The Weekly Nudesletter
Vol. 2, No. 7
September 30, 1999


Article: Nudity enters the mainstream

Nudity in the News

Nudity in the Media

Quote of the Week

Nudity enters the mainstream

Just about two years ago, in our first issue, we suggested that one of society's best-kept secrets was the fact that an unexpectedly large percentage of people actually like to be naked, at least in private settings. We now think this is changing: it's less of a secret.

There are several indications of this. One is the explosive growth of positive (or at least balanced and objective) media coverage of nude recreation, clothes-freedom, and other manifestations of gymnophilia. Another is the evidence that people are taking the opportunities offered by the work-at-home trend and Internet shopping to get in more nude time around the house. There are other straws in the wind, such as favorable and widely reported remarks on nudity from various celebrities, the rising popularity of nude travel and vacations, and the Federation of Canadian Naturists' poll of attitudes about nudity in Canada (see below).

However, in the face of all this, there is an ironic paradox. Political opposition in North America to nude beaches and even, in some cases, private nudist resorts, has risen to levels not seen since the 1950s. Just this year, a number of popular nude beaches have been closed to nudity entirely or severely restricted. Court decisions against beach nudity and even female topfreedom continue to roll in. The din of demands for censorship of nudity in TV, movies, and the Internet contines to grow.

Even Germany, the birthplace of modern nudism and one of the most nude-friendly nations on the planet, has witnessed fits of nudity intolerance this year.

What's going on here? Are our public officials out of touch with what the people want? Absolutely. Demagoguery and grandstanding is the name of the game in politics. Whipping up fear of nebulous, vague monsters and bogeymen is the modus operandi. We don't have communism to kick around anymore, so a substitute must be found. Voilà! Let's go after the "pornographers" and "sexual perverts"!

We don't think it will work in the long run. Because nudity is becoming mainstream. And that is precisely what -- we think -- is especially worrying conservative prudes. They see something on the verge of success that they can't understand or cope with. They're scared. And they're fighting back. It's called backlash.

So hold on. Take off your clothes, but fasten your seatbelts. It's an exciting time to be a naturist/nudist. There may be a little unexpected turbulence. But it's going to be quite a ride.

Nudity in the News

Canadians warm up to nudity
Tired of wondering just how many folks might be potential members, the Federation of Canadian Naturists had a good idea: commission a scientific poll to find out. They called it the 1999 National Survey on Canadian Attitudes to Nudity and revealed the results in a press release on August 23.

Results: there may be as many as 2,700,000 naturists in Canada. That is, about 9% of all Canadians have visited or would consider visiting a nude beach, club, or resort. Another 11.6% said they had done or would consider doing skinny-dipping in mixed company. That's about 20% of the population which seems open to some form of coed nude recreation. It's far from a majority, of course, but still quite a lot of people. If approximately the same percentages held in the U. S., we would be talking about something like 60 million people who would at least consider enjoying nudity with others outside their family.

Possibly even more interesting: 39% of respondents indicated they sometimes walk around nude at home. Any of these numbers would probably surprise just about anyone, naturist or otherwise. They illustrate that although fondness for being naked is a minority interest, it isn't exactly a tiny minority. The fact that nudity is much more popular than most people expect is what we called "the best-kept secret" two years ago.

Would it be fair to call all these people naturists? Maybe, maybe not. There really isn't any universally acceptable definition of "naturist" (or "nudist") that allows us to do that. It isn't an either/or thing. Realistically, people tend to fit somewhere in a scale such as the "N-Scale" we talked about in Vol. 2, No. 2 and Vol. 2, No. 3. In terms of our "Augmented N-scale" it looks like about 40% of Canadians are somewhere around 4.0 or higher, 20% are around 5.0 or higher, and 10% are around 5.5 or higher.

Still, it's surprising, even to us. The percentages are rather larger than we would have guessed for the U. S. Of course, a similar survey in the U. S. might yield much lower numbers. Or perhaps it's just the way the questions were worded, which included people who would "consider" nude activities, as well as those who had actually engaged in some.

A rather old poll (1983) by the Naturist Society indicated 15% of the population at the time had ever gone skinny-dipping in mixed company at some point in their lives. So, those who answered "yes" had actually skinny-dipped at some time -- and it's rather hard to compare them with people who would "consider" it now. But there's so much conjecture involved here, one can only hope not to have to wait long to see a scientific poll like the FCN's taken here in the U. S. In a story below we mention a very recent poll that USA Today conducted online. Slightly more than a third of respondents said they'd go naked at a nude beach.... so at least Net surfers seem to have the right attitude.

Want to see more details of the FCN poll? You can get the report in PDF format here, but you'll need Adobe Acrobat to read it. (Available from the FCN Web site.)

Toronto: first summer of a new nude beach
In Vol. 2, No. 5 last May we reported on the successful establishment of a brand new official nude beach in Toronto. So, how'd it go this summer?

Hanlan's Point Beach officially became clothing-optional on May 24, as we already reported. On June 7, Leah McLaren, in the Totonto Globe and Mail, wrote a positive report in a "postcard from the edge". "I am lounging naked on a beach as I write these words," she began. It seems that she enjoyed reporting on the story, despite the newness of it all: "Being publicly naked in Toronto is as strange as it is freeing." Although the crowd was predominantly male, McLaren didn't feel threatened or even bothered: "At present, there are about 200 other naked people here with me at Hanlan's Point. The atmosphere is friendly, but not too friendly. Think of it as Toronto's naked playground, a little patch of Eden -- though, admittedly, there are about 10 Adams for every Eve."

Just one week later (when the weather actually improved enough that people might care), on June 13, some officers started to warn swimmers that, although the city had authorized nude use of the beach, a different jurisdiction, the Harbour Commission, had a bylaw which forbade nudity in the water. This little farce proved to be just a misunderstanding (though possibly deliberate), and the city council quickly made it clear that their intention was that people could not only look at the water without swimming suits, but they could actually swim in it as well. Just goes to show how unreasonable people who don't like nudity can be if given a chance.

On June 22 the Toronto Star ran an editorial cartoon lampooning beach gawkers.

Local media coverage of the beach, of course, was heavy. Eventually this spread to other Canadian media outlets. On July 4 the Canadian Broadcasting Co. did a story titled "Naked in Toronto -- and loving it". The gender ratio seemed to be improving: "Initially the beach was dominated by men. But little by little more women are starting to shed their inhibitions and their clothes." Film clips are available here and here.

By the height of the summer the novelty had worn off, and just about every media outlet had reported the story to death. At the end of the season, it was noted that there are a few rules people need to learn, even at a CO beach, but the process seemed to be working. On September 13, a local weekly paper reported that friction had developed between a group calling itself Hanlan's Beach Naturists (HBN) and some of the beach users. HBN was sending people to the beach to "educate" certain users about proper beach etiquette, especially avoidance of overt sexual behavior. Some users felt that the education was done with an excessively heavy hand. This might have been true, but naturist officials from the Federation of Canadian Naturists and Peter Simm, the lawyer who was instrumental in achieving clothing-optional status for the beach, reiterated that this status did not extend to permitting sexual activity in public.

For the perspective of a Toronto native and confirmed naturist, take a look at Denis Belton's trip report. Among other things, he had the experience many people are wary of -- unexpectedly encountering a neighbor at the nude beach -- and found it wasn't so bad after all: "On one of my visits to the beach, who should I run into but my neighbour from across the street. She said she'd been a nudist since her late teens and she told me how her new husband was won over."

Conflicts over nudity, even in Germany
The modern nudist movement began in Germany. Hamburg had a nudist park as early as 1903 and within a few years there were scores. As this July 21 article from the Manchester Guardian observes, "Germans have always been quicker than their European cousins to take their clothes off." Large numbers of Germans at home and on holiday continue to enjoy nudity. However, as the article goes on to describe, a lot of resistance remains in German society, at least to various forms of nudity observable by the general public.

The main focus of the conflict seems to be in areas of former East Germany, particularly along Baltic beaches. As it happens, in spite of the political repression of the late, unlamented Communist government, freedom from clothes was one of the few freedoms available to the average citizen. And they took to it avidly. Now that Germany is reunited, affluent West Germans have invaded the Baltic resort areas long off limits to them. And some of these West Germans, it appears, are not amused by the traditional nudity.

Of course, those who disapprove of nudity when they encounter it on vacation most likely do so when home as well. Or at least, as many East Germans suggest, they insist on everything being well regulated and in its proper place. As a result, the resort areas have gone to designating beaches as either FKK or textile. But not all East Germans are content to give up traditional areas they were fond of. Incidents occur, such as the elderly West Germans who hurled sand at a naked 18-year-old girl peacefully enjoying the beach at Prerow.

Perhaps, though, these conflicts are not simply the result of East/West cultural differences and traditions. The article mentions an incident in Munich in which a nudist enjoying the banks of the Isar was assaulted by an irate non-nudist. But wait -- Munich is well within West Germany, and has a long tradition of tolerating nude use along the Isar and in the city's famed Englisher Garten. Something else is going on. Exactly what, the article doesn't say.

There are other explanations apart from the East/West cultural split. For instance, Germany has many Turkish immigrants -- Muslims who haven't advanced beyond the quaint intolerance which takes offense even at women's bare arms and faces. As one Islamic spokesman pointed out, "We have certain regulations on clothing and many groups in the city, including Christians, can't understand why this sort of thing is tolerated."

But there are other possible explanations too -- a certain type of feminism for example. One lifeguard reported a woman's complaint: "She got all upset because there was a naked man lying near her. She felt harassed." Such political correctness may be related to East/West differences. A recent survey showed that 72% of working women in West Germany felt that sexual harassment in the workplace was a problem, while only 34% of their counterparts in the East did. One wonders whether this is merely a difference of perception. Perhaps it's reality -- and people in a culture with a more relaxed attitude towards nudity don't harass others at work as much.

Perhaps the real answer is that these anti-nudity outburts in Germany are a backlash against the degree of success that clothes-free attitudes have achieved. For instance, the article reports, "In the Tiergarten, Berlin's Hyde Park, nudity is fast becoming de rigueur. A couple of weeks ago, 1.5m ravers congregated here for the Love Parade, the world's biggest outdoor techno club, and gyrated through the city centre for 48 hours in various states of undress."

While that sounds great to us, it's understandable that the remaining conservative anti-nudists in Germany might be... losing it.

A shorter, somewhat earlier article (July 16) by Andrew Gimson in the London Daily Telegraph provides another detail that supports the backlash idea. "This summer the nudists are making a stronger effort than before to recover lost ground, aided by a growing fashion for nude bathing among former West Germans." Increased activity by one side of a dispute tends to encourage increased activity by the other side.

On August 5 Reuters jumped on the issue with a long article of their own, by Erik Kirschbaum. It offers a little survey information that indicates there really are East/West differences in attitudes towards nudity. The Ostsee Zeitung printed a report of a survey that showed 40% of easterners regularly sunbathe in the nude while only 25% of the westerners would "tolerate it". The latter figure sounds a little low, rather like what one would find in North America, but the other figure definitely indicates East Germans have something to be proud of. The Zeitung's conclusion: "Western Germans are prudes".

Why Johnny can't read...
or appreciate art, or have a healthy attitude about the human body.

Answer: it's the educational system. Read what some "educators" are up to, and despair.

Sometimes it's the classroom teacher. A June 16 Associated Press story reported that a fourth grade teacher in Panama City, Florida (redneck country) discovered a student with a "pornographic" magazine in class. The teacher, Wanda Nelson, seized the magazine and ripped out the most offensive pages. However, it turns out the magazine was a rare collector's edition of the National Geographic. The pages in question dealt with paleontology and the evolution of humans (who were depicted naked). Upon complaint from the student's parents, the teacher was reprimanded.

But sometimes it's a case of an outstanding teacher vs. retarded administrators. A little further south in Florida and just three days later the Miami Herald reported that a highly respected art teacher, Lorrie Maurino, at Dillard High School in Broward County had been reassigned to teaching freshmen. Although Maurino's advanced art students had won $1.5 million in scholarships and grants this year, the teacher had stirred up controversy because her students had the temerity to display some of their nude art work in school exhibits. A year ago she had encouraged her students to remove work from a show where nude art had been covered up by local Baptists who objected to it. And she had testified on behalf of another student (Rebecca Antolak) who successfully sued the school system because it had prevented the display of her 10-foot tall sculpture of a nude male torso.

More nude art controversies
Nudity in art has been a target of censors at least since Church officials began having fig leaves and drapery painted over art like Michelangelo's in the Vatican. Probably much longer. And, it's still going on, of course. We last reported on this in Vol. 2, No. 3. Another instance was reported in a September 20 Associated Press story. This time it was no less than the executive director Bill Faust of the Erie (PA) Philharmonic dictating that his audience must be limited by his own sensibilities. He ordered one painting which contained male frontal nudity to be removed from an opening night show -- while permitting three works containing female nudity. We suppose ole Bill doesn't necessarily know what's art, but he knows what he likes.

On the other hand, in Hull, Quebec (just across the provincial border from Canada's capital Ottawa), nudity is OK -- in a big way. A huge mural, stretching a whole city block, features several male and female figures with full frontal nudity. Only the "faintest ripple" of protest has been heard since the mural was unveiled in late June. As one official -- deputy mayor Claude Bonhomme -- explained, "There's a little nudity. It's not a big deal." The mural, entitled "Homage to the Bicentennial of the City of Hull", was created under the direction of artist Antonio Esparza.

Considering this and Toronto's new beach, perhaps Canada really is more enlightened about nudity than its neighbor to the south.

Really nude art exhibit
Most art museums have been staunch defenders of controversial art, with museum officials sometimes even risking arrest to defend artistic freedom of expression. (As happened, for instance, with a Robert Mapplethorpe show in Cincinnati, OH several years ago.) Nudity in serious art is accepted without question on museum walls.

But how about on museum visitors? It's been tried. The latest example we know of was on the evening of September 11, at a special viewing of an exhibition entitled "The Nude in Contemporary Art" at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in posh Ridgefield, CT. Proceeds from the event, organized by local naturists, went to benefit the Naturist Education Foundation.

One attendee reports that about two dozen turned out for the event. Works of sculpture, painting, and photography were included. Among photographic work represented was some of Jock Sturges and Spencer Tunick. There was also a video of the making of some of Tunick's works. Attendees had a chance to pose for pictures alongside several lifesize nude figure studies.

It was noted that the museum fronts on Ridgefield's main street, large glass windows open onto the street, and the windows were not covered for the event. Passers-by may have had some difficulty distinguishing the art from the observers.

Is nude bike riding art?
Members of Seattle's Fremont neighborhood arts council think the answer might be "yes". In any case, they declined a request from Seattle police to post "no nudity" signs for their annual arts parade, which was held June 19 this year. The police were hoping that such signs would allow them to arrest nude bike riders on disorderly conduct charges.

It seems that a rogue band of naked bicyclists had crashed the Solstice Parade for four years running. (See Vol. 1, No. 13.) According to council president Bradley Erhlich, public nudity might be a form of artistic expression. "If it is art, then the arts council should support them," he said. "It is part of our mission statement. We truly believe that creativity builds a stronger community."

Nude bike rider: Winnipeg's Lady Godiva
City officials in Winnipeg, Manitoba, also looked askance at this idea. Back in March of this year they cited 18-year-old Lee McDonald for riding her bicycle nude through the streets of town. (See Vol. 2, No. 4.) McDonald wasn't even protesting taxes. She was merely trying to win a local radio station contest. Fortunately, the ratio station, Power 97 FM, has promised to support McDonald with legal assistance, and even pay fines, if any. Their lawyer doubts it will be necessary. "It's silly," the lawyer said of charges the Crown has publicly stated it wants laid against McDonald. "I would have thought they would have more interesting things to do with their time."

Even in Canada, it would seem, there are some officials who don't have anything better to do.

Thinking about nudist tourisn in South Africa
This September 16 report from South Africa quotes a local tourism official, Craig Nancarrow, as remarking favorably on the idea of nudist tourism. By his estimates, there are 23 million "registered" naturists in the world. (There are probably anywhere from 10 to 100 times as many people who might not be "registered" but would still consider nude travel and recreation, if world-wide ratios are anything like what they are in Europe and N. America.) In any case, as Nancarrow noted, if only 1/100 % of that number chose to vacation in his area (2,300 people), the local tourist industry would get a nice boost. He's offered a plan that would set aside places in local beaches and forests for nude usage, and even contemplated nude sporting activities, including "naked game hunts".

We'll skip the last, thank you, but can't wait till this kind of sensible thinking spreads to North America.

Nudity in the Media

Celebrities and nudity
It's all part of the job, right? Sometimes, maybe. But usually not. Of course, movie stars and supermodels appearing nude and/or talking about nudity is hardly news. But what if they're women's soccer stars or pregnant moms? Could be our imagination, but there seem to be many examples this time around...

Sabrina Star Gladly Bares All

That was the unsubtle headline in TV Guide for September 20. In case you aren't a teenager, or parent of one, this refers to Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, a popular TV series for teens starring Melissa Joan Hart. According to the article, Ms. Hart -- who projects a squeaky-clean image in the show -- reveals "I like to be as naked as possible." Evidently this is well known to her close friends: "If there's a time when Melissa can be naked, she definitely is," according to a friend and co-star.

Brandi Chastain gets her ass in Gear

Sorry to put it so crudely. Women's soccer was big news this summer, and Brandi Chastain was a star of the show. Gear is an upscale but still tawdry men's magazine for Gen-X types published by Bob Guccione (of Penthouse). So what is Ms. Chastain's nude, oiled body doing clutching a soccer ball to her chest in the July/August issue? Frankly, we don't know.

But Briana Scurry promised not to streak

That's because Ms. Scurry did do a nude streak after her team won a gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. According to this June 16 article she cheerfully admits it too: "Yeah, I took my clothes off in a car and ran down the street and ran back, and I have proof. I videotaped it."

Cindy Crawford pulls a Demi Moore

Way back in 1992 nude-friendly Demi Moore showed up nude and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair. (She was fully nude on the cover of the same magazine, except for trompe l'oeil body paint, the year before.) This summer it was Cindy Crawford's turn, on the cover of the June issue of the (very) high fashion magazine W. Cindy is also inside in a 2-page spread consiting entirely of her bare boobs and belly on one page and a close-up of her face on the next. W, it appears, is as trivial and superficial as Gear (after all, its purpose is to sell clothes), but it's for women, and the photography is much better. Check here for a very brief story on the matter, and a picture of the cover, in case you missed it.

Celebrity skinny-dipping

The August 13 issue of the Wall Street Journal featured interviews with eight celebrities regarding their vacation plans. (And no, we don't have any idea what this has to do with business or the stock market.) Several of them answered when asked about their most recent skinny-dipping experience. Muriel F. Siebert, president and CEO of a New York brokerage firm, replied, "About 19 years ago. It was on the beach in Southampton. I was with friends, and it was a dare." For photographer Cindy Sherman the answer was, "I skinny-dipped today, as a matter of fact." Fashion designer Cynthia Rowley answered, "Not since I got arrested for it in Florida." Basketball player Karl Malone replied, "A month ago at my house in Salt Lake City." But all Netscape programmer Marc Andreessen could say was, "Never." Get a life, Marc.

Actress Rene Russo contemplates doing nude scenes

Some actors and actresses do nude scenes with no problem, others simply refuse, while still others agonize over the issue when they're offered a role requiring some nudity. American actress Rene Russo seems to be in the latter category. Most of her previous roles have been rather masculine, in crime/action type movies. Her latest movie, "The Thomas Crown Affair" is of the same type -- but the role isn't. According to an August 29 review in the South Africa Sunday Times, the role required some removal of clothes. Being religious, Russo prayed for guidance. Evidently the word was "yes", or at least "no comment". So she went ahead, with considerable trepidation. One thought helped get her through: "When I was a model, in my 'other' life, there were always Swedish girls or girls from Norway and they'd be sitting around, I kid you not, completely naked," she says. "It was really fascinating for me because in America we're so uptight about sex. These girls would have their clothes off and they didn't know they were naked. They were just free with their bodies and I always thought that was such a wonderful place to be. Hell, all the women on the beaches in Europe sit there topless and don't think about it."

Nudity for the rich
Isn't it ironic? What should be one of the cheapest ways to enjoy travel and nature -- without the expense of clothing -- turns out to be, seemingly, most appreciated by the wealthy. At least, that is what one might conclude by looking at the sorts of publications that treat the pleasures of nudity with seriousness and respect.

Take Islands Magazine, for example. You know, the one where the real estate section features islands you can buy, if you happen to have a few million dollars in spare change. Their expensive double-page ads, their choice of articles, their photography, even their classifieds, are all nudist-friendly.

This isn't to say that nudity is a major theme. It isn't. It's generally treated subtly and discreetly. But it's there. Consider the October, 1999 issue. Let's see. The very first ad, on the inside front cover, includes a nude woman covered with mud, as if relaxing at a spa. There's an article on the German island of Sylt, long famous for its nude beaches. (However, the article mentions this only in passing, referring to Sylt as "an island already known for nude sea bathing (it is said that Sylt is where it all began, as a health craze in the 1800s)".) Several pictures of nude, heavily tattooed men and women (back views) appear in an article about tattooing and Pacific islanders. There's a 1/3-page ad for Bare Necessities Tour & Travel with the headline, "No Bathing Suit Fits Like No Bathing Suit". And in the classifieds we find several items under the heading "Naturism".

The yet more upscale Porthole magazine is even more nudity-friendly. The October issue has the back of a well-tanned topfree woman on the cover. Inside, the contents page features a nude woman (in a modest fetal position) -- because there's a great article titled "Buffets in the Buff" on nude cruising. "If you think cruising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on, you just might find it more fun with your clothes off," is how the article by Camilla Payne begins. It's illustrated with several pictures of happily nude men and women (rear views only). Scattered about are ads for the Naturist Society and several nude cruise companies.

All in all, it's clear that the publishers of these magazines expect their upscale audiences to appreciate the virtues of nudity. Caution: if you read these magazines, you'll come down with a bad case of envy if your income doesn't match your taste and good sense.

Don't forget you can enjoy nudity just as much on an inflatable boat in some secluded cove of your local lake.

Nudity in advertising
It shows up in expected and unexpected places..


An ad touting the features of the Volkswagen Cabrio shows the vehicle in the background, driving along a park road. Young women in the convertible are smiling and pointing at a male figure in the near foreground, of which we can see only his right arm and bare side -- but his clothes are lying on rocks at the side of the stream he's skinny-dipping in. Apart from the picture, there's no other reference to nudity. (Ad noted in July InStyle magazine.)

Digital Origin

This software company produces a digital video editing software package. They speak our language. The main picture of the ad is a bare-chested (but very out of focus) woman, and the headline reads "For under $1000, it lets you edit naked." Copy begins, "3 am. That great idea, that unique transition comes screaming into your brain. So, get up and edit, clothing optional." It would have been a much more believable ad if the model looked more like she were actually using the product, or even if there were a computer in the scene. Guess that isn't what they were aiming for though. (Seen in April New Media.)

It's an ad for a perfume store, featuring a nude (female) model covered only in a very diaphanous bit of veil. Not unusual for perfume ads. So what's it doing running in computer magazines, like Yahoo! Internet Life (September) and Wired (October)? Well, it's an online perfume store, of course. The company name is the URL of the Web site. The very artsy picture that ran in the ad is here -- except that it was not cropped (as here) to just above the model's breasts. (Another one of the same subject is on the home page.)

Shop Naked!
Whoever first thought of this slogan must bitterly regret not trademarking it, since it, and variations, have been showing up everywhere. We've noted other examples of this theme -- that you needn't wear clothes to go shopping on the Internet -- before. See Vol. 1, No. 4 and Vol. 2, No. 4.

Here are some additional examples. uses banner ads (placed on other sites) that contain the slogan. Then there's the First Internet Bank, which has an ad in August Wired that consists mostly of the slogan "Bank Naked". ("Do your banking at no matter what you're wearing. Or not wearing.") However, until the cash dispenser peripheral is available for your computer, you'll still have to put something on to visit the local ATM -- unless you can move really fast. (But then, who needs cash when doing all shopping on the Internet?)

Bare witch wedding
We like stories about nude weddings. (See Vol. 2, No. 2 for the most recent example.) It's touching to think of a couple willing to share so much of themselves with family and friends at this important time. It's also interesting to think about how those family and friends are handling the unusual circumstances. But this story which appeared in the September 16 Boston Phoenix adds yet another unusual dimension -- a Pagan ceremony.

It seems that the writer, Audrey Schulman, had been invited early this year by a friend to attend the wedding. Since it was honestly described as a "naked witch wedding", and that the guests, as well as the main participants, would be encouraged (but not required) to be naked, Audrey was immediately certain she would be unable to attend: "I'm a rather modest person who has always regarded skinny-dipping, even with good friends on the darkest night, as a source of extreme anxiety. Like a lot of women, rather than considering nudity an expression of freedom and honesty, I tend to obsess about the size of my belly or whether I have a large zit on my butt. Ever since I was a teenager, my most frequent nightmare has been about going outside without some crucial piece of clothing."

But curiosity got the best of her. Of course, though she would attend, she was certainly not going to strip off herself. She took an old robe anyhow, just in case. On the fateful day, it seemed all of the other guests, who were mostly strangers to each other, were just as nervous as she was. You see what's coming, of course. After rather a bit of procrastination the ceremony begins, and most everyone gets naked, including Audrey. "The wedding couple entered, and, without hesitation, I slipped out of my robe to follow them into the cleansed room."

She found that after the third or fourth naked person appeared, she felt completely used to the whole thing. "People looked so small and honest on their own. Nude. They just looked like people. Aging people, pale people, overweight or thin, sagging or youthful. Uncommonly beautiful all, blotchy and mortal."

"And when my friend, looking up at her new husband, vowed she would take him as her brother, friend, and lover, I saw the tears in her eyes. I understood, as I never have in more-conventional weddings, that the couple is always naked before God and the community, before fate and time, in their desire to prove worthy of each other's love."

Too hot? Lose the swimsuit, say several venerable publications
That's the subtitle of this August 6 article by Jenn Shreve in Salon. It's a review, whose title is "Nudity for All!" of several other recent media pieces on the subject of -- nudity. Salon itself does quite a number of articles on the topic, with several examples just in our last issue. One of the stories touched on here is the one by Chris Wright called "Get naked" which appeared in the July 29 Boston Phoenix, and which we also reviewed in our last issue.

Boston Phoenix discovers nudity
Well, the Phoenix is an "alternative" newspaper, after all. One of the original ones. So maybe it isn't so surprising that they've published a number of nudity-related pieces recently.

In the June 3 issue there was a sidebar entitled "BANGers and WANGers bare all". It's not entirely clear how this is relevant to the rest of the page, but anyway it's about two local gay naturist groups: the Boston Area Naturist Group and the Worcester Area Naked Guys. Though it doesn't say much except the groups exist, the fact they are mentioned at all is interesting. (WANG was the subject of a longer article in the Phoenix's sister publication in Worcerter, MA. See Vol. 2, No. 5.)

Then on July 22 we find Me naked: how to keep from dying of exposure. It's a story by Michael Gross, a young freelance writer in Boston who volunteered to model for a nude photography project. Never having done anything like that before, and feeling a bit insecure about his skinny body, Michael was rather apprehensive to begin with. But upon seeing the results, he was pleased. Then it transpired the some of the pictures were to be used in a public show. Oops. A work colleague just happened to see them. Double oops. But nothing worse than a little friendly kidding resulted. Whew. Michael reflects on the experience: "Naked pictures can provide a stable, almost comprehensive image of the body around which the mind can wrap itself -- and, maybe, to which it can reconcile itself."

Those are the most interesting bits that a search of the Phoenix site revealed for this year. Before that there was their 1998 guide to summer. It leads off with a story entitled "Anyone for volleyball?". The anonymous author, who is now "well versed in the etiquette of the nude beach," recalls his first encounter with public nudity, as a young teen, at Gay Head Beach on Martha's Vineyard, in 1976. Though he recalls it as being somewhat of an intense experience, it seems fair to say that he now recalls it rather fondly.

USA Today discovers nudity
USA Today, on the other hand, is not an alternative newspaper. It's the essence of mainstream. And they've done several good, balanced stories on nudity and nudism this year. (There was one last year, see Vol. 1, No. 15.)

First off, a July 26 article dealt with nudity at this year's Woodstock 99 music festival. It epitomizes the, um, blunt, direct style of the newspaper: "The hedonistic atmosphere at Woodstock 99 meant anything went, including, for many, clothes. The bare essentials: sneakers, a bottle of water and nothing else." That's how the story began. Segue into selected vivid detail to paint a picture for the reader: ""I love being (expletive) naked!" screamed Joella Kusmanick, 20, of Deptford, N.J., clad in nothing but strategic "body painting" from head to toe. "I'm not self-conscious at all," said Kusmanick, followed by a group of 20 young men snapping photos."" Although the article's short, snappy sentences tended to emphasize the sexual agenda of many of the young (and not so young) attendees, it was not judgmental and, if anything, suggested that young folks enjoy their freedom as much as at the original Woodstock 30 years ago.

Following this, on August 6 a more restrained article appeared, over the byline of Jayne Clark, targeted more at members of the original Woodstock generation. It was titled "Top ten places to take it all off", and it aimed to provide a handy list of the North America's best nudist resorts. "We know it's not for everyone," the reporter admits (probably unnecessarily). But this is followed by a little formula which says it's really OK if you do like it (otherwise, why have the story at all?): "Thousands of Americans regard carefree vacationing and the restrictions of clothing as utterly incompatible." One picture accompanying the article actually showed bare female breasts. Making the top ten list list are seven names just about anyone would agree on, such as Desert Shadows Inn, Cypress Cove, Laguna del Sol, Paradise Lakes, The Terra Cotta Inn, Solair Recreation League, and Glen Eden Sun Club. But there are three somewhat lesser known names too: The Willamettans, Live Oak Resort, and Crocus Grove Sun Club.

Finally, on August 27, there was a genuine news story about the controversy surrounding San Diego's Black's Beach this summer. We'll deal with that controversy in more detail elsewhere. But in a nutshell, the city of San Diego decided to begin enforcing, on its portion of the beach, an old anti-nudity law that had long been ignored. Though most of the traditional clothing-optional section was on state land and not affected, other news reports incorrectly suggested the whole beach had been closed to nudity. The article is factually oriented, and the reporting is generally correct. It also touches on other clothing-optional beaches around the country where similar conflicts are playing out, such as Rincon Beach in Santa Barbara, Higbee Beach in New Jersey, and Mazo Beach in Wisconsin. And the naturist point of view is fairly presented, with details such as the Gallup Poll that showed 72% of the population approved of nude sunbathing on a beach accepted for that purpose. As Bob Morton of the Naturist Action Committee noted, "The public is a great deal more tolerant than law enforcement or politicians. In fact, there is no real public outcry." Perhaps most to the point was a comment from a naturist stock market investor, Marilyn DiSimone: "The overwhelming majority of beaches are clothed beaches, so why is it unreasonable to have a place for naturists?"

Along with the story, the paper conducted an online reader poll. The question: "Would you ever go to a nude beach?" The poll (which was open for one day) drew 2870 responses. Although this sort of thing isn't scientific, the answer "Yes, I'd go in the buff," narrowly won, with 34.9%. The fence sitters ("I'd go if clothing were optional.") had another third with 32.6%, while those who would never go to a nude beach came in last, 32.5%. Must be the effect of all the naked Internet surfers.

Quote of the Week

To rise from the spring and put our feet on the silky clay, in the soft mud, or on a hard, warm slab, felt marvelous. From the day the natives left us, our contact with nature was complete. We felt it on our bare skin. The fine climate made it a relief to strip off the clothes which the white man from cool countries was now imposing on the tropical islanders and which cling to a sun baked body like wet paper. It felt just as good to throw off the shoes, which would be in constant need of repair from stepping from mud to sharp lava rather than from petals to pavements. The effect was one of added freedom and added intensity. Our ever-wrapped skin was at first tender, like that of a reptile casting off its slough, and hiding until the new covering toughened. But gradually the jungle withdrew its long claws and instead it felt as if its leaves and soft branches stroked us in friendship as we passed. Hostile to intruders, even the jungle is friendly to its own, and protective of its offspring. It was good to feel the breeze, the sun, the touch of the foreest on our skins, rather than to feel merely the same cloth clinging to the body wherever we moved. ... Rather than feeling poor and naked, we felt rich as if wrapped in the whole universe.

Thor Heyerdahl, Fatu Hiva: Back to Nature

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