The Weekly Nudesletter
Vol. 3, No. 3
May 20, 2000


Article: The Fear of Nudity, Part 1

Question of the Week

Nudity in the News

Nudity in the Media

The Fear of Nudity, Part 1

There is no passion so contagious as that of fear.
Montaign, Essays
We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.
Livy, Histories
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
H. P. Lovecraft
In time we hate that which we often fear.
Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra
Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavour after a worthy manner of life.
Bertrand Russell, "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish"

In our essay in the last issue on Nudity and Personal Growth, one of the key observations was that it is fear which very often holds us back from personal growth. Generally, this is fear of the unfamiliar and the unknown -- because growing entails going someplace we haven't been before. It might be our first date, our first time speaking in front of a large audience, our first time piloting an airplane alone. Or the first time we experience social nudity.

In the case of social nudity, we generally experience the fear as various of a number of particular concerns such as being laughed at or doing the wrong thing or being approached sexually. We'll go into some of these concerns later, but ultimately what's really involved is simply fear of the unknown.

Are all fears really just fear of the unknown? Probably not, except by a great stretch. Fear of pain or physical harm, for instance, probably isn't in this category. However, often we anticipate pain or physical harm when facing unfamiliar circumstances. But let's take a different example: fear of losing one's job. (And this in general, not specifically because of involvement with social nudity.) Why does the prospect of losing a job cause us fear? Well, certainly there are a variety of unpleasant consequences: embarrassment, the effort required to find a new job, the thought of things we may have to do without if we can't find a suitable new job quickly.

However, assuming we have normal skills and abilities, there are plenty of jobs available. So perhaps what really bothers us is that we may have to change in some way. We might have to move to another place in order to find a job we like. We will have to learn to deal with new people and new circumstances. We may even have to learn new skills or take up a new line of work from what we are accustomed to. All of these things are examples of the unfamiliar and the unknown.

To tackle these unknowns will require us to change -- and to grow. That is certainly what contributes a lot to our fear. The situation in learning to deal with social nudity is much the same.
Men are even lazier than they are timorous, and what they fear most is the troubles with which any unconditional honesty and nudity would burden them.
Friedrich Nietzsche
Is not nakedness the indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your respectability, that is indecent. There come moods when these clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear, but are themselves indecent.
Walt Whitman, A Sun-bathed Nakedness

The best way to deal with fear is to stand up to it and confront it directly. We need to ask, regarding any of our fears, just how likely the "worst" possible outcome is, and in the event of such an outcome, how we can deal with it. The point is to look each fear in the eye, and to think about it calmly and rationally.

Usually what we will find is that the "worst" outcome is pretty unlikely, and the more likely outcomes are things we can deal with. And in case we are uncertain about our ability to deal with some outcomes, there is an opportunity for growth if we set about to acquire the skills needed to deal with the circumstances.

There are many thing in life which could be pretty scary if one really thinks about them. Just consider all the things which could go wrong in something you do every day, such as commuting to work. The possibilities range from running out of gas, to getting a speeding ticket, to becoming involved in a bad accident. We'd never be able to function if we worried about all the possibilities every day. A much better approach is to learn to assess the risks realistically and to work at establishing the habits and skills which will reduce the risks whenever possible.

Let's look at some of the commonest fears people have about trying social nudity. Many times the fears are exaggerated, in that the anticipated problems are much less likely than you might suppose. But this isn't always the case, and we won't insult your intelligence by saying that things will never go awry. After all, we're dealing with some powerful social taboos here (at least in our culture), so some risks do exist. If you are completely averse to risk, social nudity probably isn't for you.

However, when there are rewards to be had (as there certainly are with nudity), then an intelligent, growth-oriented approach to dealing with risks is to understand them better, and to become prepared to deal with them if necessary -- before the problems arise.

  1. My spouse or other member of my immediate family will object strongly.

    Unfortunately, this is one of the more likely problems, given how unhealthy our society's attitudes are towards nudity. Most likely, you already know if this is going to be a problem. There is no single solution which works for everyone, since the things that cause others to object to nudity are so many and varied, though all are ultimately unfounded. If the problem can be solved at all, sincere and honest communication is the way to do it. Learn as much as you can about social nudity, at this Web site and many of the others around, so that you can explain exactly why social nudity is good and the fears of it are vastly exaggerated.

  2. Friends, relatives, or business associates will find out and react negatively.

    As far as people you don't live with are concerned, it is not very likely they will find out you enjoy social nudity unless you tell them. Clubs, whether landed or not, are very respectful of members' privacy. And beaches or other "public" places where nudity can be enjoyed are usually in distant and remote areas where you're very unlikely to encounter anyone you know. There are people around who won't change their minds if they are negative towards nudity. However, if you're careful about it, you can generally figure out how others will react and whether they will at least be tolerant of your attitude towards nudity. This is called learning to tune into the points of view of others.

  3. Even if other people seem to accept or tolerate that I like to be naked, they will think I'm weird.

    The fundamental issue here is that it is not "weird" to enjoy nudity -- atypical and not talked about in our society, but not "weird" or "deviant", which are pejorative terms. It is quite possible, if you have this fear, that you yourself think there's something a little deviant about enjoying nudity. You will then have this fear until you learn to think otherwise, that nudity is healthy and good. Really, what it comes back to is learning to be comfortable with yourself and your own preferences, to be able to march to your own drummer, despite all the peer pressure against it.

  4. People might think I'm hung-up on sex.

    The question is: are you or aren't you? Remember, it's OK to enjoy sex just as much as it is to enjoy nudity. (Our society is very ambivalent on this point, unfortunately.) But there is a time and a place for everything. You are "hung-up" on either one only if you feel an obsession about it at the wrong time or place. You need to be clear in your own mind that nudity and sex are only loosely related, and you need to be confident explaining to others that they are quite different experiences for you, though each is very worthwhile in its proper time and place.

  5. Enjoying social nudity could result in legal problems.

    Fortunately, this problem is non-existent with legitimate private clubs. The days when people got "busted" for social nudity on private property are, thankfully, long in the past. (Though there are ominous trends in some areas that might bring back past harassment.) It's a different matter in "public" places, of course. But the risk depends drastically on where you are. As long as you stick to places which have a long-established tradition of nude use without official interference, you should be fine. Just be sure you know the current status before you strip off.

  6. Nudity in front of my children could raise legal problems.

    This is extremely unlikely in most locations, as long as you know the members of your immediate family are comfortable around nudity. There is no place in the country where nudity in front of your children is actually illegal, though there are many conservative communities where a lot of people think it is or should be. The best advice here is to know the attitudes in your community and keep a very low profile if necessary. Explain to your children that, though your family thinks nudity at home is no big deal, there are others who get upset over the idea, and that it isn't something which should be discussed with others who might misunderstand. Unless you have previously conditioned your children to think there is anything improper about nudity, you shouldn't have any concern that exposing them to your nudity should cause a problem. After all, millions of children have been raised in nudist/naturist/nude-friendly environments during the last 100 years (to say nothing of the rest of human history). If nudity really were harmful to kids, certainly this would be apparent in some nudist families. Yet there simply isn't any evidence that this kind of upbringing has hurt them. Be prepared to point out this simple fact if you are challenged on the issue.

  7. I could lose my job if it became known I enjoyed social nudity.

    Again, this is quite unlikely, but it does depend on the attitudes of people who are in charge where you work. A few job categories, like teachers or day care workers, may have special sensitivities. However, in most cases, your employer need never know, and almost certainly won't do anything if he/she does. You'll just have to judge the risk for your own circumstances. (But then, Paganism, with or without nudity, could also be hazardous to your teaching career in some places in the Bible Belt. See one of the stories in our News section, below.)

  8. As a man, I might have an erection when I'm around naked people, especially women.

    This is probably the most common fear men have about social nudity. For most men, it is a totally groundless fear, but for some guys, especially younger ones, it can happen. Nervousness over this issue is usually enough, by itself, to forestall it. The best advice is that as long as you aren't thinking about sexual matters, you won't get a sexual response. And even if you do, as long as you are careful not to be too obvious about the situation until it passes, other naturists will understand and neither laugh at nor think badly of you.

  9. It's physically dangerous to frequent places where naked people gather.

    This one really is false. Of course, if you're a woman, it's not such a good idea to go anywhere alone that is remote and sparsely populated, unless you are confident of your means of self-defense. But other than that, private clubs and popular public areas where nude use is traditional are quite safe. Assaults, rapes, and similar crimes have been known to happen at such places, but the risk is no higher than comparable places where folks always wear clothtes.

  10. As a woman, I'm afraid I'll be bothered by men making sexual advances.

    We can't say it never happens. It's generally pretty rare at private clubs -- and if it occurs, just ask for help from someone in club management. But at public beaches, well, certainly there are men who can be pests. There are many ways to deal with it. Always visit beaches with one or more friends of either gender -- there's safety in numbers (and it's much more fun besides). Visit the beaches at busier times -- most people there will not approve of anyone who gets too pushy and will take notice if someone steps out of line. Or best of all, develop your self confidence to the point you have no trouble telling an inconsiderate male just where he should go. Some men, just as many women, may fear being exposed to or drawn into sexual activities they don't want. The truth is, social nudity isn't about groping and orgies. There's nothing about it which will force you to endure that sort of thing against your will.

  11. Being naked around other people may violate, or tempt me to violate, my religious principles.

    There are a large number of religious people, even ministers and priests, who are active naturists. It is simply not the case that most religions are officially opposed to nudity, though there are certainly many religious leaders who misunderstand it. You'll find thorough explanations at a number of Web sites dealing with religion and naturism. As to whether nudity might lead you into temptation... this is an area where you'll need to examine your own conscience. If you think your motives aren't compatible with your religious convictions, then you have something to work on.

  12. My body isn't especially attractive. People will laugh at me or think I have the wrong size or shape in certain parts.

    Most people don't have bodies which are especially attractive. You'll learn this the first time you visit a nude beach or club. It may be that some folks make private judgments about the appearance of others, but it is considered very bad etiquette to let this show. Most people will not be judgmental, either openly or otherwise, and laughing at someone else's appearance or making rude comments on it is considered extremely boorish. But the best advice, long-term, is for you to become comfortable with your own body and its appearance. You may choose to improve it, if feasible, or you may simply learn to be happy with yourself as you are.

  13. Since I've never been around naked people, I might unintentionally make some breach of nude social etiquette.

    This is quite possible. For instance, you do know you should always have a towel handy to sit on, don't you? And it's OK to look at parts of others' bodies besides the face, as long as you don't stare. Fortunately, there aren't really that many rules of nude etiquette you need to know. Common sense is generally enough. Beyond that, a few minutes spent reading some of these etiquette links will tell you all you need to know.

  14. Since I have no experience being naked around others, I will feel embarrassed and awkward. People who are comfortable with nudity will know I'm new at it. I think I'll appear foolish.

    Everyone has to have a first time, right? The "first time" is something that people who enjoy nudity tend to remember very well. They are therefore sensitive to the feelings of people who are new at it. However, you will probably be a lot less obvious than you suppose. Quite likely you recall dreams in which you were naked even though everyone else was clothed, and you think how awkward you felt, since you were very conspicuous. However, when many others are naked too, you aren't conspicuous. Chances are most people won't even notice if you're new at it. Read some first time stories to get a feeling for how easily this usually goes.

  15. I'm shy and/or not as socially adept as I'd like to be. I think people who are into social nudity are cliquish and may not readily welcome me into their group.

    This, too, is quite possible. It's not an unrealistic fear. Private clubs are made up largely of people who have known each other for some time, and even most popular nude beaches have "regulars" who are close friends. It can be as difficult to gain entry to such groups in the clothing optional world as in any other circumstance. However, clubs vary quite widely in their degree of friendliness to outsiders, and while beaches tend to be more open, they also vary. You will at least have to go through a period of "testing the waters" to find a group you are comfortable with. This may be even more difficult if you are a "single male". You may need to do a bit of work on your social skills (conversation, body language, sensitivity, general affability), in order to get along well. But this is certainly worthwhile -- a true opportunity for growth.

  16. I might run into someone I know.

    That ought to be considered a good thing! The other person should be there for the same reason you are -- to enjoy being naked. Very likely such an encounter would alter your relationship to the other person -- for the better, since you have something unexpected in common. Certainly this is true at most private clubs. At public beaches, it's true there are those who visit to see what going on without actually participating. While other people who like to be naked are very discreet about whom they discuss this with, it is conceivable you could run into someone who would enjoy causing you trouble. Only you know how vulnerable you might be to this sort of thing, perhaps based on your job or position in the community. If you think there is some real danger, perhaps you need to save social nudity for trips and vacations far from home.

Question of the Week

What's your greatest concern over participating in social nudity?

There may be several, but which one or two worry you the most? In case you are experienced with social nudity, what was your biggest fear before the experience, and what is it now? What has helped you overcome your fears of social nudity?

Reply here.

Previous question: Is nudity helpful for personal growth?

Yes. Practicing nudity alone at home has helped me come to terms with my own personal naturalness. I still have some growth to do in this discovery process--I am happy to say. It is a new adventure for me.

My relationships with others have had some interesting and surprising effects. I know that I am more open. It almost seems that I reflect or transmit a new kind of communication. Maybe these terms aren't quite right. I do know that even casual relationships sometimes have a different twist--more honest and fuller.

My relationship with the natural world has been enriched. I have always felt very close to god in a natural setting. When I feel I need to get away from things, I run away to the outdoors. I like being alone with my thoughts. I have experienced nudity in this setting. I felt liberating and beautiful. I look forward to more experiences.

Because I am more open to people, I have shared some experiences with them. My hairdresser just told me that I was one of the most interesting people to talk with. She, I believe, is beginning to become more of a naturist. I would like to introduce my grandchildren to the enjoyment of being naked. Sometimes I wished it hadn't taken me so long to discover this natural state.

My serendipitous visit to the San Gregorio nude beach in June, 1988 set me on a path that I would not have imagined at the time. My initial reaction was akin to what New Agers describe (metaphorically, I assume) as a out-of-body experience. On a more cerebral level I was fascinated by the proposition that, on this stand the dominant cultural norm was turned upside down. Had someone admonished me for being without clothes I'd have been able to tell them with impunity to take a flying leap at the moon. Fascinating!

I thought the California nude beach idea worth exporting to the Heartland. I reasoned that there must be others who would find the nude beach experience as exhilarating as I did. Nude beaches, reasonably common in California, are extremely rare in the Heartland. In the early 1980s the state park system in Kansas administratively quashed the few skinnydipping sites that existed on public lands. I tried several times in the 1990s to interest them in revisiting this decision. But this is a very difficult quest in a culturally conservative region with real clothes-compulsion hangups.

I knew I would have to respond to many objections, so I read whatever I could find about the Naturist idea. (In the early 1990s, before the Internet, it was very difficult to find good source material.) Eventually my studies led me into areas as diverse as religion, law, psychology, anthropology, political science, human sexuality, civil liberties and history. The more layers I peeled back, the more there were TO peel back. Looking at our culture through the Naturist lens is an amazing educational experience.

Through the 1990s I put these studies to good use time after time, as proposed anti-nudity legislation occurred with increasing frequency at the state and local level. Arguably the first major battle of the anti-body culture war occurred in my neighboring state of Missouri in 1993. We fought hard and won this one, so far primarily to keep the world safe for nude dancing establishments. One can only hope that our culture will mature beyond the sophomoric infatuation with sexual titillation that keep these places going. But I have concluded that this can only happen in an environment free of government intervention. Though the reasons are complicated and the final (desirable) end-state may not be immediately apparent to politicians and others, the idea is simple: In a free society, government has no business setting dress codes. Period.

My personal growth as a result of my Naturist experiences and activism has been toward this simple yet deceptively profound idea.

Dave Bitters
NAC Area Representative

We are a married couple in our late thirties and find nonsexual nudity helps our communication. When you bare your body it is easier to bare your heart and soul. We have never been to a club or resort and will probably never go but we do enjoy it around the house. We just do typical things like surf the net, make and eat meals, do laundry, dishes, vacuuming, reading, or talking. It adds elements of trust, fun, and openness. We are Christians. We have had communication problems most of our marriage and two counselors were unable to help but this seems to have worked for us. We have unusual work schedules which allow us time without the kids although the few times we got "caught" were no big deal (they are going through puberty and we don't wish to make them feel uncomfortable or "different" from their peers).

It certainly helped me rid myself of my inferiority complex!

Nudity in the News

Another nude valedictorian
Two years ago there was Kate Logan in Vermont. (See Vol. 1, No. 13.) This year there's Leslie Shorb in Oregon. On the whole, one must say that Kate carried it off much better. At least, she waited for the actual graduation event. Leslie, on the other hand, played her hand rather too soon, and in a far less dramatic way (probably expecting far less attention, if any at all). All she did was shower with a few male friends in the boys' locker room on April 11. Unfortunately, even something as low key as this drives (so-called) educational officials nuts. The story broke on April 26, and you can read about it here or here.

The fallout was that Leslie was suspended for 10 days, stripped of being valedictorian (out of a class of only 16), and banned from extracurricular activities, the senior dance, and a trip to Mexico. Five boys who joined Leslie in the shower were also reprimanded and dealt lesser punishments -- even though Shorb made it clear the escapade was her idea, and all participants were friends who were used to skinny-dipping together.

Leslie's home town is Powers, OR -- and if the class size gives you any clue, it's small. (The closest town of any real size is Coos Bay, which at a population of about 15,000 is not quite a metropolis.) Now, I don't want to pick on small towns, but this one, at least, seems to be dominated by even smaller minds. Such as the school administrators, and the (justifiably) anonymous editoral writer for the Everett Herald, who ranted on May 5, "Move over Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. Leslie Shorb, the dense, doe-eyed Oregon teen, is well on her way to replacing America's most famous shower scene with one of her own. And it's just as scary." Scary? A simple shower? (See our lead article about the fear of nudity -- obviously there are some real dimbulbs out there for whom nudity is absolutely terrifying.)

Said editorialist goes on to rail against Shorb as epitomizing "the negative stereotype of teens today -- that of self-indulgent, reckless youth with the moral sense of shrubbery." Evidently, the much more typical teenager today, who wouldn't be caught dead taking a school shower at all, epitomizes the far superior moral sense of a fungus (it's Oregon, after all) that quakes at the mere thought of a clean bush. (Check here for proof we didn't make those quotes up.)

Fortunately, Shorb seems to be a fighter, and isn't about to be cowed by the local turnipseeds. According to this May 8 article in USA Today, Ms. Shorb is planning to take the school officials to court. Whether that will work out is unclear, since mere stupidity is rarely deemed a tortious offense.

For some online discussions of this story, see here, here, and here.

The Naked Mile survives
For awhile it didn't look promising. In the days leading up to the annual event, slated to occur on the last day of classes at the University of Michigan on April 14, police and civic officials in Ann Arbor issued dire warnings of possible arrests and prosecutions which could even lead to naked runners being classified as "sex offender". See, for example this April 7 article and this April 12 press release. (See Vol. 2, No. 5 for details of last year's run.)

In spite of such saber rattling, we understand that the event did "come off", albeit on a limited scale. There were fewer participants, and some minor arrests for disorderly conduct, but no major arrest of naked people. Steps were taken to avoid the main problems from prior years, such as large crowds of outside spectators (gawkers) and hazards involving traffic on the public streets. Runners sensibly stayed on campus property, where they were not threatened by police.

Interestingly enough, we didn't see any news coverage of the actual event. It would seem that the objective of officials to contain and minimize the size of the event resulted in a fair compromise which allowed those who did participate to have a good naked time of it. And without the circus atmosphere created by excessive media attention.

Kentucky Christians attack Paganism and nudity - again
They did it last year, successfully, so they're doing it again. (See Vol. 2, No. 5.) Just as last year, members of the majority religion in Kentucky are using the power of the government to suppress other religious ideas and practices. The religion that makes them so afraid that they need to oppose it is Paganism, and the aspect that seems to disturb them most of all is the common Pagan practice of skyclad (i. e., nude) ritual dancing. At least, that is the practice most vulnerable to legal assault, by means of laws that officials interpret as making such rituals in the presence of minors an act of "child abuse". Officials contend that such ritual dancing is a "potential risk for minors". (See this April 26 article for more details.)

The Pagan festival will still have activities involving classes in "sex magic" (for adults only) and week-long trial marriages. Officials could find no legal way to stop things like that. But nude ritual dancing must be even more threatening, since they managed to get that cancelled. Kentucky has some of the strictest laws in the U. S. against social nudity. Naturist/nudist clubs are permitted, but only if they receive a special "nudist society permit". So much for freedom of association.

North Carolina Christians also fear Wicca and nudity
Is paranoia over paganism and nudity endemic to Christians of the Bible Belt? It would seem so. Back in January Shari Eicher, an English teacher at Scotland County High School in Laurinburg, NC, was suspended from her job when the local school authorities discovered she was a member of a Wiccan coven named WillowFyre (also here and here), whose Web site contained some pictures of ritual nudity. See these articles of January 11, January 12, and January 15 from the Fayetteville Observer.

Ms. Eicher herself wasn't nude in any of the pictures, and she claims that she didn't engage in ritual nudity. That didn't seem to matter. It was enough that she was involved with the Web site. Apparently six local "Christian leaders" engaged a lawyer to write a letter to the school board supporting Ms. Eicher's suspension, claiming that the nudity on the site could be a violation of the state's "child protection" laws, and hence that the teacher was a potential threat to children. Here we go again -- Christians denying they are fearful of and opposed to other religions, yet using alleged concerns about "children's safety" on account of nudity as an excuse for persecution nevertheless.

According to this note of January 27, the immediate issue between Eicher and the school board has been "resolved" to the "satisfaction" of both parties, but with the result that Eicher will not return to her teaching job. She was, however, hopeful of obtaining a similar job in a nearby community. The proximate reason is that "Ms. Eicher has been associated, either knowingly or unknowingly, in name only, with a Web site that contains pictures that, by some community members' standards, might appeal to prurient interest."

In other words, pictures of mere nudity, even in a religious context, are "prurient" in the eyes of some Christians. (I. e., those having naturally dirty minds.) Folks, you need to be careful if you live in a community where even some of the local Christians have "prurient interests" on their minds.

Is this concern about nudity and "children's safety" just a smokescreen for outright opposition to Wicca? Perhaps. Although these Christians undoubtedly obviously hate nudity, one minister is quoted as saying that while he wouldn't require teachers to be Christians, "Wiccans are unacceptable because of the 'demonology' in their religion." (Of course, belief in demons is characteristic of Christianity, not Wicca, but never mind that detail.)

For further information, visit the coven's own Web site. In addition, Shari Eicher is active on the Internet, and operates a section on Suite 101 called Living a Pagan Life. The coven also has an email discussion group which anyone may join to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Nudity in the Media

Thank you, Dr. Weil!
In this column from May 10, well-known alternative medicine guru Andrew Weil addreses a reader's question: "I love walking around the house naked. Does nudism offer any health benefits?" Dr. Weil responds with restraint, but sensibly enough, "I'm sure that a committed nudist would tell you nudism offers many health benefits. To some extent, I agree. However, I think most of the benefits are psychological and have more to do with fully enjoying nature, your body, and a sense of freedom."

It seems fair to say that the jury is still out on physical health benefits of nudity -- though we should expect a decent benefit simply from the effect of good psychological health on our physical state. (See our article on nudity and health.) But that isn't what we're thankful to Dr. Weil for. Our thanks are due to the inclusion in his reply of a couple of links to our site as sources of information on nudist camps, beaches, and organizations. We like to feel useful.

Beauty tips for running in the Bare to Breakers
By the time you read this, the yearly event known as the Bare to Breakers -- the nude subset of San Francisco's fabled Bay to Breakers race/walk, scheduled for May 21 -- will (most likely) be history. Too bad if you missed it -- you'll have to wait till next year to be able to, quite literally, run around naked in public right in the middle of a major U. S. city. (See Vol. 2, No. 5 for last year's story.)

It seems worth mentioning, though, that the nude aspect of this event has so endeared itself to San Franciscans that the S. F. Examiner (which sponsors the event) on May 17 ran a feature by staffer Cynthia Robins on how to look your best if doing the race in the buff. Yes, you want to look your best so as not to offend anyone by exposing flaky, pale bare skin. Robins advises you to slough off that dry dead skin with an exfoliation treatment, and tan your hide with a tan-in-a-bottle if you don't already have the natural kind. For good measure, you might also consider body paint as a respectable compromise between full nudity and some boring costume of the textile kind.

This has to be tongue-in-cheek, right? I don't know -- Robins seems to be quite serious, even to the point of suggesting a number of beauty specialists who'll help you implement her advice.

Archaeology: Revealing Minoan Fashions
In understanding the limitations and blindness in our own society, it's helpful to know a little about what other societies around the world and through history have been like. Many of them -- and not just "unsophisticated" non-technological societies -- have been a lot more tolerant of full or partial nudity than our own. (See our essay on Nudity in Ancient Greece.)

There was a noteworthy civilization on the island of Crete, not far from Greece, which was more powerful and probably more advanced than that of its contemporaries on the Greek mainland, fully 1000 years before the height of classical Greek civilization. Though we can only barely decipher its written language, we have learned a lot about this Minoan civilization (named after Minos, the king) from its art. And its art, in the form of painting and statuary, suggests that bare breastedness was a common motif in female fashion.

An article in the latest (May/June 2000) issue of Archaeology magazine explores this theme. Some garments are recreated from their artistic depictions and modeled by a professional dancer, in poses that echo the original art.

(A fictional account of Minoan society which is an engrossing tale as well as a vehicle for historical speculation as to what that society may have been like can be found in Mary Renault's novel The King Must Die.

National Geographic shows bare Caucasian breasts
Are they losing their notorious inclination to show only dark-skinned females topfree? Maybe it's not a first, but they are becoming more, um, daring -- at least by North American standards. The latest (May 2000) issue has a double-page photo of young suntanners on the beach in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. And several of the women are topfree.

It has happened before, rarely. A July 1998 article on Denmark had a picture of a young Danish family in which the mother was topfree -- but shown only from the back. Their young child is completely naked. "A relaxed attitude towards nudity has long been a part of Danish life," the caption says. (But the story fails to point out that almost all Danish beaches are officially clothing optional.)

And before that... well, you wouldn't need all the fingers of one hand to count, at least as regards the last 10 years or so. In July 1989 there was an article about French celebrations of the anniversary of their Revolution, with one picture of young body-painted art students having a party. In August 1990 there was a picture (from the back) of a family of Croatian nudists watching a band on the beach. And in April 1992 there was a picture taken on Vancouver's Wreck Beach with a nude female artist, again from the backside.

Allure: Dare to Bare!
We get this sort of thing every year in the spring. Some women's fashion magazine, on the pretext of advising readers about how to get ready for summer beach days, puts in what at least purports to be a plug for nudity. Last year it was Mademoiselle (See Vol. 2, No. 4) and Self (See Vol. 2, No. 5).

This year it's Allure (and quite likely others we haven't noticed). Not just one article either - the cover calls it the "Special Skin Issue", and offers "10 pages on looking better naked". In fact, they do quite a bit better than the cover suggests. There are nudity-themed articles throughout. Even the title page features naked Chinese actress Bai Ling (carefully hiding the breasts and pubic area, of course).

The "Letter from the Editor", however, suggests they aren't really sincere, and (hence) it seems like just a way to grab attention. Although editor Linda Wells titles the piece "In the Altogether", she immediately reveals the all-too-typical body-negative attitudes by remarking "I am a modest person, and not entirely [emphasis added] for reasons of morality or prudishness. If my body were better, I just might dance topless on David Letterman's desk like Drew Barrymore." She reveals that she has a T-shirt with the slogan "Look Better Naked", but despite working out for nearly two years, "I still didn't look better naked." Sheesh. The least she could have done was offer some photographic documentation to let readers decide for themselves.

Then there's an article on nudity in movies, titled "Lights, Camera, Nudity!" Although the article gushes on and on about how more actors and actresses than ever are doing nude scenes, it proceeds to totally undermine the idea with example after example of anxiety-ridden performers who go to ridiculous lengths to be as un-nude as possible when doing the nude scenes.

There's a very interesting piece by novelist Jane Smiley and her daughter Lucy Silag. Jane starts off bluntly: "I like to be naked." She goes on to list plenty of details from her life to back up this claim. 17-year-old daughter Lucy isn't quite so sure what to make of this. She admits to having skinny-dipped, and says she's pretty used to Mom's penchant for nudity -- but also admits to not being so comfortable about nudity herself.

On page 139 there's a "T & A Timeline" consisting of "groundbreaking (and pants-dropping) moments in pop-culture history." All about movie stars and other celebrities -- and demonstrating that nudity isn't really such a new thing in Hollywood.

Finally, there's the 10-page spread on "How to Look Better Naked" -- a "guide to gorgeous nudity". Beauty tips. Gak. Illustrated with ultra-soft porn shots of movie actresses in the buff. But, as editor Wells tipped us off early on, the pictures are "tasteful", meaning "no nip, no bush, no ass crack." I. e., totally contrived to hide any real nudity.

We do have to wonder how many women take this very seriously. But never mind. You can't say there has been no attempt to get the message across. But when the message is so muddied with subtexts about how embarrassing nudity is and how unsuitable it is for those with less than ideal bodies, is it any wonder that they aren't taken seriously?

And why is it, even when supposedly tackling the subject of nudity head-on, does a N. American publication feel compelled to pull back and go all coy and defensive about it? Could that be the real message they're sending?

LA Weekly: Naked Brunch
Here's yet another addition to the genre of "I like to be naked -- as long as no one looks too much." It's a trip report, which came out April 21, of a stay at Palm Springs' Villa Escondida naturist bed & breakfast.

Only problem is, author Deborah Picker leads off with a put-down of the whole idea: "It was a budgetary compromise -- it's not like I get off on running around naked in public." Well, geeze, Debbie, if that's your attitude, why bother? Seems like you'd enjoy a nudist resort a whole lot more if you did "get off" on running around naked. Double sheesh.

From a few comments about other resort guests involving terms like "middle-aged" and "doughy" it seems that Debbie's problem is less related to the nudity than to a generation gap between herself (and her husband of one year) and the other guests.

Thanks for writing the report anyhow, Debbie. I'm sure it will encourage a few others to visit Villa Escondida, even if they're a few years older than you. Maybe when you've grown up a little you'll like it better yourself.

Nudity in advertising:
Do computer nerds really enjoy nudity more? Can't say for sure, but advertisers trying to reach them certainly seem to think so., a business that helps evaluate the effectiveness of advertising and marketing campaigns -- hence presumably experts in the field -- must think so, and demonstrates their conviction in their own ads.

The company's current ad, running in trade magazines such as Internet World, features a cartoon of happy, naked people at a party. Except for one couple fully dressed in pinstripe business attire -- where the female half is asking her companion, "What banner ad brought you here?" (The woman in question has a smile on her face, so evidently isn't too upset about things.)

The cartoon doesn't show any pubic areas but does include butts and boobs. Maybe the Internet will do great things for this clothes-compulsive culture yet.

Tank McNamara reports on the latest competition swimwear
Imagine that. On Mothers' Day, no less. If you didn't catch it in your local comics, check here or here.

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