More Than Nudity

If you think back to the last time you walked through a museum or an art gallery, there were undoubtedly at least a few pieces featuring nudity… maybe photography, paintings, or sculpture. Maybe a piece of film, a sketch, or some pottery, even. Nudes in repose, nudes in action. Nudes in daylight, nudes in candle light. Nudes of common folk and peasants, nudes of gods and heroes. Nudes in nature, and nudes in homes, courtyards, battlefields, beds. Nudes that tell a story, nudes that refuse to.

Artist at work, reflection” by Lucien Freud (1993) is a nude self-portrait of an aging artist with nothing to hide.

Despite a few art classes here and there, I am not an art historian, nor am I an art critic, but it seems clear in viewing any of this art that the point is not the nudity. It’s not nudity for the sake of nudity. It’s not about the skin or the breasts or the genitals. It’s not gratuitous flesh. Every nude body is there for a reason: The nudity serves a role, reinforces a theme or message, instills something in the work that a clothed image would not or could not. A nude body in a work of art could betray human vulnerability, but it could also herald strength and power. It could celebrate the innocence of youth, or lament the ravages of time. It tells us about the people, the values, the standards of beauty and morality of the era. Nudity is the vehicle to tell that story, to humanize the image, capture our emotions, and connect us to different experiences and worlds and times.

Bathing. Summer Evening” by Felix Vallotton (1892) caused outrage and uproar among critics when it debuted for daring to feature the nudity of average, everyday women as opposed to the idealized or eroticized bodies of aristocrats and mythical characters.

Almost as soon as I created this blog and started writing about my experiences and thoughts around nudism, I started receiving comments from readers, usually with positive feedback or kind words, but occasionally less so. And that’s fine. Particularly, whenever I write or Tweet about queer experiences in relation to nudism (such as my entry, Naturism and the Gay Body), I tend to get a couple of comments that basically boil down to, “What does being gay have to do with nudism? Nudism is not about sex!” It’s always a little disheartening to feel… well… intentionally misunderstood. I know nudism is not about sex. I wish the people leaving comments like these knew that being gay is also not about sex, but more importantly, I wish they could see beyond their own experiences and, in the spirit of boundary-breaking nudism, consider a new perspective. It’s also not lost on me that almost every one of those comments comes from someone with “Christian nudist” in their profile somewhere. While they question what being gay could possibly have to do with nudism, I could very well respond in turn, “well, what does being Christian have to do with nudism?” But I don’t need to do that.

One of the things I love about the nudist and naturist community is that, since none of us can help but see the world through our own eyes, we all come to it with a different perspective, each of us finding meaning in nudity and body freedom that’s inspired by our experiences and values. I may not be a religious person, but I love to see Christian nudists and naturists who find the practice of nudism to enhance their faith, their spirituality, their connection with God. I love to see Christians analyzing and evaluating the Bible through a nudist lens, questioning traditional interpretations and imbuing their understanding of the text with a holy and celebratory view of the body. It’s not how I view the world, it’s not my faith, but I respect that perspective and the idea that nudism can be a vehicle to finding deeper meaning in one’s spiritual practices. I don’t have to ask what Christianity has to do with nudism, I can simply trust that Christian nudists are finding meaningful connections and be happy for them.

And that’s just it. In much the same way that nudity in art can carry all sorts of meaning beyond just nudity, nudity in everyday life can also carry a different importance beyond just being naked. I don’t mean to imply that being a nudist is comparable to being a renaissance painter… we’re moving from “big C” Culture to “little c” culture, from nudity in fine art to nudity in everyday life, but the principle remains. When you hear people talk about the reasons they love nudism, being socially nude, being nude in nature, etc., the list never starts and ends at, “I like being naked.” There’s always more: It feels good; It connects people; It liberates; It makes you feel like a part of nature, like a part of something bigger; It sheds all of the shame and expectations and allows you to just be. It’s not the nudity that we’re drawn to, it’s where the nudity takes us, what we learn about ourselves and others, what we overcome.

What I bring to my writing is a perspective that is unique to me, informed by my experiences and values, by what I know, the stories of people close to me, and how I see the world. Sometimes that means exploring the ways that nudity can be empowering and liberating for queer people. That doesn’t mean that mine is the only correct experience, only that it’s one of many, and I think it’s fascinating that nudity can have that power for people like me. What does being gay have to do with nudism? Nothing! But also, everything! Being gay and being a nudist are both integral to who I am, so it’s just as hard for me to separate the two from each other as it is to separate either of them from me. I can’t imagine being a gay man who isn’t a nudist, and I can’t imagine being a nudist without my experience of queerness. I enjoy nudism because I like to be naked, and I like to be naked because it connects me to a deeper level of myself, to others, to nature.

I also know that mine is not a universal experience, that others will have other intersecting values that they couldn’t imagine separating. And I want to know, what does it have to do with nudism? Truly, I’m asking. What does your interest in environmentalism and sustainability have to do with naturism? What does your passion for elevating women’s voices have to do with nudism? What does being a person of color or of indigenous background have to do with nudism? What does your love of photography, film, history, music, art have to do with nudism? I want to know all about it. I want to know the ways that nudity enhances your connection to the earth and the responsibility you feel to care for the natural world. I want to know how nudity can be a liberating force for women to free themselves of ridiculous beauty standards, harassment, shame, and all of the oppressive burdens placed on their bodies. I want to know how nudity can help historically marginalized, disenfranchised, and objectified groups reclaim their bodies, feel empowered, and find community. I want to know all of it, because these rich experiences enhance my appreciation not only for nudism but for the experiences and interests of others.

I think we should all share what it is about nudity or this community that is meaningful to us. And I think we should all try to be curious—about what is bringing us to this shared community, this Venn diagram of all sorts of different overlapping experiences and values and beliefs, the appreciation for the power of nudity there at the center. Is it the nudity that brings us together, or is it something deeper, something about the exploration and discovery that the nudity allows? We don’t need to challenge the importance that nudity has for other people in order to validate the importance it has to us personally, we can simply appreciate that embracing nudity might play a slightly different role in others’ lives than it does in our own. That’s a beautiful and radical thing.

Are you jealous” by Paul Gauguin (1892) celebrates connection to nature, paradise, and the sexual liberation enjoyed by the people of Tahiti, while also revealing the gaze and perspective of the Western painter.

A World Naked Learning Moment

Taking place annually on the first Saturday in May, World Naked Gardening Day came and went last month as it does every year: with increasing enthusiasm from nudists and non-nudists alike. It’s one of a handful of similar “World Naked” holidays and events with a similar aim: Getting people to get naked doing something they already enjoy. In the case of World Naked Gardening Day, it’s as much a day to appreciate gardening as it is to celebrate body freedom, and if you search the hashtag on Instagram or Twitter, you might be surprised how many of the posts are from folks who wouldn’t ever call themselves nudists or naturists, who might have never stepped foot in a nudist resort or might never join a nudist organization, but who wouldn’t waste an opportunity to have a little fun and post thirst-traps with their houseplants and garden tools. Anything to try something new, throw off their clothes, and make the social media censors short-circuit. And I love that! So how can the nudist community replicate it?

I’ll be quite honest, there was a time when I wasn’t completely sold on World Naked Gardening Day, for no other reason than that it seemed specially tailored to those who… well… have a garden, a home, free time, privacy. In short, it felt like a made-up holiday that leans into the stereotypes people might have of nudists: that they’re primarily older, retired, middle-class, rural and suburban homeowners. As a young-ish, apartment-dwelling, nudist urbanite, I don’t always see my living situation represented in nudist literature or marketing or photography, and World Naked Gardening Day felt a little like it upheld that tradition of ignoring younger generations of nudists. In hindsight, that was a narrow and bitter perspective. Gardening isn’t just about elaborate landscaping, greenhouses, and vegetable plots. It’s just as much about potted houseplants, window boxes, and the little herbs people grow on their kitchen counter, and that’s what you’ll see if you scroll through social media: Plenty of people in their gardens, tending their flowers, lawns, and hedges, but just as many people in their apartments posing strategically with their succulents.

Frankly, maybe I was just salty because I have yet to be able to keep a succulent alive longer than a few months even though everyone keeps saying they’re the easiest plants to care for. My apologies to every succulent I’ve ever bought, may you rest in peace.

While I do enjoy taking time to care for my plant babies in the buff, something else I really appreciate about World Naked Gardening Day is that it explicitly connects human nudity with the natural world, a core tenet of nudist and naturist philosophy since those terms first came into use but which, in the 21st century, can sometimes play second fiddle to hot tubs and coffee selfies. There’s a lot wrong with the world, and while some of the world’s problems can be remedied by nudism’s ethos of body acceptance and human connection, there are also serious issues stemming from our relationship with the planet, the careless destruction of ecosystems, pollution, and limited of access to natural spaces. I’d like to imagine nudists and naturists as active champions of environmental stewardship and sustainable practices, advocates for our parks and trails and beaches, and World Naked Gardening Day feels like a respectful nod to that.

As I touched on earlier, World Naked Gardening Day also successfully taps into something else that the nudist and naturist community could really use: Attention from young people on social media… not just young but diverse and with seemingly balanced participation of men and women. What’s different about gardening, and why does it reach such a wide age range compared to other mainstays of the nudist community? Part of it can be chalked up to a miraculous, social-media fueled surge in interest in houseplants among millennials and gen Z, which was noted by a number of news outlets years before the pandemic hit but which was certainly further accelerated by it. Many attribute the plant parenting trend to the economic reality that younger generations face, such as low rates of homeownership, reduced access to their own gardens, and financial insecurity that puts raising a family just out of reach. Regardless of the reason, young people love their plants and the benefits are being felt in more ways than just hashtags on social media.

I know that many nudists love the traction that World Naked Gardening Day has achieved, but if we’re looking to be a welcoming community for more and more folks, we can’t just revel in the success of the hashtag. We need to learn from its success. The holiday itself was started long before the current plant parenthood trend among young apartment-dwellers, but there’s no reason it can’t still be a lesson in pinpointing interests, causes, and hobbies that span generations, especially ones that young people have embraced and incorporated into their lives, ones that are not only fun but have a feel-good, positive message. That seems to be the key to the success of both World Naked Gardening Day and its younger, more athletic sibling, the World Naked Bike Ride. While World Naked Gardening Day gives observers a time to connect with and care for a little piece of the natural world, the World Naked Bike Ride promotes human-powered transportation, raises awareness about the vulnerability of cyclists, and challenges fossil-fuel reliance. It’s worth noting that by sheer numbers—and because the nudist community is relatively small—both of these World Naked events appear to inspire participation from mostly non-nudists. Also worth noting is that both events aren’t just about having fun, they’re also about something—making the world a greener place—and I think that strikes a chord with young people who care deeply about the world they’re coming into and want to shape it into something better.

So give us a list of more examples! Tell us what to do!

Naked hiking to promote nature conservancy? Naked yoga to promote wellness and meditation? Naked art exhibitions to promote the arts?

Yes, yes, and yes, but hold your horses! A quick list of ideas and solutions can be helpful but it’s only going to get us so far. What I’m suggesting is a mindset among nudists and naturists—especially those who are leading the nudist movement and community—that stays tuned into the world around us. There is immense opportunity for nudists when we seek to understand how what we’re working towards is connected to the bigger picture, how our values and joys intersect with what else is going on in society and the environment. There’s opportunity in recognizing how cultural events like the World Naked Bike Ride and World Naked Gardening Day bring joy and positive change and ignite important conversations. There’s opportunity there when we acknowledge that the nudist movement shares more than just nudity with these events, but also an appreciation for the natural world. Seeking to be a part of that change for the sake of creating a better world means that nudists and naturists see themselves as part of the world and are invested in improving it in more ways than just making it more naked-friendly.

If nudists want to join the fun and have an impact, the nudist community would do well to seek out and embrace these moments and opportunities out of a shared belief in a common cause, not—and I say this with the utmost respect—with an agenda just to convert more non-nudists into nudists. The point is this: Let’s keep our eyes, ears, and mind open to what positive and impactful trends and causes young people are embracing and we might have a shot at giving them an excuse to have some fun, challenge fears about the human body, make some change… and do it naked. Not only for our own sake but with the goal of being part of public awareness in a positive way, to help people get more comfortable in their skin, to be a force for change, and to have an impact on the culture and misconceptions and stigmas around nudity… and if people end up calling themselves nudists and naturists because of that involvement, awesome! But I’ll settle for a greener planet where people are a little less worried about seeing naked bodies and a little more willing to connect with one another. I think that’s our goal, after all, isn’t it?

On Seeing & Being Seen

Last year, after my first visit to Olive Dell Ranch here in Southern California, I mentioned to a close, non-nudist friend of mine that I’d just gotten home from a day spent hiking and swimming at a nudist club, to which she responded, “I could never do that! Not unless my body was like… perfect!” And, caught off guard, I didn’t really know how to respond in the moment, because obviously that’s not a prerequisite to visiting a nudist venue, but it’s also difficult to dispel those deep-seated insecurities with a quick comeback. Besides, we laugh together about everything and we respect each other for having different views, so who am I to tell her how to feel about her body?

The trails at Olive Dell Ranch, June 2021

It’s also such a common train of thought: Everybody has a body, but not every body should be seen. Not those bodies. Certainly not my body. You hear it every day. Whether it’s the response to Britney Spears posting nudes on Instagram or a newspaper article about your city’s next World Naked Bike Ride or public discourse over “gratuitous” nudity in whatever new HBO series is currently airing or the punchline of a joke in some new movie or sitcom, throwaway comments about whose bodies should and should not be seen, which bits should stay hidden and which we can tolerate are unavoidable. From comments like, “nobody wants to see that,” to remarks about saggy breasts and floppy penises and fat rolls and wrinkles and knobby knees, it comes in the form of a universally shared inside joke at best, feigned outrage and vitriol and personal attacks at worst.

The comments are usually thoughtless, not made with any intention of malice, not made with any real goal to shame others’ bodies. If anything, they’re more a way to signal to others that, fear not! We, too, conform to social norms! We, too, know the rules and repeat the stigmas we’ve been taught! Fine. But the message remains clear, even if unconscious: Certain people with certain bodies don’t deserve to be seen. And so we simply perpetuate a system in which we never really see one another. Worse yet, the bodies that we accept as worthy of being seen nude are often not merely tolerated, but demanded, objectified, sexualized, and commodified, highlighting the contrast between “bad” bodies and “good” bodies, between bodies that should never be seen and bodies that the public feels entitled to see and consume. There’s almost no middle ground to just exist in one’s own skin.

I admit that, being a nudist, I may be biased, but I find that an incredibly sad way to think not only of others but of ourselves. I think most nudists would agree that overcoming the fear of being seen nude and of seeing others nude changed them, changed who they are and how they perceive themselves and others. That has been my experience, anyway, and I cannot count how many other nudists I’ve encountered who have excitedly, emphatically shared that same experience. So, is that what being a nudist or a naturist is about? Seeing and being seen?

Not quite. Nudism is not about seeing others naked or being seen naked, per se, but I also think it would be disingenuous to say that seeing and being seen are not part of what makes nudism so liberating and empowering. Overcoming the fear instilled in us throughout our upbringing and, for many of us, throughout much of our adult lives, by confronting head-on the anxiety associated with being nude in front of others is one part of it. Another part of it is a very sincere curiosity and a very human desire to know others and to be known for who we are, to be vulnerable, to be acknowledged and accepted and, yes, seen. Not seen for the sake of exhibition or attention. Not seen to show off or flaunt. Seen in order that the truest version of ourselves, warts and wrinkles and wounds laid bare, might be accepted and celebrated.

I don’t believe that nudists yearn to see naked bodies for the sake of seeing naked bodies, or that we yearn to put our naked bodies in front of others for the sake of having our naked bodies be seen. We already know what naked bodies look like; the novelty of undressing wears off fairly quickly. There’s something else there, though, because we do, generally, still yearn to be in the company of others without our clothes on. Were that not the case, we would content ourselves with lives of privacy and solitude, but privacy and solitude look and feel a lot like shame or oppression once you’ve known social nudity. It’s the company of others, the shared joy, the lowered guards. It’s seeing one another not for the way we’ve been socialized to dress but for who we are underneath. And, for some, maybe it’s something else entirely.

Perhaps that’s what makes me most sad about the “nobody wants to see me/you/them” comments. Because it’s not just about the body that’s being seen, it’s about the person being seen and understood and accepted. And I’m here to tell you that you do deserve to be seen for who you are and you do deserve to be known and vulnerable and celebrated for all of your parts and imperfections and uniqueness. I’m here to tell you, I want to see you. Not your breasts or your penis or your naked butt, but you comfortable in your skin and alight with joy and curiosity. Not for my sake, but for yours.

The next time I hear a friend say that nobody wants to see them nude, or that they don’t want to see someone else nude, maybe I’ll speak up. Maybe I’ll say, “I do.” Maybe I’ll ask, “Why not?” Or maybe I’ll smile like I usually do, like I’m in on the joke, like bodies are icky, wishing I could change their mind. Either way, I hope I can at least lead by example, without judgment or shame.

So You’re Not a Nudist. Great!

OK. So you’re not a nudist. You’d just rather keep your clothes on, thank you very much. Maybe you have had quite enough traumatizing public nudity in your high school gym class locker room and you have no interest reliving that experience. Maybe you feel a little uneasy about your shape, your imperfections, your psoriasis, that large mole, or a noticeable birthmark, and you’d rather keep those things tucked away. Or maybe you just don’t have any interest in getting naked—much less around other random people who are also naked—and any movement of people championing the right to do exactly that is… well… irrelevant to you. Those nudists are nuts.

Fair enough. While I do think dabbling in nudism might help you overcome some of those traumas and insecurities, you can keep your clothes on. I’m not going to fight you on that.

I am a nudist, and I have considered myself one for quite some time, but I am not naïve. I understand that most people simply are not nudists, that most people are not particularly interested in or knowledgeable about the nudist movement or nudist ideology, and I fully understand that a lot of people find it uncomfortable to see or even talk about nudity in general. I am at peace with that. In fact, almost all of my very best friends are non-nudists—or “textiles” as we affectionately call our less-enlightened, clothes-clutching counterparts—so I am under no delusion that nudism is a mainstream way of life or that non-nudists should just innately understand why nudists want to take off all their clothes and run around with each other in the sunshine.

I’m not here to convince you or anyone else of all the great things about nudism… I’m not here to tell you how great it feels to taste the breeze, the sea, and the sunshine on your skin, or to convince you of all the benefits of breaking down social barriers to connect with people on a more human level. There are plenty of other websites, articles, blogs, and Twitter threads out there that have those topics covered. Heck, I’ve probably even written some of them. No, instead I just want to convey why you, as a person who has no interest in becoming a nudist, can and should still care about what nudists believe in, what nudists stand for, what nudists have already achieved, and how we have contributed to the cultural zeitgeist. I just want you to see nudists less as weirdos and fringe activists and more as an integral—albeit quirky—part of the world that we all share. We are, after all, your neighbors, friends, and family members. We see the world a little differently, sure, but we value freedom of expression, connection with the natural world, and human diversity and unity, just like many of you do.


In a recent (adorable) BuzzFeed video on YouTube entitled Nudists Reveal Secrets About Nudist Communities, three nudists are interviewed on what it’s like to be a nudist, diving into everything from why they love it, what their first experience going nude with others was like, and how it has impacted their lives. They even tackle the deeply engrained public perception that nudists are mostly old guys (yes, there are a lot of old men… but we’re working on that, I promise). As much as I loved this video and seeing nudism represented in a positive light without sensationalizing naked bodies, it’s easy to casually consume and dismiss its content. It’s interesting and respectful and it raises awareness, but once the average person has seen it, they can carry on having learned a few tidbits about a way of life that seems quaint and quirky and completely removed from the way they themselves move through the world.

What wasn’t captured in that BuzzFeed video is a century-long struggle between nudists and their nosy NIMBY neighbors, moralizing mid-century matrons, meddling church leaders with far too much time on their hands, decades of recurring police raids, years of courtroom battles with the United States Post Office, and anti-nudity and anti-obscenity laws in nearly every state and metropolitan area, all of which eventually earning us the privilege of being interviewed about what it’s like to be a nudist as though it’s just as ordinary a way of life as beekeeping or veganism. And, yeah, it is just as ordinary, but it took a great deal of work to get here.

In many ways unseen by the general public, however, a lot of these little joys and privileges are still just as endangered as they’ve always been. There are still people fighting to shut down the few remaining nude beaches and to stop any new ones from being established. There are still states where it’s illegal to be a nudist (I’m looking at you, Arkansas). There are still laws in place that treat male and female breasts differently or that can land you on a sex offender registry for being caught urinating outdoors. There are still shockingly few spaces available in the United States to actually be a nudist, due in large part to decades of anti-obscenity laws.

Without decades of nudists advocating for the right to assemble and fighting local governments, there wouldn’t be nude beaches for BuzzFeed writers to visit and then write about how disappointing their experience was. Without decades of legal battles all over the country, you wouldn’t be able to ponder whether you’d like to maybe… someday… possibly try that nude yoga class you saw advertised at the studio across town. “No… I don’t know… Maybe not for me… What would my friends say?” Without decades of clothing-optional spaces being harassed and raided by cops, naked men and women being wrangled into police vans, you might still be able to be arrested if a prudish neighbor caught a glimpse of your naked body through a bedroom window. Without years of fighting against the USPS, you wouldn’t be able to send anything through the mail with even a hint of nudity, let alone sexual content. Without these struggles, there would be no World Naked Bike Ride for people to giggle at or complain about on Facebook. And I don’t think that’s a world that any of us want! Nudity, even if it’s silly or uncomfortable, makes life a little more interesting.

Unfortunately, all of that cultural struggle and all of those legal battles to carve out a space for ourselves has firmly planted the nudist movement in a sort of liminal space in our cultural consciousness: Neither completely erased nor fully actualized in its potential as a valid, accepted way of life, with a few legal protections here and there that keep nudists wrangled into small, socially palatable pockets but without much control over public perception of our own community, mentions of nudism in popular culture can be met with a grin or a wink while actual nudists struggle to organize events in their communities without causing outrage.

My friend Martin and me at a United Naturists event at Olive Dell Ranch in Southern California, July 2021

But we live in the twenty-first century and one of the most beautiful things about what society has evolved into is our ability to quite simply let other people enjoy things. We can do that. We can tolerate people liking things that we ourselves do not like or understand. We do it every day. Some people like music that I hate, but they are still allowed to roll all of their car windows down, turn up the volume, and drive down the street where I might be forced to hear a little bit of it while I’m out walking my dog. And that’s OK, because I share the planet with people who like different things. People can dress in ways that I don’t like, or do their hair in ways that I don’t like, or read books or watch TV shows that I don’t like, or have all kinds of beliefs or superstitions that I don’t share, but… you see where I’m going with this. Just because I don’t believe in astrology or like watching golf doesn’t mean that those things should be banned or criminalized or even stigmatized. Promoting nudism is of course about body acceptance, body freedom, and personal liberty, but it’s also about accepting that we can all enjoy different things while being respectful, causing no harm, and coexisting in the same world. We don’t need to go around policing behavior that isn’t harming anyone. That’s not the world that any of us really want to live in, is it?

I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah, sure, but nudity is different, because it’s wrong, gross, obscene, unnecessary, etc.!” Is it? Is it actually, though? People all over the world are naked right now. Showering, shaving, sleeping, making their first or second or third cup of coffee of the day, sitting on the toilet, having sex, trimming their nails, popping zits in the mirror, soaking up sunshine on a sandy beach, skinny-dipping with friends, enjoying a hot sauna, getting a check-up at the doctor’s office. The world is full of human bodies, roughly eight billion of them, every one with warts and scars and hair and buttholes and nipples and toes. How can that be obscene or gross or unnecessary? How can we honestly, genuinely claim to be offended by the sight or mention of the one thing that truly makes us all human: Having a human body? I just don’t buy it. I don’t buy that it’s normal or natural or authentic to be offended by nudity. We may be socialized to respond that way to nakedness, but that’s not who we are and we would not have survived as a species if it were natural to be offended by each other’s bodies.

And honestly, what is really so weird about nudity? What’s so weird about liking to be naked? Sure, maybe it’s a somewhat uncommon joy, but even then, is it really that uncommon? Given that we have accepted and embraced skinny-dipping as a beloved pastime and rite of passage, steam rooms and saunas as a staple of relaxation, and streaking as a light-hearted, harmless prank, it does seem that some amount of social nudity is already accepted as normal. Take a look, too, at the rise in people choosing to spend time nude at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, or browse the numerous Tweets where average, everyday people share candidly that they enjoy just walking around their own homes naked when they’re alone. It sure seems to me like a lot of people really do like to be naked. Maybe they don’t call themselves nudists, but those little moments of joy that they’re enjoying in the privacy of their own home are what nudists work hard to promote and support. Put into context, taking joy in nudity is no more or less weird than letting a bunch of little fish nibble the dead skin off your feet or bungee-jumping off a bridge or memorizing every episode of Doctor Who. And even if it is weird, who cares?

We just want to get naked in the most peaceful and respectful way possible, and we would love it if the rest of the world saw that and thought, “Yeah, that’s cool! You do you!” But it’s more than that. Nudists don’t just promote nudism for our own benefit. Many of the causes that nudists take up impact non-nudists as well, such as social media censorship which treats male and female nipples unequally, normalizing diverse and realistic body types, and seeing past social, gender, and racial barriers that hinder connection. We nudists aren’t just stripping down for the pure joy of it, but because we feel our little bit of joy and passion might actually make the world a little bit better for everyone. We feel like body acceptance might also help non-nudists learn to love themselves, like learning to see past someone’s differences and social status could also help non-nudists connect with one another. We feel like people should be able to choose how much or how little they want to wear without being harassed in public or online.

So what’s all the fuss and what are nudists still fighting for? The fuss is that in the United States, and in most countries, there are still hardly any spaces where a person can just be naked, let alone be around others who also like to be naked. Due to the anti-obscenity laws I mentioned earlier, nearly every single nudist space that wasn’t shuttered by local governments in the twentieth century has been driven so far out into the countryside that they struggle to attract visitors and remain solvent. The fuss is that, in some cases, a college professor’s career can be at risk if it’s found out that they just like to be naked in nature, even though there’s science to suggest that activities like forest bathing can be beneficial to our health, and even though thinking critically about what society deems right and wrong should be an integral part of education. The fuss is that, in many states and local jurisdictions, a neighbor can still call the cops on you if they peek over your fence or into your windows and catch of glimpse of your naked body. Those are not obstacles that people who share other hobbies, ideologies, or ways of life have to deal with, and frankly these are little injustices that don’t just impact nudists but anyone caught briefly rejecting the idea that bodies, butts, balls, and boobs are icky and obscene. We don’t want anyone to have to be afraid of being seen naked.

I want so much to believe that we live in a world where we can be happy for other people who find something that makes them feel whole and that brings them joy. I want so much to believe that people can have different passions, hobbies, and perspectives, and share those with each other not for the sake of converting anyone to their own way of thinking but to connect with each other, understand each other better, and expand our consciousness beyond our own experiences. At the end of the day, I don’t really care if you don’t have any interest in taking off your clothes. I really don’t. I am not asking anyone to become a nudist or to even try it. Not today, anyway. My only ask is that you see the value in a world where others can enjoy and celebrate something that you don’t understand or care for personally, that you question why it’s OK to stigmatize and criminalize human bodies, that you even perhaps appreciate from afar that it’s pretty rad how much nudists have contributed to our shared culture and society. And you can chuckle about how silly we are to want to run around naked all you want, as long as you’ll support our right to do so peacefully and respectfully.

After all, we nudists are just like everyone else. Well… without the tan lines… or all the shame about our bodies… but aside from that, we’re not so different. I bet you’ll even find some causes that we can work toward together.

Getting Uncomfortable with Nudity

I have spent the majority of my life with social anxiety. When I was very young, I would cry when I was dropped off at preschool or Sunday school, and struggled to meet new kids my age or to talk to adults. I would literally hide under my mom’s dress. As I got older, just like everyone else, I had to push myself to either overcome those anxieties or at least occasionally pretend that I’d overcome them. Five-year-old me could never have given corporate presentations, managed stressful vendor relationships, or defended a research paper, but check in on me at 32 years old and these are things I can almost do without batting an eye. I had to work on it, sure, but it was worth it. In a way, getting naked can be like that, too.


If you have ever spoken to a nudist or read something a nudist has written, or listened to that one friend of yours–you know, the one who goes skinny-dipping at every opportunity–wax poetic about the feeling of stripping down, you have without a doubt heard the pitch that being naked just feels amazing. Liberating! Free! Relaxing! Sensually exhilarating! And if nothing else, they have at least told you that being naked is simply comfortable… definitely more so than being bound up in suits and jeans and boots and dresses.

And that’s true. All of it. Being naked feels good. It’s comfortable, exhilarating, freeing, all of those things. It makes your body feel alive and alert and aware. You can move more freely and experience the world around you without a mediator, without clothing filtering every touch or bump or wave or breeze. As a nudist, I’ll say it again: Yeah, being naked feels, like, really great. Five stars, would recommend.

And you know how else it can feel? Terrifying. Vulnerable. Cold. Awkward. Silly. And even uncomfortable.

I have felt all of those things in situations of social nudity. The anxiety of removing your clothes for the first time… maybe even every first time in every new setting. The vulnerability brought about by the exposure of all your flaws and imperfections and parts of yourself that you’ve grown comfortable keeping hidden. The strange new physical sensation of a cool breeze or the shiver that accompanies feeling nervous or out of place. The awkwardness of not knowing what to do with your hands because you suddenly have no pockets or not knowing where you should look when you’re talking to someone or how to approach someone to say hello without invading their space. The nearly dissociative, comical realization that you’re stark naked in front of a bunch of strangers and you never thought your penis or breasts or butt would just be hanging out there for the world to see. The fear that someone in your everyday life might find out, or might be at this event and make your relationship awkward, or maybe they could expose you or ridicule you. All of it. Those things are not comfortable feelings at all. They are not the feelings of liberation and freedom that you were promised. But they can all be part of the experience and are just as important as the warmth of the sun on your skin and the lightness of moving through the world unencumbered.

I don’t say that to scare you away if you were thinking about getting naked. I don’t say it to diminish all the amazing parts of nudism or social nudity or just simply getting to know your body. I say it to recognize that those experiences are totally normal and to be expected and to encourage you to embrace that discomfort and anxiety and push through to the other side, because the joy and freedom and peace of not caring what people think of your body are worth the work. I promise you, it’s worth it. At the risk of saying, “that’s the whole point of nudism,” about yet another thing, I do kind of have to say it: Being uncomfortable, at least temporarily, is kind of the point of nudism and social nudity.

Feeling comfortable naked requires unraveling the learned shame around nudity and our bodies. Learning how to feel comfortable naked requires getting uncomfortable on purpose, or at least preparing yourself for the discomfort you know might happen, and working through it mindfully. For some people, that moment of discomfort may last just a few seconds and they never look back. For some, the work of undoing all those years of feeling weird in their bodies will be quick and painless. For others, though, the discomfort may dissipate slowly across multiple experiences of social nudity. It may take you a little longer to undo all of that weirdness and to feel great being naked. And my point is that that’s perfectly OK and normal. You’re not weird if it takes you longer, and it doesn’t mean that nudism or social nudity are not a good fit for you. The work is worth it. I hope you won’t give up if it feels strange and unusual that first time you try social nudity, because I truly believe you will be glad you endured.


Worth noting here, however, is that there’s a huge difference between the discomfort of experiencing something unfamiliar and the discomfort of experiencing something that is a violation of your privacy or safety. If you ever find yourself in a socially nude setting and you experience something that feels wrong or unsettling, please report it to someone in charge of the event or facility.


Given the historical premise of the nudist movement, I would also argue that beyond the initial physical sensations or anxious discomfort, nudism pushes us to get uncomfortable with a lot more than just nudity. It pushes us to confront our prejudices, our preconceived notions of others, the barriers that separate us from those around us, and asks us to accept the wide diversity of what human bodies actually look like, of what life can be like.

Over the past century, nudism has so often been touted–mainly by nudists themselves–as the great equalizer, as the key to breaking barriers of social hierarchy and seeing past our professions, education, relationships, skin color, or national origin. Human social equality and overcoming prejudices have long been core tenets of the nudist movement, just as much as–and deeply intertwined with–corporeal freedom. The real-world application of that idea within the nudist community has succeeded to varying degrees, not always hitting the mark, but it remains a noble goal and one that we have to work towards consciously if we want to realize it.

Rethinking your preconceived notions of the people around you, learning to embrace people for their differences, and rethinking what a body is supposed to look like are all uncomfortable tasks to accomplish, but just like getting used to the sensation of others’ eyes on your skin and the wind across your body, getting used to the diversity of humanity is worth the effort, and is another core part of what makes nudism and social nudity so groundbreaking and impactful. Seeing each other for the unique individuals that we are and being seen for your own uniqueness, whatever it may be, are just as liberating and validating as getting comfortable in your own skin, in your own nudity.

So push through, make the effort, not just to accept your own body and feel great naked, but to appreciate what else nudism and social nudity have to offer. Feeling uncomfortable can be a sign that we are learning and growing, so don’t be afraid of it. Embrace what you have, your body, your nudity… but also the experiences that others share with you, their uniqueness, their life stories. All we have to do is put ourselves out there and be ready for growth.

Why bother saying all of this? Only because I know what it feels like to be uncomfortable but to have to push through it because the other side is worth it. Feeling relieved from that discomfort, from insecurity, from prejudice is worth it… and I personally think getting naked can be a great way to get to that place.

Getting Out Again

When I first started writing this blog back in 2018, I assumed that there would be a lot more time spent talking about clubs I belonged to, resorts I was visiting, events I was attending. I never intended to become a travel blog, but I entertained the idea that some portion of my blog would be lighthearted trip reviews and practical advice for your first visit to a nudist club. And then it was winter. And then I moved across the country for a new job. And then I was completely broke for a year and trying to get my feet back under me. And then COVID hit and I spent the next year and a half trapped inside. Surprise! My content has been a little heavier than I expected, and while I do not have any regrets, I do look forward to diversifying, because nownow that the world is opening back up and I have my feet back underneath me and all the pieces are settling into place… now I’m looking forward to getting back out again and having the experiences that are so integral to social nude recreation.

So what does that look like? I’ll be honest, after fifteen months stuck inside my home, and even longer since I’d even been in a financial position to be involved, I was not sure how it would even feel to jump back into the in-person nudist world—as opposed to the online one that I’ve relied on for much of this time. Sure, I kept up my AANR membership and I stayed involved in various committees and projects within the nudist community, but it is not the same as spending time in the sun with living, breathing, smalltalk-making nudists. I was anxious! Anxious about visiting a new club with new rules, about remembering to bring all the right things, about being in a new environment with people I didn’t know, about navigating the expectations of socializing in a sort-of post-COVID world.

Despite all the anxiety, last week I finally made my first post-COVID trip to a nudist resort, which was also my first trip to a club in Southern California. Good Lord, I had almost forgotten what that felt like. For the sake of sharing and priming others who are feeling tentatively ready to get back out there—or who may be thinking about getting out there for the first time—I wanted to share what that experience was like.


As soon as case counts started dropping and regulations started relaxing in California, I started itching to get out to visit one of my nearby resorts. Once I was vaccinated, I thought to myself, I would get right out there. I started prepping by ordering some sunscreen and a new hat and some sitting towels and drying-off towels and a new bag. At long last, it was finally time. So, mid-week last week I made sure to look up the two clubs in my vicinity to verify that they were open and accepting new visitors. I then called both to confirm. One club, Glen Eden Sun Club, was literally so booked with newcomers that they didn’t have any first-visit tour appointments available and had to turn me away. Which, yes, that’s a bummer, but I am excited for them that they are seeing so many new folks! The other club, Olive Dell Ranch, seemed less overwhelmed with first-timers and did not require a scheduled tour for new visitors, so the decision had been made for me: I would check out Olive Dell Ranch.

It’s worth noting here that if you are considering a visit to a nudist resort or club for the first time, don’t just show up. Make sure to look up the club’s website to confirm their requirements for new visitors (and don’t be put off if the website looks a little outdated… that’s normal). I would also recommend calling a few days in advance in case they require a reservation or notice of your intent to visit. You might find that they’re perfectly happy to accept new visitors at the gate and that there’s no issue, but every club and resort is a little different. Some will require a reservation or a scheduled tour. Some will also limit the amount of single men who can visit at any given time, so if you’re a single man visiting a club for the first time, be up-front and let them know so that you don’t make the trip all the way out there only to be turned away. You may also find that holding a membership to a national organization such as AANR (American Associate for Nude Recreation) or The Naturist Society will make your first trip a little smoother, and it does usually reduce your day fee.

Without a doubt, though, you will definitely need to bring your ID, some money, a towel, and a smile. Sandals, sunscreen, sunglasses, a water bottle, and an extra towel also highly recommended.

Since I had already called Olive Dell Ranch the day before to let them know I was coming, I hit the road pretty early on Saturday morning to head out for my long-awaited visit. The club grounds sit about an hour to an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles. Traffic was light and I was able to make the trip in an hour and twenty minutes, which felt pretty quick given where I live in LA. What surprised me about Olive Dell compared to the clubs I had visited in Oregon was that the entrance was actually really close to the main road… so no need to navigate narrow mountain roads for 30 minutes hoping you didn’t miss the turn. It’s a straight shot and the GPS navigation had no trouble guiding me right to the gate. When I arrived, I was admittedly confused about how to get in. This has been a different experience at every club I’ve visited, so don’t feel too bad if you get confused, too. At one club, for example, I had to call before I started up the mountain so that I could get the daily gate code because there was no cellphone reception on the mountain and the gate was a mile or so from the actual club. At Olive Dell, I simply needed to park along the side of the driveway just outside of the front building and walk inside to register and pay. In this case, no, you don’t get naked just yet—that comes after you register, pay, and get parked inside the gates.

Registration was fairly easy, though there was some back-and-forth about whether I’d be able to get in. Maybe because I was a single man. A big point was made about my AANR Premier Membership, so I’m halfway wondering if they were pulling my leg and am halfway convinced that I might not have been admitted without my AANR membership. In any case, definitely consider attaining membership from AANR or The Naturist Society since it will help you appear a bit more trustworthy to the folks at the front gate.

From there, I asked for instructions on where to go, followed the road down to the main area with the pool and restaurant, parked, got out of the car and stripped down, grabbed my pre-prepared tote of towels and sunscreen, and breathed a big deep breath. This was perhaps the first time I’d visited a nudist space where I didn’t feel that little tinge of anxiety about stripping down right at first. Maybe that was because I was so excited to finally be there, or maybe I’ve just outgrown it. But, God, it was an incredible feeling to finally be there, to finally be nude outdoors again, to be around others who were all there to feel that freedom, too. I knew that I had been missing it, but I don’t think I fully appreciated just how much I had been missing it.

I showered, found a place by the pool, sunscreened up, and got comfortable. I felt a little stupid that I’d forgotten to bring a book or even headphones, but that was fine. Usually I would have spent my time reading and listening to my own music, but I was perfectly happy to just enjoy catching bits of the little conversations taking place in the pool, the sound of the birds, and the trees swaying in the breeze. I passed the rest of my day dipping in and out of the pool, taking a brief walk through the park grounds and a hike up through the trails in the surrounding hills, ordering a couple of beers at Thirst Aid (the bar near the pool), and playing ping-pong with a member of the club… just genuinely relaxing and connecting in a way that sitting at home just doesn’t quite achieve. As much as I’ve been naked at home during COVID, it does not compare to getting out of the city and being in a space just for nudists, just for social nudity and connection with nature.

The vibe at Olive Dell Ranch is perhaps a little rough around the edges, but in the way that feels like it’s lovingly held together with several coats of paint and the heart and soul of its members and visitors. Rustic? Sure. A little kitschy? Maybe. Warm and inviting and full of joy? Absolutely, one hundred percent. There’s something especially charming about the sometimes makeshift nature of nudist spaces in general, and I feel like this applies to Olive Dell… it’s a labor of love and you can tell it means a great deal to its regulars. It’s home, in that unique way that only a nudist club can be. The crowd was a healthy mix of ages and backgrounds and genders. I wasn’t the only young person or the only gay person. There were just as many women as men and while the crowd was definitely mostly white, there was perhaps a bit more diversity than you would expect. The music playing by the pool was also… honestly impressive, ranging from Blitzkrieg Bop to Jesus Loves Me, but mostly lingering on disco and soft rock, which felt somehow exactly appropriate for the setting and the generations-spanning mix of folks.

I made small talk with a few people and felt warmly welcomed… but I also was admittedly grappling with the awkwardness of being in a social setting for the first time in over a year—and also just not being terribly social to begin with—so there were some hurdles to overcome. I literally feel like I need to practice normal social interactions. Next time should be quite a bit easier, I’m sure. I am really looking forward to heading back out there, and also scheduling a time to visit Glen Eden for the first time.

If you’re anything like me, this is a weird time. The world is on its way back to something like it once was, but it’s not quite there yet. Everything is somehow both a total mess and also seemingly perfectly normal. You might be feeling anxious about getting out again, unsure if you remember how to be the person you were before COVID… but you might feel even more anxious about being stuck at home any longer, missing out on any opportunity to feel like a part of the world again. Maybe you feel like you’re ready to check out that nudist club or event for the first time after discovering nudism from the comfort of your home over the last year, but you’re not sure what exactly to expect. If this is your first time trying social nudity, I highly recommend checking out some resources like this book by Matthew McDermott, How to Take Your Clothes Off, which covers a lot of the little details and questions that new nudists often ask (or are too afraid to ask). I’ve read it and it’s worth reading even if you’re a seasoned nudist.

All that being said, now is the time. Now is the time to consider whether you’re ready to take the plunge for the first time or whether you’re ready to get back out there and experience social nudity once again. It might not be today or tomorrow, but soon. And I hope you have an awesome time. I hope you meet some friendly faces and that you feel that warm sun on your skin.

You deserve it.

Bodies For Sale

As a society, we sure do love a naked body. We love the purity it represents. We love its rawness, its vulnerability, its innocence, its sexuality, its natural beauty in all its various shades and shapes. We admire its freedom and its symbolism.

As long as we can sell it. As long as it turns a profit.


Since the beginning of the nudist movement at the start of the twentieth century, nudists have challenged the social constructs that have kept us clothed and ashamed of our bodies. To the credit of nudism’s cultural impact, society has certainly come around to the idea of nudity, but perhaps not in the ways that the founders of the movement would have hoped. That’s not so say that nudists throughout history have not fought hard to promote their values or protect their rights, but the progress that nudists have made in effecting cultural acceptance of nudity has largely occurred in the spaces where nudity could serve the profit-driven society that restricted nudity in the first place. Despite their hard work, nudity for the pure and simple sake of nudity is still illegal in almost every corner of the United States—regardless of how much we claim to value liberty and freedom—but nudity that can be restricted and then sold, or that can be used to sell some other product, is accepted and often even celebrated as liberating and brave. A nude woman embracing her body on the cover of a magazine is a champion for women, for body positivity… but also for the beauty industry and the magazine publisher. The same nude woman so much as occupying public space, however, will likely be harassed if not arrested and charged with public indecency.

Absolut Vodka ad featuring employees of the company (2018)

Society has, in this strange way, come to love a naked body, as long as it has been laundered through some corporate marketing campaign for fragrances or alcohol or jeans. Not when it exists outside of a financial transaction, independent of products, services, and profits. Not when it it just exists naturally. Not when it challenges the industries that rely on us being ashamed of our own bodies and unfamiliar with each other’s. We have grown quite comfortable with nudity as long as it can be made to serve capitalism rather than undermine it, to the point that a marketing campaign featuring the kind of nudity that we ourselves are not allowed to engage in feels fresh and freeing and genuine. It feels like a win for public acceptance of nudity. And, in a way, it sort of is a win—one for which nudists can claim much of the credit, after nearly a century of ideological head-butting and legal battles over the distribution of nude images and the right to gather on private property, though there are myriad other cultural moments that have contributed as well.

PETA ad featuring Taraji P Henson (2011)

In the context of a cultural landscape that forbade any and all free and public nudity and that stifled nearly every effort to liberate beaches or even gather privately, nudism’s success in painstakingly carving out space for itself in the form of gated resorts is impressive. On one hand, adapting nudist ideals and values to be compatible with a pay-to-play model may feel like a betrayal of nudist philosophy—nudism was never supposed to be about the business of getting naked, after all. On the other hand, however, there might actually be something quite resourceful about nudists playing by the rules of capitalism and within the confines of social conservatism to promote a philosophy and way of living that challenge capitalism and societal norms. While we may have struggled—and oftentimes failed—to secure nudity rights or to expand access to free spaces like nude and clothing-optional beaches, with considerable prolonged effort nudists have established spaces for ourselves the only way we could. We settled into private, remote clubs where, for a fee, select individuals could experience social nudity, natural landscapes, and an escape from the pressures of modern life in a way that can hardly be experienced elsewhere.

It’s worth celebrating nudism’s twentieth-century survival tactics, even if it meant shuttering social nudity behind toll gates and day fees, especially if we hold out hope that that approach has been a temporary solution to carry the nudist movement and its community forward to more hospitable times and social views. Because it worked, right? Nudism is still here, even if it’s tucked away and difficult to access. At least nudism is still here.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you might already know that my most recent reading material has been Sarah Schrank’s Free and Natural: Nudity and the American Cult of the Body, which explores and details many of these ideas involving the commodification of the naked body and the trajectory of the nudist movement from the early twentieth century to today. (If you have not already read it, I highly recommend it.) Near the end of the book, Schrank touches on more current trends in the objectification of the body, the commodification of the idea of nudity, and modern movements such as “Free the Nipple” that work to reclaim the body from those forces. Schrank had little to say, though, about what these trends might mean for the further longevity of the nudist movement, or what role the private nudist resort might play moving forward, which is understandable given the scope and perspective of her work.

Being both a millennial and a nudist myself, I cannot help but ponder where this trajectory is leading us and how others of my own generation and the generation after mine will carry the nudist movement forward. With each passing generation and era, nudism has faced unique challenges and obstacles, but has also enjoyed moments of varying acceptance. Each generation faces different obstacles, seeking something from nudism that perhaps the generation before had not, or bringing something to nudism that the generation before could not. The complex relationship between nudist values and the commodification of the body is further complicated by these generational struggles and changing societal norms, but that does not mean that nudism is in danger, just that it will continue to adapt as it always has.

For young people who have seen bodies, including their own, become so obsessively commodified, nudity occupies a different space in our collective consciousness than it might have for previous generations. Millennials and Gen Z have seen bodies treated as profit centers, either by selling images of nudity or by using nudity to sell something else, to the point that I would argue young people are both desensitized to the naked body and fatigued by its commodification, and young people are responding in turn.

One way is by simply acknowledging that the commodification exists and recognizing that the restrictions imposed on our bodies are unjust, creating new narratives around their bodies, rejecting traditional beauty standards and celebrating diversity. Another way is by taking advantage of that same commodification to serve their own ends: It should not surprise anyone that many young people have embraced platforms like OnlyFans where they can sell access to images of their own bodies, on their own terms, for their own profit. On the surface, it looks like just another symptom of the commodification of the body, but maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s a reappropriation of body commodification forced to serve the individual over the corporation. After all, if our bodies are being sold, why are we not the ones profiting? As an aside, I understand that many nudists are troubled by these platforms that offer access to others’ bodies for a small fee, I only hope that we can think critically about the social climate in which these platforms thrive before judging those who use them.

When it comes to young people being fatigued by the long, enduring legacy of objectification and commodification of the body, it would make sense that younger generations would also be resentful of being sold access to nudity or body freedom. For those readers who may not be as familiar with nudism, it is important to be aware of the anxiety that much of the community feels when it comes to the question of attracting and retaining younger people, citing fears of declining nudist club membership as the current population ages and struggles to replace itself with young faces. Accompanying this discourse and anxiety are the assumptions that “young people aren’t joiners,” and that “young people don’t like to get naked.” While I heartily disagree with those assumptions (as I am a young nudist myself who is a joiner and who does like to get naked), I do think that young people are very conscious of what they are joining and may feel uneasy about being sold access to something that they believe should be freely available. That being the case, we should not be surprised that more young people are not jumping through hoops to engage in social nudity in remote communities, driving hours and paying gate fees in order to gain access to a space where they can be relieved of the social expectations of the clothed world. Young people might not accept that the solution to the commodification of the body is to pay to access spaces where we can be free of that pressure.

Maybe it feels disingenuous to the young nudist to embrace the freedom of social nudity and all of the social norms that it breaks and challenges, but to then see that nudism in its current state plays by the same rules as every other industry that profits from nudity and its scarcity. Time and time again during these conversations, we wonder why young people are scarce (but not entirely absent, I would like to add) at nudist resorts and clubs but are crowding onto nude beaches every weekend. I don’t find it surprising at all that young nudists might see greater value in a space where social nudity can be enjoyed freely, without gate fees, gatekeepers, or any other strings attached. The nude or clothing-optional beach is a true escape from the transactional nature of most of our interactions with the naked body, and therefore a more appropriate solution—or at least a very important part of the solution—to this fatigue of body commodification.

You might be thinking, then, “What do we do about that? How do we confront this change in values among the younger generations?” First of all, do not despair. Second of all, it’s not something that needs to be confronted at all. It sounds to me like that “change in values” among young people is actually closely aligned with nudist ideals—the ones we started out with a hundred years ago. Young people are widely embracing body acceptance and racial, gender, and sexual equality, while thinking critically about the systems in place that make us less free, less equal, and less authentic to ourselves. That sounds a lot like nudism to me. It may just be that now is the right time for nudism to spill out of the resorts and return to the core tenets of nudism that we spent most of the twentieth century struggling to promote and protect. It may be time to take a second shot at tackling some of the moments of nudist history where social bigotry and legal retaliation stopped us in our tracks. It may be worth trying to present the benefits of nudism to a world who may finally be ready to make room for nudity. We can pick back up on our work freeing the beaches we lost and undoing the public nudity laws that chased the nudist community into the resorts and clubs in the first place. It’s not a matter of abandoning what we’ve already built, but on spreading our little naked wings a bit more.

It’s all… kind of a blessing. Society’s newfound appreciation for equality and human connection and the skepticism around how our bodies are constantly objectified are not an obstacle for the nudist community but an opportunity to promote healthier views on nudity and share with others what we’ve already known. Maybe, just maybe, the world is ready to get naked. And maybe now we can help them do that.

Naked & Insecure

There is this perception that nudists must inherently be more secure in themselves, more confident in their bodies, than the rest. Whether that’s correlation or causation may depend on the person. Some nudists and naturists are secure in themselves, surely, because they became nudists and naturists and were forced to overcome their insecurities, while others were naturally more inclined to become nudists and naturists because they had already acquired the requisite self-confidence. Maybe they were just never taught to feel that same shame.

If I had to lump myself into one of those camps, it would be the former. When I first learned about nudism online as a wildly insecure teenager with rampant hormones and a spiral of confusing thoughts running through my mind, I had a lot of anxieties to overcome before I could enjoy nudism the way I can today. Maybe that’s due to my childhood, but I think many people would have come out of my childhood with a good deal more confidence than I did. There was nothing particularly shaming or repressive, at least as it pertained to comfort with one’s own body, in my home. My parents were very religious, yes, but my dad was a veterinarian and treated the body in a more clinical way than most dads might. There was fairly open discussion about bodies when I was young, though we never actually saw each other’s bodies.

Weirdly enough, as a very young child, I would strip off my clothes and run around nude whenever I could. I would run outside, up and down the stairs, watch movies. But at some point it was implied that I shouldn’t and I don’t remember what moment that was. All my life, I have been an introvert. In my childhood this manifested itself as extreme shyness, to the point where I could not stand to draw any attention to myself, to come across as different or unique in any way, even to excel at something that brought me attention. I took up quiet hobbies like drawing and getting good grades. I shied away from sports and other extroverted activities that others gave more attention. And, to add to that, I grew up knowing that I was gay, constantly fearing that my difference to others would be found out, would bring me more attention. Everything in me wanted to shrivel up and hide everything I was. As a result, the thought of anyone seeing my body became one of my biggest fears.

I couldn’t even change in the changing room with everyone else: I had to change in a bathroom stall. I refused to wear sandals because I didn’t want my feet to be seen. On top of that, nothing I wore ever fit me quite right. I was always tall and skinny. A little too tall, a little too skinny. My arms were too long for my shirts. My legs were too long for my pants. Everything fit me too loose or too short. So, not only did I feel uncomfortable in my skin, I felt uncomfortable in my clothing as well.

When I discovered nudism and started devouring every piece of information I could about it, it helped… a lot. I learned to appreciate my body, to embrace it, to forgive it. I was gentle with myself in ways that I knew the world would never be, and I made peace with that. I let myself be naked and I allowed my skin to feel the world around me with no mediation. Even as I embraced nudity and started practicing nudism on my own, it took me years to get used to the idea of being nude around others. Changing in the locker room in high school was still stressful and I was terrified that I would be forced to shower with my classmates at some point. Years. It took actual years for me to undo what I had done to myself in my anxiety and insecurity. Also, to be fair, all social settings give me a little anxiety, so it’s likely that I will always experience insecurity when I enter a new nudist space or meet a new nudist friend.

So why am I spilling all of this information? Because I want you to know that even nudists feel insecure. It’s not always easy even for us. But it does get better. Being nude around others doesn’t cause me the same fear that it once did, but I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t still a pang of anxiety the moment I disrobe around others. A lot of those insecurities rush through my head and I feel my heart race the way it did while waiting at the starting blocks when I ran track. But that feeling is fleeting. The satisfaction of being nude and free and shedding those barriers almost immediately washes that away. And I will champion nudism as long as I am able to do so because I wholeheartedly believe that embracing your body and learning to be gentle with yourself through social nudity is therapeutic and healing. It’s worth it.

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After all these years, I can comfortably visit a nude beach or club without hours of anxiety leading up to the moment I disrobe. I can wear clothes that fit my body without feeling insecure because I have embraced my shape and learned what clothes will help me feel like myself. I take better care of my skin and health because I realize that my body deserves to be taken care of and relies on me for that. I can wear sandals now because I don’t see my feet as gross or shameful. The thought of someone seeing a nude photo of me doesn’t scare me. But I had to work actively on all of those things, to undo the years of shame that I had subjected myself to. And I am a much happier person because of it. So, if you are new to nudism, and you’re not feeling as secure and confident as you want to feel, know that you are not alone. It’s not a switch you can flip, it’s a journey you take and you’re in good company.

Crossing the Threshold

I’ve been calling myself a nudist for more than half my life, even if those first few years were spent hiding in my bedroom at my parents’ house in the country, so I admit that I may no longer fully recognize what it feels like to try stripping down for the first time. That first time is nothing like all the times that follow. I’ll admit, even now, there’s still a brief moment of anxiety followed by relief each time I strip down at the beach or at a naturist park, but that moment of exhilaration is nothing like the very first time I stripped down. Sometimes I forget that, and I know that I should be more forgiving of those who haven’t already crossed that threshold before, who don’t know what’s waiting on the other side of their clothing.

In June of 2018, my brother-in-law had just graduated from college and wanted to take a trip somewhere, somewhere warm and sunny where he could relax. After some research and weighing all the options, we decided on San Diego since none of us had been there, we could spend some time at the beach, and it was relatively inexpensive to get there from Portland, where we were living at the time. For some additional context, my brother-in-law was living with my partner and myself, since he was a student and we all benefitted from splitting the rent. Neither my partner nor my brother-in-law would consider themselves nudists. My partner is very supportive and participates when he feels up to it—he’s been with me to beaches and clubs and he is able to enjoy it. My brother-in-law, on the other hand, knows that I’m a nudist but does not partake, does not engage, is not interested in the slightest. So, despite my willingness to bring him along to local beaches around the Portland area, he would never. However, while planning the trip to San Diego, I remembered that there was a great nude beach there: Black’s Beach.

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The path down to Black’s Beach, 2018

I had never been in a nude ocean beach before: The beaches near Portland were along rivers. I let them know that I wanted to check out Black’s Beach, even if just for a few hours one day. It actually worked out perfectly because there was a lot to do in San Diego and there were only a couple of sunny days while we were there, so after spending one afternoon at a textile beach, I convinced my partner and brother-in-law to spend an afternoon at Black’s to soak up the sun. Under any other circumstances, my brother-in-law would have never gone with us to a nude beach. I honestly am not sure he really wanted to go at all, but he conceded to the majority vote. When we got there and made our way down the surprisingly treacherous path to the beach, though, he refused to take off his swimsuit and shirt. My partner was a champ, though. I would have expected at least some reluctance to be nude in front of his brother for the first time in his adult life, but he didn’t hesitate to set a good example, to be brave and show his brother that it there was nothing to be afraid of.

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Me and my partner at Black’s Beach, 2018

I was a little hurt, to be quite honest, and frustrated, that my brother-in-law wouldn’t at least try it. I realize that it’s not easy to take that leap, and I would have hoped that he would feel safe to try it with people he knew and trusted. I wondered, “When do you think you’ll have an opportunity to try this again? Do you think you’ll regret it if you try it? Do you think you will be judged?” I tried not to press him, not to make him feel even more uncomfortable being there, but it was difficult for me to feel comfortable at the beach with him sulking in his shirt and shorts. It made me feel judged. My partner and I still had a great time, though. The water was great, the sand was warm, there were lots of other young sunbathers enjoying the beach while we were there. I took a book with me, some sunglasses, some sunscreen, and it was just what I was hoping it would be. As a nudist, though, I still felt like I failed at introducing my brother-in-law to an experience that he could have really enjoyed and that could have gone a long way to help him with some of the body image issues that he’s told me about before. It’s important to not push people into something they don’t want to try, to not pressure them into something they’re not ready for.

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Me at Black’s Beach, 2018

At the end of the day, I do wish he would have just tried it. I wish he would have let go for just a few minutes to feel the breeze, the sun, and the waves on his skin. I wish he could have had what I’ve had all this time. As a nudist or naturist, breaking through that barrier in the minds of our friends and family must be the hardest part. How do you undo someone else’s repression and internalized shame? We forget that for many of us, becoming naturists and nudists did not happen with the flip of a switch but with days, weeks, months, or even years of time to process the idea of social nudity before gathering the courage to enjoy our first experience. But even if I couldn’t give him that freedom that day, even if I couldn’t remove all of that blockage and shame, I did still provide him with a valuable experience: He was able to see naked men and women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors enjoying the beach, living without shame or fear. He was able to experience that in a setting with people he trusted, with people who were comfortable enough in their own skin to model that same courage and openness of spirit that all the other beachgoers were displaying. Even if he didn’t partake, I know he didn’t dislike the experience. I know that it must have had an influence on his perception of the human body and maybe one day he will have the courage to try it for himself. I just hope he has the opportunity again some day.

If you’re reading this and wondering if it’s time to try nudism, know that you don’t need to rush yourself. But also know that you won’t regret the experience.

If you’re reading this and can relate to the difficulties of introducing friends and family to nudism, try to be patient and understanding. It’s easier for us because we have already crossed that threshold and we know what’s on the other side. We just need to be there waiting for them, even if it takes time.

Well, This Is Awkward

Well! It’s New Year’s Eve, and we are all hastily wrapping up our Holiday festivities and tying up whatever loose ends remain from 2019. At least that’s what I’m doing. I genuinely did have a lovely Christmas, and I hope you all were able to find some rest and peace this Holiday season as well, whatever your tradition.

I suppose I should apologize for disappearing for… what… at least seven months? I am honestly a little embarrassed, because when I started out on this blogging journey, I had every intention of diving in headfirst, of keeping the entries regular and of consistent quality, of devoting more energy to being an outspoken advocate for naturism. Alas, life happens.

Eight and a half months ago, I accepted a job offer for a position based in Los Angeles. Two weeks later, all of my belongings were packed into a truck and my partner and I left Portland for an exciting new adventure in Southern California. The job that I accepted was one I dreamt of someday achieving and, while it’s not the end of the line for my career, it is an excellent jumping-off point for all sorts of new adventures. Hopefully I won’t need to move across the country again any time soon. In a city like Los Angeles, the job opportunities are plentiful, so I do have faith in my ability to settle down here.

So, what happened next? What happened next is that I got to Los Angeles and hit the ground running. I started my new job two days after arriving in the city, and there have been myriad life changes, adjustments, new relationships, and hardships along the way that have made it increasingly difficult to get back in the saddle and start writing about life and naturism again. In no way do I intend to disparage naturism, but taking the time to write about it is a luxury I haven’t been able to afford. Moving to a new city is glamorous on TV and in movies, but it’s messy, and hard, and scary in real life. For a while after we moved to Los Angeles, for example, my partner was able to continue working from home for his employer, but that ended abruptly a couple months after we arrived. Finding new friends, getting new doctors, learning new neighborhoods, getting used to the weather… all of those things are easy enough on their own but add up to a mountain of seemingly insurmountable stressors when experienced all at once.

I can say that I do really like Los Angeles, though, and not in the same way that I said it a few months ago, through clenched teeth, trying to convince myself that everything was OK. It’s a huge, messy, beautiful city, with a million things to do and see and twelve million people to bump into along the way. All in all, I don’t regret the move, despite a few kinks that I haven’t worked out yet

About that naturism, though. You know, one thing I was unprepared for when I moved here was the lack of accessible nude beaches. I knew that Black’s Beach was the closest, but at 2-3 hours away by car, it’s not the easy day trip that Rooster Rock and Collins Beach were to Portland. It’s such a shame that a city with as beautiful and warm of weather as Los Angeles doesn’t have accessible nude spots within the city. Granted, with my limited calendar and increased time spent getting to and from work during the week, I haven’t had much time to scout out any non-landed clubs in the area (if you know of any good ones for younger people in LA, please let me know!), and I even feel terrible that I haven’t taken the plunge to drive out to one of the neighboring naturist grounds.

That all reads as a long-winded excuse. For me, though, it’s a reflection on the things that come up in life that distract you from the things you enjoy, and that’s totally OK. But it’s also a reminder of those things I love and that I should make an effort to make time for them as life settles down again (I hope) in 2020. Let’s not beat ourselves up for the things we can’t change, let’s not feel bad about the things we didn’t have time to do… let’s just remember why they’re important and make time to treat ourselves to those experiences that we love, to hold close the people we care about, and to cherish what time we have.

A happy new year to all of you! May 2020 be kind to you.

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