The conflicted, connected plight of sexual liberation and the nudist movement
This is the best article that I have seen about the battle between sexual and non-sexual nudity. First of all, let me say that sex DOESN'T always have to do with actual physical contact. I am very unhappy that even sexual thoughts are vilified by some, or publicly CLAIMED to be nonexistent by many people who are social nudists. They tell us that they don't let their eyes wander towards the 'below the waist' area. I believe that this statement is disingenuous, and is an attempt to make 'non-sexual' nudism more acceptable. Personally, if I were able to be around nude people, and had to avoid looking below the waist, I would be in extreme torment!!!! I can't even imagine NOT wanting to look!! For me, seeing people nude is a very pleasurable thing IN MY HEAD. I definitely frown on a society that is so permissive in it's attitudes towards even, what I deem, unnatural sexual acts, while at the same time banning most public nudity. There is definitely some mixed-up thinking here. I could go on and on about this, but I just wanted to applaud you for touching this subject. Thank you for saying your opinion.
This is an extremely well written and referenced article on an age old problem facing nudism in modern society. It helps point to a path forward where social nudity and sexual nudity can create allies working toward a more tolerant society that we will benefit all people with better mental and physical well being.
I am, as always, deeply appreciative of your willingness to tackle the knotty issues, and of your skill in untangling them so clearly. Thank you for the frank tone here, the elegant logic, and the personal references as well. It’s refreshing and exciting to read this, and, in the afterglow, contemplate how my own perceptions have been affirmed through your words and/or are being stretched in a productive way. Vital work!
Why is a nuanced view of anything remarkable? For some reason it is, so thanks to Timothy Sargent for teasing out the many relationships between nude socializing and sex.
As a lifelong nudist I welcome the author's detailed and timely review of a very sensitive issue. It seems to me that almost all societies have a difficult relationship with the sexuality of their members. The root issue seems to me to be the repression of the sexuality of the female half of a society - and in my view that is as true in the UK or USA as in Saudi or Afghanistan. The only difference is the reasons used to manipulate the power differential between genders. My experience has been that when nudism levels that power differential the relationships between genders become truly social - the state of dress is immaterial and matters like consent define equality. I have been in many naturist settings where the power balance between male and females is as imbalanced as it is in a clothed setting. To my simple mind, if we, especially males, do not acknowledge this power imbalance and actively seek to level it, the security of every female is compromised because true informed consent depends on equality. I always believed that this is what the early nudist visionaries were aspiring to...
Very well thought out and written article Timothy. Quite an enjoyable read. Definitely thought provoking.
I’ve always been somewhat frustrated with how many in the naturist community turn a blind eye towards sexuality in an attempt to espouse naturism’s “non-sexual nudity” philosophy. The implication that the two subjects are completely divorced does a disservice to naturism in that it’s simply hard to understand and believe, particularly for the non-naturist crowd.
Even more concerning is treating someone as an outcast, who dares broach the subject, address links between the two subjects, or suggest a mutually supportive coexistence. The dreaded single male naturist is an example -- “he’s alone, probably focused on sex, doesn’t understand non-sexual nudity.” Also, the much feared erect penis -- “we’re ok with a naked penis, but not when it’s a few inches longer and at a different angle; he is clearly focused on sex, isn’t a real naturist, and suffers from some type of perversion. He isn’t one of us”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying single men walking around naturist venues with boners is the way forward. Just an example of how our community struggles with how to address sexuality. Seems to many it’s easier to simply deny it exists and put in place restrictions to ensue it stays that way.
Younger generations have much more awareness of the two subjects. That’s a broad brush statement I know. But I’m so many social areas, I see older generations with fists in the air, pointing fingers, yelling it’s their way or the highway. Perhaps as new generations take the reins of where naturism is headed (if they do....a topic for another day), the topic won’t be so taboo.
I respect the writer's pov on the intersections of sexuality and nudity. I am certain they are true for the writer.
I personally disagree with them, but I don't make my disagreement based on puritanical or anti-sex lenses. This is my personal experience and I share it because I notice there are not many female voices here.
1. The confluence of sex and body parts
It's not simply puritanical to assume separation of sex from body parts that society has deemed sexual. There was nothing sexual about my breasts when I used them to nurse my babies. There was nothing sexual about my vagina when I pushed a human being out of it.
I value the sexual expression I have with these body parts, but they are not the only body parts that contribute to my enjoyment of sex. For me, sex is an experience that involves the whole body, the mind and the emotions. Depending on the day, there are many times when I value my sexual organs and breasts more highly for the non-sexual functions than their sexual ones.
It's entirely possible to separate the two of them. For many people, the mouth plays a role in an active sexual experience but we don't associate the mouth primarily with sex. We first look at things like eating, talking, singing, etc. Sex is a tertiary item. Why should this be different for my other body parts?
It's entirely possible that this is a gendered difference. (While acknowledging that even calling it "gendered" has its limitations.) There is also the shared experience of processing food and drink that is a shared functional experience for all genders, but the additional functions are unique to women. And they do change the world experience. I am not less capable of sexual expression for saying that parts of my body are not sexual.
2. Consent and a chosen environment
Since my experience of my body is that sexual experience is multi-faceted and not driven by suggestibility/association of body parts, my conclusion is that the mind is more in control. It would feel pretty scary to people if it was suggested that nudity drove random thoughts of violence and that this was okay because it's part of the natural world to attack one another.
In general, I don't feel afraid in a naturist community because of safeguards in place, although there are exceptions. When the conversation steers towards sexual thoughts being fine as long as they're not acted on, it is a turn-off for me because I don't provide my consent for that.
Since this had a weighting towards men thinking this more than women, I will take it back to the idea of if violent thoughts were okay. If you were in the segment most targeted by violent thoughts, would you feel okay about those being condoned as long as they weren't acted on? Or would you feel nervous about what conditions might cause them to be acted on, what you could do to reduce the likelihood of being a target of them, or what it means for your total identity and relationships with the people who have those thoughts?
All of those reasons and more are why I will always provide a countervoice that says I don't consent to those thoughts. What I would like to hear back is that my consent does matter, and I hope you can understand how marginalized I would feel if you overrode it with an argument that is abstract and mostly comes from those privileged to not feel the impact. I saw a meme today that said "What men are most afraid of in jail is what women are afraid of every day." It's not abstract for us.
It makes my confidence more hard-won in some ways and it doesn't diminish my enjoyment of sex and recognition that there are feelings of attraction at times. But there are many nuances and there are times and places for all of that. I feel a lot of common ground with this article in that I don't want a puritanical nudist experience. But I don't want an oppressive nudist experience, either.
/ gets off soapbox