We’ve spent a lot of time preparing to talk about how to solve some of naturism’s problems. Now it’s time to start actually addressing the problems. But there are a lot of them. How can we know where to begin? There’s only one way, really. We have to prioritize.
When we looked at the underlying causes of the problems, we found that there were basically two types: causes present in human nature or in our society, and causes in the social nudity community itself. That helps prioritizing a lot, because we can potentially deal with the second sort of causes much more easily than the first, which might be very difficult.
Among problems whose causes lie in the social nudity community itself, there are again two broad types: those related to the leadership of the community, especially its organizations, and those related to the community members themselves. And again it’s easy to prioritize, because few of us are “leaders” of the community, but all of us are members. It’s going to be a lot easier to deal with those causes that are found in ourselves, than with causes related to our organizations. We’ll have to deal with the organizational issues eventually, but it’s essential to address our own issues first, before we can deal with the others.
I’m going to go out on a limb, just a little bit, and posit that the predominant issue the community membership needs to address is apathy. In order to justify this claim, let’s look at what “apathy” is.
The opposite of apathy is enthusiasm. It’s pretty easy to recognize enthusiasm when you see it, as in the picture above. But it can be less easy to notice when apathy is present. It may not be apparent unless you’ve been paying attention to trends and subtle signs. We tend not to notice quickly when “something” is missing. So let’s just regard “apathy” as the lack of enthusiasm. This is pretty close to a dictionary definition, which says apathy is a lack of emotion or interest.
At first, it may be difficult to see how there’s a significant amount of apathy in the social nudity community. After all, we pretty much agree that nudity is a good thing, and we enjoy it a lot. However, the fact you’re reading this now is an indication that your enthusiasm for social nudity is probably quite a bit higher than average. Let’s look at the community as a whole to evaluate this issue.
So what are the signs that social nudity (in the U. S., at least) may have an apathy problem?
There are many indications:
- Social nudity is too often considered to be merely a “pleasant way to spend the afternoon at the beach” instead of an activity worth engaging in regularly and promoting to others.
- Membership in the national organizations, AANR and TNS, has been declining for a number of years.
- Most people involved in social nudity do not perceive much value in naturist organizations, even if they are aware of them.
- A number of naturist/nudist landed clubs have had to close or change their business model for lack of sufficient business.
- Nude use has been banned in the past decade at a number of beaches that had allowed the use for many years, because naturist users weren’t sufficiently motivated to sustain a beach users’ organization that could implement effective ways to stop unwanted non-naturist behavior.
- The average age of naturists is fairly high. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but older people typically have been naturists for many years and generally do not have the enthusiasm they did when younger.
- Young people who become interested in naturism are disenchanted because of a lack of a variety of naturist activities to interest them.
- There seems to be only a rather small number of “activist” naturists – such as people who organize and run local nonlanded clubs, people who actively blog about naturism or participate frequently in online discussion groups, and people who volunteer to organize activities associated with AANR and TNS.
- Many people who enjoy nudity in outdoor activities like clothing-optional beaches, swimming holes, and areas for hiking and camping do not consider themselves “naturists”, “nudists”, or participants in forms of social nudity. Most are probably not even aware of organizations like AANR, TNS, or nonlanded naturist clubs.
- Only 3000 people were willing to sign a petition recently to the Federal government for more clothing-optional use of public lands, even though a national naturist organization (AANR) with far more than 10 times as many members as all petition signers gave an unambiguous recommendation to sign the petition.
Quite a list. To be sure there’s an apathy problem, we’d need to have some measure of naturist apathy, and surveys over a number of years to determine whether apathy is increasing or decreasing. Obviously, we don’t have either of those conditions. But in light of the above, it seems likely that there is an apathy problem. So at least for the sake of discussion, let’s assume it.
Now recall that one of the very first steps needing to be taken in solving any problem – after recognizing a problem exists and identifying the elements of it – is to try to identify various causes of the problem.
Social psychologists have considered various things that may cause apathy in general. The Wikipedia article cites a variety of factors, such as:
- An excess of stress can lead to apathy as a coping mechanism.
- Apathy can be a way to “shrug off” disappointments and failures to achieve objectives.
- Apathy can be a “result of social systems actively obstructing engagement and involvement.”
- Apathy can result from being “subjected to stimuli too intense or too complicated to cope with.”
- Apathy can be a symptom of social alienation – especially for naturists, who feel distance and isolation from the general society because of how it disparages nudity.
There are many variations and nuances here. But since this isn’t an academic essay on causes of apathy, let’s just sum up many of these causes with the thought that apathy results from a feeling of powerlessness and control in one’s life. Significantly, political scientists sometimes define “power” as that which determines “who gets what, when, how”.
Clearly, naturists don’t have much power in our society, since we seem to get little in the way of social acceptance and access to social resources, such as places to enjoy nudity – or even to talk about and promote it. In view of the frustrating inability of naturists to achieve much success in attaining their goals, it’s hardly surprising to find considerable apathy as a result.
Why is apathy bad? How would reducing naturist apathy help?
Apathy is obviously bad, because it deters people who enjoy social nudity from doing much of anything to engage in it or promote it. Now suppose we could do something to start reducing the amount of apathy among naturists. What sorts of problems might then be more easily solved. Here are some possibilities:
- Naturists will feel more comfortable and motivated to advocate for the benefits of social nudity, and to attempt to persuade their friends and relatives to have an open mind about it, accept participation in social nudity as a legitimate activity, and perhaps even try it themselves.
- Humans are very social animals, so they pay a lot of attention to what others do, and especially what others are enthusiastic about. Consequently, many more people will become interested in social nudity and motivated to give it a try.
- Increasing numbers of people who participate in social nudity will mean many more opportunities for naturist activities.
- Naturists will try harder to use and defend existing places to enjoy nudity, such as clothing-optional beaches and landed clubs and resorts.
- There will be significantly more nonlanded naturist clubs, and they will be stronger and more active. This will allow those clubs associated with beaches to be more effective in preventing beach closures – for example, because there would be more naturists present at the beaches to discourage unwanted behavior.
- If most naturists become less apathetic, they will spend more time at existing landed naturist/nudist clubs and resorts, which would make it less likely for those clubs to disappear or stop serving naturists due to insufficient business.
- If older people who are now naturists become less apathetic, they will spend more effort recruiting young people to carry on naturism into the future.
- Naturists who are less apathetic and more enthusiastic will contribute more time, effort, and resources to building stronger, more effective organizations to defend and promote social nudity to the rest of society.
So what can we all do right now to become less apathetic about social nudity?
Let’s look at some possible actions every naturist could take to deal with the apathy problem. Most of them involve changing an individual’s own behavior in the direction of doing more personally to advance naturism. Here are some ideas:
Communicate with other naturists about the apathy problem
Use any means you have available to communicate with other naturists about the apathy problem. This could involve, especially, online tools, such as social networks (both general and naturist-specific), discussion groups, or by starting a blog to document your naturist activities. We all know, of course, that the big public social networks, especially Facebook and Google+, are hostile to images containing nudity. But they do provide facilities for private groups simply for discussion and communication. (And images with nudity are quite acceptable in other services such as Tumblr, Flickr, and Twitter.) As for having a blog, it’s a good way to document your progress in getting other people more interested and active in social nudity. You don’t need to be a great writer. Just record what you’ve done and what approaches have worked best for you.
Apart from online tools, you can also talk up the need for more active participation in social nudity if you’re already a member of a local nonlanded club or a visitor to a landed club or resort. Where else is a conversation about social nudity more appropriate, as well as a good conversation starter with other naturists you’ve just met? Don’t be shy. At a clothing-optional beach, many or most people are only there for the beach itself. But if you do happen to strike up a conversation, just talk about other ways you enjoy social nudity, and perhaps you’ll get the other person more interested as well.
Work on getting more of your family and friends involved in social nudity
For individual naturists who have a family that’s not yet actively participating, try to get more of the family involved. Of course, it’s important to convince one’s relationship partner to join in also. (Yes, that’s generally easier said than done.) But it’s also important to get the kids involved too. Why? Simply because it’s at a young age that children are most likely to enjoy freedom from clothes, as long as they haven’t already been conditioned to avoid nudity. Helping children to enjoy naturism has the largest long-term payoff, because they could remain active naturists for another 60 years.
Whether or not you can persuade others in your immediate family to try social nudity (within the family), reach out to your friends and extended family too – that’s probably a lot more people than those living in your own home. In this case, you can be selective. Don’t waste time trying to persuade the unpersuadable – think of the most open-minded people you know. They’ll at least listen.
Don’t rely only on emotional appeals. Think about the believable, concrete benefits of participation in social nudity: the things you’ve found most valuable yourself. (Here’s a classic compilation of 205 points to get you started.) It may take a little effort to clarify for yourself what those things are. But try to write them down and commit the ideas to memory so you can readily communicate them to others. And remember that the more enthusiastic you appear to be (without overdoing it), the more you’ll be persuasive.
Start a local nonlanded naturist club
Seriously consider starting a local nonlanded naturist club, if there isn’t already one nearby. What’s “nearby”? It depends on where you are. If you happen to be close to somewhere that social nudity can be enjoyed outside of the home, then “nearby” may be anywhere that’s closer to that location than existing clubs. Such locations might be an existing landed club or resort, a swimming hole, lake, or ocean beach that can be used for skinny-dipping, or a good area for nude camping and hiking. But clubs can also be formed that mostly meet at members’ homes – especially if several members have private backyard pools or spas.
It isn’t really much effort to start and operate a naturist club, provided you know or can meet enough other naturists who’d be interested. Really, such a club is just a bunch of people who like each other and have a common interest. Chances are pretty good you can figure it out yourself. But we’ll try to pull together some suggestions in a later post. And if you need any further motivation to make the modest efforts required, think of the benefits. You’ll create many more opportunities for enjoying social nudity at the homes of like-minded friends. You’ll be able to organize carpools for traveling to more distant locations for nude activities. And an active group will give your family more opportunities to make friends with other naturists (for mutual support and encouragement).
It may seem as though the efforts of an individual can do very little to advance naturism as a whole. Obviously, what’s needed are relatively modest efforts from many naturists, or at least many more than now. The main reason we say that there’s an apathy problem is that the number of naturists making small but positive efforts is too small. The only way to change that is for many naturists to do a little bit more, not for a few naturists to do a lot more.
1. Harold Lasswell: Politics: Who Gets What, When, How