I have yet to really comprehend the complexities of the blogosphere. You never really know who your audience is, especially when you include words like nudist and naked in your meta tags and post descriptions. I think bloggers – or at least this blogger – would like to think that people find The Meandering Naturist, bookmark the site, then meticulously dig through the archives to see what has been said in the past, and how one’s story continues to unfold over the years. Though having said that, I have several blogs that I’m quite fond of, and despite the best of intentions, I rarely work my way back beyond the the last two or three posts. I guess this is all a precursor to offering an apology of sorts if my musings about a certain place (say Ile du Levant) or particular topics (like the bizarre social construct of the naturist ideal) that seem like the very same topic of ninety percent of my previous entries. If you are the fastidious reader who has combed through the depths of my naturist diary, I offer my sincere apologies from the Department of Redundancy Department.
As is so often the impetus of a new blog entry, today’s inspiration finds its source in the confluence of several concurrent events that have caused me to take a moment, scratch my head, and utter a thoughtful and curious, “Hmmm….”
The most immediate and visceral of these is my first visit as a single male to the French naturist island, Ile du Levant – a mere 30 minute ferry ride off the Côte d’Azur near St. Tropez. Fear not faithful readers! It’s not that I’m suddenly single, or that my naturist wife has given up the crusade for social nudity, but in this case, I had business to take care of in the South of France following a holiday weekend, and thus, my schedule allowed a two night stay on this idyllic little slice of heaven before taking care of business on the mainland. I’ve read a lot about the intricacies of traveling as a naked single male, and I think it’s quite a lot easier in France than in America, but it’s a different perspective all the same.
In the meantime, I’ve been reading a Kindle book called Nudist Cruise, authored by a young woman named Hailey McPherson who moved to Asia with her boyfriend a few years ago to try and make it as musicians and performers. As it would happen, they ended up in separated by job leads between Hong Kong and Mainland China. A possible reunion arose when the boyfriend got a substitute gig playing in a show on a cruise ship, which provided the opportunity to bring his girlfriend turned blogger/author along for the ride. What she didn’t know until the 11th hour was that this would be a nudist cruise! The result is a bloggy recounting of a young couple trying to figure out the whole nudist/naturist phenomenon, For an academic such as myself, I find the writing to a bit casual and unrefined, but the big takeaway is the author’s perspective in her efforts to grasp social nudity amidst the inevitable pressures of so many social norms and – by her portrayal – an incessantly horny boyfriend who doesn’t seem to understand that people get naked for reasons other than sex. I have yet to finish the book, but I’m thinking that in the 9th inning she will deliver the message something to the effect of – “So you like to be naked. What’s the big deal?”
So you like to be naked. What’s the big deal?
I could search for a few more catchy one liners that would help contextualize such a question, but yet another blogger has done it much better than I. I don’t know his name, but he apparently is about my age and lives in the Northwest, and I have to say… his assessment of social nudity is about as grounded and forthright as any I’ve ever read. He has several posts related to naturism, but this post called “Out of the closet and into the frying pan” pretty much drives it home. I was so taken by his post that I actually lifted a few quotes:
On the topic of naked doesn’t equate sex…
Nudity isn’t asexual. It is just as sexual as clothing – no more, no less. People will still get just as excited about a possible mate whether they are clothed or nude. The fact is that the more you hide the sexual cues that bodies put out, the more everyone becomes hypersensitive to them. The face, by itself, becomes more and more important as the rest of the figure is hidden.
On the topic of live and let live…
I don’t care if you are a nudist. I am not about to try to convert someone or even raise my own children to be nudists. All I care about is that you don’t care if I’m one.
On the topic of causing irreparable damage to your children with nudity…
Even children who have spent their formative years in a nudist environment may push back, if not when they realize that this isn’t what their peer group is doing, then when they hit puberty and things start going out of control. I think parents are duty bound to place their child’s need to fit in with their peer group above the more abstract benefits of nudism. If they reject the lifestyle, then so be it. They may well return to it as adults. Even though my own children sometimes ran around naked and went skinny dipping with me, once they went to school, fitting in was more important.
But my favorite part of the piece – his remarks on why people are afraid to get naked….
Clothing is one way of denying the aging process and all the other “faults” we imagine in ourselves. (Along with plastic surgery, Botox and Photoshop.) Sagging breasts, small breasts, missing breasts, graying or too much body hair, stretch marks and wrinkles, large moles, birthmarks, extra weight around the middle or butt, jiggly thighs, man boobs, shrinking musculature, small penis, operation scars. Yup, a cover-up for all these things, a way to pretend we are not all bound by entropy.
Thank you nameless dude on the internet who made the simple, but poignant, realization that clothing creates as many (or more) conundrums than it solves. The real conundrum is facing up to the fact that if climate permits, better to bare all and check the psychological baggage at the front door.
I know. There are a bazillion entanglements in this argument, but for me, where it all gets stuck is WHY are humans so hung up on the dimensions of the male penis or the female breast? I had a conversation with a young colleague a few years ago in which we agreed that if you really want to know someone, you focus on one specific body part – the eyes! My blogger friend concurs…
The fact is that the more you hide the sexual cues that bodies put out, the more everyone becomes hypersensitive to them. The face, by itself, becomes more and more important as the rest of the figure is hidden.
In a day and age where one can find any visual stimulation they might be looking for, wouldn’t it be to the benefit of the naturist ideal that the human form is simply what it is? No more, no less. Why must it be so complicated?
So back to the title of this post. This may well be my tenth visit to Ile du Levant, but the very first time I’ve not been here with my female companion. I had a couple days to kill, the weather was good; a perfect time to exploit the opportunity to get naked.
It was a nice stay. But it was a bit lonely without a companion, which makes me all the more empathetic to those who experience naturism without a companion.
But that aside, Ile du Levant is an interesting place. Sometimes people are naked. Sometimes people are clothed. There is a “libertin” (swinger) culture here, but you have to look for it to find it. There is a gay culture here, a bit more evident, but why should one care one way or the other? How did we get to this place where other people’s preferences are offensive, one way or the other? Even if you’re deeply religious, the prevalent message there is to love on another and turn the other cheek. (No pun intended.)
My personal opinion is that if we all invested a bit more energy in contributing to the greater good, and a good bit less energy into the business of wondering what others thought of our bodies, our values, our intentions; we might have a better shot at getting along with one another on a planet that has a finite capacity for humans.
Let people be naked, and alone, or with loved ones, on an island… and be good with that. Need it be more complicated than that?