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Keep nudism weird
The countercultural, magical power of embracing our eccentricities
You're weird. Yes, you. And I mean that as the biggest compliment in the world.
We all have something that differentiates us from the crowd—be it nudism, obsession with an obscure band or artist, love of a certain uncommon flower or profound knowledge of the esoteric. At some point each of us came to the terrifying but freeing realization that not everyone else is like this.
Western culture—built by and dominated by capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, white supremacy and fundamentalist Christianity—tells stories. These stories become dominant narratives in our society. One of these narratives is that we must be ashamed of our bodies and that we must view other bodies as sexual. That's considered normal. Mainstream. The agreed-upon consensus of those with power, those who must keep telling this story in order to maintain power. Those of us who live counter to this narrative are not normal. Not only are we not the majority, but we are living directly against these values. Is that weird? From the perspective of dominant Western culture, absolutely. And that's the most powerful and liberating thing—both ourselves and society.
The subversive nature of nudity
Naturism, nudism—the practice of nonsexual social nudity—only began as a reaction against dominant culture. Indigenous communities all over the world and all throughout history have practiced different forms of nonsexual social nudity, but as an organized movement in the West, it largely began as the effects of industrialization (itself a product of capitalism and colonialism) removed us further from nature and our bodies. To counter this, people began spending time naked outdoors, finding that fresh air and sunlight on the skin alleviated effects caused by pollution while social nudity helped with increasing social alienation. Separated from dominant cultural narratives, this practice existed alongside other countercultural ideals like vegetarianism and anti-capitalist political ideologies like socialism and anarchism. It was subversive. It offered an alternative to the mainstream. In that sense, it was weird. The increasing popularity of nonsexual social nudity today can be considered a further result of the continued (and ever increasing) effects of capitalism, colonialism and fundamentalist Christianity. The reason we need such a radical practice—radical as in a return to our roots—is because we have been so disconnected from our bodies and the earth. We need this practice as a counter to dominant cultural narratives.
But capitalism is a hungry thing, and devours all—even what stands counter to it. The naturist movement was itself eventually subverted by capital, and churned into a profit-making machine of luxury resorts, spas and cruises. As the dominant cultural narratives around body shame and hypersexualization continue to be told, nudism has played by its rules. And profits off it. The subversive narrative of nonsexual social nudity has become sanitized. Its countercultural potential neutralized. The uniqueness of its practitioners hidden beneath conformity.
We slipped into the shadows. "Normalize," we quietly plead. Is that all we want? For nonsexual social nudity to be considered normal? What would we lose if nudism becomes "mainstream"—whatever that means? Because of how deeply embedded the narratives that have caused the need for nudism in the first place are in Western culture, I doubt this is ever likely. The fundamentalist Christianity currently waging war on the LGBTQ+ community and bodily autonomy across the United States is the very same fundamentalist Christianity that taught us that nudity is shameful and bodies are sinful. The very same capitalism that treats workers' bodies and entire ecosystems as disposable is what has separated us from our innate connection to our bodies and nature, that has shamed and sexualized our nudity for profit. In a culture with these narratives as its rotten foundation, nonsexual social nudity will never be accepted or normalized. Because it is a direct reaction against those narratives. It's incompatible. It is abnormal. It's deviant.
So why not embrace that? What happens if we lean into our weird?
To normalize is to un-attach from the taboo. To make our practice less offensive. But I think the dominant cultural narratives need to be offended. They need to be shaken up and subverted. This culture needs to see un-normal. It needs weird. Even when not seen as sexual or shameful, because of its subversiveness, nonsexual social nudity is certainly considered strange. It's unusual because it's so radical. Eccentricity is forced upon us because we are acting against dominant culture. But in reclaiming that eccentricity ourselves and accepting our "weirdness", we open ourselves up to greater confidence, magic and possibility. Because something beautiful happens when you accept that you are not like others and embrace what makes you, you. It's scary, yes, because it's vulnerable. We're wired to be in groups, but groups are made of unique, weird individuals. Biodiversity is at the heart of a thriving world. Conformity is rigid. Vulnerability makes us soft, and softness is what makes us grow. Concrete doesn't allow for flourishing and thriving, but soft, tender, squishy soil does. Delicate and spongy, we can become our own forms. I call myself a nudist because it's one of the things that differentiates me from others, like witch or queer. All these labels are reactions against what dominant culture dictated that I should be. I freed myself not just from clothing, but from other cultural expectations—from “normal.” And that freedom is what allows me to be unique, odd and quirky. As practitioners of nonsexual nudity, we have access to a radical freedom to embrace all our other quirks. It's so encouraging to see nudists and naturists who are proud and passionate about all their interests and identities—nudist witches, nudist gardeners, nudist historians, trans and queer nudists. The practice of baring ourselves through nudity can be extended through all other aspects of our lives. Letting ourselves be raw and authentic. Embracing all of what makes us "not normal."
By allowing our practice of nonsexual social nudity to be seen as weird, we give it full reign to break down walls and transform ourselves and society. It's an invitation to go deeper, to be more passionate. Weirdness is permission to exist fully. Weirdness is liberation. Weirdness is magic.
The magic of weird
The etymology of "weird" can be traced back to the Old English wyrd, meaning "fate", which itself came from the verb weorþan, which means "to become." "Weird" began to be used as an adjective to mean "having power to control fate", which was most commonly associated with the mythological Fates, the goddesses of human destiny (who were eventually given their own English personification as fairies). Shakespeare's Weird Sisters in Macbeth were heavily inspired by these archetypes, the witches who prophesy Macbeth's rise and fall. This association of "weird" with supernatural power remained for centuries. Even in Frank Herbert's Dune, the supernatural form of martial art used by the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood is called "the weirding way." Part of why "witches" have been so oppressed throughout history is for their anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal connection to nature and bodies. Often those tortured and killed for witchcraft were women who practiced herbalism, performed abortions and offered birth control. Weird has always been magical and subversive.
Conscious nudity is its own "weirding way." It's both supernatural and super-natural. Nudity makes life more magical, not more mundane. It empowers. It subverts. It liberates. It shapes identities and connections. It opens up doors to enchantment by engaging more physically with the world around us and by connecting with others more openly. It's a way to (re)invite whimsy and delight into our lives.
You could divide life into the magical and the mundane, but that boundary is only as firm as you make it. For example, many people sleep naked but don't practice other forms of nonsexual nudity. They would consider their sleepwear choice mundane. Even I myself have been sleeping naked for so long I rarely give it a second thought. But there are obvious magical benefits to sleeping naked—that is, things that enhance the mundane. Intimacy, health, comfort, body image—keeping things like that in mind and making them intentions can help sleeping naked be considered a ritual or practice, rather than just a mundane habit. This extends outside of sleeping as well. It cultivates a mindset of digging deeper into each moment. Living an enchanted and magical life. This is so far from normal. It’s the opposite of dull or boring. It's counter to dominant narratives that don't respect sleep as both a necessary and sacred act. It becomes an act of rebellion in itself. Something that is unusual and powerful—weird. Our practices can still be everyday and ordinary, but at the same time beautiful and rebellious.
Stay wild and free
I think there's a little shame or embarrassment in being seen as weird. A subconscious attachment to those dominant narratives. It's understandable—we have an evolutionary, biological need to be accepted as part of a group. We want nonsexual social nudity to be considered just as normal as wearing clothes because we think it will attract more people to the lifestyle. It makes sense, and can be effective. But we lose some of the magic in that. And I think it's also worth interrogating our drive to convert. There are obvious benefits we have experienced from this lifestyle, and wanting to share that with the world is also understandable. But colonialism and Christianity have embedded themselves so deeply into our culture that we can have a tendency ourselves to evangelize and colonize (not to mention the capitalist “infinite growth” mindset).
Christianity itself started as a reaction against dominant cultural narratives. This was a movement led by someone who was a somatic healer, a nature-based storyteller, a carpenter, a homeless refugee and a friend to widows, disabled people and sex workers. This movement encouraged communal living, a rejection of wealth and power, and liberation for the oppressed. This was weird—magical, countercultural. Mostly preached and led by women, it was also a movement of diversity uncommon at the time. But once it attached itself to empire and was used as a tool for colonization, instead of diversity it became a movement of homogeneity and began to oppress the very same groups it originally liberated. And just as its leader ascended from the earth, instead of decomposing and embedding himself into nature like other spiritual archetypes (see Dionysus for a stark comparison), Christianity separated itself from the natural. It went from earth-bound to empire-bent. Humble to haughty. With evangelization and colonization, it lost its magic as it lost its sense of nature and diversity. It lost its weirdness.
We can share our passion and the benefits of our lifestyle and practice without attaching ourselves to empire, without sterilizing the message. We can keep it communal and grassroots. Diverse and divergent. Natural. Weird. Because we can already see what happens when the practice of nonsexual social nudity, like Christianity, assimilates itself into dominant narratives. It becomes a profit-driven industry itself, relying upon the same dominant cultural narratives it supposedly subverts in order to stay relevant and profitable. This is "normal" under capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy and white supremacy: safely hidden and tucked away on stolen land while generating capital, carbon emissions and perpetuating hierarchies, not threatening the status quo. Is that what we want to share?
We shouldn't have to spend thousands of dollars on luxury resorts, spas and cruises to be free in our bodies and connected to nature. That is our birthright. Our most natural, divine state of being. We all want to return to nature and feel at home in our bodies. Conscious nudity is a powerful way to do that because it's weird. Because it’s outside most people's comfort zones. Because it's a rush. A headfirst dive into embodiment, enchantment and earth connection. Because it’s so counter to what dominant culture tells us. It is altogether antithetical to these narratives. It will never be normal in this culture so let's let it be weird. Let it be radical—a return to our roots. Let it be primordial. Let it be wild. Let it be queer. Let it be a rebellious reclamation of our most natural state. A declaration that we will not conform. We will not contort or hide our bodies and selves. We will not participate in shame and hypersexualization. We will not continue to line the pockets of the rich. We will be free. We will be soft. We will relax. We will fully accept ourselves and others. We will take care of each other. Our bodies, our connection to nature, our individual uniqueness and our sense of community are ours. That can't be assimilated into modes of oppression.
So be free. Be weird. Exist outside of everything that tells you your body is anything other than a sacred extension of nature. Embrace all of your odd passions and eccentricities. No one can tell you who you are but yourself. And if you practice nonsexual nudity in any form, let it be weird. Let it be part of what makes you unique. Let it empower your sense of self and drive for social change. Strip off the callous veneer of the mundane and discover the magical. The empowering, the liberating. Remember that you were not built for these systems. Instead you were meant to be naked and free, connected to the earth and to your community. You are human. You are nature. You are weird. 🪐
Follow Marin’s personal newsletter, Calm Decay, and check out their blog econudist for more insights on naturism from the intersections of spirituality, environmentalism and social change.
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