Recently we’ve been looking at some of the most serious problems facing people who enjoy social nudity and some possible fundamental causes of these problems. In a nutshell, the two most salient causes in the U. S. and perhaps elsewhere seem to be the linked situations of the weakness of national naturist organizations and the relative apathy of the community they supposedly serve.
We’ve been proceeding systematically, using fairly standard techniques of creative problem solving. The first steps were to recognize that problems exist, to identify the main problems, to try to understand their causes, and to accept the challenge of finding solutions for the problems. There’s no strong claim that the analysis so far is mostly correct. The community as a whole is going to have to judge that.
But in order to proceed further, we’ll assume the analysis so far is at least reasonable. Given that, we’re reached the point of trying to examine the perceived problems in more detail, to gather relevant information about them, and finally to outline what possible steps for problem solutions may be available. More concisely, we need to collect as much information as we can and then start generating solution ideas. The latter process is what’s usually called “brainstorming”. Although there have been various rules recommended for that process, what it boils down to, basically, is proposing problem solutions without immediately trying to critique and analyze them in detail. That should be left for a little later, so that as many ideas as possible can be proposed, even if some are a bit “off the wall”.
But first we need to collect relevant information. I’m going to suggest here one way to do part of that. What we need to do here is basically “research” – to formulate coherent descriptions of the problems as we understand them, including apparent causes. One aspect of research is a review of the relevant literature – what has been written about the problems in the past by knowledgeable observers. In an academic setting, “the literature” refers to what has been published in reputable journals. However, this kind of “literature” on social nudity hardly exists, and what has been written along these lines is scattered through numerous naturist/nudist periodicals, online discussion forums, blogs, and even a few actual books. Making sense of this “literature” is a daunting task, but it should not be dismissed entirely. It can well be a source of fruitful ideas, which have been overlooked and mostly forgotten, simply because of how scattered the “literature” is.
Some sort of systematic study of this literature is probably a very good idea, but it will require the time and efforts of a fair number of people. An effort like that needs to be organized, and if there’s one thing lacking in the social nudity community right now, it’s organization.
Since we’re arrived at the stage where there’s actual work to be done, I’m going to suggest here a different kind of project – field research, in the form of actually going out in the real world and gathering information on the social nudity community itself. That is, following something like accepted scientific procedures of using surveys to collect information from a valid sample of the community, and trying to figure out what the resulting data might be trying to tell us.
It would be too convenient if academic social psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists had already done a lot of this kind of work. But they haven’t, since it’s not now and seldom has been academically fashionable to seriously study the social nudity community. So we may have to do the work ourselves, or else find ways to encourage social scientists to do it. Either alternative is going to cost money. Few people other than dedicated enthusiasts work for free. (Although there are now some very impressive projects of “citizen science” in which large numbers of amateurs are organized by professionals to do the necessary detailed work of legitimate science.) In any case, being able to fund such projects is going to be a problem of its own. The existing naturist/nudist organizations have never shown any real interest in this. Fortunately, there are actually some plausible ways to deal with the funding problem, but we’ll get into that another time.
Here are some of the sort of questions that research on social nudity might try to answer:
- What prompts an individual to become involved with social nudity – natural predispositions, family influences, encouragement from friends or a relationship partner, general curiosity, sexual fantasies, etc.?
- What fears and actual obstacles prevent an individual from becoming involved in social nudity – religion, disapproval from family or friends, legal concerns, general cultural disapproval of social nudity, etc.?
- What stages does an individual go through from initial experiences with social nudity to (perhaps) adoption of a fully nude lifestyle?
- How long does an individual remain active in social nudity, and what (if anything) might cause dropping out?
- What are the effects on children of various ages of participating in or being exposed to social nudity?
- What factors might motivate an individual who enjoys social nudity to progress from passive enjoyment to activism in support of social nudity?
- What are the most prominent demographic characteristics of participants in social nudity – age, gender or sexual orientation, family income, ethnicity, occupation, political views, etc.?
- When people are rated on various personality scales, are there certain factors that correlate with different levels of comfort with social nudity?
- What factors incline an individual to choose certain forms of social nudity over others – clothing-optional beaches, naturist/nudist resorts, local naturist/nudist clubs, family nudity, nude recreation (e. g. hiking, swimming, or other sports), “nakations”, clothing-optional cruises, nude use of spas or saunas, etc.?
- Are there identifiable health or psychological benefits as a result of participation in social nudity?
It’s probably apparent that this list of interesting questions could be extended quite a bit. And it certainly will be, the more that’s actually learned about social nudity. New knowledge almost always leads to new questions.
In most research projects where the goal is to find relationships among variables or even causal connections, it’s important to be specific about what the variable are. This cannot be done once and for all, because as a project proceeds, definitions of the variables are refined and new variables may appear. But there has to be some specification of variables to begin with. Demographic variables are obviously important, and fairly obvious in nature, though it can be expected that finer distinctions will appear as things proceed – distinctions within occupational categories for example.
Another sort of variable is one that tries to categorize the degree of a person’s involvement in social nudity. Perhaps there are stages that a person goes though, such as:
- Manifesting a general dislike and opposition towards any form of social nudity.
- Having a live and let live attitude – no strong objection to others’ participation in social nudity, but doesn’t want exposure to it.
- Being tolerant and accepting of exposure to the nudity of others who enjoy social nudity.
- Respecting and approving of social nudity at home, on beaches, etc. but unwilling to join in.
- Actively curious about social nudity, possibly experimenting with it in limited ways.
- More active but cautious experimentation with social nudity. Sometimes or often naked at home. Occasionally partially or fully naked with select friends and extended family. Possible occasional visits to clothing-optional beaches or naturist/nudist resorts.
- More or less fully into social nudity. Comfortable being naked at home most of the time. Regular participant in social nudity at beaches, clubs, etc. May be naked sometimes with casual friends and acquaintances.
- Enthusiastic about social nudity. Desires to be naked as much as possible and physically comfortable. May be active in naturist/nudist organizations and promotion of social nudity. Never feels shame or embarrassment about nudity, even when all or most others are clothed.
At the high end of the scale different individuals may manifest enthusiasm for nudity in a variety of different ways, such as:
- Regards social nudity as a central aspect of his/her life.
- Actively participates in social nudity organizations, e. g. nudity-related businesses, club leadership, or activist promotion of social nudity.
- Has strong feelings of discomfort or impatience when required to wear clothes.
- Spends large portions of free time reading and perhaps writing about nudity.
- Is very open about interest in social nudity to even casual acquaintances.
- Actively promotes social nudity to others through discussions and offers to help experiment with nudity.
- Makes possibility of being mostly naked and having access to social nudity a primary consideration of where to live.
- Makes recreational choices based on ability to be naked – swimming, hiking, sports, etc.
- Takes vacations only where nudity is possible or expected.
- Contributes time, effort, and financial support to naturist/nudist organizations.
- Seeks activities where open nudity is acceptable, such as art or photographic modeling, legal public nudity opportunities (e. g. naked bike rides), artistic performances involving nudity (e. g. music, dance, theater).
Of course, the above descriptions of type and degree of dedication to social nudity represent hypotheses about what is the true reality. An important goal of a research project should be to determine how many people show the hypothesized behavior, and to find personality and demographic variables associated with the various behaviors. Obviously some of the more extreme pro-nudity possibilities will be uncommon. The most important goal has to be determining what might motivate people to participate in any reasonable degree of social nudity.
In subsequent articles we’ll start to consider a variety of ideas for promoting more widespread acceptance and approval of social nudity, and encouraging more people to participate in the “less advanced” types of social nudity.
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I consider myself an ethical hedonist, not religious in the ordinary sense but, as an atheist, a person who looks to Nature as the only source of answers for mysteries of life. That leaves only science to provide a method for ferreting out those answers that otherwise remain unavailable in any trustworthy form. I feel very pleased that someone who identifies as a Naturist has tackled this matter and lent apparent expertise and a fearless voice to cry out in a wilderness of social issues such as plagues modern America. Sam Harris, I fear, nor Mister Dawkins, as textilists, may have a cloaked view of social issues that may steer them astray regarding any subjects that present perhaps undue sexual connotations. In my own experience, most people do not know how to think about taboo subjects such as hedonism, atheism, nudism, naturism, nor all the other innocuous “sins” our overweening culture has indoctrinated us against. Careful reading of this series of web pages has aroused a sense of hope in my mind. Please don’t stop now.