Misconceptions about nudism and nudists are ubiquitous these days, which makes it more difficult for nudists to express themselves, to let their friends and family know who they are. They provide the naysayers of the world a strawman target, and the ammunition to ridicule a minority they know nothing about. In debunking these misconceptions, I hope to shed some light upon the lifestyle, so that at least, if we are to be judged, we will be judged for what we are and not what we are not!
So without further ado, here are my top NINE misconceptions about nudists!
1. Nudists want to be naked 24/7
This is probably the most common belief among people who know nothing about nudism. I’ve seen this idea expressed on TV shows and in comedy skits poking fun at the way we live. But this is far from the truth. This assumption arises, I think, because people often take a dichotomous, black and white approach to different lifestyles. Textiles (that’s you non-nudists) just assume nudism is opposite to the way everyone else thinks; so if the general public is forced to wear pants when it’s a hundred degrees out (I can’t tell you how often I suffer in the Florida heat in summer) surely, nudists must freeze their butts off when it’s snowing! But the reality is, nudists like to feel good. That’s the whole point! If it’s cold, we dress up! If it’s sweltering hot, off go the clothes!
2. Nudists want to be naked everywhere.
Nudists want to be naked where it is practical and comfortable. You’ll never see us shoveling snow or beekeeping or weeding thorns in our birthday suits! But we do prefer getting naked at the beach, the pool, outdoors on a nice hiking trail, or just sitting our bare butts on the couch with a good book. While there are those of us who prefer being nude while grocery shopping, banking, or going out to eat, most nudists I know dress for such occasions. I’ve been to resorts around the world and at some of them, like in Valalta Naturist Camp in Croatia, clothing is required in the dining room.
3. Nudists are bothered by clothed people.
Again, this is a symptom of dichotomous thinking. Since textiles hate seeing naked people, they assume we must hate seeing clothed people. In truth, nudists don’t care if you’re clothed, but we do mind it when we are made to feel like social lepers, when we are the only ones not wearing a suit at the designated nude beach. This is just basic, human nature, a desire to fit in with like-minded people.
4. Since everyone is naked all the time, nudists do not have a sense of individuality.
I heard this recently and found it rather odd. The way I see it, nudism allows for greater freedom of expression. If you feel good in nothing but your skin, you can wear nothing. If you like to dress in shorts but no top, you can do that too. Want to show off that badass dragon tattoo on your butt? Awesome. Want to wear a sheer silk bodysuit? Cover yourself in an amazing mural by Andy Golub? Sport that key and lock piercing through your labia? Or, maybe, you just want to go out in your 18th century ballgown? All good! Nudists will never judge you for how you are dressed or not dressed. If nothing else, nudism is about freedom.
5. Nudists just want to stare at people.
Recently, someone said to me, and I paraphrase, “I don’t want to see some guy’s hairy butt or some lady’s wrinkly skin.” His objectifying remarks aside, nudists aren’t interested in staring at people. This may be hard to believe, in a world of strip clubs and porn sites, but it’s precisely this hypersexualized media that has conditioned us to become aroused when we think of skin. Seeing people naked on a regular basis gets old fast. There is a reason it’s called a “striptease,” a reason the girls walk out slowly and dance around a pole, before slowly removing their costumes. Now imagine going to a place with naked toddlers running around, all your grandparents who are also in the buff, and a young couple in their twenties, and picture them doing normal, everyday activities: playing volleyball, drinking a martini, reading the latest Stephen King novel. Sexy, this is not!
6. It’s all about the sex!
If nudism were about getting turned on, naturist vacation resorts would not exist. People don’t spend their weekends ogling strippers. And again, crowds of naked people simply are not sexy. If sex is what we were after, we could join other groups reserved for that purpose. By humanizing the unclad body, we learn to see women and men as people, not as a collection of parts. We excise the impulsive, animalistic urges that comes from ogling the flesh, lessening the propensity for rape and harassment. I have known many women who have said they felt safer at a nudist venue that in a bar or nightclub. Which leads to . . .
7. We belong to a weird, anti-sex cult.
Some critics take the opposite tack and accuse us of being anti-sex. Since we don’t start drooling at the sight of a nipple, we must belong to a sect of monks, disavowing carnal pleasures altogether. Again, this is simply not true. Nudists enjoy sex! And we enjoy it a lot! The difference between me and your average heterosexual textile male is this: I don’t immediately think about taking a girl to bed just because she is naked. Before I was married, the thought might have crossed my mind eventually, but it happened more often after getting to know the girl as a person. I spent two days with a pretty girl my age, playing volleyball, tennis, scrabble, and just talking books, and we had an amazing time. But no sex. Why? Because I only knew her for a couple of days and we both kept to a higher moral standard.
8. It’s just a bunch of old guys.
In my years as a nudist, I’ve seen hairy grandpas and Playboy-types and every body in-between. But while it is true that, if you were to visit a resort, you are likely to see a larger number of pasty males in their sixties, this has less to do with nudism and more to do with the fact that resorts cater to retirees. Young people involved in the movement are either too busy or too worried about the social ramifications of being spotted at a nudist venue: whether being fired from their jobs or ostracized by friends and family. This isn’t to say that, in the privacy of many homes, in secluded backyards and fenced-in pools, young people are not enjoying the comforts of going bare all over.
9. Nudists want to change the world.
I’ve heard it said that there are as many kinds of nudism as nudists. And yes, some of us would certainly like to change the world. I would, in particular, love to see a day when I could strip off my clothes and enjoy the sun and the breeze at any beach or park. But not every nudist thinks like I do. Others are content just spending naked time at home around their partners. Truth is, we are not a collective; the “-ism” in nudism is a misnomer. Ask a nudist what nudism is, and you’ll get a different answer almost every time. My definition is: nudists believe that the human body is innocent, that we have the capacity to see one another without succumbing to animal instinct. Based on this definition, I do not consider strippers or porn stars to necessarily be nudists, but that does not mean they couldn’t be. Now for many in our community, my definition is lacking, and I have no problem with that. Once we adhere to a single credo, we become dogmatic and cult like. I have long argued that nudism, in all reality, is a non-position, a response to an outdated prejudice. Like atheism, we should not need a word for something we are not. Just like we don’t have a word for people who wear shorts or who like to go barefoot, we should not need a word for those who prefer to not wear anything at all, who are not ashamed of their bodies and don’t find anything immoral, immodest, or just plain wrong about being naked around others. Paradoxically, the goal of nudism, for me at least, is to rid the world of nudism.