First understand that I am not a lawyer, have never formally studied law, and have done very little informal investigation into law or legal theory. Nonetheless, what little I have considered and discovered about it might be useful to the degree that it is not wrong.
While laws against indecency are on the books, the interpretation and enforcement has certainly changed since People v. Ring (1934) 255 N.W.373, 267 Mich. 657. In that infamous case, "the operator of nudist camp who went about without clothing was guilty of 'indecent exposure,' irrespective of whether members' sense of propriety was thereby shocked." If this finding were still valid, all nudist camps and nude gatherings would be illegal (and so would the presence of children in locker rooms and public showers as well as parents' nudity before their kids under any circumstances).
Importantly for Michiganders, in a significant ruling in 1958 the Michigan Supreme Court determined in People v. Hildabridle that nudity is not indecent and in a private setting not "open". This thoroughly separated nudity from indecency in Michigan law.
So the law has changed from the bad days of People v Ring. We can see it in the lack of enforcement of prohibition of nude art per Act 328 of 1931 which states in part that "any representation of the human form in an attitude or dress which would be indecent in the case of a living person, if such person so appeared in any public street, square or highway, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor." This act was recently ruled unconstitutional -- in whole or in part, I forget which -- when some prosecutor tried to have Right to Lifers charged with this for displaying aborted fetuses (displays of personal violence is covered in this act.) We can see the change in actual law, even as early as 1937. In Act 94 of 1937 (205.93a), a law establishing a tax for use or consumption, "nudist camps" are specifically mentioned as an establishment along with inns, motels, et al. How can nudist camps be legal establishments if nudity is indecent and therefore unlawful? That would be like recognizing Crack Houses as legitimate places of business.
More telling, though, is the passage of The Home Rule City Act, Act 279 of 1901, which was amended (117.5h) in the 1990s to allow cities to "regulate or prohibit public nudity". Act 245, 41.181, sec 1 does the same for townships. If nudity were prohibited by the "open and indecent exposure" act, there would be no need for these acts. Furthermore, the judiciary scorns the use of general laws to prosecute a behavior when a specific law was or could have been available. The questions arise: Why did the city or township council not pass a law regulating nudity, or if they did, why did they not write it to cover this situation? Is the prosecution violating separation of powers by taking on the legislative powers of the council in attempting to make nudity illegal when the council hasn't?
The City of Ann Arbor, for example, does have an ordinance on the books prohibiting nudity in any city-owned building (but nowhere else, actually). Dexter Township and other townships having Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Parks have passed a law -- at the behest of HCMP -- to make illegal to "intentionally expose the male or female buttocks or genital areas or the female breasts, either openly or by wearing beach attire calculated to expose such areas." This came about when some woman complained about a skate boarder or roller-blader wearing a thong (she complained about both). Thus, the HCMP asked for this law, despite the existence of the "Indecency Act", to allow for the regulation or prohibition of these activities or states of dress. However, the law passed by Dexter Township is specific to the HCMP park in Dexter Township. Nudity may well be legal anywhere in Dexter Township outside the park and legal anywhere on public land in Ann Arbor outside of city owned buildings. However, testing this hypothesis in court, even if won, would just prompt more expansive laws. A coordinated effort at developing political savvy is needed.
Think about it: on the basis of one woman's complaint the HCMP proposed a law and various townships complied. Has the HCMP ever even received a request for a clothing-optional section? Could the HCMP or the DNR or your county parks' department completely ignore an organized effort by lots of people asking for clothing-optional sections of our parks? Maybe. But why should bureaucrats or legislators risk their necks for us when we naturists have done nothing much in the way of demanding our rights. Have we? So when you finish this article, join our Yahoo group so you can get in contact with other naturists. And form a local group of your own if there is none near you. Well, I digress. Back to the main topic.
Despite the lack of any specific prohibition of nudity, you probably will get arrested if publicly nude. However, getting arrested and being found guilty are not the same. Initially, a person will be charged with "indecent exposure". Ignorant and frightened persons will plead guilty, but that is a mistake. Get convicted twice and you go onto the "Sexual Offenders List". Yet, if you were merely simply being nude and were not acting out sexually, then prosecutors will drop the charge of "indecent exposure" should you exercise your right to a trial. They may drop charges altogether or attempt to substitute some other charge such as "disturbing the peace". Always seek competent legal help should you be arrested and make sure your lawyer has read this article.
Entangling Nudity with Free Speech
How did nudity get separated from the legal concept of "indecency"? It probably started at the federal level with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on nudist films which declared them not obscene. Thus we find in the Federal Reporter in a case involving South Florida Free Beaches, Inc. that "Nudity is protected as speech only when combined with some mode of expression which itself is entitled to First Amendment protection." Please realize the significance of this. Combining nudity with any 1st Amendment entitlement gives protection to nudity. Sexual acts, murder, assault, drug use, rape, and the like are not protected no matter how entangled one might make them with First Amendment rights. Throw rocks at a speaker and you will be arrested, charged, and convicted. Perform a sex act on stage in a play and you will go to jail. Light up a joint during a demonstration against draconian drug laws, and you will be busted. In Michigan, there is the afore mentioned 1958 Michigan Supreme Court Ruling that firmly separates simple nudity from the legal definition of indecency. This suggests that we naturists could, with appropriate permits firmly in place, have a public protest, march, or the like -- in the nude.
A Brief Review of Judicial Rulings
A thorough study of federal law regarding nudity would be worthwhile as I don't know that it has ever been done. There are informative books about federal law and obscenity which have some applicability to nudity, but nothing I know of that focuses on nudity and brings in all the cases in a good time line.
The same is true in Michigan, but here is a bit I've managed to get from Michigan Compiled Laws. By the way, while the Internet site is useful for getting the text of the laws, the book form at the library gives useful commentary about the laws. Thus I found these tidbits:
"Michigan Criminal Obscenity statutes 750.343a, 750.343b which neither specifically defined nor carefully limited terms employed such as obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent, sadistic or masochistic, were vague and over broad and therefore unconstitutional on their face" People v Neumayer (1979).
"Requirement that the prohibited material be specifically defined in a statute or ordinance regulating pornography is designed to provide clear and conspicuous notice to sellers of sex related material as to the scope of the prohibition." People v Austin (1977)
"Obscenity ordinance which prohibited, inter alia, the showing, less than completely and opaquely covered, of the buttock and the female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola was overly broad and attempted to prohibit nudity" People of City of East Detroit v Vickery (1976)
Rulings like the above, I think, led to the amendment of the Home Rule Act to allow the regulation of nudity.
Look at the logic of the Indecency Act, which states, "Any person who shall knowingly make any open or indecent exposure of his or her person or of the person of another shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment ..." This is not a regulatory law that prohibits "indecency" in particular places or at particular times. It is a law of prohibition, flat out. To say that nudity is covered by this act is to say, as I stated earlier, that all nudity in front of children is prohibited -- anyplace, anytime, by anyone. To say that it applies only in certain places is to say then that sexual acts can knowingly take place in front of children -- in one's own home. Courts have ruled, however, that sexual acts are indecent when done in a place where children could happen upon the act, even if they were not there at the start. So indecency is indecency anytime it is knowingly in the presence of children.
Is nudity, therefore, indecent and therefore prohibited in front of children at all times and in all places? Furthermore, if nudity is indecent, wouldn't subjecting children per the"or of the person of another" to the condition of nudity also be indecent and, in fact, abusive? Thus, wouldn't bathing one's child subject one to prosecution unless one kept him in a bathing gown? It would be if nudity is legally "indecent".
As there is obviously doubt about the validity of charging one with a crime merely for being nude, I like the following: "Constitutional provisions for protection of life, liberty, and property are to be largely and liberally in favor of citizens." Lockwood v Nims (1959)
What About the "Open Exposure" Provision?
The question arises as to whether the "open exposure" part of the "indecency act" might not be pretty clear cut. However, the same problems that come with prohibiting nudity as "indecent exposure" come to bear in prohibiting "open exposure". No child could be exposed to adults, no group showers, etc. Yet, if the courts found a way to somehow enforce prohibition of "open exposure" while allowing children into public locker rooms as places where exposure were to be expected and therefor not illegal, then that automatically would still allow for the development of public nude beaches. Simple signage warning that nudity is to be expected in this area then makes the nudity no longer "open", being restricted to but still allowed in a place where nudity is -- well -- expected. Thus the Michigan Department of Recreation's argument that they cannot authorize nude use areas on state beaches is incorrect even now. They just need to set aside clearly marked areas for nude recreation as any nudity within that area would not be "open". You need to demand that they do so. (See the article, Exercise Your Right to Write, elsewhere in the articles section. And join the Yahoo group for the Michigan Nude Beach Advocates.)
People v. Hildabridle provides a clear cut ruling specifically on this issue in Michigan so that no police officer, prosecutor, or bureaucrat can use the Indecency Ordinance abusively. I had a magistrate volunteer in a Chelsea court that the indecency act was not applicable to nudity, although his remark was not a ruling, merely a comment in response to the police officer's assertion that I could have been charged with indecency rather than the far lesser charge of "disturbing the peace" for which I was in court.
Once naturists make it fully understood that nudity is already not "indecent" by law, the lawmakers and prosecutors will be put in the position of having to actually defend the laws against nudity. What is the basis for these laws? That someone is actually harmed? Or merely that someone is offended?
Entangling Nudity as a Religious Right
Per the Michigan Constitution, one group of people can not be placed above another group. It may be a stretch to define nudists as a group, but what about Pagans who wish to perform a sky clad service in a public park? Why should the Mormons be allowed to have service on public park land dressed as they wish, but not the Pagans? Since nudity harms no one and is not indecent, the government had better have a damn good case for restricting a religious practice other than "it's offensive." And if Pagans (or even some Christian nudist groups) were able to worship nude on public land, why should nudity be prohibited to anyone? The very least a government must do to even pretend to uphold the rights of all citizens is to provide some public park areas for freedom of choice rather than giving all the land over to the Textilists. Imagine if Dearborn, with its large Mideast population, were to restrict all Dearborn Public Lands to only those who covered their chests and legs at all times (and women their hair) or restricted beaches to either women and children or to men. According to the Home Rule Act, Dearborn can do so! Would that stand up to muster in a Michigan court?
Women's Right to Be Topfree
Right now, women can demand the right to go top-free using the successful arguments that won top-freedom in Ontario and in New York State. The Federal and State Constitutions make it illegal not to treat every group and every person equally. Furthermore, many Michigan cities, such as Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, have their own ordinances that emphasize the right of women to be treated no differently than men under the law. Challenging the prohibition of women's toplessness in any place or situation that men can go topless would be a slam dunk if actually pursued. Any woman out there willing to at least start a Top Free Rights Group for Michigan? If so, get in touch with me.
Start a Local Group
Any men and women willing to start a Local Political Action Group for Naturists' Rights? Just meeting once a quarter to discuss options would be a start. Getting volunteers to attend city or township council meetings to keep aware of anti-nudity legislation and to mobilize for nudist rights would be very helpful. For example, just 12 Ann Arbor volunteers could attend Ann Arbor City Council meetings with each volunteer having to attend just once a year -- unless there was a call to action. Even, maybe especially, starting a naturist social group in your area will help move this state to the full legal accommodation of naturists. (See the page on clubs and resorts for just such groups in S. E. Michigan.) I've started the Washtenaw Skinnydippers specifically to organize nudists in Washtenaw County to pressure the county parks and recreation department to work with us. What about in your county or city? Read the article on starting a group.
Please don't depend on others to do this. Don't expect the officers of your local naturist group or nudist camp to do it, if there is one. They are carrying too much of the load already. For that matter, if there is no naturist group in your community, are you willing to start one?
So what do you say? Are you willing to exercise your civic duty in an area that actually interests you? Join the Washtenaw Skinnydippers if you live in or very near Washtenaw County, start a group in your county if you live elsewhere, join the Yahoo group for the Michigan Nude Beach Advocates. I look forward to hearing your announcements and will be interested in helping promote your efforts...
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By Matthew Kerwin
Premier Hotels and Resort’s reply to my letter to their editor got me excited about writing the media. I came across the publication in an Ann Arbor bookstore. Thumbing through it, I noticed that the Grand Lido Resorts in Jamaica did not make any mention of their nude beaches. My letter to the publication pointed this out and called into question the accuracy of the rest of the listings. I pointed out that the existence of a nude beach at a resort would certainly be of interest to a significant number of vacationers. Some time later, to my surprise, I received a package that included the latest copy of the publication. A letter thanked me for my interest and directed me to check out the listings for the Grand Lido Resorts. Sure enough, listed in the amenities were the au naturel beaches.
I’ve written to many local and national publications and media outlets since then and even have had letters published. Editors do respond to the interests of their readers. Even the publisher of your conservative hometown newspaper will allow a more objective view of naturism if he hears from even only a few of you. What do you say? The main thing is to let the publisher know that social nudity is a healthy, family friendly activity practiced by people even amongst the paper’s readership.
I’ve had several letters published in the Ann Arbor News and one lengthy opinion piece. I’ve encouraged others to also write the paper and who also have been published. In a short letter, stick to one point whatever it may be. Read Nude & Natural and articles on naturist websites to familiarize yourself with good points that you can make your own.
Concerned about having your name in the paper? You can state that your letter is not meant for publication or you can create a pen name for all of your letters. Inform others in the household of your nom de plume because many publications will call back to confirm that you want your letter published. You don’t want your family saying, “That person doesn’t live here.” Obviously, using your real name is simpler.
Respond to any article that mentions naturist related items. I expressed disappointment to Travel Holiday that an article, “25 Beaches in Florida,” failed to mention Haulover Beach. Caribbean Travel published my letter in response to the article, “Our Favorite Beaches”. Therein, the author mentioned the existence of several nude beaches but said nothing more about them. I suggested that clothing-optional enthusiasts would be interested in the same things that interest any beach goer: type of beach, suitability for swimming, available amenities, treatment of naturists (welcomed or merely tolerated “if no one complains”). Note that in either letter I stuck to one topic.
When a magazine is egregiously bad in its policy, voice concern. Conde Nast Traveler, for instance, never showed nudity, not even bare female breasts, despite many photographs of beaches all over the world. To my dismay then, the magazine, in a feature on Las Vegas, printed a prominent and large photo of a bare breasted stripper leaning toward a leering man who was offering her money. Her breasts were fully exposed. What? Conde Nast prints this but can’t show a bare breasted woman sunning on a beach? I took the publisher to task for this. Many months later, when the same publication actually did finally show bare breasted women on some French beach, I wrote to thank them for the apparent change in editorial policy. I also noticed that National Geographic had a picture of bare breasted white European women on a Tahitian beach and wrote to thank them for this (while expressing naturist values in my letter).
Occasionally, some magazine will do a good article on a naturist subject. Then I write to complement the reporter and thank the editor for the article and maybe expand on some particularly worthy point. For instances, Allure Magazine devoted most of an issue in 2000 to the theme of nudity and did so without giggly salaciousness; and Jane Magazine had an excellently objective article on a reporter’s first ever visit to a nudist resort. I did challenge both magazines to avoid the titillation of near nudity and cheesecake poses and to include, instead, photos of unabashed nudes of all physical types when appropriate to the article – reminding the editor of Jane of, in her own words, “the importance of leaving out of the magazine messages that reinforce unhealthy attitudes toward physical self-image”.
Sometimes, a magazine will include pictures of unabashed, non-sexualized nudity. Self Magazine, for example, in a 1999 issue included the depiction of unabashedly bare breasted women in two different articles. I congratulated the editor for the attitude and contrasted it to Conde Nast’s policy at the time and suggested that the depiction of women exercising control over their dress is verboten in some publications possibly because the publisher has a stake in keeping women subject to fashion. So, I turned naturism into a women’s issue!
Body issues are an opportunity to extol the benefits of naturism and are subject in every women’s magazine every month. Elle Magazine even published my response to “The Thin Threat”, a disturbing account of the poor manner in which women treat each other regarding body image. I recommended nudism as a means for women to “disentangle their self-image from bodies and fashion”. Note again that I limited myself to one topic.
Be creative in finding a reason to mention naturist issues. I noticed that protecting the right to hunt foxes was becoming a major issue in the The Chronicle of the Horse as animal rights activists in England were successfully pressuring for a ban on fox hunting and were beginning to make it an issue in the states. In a letter to the magazine, I pointed out that efforts to protect fox hunting were doomed unless equestrians worked to assure the liberties of all, even those folks whom you might dislike. I said that if you elect officials who pander to your prejudices or your particular religious agenda, you will be electing people who will also sacrifice your particular interests to court the majority or a powerful minority so, I added, it is in your interest to support the rights of (and here I ran off a list of minorities including, yes, nudists and their right to some public nude beaches.) The magazine published my letter, which contributed one small notice that nudists have rights too.
Less successfully I’ve written to TV networks and producers. I’ve yet to receive an acknowledgement nor have I seen favorable change. Does it irritate you that all nudity on American TV (and in most American movies) is sexualized? With rare exceptions, the nudity has to be that of a beautiful woman (men – bare buns only) who is having sex, being raped, killed, or is already dead. Really! On network TV, all nudity is verboten; yet sexual acts are rampant (as is graphic violence). Thus we have the ridiculousness of shows like Elimanadate showing women grinding their groins into faces or having shots of alcohol licked off their chest, but will pixilate the bare breasts of a nonchalant woman on a Spanish beach. They even pixilated a nude statue! Who are they worried about offending late at night? Since PBS occasionally can broadcast nudity, so can the commercial networks. Well, let them know their self-imposed censorship policy offends you! I’ve written the producers of NYPD Blue (the much ballyhooed "nudity" is always associated with sexual situations). I’ve written the Tonight Show (pixilated a picture in a Playboy) and the Letterman show (pixilated nudes riding bikes). Perhaps if more of us write, the media will respond more favorably. If eventually successful, it will have been worth the effort. (You can usually find where to write a show by going on the internet.)
You also have a right – even a duty – to write public officials. The federal constitution protects that right and so do most, probably all, state constitutions. It may be our most basic and protected American right, so do use it.
Write your state Department of Natural Resources. Write your state and local officials. I wrote the then attorney general to complain about her blanket and false statement that “nudity is illegal in Michigan” and gave the reasons why her statement was wrong and to protest her encouraging the suppression of the “Naked Mile” at the University of Michigan. Including a cover letter asking to be kept informed of any legislative action regarding nudity, I sent a copy of the letter to my state representative as well. At least my state representative responded positively. Obviously, coordinated action by all naturists will be more effective, so do respond to any Naturist Action Committee Alert, but don’t wait for an emergency to let your public officials know that you have an interest that deserves fair consideration.
You have visited some public nudist beach somewhere, haven’t you? After visiting Gunnison Beach at Sandy Hook National Seashore in New Jersey – a federally run, public, clothing-optional beach that provides lifeguards, lavatories, refreshment stands, and police protection forthe we nudists – I wrote the park superintendent thanking him for maintaining the Gunnison Beach. I also wrote the hotel where my wife and I stayed explaining what a jewel is the nude beach and emphasizing that the beach was my reason for visiting the area. I also sent a letter to the local chamber of commerce saying much the same thing and also adding how much I spent around the area.
I mentioned to one regular at Gunnison of my planned action. Oh, how he averred my actions would only make them aware of the nude use. What nonsense! The officials are well aware of official, public, nude beaches in their area. The cranks let them know! It can only help our cause to let the officials know how valued are these beaches.
After visiting Haulover Beach in Florida and Mazomanie Beach in Wisconsin, I wrote similar letters to their respective public officials. Before even visiting any of these areas, I called or e-mailed the state and/or city travel bureau to request information on, amongst other things, nude beaches in the area. Now, I already knew what beaches existed, but I figure that the more requests they get for such information the more likely they will begin to understand the value of the beaches.
Even though my state has no official, public, nude beach, I requested from Michigan’s Travel Bureau information on nude beaches in the state. They wrote back to say that there are none but did include a photocopy of a page listing nudist resorts. If more people take the time to request information, maybe Michigan and other states will more seriously consider nude recreation as a valid and profitable tourist attraction. Get the bureaucrats on your side and the legislators are more likely to follow.
Get the media treating simple nudity as natural and normative, and society will follow.
So please take the time to write. We will be a force if we all exercise our right to write!Return to Index of Articles and Top of Page
By Matthew Kerwin
Morality and ethics are not the same. Dictionaries often confuse the terms, but synonymous terms do not necessarily have the exact same meaning. Morality and ethics share an elemental meaning: conforming to a standard of what is right and good. However, in application, they soon separate, and it is the source of the standard that separates.
Morality is derived from group think, the group's mores -- the fixed morally binding customs of a particular group (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary), to which Webster's New World Dictionary adds, " [which] develop the force of law, often becoming part of the formal legal code." Mormons suffered harassment, murder, banishment, and imprisonment for their practice of polygamy, finally outlawing the practice themselves to prevent the destruction of their community by the uncontrolled animosity of outsiders. When the U.S. Supreme Court held that the practice of polygamy is "subversive of good order" it was ruling in favor of the general mores of the American society over the rights of a smaller group to hold to their own mores -- even when actions based on those mores caused harm to no one. In other words, the Mormons could suffer legal suppression of their religious practices because hatred of Mormons caused other people to act disorderly. Thus morals, which may have an ethical rationale at the outset, often outlive their useful intention of assisting in group survival, and are used for justifying discriminatory behavior by the group against individuals or other groups, suppressing the American ideal of experimenting with new ideas, thus suppressing the good ideas with the suspect (which will die of their own accord in a tolerant society). Moral based laws assume a paternalistic attitude toward the citizenry, undermining the American concept of personal responsibility, and wherever applied become increasingly draconian in an attempt to suppress the further problems that the laws themselves create.
Ethics, on the other hand, consists of rational decision making toward the highest level of survival for the individual, his intimates, his groups (from clubs to nations), mankind and mankind's future, other life-forms, and the planet itself. It may also include contemplation of spirituality and of God or gods. As an example, I have concluded, after some youthful experimentation, that psychotropic drugs are unethical -- that is, they reduce my survival both in handling this plane of existence and in improving my understanding of my spirituality. My use of drugs, consequently, reduces the survivability of my family and friends, of my schooling, my work, my value as a citizen. It is a rational decision, thus an ethical decision, to avoid drugs; but it is a moral decision to enforce that decision upon others.
Looking at the problem of drug use in the society as a moral issue causes us to pursue a "drug war", ignoring all the negative effects of our policies. Looked at as an ethical issue, one can only conclude that a nation is better off letting people make their own decisions. Anecdotes of the ruination of individuals and families by drug abuse illustrates only my contention that drug use is a poor ethical choice; such tales are no proof whatsoever that drug prohibition is good public policy. There is a litany of problems caused by the "drug war" (a war waged upon American citizens): increased crime and violence, overburdened justice system, the empowerment of criminal organizations, an increasing disrespect for all laws, the deterioration of civil rights, corruption of police, an increase in drug use and an increase in the use of more dangerous drugs, the reappropriation and misappropriation of tax monies -- everything this nation experienced during alcohol prohibition -- plus the empowerment of vicious international drug cartels which undermine civil and democratic authority in drug producing nations. Drug prohibition clearly shows the irrationality of governmental policy based on morality.
Enacting laws to prohibit sex education is another example. Those countries that have extensive sex education and relaxed attitudes regarding nudity, have far lower teenage pregnancy rates than the U.S. and less violence toward women. Controlling types choose to advocate censorial laws rather than improved education. They worsen the situation and then call for yet stricter laws to handle the problems they have created.
Ethical conduct is done out of an individual's own sense of justice and honesty. It has been said that when a moral code is enforced upon people, there is a considerable departure from anything like ethics, for people obey a moral code out of fear; they act ethically, within the limits of their knowledge, through their own personal inner strength. A society has to prohibit certain behaviors (murder, theft, and fraud come to mind)--not simply because they are immoral -- but because allowing them would be unethical. However, to prohibit any behavior, a government must show a compelling state interest; that is, the state has to show that the behavior is destructive, not in regards to the individual doing the behavior, but of the domains of families, groups, society, and our future, and that such prohibition does not cause less survival for us as a society than does tolerance.
What has this to do with naturists and naturism? Plenty!
First, this nation has somewhat of a culture of liberty and ethics; and, although we can cite example after example of Americans as a group acting unethically, it is inherent to most people to tolerate that which is not unethical and to resist that which is unethical. Even where Americans have acted terribly intolerantly -- such as against blacks, indigenous (Native) American peoples, Chinese, Mormons, and homosexuals --much of that bigotry has been fueled by misconceptions and misinformation. When Americans (and all other people) have realistic conceptions and true information about a people or an activity, we tend toward ethical, rather than moralistic, treatment of people and activities.
If we naturists do nothing, only by misinformation will we be judged. People will believe then that it is ethical to prohibit public social nudity. We, as a people, have to work to control the conceptions others will have about us. If we do, non-naturists will have no problem accepting at least some use of public land for nude use. Why, The Naturist Society got the Oshkosh City Council to codify acceptable public nudity, making some public land use acceptable, averting an attempt to outlaw all public nudity and even getting the National Family Legal Foundation (a radical right, quasi-Christian organization of considerable influence) to deem it a good ordinance. A county in Florida and a state park in Oregon provide official, public, nude beaches with all the usual amenities. Likewise does the federal government provide a nude beach in New Jersey and "clothing-optional" signage on various beaches around the country. So we can be treated more fairly and ethically and will be if we work effectively to educate others about who and what we are.
Secondly, being misunderstood and maltreated ourselves, we should have some empathy for others who are oppressed merely for engaging in behavior to which some others self-righteously object. We should be tolerant of others no matter that we may find their behavior morally objectionable, so long as their behavior is not unethical. How can we expect to be tolerated if on other matters we would promote legal restraints -- as, for instance, depriving homosexuals of rights afforded the rest of the citizenry or banning all hunting and fishing or banning abortions. That any of the above may be entirely morally objectionable to us does not ethically justify a legal objection; for, if nothing else, our encouragement of state thuggery increases further state involvement in our lives in ways which may be far worse than what we were championing against. For example, much as we may detest abortion, allowing the state to control a woman's pregnancy accomplishes just that; in the not too distant future, Americans could be propagandized into accepting the necessity of zero population growth and state required abortions, and the precedent for the government's right to do this will have been established by those of us working so diligently to enforce our morality upon others. We would be far better off, far more ethical, to hew closely to a libertarian philosophy (in the social arena), to use education and civil persuasion rather than state force. As you wouldn't accept the hiring of thugs to work your will, even more so should you resist putting the police to work as thugs. When we actively support the freedom of others, we aid ourselves.
An ethicist, according to the dictionary, is "a person versed in ethics or devoted to ethical ideals", and a moralist is "a person who seeks to impose his morals on others". Be not a moralist. The struggle amongst the competing moralists is unethical. It leads to wars, murder, oppression of people and suppression of ideas. Be an ethicist. Teach and learn. Contribute to a society of civil discourse, of unity through tolerance, of freedom. Be true to religions' basics and to American ideals.
by Elizabeth Middleton and Matthew Kerwin
While still attending school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Lisa contacted me, via e-mail, seeking information about youthful naturist activities in the area. Unfortunately, too soon afterwards, Lisa moved to another state. We have yet to meet in person. None-the-less, we have had excellent conversations between us. We believe that other naturists may find our conversations relating to naturism to be interesting. At least there are nuggets of inspiration within.
We have compiled our conversations into an article relating our individual involvement and development in Naturism. Elizabeth’s story is the lead.
I would call myself a naturist by necessity. In other words, sometimes it just makes more sense!
I grew up the eldest of five children: three sisters and one brother. Although our parents were not naturists by definition, we were brought up in a pretty open environment. It wasn't unusual to see someone bare in the house from time to time, in the morning or at night, especially around shower time.
When we were young, we would go to our grandparents’ farm in the summer. Here, we would regularly go swimming in a pond together, sans suits. I didn't really think of it as skinny-dipping, just swimming, because it was only with my siblings; but as kids, we inevitably didn't get dressed after swimming and in the summer's heat preferred to be naked as much as possible. With very few people around, I got used to spending time at the grandparents helping out without being dressed. I remember helping with chores and wondering why we were the only ones to follow through with this great idea! Although we have gotten older, going to their house over the summer still means having fun in the sun without worrying about tan lines.
We moved into a new house (in the city, unfortunately!) when I was about 12 and it had a large swimming pool in the back yard. This was a dream come true for us! I fell in love with swimming and spent a lot of time in the pool. I rarely (okay, never!) wore a swimsuit because it was our pool in our backyard. When friends would come over, most that knew us would go without a swimsuit as well. Tan lines looked so bad, I just never wanted any!
However, my brother's friends wore shorts most of the time. The rest of us had only girls over, so co-ed was not an issue. As I spent more time swimming, I would come back into the house and not put clothes back on. This was a conscientious effort: sometimes you dry off and cover yourself up with a towel, sometimes you just don't. Being the oldest, my siblings often copied me, and my mother never discouraged us from being naked. They didn't do it often themselves, but basically if our family went swimming in the pool, no one wore a swimsuit.
If you look at me as an example of a more "open" naturist childhood, I should explain something. For first-time visitors, my parents sometimes prepped them with something like, "We like to let our kids play in the house or yard without their clothes on if they want. Is that okay with you?" even if we were staying clothed. Most people asked a couple questions and then didn't seem to mind at all. Some parents showed concern over their boys seeing my sisters or me naked (or their daughters seeing my brother), but my parents would usually talk about it and the situation would resolve.
It goes without saying that most kids warmed up to the idea quite easily. I don't remember any boys shying away from my sisters or me when we were naked (in fact, for many of them I'm sure it may have been a first!). Sometimes they would be nervous or stare (and yes, erections), but I'd tell them it was okay to be curious and ask them if they would prefer if we were clothed. The answer was always "no" and it only got easier from there. The staring would sometimes continue, but I figure if they hadn't seen a naked woman too often, they were bound to be curious. Then again, one of my brother's friends once pointed between my legs and asked "What IS that?" Tough question! But these things rarely happened.
As far as adults, I don't think they were bothered. The most they probably thought was "Oh look, there are the Middleton girls running around naked! Boy, they're not shy are they!" I was a late-bloomer and I think my parents' friends used to still look at me as a kid until I went to college. Now, I'm more in the "adult" category. Walking around isn’t as "cute". That's too bad!
The bottom line is communication. Even the most prudish people aren't really gonna run away or anything. If you've ever seen a Candid Camera video where they place naked women in social settings (albeit, more sexual), most people are surprised, but aren't freaked out. If parents talk to their kids and their friends about nudity rather than just assuming things, textile friends and guests would have no problem in a naturist setting.
A "breakthrough" occurred for my 15th birthday. I had about a dozen friends over and we turned it into a pool party. I guess some of my friends brought swimsuits and some didn't. I basically assumed no one would care and told them not to wear bathing suits and jump in. Less than half my girlfriends wore swimsuits, but it was not a real issue. Some did and some didn't. My parents supervised the party and thought it was a great success. The party continued all day and most of us didn't put on clothes until much later, by which time a few more of the girls had gotten naked.
As you can guess, word around school had spread about the party and I had a certain reputation. Most people thought it was great, I just never realized nudity was much of an issue. Three years later my brother (a year younger) and I had a joint party. Although not planned, it turned into a pool party. We had just our close friends over. Most of my friends showed little concern over skinny-dipping with boys, while many of them were reluctant to drop their shorts. By the end, I think all of us were naked and it was a very comfortable atmosphere. Getting dressed seemed something few of us wanted to do! It was a nice surprise to see us interact so well with boys around. Although most of my brother's friends had known about the prevalence of nudity in our household having seen us naked before, I really didn't expect them to join us so readily.
I must admit I was nervous and excited as well. I had never really been naked in front of so many guys, especially some I did not know. I never knew they came in so many different sizes, circumcised and uncircumcised. But being with all my girlfriends helped a lot. I remember being conscious about "covering up" as much as possible when out of the water and avoiding bending over and such. But with so many people around that soon became a moot point. I liked the fact that being naked in front of guys felt the same as being naked with the girls. I quit feeling like I needed to cover up!
By now, I had been spending a lot more time nude. It wasn't just when swimming, but most opportunities I could get. It was pretty common that some of us kids spent time in the house in the nude. However, we rarely did it for no reason; usually there was a cause. I always found an excuse, but usually got dressed when friends of the family came over.
When I used to go to the doctor's office for health check ups, I would strip down all the way, at which point the nurse would remind me that I could keep my underwear on. But I'd always tell her that I really didn't mind. The doctor never mentioned anything about it; she'd walk in and start talking like I had clothes on. To this day, I know friends who feel awkward undressing in front of their doctor! What can I say?
I think the biggest reason I didn't wear clothes was that it made more sense. If I were going swimming, why wear a swimsuit? And if I came back in the house, did I really need to get dressed? In the winter, it was colder in the house, so nudity was not really prevalent. But from the time I would take a shower at night to the time I'd go to bed, there wasn't a need for me (or anyone else!) to be dressed, so I wasn't. My family used to joke that I liked being naked more than I liked being with clothes on from the time I was a kid, and I guess that's true.
My family was really the same, but my brother was never as comfortable with his friends. Within the family, he would be undressed all the time, but with friends over that rarely happened. He would be undressed when my (female) friends were over, so much so that sometimes he was even the only guy with us. But he never had the same experiences with his friends!
I once asked him why he was only naked in front of the family or with girls over, but not with guys. By now he was about 15 and his explanation was surprising. He said the boys’ locker room had turned into a "sizing up" area and that boys wouldn't change in front of each other for fear of being ridiculed and made fun of. He said none of the girls ever cared about these things, but the boys did. Also, for boys to go skinny-dipping together was too "gay." I guess a lot of it has to do with the fact that my brother was used to being naked with his four sisters. But it made me realize that getting naked for guys can be difficult. Perhaps I am slanted in my views, but over the years I rarely see women that shy in the locker room. Could it be that women are sometimes more predisposed to be naked?
As I got older, I realized how some people had qualms with nudity. But I only felt uncomfortable when another person felt awkward. If they didn't mind, then I didn't mind. I never had problems with any girlfriends for even if they didn't feel comfortable naked, none ever minded if I was. I remember swimming a few times with my friends who were in swimsuits while I was the only one nude. Why in the world should anyone care if I was naked? I don't ever think it was a big deal.
When it came to boys, I felt quite liberated to be able to be naked with them. I realized most would be tempted to stare or gawk, but that usually passed quickly. Even my brother's friends warmed up to the idea of nudity easily. I must admit I did feel quite sensual being naked in front of men. I couldn't help but be surprised and pleased to see erections.
When I got to college, I joined a sorority. The showers were open to each other and I noticed a lot of the girls were uncomfortable in there. But a lot weren't, too.
I went camping a lot and this one time we found a site not too far from a lake. We hadn't planned to go swimming but since no one was around we decided to go skinny-dipping. These excursions got very popular and although the girl to guy ratio was always very high, I did get male friends to come with us. I remember telling them, "Come skinnydip with six girls this weekend!" and watching their eyes light up. But, there was never sexual references or lewd behavior. By the end of college, these camping trips were completely nude weekends. I took a lot of photos and looking back at them I realize that there were always many more girls than guys and once they tried it, they were hooked.
Later, I lived with two roommates, one female, one male. I never asked, "Can I be nude?" -- just took the liberty of being undressed sometimes and seeing the reaction. Neither batted an eyelid. My female roommate inquired about my openness and in talking with her I understood she was curious about naturism. The fact that she could be naked with me really comforted her and she began to enjoy it. We eventually asked our roommate about it and to our surprise he was very cool about it. It was nice to know we could spend time at home without clothes on.
Over the years, friends have asked me if my being nude has ever made me the target of unwanted or unwarranted attention. I tell them the complete opposite. Being clothed has!
Being blonde has not helped. I am often grouped, wrongly, with the "dumb blonde". In addition, I am tall and skinny: 5'8", weigh around 130 lbs., and have fairly noticeable breasts (large C cup bra size). There are more gawking and unwanted remarks clothed, at bars, in restaurants, at the beach, etc., than there is when I am naked! I have rarely, if ever, encountered such remarks when nude. I have found men staring at my chest far more in tight tops than when I'm naked.
To this day, I feel "the eyes" of men on me far more when I am wearing a skirt than when I am naked in the company of others who don't mind nudity. I am, by no means, trying to generalize men. I have usually found that when I am seen purely for my physical attributes, I become a sexual object, rather than the individual (woman) that I truly am. When nude, I find these fantasy elements are de-sexualized greatly. It provides for a warm, friendly and honest atmosphere.
That is one of the reasons I am so quick to praise naturism and so comfortable with it: the people: People accepting, not judging. I'd like to think that I am the same way.
That's my story -- Naturist when necessary. And becoming more necessary every day!
I find naturism and nudity one of those addictive qualities. There are many people who say they'd never try it, but once they do, they become hooked. It's easy to see why. So spreading the word and making nude recreation easier to access is key. So is motivating young people (my age and even younger) to get involved. I was brought up not knowing anything called "naturism" or "nudism." I was raised just to think nudity was okay, especially when necessary or convenient. In contrast, a lot of other kids were raised to associate it with embarrassment, hiding, vulnerability, etc. That's pretty stupid if you ask me.
Also, nudity was more associated with the kids, not my parents. Although they would get naked to go in the pool and sometimes in the house, I think out of respect or something like that, they weren't naked as often as we were. But then again, I was always going swimming or coming back from sports and they were usually just going to work and back, so it made sense for me to be naked more often.
But not being raised a "naturist", I think I took to it easier. Just classifying it makes it easier to be scared of. Take an example: vegetarianism. There are so many stereotypes associated with vegetarians (liberals, tree-huggers, hippies, etc.), but there is almost no stereotype associated with "normal" people who just don't like meat or choose not to eat it. Put the two next to each other, and most people will have an opinion about a vegetarian, but not about a "normal" person. See the difference? So am I a true naturist? Perhaps not. But I am person who loves to be naked!
So I was raised to think we were "normal" in not choosing to wear clothes at times. If it was a whole lifestyle I would have had to adopt, that may have put me off somewhat. Instead, since there was no difference between my neighbor and me, other than the fact that I often didn't wear clothes, there wasn't a distinction between "naturism" and "normality." Am I making sense? I just want to come across saying that I view naturism as normal, and hence it's not something you have to hide or show or do anything with. It's just there!
I also think it's very easy for parents to raise kids naturist. Sure, we had people over who would see me or my siblings naked and just not be as understanding as others. But who cares? I'm having fun in the pool! Now, if guests came over and my parents were naked, that's a different situation. My parents had friends over sometimes and they would BBQ in the back while we would be playing around. I would usually be naked, along with maybe my sisters or brother, but my parents wouldn't. It was easier for guests to accept some naked youngsters than adults. We got away with that a lot and I can see why
I think there needs to be a way for the average person to know it's okay to be nude. I'm sure at least 1 in 10 people like it (a number I just made up), so if Ann Arbor has 100,000 people in it, shouldn't there be 10,000 naturists?
Age does creep up on us, doesn’t it? I hardly feel in my mid-twenties, yet here I am! I think my carefree lifestyle and laid-back nature make people think I’m younger. I like that! Even as a child, I was a late bloomer so people always mistook me for a few years younger.
But I must say, Matthew, I guess I never thought about your age! Reading your last email, it suddenly occurred to me that you have been married almost as long as I have been alive! I guess a medium like naturism has no age barriers. It still must be very difficult to be involved with someone not as into naturism as you. I don’t think it would be much of a problem for me. If my husband didn’t like being nude, that’s fine, just as long as I can be. Of course, when raising children, I firmly believe I would like to raise mine as my parents raised me: with open values and ideas. They never knew there was a group of nudists or naturists out there, they just thought it was okay.
You are right that clothing issues with a future husband need to be ironed out first. Even though your wife never gets nude in public, the fact that she goes to nude beaches with you is very cool. I’ve never been to any in America, but I did go to some in Greece. I was truly amazed at seeing hundreds of naked people as far as the eye could see - and a surprising number of attractive women. The Europeans are so different about nudity: they walk around like they would with clothes on. Americans seem to still have a level of self-consciousness, which sometimes prevents them from having fun. Too bad!
As far as meeting a man who shares my beliefs, my friends tell me that I intimidate men with my openness with nudity and self-confidence. Well, if a man gets scared off by a girl because she is comfortable naked and is proud of who she is, then who needs them? Ideally, I'll take a rich man comfortable with nudity. Perfect!
Through the summer, I had the daunting task of keeping a watchful eye on two cousins, aged 11 and 14. Both boys were raised in a very strict religious environment. I was not very close to them and we had not spent a great deal of time together. Without directly realizing it, I continued swimming in our backyard with no swimsuit on, as I had grown up doing.
Regarding my aunt and uncle's impressions about being naked around my cousins, I had to be very careful about that as they are strictly religious. I am sure they had some idea of my family's habits, but I think they believed that very little nudity would take place in front of their kids. When I asked my cousins what they would tell their parents we did, they both said "just swimming." They explained their parents might get upset if they knew either they or I were naked. They were told before coming over that if they saw someone naked to "not look and turn away."
My impressions are that neither of the boys, especially being so young, had been exposed to (female) nudity before, in which case my actions were probably quite sudden. Although they weren’t fully sure how to act, I made it clear that I was comfortable with it and I understood how it's okay to be curious or stare, but definitely not to turn away like it was a bad thing. I also chose to remain unclothed throughout the day so they would have more time to deal with it.
Considering neither boy had seen a naked woman before, I was very conscious about "over-exposing" them. I was hesitant at first to bend over in front of them, or sit with my legs apart, but if you are outside and in the pool for an hour or two, they are essentially bound to "see everything". After some initial staring and curiosity, it didn’t seem to matter at all. Their level of maturity around me naked is like that of anyone else, man or woman. Soon after, I would say they were as comfortable with me, as I with them. Most noticeable, physical contact with me, which terrified them at first, was as natural as if I were clothed. In the beginning they didn’t like to even come near me, and later they were jumping on my back and wrestling!
Things proceeded similarly the next few days as my nudity became the norm and they stayed clothed. When I asked them if they thought it was strange that I was naked, they both said yes. Neither had a problem with me being naked by now, but were uncomfortable getting undressed. I explained how it's no big deal and I wouldn’t care one way or the other. It took some time, but both chose to remove their shorts, explaining that their parents had often said nudity was "bad," but it seemed harmless when I had done it. After my sisters came home and joined us in the pool they seemed to take to naturism very well. It was nice to see the five of us having a great time outdoors without any shame.
I thought you would find it interesting how naturism not only didn't cause problems, but actually brought us closer together as a family. I now have many fond memories of spending quality time with my cousins throughout the summer erasing their inhibitions and simply having fun. If there are positive attributes to naturism, I think this is one of them.
I don’t know what my aunt and uncle know and don't know, but I have spoken to them since and they have said only that the boys keep asking them if they can be naked. My aunt laughed and said something like, "Looks like your habits rubbed off on them", but she didn’t seem upset or angry. I am curious what they think!
An update you may find interesting: I went home two weekends back and as you may know, the weather was gorgeous. My cousins were over and kept begging me to go play with them in the pool, but I refrained because I wasn’t sure if their parents would object or not. Finally, my aunt asked me why I wasn’t going to swim and I told her that I didn’t bring my swimsuit home. She calmly said "We know you usually don’t wear one, so why don’t you go ahead and join them?" My mother and I looked at each other in disbelief! I hopped in the pool and was naked for the rest of the afternoon. Although no one else was fully undressed, it seemed to make no difference. I finally came inside and was going to my room to put something on when my uncle stopped me and we began talking about my job. After spending the greater portion of an hour, sitting, talking to him naked, I went to help my mom in the kitchen. Normally someone in my place would have worn a bikini or swimsuit, but the fact that I didn’t have one on didn’t even matter. I knew my uncle and aunt never minded nudity in our house, but now they didn’t seem to be bothered by their sons seeing me naked, either. Only much later when the house became colder did I put anything on. This was quite a change from earlier behavior - when I said very STRICTLY religious, I had meant it!
I was as surprised as anyone else. I don’t believe their conviction in Christianity has lessened, I just believe they accepted the fact that their children were exposed to nudity and it didn’t seem harmful.
Your comment that you wish you had a daughter so you could have raised her to be like me was sweet, Matthew. Thank you. I'm sure if my parents believed in naturism like you, I'd hardly be wearing clothes at all! I plan to "test the waters" around my house and stay undressed. Maybe no one will even notice? Your stories of nude house painting inspire me!
I haven’t told my family about correspondences with you or what I’ve learned about naturism. It’s not out of shame; it’s just that they never seemed that interested. But e-mailing you and the experience with my relatives is making me more comfortable spending time indoors in the nude. Earlier, I would only occasionally do so at night or going for my shower, but now I find myself getting home and wanting to take off my clothes! I guess the point of this is that I am surprising myself with my interest more than I thought!
Inspired by your stories and our email conversations, I went home and decided to try staying in the nude while I was there. This wasn’t a very bold move, as there’s a fair amount of nudity in my parents’ home anyway, but it was unusual for me (or anyone else) to be nude throughout the day. I had a great time from watching TV to helping with chores, and the absence of clothes only seemed to make things more enjoyable! I asked my mom what she thought about it and she gave me a puzzled look and said, "I think it’s a great idea! Now you don’t have to bring clothes home for the weekend!"
SO sorry for not replying or being in contact. LONG story short, I am currently in Sydney, Australia, on a vacation! How are you doing in Michigan? Must be awfully cold! I won't make you too jealous, but let me just say that summer in Sydney is MAGNIFICENT!
Matthew, I cannot begin to tell you how different the attitudes towards nudity are here. It's simply amazing. Toplessness is accepted at the beaches here, though full nudity is rare. Still, especially on less family-oriented beaches, it's sometimes okay for people to sunbathe nude (I know, as I've done it a few times!). But walking around topless is rare - you just don’t see it.
When I first arrived, I was uncertain what was legal or not, but even on busy public beaches I saw the occasional surfer showering nude in plain view of everyone. So usually after a swim at the beach, if I strip down completely for a shower, I do get a few stares, but no trouble at all! How shocking in public, wouldn't you think? Imagine a typical, crowded beach in America, and imagine this!
I have found a few legal nude beaches here, but they were disappointing. Chock full of males, mostly older; I did not feel 100% comfortable. But in remote areas, you will see people wearing what they want - naked, partially, or not. I have stayed with numerous friends (and extended family) and here you can see the real difference between Aussie and American culture in their acceptance of nudity. Within these households, nudity is perfectly fine. Many do not go naked at all, but if I or someone else does, not a word is mentioned (not what I found in the U.S.). Most people sleep naked (as it is very warm and no A/C) and in the morning before showering, some people don’t bother putting anything on. And in the few places I have stayed with a private swimming pool, most chose to stay fully dressed but could not care less if I did or not. Even as the only nude swimmer, I have had no troubles with families with children! How wonderful and open!
Needless to say, I am getting a superb tan, with few tan lines and overall I love life here.
I just spent the entire day at an unofficial nude beach called Little Conwang in La Perouse (southern Sydney). It is unofficial, but located near a residential area, yet the locals do what they want. I had quite an adventure there.
Though predominantly male, this beach does have a fair bit of singles (women) and families (with kids). The wonderful part is that it is truly clothing optional: many people wear their swimmers while others do not. I spent most of the day climbing over rocks and checking out the views. From the time I arrived to when I left many hours later, I never had one stitch on all day and remained outdoors. It felt truly wonderful - the wind, the water, the sand and sun! I REALLY wish I could do this all the time.
I didn’t fear leaving my wallet behind at the beach; this place seems very safe. Around the rocks, there are many kids who fish throughout the day. At first I wondered what their reaction would be to me, but they just smiled and said "G'day" -- they are used to seeing many of the male walkers nearby! I continued climbing through the rocks for quite a while trying to get to a high point.
I saw a kid (about 10-12 years old?) fishing with his friends and I said, "Caught anything today?" to which he introduced himself and began a conversation. I got around to telling him I had never fished, and he immediately picked up a rod that appeared to have a bite and handed it to me! It was slippery and as I had no shoes on, I slipped and fell a few feet on some sharp rocks. I cut myself (bleeding!) on my leg, foot, and upper torso and was hurt quite badly. The young boy was shocked and asked if I was all right. Clotheless, hurt, and somewhat lost -- now comes the shocking part -- this boy, gave me a hand up and spoke to me maturely. He told me his family’s house was right up the hill where I could get some medication if I needed it. I felt very silly, but accepted. He also told me that off the beach (where we were) was NOT a clothing-optional area. I apologized profusely and felt very embarrassed and offered to go get my clothes, but the boy quickly said, "No worries, I don’t mind at all," and proceeded to take me up to the house.
At his house, the boy's family all came out to greet me. I felt very silly standing naked and hurt before them, but never did they mention anything, nor was I really offered a towel! It was just like my nudity was nothing out of the ordinary! I was given some antiseptic and bandages. The father and mother simply sat and chatted.
After giving me a glass of water and fixing me up, the boy, his brother (about the same age), and his sister (older) walked me down to the beach. I invited them to stay for a while (they stayed fully dressed the whole time, however) and we played a bit in the sand and water. The parents never even bothered to check on them!
I cannot believe the hospitality of these people. I was offered fruits and juice at their house. I was taken care of very well. All of this on top of the fact that I was naked in an area I should not have been -but they just didn’t care! If ANYTHING like this would have taken place in the States, God knows what may have happened!
So that was my first and last attempt at fishing! I have the scars to prove it!
When I related this story to my friend, I kept thinking of the events from the little boy's point of view. First, a naked lady comes climbing around the rocks and says “hi”. He then offers her a fishing pole, and like an idiot, she falls and hurts herself. Without blinking an eye, he helps her out, takes her to his house and patches her up. Then, he walks her to the beach and hangs out with her. If I hadn’t been naked the whole time, I would not be as shocked. But I was - hence my surprise.
Your stories of people's acceptance with your choice to paint in the nude are wonderful. I've usually participated in nude activities around other naked people (friends, family, etc) or by myself. I was not used to the fact of being naked in the presence of clothed company until my trip Down Under.
But during my last week there, I visited a farming town about four hours northwest of Sydney called Quirindi where my friend Amy (she's 22) lived with her family (mom, dad, two brothers aged about 18 and 14). It's literally in the middle of nowhere; their nearest neighbors are about three miles off!
Things were VERY hot in Quirindi. Amy's family lives on a nice farm where they grow wheat and have some cattle and livestock. Amy did not know of my naturist tendencies, but I wanted to take advantage of the open community on the farm, and luckily I was able to.
Behind their house is a large water tank that is used for fresh water for their cattle. On my first day there, after a tour of the farm, I was invited to swim in the elevated tank with her and her two brothers. As this town was in the middle of nowhere (NOWHERE near the ocean), I had neglected to bring a swimsuit. Amy volunteered some shorts, but I just joked I'd jump in with nothing on. She said she didn't mind as long as I didn't mind. That's how I was able to "break in" my nudity with her family. Her two brothers (who wore big, baggy shorts while Amy wore a skimpy bikini!) never batted an eye-lid. From that point on, I just spent time swimming naked. Neither Amy, nor her brothers ever joined me in taking off everything, but as we were in the water, it didn’t make much of a difference anyway.
After a couple days there, I was swimming in the tank when Amy came out of the house and told me there was a phone call from America. Amy's parents had several guests over, so I climbed out of the tank and fumbled while trying to get a towel around me. Amy cried out: "Oh, don't worry about the towel. Just come get the phone!" So dripping wet, I walked past Amy's guests on the porch and went inside to get the phone call with nothing on. No one said anything nor reacted aversely or reacted at all. After my conversation, I showered, got dressed and joined our company for dinner. Not a word was said of events earlier!
After all this had taken place, I really knew Amy's family was open to nudity but did not participate themselves. We spent our days out from dusk till dawn, either playing around or picking weeds out of the wheat out in the heat. The boys wore shorts and Amy usually wore a bikini top and shorts, while I did the same.
However, one morning I woke up rather late and found no one home. I realized they were all out on the farm and had left me behind. I sleep naked, so as I got out of bed and walked around the house, I neglected to dress as no one was home. I suddenly heard my name called from outside and saw Amy's mom telling me to hurry up as she would drive me down to the fields, otherwise I would have to walk (quite a distance without a four-wheeler or a car-ride). I felt slightly embarrassed to be caught off-guard, but I told her I'd be ready in five minutes. She insisted I come immediately, and I asked her what I should bring? She looked at me and said: "You're fine the way you are! Grab a hat and a bottle of water and let's go!"
I couldn’t believe my ears, but I didn’t hesitate in listening to her and ran out the door with nothing on! Amy's mom smiled, but said nothing. By the time I got down to the fields, Amy and her brothers began laughing as I stepped outside and they summed up: "We knew you'd come out here naked eventually!" I asked if they minded, and although they laughed about it, all of them said it was fine: I could do whatever I pleased. I asked them how they knew I would be naked and they told me they could see my tan lines were really minimal, so obviously I had spent time nude in the sun (at the beaches in Sydney!)
And that is how I got to spend most of my time in Quirindi without needing clothes. I didn’t stay naked in the house in the evenings, as the temps dropped, but during the day I never needed anything but my hat, sunglasses and some shoes! Whether picking fresh vegetables in the garden, pruning flowers in the yard, hanging laundry on the lines or sharing a beer on the porch, I chose to remain naked as much as possible. In such heat, it made SO MUCH more sense.
Matthew, you must understand this is really my first time being naked around people who are not. But I must tell you, I really never noticed the difference. I could have been dressed or not dressed from their point of view. The only difference was how much more comfortable I was with no clothes on. I never really paused and thought, "I am naked, they are not!" It was such a WONDERFUL experience. I have really come to understand more about myself, and my comfort levels with nudity.
Basically, I could care less if others are nude or are not, as long as they are comfortable with my nudity! Again, I am rambling on and on and on. However, reading your story regarding painting and meeting strangers who didn’t mind reminded me of my time in Quirindi. Sharing stories is very enjoyable. Any anyway, I thought you may enjoy hearing about the experience. I have much more to say about Australia, but alas, I've spent too long writing this email already! Hope I didn’t bore you!
Finally, my addendum: my job in the financial office at a pool where I work:
Well, it started off that I just used to go swimming very early in the morning before the facility opened up. Then, after my swim one morning, I was taking a shower and realized I had not turned the security alarm off. I grabbed a towel and went to do it when the thought occurred that I was completely alone in the facility: I could probably "get away" with being naked. Well, one thing lead to another, and a few mornings later I just decided to swim without my suit on. It was simply terrific! So that was fine for a few weeks until I pop my head out of the pool one morning and notice one of my co-workers and a supervisor coming in. I didn't have time to get dressed, so I decided to be a little pro-active and climbed out to explain myself. My supervisor, Jeff, seemed unfazed by it and was quite normal greeting me with a smile. But Lucy, my co-worker, was quite shocked. Anyway, I told them how I came swimming in the mornings before the pool opened and nudity was never even mentioned. Jeff said it was fine and that was that. So yes, my superiors do indeed know what is happening, and no, they do not seem to mind!
Now this leads to what happened next. So I spoke to Lucy over the next few days and she expressed interest in swimming early before work. I was surprised, because she did not seem very comfortable with me being naked that morning. Anyway, I invited her to come swim (no mention of clothes or no clothes) and she happily accepted. Next morning, I'm swimming laps and in comes Lucy and joins me - in her suit. That's just how it went. Lucy did not seem any different from how I normally knew her, so I was relieved. I did happen to notice in the shower room that Lucy never got undressed in front of me (she showered with her suit on!). I'm not sure what to make of that, but an interesting point none-the-less. This same situation (me swimming naked, Lucy not) has now been going on for the past few weeks. Some mornings we both stop swimming, hop out of the pool and chat. My nudity does not seem to make any difference, but she has never taken off her suit in my presence.
To answer the question, Would the bosses defend your swimming nude before the official opening of the facility even if other staff complained? That I do not know. I do know that no one has really spoken of the situation. Everyone knows Lucy and I swim early in the morning. I don't think they have talked about the fact that I go naked. Jeff has come by once or twice early to take care of business and doesn't even notice we're there. Last time he asked for one of our hands to help him put a sign up. I was far nearer than Lucy, hopped out of the pool and gave Jeff a hand. He never mentioned the fact that I was naked! So I think it's all okay.
Well, that's all!
I may not have always been a naturist. Who knows, when one has so few opportunities and so few, if any, examples while growing up. My earliest naturist experiences were skinny-dipping as a teen with my brother. We encouraged the girls that lived on the lake to join us. They always refused. Well, almost always. Once, I went out on my parents' pontoon boat with my girlfriend and her three girlfriends. It was their idea to take the boat out to a quiet part of the lake and go skinny-dipping and I was invited along. Hot diggity dog, was I ever delighted! However, once out there, only Gail (not my girlfriend) and I actually got naked. Oh, but I was happy anyway; yet I was not sexually stimulated -- I was just simply delighted to be experiencing this bit of social nudity with a girl.
Later, when my friends and I all coupled off, strip poker games became the thing to do. Even so, the young women always wrapped themselves in blankets while the guys -- my brother, my best friend, and myself -- seemed to delight in stripping buck naked. I do know we were always disappointed that the women did not get naked, but the disappointment, for me at least, was far more complex than sex. It had to do with recognition of trust (or lack of trust) of the women for the men, something I still fail to understand.
Yes, we boys often did sport full erections -- but did that indicate we were looking to have some sort of group sex or were we exhibiting a natural response of the male body to unique but deeply felt, positive experiences?
Did you know that it is not uncommon for the male to experience erections in non-sexual situations? In our youth, of course, everything is unique and felt keenly. Thus, lying in the cool grass thinking about nothing but the sensations on the skin may cause an adolescent to erect. As we males age, we begin to think that erections occur only with sexual stimulation as our experiences become commonplace. However, a couple years ago, my wife’s horse of some 30 years of age was winding down. Lad tired easily and was obviously stiff a lot. I would occasionally massage his neck and shoulder muscles. One day he was lying in his stall. I sat in the straw beside him. Lad raised his head and placed it on my lap. As I massaged his neck, I felt a surge of love at this unexpected display of trust and connection between Lad and me. My eyes watered with emotion. My penis swelled – to my surprise and unconcern. I knew the increased tumescence was due only to the body’s natural reaction to unique and deeply felt, positive experiences. Redbook Magazine reported that the same thing (clitoral erection, that is) happens to women, particularly when nursing their first child, which may cause the young mother confusion and unwarranted consternation. Well, I digress.
But then the dancers seemed generally to be comfortable with their nudity. Barbara and seven other female dancers formed a performing group which they named "The Wolverine Dancers" and, tongue in cheek, had t-shirts made up to look like football jerseys. The eight of them and their boyfriends (or husbands) tended to socialize together a lot. The family of one of the women owned a lot of property just outside of Ann Arbor. The property included a lovely A-frame cottage on a large pond (now the common area for condos). Our first time out there found us all skinny-dipping in the pond. Afterwards, we sat around in the cottage talking, naked, comfortable with each other.
Conversation turned to each of us relating his (her) first sexual experience. Now, that caused some erections! However, these young women did not care. We all just kept on talking and laughing as if an erection were a most unremarkable occurrence. So comfortable were we with each other that the males' erections were of no concern at all. One of the young women thanked me for my story. "I thought guys always knew what to do when it came to sex. I figured that it was all my fault that my first time was so clumsy."
These nude get-togethers took place in the mid 70s. I hear reports from my "peers" and the generation after about how sexually promiscuous they were. Studies show that their activities were commonplace; yet here was a group of young men and women who socialized together in the nude (and talked about sex) and were not promiscuous. We did not have orgies. We did not jump from one sexual partner to another. Three of the couples were married (two young couples and one couple in the late 30's). Some were partnered off, some were not. We were faithful to our partners or not even sexually active. Why did we buck the norm of our more "modest" peers?
About this same time, I took a several week long massage class, which was attended by about 30 people in their 20's through their 40's. The third week into the class, the instructor chose me to demonstrate the massage of the back and buttocks and he asked me to remove my shirt. I asked if I should remove my pants and shorts as well. "If you wouldn't mind!" he exclaimed. By the end of that night and for each night thereafter, the entire class (including the instructor) got entirely naked. Given the right situation, more people are comfortable with nudity than we imagine.
Eventually, my entire group of “nudist” friends went their separate ways, but I was left with a deep love of being naked. Now, though, I was associating with no one with whom social nudity was practiced and I continued on this way for years. Then, through a tiny ad in the newspaper, I discovered the existence of nudist camps, which sent me information on The Naturist Society, which I promptly joined. My second wife, Marian, and I traveled to Jamaica for a second time. Now, though, I was more aware of naturist opportunities on this island, and made my way to Treasure Beach Hotel on the south side of Jamaica. On the way in to register, I noticed a sign that announced that clothing was required in the restaurant and lobby so I asked the manager about their clothing policy. Nudity was, she replied, OK at the pool or beach unless someone with kids complained. (This was not a nudist resort -- just a hotel with a laid back attitude about nudity.)
After settling in, I ventured to the pool. Two women were there, both top-free but not nude. I thought about it for a moment and then asked if they minded if I went nude. They didn't. From then on I was nude walking from my room to the beach or the pool. When a waitress came down to the pool to ask it she could get me a beverage, I did not see her until she was standing beside me. She seemed utterly unimpressed that I was naked which made me unconcerned as well. One Kingston couple stopped me on the beach to ask advice on getting their camera to work; they were suited, I was naked, and it did not matter. Marian and I took an excursion up the Black River. At the tour’s furthest point upriver, the tour operator has a small bar and encourages the tourists to buy a beverage and swim in the river. I asked if I could skinny-dip if no one minded. He said sure, and as no one did mind, I stripped on the dock and dove in.
The entire time I was running around naked at Treasure Beach, I was the only person doing so; but I discovered that as long as no one objected I was perfectly comfortable being naked amongst clothed people.
After several days, Marian and I wearied of the quietness of Treasure Beach, and headed off to Negril. I knew of Hedonism, but also knew I could not afford that resort, so we stayed at the Mahogany which is at the opposite end of the same stretch of beach. It was not nudist, but many of the women were top-free, so I asked the manager if it were OK for me to go nude. She said yes as long as I did not stroll the beach in front of the restaurant. So I was discovering, at least in Jamaica, that if one asked one might be able to go nude even if nobody else was.
Back in Michigan, I started to apply this new idea: don't assume that people will object to your being nude; ask. My first experience with this was while fencing in our five acres of pasture. Though our young friend, Lynette, was helping me, the work was still proving to be too much for me to stand, so I asked Lynette if she would mind if I labored in the nude. She had no objection. Was Marian surprised to come home and discover me naked in Lynette's presence! Lynette continues to have no objection to my nudity on her many visits to our house to have dinner, watch movies, or just chat - and she's brought along friends at times and expects them to be OK with it too.
I then put a sign up on my door announcing that the house is clothing-optional and if nudity upsets you please knock loudly -- otherwise just come on in. Marian's friend, Katy, was the first to encounter this sign. She did not knock; she came right on in. As I was in another room, I was anxious about walking into the same room as Katy. This seemed different than being outside. I breathed deep and went on in; Katy didn't bat an eye. Marian was yet out in the barn. Marian was really surprised to find me naked again, but Katy assured her it did not offend her. "I see my husband naked all the time," she said.
Since then my oldest brother's ex-wife, the UPS delivery guy, my good friend Craig, and various other friends, some with kids, have all chosen to not bother knocking. I asked my nearest neighbor if my puttering around naked in my garden bothered her (risking letting her know that I did so). She laughed and said no, that we were far enough away anyway and even if she did see something, she could just look away. She had already been aware of my naturist interests having seen an article in The Chelsea Standard about my starting a nude beach advocacy.
Marian’s friends, Debbie and Doug and their daughter, Camille, have been more than just accepting of my nudity; our friendship has grown very deep even though they themselves are not nudists. On their first visit, Camille, then four, was an hour into the visit before she asked asked, “Why isn’t that man wearing pants?” “Because he doesn’t like to,” replied Debbie. “Oh,” said Camille, and that was the last she had to say about it. Debbie is very frank to others about allowing her daughter to associate with a naked man. Her favorite tale to tell is the time Camille saw that I was outside stark naked. “Matthew,” she chided with arms akimbo, “Why aren’t you wearing shoes?!” Now at six, Camille counts me as one of her fondest adult friends, and her parents and my wife and I cherish our visits together. And I get to be naked while they get to stay dressed and no one cares a whit about the difference.
I have to tell you, so that you will not be chagrined if it happens to you, that when you first embark upon this, having clothed people enter your house and accept your nudity can be exhilarating as it touches upon a deep human need to be accepted as oneself. Of course, women will have no concern about this, but at first I experienced some increasing penile tumescence, which worried me that it might develop into an embarrassing erection so I had to attempt to keep my attention off it. Now, the experience of being nude in my house even in the presence of non-nudists is so familiar to me that it is no longer a concern. Outside of my own house, tumescence never has been a problem whatsoever – something to do with the extension of oneself through one’s home, I guess, like dogs that bark ferociously at any dogs encroaching upon their property but whom get along famously with all dogs in neutral territories.
Having had success with asking to go nude in my own house, I began to ask elsewhere (in certain situations). At a spiritual retreat that a few of my oldest friends and I occasionally put on for ourselves, I broached the subject of my going naked. They had no problem with it even though not a one of them chose to be naked.
Katy, whom I mentioned earlier, asked me to paint a room for her. I asked her if I could work naked. She said that I could while her kids were at school. That was good enough. So there I was in Katy's house, not my own, working naked with Katy there.
I then did a job for my wife. She's a Realtor. She had me paint a condo that was already vacant. She told me that the condo would not start showing until the painting was done. Without telling Marian, I posted my sign on the condo's door and proceeded to go to work stark naked. Some time passed; the doorbell rang. Figuring it was Marian, I went to the door, but through the sidelight I saw a large group of Marian's fellow Realtors. One woman’s shocked expression indicated that she was not expecting to see a naked person. I hurriedly threw on shorts and let them in. The Realtor who rang the bell, it turned out, had been to Turtle Lake Resort (a nudist resort in Union City, Michigan) and thought it funny. Marian, when she found out, was mortified. There was some hubbub about it; but, while accompanying Marian on a Realtor tour of homes, a couple of her fellow Realtors (both women) mentioned that they had been to nude beaches overseas and found it to be no big deal. A few months later I was still feeling apprehensive about the Realtors' reaction especially as I had to accompany my wife to the company's Christmas party. The only mention of the incident was a humorous remark to which I replied that people should read and believe signs. There was general agreement to that and no negative comments to me about nudity.
I now make sure that I have permission before posting my sign. My heart was pounding and I was short of breath the first time I asked people whom I did not know. They were a young couple and I felt they would probably be OK with it and they were. They came and went and worked in the house without regard to my nudity. It is rather liberating to be completely naked with clothed people and be carrying on discussions as though you were dressed. As I have yet to be turned down by a customer, it is getting easier to ask.
At that job, however, I was rather put out that a carpet layer came into the house after knocking loudly. I got to wondering if he had even seen the sign, so I anxiously asked him if he minded if I worked naked (after I talked with him a bit about other things). He replied, "No, why would anybody care?"
A friend of the couple had come in the day before and talked with me (Why are you wearing shoes? she asked.). Now she came in and saw I was working naked despite the presence of this grizzled old carpet layer. Later that day she again stopped by and we got into a lengthy conversation about movies as I stood naked on a stepladder. On her way out she looked back at me and said, "You may call me Lily." David later told me that she allows only a few people to call her that (I don't remember her given name). I can only think that she was impressed with my living my philosophy.
David got nervous when he realized his next door neighbor had seen and read my sign when she was on the porch looking over stuff he was giving away. "She is very religious," he explained, "and it is likely to upset her." He went out to feel out her attitude about it. "She's totally cool about it," he exclaimed. Later, I met her on the sidewalk (yes, I was clothed) and had a friendly discussion. "I could use one of those signs when I do housework," she said. I do not know if she were serious.
The managers at work ( I am a salesclerk.) told me in a job evaluation that they admired me for standing up for my convictions. Everyone at work knows I am a nudist. In fact, the Ann Arbor News wrote an article on my involvement in naturism and mentioned my place of employment. Gads, I thought, this is going to cause trouble. But it didn't. The store received but one complaint (via phone) that they would employ a nudist (Bob, Jr., hung up on him.) Many people came in and asked to see me and expressed support even if they would "never go to a nude beach". Some came in to say they'd been to one, and I heard tales of no longer extant nudist camps in the area.
One of my co-workers had a party and suggested that I should come to it naked. It was just a gathering to watch some televised boxing match. I said, "Well, why not?" Why not, indeed! The attendees of this party were two of my fellow employees, three employees from the Livonia store, several of the painters who frequent the store, and two girlfriends of a couple of the guys. Am I that nuts? But I did arrive, stark naked. Scott introduced me and I spent the evening watching the fights -- the only naked person in the group. Though initially it seemed bizarre, after a while I felt comfortable as everybody got involved in the show or in conversation and my nudity was a non-issue.
I continue to work naked at other people's houses although I do not paint very often. Marlene, a secretary at a public school, even referred me to another woman, Lou Ann, a social worker for one of the local schools. After looking over Lou Ann's bathroom, I agreed to do the job and asked if she was aware of my proclivity for -- and Lou Ann interrupted me with a delightful, "Of course, it's no problem." As her married daughter was visiting, I turned to her to explain what we were talking about. "Why would it matter to anyone?" she replied. She then asked me to come to her house to bid a kitchen job.
While I was still working at Lou Ann's, she employed two handypersons (a married couple) to do some plumbing. Lou Ann told me that she told them that I would be there and that I liked to work nude and that she wasn't going to ask me now to do otherwise. They were fine with it and told me they go naked around their house all the time. She had other workers come by for this or that, and she always expected others to accept my nudity even though she is not a nudist herself. Lou Ann accompanied me to one of the clothing-optional swims put on by the Southeast Michigan Naturists. She stayed suited but remarked how normal the nudity seemed. Just recently, she expressed interest in going to Turtle Lake Resort and giving it a try in the summer. Lou Ann is well in her 50s and has never done such a thing, but she says she feels like expanding herself now. What a great way to do so.
All of my customers quickly get use to my being nude and we carry on business and conversations as though I were clothed. Even Marla, the first of only two customers I've had who asked that I not paint naked, got use to the idea. I had been referred to her by a Realtor friend and Marla had not been forewarned of my painting outfit. However, even though she declined to grant me permission to paint while nude, she was not offended by my being a nudist and offered me the work. A few months later, she asked me back to do another job. As this job was upstairs out of her sight, she offered to let me work naked. When the work moved out of the bedroom and into the partially open stairwell, I asked her if she would be uncomfortable with my working naked there. She said "no", that she had no problem with nudity, she just had to get to know me better. So thereafter I was free to go about Marla's house sans clothes.
The second person who declined to let me paint, a man who I had only met at the store and for whom I agreed to do the painting on short notice, he came back to me shortly after I got started and said that it would be alright after all, he just had to get used to the idea.
The person I’ve painted for the most is Lea. I’d been painting for her for sometime before I’d gone off to Jamaica and formulated my “just ask” principle. Surprisingly, despite having a teenage daughter and son, she did not object to my painting in the nude. Nor have her kids or husband.
Joel, however, was a little less comfortable with it and avoided looking at me. However, one day he exclaimed to me, with a buddy at his side, “My Judaism teacher is a nudist too and is in your club!” So now Joel understood that I was not a lone nut, but that there were others like me with whom he could identify. This underscores the value of being open about (if not practicing openly) your naturist values. Now perhaps Joel, encountering a nude beach someday, rather than turning away in scorn or ridicule, will think to give it a try himself “as there can’t be any harm in it and it might be fun.”
More surprising was the reaction of the fiancé of Joel’s sister. David had seen me on occasion painting nude at Lea’s house and Lea told me that David did not much approve of it. Sharon, by this time, had graduated from the U of M as a pediatrician. She and her fiancé, David, bought a house just before they got married and had moved in together just days before the wedding.
To my surprise, Sharon called to ask me to paint some rooms in the new house. I agreed. In deference to a request by Sharon’s mom to stay clothed while painting as Sharon’s 18 year old cousin from Israel was staying there and she was “a naïve girl”, I was painting clothed. In one way, it was good, as a huge crowd of relatives and neighbors came in that day to see the new house.
However, the next day, David says to me, “You can paint naked if you want.” “But what about Sharon’s cousin?” I asked. “Oh, I asked her and she says its OK with her.” “Are you sure?!” “I’ll ask her again,” said David and he yelled the question up to her. “Sure. It’s OK,” came the reply. So with a shrug of my shoulders, I dropped my shorts. Laughing, David said that when Paul, Lea’s husband, saw that I had been working with clothes on he asked incredulously, “Can he do a good job dressed like that?
So comfortable with my nudity were David and Sharon, that they both would forget about my nudity, despite or maybe for their being around a lot. Each of them brought friends into the house knowing that I was there painting but not thinking at all about my being nude. So there I would be, a naked guy being introduced to and shaking hands with one person or another. To their credit, all of David and Sharon’s friends acted as though nothing unusual were occurring. For those who had questions about it later, David would explain that I didn’t need the work so if I were to paint for others I would do so in the manner that suited me – if no one objected.
I have learned that people are not taken aback about nudism when one is open about it. Being open about my philosophy has been spiritually rewarding for me, and that is an integral aspect of Naturism.
P.S. A Tale of Two Naturists, including my story, was written some time ago. Camille is not six; she is in college, and she is still comfortable with my nudity. David and Sharon have two beautiful children who also are comfortable with my nudity. As I've painted often for David and Sharon, their son once wanted to try painting. I told David and Sharon that it was OK, I'd let him roll out a small section under my supervision. The kid proceeded to strip naked for that was what he assumed was appropriate attire for painting. David and Sharon and I all laughed at that.
I now paint full time and it is my sole source of income. My wife gets me a lot of jobs through other Realtors but understandably insists that I do not ever ask the client of a Realtor if I can paint naked. I still get a lot of referrals from past clients who have allowed me to paint naked. Those referred people and others let me work naked.
One of them, Lynette, says that what's most surprising about my working naked is how comfortable I am around her family, friends, and occasional other workmen even though I am the only one naked. In fact, being clothed while working is downright uncomfortable to me now - a lot more uncomfortable than the apprehension I feel about asking.
For you nudists who are thinking of trying to forge a nudist business amongst the textiles, be upfront with people from the get go about being a nudist. Never work naked without the homeowners' permission. If you can't afford to be rejected, don't ask to work naked until you've developed a working relationship. Best then not to ask on the first work done for the customer. Bring it up next time you are called to work. First ask if it would be OK to work naked "while you are not at home" and let it develop from there. Feel free to e-mail me if you have questions. Good luck!
by Matthew Kerwin
At a recent party of about 20 people put on by my friend Craig, who is not a naturist, I discovered 3 other members of the Southeast MiChigan Naturists in attendance. I had not known any of them were acquainted with Craig. Well, what a happy reunion! Since it was not our party and Craig never offered to allow nudity, we did not suggest it; but the four of us were not shy about talking about naturism and having other people listen in. Nobody was shocked or perturbed by the conversation and some were interested.
Why then are many naturists reluctant to acknowledge to the world -- even to their family and friends -- that they enjoy and participate in nude recreation? Some undoubtedly have real concerns such as an estranged ex-spouse who might use naturism as an excuse to limit the naturist's contact with their children or a teacher who worries for her job, although, even in a profession as sensitive as teaching that fear is not realistic everywhere. Here in Ann Arbor, a teacher in the Ann Arbor Public Schools was quite open about being a naturist. Obviously, she did not discuss it in class, as a teacher would not discuss her religious beliefs and practices in class; however, she often sat in at our very public "Michigan Nude Beach Advocates" information booth at the Ann Arbor Art Fair and would be greeted by her middle school students and their parents. Of course, she had tenure in a somewhat tolerant city. A teacher in Grand Rapids, Michigan, even tenured, might not fair so well. So the concerns of some naturists are legitimate, but need we all be so concerned?
Perhaps a few feel that naturism, while indeed fun, might have some negative effects on children or society. Despite their own experiences or perhaps because of insufficient experience, they feel that on some level the prohibitions against social nudity must have some validity, for why else, they think, would society so adamantly protect itself from public nudity and the depiction of nudity; yet any research on the matter indicates that naturism has nothing but positive effects. For example, Dennis Surgue, Phd,clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School,states in his book, "Sex Matters for Women", that nudity in the home is natural and not harmful. If any of you have even the slightest thought that simple nudity might be harmful to children or to society, do go to the Naturist Society's website for a more exhaustive discussion of naturism's benefits to society.
Those who ardently believe that nudity is bad for society and children are inexperienced in social nudity and also over-sexualize the environment. Their attitudes toward sex can be positive or negative. For example, a swinger couple contacted me about attending the Southeast Michigan Naturists' swims but decided not to attend when told that children may be there. "My wife says she would feel weird and so would I to be naked around children," wrote the swinger. Well, while there are a few polyamorists in naturism, we know that most swingers are not naturist as these swingers aren't actually comfortable with simple nudity. The few naturists whom I know to be free lovers are able to separate simple nudity from sex -- probably because they are experienced with and knowledgeable about naturism. People who are actually hostile to nudity have had negative experiences with sex: abuse from a relative, rape, or being the abusers of others. I know people -- even my sister -- who, because of past sexual abuse, are adamantly opposed to my being nude around them. Nonetheless, so long as I respect that wish, we are able to have good relationships. None of them excoriate either me or my involvement in naturism. They don't care what my beliefs are so long as I don't practice naturism in their presence. Nor does my sister want me discreetly practicing naturism at her lake even when she is not there, for she believes that everyone else feels as she does so she does not want her neighbors "insulted" by mere suspicion of my nudity.
But are my sister's concerns valid? Are most people offended by nudity or even the discreet practice of naturism? Many naturists act as though it is true. Where do we get this idea that everyone but nudists is offended by nudity? Why do so many naturists believe that they will be ostracized by friends, family, and society if it is revealed that they practice social nudity?
The idea comes primarily from two sources.
One source is the media. The other is our own desire to conform.
American media rarely shows simple nudity. In the past, of course, nudity was limited to National Geographic's display of "primitives". Such non-conformity was understandable, as not only was the nudity not Western, it was not even "civilized", thus depiction of it was allowed. The late 60's and 70's began to see the occasional displays of simple nudity. PBS Channel 56 in Detroit allowed some nudity then with nary a complaint; I particularly remember plenty of nudity in a teleplay in which God masqueraded as a steam room attendant. However, as the cultural conservatives organized and became political, they targeted displays of nudity; and the FCC has complied with fines for nudity on over-the-air TV signals. However, note the high level of violence and salaciousness that is allowed. Even by FCC rules, nudity could be displayed late night, yet nudity is self-censored by the programmers. For example, on the Tonight show, Jay Leno held up a picture of nudists on bicycles. The private areas, even the buttocks, were pixallated. Cable TV, can display nudity and does, but seemingly it is always associated with sex or violence. And, boy, do both cable and over-the-air programmers display the sex and violence. Thus we get explicit scenes, say on Private Practice, of passionate sex and lots of bare skin -- but never (female) breast, buttock, or pubes under any circumstance. Even an old youth oriented show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which I love) is rife with the sex act (and violence) -- but no nudity. I suppose some people infer from this that simple nudity is more indecent than open sex or violence. For sure, most begin to think that everyone else must think so.
Yet what is the truth about what most people think about nudity? We who read N Magazine know that nude people are allowed to run in public races in some west coast cities with little complaint but great enthusiasm from the spectators. Vermont allows nudity most anywhere and where practiced, even in the downtown area of one village, it has garnered few complaints (though much publicity). Here in Michigan, the Nude Mile on UM campus generated but one complaint but was shut down by the then president of the university in cooperation with the then attorney general (Jennifer Granholm) ostensibly "for the protection of the runners", but primarily because Bollinger thought it presented a bad public image for the university. Even in Chelsea in the conservative western half of Washtenaw County in Michigan, a proposed photo shoot of a "Lady Godiva" by the artist, Harvey, generated no public complaints but did attract lots of spectators, including parents with their children. The rider, of course, was pulled off the horse and arrested by Chelsea's chief of police, because, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he believed people would be offended.
And I have painted the houses of many non-naturists and they allowed me to do the painting in the nude, even those with children, without worrying about what the neighbors would think about what they allow in their own house. (See my article "A Tale of Two Naturists" for more on this. Scroll down to Part 2, Matthew's Story.) In N Magazine we are reading more and more of naturists pushing the boundary of "acceptable" nudity with little or no complaints.
But what about the uproar over the accidental baring of one of Janet Jackson's breasts at the 2004 Superbowl? In the aftermath of that, the FCC chair, Michael Powell, reported to Congress that his agency had received a record number of complaints about "indecency" in 2003 -- more than 240,000 (for the year), up from 14,000 from the year before. However, a reporter from Mediaweek.com investigated the complaints: 99.8 percent of the complaints in 2003 originated from the conservative Parents Television Council. In 2004, if the complaints regarding Ms. Jackson's bared breast aren't considered, 99.9 percent of the complaints were again generated by the PTC, and while the publicity over the Super Bowl incident generated some additional complaints, the media publicity and the PTC were undoubtedly behind most of those. Another reporter examined the 90 complaints that led to a 1.2 million dollar fine for an episode of Fox's Married by America. He found that all the complaints were generated by 23 people and that all but four of the complaints were identical. Only one person mentioned having seen the program. More than 5 million households had watched the "offending" episode. So, because of an overreaching and repressive federal agency, the media feels compelled to avoid nudity. But they go farther than the FCC demands, censoring nudity when even the FCC does not require it while at the same time associating any incident of nudity with salaciousness or violence. Yet a minuscule number is actually complaining about nudity.
The media's effect is that Americans believe that everyone else is offended by nudity even though most Americans themselves aren't offended at all. (It is true that most American men profess no desire to see naked penises up on the big screen, but that's not to say they are offended by it. Women seem to be as interested in seeing naked women as men are, but for different reasons. It seems that very few are offended by nudity at all.) However, in defense of conformity and the supposed sensibilities of others, most people would presumably still not support nudity on public streets or in public parks except under special circumstances; despite this, surveys have repeatedly found that over 70 percent of the people have no objection to official, clothing-optional beaches, since they understand that nobody should be rightfully offended by the mere existance of a nude beach. One can extrapolate that far fewer care if anyone privately practices social nudity, and do you really want to associate with anyone who is so virulently opposed to nudity as to want to ostracize people merely for going to a private nudist resort? I sure don't want such a person in my life no matter the relationship; fortunately, I've never on any level personally known such a person.
OK. So we know where people get the erroneous idea that most people are offended by nudity, but there is also a strong desire in most people to conform, to not stick out. Therefore, many naturists are uncomfortable being nude when most or all other people are clothed, even when it is legal to be nude. For example, at Turtle Lake Resort one Windsor woman told me that she had just been to an outdoor music festival in Ontario (where women can legally go top-free anywhere men can). "Did you take your shirt off?" I asked. "Oh, no," she repled, "I was waiting for someone else to do so first." Hmmm, thus despite the legality, I have yet to see a top-free woman in my many visits to Ontario beaches.
How will society's acceptance of nudity ever improve if naturists refuse to spearhead the change and if we continue to allow the most socially repressive in our society to determine, not just public opinion, but the opinions of our friends, family, and neighbors?
By being open about my practice of naturism, I have been able to invite friends and family to the clothing-optional swims sponsored by the Southeast Michigan Naturists. Few have accepted the invitation, but even so it is beneficial. For example, when my niece was trying to get a small dinner party together at a restaurant for her mom's birthday, she e-mailed asking for restaurant suggestions. I replied to all suggesting that, since the weekend in question was the night of an SMN nude swim (emphasizing that they could stay suited), I could get the group into it after dinner to enjoy the hot tub and pools. Knowing that no one but me on the reply list is a naturist, my niece's mom replied that it would be OK with her (even though I've never seen her nude), and she went on to explain that she knows that "it has nothing to do with sex". So I've got a non-naturist controlling the conversation in our favor.
Even if you feel you can't be as completely open as I have been, do consider "coming out" to just a few more friends, family, and neighbors than you have. The more you do so, the more you control the conversation and your life. You won't thereafter have to worry about their "finding out". What a relief and what a joy! Plus, you along with other open naturists make it easier for that teacher or divorced parent to openly acknowledge her practice of naturism without negative repercussions. Thus society is improved as well. Perhaps someday nudity will no longer be regarded negatively by the FCC or the media. If so, the change starts with you, not by what political party happens to be in office.