Even as I am sitting here, tapping away at my keyboard, I am not wearing any clothes. Naked is my normal, my default state. I feel most true to myself when I’ve got nothing on, and if I could move to Ilmarinen, to never have to see another pair of underwear, you can be certain I’d be packing (my rather light baggage) to board the next plane out. Now, if you’re not one of my regular readers, you may be thinking, WTF? This guy’s pervy. Normal people wear clothes!
I have spent a lot of time discussing the social benefits of nudism, why body taboos are unethical, why censoring nudity is harmful, and why this would be a better world without shame. But throughout these legal and moral arguments, I feel the true message of nudism has gotten lost. Sure, we should have the freedom to live without clothes, but what sick person would want to? The reasons I choose to be a nudist is something I feel I have failed to adequately express, but the simple answer is: naked feels good and naked feels natural.
Coming to this realization is like discovering some great truth, tantamount to a religious experience, a form of Buddhist-like enlightenment. Through the practice of nudism, I feel that I have been made privy to a secret about the human species that most people are not aware of, or cannot understand.
Your Amazing Skin
Most people will never fully experience the sensations their bodies are designed to feel. Your epidermis is much more than an outer layer holding in your blood and muscles and bones, but the largest organ in the body, and it has remarkable properties. Pores perforate us from head to toe, allowing us to absorb oxygen in ways other animals can’t. Oil glands underneath those pores produce sebum, which lubricates the skin so that it doesn’t dry out under the sun. A protein called elastin gives the body its flexibility. You have only to look at an athlete, or a contortionist, or a woman’s pregnant belly to see evidence of the skin’s remarkable rubber-band-like quality. Melanin, a brown pigment that gives humans their color, also acts as a protective shield against high energy particles from our closest star, helping shield our DNA from damage, and ultimately skin cancer—and the more time we spend under those harmful gamma rays, the more melanin our skin produces, which we call “getting a tan.” Our skin also helps to maintain internal temperature, bristling with tiny hairs when we are cold, and producing sweat when we are hot. Shedding heat through sweat glands enables a marathon runner to outlast a horse in a long-distance race. As if that wasn’t remarkable enough, we synthesize vitamin D using sunlight, without which we could become very ill, in a process that starts in the skin. Most importantly, I feel, nerve endings under every micrometer of our epidermis (a thousand per square inch) allow us to experience pain, pleasure, and the infinite variety of textures that makes up our world.
All of this suggests to me that our skin evolved to be exposed to the elements. Anyone can feel the effects of the sun on their bare body, how their small hairs change with the direction of the wind, or know whether the surrounding air is wet or dry. Nudists love to be outdoors for this very reason. It has nothing to do with letting others gawk at us, or becoming sexually aroused. We also love the water because of how it feels. And yes, I know a dermatologist will insist that a parasol, hat, and burqa be worn at all times under the sun, which is why I was so surprised to meet a nudist dermatologist at a resort in Cancun.
In our everyday lives, we put great emphasis on sight and hearing, and to a lesser extent, taste, but how often do we really think about touch? The largest organ in your body is devoted to it, more nerve endings working to deliver information about your surroundings than exist in your eyeballs, and yet we make every effort to stifle this sensation. Aside from smell, touch is our most neglected sense, which is tragic, when you consider that the only way we can know anything—truly experience being alive—is through our five senses.
Nudity is Practical, Clothing is Not
Now, I can already hear my detractors arguing, “But Nick, we go to the beach all the time! And wear very little. Isn’t that enough?” My answer to that is twofold:
1) How much of your life do you actually spend wearing a bathing suit? A bathing suit, incidentally, covers no more than underwear, and yet you would never think to show up to work, or to the mall, in nothing but your underwear. Most pubic venues have signs that read: NO SHOES, NO SHIRT, NO SERVICE.
2) Our genitals are extremely sensitive to the elements, which is why, in part, sex feels so good. Covering your nether regions when you go to the beach is like stuffing cotton balls in your ears. Yes, you can still hear, but nowhere near as well, and those cotton balls can be irritating. The same epidermis, with all of its wonderful faculties, extends to the genital area, suggesting they have developed to be exposed to the same elements.
The second argument I most often hear regarding nudity is: We need clothing to survive! That’s why it was invented!
This statement is put forth so often, you might assume everyone lives on some frozen wasteland. And certainly, if your primary residence is Alaska, you might consider living nude 24/7 to be an absurdly impractical thing to do. But the fact is, human beings are not made of gelatin. Our naked bodies are far more resilient than we believe. In fact:
1) People living in colder climes tend to be more open to nudity. In Scandinavia, you are expected to go fully nude in the sauna, around strangers of all ages. In Germany, public parks are set aside for clothing-optional use. Believe it or not, I am actually friends with someone of Inuit origin, who grew up in Greenland, and who is a practicing nudist. If you understand nudism, this isn’t really a mystery. Nudists only get naked when it feels good to do so, and dress when it doesn’t.
2) Among homo sapiens, clothing came into common usage during the last Ice Age c. 25,000 years ago, when most of Europe and North America were covered by glaciers. This may be, perhaps, when the notion of compulsory clothes-wearing began. But these glaciers have long melted, and we are now entering an age of global warming. The need to wear clothes to protect from weather is becoming less necessary in more and more places. Is it any wonder, then, why people in tropical climates, before the rise of the Abrahamic desert religions, found communal nudity the norm? Among these being the Greeks, the Celts, and African and South American tribes?
3) In most cases, clothing is impractical. More people die of heat stroke than from cold, and contrary to popular belief, clothing does not shield you from frigid weather, but rather, prevents heat from escaping the body. Being warm-blooded animals, our bodies work like small ovens, maintaining an even 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. On a sultry day, your body radiates excessive heat, but clothing acts as a barrier to this cooling function, making you feel hotter and more miserable than you need to be. I live in Florida, where temperatures reach upwards of 90 degrees for nearly half the year, and yet, society demands I hinder the natural process my body uses to shed this heat, trapping those fast-moving molecules under my clothes.
4) Before Christian missionaries, many Amazon tribes had never seen clothing before. In an ideal climate, people like the Bororo and Xerente lived naked 24/7, 365 days, as do the Sentinelese to this day. On Discovery channel’s Naked and Afraid, survivalists endure the harshest environments on Earth without so much as a pair of briefs. And while there are times when, on the rainy African savannah, the air drops to below 50, the problem then becomes a matter of shelter. Laura Zerra and Jeff Zausch, the show’s highest-rated survivalists, have spent forty days in the deepest jungles, and covering their genitals never factored in to their survival.
Finally, there’s the argument that “If we go naked all the time, we’ll be wanting sex all the time!” But as any nudist will tell you, this is demonstrably untrue. The unclothed body can, of course, be stimulating, but what truly fires up those lustful neurons is the change in dress, which signals to the onlooker that the person undressing is “asking for it.” This is why devout Muslims insist women cover their hair, because, in a society where a woman’s hair is forbidden fruit, the sight of flowing locks may get the male blood pumping. Nobody visits a strip club to watch naked women doing laundry. It’s called a striptease for a reason. And even then, the slow removal of lingerie gets old, which is why dancing around a phallic pole was added, and later lap dancing.
These days, younger generations of incels get off by “chaturbating”, because even the time-honored striptease has lost its allure. Simple nudity just doesn’t stay sexy for long, which is why Playboy nearly went bankrupt, unable to compete with the XXX content readily available to anyone with access to Google. Playgirl Magazine, by contrast, was never popular with women, only managing to stay in the black thanks to its gay male subscribers. If we were to see our naked selves on an everyday basis, doing everyday tasks, from riding our bikes to school to mowing the grass, the connection between nudity and sex would dissolve, and we’d be left with a healthier male/female dynamic divorced from our animalistic urges.
The Illusion of Shame
Despite how amazing our skin is, and how wonderful our sense of touch can be, we live in a world where communal nudity is almost nonexistent, and in most instances illegal. If it were just a religious taboo, it would have gone the way of premarital sex, oral sex, and gay sex. But the thought of allowing strangers to see certain parts of ourselves can make us cringe, and simply admitting you like to be naked can make others feel uncomfortable, or even threatened. These negative reactions are the result of a lifelong indoctrination and a culture of shame associated with nudity. But like an enlightened Buddhist (or should that be nudist?) I have learned that shame is nothing to fear because shame is an illusion.
From before we are old enough to think for ourselves, our parents teach us to feel bad about our bodies, when they put us in diapers, and when we are forced into swim trunks, and when we recognize that we never see any other people’s genitals. But like any illusion, body shame disappears when examined up close, whenever someone visits a nude beach for the first time or a clothing-optional resort. There is, of course, the awkwardness that comes with finally exposing what you may have kept hidden since you were in diapers. But after the initial shock wears off, you quickly realize how unnecessary clothing is, and how illusory your feelings are about letting strangers see your body. At least for me, visiting a nude beach for the first time was a revelation, like shedding light on a great myth.
I am a nudist because there is truly no reason for clothing in the comfort of our own homes, or outdoors on a beautiful sunny day. Because shame and body taboos are social constructs, which quickly disintegrate once examined closely. Being naked feels good, because our skin is a remarkably sensitive organ, having evolved upon millions of years to help us experience the world through our sense of touch. I am a nudist because naked is how humans were meant to live.