I am proud to say that I am a nudist, and that I live my life sans apparel whenever possible. Since I was twelve years old, I have loved being naked, and I have known that clothing is unnecessary, a matter of habit and little more. But what does it mean to be a nudist or a naturist? Is it all about sex? Gawking at privates? Shocking strangers with your dangly bits? Quite the opposite, actually. Most nudists I know are shy, and about as prudish as the Amish. If I had to sum up our beliefs in five simple words, those words would be: the human body is innocent. That’s it. We believe that men and women have the capacity to respect one another, with or without clothing, without succumbing to animal instinct. We believe there is no shame in being seen naked or in seeing others naked. Your penis, your vagina, your nipple, these are just body parts, and are no more indecent than an ear or an elbow. Yes, these parts serve different functions, but exposing them for the world to look at isn’t harmful, and in fact, quite the opposite is true.
We become obsessed with sex and genitalia the more we keep the body a mystery. Nudists see the unclothed person as just another person. For us, the body is not a thing to be lusted after, but a vessel for the person within. For this reason, porn is the enemy of nudism. But this philosophy is nothing new. We are all born free of shame. In Ancient Greece and Rome, in Celtic Europe, and throughout most native cultures, nakedness was the norm.
Growing up, I never understood our obsession with sex and, paradoxically, our Puritanical attitude toward the human body. The United States of America is an insane place, where you can legally carry and conceal a gun, but risk imprisonment should anyone see your genitals. We live in a world where, under the banner of free speech, YouTube permits videos calling for racism, sexism and homophobia, but Facebook censors a mother breastfeeding; we live in a world where “Mature” video games like Grand Theft Auto entertain children with fantasies of murdering innocents, while a game showing a nipple earns a much stricter “Adult” rating; we live in a world where the Westboro Baptist Church can rally at a gay soldier’s funeral with signs that read “God Hates Fags” as police stand idly by, but should a man or woman show up in nothing but the body we are all born into, they would promptly get arrested for indecency.
But we are becoming a far more accepting society. No longer do we demonize people based on race, religion, or sexual orientation (not most of us, anyway) and in the media, the objectification and hyper-sexualization of women is on a steady decline. More and more, humanity is seeing itself less apart from nature and more as part of nature. These ideals align perfectly with naturism, which is why athletes, actors and singers pose shamelessly for magazines, TV shows, and on social media, without the career ending outrage of bygone eras.
Clothing serves to protect against the elements, but is otherwise unnecessary, a matter of social conditioning. People were never meant to wear clothes. We are born far more beautiful, and can experience the world far more intimately, in nothing but our bare bodies. For tens of thousands, if not more than a hundred thousand years, mankind was oblivious to nakedness. At around the time of the Ice Age, we adopted textiles to retain body heat, but what was once a necessity became a global neurosis, and a hatred for what we look like in just our skin. Or, conversely, we’ve come to fetishize and obsess over beauty and sexuality, to the detriment of our humanity. I am not suggesting that throwing away our clothes can solve society’s ills. But if we are free to live in the skin we are born into, to live without shame or judgment, without outdated taboos, might this world not become a better place?
For me, naturism means much more than a life without shame. It is a spiritual philosophy, a reverence for nature and life. It gives me a sense of awe, for our species and for our place in the universe. Only when we recognize our shared humanity can we hope to overcome the definitions that divide us.
Naked and proud!