There is an interesting divide in online nudist sites: whether the site includes photos of nude people or not. As nudists, we know that there is nothing wrong, or prurient, or scandalous about nude images. But we live in a world of (mostly) non-nudists, so including nude photos is an important consideration.
Here are the approaches that people tend to take, and a bit of discussion on the impact of each approach.
Some nudists with blogs and websites simply don’t care: they are nudists, the photos are their own, and photos of nude bodies are topical. These sites tend to be personal sites, and the photos of the site owner(s) establish who they are and what they’re about.
This seems to me to be an extremely effective approach. If you’re on a site full of nudist content, catching sight of a nude photo is hardly going to shock or appall you. The photos are typically home photos or selfies, too, so they are not terribly sexualized. This approach seems very much in keeping with nudist values, and effectively communicates the site’s theme and position.
There are many personal sites and blogs that include photos of nude people, often common nudist photos that are easily found with a google search. These photos do effectively communicate the nudist theme, and again, if you are looking at a nudist site, you probably won’t mind seeing nude people.
There are two problems with this, though. One is the fact that the photos are essentially stolen. Some nudist photos are found easily and, because they are used so much, show up in the first page of any google image search. And because they are so divorced from their origin, it is almost impossible to know who the owner is, and whether the people in the photo consented to its release. As a nudist, I think consent is an essential part of creating a positive, equal environment - using these photos seems very non-nudist to me.
The other problem is that these photos are usually from porn sites. They feature uncommonly thin and attractive bodies, posed to display nudity in an enticing way. The photos are being used to sell sex, almost always connecting nudity with sexuality.
Although I don’t denounce other sites for using nudist photos like this, I think that nudists especially should think carefully about what values they are espousing when they use them.
Instagram is well-known for its limits on nudity. Genitalia and female breasts (not male chests, of course!) are forbidden, and while bare buttocks are okay, they need to be displayed in a non-sexual way. Even with these restrictions, there are a number of very popular nudist accounts on instagram.
These limits also inform how some site owners display themselves. A good example is Naked Wanderings. This couple has been travelling the world for years, visiting nudist resorts and venues and blogging about their experiences. They post photos of themselves often, but they always strategically cover themselves in instagram-friendly ways. This way, they can prove that they are authentically interested nudists, but avoid having their photos stolen and misused.
As nudists, we are not ashamed of our bodies or scared that others will see them. However, once an image is on the internet, it is out of your control forever. If there is no “real” nudity in view, the photo is far less valuable to those who would misuse it. I can absolutely understand why people take this approach on their sites.
Some nudist sites avoid using photos of nude people at all. Sometimes they use images of classic art, or images that match the subject matter but don’t include people. This keeps the site very “safe for work”, and also makes clear that the site is about reading nudist ideas, rather than looking at nude people.
I like and respect this choice, but ultimately it might be to the detriment of the site. Images are key to capturing people’s attention. Encountering a wall of text can be a turn-off for first time visitors. And some nudists might wonder why a nudist would be so ashamed of displaying nude content. (There is just no way to please everyone, in the end!)
I do understand the reason nudist communities often encourage members to post photos: authenticity. If you post a real, unique photo of yourself nude, you’re making a statement: I am comfortable being nude, and I am comfortable being seen by other nudists. With the internet awash with photos of naked people, it seems like a small thing to ask, especially of a legitimate nudist.
Unfortunately, even in legitimate online communities, photos attract a lot of attention - the wrong kind of attention. Users flock to the site, and try every possible way to download users’ photos. (Sites usually try to block this kind of activity, but I suspect they are rarely completely successful.)
On WriteNude, I gave a lot of thought to what I would include on the site. Here were the principles I landed on.
Self-contradictory, maybe. Ill-considered, I hope not. But this is where I’ve landed, at least until I figure out a change is needed.
What do you think? How do you react to photos on nudism-themed sites? What do you use on your own site, or what approach would you take if you were creating a nudist site? Tell me in the comments!
It's such a hard call. Sometimes the original draw of someone to nudism starts in a sexual light, aka seeing a body-- a real body--, but as they learn they discover that nudism is not sexual at all, but something more .. pure for the lack of a better word. Personally, I think nude images are okay, but if it's done in such a way as to display the individual as a sexual being it detracts from the messages in some cases. Yet.. in others it can enhance a message. Really good post and incredibly difficult topic. I totally see… Read more »
Thank you! It was a tough post to write and I'm still grappling with the topic. I really appreciate your perspective.
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Thank you Matthew for a challenging post and topic. I fully agree with your approach. Obtaining consent is challenging when a picture can be obtained freely from the web. For instance, we frequently use pictures from https://nudismlife.com, where tracing where the picture comes from is difficult. I'm a personal proponent of full simple nudity, in the naturist sense (Naturism is a way of life in harmony with nature characterised by the practice of communal nudity with the intention of encouraging self-respect, respect for others and for the environment), being shown on naturist web sites, if we want nudity to be… Read more »
Thank you, Marc! It certainly is a challenge, I agree. And it's important to get it right, for one's own site as well as for nudism as a movement. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has found it a difficult topic!
This is actually a question I'm asking myself, almost every month and whenever we are posting a new article with a picture we do not own. We, nudists, are seeing nudity as completely normal, but this is not the case for everybody. Now, if we want to contribute to making nudity a normal clothing choice, we should be able to display normal, simple and communal nudity through pictures on our sites.
Thanks for raising this topic.
It is something I have been thinking about as I help naturist organizations build their websites.
One approach I have been considering is to use Instagram-style photos on the greeting and top-level pages, and regular naturist photos deeper in the site.
My thinking is that casual visitors will get the idea without being confronted with full-frontal pictures, while interested visitors get to see the authentic experience.
I really like that as an approach! It makes a lot of sense. Only people who bothered to read the content of the site would come across actual nudity. Interesting take for sure!
Great blog and thanks a lot for the mention! This is also a topic we've been struggling with for years. From the beginning, we also believed that images say more than a 1000 words. Or as you say: "Images are key to capturing people’s attention". A blog is not like a book where people take the time to read long chunks of text. They need some diversion or otherwise they'll get bored. We also believe in quality images that are somehow engaging. And the problem with only publishing images of yourself, is that it becomes hard to remain creative. We… Read more »
Yes, obviously I had you guys very much in mind when I wrote this! (And I've been a fan of yours for years - I love what you guys do.) I really appreciate the explanation and the perspective you bring to this topic, and I think you guys have always tried to do things right. You're important ambassadors for nudism as a result!
Well thought out response! There is nothing wrong with following the rules of whatever platform you are using. There are people who think you have to show your penis or vulva and nipples or you aren't a "real" nudist. Nonsense! That deprives you of a perfectly good platform. We all know what boys and girls look like and that includes textiles. They can infer what they are missing. We all know what the rules are on our platform of choice and nobody thinks pixilation is indicative of shame. If your platform allows it there's nothing wrong with the occasional full… Read more »
You've brought a lot of great ideas in with this comment, Fred - I think it's really worth thinking through the editorial purpose of every photo on a site. It's a really helpful direction to think from! Thanks for this.
Great article and I agree to an extent.
I don't see any problem with nude photos on a site, but consent is important.
I have been pondering that question myself. So, thanks for the conviction. I have removed all pictures in the Naked Is Natural series on my site, that were from our twitter feed and such. However, I think that paintings, sketches, and drawings may be a little different as long as credit is given when possible.
Yes! I'm glad you brought up illustrations. I have an artist working on some illustrations for my site right now. (And note to anyone considering using drawings etc - illustrations aren't free and I think it's important to support nudist-friendly artists.)
As a blogger on WordPress (Naturist Fab and the Acceptance of Body Image) I would never use images that are not my own or copyrighted by someone else. That being said, I've always included images if it fit the narrative. Why censor myself when so many other social media outlets already do that for us? Am I endorsing pornography if I have a picture of myself nude? Certainly not. As stated above, as long as the picture supports the narrative then, so be it. As naturists/nudists, how are we supposed to promote a positive light on naturism if we hide… Read more »
Thank you for the very thoughtful comment, Fabien. I agree that there is nothing wrong with nude photos - I think it's worth considering (as you have) what works best for each site. And I agree that we need to normalize nudism - making non-sexual nude photos more common and legitimate is an important part of that.
I'm 100% with you on that Matthew. Thanks for writing such a thought provoking blog. All the best, Fabien
Let me also add, memes are a different kind of issue, since they are made to be distributed. Also, I think it makes a difference if the photos being posted are public or in a member only or protected site.
Hmmm... My site is NOT aimed at nudists. It is a general-purpose site that includes mental health, outdoor recreation, nudism, anime, current affairs, humor, ect. I sometimes include nude photos of myself. Typically this is when the post is about something I did when I was nude, like a hike, Bare to Breakers, WNBR, ect. Sometimes they aren't FB safe. I have discovered there are a lot of people out there who just don't care. I do stick in an NSFW in the title or early in the text when they aren't FB safe. Wouldn't want anyone to get in… Read more »
Don’t write nude be nude
Well... I try to do both!
[…] Very good article by @CaNudian1. Many ‘naturist’ Twits post pictures of individuals or couples taken from the web. Do they have permission? Almost certainly not. Should they? Absolutely. Long general shots are ok, but ‘close ups’ demand consent. https://www.writenude.com/should-websites-for-nudists-include-photos/ … […]
[…] Pleased to get a long comment from @nakedwanderings on my last blog post. Read it here – they give additional perspective to the question of images on nudist sites, and how they’ve approached the problem. (And if you don’t know them, subscribe now!) https://www.writenude.com/should-websites-for-nudists-include-photos/#comment-205 … […]
[…] the post of Matthew McDermott, Should websites for nudists include photos?, sparked a good discussion with readers and the doubt grew into my mind. Most of the pictures I was […]