We try so hard to publicise naturism, but it is often a difficult topic to illustrate! Not only are some of us hesitant to have photos taken, but we always have to be aware of how much of the body we actually show when portraying naturists. Though we might take nudity for granted, we have to remember that not everyone is ready for such complete acceptance of the human form, so we have to tailor the photo to suit the particular audience we are dealing with.
Or do we? Should we simply declare that nudity is normal and take the stance that we shall prove it by sharing our nakedness with the public – be it on television, in newspapers or via any advertising opportunity we can access? Should we almost force it upon an unprepared public and say, “This is us, accept it!”
I would love to give you a most definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this question, but I am not sure I can. When I was asked to appear on a Vanessa Feltz television programme discussing naturism, the first thing I asked was whether they expected me to be naked and, of course, they thought I was offering and almost bit my hand off, saying, “Yes please!” But I followed my own question with a statement, “I do not undress to be looked at, but to feel good so, no, I will not be naked in your studio. However, if you wish to come and film at Blackthorns, then I will strip and feel comfortable doing so.” (That last bit might have been a bit of a fib!)
I was then constantly referred to as the “prudish naturist”, which I thought was ridiculous! Their reaction convinced me that they, like many other producers of television programmes, just wanted some sensational nudity to increase their ratings, but I wasn’t going to be providing a cheap thrill, and I do mean cheap as they weren’t offering any payment!
When I invited a local newspaper’s reporter and photographer to Blackthorns to run a piece on club life and prove that a certain national newspaper had got it all wrong with their article stating that naturists were pensioners who sat around in deckchairs knitting or dozing, I had to prove that naturism was perfectly acceptable by conducting the interview in the flesh – quite literally! Having spent half an hour telling them how comfortable we are with our bodies, and the fact that it is all about body acceptance rather than body beautiful, we could hardly refuse when the photographer asked to take photos of my husband and me.
Believe me, we tried! We offered them some lovely ones we had previously taken of another couple, but no, they wanted their own proof that we meant what we had said, so there we were, strolling through the trees with a camera following close behind! So do think before you speak!
When we produced publicity leaflets for our club, we put together one which had a nice woodland scene on the front and a distance shot on the back, giving little notion of actual nudity. The photos inside include a close-up and it is obvious that the people are naked but, to save any possible embarrassment, their genitals are discreetly out of sight. You might think this is wrong, but we would rather censor the pictures a little so that they are viewed comfortably than be viewed and thrown in the bin.
It is similar with our website. Although our front page carries a warning of possible nudity, we still only post a hint of nudity with few full-frontal shots that could possibly embarrass or attract the “wrong” audience. Again, you might disagree, but I would argue that we undress to feel good, not to be looked at, so we don’t need detailed pictures of us doing so. People understand what nudity means and they’ll see plenty of it if they choose to join the club.
Mind you, others seem not to understand nudity at all. How many times have you heard a film company, television programme, newspaper or magazine brag that they are going to include full nudity: “Ooh! Naked people! Shock horror! Excitement!” And what do we get? Partially clothed people or nudity with arms across breasts and covered genitals.
I often wonder how they make these statements and seemingly don’t understand the meaning of the terminology they use? But it obviously draws in the viewers – that is their intent and although there are plenty of people complaining that there is too much nudity, you rarely get people openly criticising them for not having enough.
Personally, I think that if a storyline calls for nudity, then it is better to include it in a straightforward way than an uncomfortable cover-up that makes it look silly. For example, a couple having spent a night of passion together then get out of bed dressed or with the duvet wrapped around themselves to protect their modesty! So I am not a prude after all!
What do you think of H&E magazine, which is available to non-naturists? A long-standing problem is that it can be very off-putting for ladies faced with pages of attractive, young, slim, shapely women with big smiles and “perfect” proportions!
Whilst I don’t want to get drawn into the long-running debate over whether these models are naturists because they have removed their clothes or whether they are naked models, there is always the worry that they deter the more ‘average’ woman from attending a naturist venue for fear of comparison.
It is fine for us seasoned naturists who know it is all about body-confidence rather than body-beautiful, but novices need to gain that confidence in the first place. They may look at these magazines and think we are all perfect specimens and will not dare to join us. Oh, how wrong they would be! I have always told men with reluctant partners to leave H&E until later and show them the genuine members’ photos found in BN magazine, so that they see we are indeed all ages, shapes and sizes, that there is no competition and that they will fit in.
But now, to find a place on the shelves of a major high street newsagents, H&E have run a few editions without any full-frontal photos. When I first noticed what they had done, I have to admit I was quite pleased, although it did seem a little strange to see so many backsides! Whilst many photographs were very carefully taken and look very natural, there are some that look censored, and I began to feel they were giving the completely opposite impression. The whole concept of naturism is the acceptance of the human form without embarrassment or shame, so a cover-up is wrong. I was, therefore, pleased when they declared if other publications were getting away with featuring breasts and nipples, then they would too! They said their new restrictions were to encourage the “right kind” of customer and convince the shop that it has a rightful place on the lower shelves, rather than with top-shelf publications.
But are we holding ourselves to ransom? Would another shop agree to sell naturist material as long as there were no bums, then another demand no naked bodies at all? Would we, should we, pander to their demands? After all, the very meaning of the word naturism in my dictionary is “communal nudity or nudity practised openly, sometimes in the belief that it encourages self-respect, respect for others and a feeling of being in harmony with nature.”
We are not like the many varied industries that use naked bodies just to get noticed! We are using nudity to sell nudity, plain and simple. I like photos that depict nudity without being obvious; by that, I mean none of those shots of men who stand, legs apart, hands on hips as if to say: “Look at me, look what I’ve got!” Is it truly a natural pose for men, or is it as false as I feel it is? Maybe I am wrong and the expression “If you’ve got it, flaunt it!” is acceptable?
Neither do I favour naked females in falselooking poses; sometimes, a little erotically and supposedly in the name of art. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and maybe sexual connotations are too. Perhaps what I see as a sexual pose is all in my mind and to someone else, it’s an innocent artistic shot and a thing of beauty. I even wonder if it is my subconscious jealous thoughts as a female that make me see these pictures as unsuitable, as I am sure male readers do not complain about their existence.
I’m always defending naturism as a nonsexual nudity, but by printing provocative poses, we could be attracting people who are convinced we are using the guise of a naturist club to fulfil our sexual interests. There are still many who cannot differentiate nudity from sexual connotations, and I feel so protective towards the much-improved reputation of naturists that I just don’t want anything to spoil it and undo the progress we have made.
So what photos would I be happy with? Any taken in the same way you would do when clothed: happy holiday snaps, of sunny days and momentous events – not of people who look like they have quickly stripped off and posed, before hastily dressing again before they are spotted. Take photos of people and things as they happen; with them feeling comfortable with their bodies. The more natural they look, the more acceptable they become to others. But is total and full-frontal nudity necessary to promote naturism? We all have the right to decide whether we wish to share our nudity with the public, so it should never be forced and you should never feel guilty if you prefer to remain private. Should we have natural naturists or provocative poses? Let me know what you think.