Summer is upon us. And as ever I start to wonder where all the people I want to hang out with naked, are.
Even though I am too old for the YBN, I don’t consider myself old by any stretch of the imagination. And this year it has dawned on me where all the naturists in their 20S, 30s and 40s are. They don’t exist. I don’t think anyone in these age groups truly classes themselves as a ‘naturist’ any more. Naturism in its truest form is the territory of the retired. Which is why it is dying out.
Let me explain. Retired naturists probably have their own homes, have access to a holiday home or at least a caravan or rent one at a Sun Club, and can arrange trips out adhock as soon as the weather shows promising signs. Retired naturists also have the disposable income for expensive naturist only holiday resorts and regular forays abroad where the weather is more dependable. More often than not they are happy to simply sit in the sun in the peace and quiet.
Now take those of us still in work. For one, summer only happens between 9 – 5 Monday to Friday. I know this because on Friday I looked out of my studio on and off all day admiring the beautiful weather. Come 4pm I left. Well it was Friday. I drove home (the 20 minute journey) in scorching sun. Not 10 minutes after I get in, cloud, wind and no sun but at least it was still warm. But that brings me on to point two.
Most of us still working do not own our own homes. In fact many of us can’t even afford to rent our own pad. A good chunk of us have the misfortune to be living at home with their parents. Others, like me, have the dubious joy of living in a house share. Chances are you won’t have anything in common with your house mates. And if like me you have house rules even against the hanging out of underwear on the washing line, you’re probably guessing right that naturism isn’t high on the list of what your house mates, or in my case my landlady, like to get up to with their time off. Thus naturism as a lifestyle simply does not exist.
Most organised naturist events such as those on British Naturism seem fairly inaccessible to people of my generation and below. Everything seems to be at least a 3 hour drive away, organised so that you have to confirm in advance your attendance (how does that work with the British weather?) and often entails things which don’t particularly interest me such as sitting in a garden, karaoke, bowls, and events such as World Naked Bike Rides and Streak For Tigers which aren’t even naturist events anyway.
Most of the accessible events are for us, quite mundane. Older naturists may complain that they can’t get any new blood to their clubs but if you don’t offer things they want, they won’t come. We’ve tried swims and sun clubs and quite frankly they are boring. Swims involve swimming. Perhaps a sauna. The conversation is generally quite different to what we talk about. The age group is, as a standard, retired or under 10. I don’t have kids. I don’t want kids. I don’t have any interest in family events.
Sun clubs involve sitting outside a static caravan. Probably an outdoor pool. There might be a tennis court.
If you are under 45 you probably don’t think of yourself as a naturist. You may be someone who just likes to occasionally strip off if the weather is good or the right event is happening nearby and there’s a gap in your busy schedule. What would attract you to a sun club on a Sunday afternoon, or a local event if the weather was right? Are bike rides through the streets of our British cities really what naturism is for the younger generation or is there more to it than that?
Are you simply streakers and nudists these days, people who see it as more of a dare than a lifestyle? It’s very telling that BN membership and that of many of the ‘lifestyle’ clubs is swindling. I don’t think it is because nobody ‘does’ naturism anymore. I do think that the way it works has now changed, and that certainly younger generations are more aware and more fragile about the way people view their naked bodies. But I don’t believe that is the main reason the traditional image of naturism appears to be failing younger people. And I’m not even sure that’s a generational thing at all.
YBN also has a failing membership. But what could be more fun than stripping naked at a skinny dip or an alcohol fueled beach party? Which is why I think naturism as a lifestyle no longer works. It’s a dare, an occasional event, a ‘right time right place’ and with the right people kind of affair. People don’t want to be pressurised into making an appearance, or supporting a cause, or political tussles over the rights of the naked.
And if that is the case can you even address this as something that needs to change? People’s attitudes alter, the way people think changes. And we may have to accept that this is just one of those things. My feeling is that we just have to accept that for many, naturism has always been and continues to be a niche market. There is a difference between naturism and being naked body aware. And the latter doesn’t mean you have to be a naturist.
Labels are very challenging and often very isolating. Because someone who is comfortable getting their clothes off at home or on a beach may not want to be labelled or added to a subscription
90% of my job involves objectifying women. I do it for the other 10% but I need the other 90% because our society is built on sex and sexualisation of the human body. And I cannot see that ever changing.
It means that most of the time I have internal conflicts going on in my head which make me question what I do and why I do it. And that I suppose forms the basis of my problem with the World Naked Bike Ride. For me the WNBRs are a conflict of interests. In order to deal with this I have to remind myself that these are not naturist events and the expected behaviour is very different.
If I went to a naturist gathering I would not expect to see cameras, or men looking at my boobs or anywhere else for that matter. If I had a conversation with someone they would be looking at my face, not at my tits and there would be no horrified stares. Despite not being that young, I am often one of the younger individuals at naturist events. It’s the demographic of the lifestyle. But that doesn’t make me the centre of attention. It means I am another naked person who happens to be from a different generation. WNBR’s enjoy a noticeably younger age group of participants. I wondered at first where they all were at naturist events and then reminded myself that these people probably only strip off for a dare most of the time and then only occasionally.
Thankfully, I have never been singled out, or been on the receiving end of unwanted attention as the result of going to a naturist event. But whether that says more about me or the events I go to, I’m not sure. When I strip naked at a group, I don’t have to think about all the things I hate about me because no one is looking at it. I don’t have to worry about being the wrong side of forty with saggy tits, fat thighs and varicose veins on my legs. When I do naturism it has nothing to do with any of that. That is what I love about it. It doesn’t put me on a sex-o-metre or make me hate what my body looks like.
At a WNBR you know the camera (which wouldn’t even be present at a naturist event) is pointing straight at your front view, or lower down with a telephoto lens if it can. And you know that some of these pictures are going to end up as wank fodder on a seedy little website called ‘One Click Chicks’. You’ll also know that the girl in the purple wig is there to get images for that website and that many of the ‘professional’ looking photographers are also there for similar reasons. I worry about these people are far more than the bloke on the corner with his iPhone.
Normally however, i would not have to deal with any of this. And that is the fundamental difference between the exhibitionists and naturists at WNBR’s and why it has taken me several years to decide to attend one of these events for myself.
Many women probably don’t know where their images end up. And some really don’t care. But that is not why I do naturism. I don’t do it for attention. I do it for personal liberation. And how is being objectified in a public street, liberating?
I didn’t tell anyone I was doing the WNBR except for my boyfriend, who had the joy of being able to strip to nothing and no one took any notice whatsoever. I didn’t mention it because I don’t know who is watching. My Twitter (despite my regular culls) is full of perverts and sad old men and foreign guys desperate to see what I look like naked (as if I look different to any other naked woman). And to those ends I refuse to give them that satisfaction. I know that many of my followers are only there for a glimpse of what I look like and not what I write. Hence there are no photos of me on my blog or my Twitter feed.
My experience of previous year’s rides was the internet and blogs and it looked like a meat market. I went to this year’s event in Manchester with the intention of seeing what it was like for myself and not stripping off but with the option to do so if I felt comfortable enough.
At WNBR’s you have to put up with the horrified faces of the general public, disgusted at seeing what we all look like without clothes on – jeering, laughing, pointing and tourists and their shitty camera phones. To me it’s an invasion of personal privacy. This is not naturism. This is a political statement and not what I am about. But I felt it unfair to keep slamming them without seeing it for myself and to be honest I needed to at least be able to say I had tried it. And that’s why I went.
So here’s a ‘how I did it for girls’. It’s a simple overview that should keep you safe and enable you to enjoy the event.
If you are new to this or just don’t want to end up the centre of attention on ‘One Click Chicks’ keep your clothes on in the participants meeting area. Be aware that this area is unmanaged and anyone can get in. That means ANYONE with a camera. NO ONE will ask your permission to take photos and it will mostly be older blokes with telephoto lenses and those from ethnic backgrounds – mostly Indian men and Japanese women.
Get ready for a quick strip enroute. After you’ve left the ‘paddock’ and got out onto the main route it’ll mostly be passersby with camera phones and people in cars and it’s easy to get lost in the middle of the cycle group. There is safety in numbers. We got heckled by a religious group. It was hilarious and we all gave back far more than we got.
I only went topless and wore a dress I could easily drop down and put back up again. A number of other girls wore shorts and bikini tops and lost their tops enroute. Images taken in passing are far less intrusive than those in the paddock.
You will get close to the general public. Canal Street on a Friday night was a little close for comfort and I saw one passerby slap one cyclists backside as they rode past which I thought ‘not cool’. There are also many traffic light stops. There were however, many positive people and we all got some high-fives and cheers as we went. The only horrified looks were from orange tans and drawn on eyebrows. You know the sort. They probably take 100 selfies a day and hate them all.
Get dressed again before the end. Allthough there are far less photographers at the end there is still quite a jam as you come down the last strait.
Would I do the ride again? Yes, but never in a big city like London. Manchester was a manageable number of people and we weren’t outnumbered by photographers. Women are outnumbered by men quite significantly so do bear this in mind if you’re hoping to disappear amongst the crowds.
The riders themselves were very friendly and the atmosphere and attitude was fabulous. Again perhaps more cameras being used than I was comfortable with, but I know this event is to raise awareness. I was pleasantly surprised but would always make a point of avoiding as much camera attention as possible. I am sure there are pictures of me out there somewhere but hopefully only on the back of a bike, flying along an open road or amongst a group of riders.
The other day I found my old diaries which included all the measurement charts of my body shape when I discovered my addiction to the gym.
Being healthy for me was not about ‘being healthy’. It was about being thinner because I moved in worlds where size 10 was best and I wasn’t. I still move in those worlds to a certain degree and whilst most of my body dysmorphia was linked to bad relationships caning it at the gym never changed anything.
Intense exercise, losing myself in whatever was playing on the tannoy, seeing how long I could go on the treadmill before my chest hurt and I couldn’t go on any longer, did not make me happier or improve my outlook. It was escapism. It was a focus that wasn’t the answer to any of my problems at that time.
In the same way that it’s now the best part of 4 years on, I am nearly a stone heavier and proportionally 2 inches bigger all round, I don’t feel any different. But I went to buy some new clothes today and standing in the changing room under those unflattering fluorescent lights I realised how awful I looked.
My body is acutely hourglass. I have a nipped in waist and disproportiately large hips and a 36 chest. I carry all my weight on my bum and thighs and it looks weird. But it looked less weird when I was a stone lighter and obsessively checking my dimensions in the mirror every day.
These days I hardly ever look (my full length mirror has gone from my bedroom) and I retreated into leggings and jumpers for the winter when I moved up to Manchester.
But spring is here, and I’m hoping to find new naturist groups to join and I want to feel in control again. Being accepted for your body shape is one thing, but there is no excuse for letting yourself go because you couldn’t skip that last Burger King deal.
I have no motivation to exercise but my lifestyle makes it hard to keep food out of temptations way so I have to make decisions on how I am going to deal with this issue so I can be confident about my bodyshape again and at least know that I have it in check.
Well hello. It’s been 7 months since I wrote here. Shame shame shame. I should probably change my tag name now as since I last posted I have finally turned my back on Lincolnshire and flown to pastures new.
I am now settled in the North West and trying to wheedle out any trustworthy naturist groups out there. It’s not easy. I’m sleuthing like Sherlock Holmes to find genuine, safe people.
I have just joined a small fledgling group which focuses on body confidence through clothing optional events – and it has high hopes of involving itself in a lot more than just swims and beach days.
Even more exciting is that 80% of the group are women sick of the media message that thin and fake is beautiful and that it’s all about sexual attraction. And even even more exciting is that most of the group are under 35.
I am not expecting everyone to strip off at the first event. But I relish the idea that I can help empower other women to be happy with the way they are naturally by getting confident in their own skin. Because if you can’t be happy in your own form, how on earth are you ever going to be happy?
Nudity is all about interpretation. Randomly I typed ‘boobs’ into Pinterest the other day and was told I couldn’t search for explicit material.
So I searched for ‘art nude’ and a got a lot of boobs.
I then searched for vagina and got a load of creepy arty stuff that was worse than looking at an actual vagina.
So I typed ‘penis’ and got a lot of ‘comedy’ willies and I typed pubic and got all sorts of weird stuff.
You see, it’s all about interpretation. Boobs is not a bad word and the connotations shouldn’t be either. But Pinterest doesn’t like anything to do with that part of the female anatomy. Everything else is game.
And this confuses me.
In recent months I have been chastised here on my blog for not being a protester or standing up for my rights to be a naturist.
I suppose the problem is that unlike ‘The Naked Rambler’ for instance who seems only too keen to put on his clothes once he’s done hiking, nudity is not an every day occurence in my life. I don’t demand the right to step out of my front door naked.
The rules and regulations already enforced in the UK do not hinder my enjoyment of my limited semi-naturist life style. I reserve the right to be nude. But I don’t expect to be nude every day. I don’t hate clothes.
To quote a response on the internet to the UK nudity law question:
‘Technically, there is no law against being nude in public in the United Kingdom. Simple nudity is not illegal. However, using nudity to “harass, alarm or distress” others is an offence against the Public Order Act of 1986.
In practice, this means that if you are nude, minding your own business and practicing good nude beach etiquette on a beach that is unofficial but, by common consent, considered to be a nude beach, you are unlikely to have any problem. In England and Wales, if someone…asks you to cover up, you should do so or you could be arrested. To be charged, someone would have to prove that you were deliberately trying to cause offence.’
Maybe I’m not a naturist. Maybe I’m a textile who likes to strip on the rare occasion it’s warm enough to do so or sit in my hot tub of an evening with a few like minded friends. I enjoy swims and occasional beach visits. So what are you going to do about it? Repremand me for not being naked enough?
If there’s one thing that’s for sure, sitting on the fence clearly isn’t allowed. But I guess that’s what I love about my life. No one is dictating to me what I can and can’t do. Naturism works on many levels and I’m not sorry for failing a code I wasn’t briefed on when I started out on this journey.
In the last week my Facebook newsfeed has been inundated with mobile phone images of my friends and their friends make up free. It’s to raise awareness of breast cancer.
Some women consider this a very brave thing to do. Because some of us daren’t leave the house without a bit of slap. That there are women who won’t be seen without makeup is worrying in itself. But then I notice some of my industry contacts joining. Namely models.
And so I thought, what a great way to celebrate being you. By showing models who normally look perfectly flawless thanks to photoshop, without makeup or computer enhancements surely this should be a campaign about body awareness and a celebration of being you?
Of course behind this campaign is a serious message. This is my contribution. No make up free selfie is going to save you from an early death from breast cancer. But these checks very probably will.