Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nude Awakening: The Benefits of Getting Naked

There's a lot more to the nudist/naturist lifestyle than the negative stereotypes. And the movement is seeing a youth revival.

November 20, 2012

The following article first appeared in Bitch Magazine.

Consider the nudist.

In American pop culture, nudists conjure up a strange set of images. None of them are very positive, let alone humanistically celebratory of our physical form. As conventional wisdom has it, nudists are the people you least want to see naked, and their mainstream portrayal is generally played for laughs, if not gags. The title essay in David Sedaris's book Naked, for instance, details the author’s foray into the world of “nude recreation” with descriptions of bug-bitten limbs, dimples on the wrong kind of cheeks, sweaty genitals, and toilet paper stuck to reddened rears. The clothes- free lifestyle may sound sexy, but as Sedaris discovers, it’s anything but.

Perhaps as common a perception is that nudists are naive exhibitionists, and, again, this portrayal in media and popular culture is an emphatic punch line. From an episode of 1970s sitcom Love American Style in which a groom-to- be reluctantly accompanies his bride to the nudist colony where she grew up (“When you said “nudist,” I thought you said “Buddhist”!) to the 2011 film Wanderlust, which features a largely clueless band of hippies at a stranded- in-time backwoods commune, nudists are too often painted as people who, at best, simply don't get other people's discomfort—or, at worst, pressure them into awkward co-nakedness.

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