Just as racism and homophobia exist to varying degrees around the world, so does bigotry against nudists. It might seem offensive to equate the two, but in countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, where women who refuse to cover their faces can be jailed, beaten and raped, the comparison seems more appropriate. Unlike homosexuality, becoming a nudist is a choice, and yet that choice is a fundamental part of my identity. I see little difference between a person’s faith and a belief in the innocence of the human body. The fear that exists among transgendered people, the pressure to conform, to continually hide from scrutiny, are feelings many nudists can relate to.
Nudity harms no one, neither physically nor psychologically, and yet we can never be as we are born, never live as nature intended. The reason is rooted in outdated taboos, from a time when slavery was sanctioned by God, women were stoned for adultery, scientific discoveries like those of Galileo were condemned, and homosexuals were put to death. Our Puritan roots have deeply entrenched in us a fear and hatred for the human body, but what continues to perpetuate this attitude, despite increasing secularism, is a consumer industry which profits from shame, and making people feel unattractive.
To break the nudity taboo, something that perpetuates sexism, body hatred, and an unhealthy sex obsessed society, we need heroes. Every movement needs heroes when society’s mores are challenged. There was a time when racism was sanctioned by the Supreme Court, until people like Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King challenged those laws. Up until recently, homosexuals were frequently beaten and arrested, but then Harvey Milk came along to help change attitudes. It’s easy for us to see these people as heroes. Who, today, would deny Rosa Parks a spot at the front of the bus? And yet, people in the fifties did not have the luxury of hindsight—they could not imagine the freedoms we take for granted. For too long, we have hidden behind the walls of our resorts, far removed from the public eye. In general, there has been no way for people to learn about us, and so we are left with ugly stereotypes and misconceptions. Fortunately, there are intrepid individuals who have found the courage to act upon the conviction that the human body is neither indecent nor shameful.
My long time readers may be surprised by my inclusion of Gypsy, but after some deliberation, I’ve decided that the movement can only benefit from diverse voices. Personally, I am opposed to Gypsy calling the police “pigs,” and I really, really disparage her wearing dildos in public. But it may be hypocritical for me to take such a hard line approach, when most people find my desire to go au natural equally offensive. No single person on this list has fought more vehemently for naked freedom than Gypsy. She’s held nude rallies in San Fransisco, and once disrobed in the middle of a court hearing regarding a public nudity ordinance, nearly winning the vote in the process. What is perhaps most remarkable, for me, Gypsy is as comfortable in her skin as my naturist heroine, Thelana, going without a stitch on city streets, and while making speeches to large crowds, and on her web series, MyNakedTruth.tv. She’s so often naked, you almost have to wonder whether she owns a pair of underwear.
While I may not approve of her methods, Gypsy’s commitment continues to inspire (she is in the green hat on the left). You can watch her most famous video here, where she disrobes during a public court hearing.
Dr. Victoria Bateman
Yes, you read that correctly. Perhaps more than anyone on this list, DOCTOR Bateman is the most accomplished, having earned her PHd from the University of Oxford (the most esteemed school on the planet IMO). According to her Wikipedia page: Victoria N. Bateman is a British feminist economist and academic, specialising in macroeconomics and British economic history. She is a fellow in economics at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Bateman read economics at Cambridge University, before receiving her masters and doctorate degrees from Oxford. More than simply a free body activist, Bateman is an outspoken advocate for women and the rights of sex workers, and a staunch opponent of Brexit, Britain’s decision to separate from the European Union. For anyone who thinks nudists are uneducated, or anti-social lepers, Bateman proves otherwise. In terms of class, she stands polar opposite to someone like Gypsy Taub, but this only goes to show the wide variety of voices that can exist within the nudist community, and that anyone, from any walk of life, can be a nudist. Be sure to watch her anti-Brexit video here.
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy
For a Muslim woman born in Egypt, Aliaa’s courage is particularly inspiring. Nudity in Islam is forbidden in any form, but to expose oneself to the public is more than just a social taboo, it’s a serious crime. By posting a nude selfie on her blog, Aliaa risked imprisonment in a country not known for human rights. This simple act incited outrage throughout the Muslim world, among both liberals and conservatives, and she received threats of rape and murder as a result. But it was all in protest of Sharia Law, a system that treats women more as objects than human beings. To prevent sexual violence, women are expected to dress modestly, but clothing like the burqa, that covers every inch of the body, represents nothing but oppression. What better way to protest the burqa, than its extreme opposite, complete nakedness? As Aliaa herself put it, her photo, “screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy.”
Since 1992, women have been legally permitted to go topless in New York City, anywhere in public, wherever men have been traditionally allowed. While feminists cheered, most women continue to be unaware of the law, or if they are, lack the courage to make use of it. One female activist, however, has made it her mission to inform the public via example. This is Moira in the streets. The best part is, people either do not seem to notice her exposed bosom, or simply do not care. It only goes to prove that common decency isn’t as common as Facebook would have us believe. Watch her video here.
As her namesake suggests, this stunning beauty* is utterly shameless, and while she does not appear to own a horse, she has taken to cycling in nothing but a helmet (as a cyclist myself—I ride a Trek 7.7 FX, she rides a 7.5—I am a big proponent of safety gear!). OK, to be fair, she doesn’t do this on a daily basis. It’s all part of the World Naked Bide Ride, which she helps to organize every year. On that day, it is not uncommon to see a thousand or more cyclists on the streets of London, missing more than helmets.
God1va is a British citizen, but she can trace her roots to India, where family tradition is paramount. Coming from a traditional culture myself, I find her confidence all the more inspiring, in that she is not afraid to show the world who she is, at the risk of alienating friends and family. As her blog states, “There was also the fear factor … what if I get recognized by my family/friends? However, having been on TV fully nude at least 4 times a week for about 6 months (repeats!), and having published all my photos on the web, the cat is truly out of the bag and there is no hiding now!” On her blog and in public, Lady God1va continues to express her free body philosophy. In 2009, as part of an art exhibition, she stood completely naked on a plinth before crowds of thousands, holding a placard with the words, “Naturism – It is a human right.” Lady, I couldn’t agree more! Watch the video here. *While I know it’s taboo among naturist circles to judge a person for their looks, I couldn’t help making this remark, as Lady God1va so closely resembles my wife.
Luis Andrew Martinez
You know that dream about going to school everyone seems to have? Where you suddenly realize that you’re naked, in front of classmates and teachers? For most people, it’s a nightmare, but for University of Berkeley student, Andrew Martinez, this was his reality. According to Wikipedia: Campus police first arrested him that fall for indecent exposure when he jogged naked late on a Saturday night. The county prosecutor refused to prosecute, concluding that nudity without lewd behavior was not illegal. Martinez began strolling around campus naked, citing philosophical reasons. He explained that when he dressed in expensive, uncomfortable, stylish, “appropriate” attire, he hid the fact that his personal belief was that clothes were useless in his environment except as a tool for class and gender differentiation. The university then banned nudity on campus. Martinez was also arrested in the city for indecency, fought those charges, and won. Later, after an anti-nudity ordinance was adopted, he was given two years probation. Sadly, Andrew Martinez was diagnosed with mental illness, ending his own life in prison in 2006. He was 33.
Many nudists you meet today, on beaches and at resorts, are over sixty. There is a real scarcity of young people involved in the movement, especially young women. When I attended the University of South Florida, I tried to start a nudist club, but made little headway. In our hyper-sexualized society, where body parts = lust, a woman who shows too much skin is thought to be a stripper, a porn star, or a prostitute. At the very least, a man will ogle a naked woman, especially at a non-nudist venue, unused to seeing a woman in her natural state who isn’t “asking for it.” At worst, women in the lifestyle risk physical violence. So, simply being young, female, and a naturist takes a lot of courage. Felicity was fortunate enough to have been raised in a nudist household, and as a third generation nudist, body shame was simply something she was never taught. Now she has made it her mission to spread her family’s free body philosophy to the world. As the founder of Young Naturists America, an online organization with thousands of members (including yours truly), she organizes public naturist events, like body painting day in New York, with artist Andy Golub. She is also a prolific blogger, writing on a wide range of subjects, from combating sexism to changing negative body stereotypes.
Even among nudists, Stephen Gough “the Naked Rambler” is a controversial figure. Gough has been convicted 28 times for 46 offences, mainly in Scotland, where he was repeatedly arrested during attempts to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats without clothes. He has been sentenced to more than six years in prison in total. Many would argue that he does not belong on this list, and Stephen himself has stated that he is not a nudist. But since there is no consensus as to what nudism is, and considerable misunderstanding regarding its practices and beliefs, I cannot rule him out. Of course, simply being naked does not make one a nudist. Strippers are not nudists. Porn stars are not nudists. Exhibitionists, people who show their bodies for the intended purpose of shocking and offending others, are the extreme opposite of nudists, emphasizing rather than de-emphasizing the body. Nudism, in essence, is a non-thing, the simple belief that the body is good, shameless, and legal. Unless Stephen intended to offend, and I have seen no evidence of this, he is a nudist, whether he says so or not. What truly sets him apart, however, is his willingness to get arrested, time and time again. Many have questioned his obstinance and sanity, but perhaps more than anyone on this list, he has shown us the absurdity of anti-nudity laws, by how much time and government money has been wasted imprisoning him, a man who has done nothing to harm anyone.
She has been exposing herself in videos, magazines and on Twitter, leaving nothing to the imagination. But, unlike Playboy models and porn stars, she has made natural nudity a focal point of her career, claiming that she would like to move to a nudist colony someday. Performers have long relied on controversy to keep the media focused on their careers. Who can forget the Beatles’ hairstyle, Madonna’s infamous Sex book, or Janet Jackson’s nipple slip? But while she may be courting controversy for publicity’s sake, her shameless confidence cannot be denied. Real naturist or not, Miley can only have a positive effect on the movement. In the past, such exposure would have been scandalous, a career ender. Instead, Miley proves how tolerant we have become as a society.
South of the border, we find Jenny Scordamaglia, who has never been one to shy away from the camera. Like few others on this list, she has the remarkable quality of appearing so comfortable in her skin, it’s easy to forget she is naked. Jenny started her career in modeling, but while many women with her looks end up in porn, she’s proven that nudity doesn’t always preclude sex, and that there are many innocent things people can do in the buff. Among these are naked yoga, which is becoming more and more popular these days, and on her cooking show, Naked Kitchen, she cooks, well, you can probably guess (though I do recommend an apron!). Despite her propensity for showing us her goods, Jenny is anything but a brainless bimbo, as her bio attests: She has been a journalist for magazines in Brazil and Peru, published her first book, “Llamado de Atencion,” to help young adults live positively, and in 2009, she hosted the biggest Latin American show from Europe, in the American Airlines Arena in Miami. She was chosen “the voice of Miami,” representing South Florida, for Comcast Xfinity, and in 2012, she opened her first meditation center, “Centro Transformacion,” in Spain. Jenny was also the official host of Miami’s “International Film Festival 2012,” which raised money for Tanzania, South Africa. And in 2013, she launched Miami TV, available on Google Play and iTunes. Learn more about Jenny on her page.
I consider these people naturist heroes, for doing more than just writing about nudism, for showing us, through their actions, that there is truly no shame in nakedness. Each found the courage to reject the taboos of the past, risking ridicule and social ostracism, to embolden the rest of us. If we are ever to become free, we must follow their example. If you love being nude, tell your friends. If you have a blog, post an honest selfie, the one that represents who you really are. Go nude wherever you can, and as often as you can, until the unclothed body becomes so common a sight, no one will find it objectionable.
UPDATE 01/14/2019: Since I originally created this post four years ago, the number of nude advocates has grown exponentially. More and more, people have been finding the courage to express their true naked selves. I myself have received nothing but positive responses for my articles, nude selfies and videos. It’s truly remarkable to be seeing such radical social change! In this update, I’ve included Gypsy Taub, Doctor Victoria Bateman, and Jenny Scordamaglia.
I want to address a few points regarding this article.
No. 1. If you’ll notice, there are only two men on this list, as opposed to eight women. While I wish I could have included more males, the reasons I haven’t are multifold. Firstly, I think it’s safe to say that male nudity is treated differently in our society. Men have traditionally enjoyed greater body freedom than women, so a guy going topless in NYC isn’t going to have the safe effect as someone like Moira Johnston. Along the same lines, men in Muslim countries are not made to suffer under a burqa. There’s also the difference between men and women’s attitudes toward sex. Men rarely have to deal with threats of rape, or sexual harassment, so whatever courage a male nudist displays pales in comparison to that of a female. Finally, I find men’s interest in public nudity questionable, in that so often, it has more to do with soliciting women, and personal sexual gratification. We’ve all had to deal with dick pics, but how often do men get harassed by unsolicited vag pics?
No. 2. Almost all of the images I’ve chosen, wherever possible, are full-frontal, including my own. I believe it necessary to show the body in its entirety, and to not be coy with what parts we choose to display, because when you really boil it down, it’s not the body per se people find offensive. If we are ever to overcome our aversion to nakedness, we must become accustomed to the sight of penises and vaginas in all their wondrous variety. We must accept that there is no shame in letting others see these parts of ourselves, that they’re not so different from our ears, noses or elbows. And that starts with full-frontal nudity!