February 26, 2020

Stop and think before you compliment a nudist!

Written by 
Matthew McDermott
Categories:

Wow, you look amazing nude.

Your boyfriend better look out!

You’re a really beautiful young woman.

You’re just the kind of young person we love to see become a nudist!

All of these are compliments. They’re all positive, all saying something nice about the person they’re directed at.

And they’re the wrong thing to say.

Time and again, nudists express frustration with trying to convince others that social nudity is something they should try. The demographics that are the most coveted, too, are women and young people. More women are needed to help balance the gender ratio, which tips very far to the male side. And young people - wherever you set the bar, but it’s usually somewhere under middle age - are the future of the naturist movement, and essential to the health of any movement or club.

Compliments like these are absolutely guaranteed to drive women and young people away, or at least make their experience more negative than it should be.

But they’re nice things to say, right? Why would they cause problems?

Directing Attention at the Wrong Things

The first issue with these compliments is that they are a message to the recipient about where others’ attention is directed. The intended message may be positive, welcoming, and encouraging. The more subtle message, though, is exactly the opposite.

Because the underlying message is “I’m judging your body in a sexual way.”

First, let’s get the objections out of the way. You’re a good person, you aren’t judging anyone, there’s nothing sexual in saying any of that.

All of these protests focus on the person making the remark, and their intent. That’s irrelevant to the person receiving it.

What you’re doing to the person you’re talking to is making them immediately aware that everything people say about nudists - nothing sexual, no body shaming, no judgement - is false. Because someone is definitely judging their body.

Not saying anything bad? Doesn’t matter. You’ve made a judgement. That tells the object of your judgement that they’re being measured. Maybe everyone is measuring them. Maybe others will make a different judgement.

There’s another layer to it as well. When you judge someone on their appearance - even subtly - you’re sending a message that is exactly in line with how non-nudist society views bodies, especially those of certain ages, and body types. The message is, “We’re evaluating sexual partners,” and the entire pretense of nudity being safe and open and equal comes crashing down.

And again, I understand that this is not the intent of the person making the compliment - certainly not consciously. It could be that there is an unconscious bias at play, and by definition we are usually not aware of unconscious biases! It’s definitely important for all of us to consider whether what we say and do are driven by prejudices that we possess (because of our upbringing, the people and society around us, and so on).

But whatever the motivation of the compliment, it still plays into the dynamics of clothed society in exactly the ways that nudism seeks to be different from it. The subtext of the things you say aren’t entirely within our control, and for any nudist - especially someone new to the venue, or new to nudism in general - the subtext may be speaking much more loudly than you realize.

Tipping the Scales

There’s more to this, though. This is about power, and balance.

One of the most appealing aspects of naturism is how it puts us on the same plane. The societal trappings are gone. We are forced to put our flaws and deficiencies on display. We assert that what others see, and what we see of others, doesn’t matter. And most of all, we have established a shared trust by all of us adopting that vulnerability together.

Those compliments destroy all of that.

It’s not just the fact that you’ve taken away that shared trust by overtly evaluating someone else. You’ve also tipped the balance of power away from the person you’re complimenting, and towards yourself. You’ve put yourself in the position of a judge, and them in the position of the judged. You have given yourself - or at least stated your belief that you have - authority over that other person.

The relative positions of you and the other person can also be exacerbated if you have some perceived real-world authority as well. For better or worse, society gives a more prominent voice to men than to women, and to older people than to younger people.

So if you, as a middle-aged-or-older, tell a woman in her early twenties that she’s good-looking, it’s making your assumption of power over her apparent and overt.

If you were her, nude in a non-sexual environment for the first time, hearing this compliment - what would you think?

I’m pretty sure I’d think that everything I’d heard about nudism was nonsense. And I wouldn’t be back.

Just Stop


But that’s not -

I was only trying to -

But men aren’t always -

No.

Stop with it.

If the only thing you can think of to say to someone else is to compliment their appearance, learn not to speak at all.

Instead of Compliments…

The first thing you can do when encountering a stranger who you’d like to compliment in a nudist venue is ask whether you need to speak with them at all. What is your reason for talking to them, and why are you the person who needs to talk? If you can’t think of any good reason to talk to a stranger, a simple smile, “Hello,” and maybe “Nice day today, isn’t it?” is enough. After that, unless the stranger says something more substantial in return, you can move on without another word.

If a stranger is clearly needing directions - for example, walking around with garbage in his hand, in search of a receptacle - be helpful and guide them towards what they’re more likely looking for. After that, unless the stranger says something more substantial in return, you can move on without another word.

If a stranger is nearby and hesitating - for example, if they seem a little nervous about approaching a group of nudists and selecting a deck chair near them - it’s perfectly fine to say, “These chairs over here aren’t occupied. Feel free to take any of them.” After that, unless the stranger says something more substantial in return, you can move on without another word.

See the pattern? The interaction is limited to the benefit of the other person. And unless they choose to engage with you further, the next step - where you would tell them how good-looking they are, or how well-defined their muscles are, or anything like that - is one you need not take.

Apologies in Advance

I know that I’m going to alienate some readers with this piece. Some will feel a little bit insulted, because they don’t feel like they need a primer in basic human interaction. Others will feel like I’m being prejudiced against them, just because they’re men, or because they want to be nice to other people, or because because because.

Well, sorry about that.

But I really want to help stop this dynamic of people being (supposedly) complimentary, and other people (actually) being made uncomfortable, and pushed away from nudism.

I’d prefer that we concentrate on what, for me, is a key value that naturists share: that social nudity brings us closer together. And in that context, we should avoid doing anything that pushes us - any of us - apart.

Share your thoughts...

What do you think? What can you do to make nudism more comfortable for new nudists? When you first began as a nudist, was there anything that others did that made it more comfortable and approachable? Tell me in the comments!

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[…] Read further at Write Nude […]

sassycoupleok

As nudist it's normal to want to make people feel welcome but as pointed out the wrong compliments is not the way. Yes being helpful towards them is a good starter. If you recognize they are new try introducing yourself by saying, Hi, we are T & K welcome to paradise. However don't ask for their names, if they want you to know it they will give it. We let them know we have been regulars and point out a few popular features of the area or of the resort. Often times that starts a good conversation which puts many… Read more »

Fred Williamson

Thanks Matthew for this enlightening article, I’m sure that it will bring to light for many others as it did for me.

jmiller

Clothed or fully dressed, it works the same.
"You're looking sexy right now" comes off great when the woman is comfortable with the guy saying it, not so much when she feels the opposite.
Don't generalize about the attitudes of "nudists" (as if that's a distinct group) A lot of them aren't thinking about overcoming body issues or whatever. Just the ones who post too much on the internet.

Shirley Gauthier

I absolutely loved this article. I am going to save it to use in the future. Totally hits the issue right on. My first experience with social nude recreation was in 1972. I have never seen anything that comes close to providing the information that Mathew has in this piece. Thank you for taking the time to address a much needed topic.

Jim W

I am struggling to think of how this could not also apply in a clothed situation - which makes the case all the stronger.

Elin Thomas

Spot on.

Eddie Bryan

I was a nudist in the 70's. Since then events have occurred which have caused a lot of introversion and inhibition in my personality. I hear what you are saying though. It's very superficial what some people say. People do have their own issues though. They may just be superficial. Why even make a point of your associates, your friends, I hope, being nude. I evolved into nudity through a sexual relationship, then we knew others in sexual relationships but we weren't always having sex, we could just sit around or in a natural setting walk. I enjoyed nudity. There… Read more »

Eddie Bryan

I hope you are preaching to the choir on this. I do not need nudity for sometimes my libido to be awakened. There have been times when I had to control myself. Don't expect to be challenged that way anyway as I have no nudist friends and all the places to be nude cost money that I don't have.

Rose-Marie

THANKYOU. Young people are self conscious enough as it is, whether clothed or undressed, and don't like attention drawn towards them, especially from middle aged men. As a former camp manager I have had to take people aside and tell them to STOP talking to about teenagers, no matter how innocent they felt their remarks to be. Your article is spot on.

Michel Charette

Very good advices, thank you

Michel

I'm new to nudist, so I'm in search of advice

Damien

This was a great post. My advice to new nudists is, if they feel they HAVE to compliment another person to break the ice, then make it about something non-physical. Unacceptable: You look great naked! You have a tremendous body! Acceptable: That's a great book your reading! I love that scarf you have in your hair! "But, I want people to know that I appreciate how good they look, physically" I have had people say to me. The problem with that is that you may mean it in a perfectly innocent way (as you said here), but they may not… Read more »

Paul Simon

What I find is, that when I'm in a nudist environment, when either at a club, resort or beach, I forget that I'm naked. This level of comfort brings it's own sense of security. Social interaction comes off naturally just as if we were sitting in a board room or pool hall. We do take notice to newcomers, and we normally welcome them. The article explains some excellent points, and is taken well. Common sense should come into play, and each encounter brings it's own challenges and rewards. To me, nude is natural, and that's the way I react. Have… Read more »

Suze Blackman

I’ve been a nudist my entire life. My parents were. But that dynamic changed when my parents divorced. My Dad was nude at home but my stepmother wasn’t initially & over years in the bathroom was fine but that was it! My Mom was always 1/2 naked in her back yard, gardening! Lol I wonder what the neighbors thought! Lol When I married my late husband he came from a “Puritan Family” lol! When he came out of the bedroom, he always was dressed. But myself I was naked thru out our marriage & while raising our twin boys! There… Read more »

Sue

This is the very thing that I feel uncomfortable about. I hear men and women alike, even seasoned nudists, who compliment others....nice this, nice that, you look great! Ive even heard men and women who claim to be nudists say, " I rocked that group, because I have the fit body". Do we want EVERYONE to feel comfortable in the nudist community? I would prefer that people focus on my interests, my love of art, nature, the way I treat others, etc.

Sue

Exactly Matthew! We (even many "nudists") are still very sexualized. Would be great if there was an educational forum online, in person, etc., in the nudist community.

Artie

At the nudist camp, I once had a stranger make a loud remark about my lack of a tan. I'm fair-skinned and it was early in the season, but somehow he thought he had the right to make a comment about my physical appearance. A dozen replies went through my mind, all of them rude, but I decided to let it go and I ignored him completely.

Fred

Just shows that nudists are not immune to being insensitve.

Fred

When I was doing nude acting lessons, one of the other students was stunningly beautiful. I didn’t focus on her appearance, I focused on acting and because of that we became friends. She explained a bit about the hazards of “good looks.” Being beautiful means that everyone compliments you. Unless you are vanity driven, those complements are meaningless at best and often just an attempt to gain influence. They are not words to be trusted. A woman already knows what is and isn’t attractive about herself. Unless you are in a relationship, bringing it up just makes you part of… Read more »

Wagner

I was created by lesbian nudist mom at home and after many years I have already decided to be naked at home and beach and I am a single nudist man 53 living alone and naked as I am now writing this and I am looking for a nudist friends and try to find a sites with nudism I love to be naked and I feel freedom

Kevin Moore

"We should avoid doing anything that pushes us apart."

Yet your advice is to not talk to strangers.

How's that work?

I agree that many people can be insensitive about what they say, but this "assumption of power" as a cause?

Unlikely, in my humble opinion.

Then again, I'm male, and past middle-age, so what do I know?

Fred

The minute a guy understands how obnoxious and possibly threatening it feels to a woman to have a stranger pay physical complements to her they'll stop. (Or they are complete narcissists and just don't care.) Physical compliments from a stranger are considered pickup lines. A pickup line is an expression of sexual interest, not necessarily personal power but it can be interpreted as such. Most women at nudist resorts did not go there to be picked up on. It drives away women who just want to enjoy themselves without pressure. That's from my wife, my daughter, and female friends. It's… Read more »

Elin

I wrote this, deleted it, and then reposted it over on the FaceBook page for AANR. Now I wonder why I didn't post it here first: This article expresses so well what I both love and dislike about nudists. I love the total-person acceptance (note I did NOT say "body" acceptance), and yet as a woman nudist, I dislike that the social norms of complimenting people has to stay under wraps else it may be construed as a request for a sexual connection. As a person who thrives on words of affirmation, it can be isolating to not hear something… Read more »

Fred

My cousin by marriage, who is into a clothing-optional lifestyle and not nudism per se, lost significant weight. I could not compliment her enough. So did my wife. So did anyone who knew her. Those were paid to her by people she knew and were comfortable with. I can't imagine anyone being unhappy about that. The error most guys (and people in general) make is of assuming that because THEY wouldn't care if someone told you that you were looking sexy, then NO ONE should care. We're all individuals. Yes, there are some few women who won't mind if a… Read more »

Druid67

I never say anything I don't say if they were clothed. Just hey, how are you?.

Personally, I don't care what anyone says to me. I'm that open minded. If someone asked me about how they look, I'll tell them. It may help.

Jerry

Good article! Thanks for sharing!

[…] My newest (and long overdue) blog post: Stop and Think Before You Compliment a Nudist! Shout out to @NakedColorsPod who talked about this issue a while ago and really got me thinking on it. Her thoughts helped me crystallize my own and I appreciate it! https://www.writenude.com/stop-and-think-before-you-compliment-a-nudist/ … […]

Tom Collier

Wonderful article, very thought provoking, made me think about things I have said to strangers in nudist venues. I hope I have never made anyone uneasy

[…] care of yourself Stop and Think … https://www.writenude.com/stop-and-think-before-you-compliment-a-nudist/ Naked Colors http://shop.spreadshirt.com/nakedcolors — This episode is sponsored by · […]

Tony Brumfield

I go to a Unitarian Universalist church whose members are mostly older white folk. They scare away young people and people of color by making similar comments that older white men make to young people and women in a nudist setting. Different context, same lessons. Thank you. By the way three of my best nudist friends are also Unitarian Universalists. We are lovers of liberty!

George Walton

When I first became a nudist, I enrolled in a nude yoga class. A few of the women touched me to improve my posture and yoga positions. They were not overtly sexual, but I felt the approval of my person, body and soul, and it made me feel really good as a person, a man, and nudist .Yes, there are subtle ways to compliment someone's nude appearance without being gauche.

George Walton

Point taken. Trust is very important. Maybe I happen to look as if I'm a trusting person- it's difficult for one to judge one's self in that respect - but I had just met these women 10 minutes earlier for the first time.The following week I got a full embrace from one (her towel between us) and that's a moment I'll never forget. I'm not trying to quibble with you. Your article is excellent and makes an excellent point. My only point is that if you is exude and receive emotions well when nude, then be open to variations which… Read more »

Larry Crocker

Many people think they have to be talking all the time. They don't know what to do with silence. One thing I learned many years ago is that I never learned anything when I was talking. Just a thought.

will

thanks for the advice! I usually say nothing and feel rude.. i'm glad my silence is preferred.

Jason Brooks Sullivan

This is a great article. When my wife and I became social nudist I was unsure how best to strike a conversation with someone and like your article says sometimes not saying much is best. The younger generation is very wary about nudism, mainly because social standards say that being nude only exists in a sexual situation and to nudists this is false. I've also noticed that sometimes not saying anything can be as awkward as saying the wrong thing, I like to just say "hello" and leave it at that. Whenever a person comes to a nudist venue for… Read more »

Fred

Whatever happened to talking about the weather?

Anthony mitchell

"You look great nude". If that is really a thing then the idiots that would say that can't comprehend this article either. You can enlighten ignorance but, you cannot fix stupid.

tim b

well said it is right be careful even when you mean good at what you say

Jamnatr

I have been a nudist for most of my life. As a nudist of color, I received many unsolicited comments and stares which often made me feel very selfconscious and initially uncomfortable at times. When I was in college I was fortunate to find a small nude beach full of regulars. I was readily accepted into their community which was really a life-changing experience for me at the time. I felt accepted, comfortable, and safe in a way that I had never known before. Everyone watched out for one another and were very friendly. I was pretty open about visiting… Read more »

Robert Raines

Execellent article I have seen this very thing happen and everyone should read this great advice on how to conduct oneself at a nudist resort please don’t ruin a fantastic thing.

Paolo

brilliant analysis and suggestion ... another thing we would tended to do with apparent newbies was the welcome we gave was from a member of the same sex ... I would approach new males my wife new females ... to provide assistance or guidance. it helped my wife happened to be extremely attractive and always smiling.

Kenny

I've allways bad difficulty in engaging in a conversation I dont know what to say after saying it's a nice day today.

tom smith

I agree with this well written article 100%! Here's another thought: I am a 61 year old white male with too many pounds for my health. OK maybe just 20-25 pounds. But...I get so incensed when I hear in media or in person people literally gagging when confronted with a naked person. "He/she's the LAST person I want to see naked!" or "gross he's all saggy and wrinkled!". People can be so disgusted by seeing a naked body and the media plays this for laughs. No wonder some people would never dream of being nude in public. I'm made fun… Read more »

Wayne

Well said. I appreciate your thoughts

Kevin Morris

I have become involved with a lovely group of people swimming in a local leisure centre, it lasts for an hour once a month, afterwards we go clothed to a local pub for a drink I really enjoyed it. Obviously because of the lockdown it's stopped. I was surprised at the friendly aspects of the group and noticed no one really refered to any physical descriptions it all seemed normal and matter of fact, I will return to it at some point it was my first experience and reassured me to continue as a Naturist? I love in Wales and… Read more »

Matthew McDermott

It's excellent that you've found a group in your area! I suspect the popularity will continue and maybe increase. I'm glad you liked the article - thanks for saying so!

CleTheNaturist

I've never really got the need to compliment the looks of someone you're meeting for the first time. I suppose I can see how people might think of it as an attempt to be friendly, but still there are far better ways. If you must talk about something to a stranger, try to talk about something that is not them and is not yourself. Talk about the weather, ask about their interests, find common ground of some kind. Those kinds of things are far less off putting.

Kim Strokes

Thank you, this article is very useful. I have shared via twitter to a thread discussing the similar issue of complimenting people on their age / appearance "You don't look a day over xx years." etc

Fred

I think the takeaway is that anything that might sound like a pickup line ought to be avoided. It is completely unrealistic to expect other people to understand that you didn't mean it "that way" when a lot of people actually do. Maybe you really do mean it, "that way" consciously - or even subconsciously. And I think that's often the case when a stranger complements someone on their appearance in a social setting. Swing at enough balls and and you will eventually get a hit. That's a really selfish attitude but people are selfish and often don't care about… Read more »

Michael

Focusing on appearance makes me squeamish. I don't usually compliment people unless it is on something they did. If they brightened my day, I'll let them know. If they made great food at the potluck, I'll be sure to indicate that I appreciated their dish. There are so many ways to indicate appreciate without getting potentially creepy.

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