This post deals with the public display of the naked human body. Clicking on any of the links below could subject you to images of the natural unclothed human form. If you are under 18 or if this might offend you in any way, please refrain from clicking on any of the links below.
As I review this post one final time for spelling and grammar, I am struck by insanity of the warning statement above, no, not the statement itself, but the actual need to issue such a disclaimer in our so-called modern and enlightened society. It is sad that there are people who feel that to gaze upon the human body is shameful or sinful or wicked or evil and it is outrageous that we have put in place laws to protect ourselves from it. In many ways the ancients were more in touch with their humanity than we are.
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Naturism, or nudism, is a cultural and political movement practicing, advocating and defending social nudity, both in private and in public. The term may also refer to a lifestyle based on personal, family and/or social nudism. (Wikipedia)
It had to happen. Writing The Nudist War (a new take on the Zombie Apocalypse) has increased my awareness of Nudism and it’s goal of embracing the social enjoyment of natural life sans clothing. I have always been amused by the knee-jerk opposition to the naked human form in some social|religious|political circles. For the record, and ignoring my two sub-zero night-time streaking events: one in college (celebrating my 21st birthday), one in Siberia (at a Russian banya), I am not a Naturist.
The human condition is what it is. Young (twenty-something) humans most closely fit the ideal for human physical perfection. As we move beyond our twenties, age and gravity take their toll on us. Bodies sag and clothing shrinks. Remarkable are the men and women who maintain there twenty-something form into their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. I am not one of those remarkable people. I would tend to avoid going au naturel in public as a public service to those around me. There is an old joke that goes “Nude beaches sound like a great idea until you see Granny and Gramps.”
On second thought, I suspect that I would have no trouble stripping off my clothing in the midst of like-minded folks my age – provided I wasn’t the first one who had to do it. It wouldn’t be sexy, but it would be natural. So I guess that makes me a Naturist sympathizer.
The Germans have long been proponents of naturism and a universal right to public nudity. The city of Münich recently designated six official “Urban Naked Zones” in parks. I recently noted this with a not so subtle plug for my online zombie novel.
Yet the Germans aren’t the only ones with a love for nudity. Castaways Travel of Houston, Texas has had a booming business providing vacations to clothing optional and nude resorts and adult cruises for the last thirty years. In 2003 they even offered a naked airline flight … Naked Air … from Miami to Cancun.
According to the Huffington Post Nude yoga has become popular. In the same HuffPost article the author offers a hilarious rant on male locker room nudity at his local gym. “Picture that in your head for a second… a gray, naked old man, hunched over with one leg up in the air, and the rest of him falling prey to gravity. It’s like a sad, saggy Captain Morgan. The worst part is that when you see something like that, you can’t unsee it. It lives forever in your memory bank waiting to reappear when you least expect it.” His article is hillarious, but … give me break … his final plea is for men to at least wrap up in towels in the gym locker room. He must wear a bathing suit in the shower.
Speaking of never being able to unsee something, a friend of mine at work has the same problem with the Kathy Bates nude hot tub scene in About Schmidt. Every time I want to goad him, I just mention Kathy Bates. Yet I think she was and is a fine example of a woman her age. I would share my hot tub with her anytime. If I had a hot tub, and if I had permission from the wife. “Hey honey, Kathy Bates is coming over to go skinny dipping with me in our hot tub. Is that OK with you?”
I am also amazed and amused by those who are offended by the public breast feeding of children. As a society we have transformed a completely natural part of child rearing into something offensive. It offends me that young mothers are asked to go to a private room like social outcasts to feed their infant children. Whose idea was this?
Clothing is useful. It keeps us warm. Protects us from sunburn, insects, and the elements. Clothing is both a requirement for our survival and a marvel of modern society. I like clothing. Yet why wear clothing in those circumstances when it is unnecessary? Why do some get upset when others are unclothed?
A comprehensive perspective on Naturism is available at AANR. “The American Association for Nude Recreation is the largest, most long-established organization of its kind in North America. With roots dating to 1931, [they] have grown from [their] humble beginnings to an organization that has served 213,000 individuals throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and beyond. These members enjoy their own backyards and pools with family and friends, as well as over 260 nudist resorts and affiliates.”
Below is an excerpt from one women’s perspective: “One of the healthiest things I did for myself was to try nude recreation. I quickly learned that being nude is actually quite natural, what you might call a life enhancing experience. Why? Because having gone nude in a social setting, I now accept who I am and feel comfortable with my own body. Experiencing who I am on the inside has become more important to me than what I look like on the outside. Sure, I still enjoy being well groomed, but I no longer feel the stress associated with trying to wear trendy clothes or that I’m not living up to fashion magazine images of what my body is supposed to look like.”
Wouldn’t we all like to feel as self-assured as the woman above?
No discussion of the unclothed human form would be complete without the mention of Spencer Tunick. Tunick is a photographer famous for his ‘installations’, mass ensembles of hundreds to thousands of naked men and women in various public settings. I discovered Tunick via the 2000 documentary, Naked States. From IMDB: “Photographer Spencer Tunick travels the U.S. in search of volunteers to pose nude for his outlaw photo-shoots, all of them done out in public and often without legal permits. This documentray chronicles Tunick’s logistic nightmares, his brushes with the law, and the free-spirit-volunteers who discard their inhibitions for his artistic vision, and their own personal concepts of self-gratification.”
I particularly remember the segment on an early morning shoot in New York City. All of the passersby, not involved in the shoot, were either curious or indifferent to the crowd of naked people. The only people who cared were the police and of course they had very strong objections to the display of public nudity. Since none of the actual public were upset, one might ask who the police were protecting.
Anyway … yeah I could disrobe in a mixed gender social setting and enjoy it, as long as it was with others of my age and build. And as long as the pointing and laughing were kept to a minimum.
Do I think that some members of society are way too uptight about the natural human form? You betcha!
Do I plan to become a practicing Naturist? Probably not. But as James Bond once said, “never say never.”