately, after a surgery gone bad, my metabolism has flip-flopped and I find myself bundled up in layers, while [my wife] Angie is nude on the couch! Not fair!

NICK: So, would you say you feel as interested in naturism as you were at 40? Or when you were in better health?

STEVE: Absolutely.

NICK: OK. Now I want you to imagine this hypothetical situation: you’ve been hooked up to a brain scan, and it has been clearly determined that the part of your brain associated with sex is also associated with the enjoyment you get out of nudity. How would you feel that would affect your ideas regarding nudism? Would you be surprised? Or would you be indifferent?

STEVE: I guess the short answer would be ‘indifferent’. As we’ve repeatedly affirmed on our website, just because we’re nudists doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate an attractive person. ‘Attraction’ is inherently sexually motivated, as are nearly all things. That’s Nature at work! Attraction is essentially a desire to be closer to someone, for personality or sexual reasons. We wish to possess that person for ourselves. Nudists are just better at finding others attractive for reasons other than ‘beauty’ or sex appeal. It’s not as important as appearance is to Textiles. People are always talking about the sensual feeling of grass, wind and water on a bare body. True, and sensuality is a close friend of sexuality. There’s no reason not to let them mingle on occasion, or to enjoy the company of other nude people, but if sexual thoughts dominate the nudist experience, it may be time to find another place to pursue that and reconsider what it means to be a nudist/naturist. It’s not for everyone. As an aside, have you ever been at a nudist venue, perhaps in the pool, when a pretty young woman shows up? Watch the old men flock to make her feel welcome!

NICK: Yes! Young, beautiful couples tend to be treated differently, which seems to go against the nudist ethos, but I see nothing wrong with that. We are all products of our evolution. But what I have yet to see at a resort is harassment, or a woman being treated disrespectfully. No doubt it happens, I just haven’t seen it. Visit any nightclub and you’ll see a lot worse!


 

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Felicity after the pudding toss at the annual Northeast Naturist Festival

Felicity Jones (not the Rogue One star) is the co-founder of Young Naturists America, an organization dedicated to free-body activism. She does more than just write up naturist articles, however. Felicity helps to organize meet-ups with free-spirited individuals like herself, whom she calls ‘nudies,’ and arranges for special events like Body Painting Day, with artist Andy Golub in NYC. For Felicity, naturism goes hand-in-hand with feminism and a positive body image.

NICK: You’ve been involved in the naturist movement for a long time. When did you realize an interest in naturism? Or were you born into it?

FELICITY: I was born into it. My parents were naturists and I was raised in a naturist family. We belonged to a nudist club in NJ called Rock Lodge and so growing up I spent a lot of time there every summer.

NICK: Do you see a big difference between people introduced to the lifestyle at a young age and people coming into it later in life? How so?

FELICITY: Yes, for sure. People who get into nudism later in life tend to be a lot more enthusiastic, excited and dedicated to it. I guess that’s just the natural result of people growing up with something that’s accepted as normal, vs. choosing it for themselves later as something new and different. Beyond that, of course kids who grow up as naturists often have a more positive body image and healthier attitudes towards nudity and the human body. I believe the younger you are when you first try it, the more of a positive impact it can have on your psyche. It can work as a bit of an antidote to all of the negative messages we get about our bodies.

NICK: It has been my experience that men and women take to naturism differently. Men seem to want to be fully nude more often, and women seem to take comfort in simple accessories. I saw a lot of sarongs at a clothing-optional resort in Cancun!

FELICITY: Yes, I’ve written at length about the gender imbalance in naturism and how men seem to gravitate towards social nudity. It’s hard to pinpoint any one reason for this, but I’ve discussed a few social / cultural factors that I think are primarily to blame – body image, safety and rape culture, etc. Here’s my article about this – https://youngnaturistsamerica.com/nudist-women-why-naturism-has-lady-women-problem-today/

NICK: I know there’s a big misconception that nudists want to be nude 24/7. That being said, barring cold weather, are there days you simply prefer being dressed? If so, how do you feel your mood/self-image plays into that decision?

FELICITY: Well, it’s a misconception that that’s what it means to be a nudist, when really there’s kind of a spectrum. Some say they want to be naked all the time, but I think the majority are fine with wearing clothes sometimes. I wouldn’t really describe myself as a dedicated home nudist. Mostly I lounge in comfortable clothing when I’m home and it doesn’t have much to do with my mood or self-image. What I really like is being naked outdoors when it’s warm, and as far as my mood, I’m definitely happier that way [in the buff].

NICK: I believe there are differences in the brain between naturists, textiles, men and women that could explain differences in our behavior, outside of cultural and environmental aspects. Unfortunately, I have no real evidence to support this claim, but it is something I think we need to explore. For instance, my wife hates to be nude at home. I think most women are like this. Me, I prefer nudity 24/7, and I think that is true for a lot of guys.

FELICITY: I don’t *hate* to go nude at home. I’m just indifferent to it, or a little more comfortable in some kind of pants at least. I do get cold very easily, ha-ha. Unless I’ve just come from outside where it was blistering hot, then I’ll go in and strip down. But anyway, there could be some biological factor that makes men want to be naked. Who knows? There do exist women who want to be naked 24/7 too, so what would account for that difference? I still think the aforementioned cultural / social factors inhibit a lot of women from participating in naturism much more so than any brain / biological difference.

NICK: Lastly, I want to talk about sex. There seems to be a lot of contention about sex in nudism, with most nudists saying the two are entirely unrelated. I’d like to get your view on the subject.

FELICITY: I think nudists have had to work so hard in past decades to convince and assure everyone that nudism is a wholesome family activity, in the hopes that it would be accepted by society. But now things are different and I think it’s disingenuous to say, “Nudism isn’t sexual, at all, ever.” Humans are sexual beings, and that doesn’t change whether clothes are on or off. You don’t stop experiencing sexual feelings or being sexually attracted to someone in a nudist setting. The difference between sexual nudity and non-sexual nudity is in the behavior. Nudists don’t act on their sexual impulses. It’s all about context – there’s a time and place for everything. That’s a lot more explaining involved than saying “nudism is not sexual,” but I think nudists today need to acknowledge these distinctions instead of loudly insisting on that simple phrase.

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Body painting day!