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Do we need to change our minds?
For me, one of the curious things about writing these blogs is that I never really know how they are going to be received. I hope that they will get a positive response, but I am never quite sure until I post the work and the comments come in.
Thankfully, most comments have been positive to date, and I am grateful for that.
Some of the responses I get are a few kind words, but occasionally I get a lengthy and considered response, which encourages me as I feel people are giving the topics some serious thought.
In April, I received a reply from a New Zealand based reader, with some astute observations and a simple solution to improving the acceptance of the naturist philosophy.
To my shame, I replied that I thought he made valid points and should write a blog, without realising that he already did. I have added his blog to the growing list of reading that I do.
Anyway, to cut a long introduction short, the comment made was:
I don’t think naturists need to change the mind of the public about nudity. They need to change their own mind about being seen naked in public.
Initially, I applauded this approach and saw it as an obvious step to fast-tracking social acceptance of public nudity. Perhaps there is some merit to this idea. If we were more out there with our nudity, society would get used to it, and it would become less of an issue. It might normalise nudity and help society become indifferent to it.
Many naturists are hyper-aware of how their behaviour might be seen by the general public. Our intent is not to offend, but to enjoy being without clothes when it is appropriate.
On the surface, the suggestion looks counterintuitive. Naturists are generally quite happy to be naked but are perhaps less inclined to be seen publicly naked in places other than beaches where nudity is more likely to be accepted.
The more I thought about it, the less I was convinced about it as a solution. The risk is that in the short term increased public nudity might backfire, and the small group of outraged citizens, those who usually have the loudest voice, would demand that councils and governments crackdown and ban the practice in public spaces.
While we are often communicating in our own bubble of people who broadly agree with us, we must remember that active social nudity is still a distinct minority.
In a room of 100 people, a significant number might openly state that they have no issues with the idea of naturism, but far fewer would actually take the next step and strip off to demonstrate their support.
Even though many many people who might identify as nudists are naked only in their own homes, or in secluded outdoor areas, and that simple nudity is not sexual or deviant in any way, a vocal minority will often be quick to criticise any lifestyle that they don’t comprehend and see as undesirable. It seems easier to shout down and exclude a group rather than listen and try to understand.
Naturists are on a spectrum, some of us are further along than others. While my partner and I both subscribe to a naturist philosophy, I am a lot further along than she is. My partner enjoys being naked at the beach but I am more willing to engage in social nudity, naked bike rides or naked bush walks than she is.
I believe that there is a lot of reluctance to push the boundaries too far as it may result in more restrictions than we currently have.
No one can argue about the freedom to be naked in one's own home, and on one's own property, but walking naked to the shops to get a bottle of milk might be a step too far for many.
From my experience of swimming naked at several beaches, lakes, and waterfalls in NZ, people really don’t care. That is perhaps in the context of people seeing something that is not totally unexpected. Seeing someone skinny dipping in a river or at the beach takes the nudity and puts it into a non-threatening context. A naked person walking to the shops removes that context and may be perceived by some as threatening.
It’s about familiarity, and you don’t get familiarity in one step.
Perhaps we do need to be more adventurous. Perhaps we need small steps to push the Overton window of social acceptability. We do need people who are prepared to push the boundaries and pave the way for more social acceptance.
A recent survey in the UK revealed that as many as 14% of the population in the UK identify as naturists or nudists. While still a minority, it is not an insignificant number, and one would think a figure large enough for there to be some strength in unity.
It would be unwise to suggest that the numbers are similar in all countries, but one could conclude that there are more people ok with the lifestyle than previously thought.
In the weeks since I first read MystrD’s blog, I have gone from fully supportive, to cautiously hesitant, and back to agreeing in principle with his original assertion. Naturists may need to change their own minds about being seen in public before we can expect the public to change their minds about seeing public nudity.
Perhaps the recent UK survey will give some people the confidence to be more adventurous and further the journey to social acceptance.
For many, we may not yet be ready to walk to the supermarket naked, but we can at least be more honest about our lifestyle. Declaring ourselves as naturists when the opportunity arises rather than being secretive about our choices is a first step to coming out of the shadows and towards acceptance.
Being secretive about our enjoyment of being naked only serves to fortify the preconceptions and misunderstandings of broader society towards naturism and social nudity. We should be proud of our lifestyle choices and own them.
My name is Steve, and I am a naturist.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.