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.

La Mort du Naturisme / The Death of Naturism

“We know that a text does not consist of a line of words, releasing a single “theological” meaning (the “message” of the Author-God), but is a space of many dimensions, in which are wedded and contested various kinds of writing, no one of which is original: the text is a tissue of citations, resulting from the thousand sources of culture.”

Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” 1967

In his oft-cited essay, “La mort de l’auteur” (“The Death of the Author” in English), French theorist Roland Barthes presents the bold theory that our understanding of literature and writing should not be limited by the text’s author, its author’s backstory, or even its author’s intentions. This idea is generally understood in terms of stripping a work from its author and appreciating the text on its own merit, which feels at a glance like a convenient solution to beloved texts with problematic authors, but that isn’t exactly the point. Instead, we are challenged to relieve a text of any expectation of objective meaning, to view the text not as the voice of the author but as a collection of ideas and thoughts and culture that predate anything the author could have invented. Whatever the author intended for us to understand through the text is irrelevant, because any meaning we find therein never belonged to the author at all but relies entirely on the experience that we bring with us as the reader. Any meaning at all is found within the reader, via the text. More or less.

The implications of “The Death of the Author” don’t stop at texts and their authors, so let’s expand this theory beyond literature, beyond novels and poems, beyond writers and artists. I want you to think of this theory, at least for just a moment, in the context of how we find meaning all around us, in things that carry no objective meaning but in which we find meaning nonetheless. In poetry, yes, and in films and paintings, of course. But also in experiences as simple as the feelings of hope or sadness amplified by a rainy day, the nostalgic warmth or grief brought about by the taste of a familiar meal, or the fear or liberation brought about by our own nudity.

Let’s use that example. Let’s talk about nudity. Because that’s what I do.

For years I have called myself a naturist and nudist interchangeably. I claim those titles. I subscribe, generally, to a larger philosophy of naturism that encompasses social and philosophical values of equality of gender, race, and sexuality, a connection with nature and with others, and a deeper understanding of the self, all through the practice of social nudity. This is my definition of naturism. While that definition may be shared by a generous swath of other nudists and naturists, however, it could be seen as limiting to those whose definition of naturism might be narrower or wider or focused on an entirely different set of meanings. According to “The Death of the Author,” maybe I should not have even revealed my own skin in this game. Maybe I should not have shared my personal values and definition of naturism, because doing so limits your interpretation of naturism.

So let’s kill me and let’s kill naturism… just for a moment… so that we can think about these concepts the other way around.

Just as clinging to an author’s background and intentions when we seek to understand a piece of literature can limit our own understanding of the work, so can any pre-determined definition applied to naturism limit our understanding of the text–in this case, our experience of nudity. Nudity which, in itself, has no objective meaning. Nudity which does not have an agenda or motive. Nudity which can be experienced in any number or ways, settings, or circumstances. Nudity which, when experienced by any of us, can be terrifying or traumatic, liberating or healing, or a combination of any number of meanings and emotions, depending on all kinds of factors. None of those emotional responses, none of that meaning that we might find when we experience nudity, be we nudists or puritans, is shaped by any one person’s opinions, any dictionary definition of “naturism” or “nudism.” None of that is determined by Lee Baxandall or Maurice Parmelee or any other celebrated naturist thinker. Our experience of nudity and the meaning that we find therein is predicated on nothing but the experiences and cultural values that we already carry with us.

When experiences of nudity are framed from the start within the existing and restrictive context of naturism or nudism, it immediately limits what the experience of nudity can mean for the person experiencing it, but when we set aside every preconceived notion and definition of what naturism should be, we are free to find our own meaning. Rather than any pre-determined idea of naturism or naturist philosophy determining our understanding, we allow our relationship with nudity to be defined by our experiences elsewhere in life. What nudity means to you–if it means anything at all–is determined, then, either by your culturally shaped understanding of it or by what you need it to mean in that moment.

For many, if not most, nudity is so tightly culturally linked with both shame and desire that most individuals’ understanding of it is colored entirely by anxiety, fear, and sex. Nudity can, though, elicit meaning drawn from somewhere else, from a place not directly prescribed for us by cultural influences but perhaps as a reaction to them. What I mean is that nudity can mean freedom to those who have felt less free. It can mean equality to those who have experienced inequality. It can mean connection to those who have felt disconnected. It can mean a return to nature for those who have felt trapped by modern life and concrete landscapes. It can mean radical social change to those who have experienced or witnessed systemic oppression. It can mean affirmation for those who have felt denied their true identity. It can mean joy to those who need levity in their life. And, much to the dismay of nudists and naturists who hold nudity as a primarily non-sexual experience, nudity can also mean sexual liberation for those who have experienced sexual repression. All of those meanings–any combination of them–or even other meanings entirely, are perfectly valid interpretations of the experience of nudity. The meaning that any of us discover in nudity, in shedding our clothing either alone or in the company of others, is shaped by our experiences elsewhere in life, not by any dictionary or website or organization promoting nude recreation. None of this meaning is objectively “real,” but it is no less real to those who experience it.

This entanglement of distinct and intersectional meanings, all determined by our own experiences, cultural conditioning, needs, and understanding of the world around us must then be what we refer to as “nudism” and “naturism.” Perhaps this is why nudists and naturists have such a difficult time agreeing on a definition of nudism and naturism that suits everyone: Because nudism and naturism are deeply personal verbal representations of what nudity means to each individual. Perhaps these words are too small to hold all of the meaning that are ascribed to them. Or perhaps being a nudist or naturist means that one finds positive and affirming meaning in nudity, not that one subscribes to any particular predetermined philosophy laid before them. Perhaps. And if that’s the case, our nudity does not have meaning because we read about naturism or because we call it such, rather the opposite is true: Naturism and nudism exist because we find meaning in nudity.

This is why I asked that you kill naturism just for a moment: to set aside the limitations of what others have decided that naturism is, what nudity means to them, and instead discover what nudity means to you and then define naturism accordingly.

None of this is to say that others’ experiences with nudity and their definition of naturism or nudism cannot enlighten us in our own interpretations, or that we should discredit the meaning that others find in nudity. None of this is to say that the thoughts and philosophies shared by such naturist thinkers as Lee Baxandall and Maurice Parmelee are irrelevant and cannot guide us. Quite the contrary. I believe that our personal naturisms are equally valid, that we can learn a great deal about each other in understanding the meaning we each find in nudity, and that we grow personally when we consider and appreciate these various perspectives. In sharing those personal meanings, we might very well expand our own definitions of naturism and find greater meaning to our experience of nudity.

While I have spent the better part of this essay seemingly arguing against the use of terms like “naturism” and “nudism,” I don’t actually believe we should kill those terms. Can they be limiting? Sure. For ease and efficiency of communication, though, it makes sense to start the discussion with words like naturism and nudism, sharing the meaning that we have found in nudity, hopefully encouraging others to dissect their experiences as well, and then empowering them to define their naturism around the meaning they find in nudity.

We can let naturism stand for more than our own definition, and that’s really the point of this exercise of stripping away the objective meaning of our experiences and accepting the idea that the meaning we find is personally and culturally defined. Rather than pushing a set definition of naturism, I hope we can view naturism as something larger than one thing, that can be both fluid and personal, that belongs to no one and everyone. I hope that we can reframe naturism not as a restrictive set of core values and philosophies but as a space where we connect over the positive, affirming meanings we find in the experience of nudity. That doesn’t mean naturism cannot be those core values and philosophies, but that it can be more. That doesn’t mean that we stop defining naturism, but that we keep defining it. And keep defining it, and learning from others, and then defining it again.

Naturism is not really dead, of course, and it is not the author of our experiences with nudity. It is our experiences with nudity and the meaning we find therein that continue to shape and redefine naturism.


“What should we be doing to attract people of color and the LGBTQ community?” he asked the room of nudist and naturist leaders.

“Nothing. There’s nothing stopping anyone from coming here, but we shouldn’t be going out and trying to bring them in,” the room responded in turns with slightly varied phrasing and intonation.

When I was younger and still living with my parents, the holidays were really important for my family. Every year, we had large Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations with family from all around gathering together to celebrate and share food and memories. While I wouldn’t say that my mom was an especially accomplished chef, she could cook a mean holiday meal to rival any other family’s Christmas dinner. There was always room at the table, always another table leaf under the bed, and always extra chairs in the closet that we could pull out if anyone showed up unexpectedly. Always a gracious host, my mother, but even my mom was not without her flaws. My mother, God bless her, could not care less about your dietary restrictions.

I grew up attending a Seventh-Day Adventist school, a Christian denomination known for not eating meat or, at the very least, not eating pork. Many of my best friends growing up were Seventh-Day Adventist, and still are even now into adulthood. And yet… when I would bring these friends around at Christmas or Thanksgiving or any other time throughout the year, regardless of whether she knew in advance they were coming, my mother would have found a way to work some kind of pork product into every dish, as was her habit. The main dish? Ham. The salad? Bacon bits in it. The green bean casserole? Garnished with bacon. The mashed potatoes? Little bits of ham mixed in. The pumpkin pie? Bacon-crusted. (Just kidding about that last one.)

Was my mom’s heart in the right place? Sure, yes, of course! She made a lovely meal! There was room for everyone! Grab a plate and have a seat!

But here’s the moral of the story: If you’re only preparing a space with people just like yourself in mind, you’re not creating a welcoming space for everyone. In my mom’s case, of course she has every right to cook what she wants! If people show up unexpectedly, it’s not her fault that there isn’t a single dish they can eat. She didn’t know. And yet, as the family has grown, there are more folks at the table with their own dietary restrictions. There are vegetarians and people with gluten sensitivities and people who can’t eat too much sugar. And then there’s my mom, who keeps cooking the same Christmas dinner she’s always cooked. If you can’t eat it, you’d better bring your own dish. And people do.

This is very much the same dismissive energy as the one I alluded to earlier, an attitude widely shared by longtime leaders and clubs within the nudist and naturist community. So what’s the big deal? The big deal is that “not unwelcome” is not the same thing as “welcome.” “No one’s stopping you,” is not the same as “please come join us!” Having enough space for someone is not the same thing as readying the space for someone. Having plenty of food is not the same as having food for everyone. Inviting someone for dinner is not the same as being prepared for them to come. My mother is not the only one who struggles to grasp this.

When nudist leaders, clubs, and organizations claim to welcome all yet do very little to ready their spaces for all to join, it can come off as… insincere at best. The truth is, much of the nudist and naturist community is largely unprepared to welcome people of color and LGBTQ nudists. Certainly there is space for them, but that was never the issue, was it? Of course there’s space. Of course the club owners would be happy to have you. Of course they’d be delighted to accept your money. Of course. Something is missing, though, and it’s the work involved to make those spaces accommodating and welcoming for people who, for whatever reason, have not been there this whole time. Just saying “we welcome everyone” is not enough.

So what is enough? Enough is involving people of color and LGBTQ folks in your decision-making process. Enough is having a plan of action for handling racist, homophobic, and transphobic behavior. Enough is taking claims of discrimination seriously. Enough is re-evaluating the language used in your written materials to identify potentially sexist, homophobic, or racist language. Enough is being careful not to tokenize the few people of color and LGBTQ nudists who show up. Enough is removing the visual barriers like white supremacist banners or “Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman” signs or anything that makes people feel like their presence is unwelcome because of who they are. Enough is holding people accountable for bad behavior and also offering the tools to improve and do better. Enough is deciding that you care about the way other people feel within your community, and then continually, actively, outwardly striving to make it better. It’s not a series of boxes you can check, but a culture of unity and understanding.

And it’s not… hard. It’s not hard to be aware of the needs of others. It’s not hard to listen or to include others in the conversation. It’s no more difficult to use inclusive language just like it’s no more difficult to cook green bean casserole without bacon. It does take thought, yes, but creating a space that is ready to accommodate everyone is worth that effort. It’s worth it, certainly, for the people for whom you’re preparing the space. It’s worth it for the sake of this community and its longevity. It’s worth it if it helps more people discover and enjoy naturism and its philosophy of equality. It’s worth it because it’s the right thing to do.

I don’t know if my mother will ever truly embrace the idea of having just a few vegetarian dishes at Christmas, but I have hope. I’ve watched her adjust her cooking to accommodate my dad’s newfound gluten sensitivity and his aversion to nuts. I know she can do it. We all can do it. We can do a lot better than “not unwelcome.” We can make people feel welcome.

Why We Flee

My partner and I left Portland, Oregon, for Los Angeles, California, almost exactly one year ago, distancing ourselves even further from our families based in the more rural parts of Eastern Oregon. During the entire twelve years that we lived in Portland, always within a few hours’ drive of our families, there was never a conversation that took place between one of us and our respective family that didn’t impose at least a hint of guilt for abandoning the family, a manipulative tone that begged us to return and fulfill some unspoken but oft-implied duty to remain physically close even if emotionally distant. “Someone I spoke with in town here wants to hire someone like you!” “A teaching position just opened up at the high school!” “There’s a family birthday party this weekend and it would mean a lot if you could come.” Over time, the comments grew less sincere. They knew I wasn’t coming back, but every additional comment and invitation fueled my punishment of feeling eternally guilty, uneasy, anxious for daring to venture out. When we moved to Los Angeles, the antagonizing comments gained more fervor, even if mixed with the occasional, feigned word of support.

My story is not unique, so please don’t take my introduction as some attempt to garner sympathy. I don’t care except to be a beacon for others who have gone through the same thing. A lot of millennials experience this, especially those who make a bold move to a new city, a new state, a new country. This begs the question: Why do we leave our families in the first place? Why did leave? Why do millennials flock to cities? Or is it that we are fleeing something that haunts our hometowns?

I grew up as gay kid born into an ultra-conservative, evangelical family, on the outskirts of a town of fewer than 20,000 people. Without going into too much detail, staying in that town after high school was never going to be an option for me. I could not stay there. There was no place for me at the time, there is not a place for me there now. Maybe some day there will be a place for people like me there but, frankly, regardless of my sexuality, my dreams and aspirations alone were yearning for something bigger and grander. I wanted more than elephant ears at the county fair, more than rodeos and the same ten country songs, more than dusty gravel roads and my choice of seventeen fast food restaurants. I can appreciate those things now, but I resented them during my adolescence when I had no other option, when I felt suffocated by my seasonal allergies, my hidden sexuality, maybe even my teenage hubris. I could not stay there and it still stirs something painful inside to go back to visit.

My experiences are my own, but they are part of a larger trend of young people fleeing their hometowns for the bright lights and busy streets of the big city… any big city. Sometimes that catalyst is pain, fear, or rejection. Sometimes it’s a pursuit of more professional opportunities, an education, a community of like-minded young people gathering in one place to share ideas, stories, resources, homes. Sometimes it’s all of these things or something else entirely. It can be difficult to justify this move to the people you leave behind, to impress upon them the importance of this new, intentional community, of growing professionally, personally, and emotionally, of diversity, of what lies beyond the county line. It probably feels like rejection to them, too. I’m sure it hurts to see us flee.

For many of us, the city provides a refuge from everything that hurt us or held us back and, in its place, gives us a place to grow, like a nursery for young adults ready to bloom and sprout. In the city, we don’t have to convince our father that women are strong and capable, that they can wear what they want, that their bodies are their own. In the city, we don’t have to explain to our grandmother why immigrants are important and worthy of respect, why people of color are not the source of all her problems. In the city, we don’t have to convince our uncle that LGBTQ people deserve happiness and safety, that they aren’t sick and aren’t going to hell. In the city, we don’t have to argue with our mother about the reality of climate change. In the city, we don’t have to justify why we studied philosophy or literature or women’s studies or art or biology. In the city, we don’t have to be treated like lunatics for believing in science, community, equality. In the city, we don’t have to constantly fight against disinformation spread on Facebook or by Fox News, against “entitled millennial” narratives and claims that we are destroying the world they built to fail.

Not all young people find themselves in a home or a hometown that they feel the need to flee, and not all young people need to leave home to pursue opportunities or find community. Not all young people are hurting. Not all young people are exhausted at the thought of visiting their hometowns. But many of those who do flee, who do flock to the city, are fighting some form of the battle outlined above. I know that many families feel they are losing their children when they see them flee to the city. In many ways, the children feel the same way, but don’t see any other choice. They have dreams to pursue, after all.

So… I usually write about nudism. (Maybe that took you by surprise if you’ve never read my other posts. Sorry. Well, not “sorry” so much as “surprise!”) You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned nudism at all until now. You’re right, I haven’t. That honestly was not the reason I wanted to write about this. I wanted to write about this topic because it has been pressing on me personally lately, and I know that I am not the only one who has experienced this conflict. In a way, though, I think maybe I have written about nudism. In a way, a lot of what I outlined above is at the root of declining membership at clubs, of seemingly decreasing interest in organized nudism. Young people fled to the city while nudist organizations and clubs maintained their focus on existing, aging communities in rural areas across the country. Young people sought progress while the nudist community sought to maintain the status quo. Young people pursued new dreams in new places with new people while the nudist community just sort of… stayed where it was, in a world further and further away from the one that young people wanted to build, geographically and ideologically. Much like so many other things that get left behind. It’s much bigger than the nudist community, though.

I won’t list off ways to fix the issue. I won’t provide a strategy. Not in this blog post, anyway. That wasn’t the point. I just wanted to say, to those young people reading this who can relate, you are beautiful just as you are and your journey is valid and important. There will be people in your life who will not appreciate that journey but it is a reflection on them and their character, not on you, the validity of your pursuits, or the importance of your community. If your journey gets hard—which it will—it does not mean that you failed or that you made a mistake. It means you are trying, you are human, and you are learning. I will leave you with one last thought: If you get where you’re going—whether that’s surrounded by city lights, fresh mountain air, or a warm desert breeze—and something you love is still missing, it’s up to you to find it, create it, adapt it. Maybe you’ll miss those rodeos, that country music, those fishing trips, that old nudist park tucked in the woods. Those things aren’t lost, they’re just waiting for the next generation to pick them back up and make them their own, when they’re ready. When you’re ready.

All Pizza Is Good Pizza

Last year, Domino’s Pizza ran a promotion for a few months wherein participants in their rewards program could earn points toward a free pizza by taking photos… of pizza. It makes sense: Eat pizza, earn pizza. The twist was that Domino’s didn’t care what pizza you took a picture of, they just wanted you to take a picture of any pizza available to you. That means Bagel Bites, homemade pizza, high school cafeteria pizza, a competitor’s pizza… all of it would earn you points toward your free pizza at one of their restaurants. When I read about this online, I thought, “Why wouldn’t they require that you eat their pizza?” It was clearly an intentional decision made by the marketing team at Domino’s Pizza, but it wasn’t immediately obvious why they were willing to give free pizza away to people who weren’t even eating their pizza, to people who might not even really like their pizza.

But, that’s exactly the thing: They recognized that it doesn’t really matter whose pizza the participants are regularly eating. They recognized that if they’re going to attract new customers or entice a previous customer to return, the most likely potential customer is one that already loves eating pizza, not one that doesn’t really care about pizza. So they reminded those pizza-eaters that they’re pro-pizza, no matter whose pizza it is. They put their money where their mouth is and rewarded pizza lovers for already supporting the pizza industry. Then everyone held hands and sang of world peace….za.

I think there’s a lesson here. Clearly Domino’s believed that this promotional strategy would be profitable for them in long run or they would not have implemented it. They have plenty of pizza to give away, sure, so it’s not a huge expense on their part to hand out a few pies to the most committed pizza-eaters. They also likely knew that making a statement in support of any and all consumption of pizza would create buzz and instill a perception of benevolent, selfless pizza advocacy in the mind of the consumer. It would be like a major musical performer giving away free concert tickets to a couple of fans who had attended and supported a bunch of other live music performances. It’s a matter of making it very clear what you stand for and understanding that sometimes the greater good is above and beyond your own immediate interests, but that supporting the greater good also supports all other areas involved.

Maybe you see where I am going with this.

Within the nudist and naturist community, national organizations are a bit concerned at the moment with the overall health of their clubs and membership numbers, and that’s not a surprise to anyone. I think for some, though, the touted belief and interest in the longevity of nudism and naturism as a lifestyle can come across a bit disingenuous in the context of a perceived heightened emphasis on rescuing dilapidated clubs with dwindling visitorship. To be clear, I am not saying any of this to be critical of any national nudist or naturist organization. They’re all doing what they can and are passionate about their causes. In crisis mode, it’s natural to aim your attention at the areas in the most immediate danger.

So, back to pizza. How does this relate to pizza? What Domino’s Pizza did is recognize that all pizza is good pizza, not just the pizza you buy from them. The more people out there buying and eating pizza, the more likely they are to benefit from those consumers; the more demand there is for pizza, the more profits there are to share. The same idea is true for nudism and naturism. In the long run, of course we need to pay attention to the success of nudist clubs, but we won’t increase demand for nude recreation by focusing all of our energy on directing people to clubs and resorts that are not easily accessible for most people. We can, however, increase demand for nude recreation by supporting and promoting it wherever it already occurs or where people are already interested in it.

I think it might be tempting to turn a blind eye to nude and clothing-optional beaches simply because they might, theoretically, detract potential paying visitors away from clubs that need as much support as they can get. After all, if a product is offered for free over there, how can we sell it over here? I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I’ve always seen vastly greater numbers at nude beaches than I’ve seen at clubs. There’s already demand there, and there’s a real need for nude beaches and other ad hoc gatherings. Those free spaces are entry points for so many new nudists and naturists. I think perhaps we also need to be careful here to avoid looking at the right to be nude as a raw commodity to be sold. Yes, clubs and organizations need to bring in funds to remain financially solvent, but if we really believe in nudist rights, we should be averse to accepting and potentially profiting off of limited access.

Leaving work early and spending an afternoon at a nude beach 20 minutes from my old office in Portland, Oregon.

If we want to invest in the longevity of nudism and naturism as ideals, we need to promote it even when it doesn’t make us money or benefit us directly. In so many cities and states, nudity is criminalized. So many places don’t have a single place to enjoy social nudity at all, let alone free or low-cost social nudity. Nude beaches have been lost. People are being penalized for being nude in their own backyard or inside their own home. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to the nudist and naturist movement as a whole, including for landed clubs that are struggling to survive, to promote, advance, and reward social nudity anywhere that people are interested in it? Unfortunately, while Domino’s is in a great place to give away free pizza, I think nudist and naturist organizations are in a pinch here because they can’t really afford to spread themselves thinner or involve themselves in affairs beyond the club walls. On the other hand, can they afford not to? That’s worth some serious consideration.

Long story short, all nudism is good nudism, not just the nudism you pay for. The more people out there enjoying social nudity, the more people there are that will want to visit a landed club or resort; the more demand and interest there is for social nudity, the more potential participants and members there are to promote the overall cause… and even to contribute to it financially. On top of all that, getting ahead of the movement and showing up to support all social nudity wherever it occurs would be a really, really good look for any national organization forward-thinking enough to embrace it and attach their name to it. Finally, yes, let’s make sure that we save the clubs and resorts, but let’s also consider that part or most of that solution lies outside of the clubs themselves.

The Affective Filter

IMG_2009 2You probably didn’t know this about me—because how would you?—but I used to teach. For about six years, I taught either Spanish or French to university students. I originally started teaching while I was a graduate student studying world languages, but once I finished my program, I was asked to stay on as an adjunct instructor. Eventually I even earned the grandiose title of “senior adjunct instructor,” which basically meant nothing except that I could sign contracts two years at a time instead of one term at a time. Teaching was an amazing and rewarding experience but also a very frustrating and demoralizing one, for a lot of reasons that aren’t pertinent to this blog or this post. Overall, though, there were a lot of great lessons I learned while teaching that have helped me in myriad other areas of my life, both personal and professional.

In the world of education, there are all these pedagogical theories and philosophies floating around, and not all educators incorporate all of those ideas in their practice, and that’s OK. In the same way that every student is different and has unique needs and skills, so is every teacher. Some teachers are great at teaching their students practical knowledge by way of song, for example, but I would rather bury my head in a sandbox than sing to a class of judgmental college students. But that’s just me. One of the most useful pieces of wisdom for me as a teacher was Krashen’s “affective filter” hypothesis. I promise I’m going to tie this back to the nudist/naturist community, just hang in there.

The affective filter, as it pertains to language instruction, is sort of like a screen that prevents a student from acquiring language. It generally refers to all of the external factors around the student and the language-learning environment that cause emotional distress for the student. When a student feels embarrassed to speak in front of the class or to make mistakes, it hinders learning. When the atmosphere of the classroom is negative or overly critical, it hinders learning. When a student is stressed about all sorts of other factors such as work, family life, or money, it hinders learning. This is probably true for more academic fields than just foreign language, but foreign language learning has a uniquely social aspect that relies on constant interaction and participation in order for the student to succeed. Frankly, nudism did a lot for my social anxiety, but pushing myself to engage more in the classroom while I was a foreign language student also helped me overcome some of those hurdles.

I can’t help but feel that this same hypothesis is relevant to nudism and naturism as well, especially for new participants. Imagine the first time you disrobed around others in a nudist setting. I am sure it wasn’t easy at first, and most newcomers find it to be a daunting experience as well, but we quickly forget about how much of a feat that once was for us once we’ve become comfortable in our own skin. It takes time, though, and patience. What will people think of my body? Will people look at me? Will they judge me? How will I even get there? What if I don’t like it? Can I afford the transportation and fees to get there? What if my family finds out? What if my work finds out? What if I see someone I know? What if I get an erection? What if I’m on my period? What if I’m the youngest person there? What if someone says something homophobic or racist? How long will it take me to feel at ease? It’s this unique social pressure that made me draw the connection to foreign language teaching, making these stressors the nudist equivalent of the affective filter.

In language education, the goal is to reduce the affective filter whenever possible, even if a lot of that filter exists in the anxious mind of the student. For the nudist community, it’s very much the same. These concerns and worries are all perfectly valid, even if not entirely tangible. Upon visiting a nudist club, most people will find that all of these concerns were unfounded and fall away with a little time spent nude in the company of others. So what should we do to reduce the filter if the filter exists in the minds of potential newcomers? Maybe there’s not much we can do, but we can at least be gentle. We can extend warmth and kindness to every new face and understand that getting naked around other people is extremely stressful if you’ve never done it before. We can be careful not to judge their unease or lack of confidence, or to put them on the spot when they may already be feeling anxious and shy. We can all act like the best teachers were remember from our youth. And maybe it won’t solve all the problems or reduce all the anxiety, but it can help.

Stay kind, my friends! We’re all dealing with stress and need a little understanding.

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.


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.

The Future of Naturism Is Less Male, Less White, Less Straight

I initially wrote out a more sensational title for this post that, while eye-catching, might have been more controversial than it needed to be. Earlier this year, I promised myself that I would not censor my beliefs or convictions for the sake of soothing the delicate sensibilities of a more closed-minded audience, but I also believe that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, so communicating the same message in a more palatable way feels appropriate here. The sentiment is still there.

When I started writing this blog in 2018, I knew that this message would need to come out. I danced around it a bit when I wrote Millennial Killed the Nudist Club… because, as a millennial, I have a lot of feelings about the way that younger generations are blamed for the demise of every institution our forefathers and foremothers once held dear and, as a millennial, I have my qualms with the way that the naturist community handles itself, driving nails into its own coffin. What I don’t want to do right now, though, is pick at the naturist community. Those of us already here are all doing what we can to be upstanding nudists and naturists and there is no sense in making anyone feel bad or like they did something wrong. No. You didn’t do anything wrong.

What I do want to do is talk about how the future of naturism will need to look if it is truly to survive. Naturism will need to be less male, less white, and less straight. Take note that I put those adjectives in order of palatability starting with the most universally accepted and ending with the most controversial, but I think you’ll come to agree with me by the end if you haven’t already.

For starters, you probably saw “less male,” and thought, “Well, yes! We could certainly use more women in naturism!” In many areas of society, to pose the idea that there are too many men would still raise eyebrows, but in the naturist community we have long accepted the reality that more men are actively and publicly engaged in naturism than women, to the point that many clubs take strides to correct the imbalance. Banning single men from clubs and events was once more common than it is now, for example. Regulating and maintaining a desired ratio of men to women is another tactic used. It’s not controversial in the naturist and nudist community to admit that the men outweigh the women and that a more even ratio would be better. We basically all agree. We might agree for different reasons, sure. Some straight men may agree with this statement because they would like to find a partner within the community, and that’s hard to do when there aren’t any women. Please also understand that I am saying this as a gay man: I would love to see more women in naturist spaces, too. I would love to see them there because it makes me, as a gay man, feel less like my presence is under scrutiny. More on that later.

But there’s also the idea that every man and every woman and every person whose gender or sex might not neatly fall into either of those buckets all deserve to feel as included, represented, and safe in the community as every other member of the community. Can we espouse body positivity, gender equality, and acceptance and be OK with having a mostly male membership? Maybe. But is that true to the core tenets of naturism? The future of naturism depends on our ability to confront and change the cultural aspects within naturism that favor men and make women feel unwelcome or unsafe. The next time you are in a naturist environment, in a naturist chatroom, on nudist Twitter, on TrueNudists, at a nude beach, etc., take a look around you and ask yourself, “Does this environment, this behavior, this post, this imagery, this dialogue… does it make women feel included? Would someone who isn’t male feel welcome and comfortable here? Is this going to help the naturist community?” If you hesitate even slightly to answer, there is probably something that could change. That’s not a bad thing. It’s not bad to acknowledge the things about your own community that could hurt others or turn them away. It’s a very good thing. It’s how movements survive. And, let me remind you: As naturists, we are especially talented at identifying the aspects of society that create inequalities, that cause undue burden, that are unjust, that pull us all down and demean us. We can do this. It is not hard.

OK, now this next part might ruffle a few more feathers than the last part because we all just hate to talk about race. Let’s do it anyway because we are all smart enough to do it kindly, sensibly, and with understanding. This is also very important because, let’s face it, the face of naturism is very white. It’s not even like white people actively want naturism to be so very white. I know the naturist community would be happy to have people of every race, nationality, and cultural background join the community, partially because we need the member base, sure, but also partially because I know that the value we place on equality and body freedom extends to the color of one’s skin. So, why is it so white? There are a lot of reasons, many of which are rooted in some very racist beginnings within the naturist community, such as not allowing non-white visitors to resorts and clubs or building those resorts and clubs far away from urban centers that were becoming increasingly racially diverse throughout the 20th century. I am not here to say that naturists are racist. Well… some probably are. Some people are racist in general, so surely some naturists are, too, but that’s not my point.

In the same way that we need to look at the culture and environment that we have created to make sure that it is welcoming to women, we need to do the same to make sure that the environment we are created is accessible and actively interested in attracting members who come from different racial, national, or cultural backgrounds. For the sake of better understanding people who don’t look like us, for the sake of representation, for the sake of acceptance and celebration of our differences and our similarities, for the sake of our membership, for the sake of growing this movement and this set of core values that we all hold… for the sake of embracing the diversity of human experience. No one ever learned anything by surrounding themselves with people who knew all the same things and had all the same experiences that they themselves have had. Our community can learn, it can grow, it can encompass a wider array of experiences, but it can’t do that if we don’t identify areas of improvement, if we don’t recognize the little things that make it less comfortable for non-white potential naturists to dip their toe in the community. We could do a lot more to listen to our existing non-white members, to elevate their voices, to take their lead in welcoming and embracing new members, to change the face of naturism to one that looks more like the world around us. I know we can do this. I’ve seen some very valiant efforts to do just that within the community. Let’s get better at doing it and do it more often. Every body, every shape, and every color belongs here.


Now I’m left with the least palatable, possibly most controversial piece. Let me just say, it’s difficult to talk about sexuality at all within the naturist community. On one side, there is this deeply entrenched heteronormativity that manifests itself in couples membership applications that identify the applicants as “husband and wife,” in “sexy” lingerie parties at naturist clubs (which, gross, those just need to go away regardless), and in backhanded Twitter comments. Similarly to the issue of race, I genuinely believe that most naturists don’t have any qualm with LGBTQ members and guests. I think they probably just think to themselves, “What’s the big deal? Just come and join us! We don’t care if you’re gay!” And that’s so admirable, but it’s also unintentionally dismissive. As a gay man, it’s not easy to walk into any space and feel comfortable and accepted. Every new space is unsafe until proven safe, and naturist communities are no different. My first trip to a naturist resort was amazing, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was also quite worried that my partner and I would not be accepted. I can only imagine that other queer naturists feel the same unease when approaching naturism. We want to feel safe, we want to feel like our bodies are whole and worthy of acceptance, and we want to feel the warm embrace of community that many of us are so lacking.

And, before you go there, I know a few of you are going to think something really unkind like, “Well, the gays just fill the internet with porn and I don’t think we should allow that in our communities!” Calm down. The straights fill the internet with porn, too. There are plenty of members of the queer community who do not fill the internet with porn, and I know you know that, so let’s move on. Just like for the last two points I presented, creating a safe space for queer community members involves identifying the rhetoric and culture–however minor it may seem–that quietly (or loudly) makes them feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. For me, even just seeing that the clubhouse at a naturist resort has a rainbow flag hanging alongside other important wall hangings means that someone in the community made a conscious effort to want me to feel welcome, and that’s huge. Creating an environment that is truly free of judgment, that celebrates all families, all love, all bodies, and all lives… that’s community. And the best part is that it’s easy to create those environments, and a lot of us already do. We just need to do it with intention and consider inclusion itself to be a core tenet of this movement.

My original title for this post was, “The Future of Naturism is Female, Brown, and Queer,” but it felt unnecessarily divisive. Language is funny that way. We all associate different meaning to different words, but there are so many fundamental beliefs that we hold as a community that transcend our differences. The truth is that the future of naturism is not any one group: The future of naturism needs all of us. It needs more of everyone. It needs to look like the world around us, but it needs to be better. It needs to love harder, celebrate more, feel safer. The future of naturism looks like all of us, all genders, all races, all kinds of families, and all kinds of love. So, is that less male, less white, and less straight? Yes. Does that mean that there are fewer men, fewer white people, and fewer straight people? No. It just means that we make sure the doors are open to more varieties of people, and then we actively welcome them in.

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.