Sunday, May 30, 2010

What Has Skinbook Done for You Lately?

The answer is probably absolutely nothing. Skinbook is free to join, and the old adage "you get what you pay for" is apropos.

With no publication, no paid membership, no government liasons, no clubs or venues, and no real philosophy or statement of purpose, Skinbook seems to represent only itself, making a profit from advertising on the site, and selling t-shirts and other paraphernalia in their shop. Have you seen their Twitter feed? It's basically just an advertising vehicle for the Terra Cotta Inn.

You are probably already aware of the poorly researched Time Magazine article on Skinbook, which repeats the website's slogan of being the Internet's "only genuine nudist social network", completely bypassing other established organizations like AANR, TNS, Nudist Clubhouse and

Skinbook fills a void which was allowed to grow due to the fact that AANR and TNS have long ignored the Internet as a means of social networking, preferring instead to organize real face-to-face conventions, gatherings and events. Ironically, Skinbook is now attempting to do the same, claiming that an estimated 800 "Skinbookers" will be getting together at the British resort of Brighton in July. Can the young founders of Skinbook really pull off such a large nude event with no technical, legal, organizational or criminal entanglements? Time will tell.

The problem with Skinbook is that it was founded upon shame, by people who admit to being embarrassed by their nude lifestyles and were uncomfortable on Facebook. 25 year-old co-founder Karl Maddocks also expresses some disgust for "elderly guys in sandals" at a nudist "colony". Such age discrimination is not only troubling, it's contrary to all accepted nudist and naturist philosophies. Maddocks also inferred that nudity should be primarily for the young and fit, admitting in a Times interview that "he works out regularly and that part of the joy of stripping off in his twenties is “we’re all going to look crap naked one day”.

In contrast, AANR and TNS profess that all bodies are good, all ages are welcome, and that nudists and naturists should be proud of their lifestyles.

There is also no way to know if the people you are communicating with on Skinbook are actually who they profess to be. The screening process, which appears to be completely arbitrary based upon the whims of the founders, rejects 90% of all applicants. This has to raise a red flag about the sort of people the site is attracting in the first place, but it also raises the question about how many real nudists are being shut out. A thread late last year on the forum alleges that some nudists were banned from the site, and those that managed to get an account found the site to be nothing more than a "meat market."

On another nudist forum under a subject called "Banned from Skinbook", one member alleges that Skinbook "was a much better place before all the pervs showed up." Yet another nudist forum is filled with people claiming to have been banned from Skinbook for no reason.

It is also reported that Cheri Alexander, founder of the Travelites non-landed group in South Carolina, has been banned from Skinbook. Cheri issued the following statement: “Skinbook is no longer going to be as genuine. The Admins are only now allowed to moderate photos. We can no longer moderate posts, blogs, members, nor can we remove members who are not acting appropriately."

Facebook has been struggling with privacy issues since its inception, so you can imagine the potential for misuse of personal photos and information on an amateurish site like Skinbook. Witness the very real attempt by Skinbook's administrators last year to establish a "Name and Shame" blog, exposing real people attempting to open a Skinbook account who did not meet the approval of screeners, and blackmailing them for a public apology. "Skinbook also encourages female members to “name and shame” any lecherous men."

Do you really want to place your personal photos and information in the hands of such reckless amateurs? If they simply don't like you, or disapprove of something you said or did, they can ban you, suspend you, and even expose you.

Established nudist and naturist organizations, who continually fight for nude rights, have solid network affiliations with respected nudist venues, and represent established nudist principles and philosophies, need to establish their own social networking online for members. AANR and TNS are both on Facebook but with marginal success, at best. Allowing sites like Skinbook and True Nudists to assume the mantle of representing nudism is a failure of organizational leadership, and a lack of foresight and imagination.

Instead of creating a "meat market" for those who are "nude curious", AANR and TNS could start their own joint NING account for card-carrying members only, establishing an online means where members could make new friends and promote their groups and venues to each other. More unification, less division.

I once thought that Skinbook was part of nudism's future. I now believe that such rogue nude networking sites only serve to further isolate people from engaging in real social nudism, allowing them to live as "fantasy nudists". There is no way to effectively measure just how many of Skinbook's members are only these fantasy nudists, and how many are out practicing social nudism in the real world.

Nudists and naturists deserve a real, safe online social networking site with clear and established guidelines. It's a shame that when so many people and organizations are working so hard to make nudism and naturism more acceptable in society, Skinbook gets written up in Time magazine merely because it's trendy. Nudists and naturists deserve far better than this superficial, self-serving marketing ploy known as Skinbook.