The previous post here (How do women really feel about nudity?) has attracted many readers, but has generated surprisingly little discussion.
Curiously, one point that has been raised was somewhat tangential to the main topic. I cited an article by Kate Messinger. A reader questioned my take on how the boyfriend Kate was living with was careful to let her know that he had returned home with some friends – in such a way as to suggest she might want to take action in case she happened to be naked, as in fact she was. It wasn’t clear from Kate’s article what motivated this precautionary measure:
We have to wonder why Kate’s boyfriend couldn’t simply have informed his friends that his girlfriend liked to be naked and asked whether this would be a problem for them. We can only speculate. Would doing that have embarrassed him? Was he afraid Kate would be embarrassed? Would his friends have been upset about Kate’s nudity? Was her boyfriend unwilling to allow her to share her nudity with anyone else?
This reader suggested an additional possibility. Perhaps Kate’s boyfriend knew that some of the people with him would be hostile to or disrespectful of Kate’s nudity, and he only wanted to protect her from that. And perhaps Kate appreciated his concern. But that would be Kate’s decision to make. It’s possible that Kate felt so self-confident and self-assured about her nudity that she would have been unfazed by the kind of rude, uncouth behavior of which some non-naturists (guys especially) are capable.
Unfortunately, the result of the boyfriend’s action was for Kate to hurriedly grab the closest available article of clothing to cover her nakedness. It’s not clear whether she did this for personal reasons or because she felt her boyfriend didn’t want her to be seen naked. But either way, covering up could have created the false impression that something about nudity was improper or a legitimate cause of embarrassment. Is that the sort of impression naturists really want to let be created? Probably not. Even if covering up was the prudent thing to do, naturists should be careful not to give any impression at all of doing something “wrong” by being naked. Instead, it’s important to communicate an affirmative message of the value of nudity and the right to be naked in one’s own home. If we don’t feel confident about our ability to do this, perhaps we just need to practice such communication until we are confident. And the best way, even if not the easiest way, is to stay naked if at all possible.
One thing should be obvious. After a year of living together, Kate and her boyfriend should have long since developed a mutual understanding about how such situations should be handled. Without further knowledge of the circumstances, it seems that perhaps Kate’s preferences weren’t well known to her boyfriend, even though, she says, “he knows I am rarely clothed when I am at home.” Perhaps this is just one of those all-too-common situations where people living together don’t talk explicitly enough about what really matters to them.
Let’s be clear about this. Many if not most people who enjoy being naked may be very reluctant to be so assertive as to insist on their right to remain naked even in the presence of visitors who are unaccustomed to being around a naked person. It can be even more daunting to request acceptance and respect from their visitors for this right to be naked in one’s own home. That stance can be rather more audacious than most people are comfortable with. It’s not for everyone. It requires a lot of self-confidence and a sturdy pair of testicles or ovaries.
But it is not a disrespectful attitude towards visitors. Most of us who enjoy nudity spend most of our lives being respectful and deferential towards the sensibilities of others – others who are unaccustomed to being around naked people, who do not understand our reasons for enjoying nudity, and whose instinctive attitudes towards nudity are negative or even hostile. So it is simply not unreasonable to request – in the small percentage of time we have visitors in our homes – a reciprocation of the same kind of acceptance and respect for our preferred lifestyle.
In our own homes, we do not automatically “owe” it to anyone to conform to their sense of propriety and “proper” attire. After all, most non-naturists feel no need at all to respect our preferences outside of our homes. In fact, over the years, non-naturists have steadily eliminated the possibility of clothing-optional recreation at many of the few places it had been allowed, on beaches in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, California, and other places in between.
Obviously, we do have obligations to those we share our homes with. Some naturists are fortunate enough that others in the home – families, relationship partners, or simply friends or housemates with whom we share the rent – enjoy being naked too. Even if we aren’t so fortunate, we should at least have our right to be naked respected by people we live with, although they don’t have the same enthusiasm for nudity as we do.
Every situation is a little different. When not everyone in the home is in agreement on the importance of the right to be naked, a process of negotiation must establish the conditions when nudity is acceptable, especially when visitors are present. But even naturists who share living quarters with non-naturists must not feel they aren’t entitled, in such negotiations, to ask for their enjoyment of nudity to be respected to the fullest extent possible.
Naturists should learn how to actualize the TARA principle. That is, in a society that’s generally hostile to nudity, we have to work in specific stages towards improvement of attitudes concerning nudity – Toleration, Acceptance, Respect, and finally Approval.
As a practical matter, one measure that might reduce the need to explicitly ask visitors to accept and respect a person’s right to be naked in their own home is to prominently post a sign on the door, like the one at the top of this article, conveying a message about what is to be expected inside. This could help avoid difficult situations and embarrassment for all concerned.