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.
Nude Photos of Self
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.
Nude Photos of Others
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.
No Nude Photos
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.
- I’m not prone to show myself at all - I’ve never even taken a selfie! I won’t make myself the visual focus of the site.
- I won’t use images without an appropriate licence. I go to legitimate stock image sites, even if I have to pay for photos (and I do), or I use images licensed under Creative Commons. (I’ve also commissioned an artist to do some paid illustrations for me - and I pay artists a reasonable amount for their work!)
- I won’t show full nudity. Instagram rules apply. I think that fully nude people send the wrong message, especially to non-nudists who visit the site out of curiosity (maybe after reading my book)!
- All people depicted on the site, however, will be obviously nude. Nudity is central to my philosophy, and to why I write at all, so it makes sense to at least have nude people depicted.
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.
Share your thoughts...
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!