Most of the time these essays are meant only to air my opinion of some political issue, but sometimes I pass along what I think are interesting bits of trivia which are intended to enlighten my readers, such as my explanation of the “wrong side of the tracks” expression. Today I’m going to tell you about something that few people know anything about.
I want to tell you about what I’ve found to be a wonderful, but misunderstood, lifestyle. It is so poorly understood and misconceived that most people dismiss it without giving it any serious consideration. What I’m referring to is the simple pleasure of not wearing uncomfortable clothing when there’s no reason to do so. It is called nudism or naturism. These terms are essentially interchangeable here in the US, but there is a difference in Europe and elsewhere.
Most people conflate nudity with sex and therefore mistakenly assume that nudists are naked so they can participate in promiscuous sexual activities. Undoubtedly a few do, just like some non nudists do, but the vast majority share the same morals as the general population. We don’t abandon our morality when we remove our clothes, and public sexual activity is never condoned.
We are a very diverse group with only one common characteristic, sometimes we like to take off our clothes simply because we enjoy it. Our skin is our largest organ. It is covered with sensory receptors which are effectively disabled by our clothing. Outdoors, the warm sun and cool breeze on your bare skin on a summer day is like being caressed by Mother Nature, and skinny dipping is a marvelous activity that not only young country boys should be able to enjoy. (I’d like to hear someone try to make a rational argument for wearing a swimsuit while swimming.)
Many people believe one must be young and attractive to be a nudist, but nudists are just ordinary people, tall – short, fat – thin, young – old, white collar – blue collar, rich – poor. We are your neighbors, your colleagues, your friends, the people you routinely pass on the street or in the stores, and even your relatives. We usually don’t reveal our preference for being clothes-free because most of the the population has such a negative opinion of our lifestyle, so we’re sort of an underground movement.
There are various benefits to being nude. We nudists have learned to accept that our bodies are imperfect. We have unsightly lumps, scars, stretch marks, medical appliances, and we realize that those things are unimportant. We’ve learned to accept our appearance, and we don’t rate other people based on their appearance either.
There is evidence that moderate exposure to sunlight is beneficial to people, but the medical community has been preaching that any exposure should be avoided for so long that they are unlikely to change, but after decades of these warnings skin cancer rates are rising. For hundreds of thousands of years people lived under the hot sun with little or no clothing and no sun screen. Why are we now expected to believe that the sun is going to kill us unless we cover our bodies?
Most people react to the suggestion to try nudism by saying “I could never do that,” without actually giving it much, if any, consideration. Our society has indoctrinated us all to believe that it is somehow harmful to be seen by others while you’re nude. Young children are natural nudists, they like to run around without clothes, simply because it is enjoyable. They have to be taught that such behavior is inappropriate, but there’s really no rational explanation provided. Why is it necessary to keep some parts of your body hidden from view? What is there to be ashamed of or embarrassed about? There seems to be no rational explanation for our society’s view on public nudity.
There is no doubt that a significant amount of courage is required the first time you undress before a group of strangers, but, as a hardcore introvert I can assure you it is completely painless to be nude among a group of strangers. I was certain that my first visit to a nude club was going to be a disaster, but although I was several giant steps outside my comfort zone, there was no drama, no trauma, and no discomfort what so ever. Of course there are also a large number of what we call closet nudists, who confine their clothes-free activities to their homes. Nudism is different things to different people. We nudists do our thing as we see fit.
Those who do not approve of nudism could argue that public nudity generally is illegal, but why should it be illegal? What compelling state interest is served by prohibiting public nudity? Who would be harmed if I took off my clothes and soaked up some sunshine in my backyard?
There are many in our society who lack the maturity to accept public nudity, but that hardly seems like sufficient reason to pass laws prohibiting such an enjoyable and harmless activity and enjoyable lifestyle.