One universal truth of nudism is that when you’ve been exposed to naked bodies in a non-sexual context enough, you stop noticing that people are naked.
Almost everyone who’s new to nudism has this epiphany, often during their first nude experience: you forget that you’re naked, and that everyone else is as well. It might be the first time most people in our modern society realize how useless and limiting clothing can be. It’s one of the most wonderful realizations you can have, as a new nudist.
Many people extend this idea to a very positive conclusion: that any human body, without adornment, without artificial coverings, and without the feelings of shame and fear that society has instilled us, is beautiful.
The mere fact of existence, of physical being, is not in itself beautiful - or if it is, then every living thing is also beautiful. And that is enough to render the concept almost meaningless.
From the point of view of physical attractiveness, being clothed might hide aspects that society deems “flaws”, or might accentuate certain characteristics that are conventionally considered attractive. Being naked might reveal parts of the body that fail to conform to society’s standards of beauty, or might show heavily sexualized body parts in an alluring way. Neither clothing nor nakedness have a monopoly on attractiveness.
As a nudist, I think there is only one way to resolve this question of beauty, and that is to ignore it altogether. Because beauty, physical beauty, is irrelevant for those of us who share in the philosophy of social nudity. The very concept of beauty is completely irrelevant to the naturist ethos.
To truly accept the naturist philosophy, I would argue, one needs to reject the concept completely, and recognize that the physical reality of a person’s body is not relevant to the worth of that person. Instead, the naturist must strive to accept each person as they are, regardless of the characteristics they present to the world. It is the whole person, not just the person’s appearance, that is of interest and value.
So are nude bodies beautiful? Are any bodies beautiful?
The naturist answer is: the question is irrelevant. The beauty of a body - whatever that means - does not affect the worth or acceptability of that individual.
Of course, whether or not we judge our own or others’ bodies, society is going to judge, rate, and assign its assessments to bodies, both nude and clothed. It would be naïve to assert that beauty didn’t matter to society, or that some bodies will be judged as more or less beautiful.
Those messages have been sent, overtly and subtly, all our lives. Young girls are complimented on how pretty they look. Advertising all around us is filled with images of attractive people (with their natural features Photoshopped away to make their images conform even more closely with beauty standards). Good-looking people are given higher status in the world, in big and small ways. It’s nearly impossible not to internalize some of those messages after a time.
As naturists, though, we know that we don’t need to buy into that way of thinking. By stripping away the need for clothing, we gain an acceptance of people’s bodies that transcends society’s long outmoded ideas of beauty. This gives us an even more important role: to change the way people think, by being leaders of this new way of thinking.
Part of it is what we say. I’ve written before about not complimenting other nudists, but it goes beyond that. Never complimenting anyone on their appearance might be a bit extreme, but it’s worth expending a little more effort to find something to compliment about the person instead of their body or features. (Those compliments may or may not be welcome, but they are almost certainly less likely to seem creepy.)
But it’s much more than policing our words. It’s about changing the way we think altogether. Stopping ourselves from making judgements about other people - good or bad - is not easy. But neither is being a nudist in a nudity-averse world.
Cultivating this judgement-free way of thinking is perhaps one of our most important tasks as naturists, though. If naturism is to be the truly open, welcoming, and inclusive society that most of its proponents want it to be, then we must start by being truly accepting of every person.
To achieve this approach of radical acceptance, we need to start by committing ourselves to the idea that beauty is not a useful way to judge bodies. Once we stop associating value with the subjective attractiveness of people’s bodies - including our own bodies! - we will be ready to move towards the truly egalitarian, accepting, and positive world that naturism promises to give us.
Have you found naturism has changed how you think of beauty standards? Do you think naturists have the potential to change our society’s thinking for the better?