Q: What got you into naturism/nudism?
A: A year of saying yes to everything! Fancy coming to a naked beach-yes! I then discovered the British Naturism community and never looked back. A lot of events in the beginning involved spas and coffee and cake? My favourite things!
Q: Is there a difference between the two labels?
A: To me not really, if I had to, naturism would be more respectful to nature and the world around us, nudism is someone who is naked. The UK tends to use Naturist and US Nudist. Not sure it really matters.
Q: How does it impact your life on a day-to-day basis?
A: Day to day not that much, dressed for work, dressed to do school run, dressed to shop. A lot of women would understand coming home and unhooking and taking a bra off, it's exactly the same, except I take everything off. Undress - destress!
Q: What challenges do women face in naturism?
A: Within our organised events, as a group of naturists. I would say not that many, though it's like striping away layers. As a naturist woman, I've already accepted my body, complete with lumps, bumps and scars. I am what I am, I've never been an airbrushed model. As a woman in her late 30s/ early 40s, there aren't that many women of a similar age. The numbers increased with age. I've never found any problem finding women to chat to at events. There can be a gender imbalance, at times, but it depends where it is. I've found open to all events more balanced than those who use quotas.
As a solo woman, at BN/ naturist events I've felt safe and happy. On the naturist beach with a friend, I didn't feel so safe. Not all people on a naturist beach have a naturist attitude. As a solo single naturist woman, men had commented that I could have the pick of men, or you'll have no trouble getting club membership as a solo woman. Not true, as a younger single solo woman, comments were passed about taking husbands! I just want to enjoy myself and socialise, if I wanted a husband, I'd have kept my own years ago!
Women can be targeted by males, who have non naturist intentions. I'm happy that I have a safe physical and online community, where people safeguard and monitor all BN events. Any hint of uncomfortableness people would be identified and potentially removed or you can report to a team member who will always listen and take it seriously.
As a younger woman, I still menstruate, I don't always feel comfortable naked in these circumstances, I'd suggest to all women, do what you feel comfortable with. I've put on huge bikini knickers! Then heard comments about why is she wearing them? Thought she was a naturist. I'm not sure if this man had forgotten about his wife in her 60s or just never noticed, but I do what I feel comfortable with.
Q: How can we encourage more women to try it?
A: It's something you can't explain, it's something you have to try to understand. A lot of men think it's about the sexualisation side, but before they it was more my body confidence. Overweight, stretch marks, two children, lumps, bumps, scars. It wasn't thinking I'm not sexy, I was thinking I hate my body.
I think women only sessions, women meets and greets, women question and answers, potentially a woman on front door to Greet. Let women go at their own pace, let them try clothes optional. I've seen women pushed into it with their partner, all off or not allowed in, and she's never come back again.
The BN magazine and photo galleries display a lot of women in candid shots having fun, not showing bums or boobs, the photos are more about their expressions and enjoyment, than posed models. Not having photos that seem to objectify women is a huge difference to other publications, BN president Dr Mark Bass, has taken some amazing photos without us even noticing, obviously within BN we have a photo policy, everyone opts in for photographs.
Q: How can women help in desexualising nudity?
A: I'm not sure? Is it in the man's head or woman's head? I don't strip naked and walk around feeling sexy. Men have asked what if I get an erection, the best way I can explain is you are thinking of me talking to me in a strip club, I feel more like I'm in a queue in a supermarket, talking to the person in queue next to me.
Q: How can we encourage body positivity and acceptance?
A: By example, by showing ourselves in our natural states, our bodies tell our stories, lines, stretch marks, scars, birthmarks, I have friends who've had mastectomies,, leg amputation, permanent catheters, colostomy bags, it really doesn't matter, you don't have to hide it as a naturist, you can't hide it so it's just accepted that is you, and this is how you come. You can't hide behind clothes, underwear that pulls you in or fills you out. Being around naked women and men, shows you a true representation of the human form, in all its shapes, sizes and colours. It gives us a level playing field, teachers, doctors, lawyers, bus drivers, refuse collectors, window cleaners. Really doesn't matter if you arrived by train or by a brand new car, everyone's the same, the only thing that I would ever pass judgement on is if you were there for the wrong reasons, and those people are spotted quite easily. Only way is to be ourselves and invite others to join in, it's not just women who have low body confidence either, I may never have great body confidence, but I have acceptance of that
Q: What advice would you offer to women curious about naturism?
A: The easiest way is to try! The amount of people who say after 20 minutes they forgot they were naked. Look at the website, look at magazines, look at the guide of the year. Or just ask! If you're a BN member and your female partner is curious, give her my profile page, come to coffee morning or pub quiz online, or monthly woman's morning, let her sit with you dressed, meet us, ask us questions. I've found that most naturist women are genuine women, they will give you an honest answer. Most naturists would be happy to speak to anyone interested and recommend places they know and love to try.
I have a mantra from Susan Jefferies that's gotten me through a lot the last few years... feel the fear, and do it anyway. Just the once, if you don't like it at the end of whatever you've tried, it's a story and a memory to share. Though I think you'd be putting the next one in the diary.
Q: What drives your passion in promoting naturism?
A: Do I promote it or do I just join in because I love it and want others to enjoy it too? I guess I'm a very vocal Northerner, so my voice travels, so why not use it? I'm happy to support my friends and club initiatives, promote an event or beach trip and then attend and say what I enjoyed about it. I guess just speaking to people over what I've enjoyed is my way of promotion. If I didn't enjoy what I do, I wouldn't speak about it.
Q: Is your family supportive?
A: I didn't know any one, my family didn't do nudity, my mother was a little shocked, a horrified daughter! Actually explaining what it means and means to me, they are supportive of my decisions, they choose not to partake, but happy I'm happy. My youngest is quite often around for pub quiz nights or coffee mornings, she's co-hosted the forum live with me once or twice too. She won't undress, but would defend my choice to the end. She knows my naturist friends, she's been to British Naturism: Sunfolk with me a few times. She's happy to be dressed and let me be me. She always gets an invite, it's up to here to join in. My mum almost came to a club day with me when she found out they had a subsidised bar, with G&T for a pound!
Q: Any other thoughts?
A: The only way I can explain it is to do it, feel the fear and do it anyway. If you'd like a friendly chat first feel free to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or our Women in Naturism lead, Helen.