The early history of modern naturism is a fascinating subject, and we will probably have occasion to return to it many times in this newsletter. Most historians of naturism identify the German Richard Ungewitter, who publised a book called Die Nacktheit (Nakedness) in 1906, as the originator of the movement. There were other near contemporaries of his in Germany who shared his ideas, but we don't need to go into that now. The point is that concerns about health were central to naturism right at the beginning. It was part of a more general movement in Germany that went by the name of Lebensreform (life reform). Among other things, there was an emphasis on such (supposedly) healthy practices as sunbathing, vegetarianism, exercise, and abstention from alchohol and tobacco. Whether or not we still agree with all the details, the intention of early naturists was quite clear in this regard.
There were antecedents to Ungewitter as well, not only in Germany, but also in Britain and even in the U. S. In the "civilised" world up until the 19th century, most forms of deliberate social nudity noted by historians were somehow tied to religion, such as various Christian sects, both ancient and more recent, and the Jains of India. But in the 1800s, a few daring individuals began to experiment with nudity for personal reasons involving health and aesthetics. Sometimes they even discussed the subject in their public writing.
Walt Whitman, perhaps the best poet the U. S. ever produced, was one such. Here's what he had to say on the subject, in an essay entitled "A Sun-bathed Nakedness":
Shall I tell, reader, to what I attribute my already much-restored health? That I have been almost two years, off and on, without drugs and medicines, and daily in the open air. Last summer I found a particularly secluded little dell off one side by my creek, originally a large dug-out marlpit, now abandoned, filled, with bushes, trees, grass, a group of willows, a straggling bank, and a spring of delicious water running right through the middle of it, with two or three little cascades. Here I retreated every hot day, and follow it this summer.Was this the extent of Whitman's experience with nakedness? No, not at all. There's a recent scholarly book called Breaking Bounds: Whitman and American Cultural Studies. On the front cover is a pair of full frontal male nude photos by the 19th Century American painter Thomas Eakins, apparently of Whitman himself. Sure looks like him, anyway. How often do we see an actual picure of a famous author - instead of merely his face and the clothes he happened to be wearing? One of the essays in the book says:
As I walked slowly over the grass, the sun shone out enough to show the shadow moving with me. Somehow I seemed to get identity with each and every thing around me, in its condition. Nature was naked, and I was also. It was too lazy, soothing, and joyous-equable to speculate about. Yet I might have thought somehow in this vein: Perhaps the inner never-lost rapport we hold with earth, light, air, trees, etc., is not to be realized through eyes and mind only, but through the whole corporeal body, which I will not have blinded or bandaged any more than the eyes. Sweet, sane, still Nakedness in Nature!--ah if poor, sick, prurient humanity in cities might really know you once more!
In the late 1870s and early 1880s, while recovering from his first stroke, Whitman often shed his clothes and was very comfortable being naked around friends and acquaintances.It is known that Eakins and Whitman were good friends. The front cover of the Penguin edition of Whitman's Complete Poems features two naked young men, a detail from Eakins' painting The Swimming Hole. (The whole painting appeared on the cover of Nude & Natural 16.4, and the related article inside on skinny-dipping mentioned Whitman in passing.)
Whitman's quote above was hardly the only positive thing he had to say on nakedness. Here are a couple more:
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked.
If anything is sacred the human body is sacred.
Bolivar Beach, on Texas' Gulf coast is a long drive over bad or nonexistent roads, which makes it a good candidate for clothing-optional use - and thus it has been used for many years. Nevertheless, in 1995, one Marvin McEachern - determined to find something to be offended by - made the difficult journey to the beach for the express purpose of being offended, so that he could complain to the authorities. Complain he did, and as a result nine people (out of more than a hundred) were cited for nudity. Only one of these, David Lacour, fought the citation in court.
Texas law requires "recklessness" for the a violation of the public nudity statute, meaning the defendant should have reason to suppose someone present would be offended or alarmed by the nudity. This is not very likely at such a remote beach commonly used by nude bathers. Somewhat incredibly, a jury convicted Lacour anyway.
But Lacour appealed, with legal assistance from the Naturist Action Committee. Finally, just before Thanksgiving, the appeals court overturned the conviction in a 2-1 decision. Sanity prevails.
NAC update: Bolivar Beach.
This may not be the end of the story, however. There is some speculation that local conservatives may try to amend the ordinance to include female breasts explicitly. Too much freedom can be a dangerous thing, they think, especially if permitted to women. It scares many people so much that they will resort to violence. Ms. Graves home was fire-bombed the day that the decision was announced.
The original story is here.
The prosecutor, Barry Morgan, took pains to make it clear he came to his conclusion reluctantly, but even so he had to admit the books had artistic merit: "I can assure you that no one condoned or approved of the material. But there's no doubt that it's quality work. I don't think, taken as a whole, one can say they lack serious artistic value." Right-wing opponents of the books, of course, were "outraged" at the prosecutor's decision.
Twenty years later, the wine maker decided to try again - and proved that community standards - or at least those of Federal bureaucrats - have mellowed over the years. The new labels, using the same art, were approved.
Original story from Wine Today.
Reactions were mixed among nudists and naturists in the UK who saw the program. Most of the emphasis was on the historical aspect. Since this goes back to the 1920s, there was little time left to deal with naturism as it currently exists in the UK. Some viewers felt what little there was on the contemporary situation unduly emphasised the older generation and did not leave an impression of a vigorous movement young people might find interesting.
However, the subject was treated respectfully and seriously, without overt attempts at ridicule. There's far more relevant material that could be presented than would fit in an hour show, so a lot was inevitably left out. Nudists and naturists in North America can only imagine with envy how long it might take before an equally competent and objective story on the history or current practice of naturism in the U. S. and Canada might appear.
Although the network had to fuzz out what are called the "naughty bits" in the UK (due to the time at which the show was aired), the final result still gave a positive account of a naturist vacation - far more than one expects to see on North American TV.
It was Firth's wife who chose the location. As he explains, "The nudity wasn't why she chose it. After a period of intense, desk-bound work she wanted to refocus her mind and get back in touch with her body. And that's what Harbin is famous for helping people do."
The tone of the article is very positive. Harbin is not a conventional nudist/naturist resort, nor just a hippie-ish new-age campground. Its objective is to provide a non-materialistic environment where one can pause and refresh oneself. The nudity is incidental, but quite appropriate. In the writer's opinion, the objective was achieved: "The mental and physical calm I was now enjoying as I sat quietly and surprisingly un-self-consciously naked again in the spa's warm waters was exactly what Jennifer had come here for."
And further: "If you need to escape the world of the material, you need to take off your clothes."
There may be just a touch of exaggeration and sensationalism in the article, however. The truth of the matter is that Lundy has modest plans for group activities involving sauna, swimming, and volleyball. But he has said elsewhere that student response hasn't been as spectacular as the article reported, in spite of promotional efforts which included a bare-breasted female friend working beside him in an information booth.
Nevertheless, other campus naturist organizations have had difficulty getting even as far as Lundy's. It's of exceptional interest to the media, at any rate - Lundy has given interviews to CBS news, several university campus papers, and some general circulation papers as well.
Nevertheless, there is a good body-positive quote in the article from one team member: "It's part of water polo culture. We're already in Speedos. It's not a big step to this. If you're afraid to show off your body, you're not going to go into water polo."
It's not merely Carroll's imagination. A companion article by a male named Michael Segell comes right out and says, "If a mom has the opportunity to slip away from a crowd to suckle her baby quietly, I think she should do it. If only for the baby's sake. Why should he be exposed in such a compromising position?" The article is titled "Men bear the burden of a bare breast." Don't we all just feel so much compassion for this guy's poor, delicate sensibilities and the overwhelming burden he bears?
Although the Act ostensibly deals only with "commercial" Web sites, even the fact of offering links to Amazon.com for purchasing naturist books may be enough to jeopardize the whole site. Furthermore, many nudist/naturist clubs and resorts have discovered that the Internet is by far the most cost-effective means of advertising and bringing in new business. Never before has it been so easy for people curious about naturism to learn about it and discover how to participate. All that could be lost if the Act isn't overturned.
Read this NAC alert, and think about making a contribution so that the worst that can happen doesn't.
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