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Like to be naked? Tell people!

Whether you call it naturism, nudism, or just getting naked, a preference for spending time without clothes has tended to be something that we kept to ourselves. Fear of censure or being thought 'weird' has meant that naked people have kept their nakedness quiet, and friends or colleagues are often left completely in the dark.

When everyone thought that social nakedness was a fringe activity only participated in by the most dedicated nature worshippers (or possibly Wiccans... everyone thinks Wiccans spend half their time naked) this might have made sense. But with recent surveys suggesting that a far larger percentage of the population than ever before are routinely participating in some form of naked social activities, the need for secrecy is probably gone. It is time to start spreading the word.

But what is the best way to bring it up? Showing your holiday photos taken at Studland Beach around the office will probably get you brought up in front of HR, so how do you tell people without crossing any lines?

Firstly, leave the photos on your phone, leave your phone in your pocket, and just mention in passing that there was a cool nude / clothes-optional beach at the resort where you were staying and see if anyone asks any questions. The chances are that even if they don't straight away, they will come back to it some time later. People remember stuff like that, and they may well bring it up days later when you think they have forgotten all about it!

Secondly, avoid problematic power dynamics. A forty-five year old male manager telling the new eighteen year old female intern that he goes naked on holiday - even as an aside - is a very bad plan. Talk about it in your own peer group, and be aware of how it might be taken regardless of your intent.

Thirdly, still keep the photos to yourself even after people start asking about your naked activities, until you are ABSOLUTELY sure that they really really do want to see you with your kit off. Even then, start with the tamest, non-sexual photos you have until you can gauge the reaction. And never ever just send a bunch of naked photos to anyone by text or email unless they have very clearly requested them.

Remember that regardless of how you think of nakedness and how normal or non-threatening you find naked people, society is still catching up. We need to spread the word as much as possible to help de-sensitise people to nudity, but we need to do it in a respectful and sensitive way.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Talking  Blog  

Alone Time

This year I had an unexpected opportunity to spend some alone time on Studland Beach in Dorset, UK. This is probably one of the most famous nude beaches in England, and is on one of the most gorgeous stretches of coastline in the country. It starts somewhere near the chain ferry that joins Sandbanks to the Studland Peninsula and carries on until about halfway towards the National Trust beach car park just south of Studland village.

The beach itself is one long unbroken stretch of sand, backed by dunes, heather, gorse, and places to wander and look at the wildlife. It is one of my favourite places to be, and somewhere that anyone who wants to find out about getting naked should visit at least once. Whenever I am in the area I head down there, and somehow I have always managed to get naked regardless of the weather - although a couple of times in winter it has been little more than a quick strip to say I had done it!

This year I went down in the second week of September and so it was right at the tail end of the holiday season. The schools had mostly gone back after the summer break and everything was a lot quieter than it would have been only a week or two earlier. For anyone who likes their beaches quiet, this is a perfect time of year to pay the place a visit.

I was based in Knoll House Hotel which is only.a few minutes walk from the car park. It was the first time I had stayed there so I was not sure how long it would take to get down to the nude part of the beach walking along the shoreline, as I usually park further down towards the chain ferry and use a little path that cuts through the dunes and woodland before emerging near the middle of the nude section. But as I was staying so close to the end of the beach I decided to walk from there, and in well under ten minutes I was down on the beach and looking at a couple of miles of unbroken sand.

It took exactly fifteen minutes to walk from the shop to the start of the nude section, and as soon as I reached the sign I stripped off. I rolled my clothes and shoes into a ball, tucked them in the grass up on the dunes, and started to walk along the edge of the water.

That section of beach is a popular walking route from the chain ferry along to Studland village, and you regularly get loads of people walking there on their way to or from the other side. This means that one minute you will be completely alone on the beach or maybe with a few other similarly naked beach users, and the next minute you will find yourself in with a group of fully dressed walkers on their way to somewhere. And the really cool thing about Studland? No-one cares. Just like anywhere else and in any other situation you sometimes find that the people walking past ignore you, and sometimes that they stop and have a chat. You can be the only naked one in a group of clothed, or you can be surrounded by naked people with a clothed person walking through the middle. And pretty much no-one find this even slightly odd or unusual, which is what makes that place so special to me.

The nude part of the beach felt a bit bigger this year than it was the last time I walked its length (they do occasionally move the boundary markers, so this is entirely possible) so it takes about half an hour to walk directly from one end to the other and back again. This can of course take a lot longer if you wander up into the dunes or stop to talk to anyone, so at least twice a day I would walk down to the beach, tuck my stuff in a dune, and spend an hour or so walking up and down that stretch of coast. And it was glorious.

The weather was warm and sunny for most of the time I was there, but on the last day the clouds came over and there was some rain. It was still warm enough for a naked walk though, so that morning I went down as usual to see what it was like. The beach itself was just as it had been the day before, but for the first time that I can remember it was completely deserted. At the farthest point of the nude beach from the car park I stopped and looked back along the length of the coast and I don't think I could see a single other person. It was wonderful, and I spent an hour or so in and out of the sea before walking back.

Those few days at Studland were a great way to end the summer, and I will be going there and getting naked again as soon as possible.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Studland  Beach  

Sunny Mornings

It's not often that I get a chance to get naked in the garden. The shape of the land around here means that pretty much everyone gets to look straight down onto what I'm doing so I restrict my naked outdoor time to when I know there are few people around. Not that I have any doubt that the neighbours have all seen me naked anyway as I rarely close the curtains and have forgotten to get dressed a few times when taking out the recycling, but catching a glimpse by accident is a bit different to me stripping off and sitting down in front of them so I try to limit the opportunities.

But at this time of the year the shrubbery is in full growth, and this means that for a few months there are a couple of spots on the patio that the neighbours would have to be making quite an effort to look, so morning naked patio coffee becomes an option.

Do you have a spot where you can get outside relatively not overlooked? Or are the neighbours so used to you that you just go for it anywhere?

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Garden  

Naked Presenters

One thing that I have noticed on TV is that even when a programme involves a lot of nudity, the presenters rarely get naked themselves. Even on something like Naked Attraction (Channel 4 - UK) where all of the contestants (contributors?) are naked at some point in the programme there is no nudity from the host herself. Anna Richardson has posted some nude photos online over the years - including a set that she uploaded as part of an investigation into revenge porn - so I have to assume she is not against the idea of being seen naked herself, but despite that I do not believe she has ever hosted the show nude.

So what is the problem with hosts being nude? Is there some sort of "broadcasting standards" rule that says that hosts have to remain clothed at all times, regardless of the content of the programme? Or is it more that hosts prefer to retain some sort of "professionalism" in the image they present, and they feel that appearing nude might undermine that? This latter seems unlikely given how many of them have posted nude selfies online or appeared in nude fashion / model shoots at some point, so it has to be something to do with the production companies themselves.

I have worked in and around the film / TV world for years, and the one thing I know is that when the cameras are not rolling pretty much everyone gets naked as often as possible. I have been to formal networking meetings where everyone ended up naked in the pool. A colleague had a flat in central London that he used as a meeting and hang out space for his various business interests, but for some reason there was a bath in the middle of the main room, and it was often in use by someone whilst we were talking about his latest project. Nudity just happens, and no-one seems to care... so why do presenters always seem to stay more dressed than the subject of their programmes?

If anyone knows, drop me a line.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Art  Television  blog  

Some people don't even notice!

A few years ago I was over at a female friend's house (Jo) on the way to some work event. We had been chatting for a while when I realised that if we were going to get where we were going anything like on time I had better think about getting changed, so I picked up my stuff and wandered into the spare room to sort myself out. I remember that I got distracted by something (can't remember what though - probably a message on my phone) so it took me a few minutes to get started, but eventually I stripped out of my daytime clothes and started to sort out what I would be wearing for the evening.

Of course it was that exact moment that Jo wandered in with a cup of coffee to carry on the conversation we'd been having earlier and sat down on the edge of the bed to talk... and obviously I was naked.

I wasn't sure how to play this, but since she seemed completely unbothered by the situation I just went with it and kind of forgot about getting dressed. So there was I - naked - talking to Jo - clothed - for maybe five minutes. The conversation ended, so she stood up and left, but whilst I was still wondering what just happened she reappeared, looked at me, and said "You actually *were* naked... right... I thought I'd imagined that!"

It tuns out that she hadn't really been paying attention and had not registered my lack of clothes the first time, but that it had sort of dawned on her as she left the room and she had to come back to check! Of course this time she stayed, and waited for me to finish getting dressed because... well at that point why not?

We saw each other naked a lot after that, but despite what people might think when reading this we were never together. We were just friends who were comfortable naked around each other. And that is how it should be.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Unexpected Nudity  

Do clubs really believe that nude is normal?

You probably know by now that I teach dance, specifically I teach modern jive and Argentine tango. I also tend to get naked quite a lot (also no surprise), and so obviously something I've been thinking about recently is whether there's a market for combining the two. Naked partner-dance classes or naked dance themed events seem to me like an excellent way to spend an evening, so I started to put together some ideas and contact people about how, when, and where to host such things. But the responses I've been getting have surprised me.

Individuals I have spoken to about this seem to be largely in favour of it. Some dance already and some like the idea of learning to dance. Some have partners that they would like to bring along with them, and some would like to come on their own. In fact the response of generally naked people to the idea of naked dancing has been exactly what I expected, and mirrors the response I get in the clothed world to my traditional classes.

But what really surprised me has been the responses given by naturist and nudist clubs.

Almost universally they dismissed the idea of partner-dancing events as unworkable because "people don't generally arrive as couples", or because "everyone is naked" (uh... really?), or because "no-one wants to get that close to another naked person they don't really know". They gave all sorts of excuses and reasons, but what they all boiled down to is "Dancing with another naked person? That's not something we do."

Okay, so partner-dancing is something that gets you pretty close to the person you are dancing with and there is no doubt that you have to be fairly relaxed about the concept of personal space. But that's true whenever you dance, not just when dancing naked. Depending on the type of dance you are doing you can be anywhere from holding both hands face-to-face or in full-body-contact with your partner, and given that a lot of dancers eschew underwear for aesthetic or comfort reasons there can be very little physically separating you at times. But you both know that this is an illusion of closeness that only lasts for the three and a half minutes of a track, and as soon as it's over you break apart. The dance itself can be sexy, but that's not the same as sexual. It's a game. A suspension of reality. A moment to let go and have a bit of fun. 

So why not do it naked? If naked is normal, what's wrong with dance?

Saying that it's a problem because of the nudity is the sort of attitude I'd expect from people who see nudity as sexual and something that should be kept between partners. But from people who spend their whole lives preaching that nudity is just another outfit and that there is nothing sexual about it at all, what's wrong with dancing? Why is dancing any different to anything else that people do naked together? No, this doesn't make sense. This is saying that there are artificial limits on how close you can get when naked, on what you can do before you cross some sort of line. This is saying that nudity is fine so long as you keep your distance.

So what does this mean about the message that the clubs are promoting? Is the whole idea that "nude is normal" just a sham?

Clubs in general have come under fire a lot in recent years, as much for keeping nudity locked up behind closed doors as they do for their existence. The general public see them as funny and anachronistic, and yet they do nothing to change that opinion as they appear to cater only for the older established membership without doing anything to draw in new blood. More and more people are getting naked on holiday and at home now, and yet club membership is largely static. The fenced-in nature of clubs and all their arbitrary (if originally well-meaning) rules promotes the idea that nudity is strange, that it needs to be hidden away in case anyone sees it. But surely this is the exact opposite of the message we are trying to get across.

Clubs need to embrace the new, and if that means trying something that might make the established membership a little uncomfortable then so be it. For all they know, a naked partner-dancing evening might be just what all the potential new members might be waiting for.

Photo: This was taken from a video of naked Argentine tango and we are probably about as close as it's possible to get on a dance floor. But other forms of dancing are available, and some are a simple hand to hand hold with no body contact at all.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Nudist Clubs  Dance  

The Worst Thing for Social Nudity

Social nudity and the general cultural acceptance of nakedness has a lot of hurdles to overcome before it will be a part of normal everyday life. The tendency of religion to use shame as a method of control, advertising companies sexualising everything for profit, the media's desire for sensationalism and their inability to print the word NAKED in anything other than all capitals all play a part in this, and there are ways we can help to influence them in the future. But the biggest problem we have with our nudity not being accepted into everyday culture is one of our own making.

We have described ourselves in terms of an -ism.

Naturism and nudism are divisive terms. We use them to say "I am not like you", and then ask people to accept us as part of their routine. We pigeonhole ourselves into what many people see as a cult, lock ourselves away behind fences and on secluded beaches, then when we do finally get around to telling someone we say "I'm a naturist and it's perfectly normal."

Yeah, right. So if it's that 'normal', why do we need an -ist or an -ism to describe ourselves? And why do some of us call ourselves 'naturist' and some 'nudist'? We keep telling people that the words mean the same thing, but then we insist that we are one or the other, and anyway the general public sees them as very different in nature.

For nudity to be generally accepted we need to talk about it - and talk about ourselves - in a new way. We need to distance ourselves from the perception that we are a 'club' or somehow 'different'. Nude is normal, and the people who sexualise it or are afraid of it are the ones that need an -ist word to describe them. We don't need a label because we aren't the ones with a problem. If they want to call us 'nudists' then fine but we should be avoiding labels amongst ourselves wherever possible and not making it easy for everyone else to pigeonhole us.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Labels  

Out of Office

Anyone who works in a reasonably sized company and has ever read their employer's HR handbook will know that it probably contains somewhere a sentence like "employees will dress appropriately at all times". But what is 'appropriate'? For me, it means fitting in with those around you and your location, and if that means going naked then that's just fine.

A few years ago I had the surreal experience of being in a naked project planning meeting. I was helping out with a small independent film production, and a client of mine called Amanda was handling casting and general logistics. We usually met in her offices in London, but as we already knew that neither of us would be in town for the next couple of weeks we were looking for somewhere else to get together to save travelling up there for no reason. After both of us suggesting various pubs that could work for the meeting, Amanda unexpectedly said "It's going to be really hot tomorrow. Why don't we do something different and meet on the beach?"

That sounded like a good plan to me, and knowing already that she would be based in south east Kent whilst I was in north west Kent, I suggested Whitstable or somewhere in that area as a good mid-point to meet up. She agreed, but said "What about that beach you mentioned the other week? Was it on Sheppey?"

The Isle of Sheppey is an island off the north Kent coast that is accessible only by bridge. There are lots of good walks out there and I often head out that way with my camera, but the only beach I had ever mentioned going to on the island was Sheerness Beach near Leysdown-on-Sea, and that is a nude beach.

I had no idea if Amanda realised what sort of beach she was suggesting. She had never talked about her holidays or hobbies so I had no idea if she was a regular naked person or if she would be wildly embarrassed or offended to find out that I strip off wherever possible. So I cautiously said something like "Do you realise that's not what you would call a 'traditional' beach? It's clothing optional, so there will be a lot of naked people about."

"Sounds perfect for this weather," she replied. "How about 2pm?"

I sent her the directions of how to get there, and then the following day I headed down to Sheppey, still very unsure what to expect. Had she just gone along with this choice because she didn't want to look surprised when I said about it being clothing-optional? Would she be sitting off to one side, still in her usual formal dress as the rest of the beach got naked around her? Would she be fine with everyone else being naked, but get deeply offended if I stripped off to join them? I had misjudged the traffic so I was about half an hour early as I pulled up into the parking area, and I realised that I had made a bit of an error in planning. The clothes I had put on that morning were the sort of thing I would wear up to a meeting in town, not for a trip to the beach, and unless I stripped off I would boil in the early afternoon sun. But until I knew how she wold react to the nudity I didn't feel comfortable getting naked to wait for her. It was a strange dilemma.

I walked slowly up to the beach and started to look for somewhere to wait for her when I heard a call from a few metres down the beach. Amanda was there with a girl I didn't recognise (she turned out to be another colleague from the film, but I can't remember her name), and they were both already naked.

Thank god. ;-) 

I put a towel down next to theirs, said hello, and stripped off to join them. We chatted for a few minutes, and then had a good intensive planning meeting with paper everywhere, laptops kept as far from the sand as possible (it isn't too sandy down there so we got away with it), and lots of cold drinks. And - for that day at least - we completely redefined "office attire".

Over the course of the afternoon I found out that both Amanda and her friend regularly got naked on beaches and elsewhere when on holiday, but neither of them knew anything about nude beaches in or around Kent. So when I mentioned Shellness beach in the office and then the need for this meeting had come up, they thought it an ideal opportunity to see what was around. They got down there really early and made a day of it, so whilst I had been walking up from the car wondering whether to strip off whilst waiting for them they had already been there for several hours.

We spent the afternoon there and stayed long after the meeting ended. We swam, sent selfies to friends, and then eventually went back home. Annoyingly I can't find any of the photos we took that day so the photo above is from another meeting I had a bit later with someone else. I never saw either Amanda or the other girl on the beach again (or naked anywhere else for that matter), but they loved the beach and both went there whenever they could after that.

So there's your challenge. This year, arrange a naked business meeting and tell us how it went.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Nude at Work  

Nudity in Film

A number of years ago, I was asked to make a film about a naturist club that showed their daily life and how they relate to the community around them. It was going to be a documentary with a bit of a plot added in - a 'dramumentary' or 'docu-drama' as they are sometimes called - and would be sold on DVD to raise funds for the club. As part of my early production research, one of the first things I did was to contact the BBFC (the UK organisation tasked with age-certifying UK film releases) and ask them for advice on what certificate would be achievable for a film of this type. They were understandably reluctant to give any definitive answers without seeing the film first, but they did give me some general advice on the sort of things that would earn certain certificates, and this advice surprised me a lot.

Even if your film is a 'U' certificate, a film that is deemed suitable for everyone including unaccompanied children, it can contain some nudity.

Now obviously that is perfectly normal and correct as far as anyone who writes for NINR is concerned, but for the British Board of Film Classification to say something like that really surprised me. So I pressed the point, and asked for clarification. Why then if nudity wasn't seen as inherently 'adult' were all films containing nudity classified as 15 or above? What was going on?

Simply put, the BBFC explained, because no-one actually films any non-sexual nudity and puts it in otherwise low certificate films. They film it and include it, but only ever in films with otherwise mature content, and so the certificate it is assigned comes in at a 15 or higher regardless of the attitude to nudity.

I asked him for examples. Again, he was reluctant as advice like that can be considered to be pre-approval which they don't do, but he did say that lifestyle nudity, shower scenes, documentaries involving naked people, someone getting undressed to change clothes, even if it was full-frontal scene would not in itself require classification above a 'U'. But if there was any hint of sexual meaning attached to the nudity, even something so subtle as a meaningful glance from another character or 'seductive music' played over the scene then the certification level would go up.

Now to me, this makes sense. Although we may disagree on the level of sexuality that is appropriate for people of various ages (I'll be writing about that soon), they are at least classifying simple nudity as "suitable for all".

So why the hell aren't there more nude scenes in films?

There are a number of reasons for this and I'll be looking at those in future posts, but there are two main ones that kill any nude scenes before they get going....

1. The American film classification scheme is a lot less tolerant than ours. Nudity over there is seen as something almost entirely sexual, and so it automatically boosts a film's age rating. Violence, on the other hand, is seen as normal, and you can put that into any film you like (I dare you to make sense of that). Anyway, for a mainstream film to have any chance at realising a profit, it has to sell in the US as well as the UK, and so films are generally made to comply to the US market requirements.

2. Even in the UK where attitudes to nudity are generally more accepting (although not as accepting as they are on the mainland), our media is sensationalist and nasty, and any time someone releases a nude photograph or appears naked in film or on stage they spend all their time talking about the nudity and no time talking about the production. This is not what a distributor or marketing company wants for their product, so they avoid the problem by putting in less nudity.

In other words, the mechanisms for getting nudity onto the big screen are already there. Now we just have to persuade people it's a good idea.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Art  Film  Blog  

Naked Selfies

I recently saw an online poll taken by one of the major tabloid newspapers in the UK, that was looking at attitudes to naked selfies and nude photography in general. This could have been an interesting window into the general views on nudity, but once again the questions were clearly slanted in one particular direction. The question and the possible answers were...

Have you ever taken a naked selfie?

 - Yes, I often send them to my partner
 - Yes, but I regretted it
 - No, I have never

You see the problem? Where's the option for "Yes, I send them to my partner and s/he shows them to all her/his mates. It's great fun!", or "Yes, I post them online all the time"? Why are they mixing the whole yes/no question in with how you feel about what happened? This is not a straightforward yes/no question even if you give two options for Yes.

So we thought we would do our own version. The link below takes you to a short survey hosted on Google Forms that should take about a minute to complete. We'll post the results here as they come in, so please help us out and tell us about your attitude to nude selfies.

Take the survey!

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Selfie  Survey  

Walking in a Kilt

Not everyone can find somewhere local to go walking naked, and a trip to Germany or some other nude-friendly forest location is out of reach for most people. But if you want to find out what it's like, then for me the next best thing is go go for a walk in a kilt without underwear. It feels right when walking; when you sit down it's you that's in contact with what you're sitting on, not your clothes; and you get no complaints from other users of the paths! If you're not used to skirts or kilts then you may want someone with you to tell you how exposed you are when climbing over stiles or up stairs, and you have a conscious decision to make as to whether or not to worry about up-draughts (ask any woman who wears skirts regularly how she deals with these issues if you want, as there's nothing unique to the kilt), but other than that a kilt is pretty much the perfect solution.

They're also cheap, machine washable (if you get an acrylic one), and available in a huge range of styles. The one I got was from The Kilt Clan (link here) but there are any number of other companies that do similar ones.

Get yourself a kilt. You won't regret it.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Clothing  Walking  

Nudity, porn, or just get naked?

I like nudity in all its aspects. I like getting naked with other people. I like getting naked on my own. I never remember to close doors or curtains until it's way too late, and I've taken and featured in any number of photographs where I have been nude on one side of the lens or the other. I like looking at fine-art nudes with incredible attention to detail, and I like looking at mobile phone selfies that people have snapped in the bath or in changing rooms. I like watching sex (if it's interesting), and I like all sorts of things that people consider to be "fetish" like pee-play, bondage, and exhibitionism. So with all this nakedness around me, where do I draw the line between nudity and porn? Or is there actually a line at all?

I like looking at pictures of naked people. I don't care whether they are walking the dog, posing on their sofa, lying in a field, or having sex, if the image is interesting then I enjoy looking at it. That last part is critical; for me to enjoy an image or a film it has to be interesting. Two people humping for twenty minutes isn't interesting. Anyway, for some people, this broad approach to nude acceptance is enough to make me "not a real naturist" (which is why I never use labels), whereas for others it is proof that naturists and nudists were in it for the sex all along. My love of images that some consider pornographic or explicit has got me barred from certain "naturist" groups over the years, and yet at the same time this website gets visited by people looking for hardcore porn all the time. They, it has to be said, will be disappointed.

The image on the top of this post got me blocked from a naturist forum a while back because it clearly "wasn't naturist". When I pressed for reasons, all I got was "Well, look at it..." but no actual information, and then a few days later I found I was blocked because I left the photo on my profile. Fair enough... it was a free forum and in places like that the hosts set the rules, but it did get me thinking. What makes an image "naturist"? When does it become "explicit"?

This photo was taken in Mimi's house towards the end of a shoot when we were just chatting. We had been looking at some of my other photos, including several of me modelling nude, and so by the time we got to that part of the day we were pretty relaxed. She was on the sofa... I was on the floor sorting out lenses... and occasionally I'd snap a shot of her as we talked. This was one of those, a casual photo in a chilled situation that was about as erotic as making the tea. I love the photo - I had a B&W print of it on my wall for ages - but I have never seen it as even slightly sexual. 

But some people do. And therein lies the problem. In some cultures showing too much leg is considered pornographic, whereas elsewhere it's only mildly surprising when contestants dance naked on the local version of Strictly Come Dancing. Art that has been around for millennia is being reclassified as "adult", and yet every other teenager with a phone is publishing nudes online without a thought. With a baseline as wide as that how can we possibly make an absolute judgement on what is porn and what is simple nudity?

We can't. All we can do is enjoy what we like and if someone posts something that crosses our personal line just look away.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Labels  Porn  

Spring Mornings

Spring is finally here, and at last it's warm enough to leave the heating off and get up and without having to bother about getting dressed. I can get my coffee, make breakfast, and have a think about what I'm going to wear when I eventually go out for the day, whilst I watch the world hurry past the window for a while. I don't think I'm particularly visible from the road, but I'm sure that some of the neighbours must have seen me naked at some point as I don't do much to try to hide it.

I live on the boundary where suburbia meets rural. My road folds back on itself without going anywhere as there are just fields to the west of my house, so everyone you see outside is local. It is the sort of town where people don't really talk to each other much, but everyone recognises everyone and you all nod to each other as you pass in the street. From my window I can see maybe twenty or thirty houses at a stretch, so that might be enough to get an idea of how important people think "covering up" is when in and around their own homes. So what do I see through my kitchen window in the mornings?

I have one neighbour who goes out into her garden for a cigarette most mornings, just wearing a fluffy white dressing gown that's not always as tightly done up as you might expect. Across the road the house has a front window that stretches almost floor-to-ceiling, and you regularly see the owners in their underwear as they like to keep the curtains open. There's the girl with the very long legs and very short skirts who rarely seems to bother with underwear and yet manages to bend over a lot as she's getting into her car. Two teenage sisters down the road regularly turn up from going out in five-inch heels and four-inch skirts, and spend a few seconds wriggling into longer skirts and pulling on hoodies before heading into their own house - so the parents "don't realise" what they were wearing a few minutes earlier. One neighbour only ever seems to wear underwear if her husband is home, and the rest of the time wears thin stretchy outfits that go almost transparent if the light catches them just right...

But this is fairly tame compared to a town I lived in a few years ago. If the weather was warm, my neighbour would come home from work, strip down to her knickers, and go and stand in the garden with a cup of tea or a glass of wine to unwind as she chatted to me over the fence. Another neighbour whose back garden I could see from my house used to have friends round every Friday, and in the summer they would frequently all end up naked sitting on her patio as they watched the stars. It was common to see people getting changed in front of open windows, and you would occasionally spot someone putting the bins out or getting something from their car in whatever they were - or weren't - wearing at the time.

These were both suburban semi-rural towns, and I can guarantee that if you asked these people if they considered themselves "nudists" or "naturists" the answer would be a definite "NO!". But what it does show is that public acceptance of casual nudity is a lot higher than we are often led to believe. If nudity just happens then no-one cares. It's only when someone asks them about it that they remember they are supposed to disapprove and get all 'offended'.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Home  Labels  

Naturist or Nudist?

It is the age-old discussion... are you a naturist or a nudist? Do they mean the same thing? Why does it matter anyway what you call yourself so long as you are not trying to offend anyone, because everyone knows what you mean?

Or do they?

A number of years ago, an earlier version of ran a short survey to find out how people who considered themselves neither nudist nor naturist perceived the terms, and whether they immediately formed any different preconceptions about the person depending on which of the terms was used. We were expecting to find that the term itself, whether 'naturist' or 'nudist' did not matter as both would be considered equally unusual and perhaps a little weird, but the results that came through were somewhat surprising. It showed quite clearly that people who identified as neither saw nudists and naturists as quite different things, but that they largely agreed on what those things were.

Naturists, we found, were perceived as being more in tune with the environment, were likely to spend a lot of time sunbathinng and swimming with the occasionall game of frisbee or other beach activities, but that was generally believed to be the extent of their nude activities. Naturists were seen as the sort of people who would go for a walk in the countryside and strip off to go for a swim in a stream, but after lying around on the bank to dry off they would almost certainly get dressed again to continue walking. A naturist may be nude around the home, but probably only when between activities that already involve nudity, such as sleeping and having a shower. They probably would not watch the television in the nude. Naturists were also thought to be more spiritual, with their liking of nudity coming from their connection to the environment.

Nudists, on the other hand, were seen as far more militant or proselytising. Someone who said they were a nudist would usually be naked around the house and would only very reluctantly get dressed if people came round to visit that were not comfortable in a naked environment. A nudist is someone who goes on long-distance naked hikes through Germany in the summer, and spends their entire social life hanging out with other nudists or trying to persuade people to become nudists. They spend a lot of time in clubs that forbid clothing anywhere on the premises, and are likely to have a sign on their front door at home that says something like "If you are offended by nudity then you are at the wrong house".

So the non-nude perception of the two terms can be very different. Naturists have a hippie-vibe, whereas nudists are politically militant. Naturists are a bit live-and-let-live, but nudists want to convert everyone.

But why does this matter? Why do we care what people think the words mean, so long as we know what we mean?

This world relies on labels. Almost the first thing anyone says to you when you meet them for the first time is "What do you do?" so before they have got to know you at all, they have already assigned you a label. You are a teacher, a plumber, a lawyer, an engineer... it does not matter that you may do several different things, because the first thing you tell them is how they will think of you forever.

So if the perceived meaning of naturist or nudist fits the way you want to be seeen then by all means continue to use them. But if not then you might want to consider a different way of introducing yourself.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Labels  

Body Image

I have no idea how it began, but I spent most of my early life convinced that I was massively overweight. As a child, as a teenager, and then through most of my early adult life I was certain that I was far above average weight and that there was little I could do about changing that. I didn't particularly care at the time so I never found myself with eating problems or over-dieting to try to fix it, but I did think it was just one of those things that I was going to have to put up with.

Looking back, however, that was clearly a load of rubbish. The photo at the top of this article was me aged about 17 or 18, and these days I can see that I was a pretty normal size at the time, possibly even a bit smaller than the average. Family, friends, teachers at school all had me convinced that I was fat though, and it took me until I was in my mid 40s (and by then actually overweight) to realise that they were all wrong.

But if I wasn't bothered by it, what was the problem?

I made decisions - both conscious and subconscious - based on my belief that I was overweight. I was never very good at sport back then, but I never really tried either as I felt that I would have to lose weight before I could get involved. I was never very confident around girls as I knew they all just saw me as some sort of blob so I blustered a lot and made out that I wasn't interested. I paid no attention to what I ate as why did it matter if I put on a few pounds more. I basically had a very low impression of myself.

Later on, in my early 40s, I had a few health problems, and because I already saw myself as overweight I didn't notice when the change in my health made me actually put on a huge amount of body fat. I gained 4 stone in a couple of years, and it was only when the horse I occasionally rode could no longer carry me that I realised something was up.

These days I am quite active as I teach dance (that was an unexpected career change) and walk all over the local countryside, but I am finding it hard to shift the weight and get back to where I was. I'm still not bothered by the way I look, although I would like to be a bit thinner so my weight isn't the first thing people see in photographs of me, but my health and fitness have definitely suffered as a result of the change in weight and I have to wonder if had I had a more realistic impression of my weight as a child, would I have let myself put all that on in the first place?

Body shaming, telling people they are fat, ugly, wearing the wrong clothes, etc. affects everyone differently and I got off pretty lightly, but there is no excuse for it ever.

Let people be themselves.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Body Image  Family  

Changing Room Encounter

Although I had never been particularly bothered about being nude or being seen nude ever since I was a kid, my first real encounter with unexpected nudity was in a changing room during an after school club when I was about fifteen years old. I used to go sailing with the school at a local lake, and so we would head down in the mini-bus, get changed in their clubhouse facilities, then spend a couple of hours messing about on the water before coming back in, having a shower, and putting something clean on for the drive back. This was usually pretty routine, and there were of course two changing rooms, one male and one female, that could be accessed from inside or outside of the clubhouse. We used the external entrances because the clubhouse was generally open only on weekends, but for some reason the doors on the outside weren't labelled, so you had to know which was which.

Anyway, there was one evening that we came in from the lake, and because I had been the one to make sure all the covers were on the boats properly I was the last one into the shower. As I was finishing off, I heard my friends picking up their stuff and leaving, so I hurried up a bit and as soon as I was soap-free I headed out into the changing room rubbing my towel through my hair to get the worst of the water out as I went, only to find that as my friends had left, three other people must have come in, and there were now two girls and one guy in there getting changed. They were all a little older than me but probably no more than late teens or early twenties; the girls were already as naked as I was as they sorted out swimming costumes and wetsuits, and the guy was in the process of catching up. I hesitated, towel still on my head rather than trying to cover anything up, but other than a glance in my direction to see the new arrival, none of them even reacted to my presence. So I went back to my stuff, got dressed in no particular hurry, and left about the same time that they did.

It was surreal, but from that moment on I knew that nudity only matters if people make a big thing about it. If you ignore it, nudity is just as normal as a suit or a pair of jeans.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Blog  Unexpected Nudity  

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