Naturism’s apathy problem

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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”.[1]

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?

to-do list
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.

For even more ideas, read about the AANR/TNS Sharing Your Naturism Program. Especially this one, to get you started.

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).

Summary

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.

Footnotes:

1. Harold Lasswell: Politics: Who Gets What, When, How

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21 Responses to Naturism’s apathy problem

  1. I agree, I have already writed some similar articles. Good!

  2. Someone named Geneveiveharvey18 had this to say to me when I called out those naturist/nudist who prefer just sitting on their duffs doing nothing to help the plight of naturist/nudist.

    “I don’t think penalising people for wanting to get up and fight is at all constructive. Just because people have the right to protest it doesn’t mean they have to. What gives you the right to chastise someone for wanting to sit back and enjoy the nudity freedom they already have? If that isn’t a breach of human rights I don’t know what is.”

    She said that as a reply to my comment to her blog. Here is my comment –

    “Go ahead, continue siting on you duffs minding your own business as the author of this particular blogger does and our lifestyle will become completely illegal as it is in Arkansas where if you are nude in your own home and someone peeks through your closed curtains sees you, they can call the police and have you arrested. YOU WIN NOTHING BY DOING NOTHING!!! I personally believe we need to fight for our rights to be nude and make it a clothing optional world.

    “There are two factions to the naturist community as there are in most societies today. The militants who want to protest, fight for our rights and live active nudist lifestyles (and let’s face it we need people like them to fly the flag) and then there are others like me who just want to be able to sit on a beach and mind their own business.”

    Here is a link to their blog where her reply to me took place. Have a read, get involved and lets discuss the issues. Do we continue sitting on our duffs minding our own business and doing absolutely nothing or do we fight. Personally I think we need to fight or our lifestyle choice will become obsolete and illegal.

    http://genevieveharvey18.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/united-we-stand-divided-we-stand/

    http://genevieveharvey18.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/united-we-stand-divided-we-stand/#comments

    • People have a right to do nothing – as long as they are willing to take the consequences of doing nothing. The consequences may be that they lose rights and privileges that others have fought for them to enjoy. People also have the right to criticize others for doing nothing. Too many talk loosely of their “human rights” being breached if anyone dares to criticize them.

      Freedom isn’t free.

  3. Pingback: Naturism’s apathy problem | simplenaturist

  4. Reblogged this on home clothes free and commented:
    Another detailed post examining the current state of clothes free community and what to do about it

  5. Happy Bare says:

    We certainly need to get out there more and promote the benefits of naturism.

  6. pipermac5 says:

    Apathy is certainly a huge problem among naturists, but many of us are tired of not getting what we are paying for. I live in the state with the most nudist resorts, the most miles of beaches, the home of the AANR, but only one legally-recognized nude beach. Some county anti-nudity ordinances are so restrictive that a woman or girl has to be careful about what kind of bathing suit she wears. lest she get arrested for “indecent-exposure”. Yes, it is nice to have a resort close to where I live, but I can rarely afford to go there. The nearest “nude” beach, although it is not legally-recognized as such, is over 100 miles away, and parking is a nightmare.

    I have a few “friends” who are regulars at the local resort, but I have no contact with them outside those walls, because there is no sense of COMMUNITY among nudists/naturists. No community means no political clout.

    The only “value” I feel that I get from AANR membership is a discount at the local resort, but I would have to go to the resort at least once a month to recoup the AANR annual dues. On the legal front, all I see AANR doing is fighting the brush-fires of the closing of yet another historically nude-use sliver of beach. There is no pro-active legal work going on, and the recent failure of the federal petition can be laid squarely at the feet of AANR and TNS. If only HALF of the AANR membership had signed the petition, we could have rocketed it into the public spotlight, but AANR’s and TNS’s milque-toast “promotion” of the petition was too-little, too-late.

    Why? Because the largest percentage of their operating budgets come, not from membership-dues, but from resort advertising, and if they were promoting FREE public-use designated nude areas, it might reduce the revenues of the resorts AND the advertising revenues coming into their coffers. It is a matter of economics. They that have the gold make the rules, and the resorts have far more gold than we do.

    We are like a “one-legged-man in a butt-kicking contest”…seriously-handicapped by the public perception that we are deviates, weirdos and sexual perverts. Until we can change that perception, we will always be on the losing side of the battle.

    • The “solution” to the AANR/TNS problem is for naturists to start kicking the organizations’ butts until they do more. Or else to start a new organization that will actually do something. The latter has been tried a number of time without success. In either case, it’s naturists themselves (as a group) that need to do more, and apathy stands in the way of that.

      • Jasen says:

        Is another solution for naturists with passion to take over the organizations? I do not know enough about the internal politics of AANR, but weren’t they recently begging for people to join leadership positions? If you don’t like an organization, BECOME the organization and see if you can do any better.

      • Yes, taking over AANR by naturists with more passion might be the best approach. However, if there were enough people to do that, they would almost as easily set up their own organization. I’m not sure that there’s enough intrinsic value in AANR to outweigh the negatives of having to stage a coup to get it.

        And then it’s important to be very careful who’s doing the take-over. There have been disruptive take-overs in the past, like back in 1951 when Ilsley Boone was ousted. These days swingers seem to have a lot more passion than traditional nudists/naturists. What if they decided to take over?

        TNS is a totally different story. It’s a privately-held company, so there’s no way to take it over except to buy out the owners. Who’s going to put up the cash to do that? Again, might as well put the cash into a new organization like TNS only better.

      • Jasen says:

        “However, if there were enough people to do that, they would almost as easily set up their own organization.”
        Not necessarily. Leadership constitutes a very small percentage of most organizations. The membership is typically content to follow whoever is at the top as long as they do not go too far off the rails. See the Republican Party (and other political parties) and Ron Paul’s attempt to shift the party to a more libertarian bent as a recent example.

        AANR has a couple of things going for it. It has a long history as being the established organization. Its network of affiliates & members is already set up. Its name is known.

        I think in 2000 there was a bit of a shake up in AANR leadership/organization but the cards fell in the direction of the old guard. A history of AANR internal politics is not appropriate here, and I’m far from informed enough to do one.

        IMHO, starting another splinter group is a terrible idea unless the existing group is so dysfunctional and corrupt that it is beyond saving. Maybe many folks think AANR has reached that point. I hope not.

  7. Stephen Russell says:

    Ideas for:
    Have Uniform Vision via AANR, FKK.org, France 4 Naturisme etc.
    Make AANR resorts more EU friendly to those vacationing in US
    Incentives
    Have resorts vs resorts in AANR compete for new & returning guests to areas.
    Sweepstakes, prizes to sample Nude Rec.
    See NIN Man in Street interviews on CFI.com
    host High Tea for women entry to Nude Rec
    borrow from EU resorts for US?
    Hire new mgmt. in AANR
    Merge AANR resorts IF warranted IE Olive Dell./Glen eden merge for So CA?
    downsize AANR bureaucracy
    end Singles discrimination policy to single men
    ( run background checks on guests pre entry to resort alone).
    ID background check firm to run checks under contract to AANR, TANR etc alone.
    Change mgmt. or policies
    ID “nude prudes”??
    Have non landed clubs have stake in landed sites IE say Olive Dell.
    host Art shows, auctions??
    host AANR Hqs West for NV or CA locale.
    & maybe much more can be done.
    How, when, by whom????
    ID resorts for business model as Health sites alone which is true.
    Merge or change dues, make ALL Inclusive model mode?
    Make it worthwhile to join AANR Or will AANR go way of AARP??
    ID any idle rural acerage for new nudist resorts or clubs & merge with FKK for US operations alone.
    Paying AANR dues should allow one free entry to resort X but pay for foods, gifts, alone & for that Id join alone IF I was an estd member.
    Dues can cover resort maint etc via X0000 dues paid per year.,
    advertise Resorts under Healthcare, family fun online.

  8. Stephen Russell says:

    Have FKK & AANR sign joint commercial contract for business.
    Sign same with France4Naturisme organz.
    Merge with TANR, TNS with AANR?
    Adopt new divs in AANR:
    Overseas Relations: IE FKK, BN, Brasil Naturisme, Cz Republic, etc.
    Club Activities: ideas for attracting members.
    Resort Maint & advertising.
    Media relations: online, print,
    Have FKK & FRance 4 Natursime reps in the US FT in AANR offices.
    Host intl naturist event in Cabo Baja Mexico area on beaches
    Lobby Hawaii for 2nd Naturist state to FL.
    borrow the Pasco Cty FL model for Nude Rec.
    Rename AANR-
    No American Naturist Assoc: NANA?
    & below sample names for resorts for Hawaii:
    Tiki Naturisme
    Hawaii Eden ( chain style resorts)
    Surfrider Eden: beach side clubs.
    & all can use idle hotel acerage for above.

    Contract out new media PR reps for Nudist Rec issues?>
    Bring back the Golden Age

  9. One movie that shows how progress gets made is Iron Jawed Angels. To get the right to vote, women organized, had big protests, and MANY got arrested. Most of us have a morbid fear of being arrested, but if done under the RIGHT conditions it appears that this would help us make progress (it’s probably even necessary.)
    The movie really shows how much resistance they had to get the right to vote and how much determination they had to overcome that resistance.

    I think Felicity of Y.N.N.A. was comparing the movie to the topfree equality movement.

    • Getting arrested – many times – hasn’t worked very well for Steve Gough in the UK. A few in San Francisco are going this route right now, but no results so far.

      More generally, economic and civil rights movements have endured many arrests and much worse over the years before success – labor unions, the anti-slavery abolitionists in the U. S., anti-segregation workers, etc. Same + much worse in other countries over the years. There were very strong economic and social forces to overcome in such cases. By comparison, the simple right to be naked shouldn’t require comparable bloodshed. And with most naturists unwilling to contribute even a little time and resources, doesn’t seem likely we’ll see such scenarios. Gays have been much more successful in recent years (though they had to endure pretty bad stuff earlier, just for being gay). It would be nice to see first what could be accomplished if naturists would just become more activist, without going so far as arrest.

      • Yes, success depends largely on the circumstances. I should have given some examples, like the Rochester 7 who won the right to be topfree in New York after being arrested. I think there might be one or two other times where arrest has worked that the TERA site tells about, although it focuses on topfreedom. A shirtless woman has a lot more potential to get laws changed by being arrested since she can argue equality / 14th amendment violation.

        If nudists tried the same thing we would be a lot more limited because we can’t argue equality and the public has a harder time accepting nudity than they do being shirtless. We should still try stuff like reclaiming a beach, but like you said, apathy runs deep.

  10. Jasen says:

    This is unrelated to the blog post, but it is an article/blog post I found that I think you’ll like.
    http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/?p=338
    It is by a University of Kent law professor and discusses the concept of “equality” using nudism as an example.

  11. Pingback: Naturism’s apathy problem | Nomad, Geek, Nudie

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