In my more than twenty five years as a nudist, I have often been dismayed and annoyed when I have seen a picture of a nude man or woman in an obviously non-nudist setting labeled as “a nudist”; particularly when they are explicitly sexual and have nothing whatsoever to do with nudism. While actual nudists realize they are mislabeled to appeal to the prurient fantasies of porn-surfers, non-nudists’ perception that nudists are sex-crazed perverts is reinforced. Sexually explicit photos labeled as nudists are bad enough, but I also believe that it is detrimental to nudism to label any nude in a photo as “a nudist”.
Let me start by explaining my belief that nudism (a synonym for naturism in some circles, distinctly different in others) is not a state of dress. Rather, I understand nudism as a philosophy and lifestyle. The philosophy of nudism is not only that the human body is not shameful, sinful, sexual, or lewd by itself, but also that nudists want to spend as much time nude as possible. We are comfortable nude and seek out any opportunity we can to shed our clothes.
As a lover of technology, I spend countless hours at my computer. When I visit various websites, I often see photos of nude men and women labeled as “nudist” this or “nudist” that (typically on Tumbler feeds or on websites of legitimate nudist organizations). Sometimes these “nudists” are showing off tan lines that challenge the brightness settings on my monitor. It is obvious that these people are rarely nude in the light of day, and are typically modeling the bane of nudists – a swimsuit. However, the fact that they were caught nude at a pool or beach on film somehow earns them the title of “nudist”.
While it may seem that these pictures are not harmful to nudism, I disagree. Labeling every nude person in a photo as a “nudist” dilutes the distinction that we nudists hold. The distinction is that we believe and live the nudist philosophy. We are nude when possible, clothed when practical – to steal from a past AANR slogan. We aren’t just nude for photo ops and it’s not rare for us to be nude at a beach or pool. We live our lives as nude as possible every day. To label anyone who just happens to be nude in a picture as “a nudist” is disingenuous at best and outright harmful to nudism at worst.
Some may not think twice when seeing a photo of a nude person labeled as a nudist if there is no sexual component. They may even accept the person as a nudist without question. While there may not be a sexual component in the picture itself, it is not accurate to label them as a nudist without knowing their philosophy and lifestyle. As I said before, “nudism” isn’t a state of dress, it’s a philosophy or lifestyle. You may be able to make an assumption based on their surroundings (such as a well-known nudist resort as a backdrop), but a random nude at a beach would not be so easily classified.
For instance, I could no more label a nude woman on a beach as “A Republican”, “A Catholic”, or “A Poker Player” than I could label her as “A Nudist”. If there isn’t any information in the photo to support the claim, then it is misleading to assert it. To label every person nude in a photo as a nudist dilutes nudism to “anyone who is nude in public or for the public to see”. If left unchecked, that becomes the standard for defining to the world what a nudist is. That is not how I define nudism, and it likely isn’t the way any nudist would define it.
Once the definition is perceived to be “anyone who is nude in public”, then a series of photos in which the first several a person was just nude, but in the next several the person was engaged in sexual acts, would lead the viewer to believe that nudists take their clothes off and ultimately have sex in front of everyone. That link is the detrimental piece for nudism, and it begins by accepting that anyone who is nude is a nudist.
While a lot of people may shrug and ask “What’s the big deal?”, I have to respond by saying that it confuses what nudists are truly about at a time when nude vacations, beaches, and resorts are finally making headway into mainstream media as an acceptable choice. However, if people continually see pictures of supposed nudists engaged in sexual activity, it sends the wrong message to those ignorant about our lifestyle who may be on the cusp of giving social nudity a try. By saying “What’s the big deal?” and ignoring the issue, we make it more difficult to explain our true philosophy when we must defend it to family, friends, politicians, or the legal system.
I have seen a lot of nudist organizations use photos or video of nude people in various situations as part of their Twitter, Tumbler, or website media. I have also stumbled across some that come very close to exhibitionist, sexually provocative, or outright pornography. While I understand that sites struggle to keep a constant flow of pictures of nudists to draw traffic, I would implore them to be more careful in selecting only those that are truly nudist in nature to label as “nudist”; because every misstep in advertising for nudism is detrimental to us all.