This blog contains all the articles that wouldn't fit in anywhere else. You can expect it to be fairly random!
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.
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, by the way. 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 and my Tumblr feed get followed 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.
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 for the day whilst I watch the world hurry past the window for a while. There's the neighbour who stands in her back garden for a cigarette, just wearing a fluffy white dressing gown that's not always as tightly done up as you might expect. There's the guy who sometimes wears jeans and a T-shirt, and sometimes a dress and high heels. The other neighbours whose front window is almost floor-to-ceiling, and you regularly see them 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. And there are any number of runners, walkers, and cyclists whose lycra is so revealing it's little more than a coat of paint.
But this is fairly routine 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 underwear, and go and stand in the garden with a cup of tea or a glass of wine to unwind. 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 decking 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'.
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 nudeisnotrude.com 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.