Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Proud to be a Naturist - Andre

Andre, please tell us a little about how you became a nudist / naturist, and what advice you would have for others considering the lifestyle.

My love affair with naturism all started, back in 2004, when I was watching a documentary on UK television one evening called “Diary of a Teenage Nudist” about a teenage girl called Bianca who was born and raised in a naturist club with her mother, step-father and sister but for personal reasons, she stopped being a naturist. The purpose of this documentary was to find out what interested young people to become naturists and to see if she becomes a naturist again herself. After watching it, it got me thinking - how everyone who was taking part within the documentary was having fun and getting just fine with each other regardless of body shape. The documentary even showed me that there is a clear distinction between sex and just plain nudity. I thought maybe just maybe naturism could be for me.

A few days after watching the documentary, I started to do some research about naturism on the Internet. I came across naturist blogs and forums with text and links that provided a very healthy and positive outlook on the naturist lifestyle. It was a big surprise to see pictures and to read reports of naturism being practiced all over the world. For some reason, I believed that naturism was only practiced by old people, and for free-spirited people of European decent, this turned my head upside down and made me understand that naturism is for everybody! I saw pictures online of people and even entire families enjoying nude recreation. It was clear to me that these picture are not pornographic. The people in the photos were not perfect-looking people, nor was anyone posing in a sexual manner. After a bit of thinking I joined British Naturism and a naturist club near the city of Birmingham (UK) called Spectrum. Since then I have never looked back.

My advise for anyone who wants to become a naturist is to first establish that there is nothing necessarily sexual about nudity. Once that is overcome start doing more things at home nude like sleeping naked, not putting on clothes straight after a shower or bath, do as much housework or your one personal social time at home nude and if you a private garden try being nude outside. After all that, if one still enjoy the feeling of being nude I suggest starting to search online for your nearest naturist club or beach, join and get in contact with your national body for naturism for more information about local naturists clubs, ask if one can join one and just enjoy it! Naturists are always welcoming and friendly so new people to naturism should have nothing to worry about.

One last piece of advise is from a website I came across a while back and I forgot the URL, but it goes something like this:

“Don't be hampered if you feel your body is inadequate. Once you attend for the first time, you will find that most people there have something wrong with their bodies, be it being overweight, a small penis, a large penis, sagging breasts, small breasts, a pot-belly and much more. Everybody is different and nobody cares anyway.”

So just try it if you haven’t already, you might enjoy it.

Have you told family, co-workers and/or friends about the fact that you enjoy nudism / naturism, and what have been their reactions? Have you convinced anyone else to join you at a naturist event or venue?

One of my aunts and most of my friends do know I am a naturist and the reaction I get from them is quite positive. The initial impressions I got when I told them was shock (many of the people I have told find that I’m a naturist being out of charter for me), followed with the odd giggle (the kind of giggling you can get with immature people who find nudity funny or sexual) and then praise (they would be often impressed that I am able to get nude in front of other people and I am so comfortable with my own body). I haven’t told my immediate family (my mother/father, grandparents) as yet because regardless of what I say to them, I don’t believe they would ever understand why I am and why I enjoy naturism.

One of the greatest challenges to nudism / naturism today is the aging population at parks and camps. Have you any ideas or advice on how venues and clubs can attract younger people?

I do have many ideas which I think venues and clubs could adopt to attract younger people, but I do worry that some older naturists may not welcome some of my suggestions:

Make membership for young people as cheap as possible. A lot of young people are on low incomes nowadays (especially students) so any financial help offered by naturist venues and clubs can show that they are keen to have younger people come to them - a signal of intent as it were from the clubs towards the youth.

Include more images of young people in naturist venues and clubs’ marketing strategies. In my opinion, the clubs need to show pictures relevant to young people - pictures of other young people. For example, the first every issue of the British Naturism magazine that I received when I became a naturist feature a picture on the front page of a group of young naturists on holiday in Greece. After seeing that picture I was in no doubt that naturism values young people and it was for young people like me.

Venues and clubs need to provide facilities that young people highly value, this could include: high speed WiFi across the club grounds or just the club house, a choice of game consoles such as the Wii or Xbox and possibly satellite TV.

There should be more special events that are aimed at young people at naturist venues and clubs, these could be: nude debates and talks by a guest speaker, open mic nights (this is an event which allows any talented young naturists can preform a song or other talent to the rest of the club), nude yoga and body painting.

Naturist venues and clubs should try to have more young people on their management team or boards, this is to ensure the interests of the youth and are better represented within the clubs.

Clubs should scrap any rules regarding tattoos or body piercings. I know that this is a very touchy subject for some naturists, especially if it's genital piercings. But a lot of young people have them (I have a number of facial piercings), so to refuse membership or entrance to any naturists or would be naturists just because they have tattoos or any form of body piercings will be counter productive and I believe will harm naturism in the long run. I know of one young female naturist who has a number of tattoos all over her body, refused membership to many of her local clubs, and is forced to travel almost across the UK to clubs who are more accepting.

I believe that venues and clubs should provide free or heavily discounted transport to and from nearby major train or bus stations. Some venues and clubs can be quite remote for some young people to be willing to travel to by themselves, especially if never been to a naturist club. So by having some sort of welcoming party and transport to meet the young people at the stations, this might make them feel more welcome, valued and wanted by the club.

Do you belong to a nudist / naturist organization? What advice would you give your organization in order to improve and expand membership?

Yes I do belong to a naturist organization which is British Naturism (aka BN) and through them I am a member of YBN (aka Young British Naturists). I have been a member of both British Naturism and YBN for about two years or so. I love been a member of British Naturism because of all the work they do to promote naturism, protect naturists beaches and our rights here in the UK. I also enjoy being a member of YBN because it gives me the opportunity to meet other young naturists from across the UK and even around the world.

I very much would like BN to have more of an online presence with videos promoting naturism and clothes freedom. Secondly, I would like to see BN promote themselves and membership to BN in a more mainstream fashion. For example, I would love to see BN being advertised in cinemas, national newspapers and maybe even TV adverts. Furthermore, I would love to see BN representatives get more involved in talk-shows and televised debates to argue the case for naturism.

What are your favorite sources for nudist / naturist news and information?

Well your blog first and foremost, but others include British Naturism magazine, Going Natural magazine from The Federation of Canadian Naturists (FCN), The Academic Naturist, The International Nudist, ClothesFree.com and The Thoughtful Naturist.

Nudists / naturists have always struggled with misconceptions by the general public that the lifestyle is sexual in nature. How would you deal with the increasing involvement with "swingers" into the lifestyle, coupled with the decrease of families and children? Do you think it's possible for nudism / naturism to survive as a family-friendly recreation in a society so consumed in pornography and sex?

Let me start my saying that I really hate swinging. The problem with swinging is that it’s a national (if not international) phenomenon which seems to have overshadowed what naturism is all about. Thus, making it harder for actual naturists to make it clear to the world that naturism has nothing to with sex. We are born naked, our natural state is naked and, though people have sex naked and most pornography is naked, erotic clothing is much more sexual and it is unfortunate that these things have brought nudity and therefore naturism a bad name. As K. Bacher’s essay (called “205 Arguments and Observations In Support of Naturism”) explains:
Nudity is often confused with pornography in our society because the pornography industry has so successfully exploited it. In other words, nudity is often damned as exploitative precisely because its repression causes many to exploit it.

Pornography has been defined as an attempt to exert power over nature. In most cases in our culture, it manifests itself as an expression of sexual power by men over women. Naturism, by contrast, seeks to coexist with nature and with each other, and to accept each other and the natural world in our most natural states.

Non-acceptance and repression of nudity fuels pornography by teaching that any form and degree of nudity is inherently sexual and pornographic. In the words of activist Melissa Farley, “pornography is the antithesis of freedom for women... to treat the human body as anything less than normal and beautiful is to promote puritanism and pornography. If the human body is accepted by society as normal, the pornographers won't be able to market it.

Naturism is innocent, casual, non-exploitative, and non-commercial (and yet is often suppressed); as opposed to pornography, which is commercialized and sensationalized (and generally tolerated).
Now going back to the questions - the world has changed a great deal since the early days of naturism and the idea of how a family may look has changed greatly as well. For example, couples are still getting together and having children but not getting married in such great numbers, people who have been married are getting or are divorced, and there are now legally recognised gay and lesbian couples which may be in a civil partnership or in a committed long term relationship with their own children. But the question that naturists should be asking themselves is “should we or can we incorporate them all into naturism?” I believe for naturism to stay alive, the answer should be yes.

According to the international definition adopted by the XIV Congress of the International Naturist Federation (Agde, 1974), naturism is “a lifestyle in harmony with nature, expressed through social nudity, and characterised by self-respect of people with different opinions and of the environment”. No where in that definition does it talk about families and children, as far as I’m concerned anyone can be a naturist, as British Naturism states on their website:
Anyone can be a naturist. Your background, age, shape, race, creed and colour are irrelevant when it comes to enjoying the freedom of naturism, which is why it attracts people from all walks of life. Naturists practise social nudity, aimed at encouraging self respect, respect for others and the environment. We only enjoy clothes-free activities in the right environment, among like-minded naturists...
I believe naturism is for families of all shapes, types and sizes as well as for people without families. I believe that naturism is the antithesis of pornography because it shows nudity is not sexual at all unless you make it so. I believe there is no room for swinging within naturism and as naturists we need to keep proactive in screening new members to naturist clubs and venues and to publicly criticize any swingers who socialize naturism with swinging, because in my opinion they are two complete different things and swinging is giving naturism a bad name. Also any national naturist bodies such as British Naturism should refuse to promote or even blacklist any naturist club or venue who knowingly allow swinging to take place on their property. I love naturism and I want to see as many people to be involve in it, however I don’t what naturism and its positive attributes to be blemished by the reckless few who hijack naturism for their sexual deviances.

Are you involved in any body-freedom activism, such as nude protests, the World Naked Bike Ride, etc.? Are you ever nude when other people are clothed, such as working as an artist's model?

No I’m not involved in any body-freedom activism but I do plan to take part the World Naked Bike Ride, Brighton UK this year. Regarding if I’m ever nude when other people are clothed - I am usually clothed when others are clothed, as I feel very uncomfortable being nude around clothed people (I wrote in detail about this on my blog). I believe Marc-Alain Descamps, the French social psychologist best summarizes my feelings about this:
...the reciprocal visual bestowal of complete nudity defuses the exhibitionist/voyeur relationship.” If one person is dressed while others are nude, it is difficult, even for a naturist, to get away completely from voyeurism.
I’m a strong believe that if you are going to make your way to a naturist club or venue, unless you are cold or ill, you should be nude. What is the point of naturism, if the key part of naturism (the nudity and the social nudity with your fellow naturist) is hidden away under your clothing?

Technology has given teens and adults the means to upload and share nude photos of themselves. Do you think that this phenomenon will have positive or negative ramifications for nudism / naturism in the long run?

I believe it depends on the reasons why these individuals are uploading these pictures. If they are over 18 years old and they are naturists sharing nude pictures with other naturists, then I don’t see a problem. If the individuals are under 18 years old I don’t believe that is wise for them to share pictures online at all, as I believe there will be people online seeking those pictures in particular for the wrong reasons. I believe that this phenomenon could have positive ramifications for nudism / naturism in the as long as the pictures themselves are not pornographic or overtly sexual. My main worry is people who seek these pictures for the wrong reasons and people who simply hate naturism who are looking for a reason to bring it down.

Has being a nudist / naturist made you more respectful of your body and environment?Do you try and live a more healthy lifestyle as a result of being nude?

Becoming a naturist has made me love myself more despite it faults. I love being nude outside with nature, with the wind and sometimes the rain against my body it’s a great feeling. I believe me becoming a naturist has given me a great respect for the environment as I now try to recycle, I buy less clothes and use public transport when I can. When is hotter I do plan to go on more walks in the nude at naturists clubs which have their own woods and nature walks and maybe even go on a nude hike with other naturists.

Please take this opportunity to add anything else you would like to say about yourself or the nudist / naturist lifestyle.

I just want to close by saying: I am a naturist and nudity is my uniform. I love naturism with all my heart and I would love others to enjoy naturism as much as I do. And to be free from their body shame, society's mixed-up views on the nude human body and to be free from wearing crappy clothes for a while.

Follow Andre on his blog I-Naked / I-Nudist

(This is the first of what I hope will be a series of profiles on real nudists and naturists. If you are interested in being profiled here, please drop me a message to nudiarist@gmail.com and we'll talk about it.)


Anonymous said...

I thought this was a very good article and agreed with many of his answers. However there is one issue that was not addressed that I would have liked to see discussed.

As a naturist of color I would have liked to hear Andre's thoughts on the subject of why we seem to be few and far between. I understand that naturism is for everyone. Yet from what I've seen online and my own experiences with social nudity a large majority of naturists are Caucasian. There seems to be little to no discussion on the subject in naturist circles. I once e-mailed AANR to see what they were doing to attract more people of color and have yet to receive a reply. As much talk as there is about getting more young people into naturist there needs to be more discussion about increasing diversity as well.

Transplanted Pilot said...

I too am black and to see other people of color participate is this activity is beneficial to all of us, no matter what the color.

The lack of awareness of what the lifestyle is all about is a a factor. Finally, there is an issue of perception and how nudism is portrayed. Publications are basically white, thin, attractive people, who are sun bathing and we all know that this is not the realitiy of nudism.

MrJeuqe said...

I thought about the same issue and I am glad someone said something. Great job.