September 8, 2015 in Uncategorized
(Originally posted at http://freerangenaturism.com/blog/ and reposted here at the suggestion of Richard Foley)
One of the oldest arguments in naturism is the difference in the definition of the words nudism and naturism. It’s a perennial favourite on discussion forums and other web sites, and the same old arguments come up time and time again without any real resolution. Many people consider the words to be interchangeable, and while its hard to argue that the wider public see any difference in them, to the practitioners of either, it can be a big issue.
A common occurrence is that some people will claim you are not a “true naturist/nudist” unless you subscribe to a similar philosophy to them. Well, let’s look at some of the arguments and definitions that people give.
Let’s start with nudism. This is perhaps the simplest definition, and it is subsequently less controversial than naturism. However, there are still those who would attach additional meanings to it. One meaning you’ll never find attached to it though is anything to do with sex. People who claim to be “true nudists” will often go out of their way to tell you that nudists are not exhibitionists, or perverts or anything else vaguely related to sex. In fact they go so far out of their way to make the point, you often wonder who they’re trying to convince.
Another commonly ascribed factor to “true nudism” is a social aspect. This is often something you have to get together with other nudists to do. You can’t really do it at home by yourself or with your family, otherwise that’s just “at home” nudism, which isn’t really “true nudism.” No, for this you have to gather somewhere, usually at a club or other designated area.
All kinds of phrases and concepts are used to try and tell nudists what they are and how to behave. Depends on who you ask, nudists believe the human body is “inherently dignified,” they will never judge someone for their body shape, a variation on tennis called miniten is the single best game to play in the world or that nudism must be kept to “designated areas.” Oh, and did I mention it’s nothing to do with sex whatsoever?
Some of these attitudes are almost certainly part of the culture that’s evolved over the twentieth century of the landed club, a place where like minded people gather to do like minded things. And like minded people tend to confirm and validate each other’s beliefs, and this has perhaps led to a certain understanding of what nudism is supposed to be. The old cliché of the “nudist colony” where beautiful people play volleyball may be an almost forgotten myth, but myths have their basis in fact and a culture of conformity seems to have developed in some nudism circles in the past.
But I think this use of the word is dying out. More and more people seem to use nudism as a more generic title for someone who just likes to be naked, but there are still those who try and claim it for their own.
A more problematic word is naturism. Its derivation from the word nature or natural means it comes pre-loaded with implications. It doesn’t help that the International Naturist Federation decided to define it in 1974:
“Naturism is a lifestyle in harmony with nature, expressed through personal and social nudity, and characterised by self-respect of people with different opinions and of the environment.”
Let’s look at those values one at a time. Firstly, its a lifestyle, not a hobby or something you do on your holidays. Next, this lifestyle is defined as being in harmony with nature, which pretty much excludes the whole human race, except perhaps parts of Africa where famine, disease and other hideous forms of nature-induced sufferings are common. That’s the whole point of civilisation, to avoid being in harmony with nature, which is a horrible, violent killing field where the weak perish and nothing dies of old age. Fine, you can eat organic food, cultivate your own herb garden, but don’t kid yourself that’s living in harmony with nature.
Some people take this as a statement on personal health and they will even tell you this means you can’t be a naturist unless you are vegetarian, or you have to be a non-smoker and not drink too much.
“Characterised by self-respect of people with different opinions” is the next definition. I’m going to assume they mean respect of people with different opinions rather as their actual wording seems a bit strange, but is this really part of a definition for naturism? To me it seems more part of the “don’t be an arse” culture or the “be nice to other people” culture that also involves not stealing from people or kicking sand in their face on the beach.
It is perhaps the final one, the reference to the environment that annoys me the most. Not because its a bad idea, but because it’s the worst possible subject to make a sweeping statement about respect for. The “environment” is a very broad subject, a passionate one for many, and a subject you will rarely see so many ill-informed opinions and distorted facts about.
Subsequently, it is a very divisive subject. Some people think wind farms spoil the landscape and should be scrapped. Others think nuclear power is too dangerous and want all reactors shut down. Both groups almost certainly want us to stop using fossil fuels. You can see how this could be a problem. Suddenly if you support nuclear power, to some people you’re not a true naturist. Want more wind farms? Other people make the same claim against you.
The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) phenomenon is a part of this. Personally, I never like it when naturism is used as a political tool, and the WNBR is an example of the polarising effect of the environment argument. Were I new to naturism, and just beginning to explore it, the WNBR might just put me off getting involved. Why is this? Because I don’t like the anti-oil cause. I think it’s misguided, misinformed and unrealistic, not to mention slightly hypocritical.
Now, you could argue these points with me but the fact is, I feel this way and so do others. Yet there’s a lot of people that would say I’m not a “true naturist” unless I share their environmental concerns.
“Ah,” some would say, “but if you don’t care about the environment you’re just a nudist.” Well, I do care about the environment, I just don’t share the WNBR’s view on it. And now we have a situation where potential new naturists see naturism as about a particular viewpoint.
There’s a running problem here. People use the lack of a firm definition of these words to load their own agendas on to it. Vegetarianism. Abstinence. The latest environmental cause. Social nudity. The list goes on and on.
As I said at the start, for the average person, the words are largely interchangeable. As time goes on, nudism seems to be a less popular word generally and naturism is becoming more and more common as the default term for people who take their clothes of more than most.
Perhaps this is representative of the changing face of the scene in general. As I discussed in my previous blog, landed clubs, which would have been called “nudist camps” or “nudist colonies” in days gone by, are now dying out and perhaps along with it is the term “nudist”.
Personally I just use the word naturist for everything. At home, social, free range, factory farmed, the lot. If anyone wants to create an eco-naturist movement, or an extreme naturist movement, then go ahead. Just make sure you call it what it is and don’t try and load your own agenda on to an existing term.
September 7, 2015 in Uncategorized
(Originally posted at http://www.freerangenaturism.com and reposted here at the suggestion of Richard Foley)
“For a book an naturism, this is far too blood thirsty, it does not convey any feeling about the naturism, only the crunching of bones” wrote the only one star review on Amazon for my novel (called "Naturist, Red in Tooth and Claw"). I was delighted to get that review. In a way it vindicated why I wrote the book, and to a larger extent, why we both put so much work into the website.
Let me give you a little bit of background to the book. It all goes back to a trip we did to climb Ben Mhanach, a Munro in the southern highlands of Scotland. It was a long walk in and several times the well constructed path crossed a river, fording it and allowing us to cross. Normally I’m pretty sure footed on river crossings, but this time it felt slippery, and at the first crossing I put it down to the artificial nature of the ford, probably a result of a bulldozer.
It got me thinking about how dangerous nature can be and an idea formed in my head. A story began to form, a dark Gothic horror about a group of friends, some naturists and some not, getting lost in the wilds and picked off by nature herself. I began to write furiously, creating a group of what I thought were interesting characters.
But while the characters were working, the plot wasn’t. They became in my mind a group in search of danger, a deadly peril they could be tested against and I found it in one of the most traditional horror genres of all, the zombie.
Not just any old zombies of course, that would be boring, and the plot needed a unique naturist take on the zombie horror, one which once I found produced what seemed to me to be an interesting idea and a very different direction to any other naturist fiction I’d ever seen.
So I had my characters and my zombies, and with a little bit of romance I was able to bring my knowledge of free range naturism into the story, adding the odd hint of my own experiences here and there into the story.
But it remained a horror story, and there was blood, gore, dashed brains and zombies trying to eat people alive. Of course there was, its a zombie story. Why wouldn’t it?
Yet someone seems to think that’s not appropriate, that naturism shouldn’t mix with other genres. And that attitude seems to be the perfect metaphor for a wider attitude that seems to pervade in some naturists.
Traditional naturism is dying. Controlled for years by ‘national organisations’ and landed clubs, the long standing habit of naturists flocking to designated and specific areas is beginning to wane. The average naturist club offers very little to young people and instead they seek out new territories, exploring wild areas and remote landscapes. They embrace the natural world instead of locking themselves away from it, and in doing so embrace and epitomise the word “naturism” far more than someone who sunbathes on a manicured lawn or swims in a heated pool.
It was inevitable a small minority would feel threatened by this, especially if they can’t make any money from it. By neglecting the younger generations, the landed clubs have thrown away any chance of future financial security, and some fight back the only way they know how – by trying to control naturism.
In 2011 Lady Gaga suggested that she wanted to be nude in all her TV appearances, yet what was the reaction of the American Association of Nude Recreation? They said they only promoted nude recreation in “appropriate settings” and invited to her to a landed club. In fact the whole official response (see it at http://www.aanr.com/blog/aanr-responds-to-lady-gagas-nudity-is-timeless-quote/ ) is about landed clubs, places almost devoid of young people. They attempted to control nudity, to make it a commodity to buy and sell, with themselves as the only broker.
When one national organisation presented evidence to campaign for naturist’s rights during a review of their country’s sexual offences act they told a legislative committe that every naturist in the country was literally a card-carrying member of the organisation. While their testimony was helpful to all naturists in regards to the law, the claim to speak for every single one of them was not unexpected. Worse still was their implication that if you didn’t carry a card you weren’t really a naturist, a worrying thing to have them tell legislators.
The simple truth is that nobody owns naturism and nobody owns nudity. In parts of the world an entire generation of young naturists have been ignored and brushed off by organised naturism, left to fend for themselves or to take what they were given by the landed clubs.
I visited a landed club once on their open day. It was possibly the most depressing experience I have ever had with my clothes off. There were a few facilities, a bar, a swimming pool and lots of space to sunbathe in, but it was a grim place to be, a corner of a suburban area all set up to be a sterile and static approximation of nature. The owners and regular members seem delighted to see us because of our age, but frankly I couldn’t wait to leave. There was literally nothing to do.
The sad thing is it didn’t have to be like this. There are plenty of young naturists around (just visit http://internationalyn.org for proof) and there are some organisations who are moving to cater for them. The Naturist Society (http://www.naturist.com/) makes a good effort to involve all kinds of nude activities. Young British Naturism actively promotes naturism for young people, and with some success. But this isn’t enough and these organisations are likely to be the ones that survive the transition from traditional clubs to more free range activities as the norm for naturism.
Its such a shame because clubs could have had so much to offer. With facilities for children they would have made a wonderful getaway for young parents, which in turn would have brought down the age demographic and made them more appealing to younger people generally. And younger people would have brought more energy to the clubs, keeping them alive and interesting for potential new members of any age.
Instead they went to waste. We’ll see a lot of clubs start to die off over the next couple of decades. The baby boomer generation is getting old and many won’t be going to these clubs soon, and when they stop going, the clubs will die. I’m very pessimistic about their future, but I can’t see how any more than a few will be able to reverse the trend.
A whole way of life is threatened by this, and I think that’s partly what produces the instinct in some to try and take ownership of naturism. They feel that if they can own it, they can control what others who want to try it can do. You can say that “true naturists” don’t wander off somewhere to hike naked, they stay in designated areas where they can relax. Or that “true naturists” always go to the designated beaches.
Which brings me back to my review and why I was delighted by it. Had he given me a one star review with negative comments about characters, or plot development you can be sure I wouldn’t have been so happy. But he didn’t do that. He made a philosophical point, claiming ownership of the concept of naturism and effectively stating it can’t feature in any fiction that crosses genres that don’t meet with his approval. He tried to cut me down and belittle me with his one star review by defining naturism as what it meant to him, regardless of what others may think. He summed up in this one short review the mindset of naturism that is dying, the mindset of defining and controlling naturism, of packaging it up as a commodity to sell to the public. Like a national organisation talking about “appropriate places” he stated his opinion as fact, without any justification at all.
Well sorry, but no. People with that attitude had their chance and they blew it. A new generation is taking over naturism and if they want to cycle naked, to climb mountains naked or even write books about zombies and naturists, then we will, and to hell with anyone who says we aren’t “true naturists” for doing so.
July 24, 2013 in Naktiv
Day two of the NEWT was one to remember. Yesterday had been a good, long hike and my legs were making the same complaints they usually make after a day on the hills and I was ready for something more gentle, perhaps a ridge walk or a walk in a valley.
Our guide had something else in mind. We began at Ursprungalm, and our walk took us up the Rinderfeld towards the Giglachsee Hutte. It was a bulldozed track we were on which is never my favourite type of path and I soon found myself at the back of the group, while others rushed on ahead.
After reaching the hut, the nature of the walk began to change. The bulldozed track had become a narrow, foot trodden path that rose above a lake, and I found myself charging forward, with energy and strength renewed by the change in character of the walk. I was also naked by now, and the release from the stifling heat of clothing gave me an additional boost, and we careered ahead towards the Ignaz Mattis Hutte, which sat picturesquely above the Giglachsee.
As a matter of politeness we dressed as we approached the hut, where we turned north and the path began to steepen. A few minutes beyond the hut we stripped off again, much to the delight of the people drinking outside the hut, many of whom seemed to take this opportunity to get some photos of the group, no doubt convinced no one back home would believe them if they said they saw a great big mob of naked people on the mountain!
Things quickly became tougher as we continued. Aching muscles began to complain loudly as the path steeply climbed towards the Kampspitze, but with my head down I pushed on, knowing that despite the pain, we were gaining height quickly. The view was inspiring as well, and every time I raised my head, I was rewarded with an ever grander panorama, with the the sheer magnificence of the mountain architecture more than a match for the demotivation of my muscles and exhaustion.
The path briefly levelled out as it passed some small bodies of water, and it was the perfect spot to take a break and for some of us to cool down with a dip.
As we continued, the path became more and more like the southern Scottish highlands. Metamorphic rock underlying the soil provided a solid, hard path for our boots, and large outcrops of bedrock intruding across the path provided some easy and reliable scrambling. I may have been aching and tired, but I could not have been more comfortable with the terrain. My hands felt like they were at home on this path, and each little scramble was a pleasure after the slippery limestone scrambles of past Alps.
Again the path levelled out beneath the summit of the Kampspitze and after a short traverse over some snow fields we were ready of the ridge walk. We took a break before continuing, once again taking time to enjoy the spectacular views and get some photos.
As we set off, I realised we were at 2200m, making this more than 900m higher than Ben Nevis, and the altitude was having a major impact on me. The air seemed drier and fresher at this height, but I was constantly aware of how high I was, as each breath seemed to give me less strength than I was used to. Even without the views, I was very aware I was no longer on a Scottish mountain.
But now we were ridge walking, and with the worst of the ascent behind us I once again kept a good pace. It became reminiscent of a Scottish ridge walk, flat and open, and letting me walk with my head held high to enjoy where I was, rather than the “head down and get it over with” mentality that so often comes with a steep ascent.
Traversing the west side of the Schiedeck, we found the nature of the path changed once again. It cut across a steep slope, and the path became narrow and exposed, demanding your full attention. Composed once again of metamorphic rock, the path provided strong, angular slabs to hang onto as you shuffled across the jagged rocks, taking your time and trying not to look down.
It was like Christmas to a Munro bagger. Reliable hand holds, no wind, dry rock and with even thick cables embedded in the rock to hang onto, it was a delightful change from the wet, slippery, storm blasted scrambles Munro baggers do as a matter of routine. And even in perfect conditions, Scotland would provide midges to annoy you by feasting on your face during a challenging scramble, so it was with a sheer sense of joy I tackled this section. It wasn't quite so much fun for everyone else, especially the dogs in the group who needed a little help, but we all got over it safely, finally stopping for a break in the shadow of the Schiedeck's summit.
Continuing the ridge walk, which by now consisted of lots of little up and down stretches, we passed the Hochfeld and began our descent to the north west. By now tiredness was setting in, legs were becoming difficult to move and all I wanted was to get back to the car, although the valley floor seemed a long way away.
The descent was initially steep and again on a path much like a Scottish mountain's, with the familiar rocky intrusions across it that at this point required some concentration to stop an accidental stumble. This can often be the most accident prone part of the day, descending over rock when you're tired, so continual concentration is a must.
By now the path had reached a forest, and I was completely exhausted. I wanted to curl up into a ball and go to sleep, but we still had several kilometres to walk and each steep was a struggle. Unusually for a descent route we seemed to be going uphill quite a lot, which was dispiriting and painful in equal measures. We were in fact no longer descending, instead we were traversing along the mountainside and although the valley still looked far below us, the car park was higher than we realised, so we were under the impression we had so much further to descend than we thought.
But it was still a death march. As we stumbled through the forest path, it reminded us of our walk out from Ben Manoch, as once again we found ourselves going uphill at the end of the day, close to exhaustion and without any more food and very little water. There were very few times in the past when I just wanted the whole thing to be over more than this, but on and on we walked through the forest, never seeming to descend, just endlessly going as much up as down. I half expected to be ordered by someone to build a bridge for the Japanese.
Eventually we reached a clearing in the woods, and we got a glimpse of the car park. Higher and closer than I had expected, I set off again with renewed energy, and the path quickly gave way to a forestry track, and that meant easy walking. We almost bounced along, happily knowing we were almost back and that everything would be easy from here.
We were almost at the car park when we got dressed again having spent nine tough, exhausting but very rewarding hours naked on the mountain. I was very happy to get back to the car, but it was a spectacular day, a beautiful walk and an amazing introduction to high level walking in Austria.