Month: February 2014

Filling the leadership vacuum

As the ancient philosopher Aristotle observed, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” As evidence of his conclusion he pointed to the fact that nature requires every space to be filled with something, even if that something is colorless, odorless air.

The same principle is at work in nudism. When a single, authoritative voice in the form of a cohesive organization does not exist that can point to a written articulable philosophy and code of conduct that defines the culture any group can hold itself out to be nudist or naturist even when their conduct and viewpoints are diametrically opposed to what the traditional culture is about. Organizations are formed and self-appointed naturist “leaders” fill the void and start to espouse to the media and the public what it means in their personal view to be a nudist or naturist.

Sometimes these organizations and individuals are authentic adherents of the traditional culture and a positive force, yet too often we see organizations and groups where that is not the case. Instead they present a distorted image of nudism. The misrepresented and twisted images of nudism serve only to provoke more intolerance and hostility from the general public.

Sometimes it seems these illegitimate pretenders seem intentionally bent on shocking society and inciting resentment and outrage in the name of normalizing nude. Unfortunately these kinds of groups and organizations tend to get the press and are quoted in the media on nudist and naturist issues because the media today isn’t interested in the truth so much as they are interested in getting copy read and turning a profit. Controversy of course is often better than truth when it comes to getting attention.

Many bristle at the idea of being told that they aren’t a “true” nudist and naturist, even when their conduct and views are clearly incompatible with the ideals of nudism. No one should be judged unless there are objective standards they clearly deviate from. That is simply unfair. But when it comes to traditional nudism there are objective standards. While German culture didn’t invent nudism, clearly it became more popular and best organized in Germany at the turn of the twentieth century. The important precepts and ideals on which modern nudism were established there as the foundation of traditional nudism haven’t changed. Let’s look at a few examples.

  • Body Acceptance: Nudism has from the beginning rejected the aesthetic of an ideal body and has instead celebrated the diversity of human bodies.
  • Harmony with Nature: Nudism has always sought to reorient humankind to nature to counter the debilitating effects of industrialization and urbanization on the body, mind, moral character and political consciousness by promoting the holistic healing benefits of nature for mind, body and soul when the unclad body in nature is exposed to sunlight, air and water.
  • Self-Respect: Nudism from the start has advocated liberation from the outdated and unnatural tradition of shame about the naked body.
  • Non-sexual Social Nudity: In the late 1920s a German court granted a man divorce on the grounds that his wife had visited a naturist park. The judge argued that for an honorable woman, any visit to such a facility was contrary to marriage and communal nudity was indeed grounds for divorce. Nudists disagreed entirely noting that it was contrary to the nature of nudism for anything sexual to have occurred on the grounds of a nudist park so the lady could not have done anything dishonorable.

In times past, nudism has promoted things like vegetarianism, abstaining from alcohol and mandatory group calisthenics for those visiting nudist parks in the interest of more natural living. There isn’t anything wrong with that and many believe those are healthy practices but clearly there is plenty of room for discussion and differing opinions with respect to such things. A person could certainly be a nudist or naturist without practicing any of them. However, when it comes to things like body acceptance, living in harmony with nature, liberty from shame about the naked body and making the distinction between simple nudity and nudity for erotic purposes, these are the historical underpinnings of nudism. It simply wouldn’t be nudism if compromise was made on any of them. To be a nudist or naturist means embracing and practicing the immutable foundational principles.

Nudism is an avocation rather than a vocation however some parallels may be drawn. Anyone can put on a lab coat and claim to be doctor but it doesn’t make them a doctor if they never attended medical school. Picking up a law book and claiming to be an attorney doesn’t make it so for anyone with no legal training and who hasn’t been admitted to the bar. Likewise, while anyone can claim to be one, being a nudist or naturist is more than the simple willingness to remove one’s clothing even in a social nudity setting. Clearly there are some attracted to social nudity settings to satisfy erotic appetites and claiming to be a nudist or naturist gives them access and opportunities.

Yes, but why does it matter? Why can’t the community just accept everyone who claims to be a nudist or naturist, join hands and sing Kumbaya together in the hot tub? Isn’t it being legalistic, a little narrow-minded and unreasonable to expect everyone to have the same perspective? Actually no, all that is being asked is that those who want to be part of the culture accept the cultural imperatives.

Realistically there is no way to stop someone from misappropriating the labels nudist or naturist and that isn’t the point. The point is we are in dire need of real leadership in the community, not in the sense of one authoritarian individual coming forward and taking charge but in the sense of a single effective organization capable of uniting the majority of nudists and naturists. An organization that would be recognized as the credible source of information about what nudism is and what it is not. It isn’t really a mystery why the community is so divided and fragmented. There is simply no leadership. Where is even one historical example of a successful human endeavor where there was no effective leadership? There are however plenty of examples of groups that failed due to the absence of leadership.

Take the occupy movement as a recent example. By design the movement had no recognized leadership and ostensibly any participant was empowered to speak on behalf of the movement. As a result there was never any visible platform or idea of what the movement was even aiming to achieve communicated with any clarity. It quite quickly descending into chaos and then abruptly failed without accomplishing anything.

Nudists and naturists need the leadership of an effective organization built from the ground up on a consensus of opinions from the rank and file. Such an organization needs to set and pursue clear and achievable goals to advance nudism. Part of that is communicating the historical standards and values of nudism so that even those outside the community including the media can begin to grasp what nudists and naturists are actually about.

The facts are that much of the organized opposition to nudism, the kind that has been successful in shutting down clothing optional beaches doesn’t attack nudism on the basis of what it is but on the basis of misconceptions and stereotypes that aren’t even what nudism is really about. That is why so much energy and effort is spent trying to convince the general populace that nudism is not about sex and the denials basically fall on deaf ears because fringe subcultures have been successful in convincing society that they are part and parcel of what it means to be a naturist or nudist. To stop that will require unity in the community and an organization filling the leadership vacuum to affect that. External change isn’t going to be accomplished until internal change is made and division is exchanged for unity.
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Why Are We So Scared of Breasts?

Posted: 17/02/2014 21:52

If you spent any time browsing the Daily Mail‘s eponymous sidebar this week, you may have chanced upon two stories about breasts. The two women attached to these breasts,Miley Cyrus and Beth Whaanga, were treated very differently by the publication. One had her “racy” mammaries blocked by a little black box, while the other had her photos shown in full and was lauded as “brave” by commenters for “baring all”.

The difference? Whaanga’s nudity exposed surgical scars from a double mastectomy and hysterectomy. Her photos were posted on her Facebook page as part of the cancer awareness-raising Red Dress Campaign, and 100 of her “friends” promptly deleted her. TheMail rightly came to her defence. But where does this leave Miley and her equally blameless areoles?

As a society, we’ve got our knickers in a twist about nudity. Specifically, female upper-body nudity. Where should it be allowed? On TV, but usually only after 9pm. We can’t be naked in Tesco, but Adele Stephens on page three of the Sun is more than welcome. We can be topless in the bath, unless it’s the big kind, in the Leisure Centre, with other people in it. No breasts allowed on Facebook – unless it’s to raise cancer awareness. Breastfeeding in public? We’re not sure how we feel about that.

It’s easy to argue that nudity is all about context. While you might be happy for your children to see a Caravaggio on a wholesome trip to the National Gallery, you may be less keen for them to flick through Nuts magazine. Yet when it comes down to making laws or social media policies, judging “context” is far from easy.

The image-sharing website Pinterest recently loosened their no-tolerance policy to allow nudity in “art” images, following complaints from artists and photographers. Facebook, however, stands by its policy that “breast or genital” nudity is, in its nature, “pornographic”. Yet they have made an exception for Whaanga, assuring her that her photos will not be removed.

I once posted a picture on Facebook of a burqa-clad Muslim woman bearing her breasts at a protest. She had less square inches of flesh on show than your average woman wearing a jumper and jeans, yet I received a warning from Facebook moderators, who removed the image. This, too, was an awareness-raising photo – yet Zuckerberg and co. (in their infinite wisdom) decide which causes are worthy of a little breast-flashing, and which are not.

Women across the world have protested for the right to be topless. In New York City, topless protests led to police agreeing not to arrest topless women in May 2013. Meanwhile, in the same month, European protesters from pressure group Femen protested topless in Tunisia against the state’s patriarchal regime.

The Femen protesters were arrested and later were allowed to leave the country, while the NYC victory still leaves the rest of the country with their tops firmly on. In a country where gun-wielding is constitutionally encouraged, women are still fighting for the right to bare breasts, protesting annually in 30 US cities on Go Topless Day (24 August this year).

Perhaps it’s time to admit that context doesn’t have the power to make our breasts offensive. Breasts are breasts, and pornographic content should be identified by its participants’ actions, not by the exact pieces of flesh on show. As it stands, we still allow a normal part of a woman’s body to shock and horrify us. Are we really living in a world where it’s unacceptable for women to show their breasts unless they’re riddled with scars?

 


Follow Barbara Speed on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bspeed8

The Naturist Living Show
Friday, February 7, 2014

Play now

Pubic Hair

A discussion about pubic hair including an interview with the author of the Bare to Bush website plus Bitcoins, France and more.
Links to items mentioned in the show:

Image: Courtesy of the Bare to Bush website

Play now

Episode LXIII

i-naked:

Walking Naked (final to date February 14) from brandon beacon hill on Vimeo.

My current video work is titled, Walking Naked. To be naked liberates one from attachment and the restriction clothes add to one’s body. Also, by being naked exposes one’s body, putting that person in a vulnerable state, the only one within the environment stripped down to their basic form. Clothes signify different meanings, shapes and interpretations; labeling a person, they’re identity, their class, race, style, etc. I want my video to signify the absence of those apparent meanings while traveling within various landscapes (global territories) throughout the world. Also, within this work I aim to challenge the limits between the public and private body and by removing my clothes this boundary or restriction that we are told (by law and social stigma) we should not cross becomes visible. In the work it is evident and understood that the line has been crossed and the barrier/boundary is broken.
Brandon Beacon Hill
Koh Lanta, Thailand
April 4, 2013

Everybody naked!

A row about children’s books exposes sharp cultural divisions in France

Feb 22nd 2014 | PARIS | From the print edition

WHEN culture wars break out in France, they are usually to do with protecting art-house films or the French language. Political battles over family values are a lot rarer, thanks to a fairly relaxed liberal consensus. Abortion in France, for instance, is legal and free. Couples can enter into official unions (PACS) without getting married. Gay marriage was legalised last year. And there is also cross-party agreement in favour of a strict form of secularism, known as laïcité and entrenched by law since 1905, which keeps religion out of public life.

Yet the country has recently found itself torn apart by virulent quarrels about the role and nature of the family. The most recent concerned several books designed for children of primary-school age, bearing such titles as “Jean has two Mummies”, “Daddy wears a dress”, and “Everybody naked!”, a volume that shows, page by page, family members, a baby-sitter, a policeman, a teacher and several others all taking their clothes off (see picture). “Enough!” cried Jean-François Copé, head of the main centre-right UMP party, as he leafed through this picture-book on a television show. Such texts, he declared, had no place as recommended reading material in state schools.

The book in question, claimed its detractors, was officially recommended as part of a new government project, ABCD of Equality, that is designed to counter gender stereotyping at a young age. This project is the brainchild of Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the government’s spokesperson and also minister for women’s rights, who has pushed through a new law on sex equality. After a huge fuss, it turned out that “Everybody naked!” was not in fact part of the official curriculum but merely one of 92 suggested picture-books on a website linked to by ABCD of Equality, from which primary teachers might choose to select their books. But such details do not deter culture warriors.

The book row is just part of a wider panic uniting Catholic and Muslim traditionalists, who are convinced that Ms Vallaud-Belkacem’s project is really about imposing “gender theory”. Schoolchildren, say her critics, are to be taught that sexual identity is learned rather than being biologically or otherwise determined.

Teenagers will be “encouraged to doubt their sexual identity”, declares Farida Belghoul, an anti-gender-theory activist, as the government tries to “re-educate our children”. The education ministry, asserts her group, is in the pockets of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lobby. Another lobby, of Catholic conservatives, is now campaigning to have all “offensive” books removed from public libraries.

Such is the hysteria that, when Ms Belghoul recently urged parents to boycott classes as part of a day of protest over gender theory, scores of schools suffered. Rumours flew on social media that small children would be taught to masturbate, and boys to dress up as girls. Vincent Peillon, the education minister, had to step in to try to calm people down. The whole episode, insisted Ms Vallaud-Belkacem, was provoked by “the manipulation and agitation of fears and fantasies”.

All of this might be dismissed as a sideshow were it not for the growing muscle of the family lobby. Last year, despite repeated protests, it failed to block the legalisation of gay marriage. Yet earlier this month as many as 100,000 people took to the streets to protest against a draft law which, they claimed, would give gay couples access to surrogate motherhood and fertility treatment. Even though the text in question did not contain either provision, President François Hollande backed down and shelved the bill, to the consternation of many in his Socialist Party.

No single force is driving the family-values lobby. It unites hardline traditional Catholic groups, including Civitas, as well as activists of north African origin, such as Ms Belghoul. The far-right National Front is not leading the crusade but its leader, Marine Le Pen, has denounced ABCD of Equality as a distraction from real teaching. Her party seems likely to benefit from the frenzy in next month’s local elections. Having described the teaching of gender theory as “shocking” and campaigned against gay marriage, Mr Copé has since become a bit more nuanced, for instance by condemning the school boycotts.

For his part, Mr Hollande seems to have calculated that he cannot afford to divide the French over cultural matters at a time when he is also trying to bring in controversial new business-friendly economic policies. Yet this decision is also risky. A new generation of Socialist deputies has been drawn into politics not from the labour movement or local government but from the non-profit sector, where they fought for women’s rights and against violence and discrimination. In a post-industrial era, when workers have largely abandoned the left for the National Front, the deputies see such issues as a key Socialist battleground. They are furious about Mr Hollande’s retreat, and in no mood to give up the struggle.

I Tried Co-Ed Naked Meditation Led By a Crystal-Wielding Vegan Chocolatier

FEBRUARY 26, 2014

The love letter I picked up, carnation, and my crystal. (Photo: Kristy Ann Muniz)

My period was already a day late when I signed up for the naked meditation. Class was scheduled for Saturday — five days away. On Thursday, I began to spot. I went to the website for the Young Naturists and Nudists America to see what the organizers of the event suggested: aDiva Cup, a silicone-based container purported to be more discrete than a tampon. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but the list of items I feel comfortable putting inside of my body is not very long, and something with the word “Diva” in the title is certainly not on it. The website also condoned underwear, but (no pun intended!) I didn’t want to half-ass the experience, so I decided to just tough it out with a tampon.

Thursday’s spotting turned out to be a false alarm. I didn’t spot at all on Friday or Saturday. Thirty minutes prior to the meditation, I stood in front of my bedroom mirror naked, tampon in hand, debating its fate. I put it in, and then took it out a minute later. I looked at the clock. The event was starting in 20 minutes. Thanks to my natural tendency to obsess about things of little to no importance, Aunt Flow wasn’t going to be the only one who was late. I threw on clothes and ran to the L train.

I exited at First Avenue and jogged over piles of snow to the Alphabet City Sanctuary on East Sixth street between Avenues B and C. I was five minutes late, out of breath, and looking like what I hoped to be the better part of a hot mess, which is usually how I show up to things.

A clothed man was sitting outside the door with a list of names. His, he told me, was Jordan Blum, one of the co-founders of YNA. Upon entering the studio, I was greeted by a completely nude, adorable 24-year-old named Felicity Jones, who I discovered to be another co-founder of YNA, and a third-generation naturist. The next day, after a quick Google search, I learned that Felicity has taken part in several naked art performances around the city: a weeklong game of strip poker in the window of an art gallery; a body painting event in Times Square; and a project called “Ocularpation: Wall Street,” in which she was arrested for walking an imaginary dog down Wall Street while topless.

A cute female journalist reporting for Playboy arrived at the same time as I. While we waited for the others to turn up, we got naked and made small chat with Felicity and Jordan. Fifteen minutes later, attendance was still paltry. Without a hint of irritation, Jordan told me that the majority of the group often shows up late. Everything about him was calming and I appreciated his positive energy.

In the middle of the large room was a circle made out of folded blankets. I put my towel on a blanket and took a seat. In the middle of the circle was a tapestry covered in crystals, carnations, crayons, and index cards. Sarah Eve, the vegan chef who would be leading our meditation, had prepared a table full of chocolate treats for the occasion. She was also one of only two girls wearing bottoms. I pondered if they had been confronted with my menstrual dilemma too.

Sign for the workshop. (Photo: ABC Sanctuary's Facebook)

Sign for the workshop. (Photo: ABC Sanctuary’s Facebook)

We started around 7:20 p.m., but people continued to trickle in for another half an hour. In total, there were between 20 and 25 individuals, the median age of which was near 30. There were a few couples, and half of the circle knew each other from previous nudist events. One man, whose birthday it happened to be, had driven down from Binghamton, NY solely to attend the meditation.

Sarah opened the ceremony by summoning the four corners and passing around a large wooden maraca — a talking stick, so to speak. When given the maraca, we were supposed to say our name and call upon those to whom we wanted to send love, or whose energy we wanted in the room. I called upon my best friend who passed away a few years ago, and my abuela, which in hindsight was kind of a weird choice.

The young shaman then had everyone take a crayon and an index card, and said we were going to write a love letter to ourselves. We were told to open it with “Dear,” followed by a self-appointed pet name. I instantly thought of a nickname given to me by an ex-boyfriend, then tried to erase it from my memory. Instead I wrote down my actual name. I’ve noticed that couples tend to rarely say each other’s names to one another, so I find it sexy when it does happen. Had I known that an hour later, we would be trading index cards, I might have chosen something else.

The next line started with, “I really love you for your,” and we had to finish it with a quality about ourselves that we’d like to be appreciated. I scribbled, “curiosity.” The following sentence began with, “I love on Sundays when we…” I wrote, “take mushrooms.” The third line was, “Please remember to never stop…” I filled in, “caring.” We were then supposed to sign it with a pet name that would describe our ideal partner. I left the closing signature blank. We folded the cards and threw them back on the blanket.

Everyone was given a crystal. We lay down, crystals clutched and eyes closed, while Sarah played a drum and led us into the meditation. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was starting to get stomach pains. I was planning to see SKATERS play a party directly after the meditation, so I contemplated where I could grab a quick bite in between events. I decided on a Clif bar from a bodega. Then I thought about where I could get some Adderall. I haven’t taken the ADHD medication since I was a teenager, but the mere fact that I was thinking about it during a meditation is proof that I might benefit from it. I tuned back into Sarah as she was telling us to imagine a waterfall. She said to visualize washing away all of the negative things we don’t want in our lives. I couldn’t stop picturing the scene in Sahara where Brooke Shields bathes in a waterfall while wearing a white tank top. It’s one of my favorite movie clips.

When the meditation ended, we all sat back up and opened our eyes. Sarah passed around the maraca for everyone to share the visions they experienced. A beautiful bohemian girl, with an impressively toned body, spoke of being visited by prehistoric animals. A heavyset girl with big breasts made mention of the ocean and her fear of drowning. I assumed people would be confused by my mental picture of protein bars, Adderall, and Brooke Shields, so when the talking stick reached me, I opted to stay quiet.

The room was so warm I was sweating. The heat was relaxing and triggered a feeling of detoxification similar to the way a sauna does, but a lot less intense. I looked around at everyone. As someone who loves the naked body in every form, it was remarkable to see so many different types in an enclosed space. From petite to full-figured, there was just about every shape and size imaginable and it was a struggle not to stare. Through the window, I noticed a man in his apartment and realized that if I could see him, he could see me. He was probably used to spotting naked people in that room, and everyone in that room was probably used to being spotted naked. I didn’t mind.

Our next meditation was a partner session. You could sit back-to-back, shoulder-to-shoulder, or go on a solo journey. I opted the latter. In this trance, Sarah led us to conjuring our spirit guides, energy of with whom we can imagine conversing. We were instructed to think of someone in our lives who needed help, and to seek advice from our guide to relay the message back to them. I thought about an ex-lover of mine who recently had something traumatic happen to him and is understandably having a hard time recovering from it.

I thought about difficult transitions, and how challenging it can be for humans to move on from the way our lives once were, or who we used to be. When the shift is sudden and unexpected, learning how to evolve from the experience can be even more perplexing. I thought about how this feeling of loss presents itself multiple times throughout life, though always in different forms. I believe the only way humans can heal is to try and accept that the past is gone, to learn from it, and to embrace where we are. I thought about how exceptionally hard that is to do, and how important it is to make sure that the people we surround ourselves with are with us for the right reasons.

When the meditation was over, we passed around the talking stick again. This time, when the maraca came to me, I wanted to share, but I don’t like speaking in front of large groups. Without saying a word, I shook the maraca and passed it to the person next to me. Two sets of people who paired up claimed they had similar experiences as their partner. In one set, both people had visions of forests. The other unit spoke amongst themselves and decided not to share with everyone else what they had seen.

We were then encouraged to sample the organic, vegan treats and to socialize, but only after singing “Happy Birthday” — in our birthday suits — to the man who had driven down from upstate. I loaded up with gourmet desserts and mingled. The reporter from Playboy and I spoke to a banker about an ex-girlfriend of his who was against the nudist community. I chatted with the aforementioned bohemian girl, who ended up inviting me to her full moon ceremony.

After half an hour of socializing, we all held hands while Sarah voiced a closing prayer. We were then told to take a carnation from the tapestry, along with someone else’s love letter. The index card I picked up read: “Dear Musky, I love you for your kindness. On Sunday that we just relaxe [sic]. Please remember to never stop being yourself. Love, the great guy.” I couldn’t imagine what the person who got mine must have thought. I said goodbye to everyone and hopped in a cab downtown. For the rest of the night, I admired the stylish outfits of surrounding partygoers and not once did I think about my female reproductive system. The next day, I started my period.

Related: That Time I Tried Naked Yoga

A reader here mentioned recently that he was turned away from a naturist organization — after being vetted and approved as a potential member — in his area because he couldn’t find a female to join with him. It isn’t that he has to be in a relationship with her; it’s just that the group is trying to maintain a certain ratio of male and female members — I don’t know the target ratio for the group he mentioned. So, he is out of luck: he doesn’t get to participate in social nudism settings with club members unless he can bring in a new female member.

Many social nudism/naturism organizations strive for a 50-50 ratio of male and female members, but rarely achieve that. Usually, there are more men than women.

I have heard of other naturism groups — and nudist camp grounds — supposedly “open to all” that turn away men if they feel they don’t have enough female members, and I feel that is unfair and contradicts what nudism/naturism is about. (To be clear, I’m not talking about couples groups that bar singles or family organizations that only accept parents and kids or gay groups.)

I see it as sexism, against males — yes, men can be victims of sexism, too. And sexism is something that is not supposed to be part of nudism/naturism ideology. Social nudism events are supposed to be asexual; no blatant sexuality is permitted. They are not swingers events.

According to Wikipedia’s entry on Naturism, under the sub-heading Naturism and equality, social nudism is about acceptance regardless of age, body shape, fitness, health, wealth, position, nationality, race and sex.

So, what gives? Why the apparent disregard of the nudism/naturism code by some social nudism groups? Why on earth would a person’s sex matter to those organizations?

One more thought: if you respond, “because women won’t join if they see too many men there,” I would reply that “you are not giving us enough credit. Those of us who live the naturism code don’t care about the male-female ratio. We wouldn’t want anyone to be turned away because of someone’s ratio hangups. All should be welcome — once vetted (for clubs), of course.”

For discussion.

Jillian

We are all of one common cosmic or spiritual origin, and what affects one affects all … – G. de Purucker