The Weekly Nudesletter
Vol. 1, No. 1
September 29, 1997


Article: The Best-Kept Secret

Nudity in the news

Commentary: JenniCam

The Best-Kept Secret

What is one of the best kept secrets in North America? One very good candidate is that millions of people here enjoy non-sexual nudity in many situations in addition to when it is absolutely necessary. A very sizeable portion of us regularly sleep nude. If we work at home, we often do so wearing little or no clothing. If we have a private swimming pool, hot tub, or sauna, we relish being able to enjoy them naked. If we have a boat, we may very well strip down as soon as we get out in the open water.

And yet...

And yet, outwardly, the U. S. and Canada are among the most conservative societies with respect to tolerating or accepting nudity in many situations where it makes perfect sense. We have very few clothing optional beaches compared to most countries in Europe. We are often alarmed even at the idea of women sunning and swimming with bare breasts, which is common in Europe and many other parts of the world. We have essentially no public parks where nude sunbathing is tolerated - again unlike many places in Europe. Our young people are increasingly afraid of being seen naked in a locker room or public shower. Any appearance of nudity in advertising, magazines, television, or movies is routinely met with hysterical protests from over-zealous defenders of (their own narrow concept of) "morals".

What's really going on here? We are deeply schizophrenic. Many more of us than almost anyone would imagine either enjoy non-sexual nudity privately, or else wish that they could, if only it were not considered to be "weird", "bizarre", or even "perverse". We would love to have this freedom for ourselves and our friends, but we are terrified of coming out and admitting it.

And so, nobody accurately knows the true magnitude of the hidden sympathy for freedom from clothes, because we don't dare to tell others how we really feel, even our closest friends and family.

The purpose of this newsletter is to encourage as many people as we can to reconsider this ridiculous situation. We want to stimulate thought and discussion about the reform of our society's irrational and backwards attitudes concerning non-sexual nudity.

We're going to look at dozens and dozens of examples where right now, in the U. S. and Canada, many thousands - sometimes millions - of people are able to enjoy non-sexual nudity, mostly in relative privacy, but sometimes more publicly. We'll try to learn why they do this, what the benefits and rewards are, in spite of all the negative messages being sent by our society about nudity.

If you've read this far, if you have some idea of what we're talking about, and if you are open-minded about investigating the positive aspects of non-sexual nudity - even if you are not yet convinced that this applies to you personally - please bookmark our Front Page now, and check back with us every week to read more about it.

Nudity in the news

Extremist political groups attack the work of photographer Jock Sturges.
Would-be censors never rest, and they're taking aim at naturist art again. Jock Sturges is one of the finest photographic artists of his generation. He is also a naturist, and his best work involves the depiction of fellow naturists in France and California. The high artistic quality and eloquence of his work is a powerful statement on the value of nudity - and this has drawn the opposition of right-wing hate group leaders like James Dobson and Randall Terry. They have organized protests which have destroyed copies of Sturges' books in bookstores in a number of U. S. cities. Civil liberties and anti-censorship groups like the ACLU, The American Booksellers Association, and the American Library Association have come to Sturges' defense.

For more information, have a look at the press release from the Institute for First Amendment Studies.

Posters of a naked doll upset Illinois prudes.
When The Body Shop, a nationwide chain of stores selling health and beauty aids selected a naked, full-figured doll named "Ruby" to symbolize a new promotional approach designed to encourage women to accept and feel good about their own bodies, they undoubtedly anticipated a backlash. It came last week when a few shopping mall owners in Illinois banned posters of Ruby because these might alienate a few customers - and perhaps cast doubt on the whole media-generated obsession with the "perfect figure".

Jennifer Ringley makes the mainstream media.
Jennifer Ringley is a 21-year old recent college graduate and Web page designer. For over a year and a half she has operated a series of Web sites that, usually very discreetly, have featured herself in a campaign on behalf of simple honesty about the body. A "tour" of her body was an early example, which featured images of selected parts of Jennifer - though nothing more shocking than her navel. Then she created "JenniCam", a live Web camera operating in her dorm room and later her apartment. The camera is allowed to catch Jenni in any activity and any stage of dress (or undress). Usually she is dressed, but - just like anyone else - there are exceptions. JenniCam is a tour de force of openness and body acceptance. The news is that the site finally made the national newswires, in a Reuters story.

Commentary: JenniCam

What's the point of the news item about Jennifer Ringley and her JenniCam? Well, first off, you might want to visit the JenniCam site itself. There is also a set of pages on Jennifer herself. With that in mind, here's the Reuters' article mentioned above. There have also been articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post, and elsewhere.

In a nutshell, according to Jennifer, her site is about "living a real life for all to see". In real life, a person doesn't always wear clothes. In fact, apparently, when she's "alone" Jennifer is at ease wearing little or no clothing from time to time. Unlike sites that have the primary purpose of showing off bare skin, this doesn't happen most of the time, but, when it does, it isn't avoided or censored either. It is "a window into someone's private world, virtually live".

Where did the idea for JenniCam come from? According to the site FAQ,

About three years ago (almost 4) a friend and I were arguing over who was more creative: me or him. An independent friend decided that to settle the case, we would each write a short story on "A Day in the Life of Me as a Superhero." I wrote about TurboGal, my alter-ego who could spell huge words with ease, give fashion advice, runway-walk, give bad advice to small children, and obliviously wear little clothes. My story won. :-)
And later
Initially I bought the camera to update portions of my webpage with pictures of myself. A friend joked that it could be used to do a FishBowl cam, but of a person. The idea fascinated me, and I took off with it.
(Jennifer often writes with tongue in cheek.)

Depending on your point of view, you may find some things about the JenniCam site annoying, or just plain silly. Conventional people, especially the prudish sort, may find it offensive, though there really is not much nudity in evidence. Only as much as one might find in any slice of life, with "real people, doing real things". Naturists may be annoyed that sexuality is not entirely hidden. And smut hounds will be annoyed that there isn't much more nudity and sexuality than there actually is.

Cynics will nod their heads and conclude that what this site is really about is a young woman who has discovered a sure-fire way to get attention, by appealing to the fondness (and in some cases, the obsession) that males have in viewing scantily-clad females, especially if there is a hint of sex involved. They will dismiss Jennifer as just another exhibitionist, or at least a young narcissistic seeker of attention, intoxicated with publicity, celebrity, fame.

Is that the truth, and Jenni's claims about simply showing "real life" just an elaborate put-on? Perhaps. However, there are by now any number of "live sex" sites where Web surfers can (for a fee) watch "real women" fulfill any request. There are also some sites that are a little more subtle, JenniCam copycats with Web cameras trained on teasing, generally naked women - again for a "membership" fee.

Somehow, though, Jenni's site isn't like any of that. Ringley describes herself as "90 degrees from everywhere". Perhaps she really has something very unusual - such complete acceptance of herself and her body that she really is, as she claims, just "living her life as if the camera did not exist".

Body acceptance is one of the primary achievements that naturists claim they gain by letting themselves be naked. Even if one does not closely resemble a supermodel or exotic dancer. Jenni expresses it this way: "In the last year and a half I have gotten so much more confident. So what if I'm fat? Who cares if I have a bad hair day?"

Jenni demonstrates an objectivity about herself and her body, allowing us to see, as we so seldom are able to with either ourselves or another person, that it is just "there". And that, even if we are naked to others, we don't lose the privacy that really counts - the privacy of our own thoughts, our own mental world, unless we choose to share it.

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