We read Three Skinny Dipper Club Community Member Essays and Discuss!
We hear from a
Body Positive/Sex-positive gay man
Jeremy identified with this essay as he first experienced nude spaces in Seattle with a group of men, most of whom identified as gay or bi.
Nudist sex-positive couple living in the post-religious stage of their life now.
Mandy really identified with their essay as Mandy was raised with a Lutheran Mother.
Great essay on consent – this one hit Mandy and Jeremy close to home and so we wanted to close with her essay.
>>TAKE ME TO EPISODE 14
Humans have a contentious relationship with sex and sexuality; One that I have never really understood.
In US history we’ve seen things like anti-masturbation campaigns, chastity devices, and calling the female orgasm hysteria. We believed the pseudoscience that considered homosexuality to be a medical condition because we couldn’t justify same-sex attraction and make it fit in our moral world view. Cultures and societies that are primarily religious and borderline theocratic (like The US) relationship to sex and sexuality have always been toxic and damaging which leads to toxic and damaging behavior and situations, in my opinion.
I primarily experience naturism in the non-landed gay space. In my experience, gay naturist spaces are inherently sex-positive and there’s an expectation that you behave respectfully and non-sexually (publicly). If, or when, you want to get it on, go over there in a private space and have at it. There are also no problems with couples behaving like couples. A little kiss, pushing the lounge chairs together, and holding hands/cuddling. Heck, you can even smack their bum with that little “that’s my baby” smack we all know – the love tap. That always seemed normal to me. There is no real equivalent to “the lifestyle” or swingers in the gay space but there are plenty of couples that engage. Most of the time you have no idea and even if you do, it doesn’t matter because that’s their relationship and their business. The question I have is, why isn’t that the same expectation in primarily heterosexual naturist spaces? Why shouldn’t women expect men (or women) to behave respectfully? Why shouldn’t there be an expectation and culture of consent? No means no and yes means yes. I think too, another huge component in the differences between gay and straight nudist spaces is that most gay men aren’t concerned about public opinion. Gay men are already on the fringes and ostracized by society. Our very existence is counter-culture and it doesn’t matter if the world out there thinks our social nudity is sexually deviant or not because our sexuality alone is already considered sexual deviance. That then frees those of us that choose, to let our figurative hair down and embrace, explore, and express our sexuality. Culturally, gay men make no bones about being attracted to one another because there’s no shame in it. Sure, you can think he’s hot but don’t touch him without his consent. Sure he’s cute, don’t ogle him to the point he’s uncomfortable. You know, basic good human shit. I might go so far as to also say, gay men, don’t pretend all of the complexities with our natural selves don’t exist. We definitely look at each other, we definitely find each other attractive, some might even flirt. Some of us do none of those things. All of it is accepted and welcomed In gay naturist culture because there is no right way or wrong way to be a naturist. There is, however, acceptable and unacceptable behavior that almost always surrounds itself in respect of the general atmosphere of the event and for everyone involved. Again, basic good human shit.
I typically interact with the straight naturists community via Twitter. I was surprised to see what seems like a community that is not very sex-positive at all. Sex-positive meaning the act of “being nonjudgmental and respectful regarding the diversity of sexuality and gender expressions, as long as there is consent”–Aida Manduley. To me, it seems the naturist community, I assume in an effort to gain mainstream acceptance or validity from the powers that be; has over-corrected by policing, judging, and shaming one another thus attempting to control adult sexuality. I often see a series of value judgments being made about people and the content of their character. If you enjoy sex outside of procreation, then you must be a slut. If you and your partner sleep with other people (together or apart from one another) then you must not actually love each other because we’ve decided what love means and what love looks like for everyone. If you show off your body in a position deemed sexually enticing, then it serves you right for those creepy men behaving badly and you’ll get blocked. So you’ve got to stand stiff as a board, no bending, otherwise, you’re positioned sexually and not a nudist? Porn is bad. Sex work is bad and not nudism. There’s so much gatekeeping and It’s almost as if the naturist community brings in all of the baggage from their textile lives into the naturists’ space. The baggage where women are unwillingly pursued and subject to unwanted male advances. The baggage of men behaving badly having been socialized via “locker room talk.” They bring the baggage of the female body being objectified. Even the patriarchal notion that a woman that expresses her sexuality is a slut and should she be the recipient of inappropriate male behavior it serves her right.
It seems to me that naturists are mildly, possibly subconsciously, afraid of judgment. They’re afraid of being labeled perverts. They’re afraid of their morality and the content of their character being up for debate. They’re afraid of becoming public fodder. Take it from me, as a black gay man whose existence has been the subject of debate morally and legally, you get used to it. It’s almost as if some naturists act like they have something to prove to society at large. They have to prove naturism is ‘wholesome’ which in itself is a little cringe. That sneaky little puritanical word is often used to invalidate one’s morality. As naturists, should we allow that word into our lexicon to cast judgment on the morality of one another?
As naturists, we exist in the shadow and legacy of morally strict people like Anthony Comstock with impossible standards of modesty and purity that have become value judgments on our worth. When the naturists’ movement began in the US the only way to gain freedom was to align yourself with the moral majority. However, the second you took your clothes off around strangers, the moral majority judged your morality and decided that you were a deviant without knowing anything about you.
I also think the Twitterverse is primarily through the lens of landed clubs that tend to be welcome to families. So let’s be clear, I’m not advocating for massive orgies, digital sexual assault e.g. non-consensual photo sharing, lewd exposure to non-consenting individuals, or anything else disrespectful and non-consensual. Should you open your relationship and join the ‘lifestyle’?…no! Not if it’s something you don’t enjoy and the result of a healthy conversation you and your partner have had. You don’t have to engage but you also don’t need to judge them and call them cheaters. Conversely, if you’re part of the lifestyle you shouldn’t evangelize to monogamous couples about the lifestyle being clearly motivated by your desire to hook up with that couple. Should youth & family-focused clubs have strict expectations for adult behavior especially in public…yes! In most cases landed club rules exist to keep both women and children safe. As a survivor safety is of the utmost importance. But also, maybe making single men have signed notarized letters from their spouse (typically a wife) is excessive? The “no single men” rules are usually a response to men that behave badly. We don’t need rules. We need better men. Men that treat women as autonomous beings in control over their own sexuality; women that don’t owe you a favorable response to your advances, I digress.
What I am suggesting is for naturists to stop (apparently) using sex and sexuality as a method of gatekeeping, shunning, avoiding, blocking and shaming naturists that don’t hide or feel shame regarding their sexuality. I am suggesting that naturists educate themselves on topics of a sexual nature. I’d encourage naturists to learn about the various forms of monogamy and non-monogamy, ways asexuality and solo sexuality manifest themselves, and exhibitionism versus voyeurism and its types. For example, exhibitionism is individual. For some, it is the act of lewd exposure and the thrill of people witnessing them in a sexual act. For others the thrill is entirely cerebral – the thought of (and the act of) being “exposed” as a function of socialization having taught us that being nude is taboo or naughty.
There is nothing inherently wrong with human sexuality so long as it is experienced in an appropriate time and place. It’s normal, healthy, and natural. My parents were huge on appropriateness. “There’s a time and a place for everything.” was usually the lecture we got when we were just a little rambunctious in the house. It was important to my parents that we understood that inside the house was not the same as the playground outside. The same is true for naturist spaces. Not every time or place is appropriate for displays of adult sexuality. There need to be places that are appropriate for all ages and comfort levels. But there can also be some spaces to embrace the adult aspects of your humanity. It’s something that theoretically should be championed by all of us who are champions for natural human existence. One of the reasons I prefer clothing-optional spaces instead of nude only is because of choice. Adults should be able to decide what they are comfortable with. We all rush to adulthood for a taste of that sweet, sweet, autonomy. That applies to our sexual selves as well. We don’t have to agree but we can respect one another and expect a baseline level of maturity and respect. Having determined what we’re comfortable with, adults should be able to set boundaries that are kind and respectful, and free of judgment.
We should never forget that naturism should be fun. It should be a respite from textile life. Naturism should be meeting one another eye-to-eye wherever we may be on our respective journeys; with all of the things we bring to that meeting being free of judgments and assumptions. Naturism is big enough for us all, regardless of how we appropriately and respectfully interact with it.
Fundamentally, both naturism and sex are a state of mind that becomes a state of being. Adults should be able to consent to which they’d like to engage.
Sexpositive and Nudist. Can that even be a thing?
Sexpositve and Nudist, can that even be a thing? It’s something that has come up multiple times for Lynn and I. We live in an online world and feel the struggle to promote sexpositivity and nudism. But honestly, it’s the sexpositivity that seems to be more accepting of the idea of nudism than nudism is to the idea of sexpositivity.
For starters, Nudism is on its great crusader mission to take back the holy land of nudity from the prudish world of Agrarian Patriarchy that has been supported through regimes and religions throughout the ages. As we gain enlightenment away from the traditional conforms of social structure and traditional practices of religion, the act of practicing naturism has had a place to start growing in the world. Social media and the seemingly ease of connectivity of niche interest groups like nudism has really allowed these communities to grow.
What has also grown is access to sexual things! SEX, one of the dirtiest of all the words of the church…I mean nudist community. I get it- porn is abundant in so many forms and in so many places, and we pure nudists want to reach a larger, broader audience, to join us in our non-sexual nakedness. So like the church separating itself from the world to stand on its own righteous platform, nudists have also chosen this same method. A righteous platform to stand out differently from the world. Which, if you don’t have a Christian upbringing, “the world” is everyone that doesn’t believe and or practices like you believe. A derogatory name for “outsiders,” that creates a distinct line between them and us.
As a person who used to purposefully segregate their life from those who are going to heaven from those who are not going to heaven, I have the hardest of times being part of a community that also feels almost idealistically indistinguishable to the culture of the church that I had invested so much time working for and an even harder time leaving.
Look, I get it. There is a balance to all things life. The typical yin and yang, good and evil, safe and unsafe, sober and drunk, but why does it feel like nudism as a whole, doesn’t feel balanced? It’s my belief that this imbalance alone, in a world that is progressively getting more inclusive and understanding of people’s differences, that keeps nudism stuck in the past, along with the church.
Now, has anyone asked what are the reasons why there is so much separation? Because abstinence makes men safer to be around… right?!? I fucking said it. This idea of self control is just as much a power play of the church that has pervasively set its grips on controlling sexuality since the invention of male circumcision. In the words of Dan Savage, “if you can control their dicks you can make them do anything.” Because controlling their dicks through abstinence made men fight harder in war, made them better tools for the ruling classes, less distracted to do work, all the necessary things for a controlled population to cultivate fields, culture, and religion. Has this worked, no. Is it working. No. The side effects. Repressed human sexuality for humanity as a whole. Good job humanity.
I believe that the ultimate problem is not just trying to normalize nudity, but also sexuality. In the normalizing of sexuality through cultural education and the standards of consent, not only would we see safer communities for females, but also for our children. The problem isn’t getting people used to open sexuality or open nudity, the problem is getting people used to being good humans. Look there is no simple solution for this, but I can tell you what I believe doesn’t work- trying to separate sexuality from the human body. And yes there are broader definitions of sexuality here. I can say this, If we want people to feel safe in their skin, they also must feel safe in their sexuality. They also must not feel like they are going to be the unwanted object of sexuality. We are trying to teach people consent, even in nudism. When we are naked socially, we are given consent to be seen as naked, but what we aren’t giving consent is to be objectified and sexualized. How can we teach this simple fact without teaching consent about sexuality at the same time? I don’t believe it is possible. I think it’s foolish to try and separate it. You won’t have women feel safe at nudist resorts, you won’t have women feel safe at nude beaches. You won’t have women feel safe, if they don’t feel safe when they are clothed, how can we expect this to be this way if they are naked?
The major portion to all of this for me is the role of the man. As someone who has a wife and daughter, I see firsthand the evidence of the male culture having a profound effect on the female psyche. In society, culture, art, jobs, and media, a male dominant force exists where it doesn’t always feel safe to be anything other than a man. All of our measurements are written around and based off of this male force. Is it a wonder that our nudist places are mostly men, where men culturally have had the freedom to do as they please? Are we surprised that most social media forums for nudist are in fact 75% male? Unfortunately, until our male society learns to see all genders as equal, none of this will be possible. It’s also the reason why I believe that our sexuality in our American culture mostly comes from the male gaze, and mainly the white male gaze. Porn in the last 10 years has only just started to be directed by females, or even people of color.
So how do we promote positive sex-free nudity, and positive sexuality? By teaching the next generation and supplying that next generation with the knowledge and examples that all humans are created equal. That we all have the right to exist, love, express, and enjoy our lives to the fullest. We teach our boys how to love, how to have sex, how to be naked without shame, how to see naked without shame and how to exist and be validated by achieving and having success without destroying or owning others.
Yes, we are not perfect in how we display ourselves socially. Fault us for that. But what we aren’t afraid to do is show our genuine sexpositve, real world desire for each other. We don’t show ourselves as sexual entertainment when we share our #sexpositive sides to our life, but real genuine consensual sexuality. We believe we are advocates for normalizing what it means to be loving natural humans. Humans have bodies. Fun bodies. Naked bodies. Strong bodies. Lovely bodies. Sexy bodies. Safe bodies. Cared for bodies. Loved bodies. All bodies.
Not all nudity is sexual, and not all sexuality is nude. Not all sex is porn and not all porn is sex. We should learn the differences and celebrate it all.
These are two things I know:
First, if you casually mention attending a nude social event, your mom, co-worker, dog, someone will make some question regarding swinging, sex cults, or orgies.
Second, if you attend a social event with a naturist group, anywhere from one to seven members will explain — at length — that nudity isn’t sexual and there isn’t an ounce of sexuality in their group.
Incredibly different perspectives. So who’s right?
I have noticed many self-proclaimed naturists insist that nudity and sex are totally separate and nary shall the two meet. Some take it as far as actively oppressing mention of anything remotely sexual. I’m sure this comes from a well-intentioned place of wanting to protect naturism and give it a safe, wholesome image. However, the implication of this message is that sex is bad. It’s also unrealistic: Humans have bodies. Humans are sexual. And naturists are humans, just like everyone else.
Sex positivity and naturism have both been critical components in my own processing of and healing from trauma. I reject the premise that these things must be mutually exclusive. I’ve been trying to unpack and reconcile the pieces, and it’s incredibly important to me to open up that discussion in our communities. How do we reconcile these things, and why should we?
Sex positivity (and, inherently, sex education) are critical for the overall health and well being of humans. Explicit, continued, and enthusiastic consent is at the core of sex positivity. Per Carol Queen: “Sex positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationship structures, and individual choices based on consent.” To put it another way, look at these examples of sex negativity: violence toward sex workers, trans women, and femmes; abstinence-only sex education/sex education that only teaches about reproductive sex; and slut-shaming and victim-blaming (to name a few).
If you’re not actively working to be sex-positive, you’re sex-negative. And here, naturist/nudist groups can do better. It’s vital to creating an inclusive community. If my first introduction to a community is that “nudity isn’t sexual!”, I feel shamed for existing as a human that is both sexual and, preferably, naked. Insisting that nudity and sex don’t overlap? That’s sex-negativity. Actively oppressing any conversation that touches on a sexual topic? That’s sex-negativity.
So, how do we reconcile these things in a way that is healthy and safe? It’s a much larger conversation, and one that I hope more naturists/nudists can engage in. I’m not suggesting that everyone begin discussing sexual topics whenever and however they want. It should go without saying, but respect and consent are paramount. Not every situation is appropriate for discussing sexual topics. What I do suggest is analyzing our own internalized sex-negativity and how it presents itself in the way we communicate. The words we use and the implications they carry are meaningful.
As for me, I’m striking “nudity isn’t sexual” from my lexicon. Nudity isn’t always sexual, but sometimes it is. Instead, I’ll assure newcomers that my local group is not for hookups (it’s not) and unsolicited advances are grounds for removal (they are). I am choosing to refocus the message on consent rather than sexuality. I’m capable of being nude and sexual, clothed and sexual, or non-sexual with or without clothes. All configurations of these things are valid choices and deserving of respect.