Self Censorship

Self as author of fear

I used this same image for a different post at Naturist Lens, with a difference. I cropped it so that it would be more “acceptable.” I took the photo early in the morning before I did anything else other than check out the weather out-of-doors.  What was that all about, the self-censorship? Or, perhaps an even more important question, “Why on earth did I take the photo knowing the state of my “member?”

Before I delve deeper into the questions, I want to note that I have quite a number of “friends” who take self-images, some of them selfies while other images are more composed using timers and such. With very few exceptions, everyone has a number of “those” images which straddle or cross the line of what “others” would deem as being “appropriate” nude images, especially in the naturist communities. Even a number of those who protest an image such as mine which has an awakened sexuality to it, have similar images of themselves – and counted among my friends-with-nude-photos, are both men and women.

Defiant in nature and hiding from the eyes of others, angry at self and others that I must hide.

I have experienced, especially in the case of men, a chorus of voices who want such images purged from the Internet, citing how such images negatively impact the core values of naturism. The naturist community wants to desperately accepted by the broader community and will censor its members [pun intended] to ensure that the larger public will be appeased. In the case of women, I have witnessed more than a few being censored for displaying too much. The community slips into shaming these women. Now, in the naturist communities, the resulting behaviour has many women wearing sarongs so as to appease those who demand that we are naked, while at the same time, protecting our image as non-sexual nudists. I know, it is ludicrous.

I am not a threat to others. If anything, in spite of what the image just above would have you believe, I am judged a kind and sensitive man. During the years I was an administrator, I was judged too soft to be a leader. Yet the people I led respected me and felt safe under my leadership. Still, the image says something about me. Why am I defiant, potentially even angry in the photo? There was no one else anywhere near other than passing autos just out of view. As a psychotherapist, I had to pay attention to the image, my image. Just like I listen to my dreams [and those of others when I am at work as a therapist], I knew that something about my inner psyche was being exposed.

Risking exposure yet, the censor appears regardless.

Having the fortunate experience of meeting like-mined people in cyberspace, the world of social media, I am learning that women are experiencing much the same thing. When we look at ourselves through our images, we discover things we never knew about ourselves, even if the images are tourist selfies in front of monuments and waterfalls. We become more conscious of who we are. Armed with that knowledge, we aren’t passive victims of the inner darkness within each of us. It was a good thing that I didn’t censor either image as they show me aspects of me that would otherwise remain unknown. Yet, when it comes to publishing blog posts here on the Internet, we either self-censor our images or have others who have the authority censor them in spite of our conscious [or unconscious] intentions.

It’s my body, my choice

The truth is, it really isn’t the broader community or the naturist community that plays the largest role of censoring our images, or how we live even if only a few hours a day, as nudists and naturists. The loudest voice that attempts to shame us, to contain us … well, it is ourselves. We allow the voices of parents and teachers and community to take up residence in our heads and we then amplify their voices. We only do this when we are uncertain about trusting ourselves. You know, the old “Father Knows Best!” kind of dictum. Sometimes we amplify the voices of our mates who are not naturists or nudists. “Thy will, not mine,” prevails.

Your opinion is irrelevant, this is for me, not you.

Yet, in spite of all of these competing voices, but within and without, we take the photos or have them taken of us, for us. It is within these images that we begin to see below the level of “noise” and thus find the self that lies hidden, a more authentic self that is sensitive, honest, frightened, angry, loving, an artist, a warrior, and even nobility. It is all there in the photographs before the censor puts in an appearance, especially the ones we don’t dare show to the “public.”

We see this captured in the face of the images taken. What do the eyes tell us of that moment when we risked all, when the censor within is silenced, if only for a few moments while the shutter clicks capturing the truth?

Nudity and Normality in Ecuador’s Ancient Past

Venus of Valdivia

I am in Ecuador as many of my readers know already. I am situated along the Pacific coast in the province of Santa Elena, the home of the Valdivia Culture.

Statue of the Venus of Valdivia in Valdivia town

The town of Valdivia isn’t very far from the town where I am staying in Olon. The Valdivian culture goes back to somewhere around 3,500 BC, that is more than 5,000 years ago. What is amazing about this “Venus” is that there are likely thousands of the little statuettes in existence, all of the unique. The archaeological research points to the idea that each one is based on a real woman. As my Ecuadorian friend pointed out to me, This symbol of fertility was honoured by everyone in every woman. Lost among the all of these little statuettes and the fame that followed, is the fact that there are many nude male statuettes as well.  Of course, since Ecuador is an equatorial country, the weather would naturally have the earliest peoples living for the most part, nude.

Manteño Seat unearthed in Olon and now located in Casa Valdivia.

The owner of the property had done some excavation work in preparing to build a condo complex, and to install a drainage system to take care of excess rain. He uncovered a wealth of clay and ceramic pieces from the Valdivian culture as well as a couple from a later culture, the Manteño culture that existed along the Pacific coast of Ecuador from around 500 AD to 1500 AD. The most impressive find was a  Manteño Seat, which he called a Power Seat. Archaeologists have concluded that such seats were used by village headmen and shamans, which would confirm that idea of the stone seat being a sort of a seat of power.

Of course, I just had to try the seat out.  After all, an old psychotherapist is almost a modern day shaman.

Gloomy Weather and Darkness in Our Souls

I took this image a few moments ago. This is the rainy season in Ecuador. Since January was all about sunshine, and because there are still sunny interludes, I am getting darker with each passing day. Of course, I would be darker still if I was able to sunbathe while nude, either on the property or along the beach front. It is what it is, and so I adapt as best I can.

This gloomy weather is being accentuated by the gloom and doom of events in my country, and our neighbouring southern partner, the USA. I don’t often use my blog site for commenting about any of these gloom and doom events such as the recent shooting of 17 in a Florida High school, or the Racism uproar in Canada following the acquittal of a farmer in Saskatchewan following the shooting death of a youth from a nearby Reserve. But, I find that I have to speak out my mind. I am torn in the process. The collective unconscious being set loose in both countries is troubling, and downright scary if one follows the polarisation that is growing in both countries. So, I will take a few moments here to talk about the shit in my own back yard – Saskatchewan, Canada.

We have a problem. One faction wants to have farmers better able to protect their families and property, their livelihood that feeds our country and many other countries of the world. The problem is that enabling the use of firearms to protect private property and life hasn’t worked anywhere else in the world where laws permit the ownership and use of guns. Our neighbour to the south are the best example I can use to illustrate this “solution” to a real problem of violence being suffered in rural areas, especially rural areas near reserves, though not limited to those areas. Shooting deaths don’t really solve any problems, however they do highlight the fact that there are problems laying beneath the surface events that are cancerous and festering.

In Canada, the recent case involving a white farmer and a local aboriginal youth has resulted in a lot of spillover anger on both sides of the ever-growing divide:

The online response to the acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the death of Colten Boushie has taken on a life of its own with people hurling hate and throwing a substantial amount of money at two rival GoFundMe fundraising campaigns.

No one, it seems, wants to look beneath the surface. It’s too confusing and too much work. Besides, one needs to be willing to leave polarised truths aside to actually listen to what the “enemy” is saying. I have a background in First Nations Studies, have taught in First Nation communities, as well as having a strong background in Canadian History. I know everyone keeps saying that we have to let go of the past and move on to building a better future. But how do you do that without knowing the roots of the problems that have led us to this point in time?

We have an Indian Act, the Constitution of 1763 when the English took control of Canada, the treaties signed between two “nations” or “peoples.” The First Nations people didn’t even have the status of being Canadians until the 1960s. No matter hard hard you try, or how much sense it makes, you can’t dismiss history. The Supreme Court would have no choice but to continue to apply all these past documents to any legal challenges.

The world has changed. When I went north to teach in the furthest north school in Saskatchewan, trapping was a legitimate economic activity. With the work of environmentalists, that way of making a living was destroyed. However, no other economic livelihood took its place. You can’t farm or ranch in the north. You can’t get a part-time job at MacDonald, or be a cashier at Walmart on a northern reserve. This is a fact that creates new problems in these modern times on northern reserves. When you factor into the problem how Residential Schooling created a generations deep problem that left parents dysfunctional and unable to properly raise their children, life on the reserve becomes chaotic and dangerous. I don’t want to turn this post into a litany of woes, but it is necessary to realise that if you live on a reserve, especially as a young person, life sucks big time.

So, the voices clamour, “Get them off the reserves so that they can get a decent education and jobs.” Do you have any meaningful solutions to make this happen? These solutions have to fit within the legal guidelines upon which our country was built if there is a chance for being put into place.

If there is to be any effective solution, it can only come when the leaders of the First Nations, the provinces, and the Government of Canada sit down together to go back to square one and build a new accord. Nothing else will work because you can’t through out a few centuries of law. If I had my way, we’d have all these key players put into a room with the doors locked and the keys hidden until there is a consensus on doing the work to solve the roots of the problem.

However, even should this miracle come to pass, we still have a problem with racism. Of course there are no innocents in this. Both sides are racist, seeing the other as a threat. It doesn’t matter if one is black and the other white, or any other colour in between. Racism exists. It takes a lot of guts to look at oneself in the mirror and admit this and then to work at rooting out behaviours and attitudes that feed racism. There is no law or government agency or law court that will solve the racism problem. This is a problem that can only be solved by each individual, on their own. A wife can’t turn her husband around. She can only make sure that she becomes a more open and accepting person. Even after all the work, the “racist within” will always be lurking waiting to escape and cause havoc. It isn’t easy. No one said it would be easy.

Until then, the best that one can do is not feed the anger and stoke the fires of racism, of darkness. Thing of your children and grandchildren, and the young people yet to be born in our country. No matter how hard it might be to work together, the rewards will be worth it.

Full Metal Bullets at the Winter Olympics

I am impressed with the achievements of all the athletes who compete at the Olympics, both summer and winter versions of the event. I mean, simply to qualify to compete is an accomplishment of human will and sacrifice. Make no mistake about it, to get to these games requires an intensity of commitment: physical, emotional, economic, and of relationships that most of us would shy away from even if we had the genetic potential to be an Olympian.

As I was surfing the news about the Olympics, I came across a photo that surprised me – three statues of penises at the Olympic Village. Now, would one classify this as a “dic pic’? Something tells me “No!” Sure, you can’t see the face and you can see the penis, and the whole thing is in the shape of a penis. So what is it about the statues that has one wonder why are they there? How is this in any way related to South Korea and to the Olympics? I mean, women are there competing as well.

They are statues erected  in 2009 by artist Kim Ji-Hyun which represent the “human desire for wonderful body, wealth, and honor in concrete images.”

Chinese zodiac in Penis Park

So, I did a bit more research and found that the penis has been featured in many other statues in various locations in the country. The most famous of which, is what foreigners call “Penis Park” – go ahead and look it up.

We tend, as North Americans, to view the Koreas, China, and other eastern countries as being about as far as one can be from being naturist or nude friendly. Their art seems to suggest something else completely, at least at the subconscious level.

Now, about the three statues in the Village – as I mentioned above, the Olympics is not just about male athletes, women are an integral part of the modern Olympics. Yet, somehow, at least how I see it, perhaps there is something suitable after all. If one takes the erect penis as a symbol of power, strength, and ego, then one is dealing with archetype rather than a simple definition of man and woman.

The “masculine” traits and “feminine” traits have nothing to do with whether one is male or female. I am a man, with a penis, yet I am often described as having “feminine” aspects of my way of being. I could [and often did] protest at this characterisation though what was noted was in truth, reality. Many men don’t have the needed power, strength, or ego to succeed in preparing for, and competing in the Olympics. The men who do make it have a singular purpose that is cast in steel within their psyche. The same holds true for the women who are competing at the Olympics.  So maybe, just maybe, there might be something appropriate after all in placing these statues in teh Village. Repeat … maybe.

Costa Natura in Spain with Miles and Molly

Costa Natura from the clothing optional beach – Estepona, Spain

Heading to the hot tub

Condo 461

A couple of years ago, my wife and I spent two weeks at Costa Natura Nudist Resort in southern Spain. It was October and somehow we lucked out with decent weather for most of the time. When I found out that Miles and Molly, happy people living in the UK had recently been to Costa Natura as well, and had taken photos from their time at the nudist resort, I contacted them for permission to create a blog post using a few of their photos.

Miles and Molly at Costa Natura

I have known this couple for some time as friends on Twitter and we are recently connected via Flickr as well. One of the things that I value most about them is the obvious joy they have being with each other, a joy that spills over into playful presence that they don’t hesitate to share with the rest of the world.

Miles

The world is filled with cloudy and dark news and sometimes it seems to be too much to cope with, especially with world leaders who don’t mind trashing women, human rights, the environment, or even the rights and freedoms of their own people.

Molly

However, the world isn’t all dark. There are enough people who have a vision and the will to live their vision – and here I am talking about naturists and nudists. People like Miles and Mollie show us that underneath all of our posing and pretence, we are human.

I often wonder just what it is about shedding one’s clothing that somehow opens one’s mind. Coupled with travel to other countries and other cultures, a naturist loses that ethnocentric rabid nationalism that is killing our hopes for a future planet for our grandchildren and the generations yet to come. When I consider my naturist friends, even those whom I only know through their virtual presence thanks to Twitter, Flickr, and other platforms, I find myself hopeful of a better future, a future they and I are trying to build through social nudity, reaching out to others to build a better world built on honesty at the basic level.

Lukas Searching For Sunshine

Lukas protected by a windbreak and basking in winter sunshine

Searching for sunshine is a heightened, more conscious activity for naturists and nudists. So many of us live in climates where winter brings colder weather and darker skies. Those of us, like myself, who have the means, search out for cheap rental places in tropical and sub-tropical locations. These cheap places do exist but they don’t include much. They are definitely not all-inclusive places. In my case, an old casa next door to a local family of three generations that keeps chickens, dogs, cats, and a parrot in a building that looks like it should be demolished to make room for a “proper” house.

A windbreak has its own warmth

But many naturists and nudists are not retired with a pension. If they have the means, they take their annual holiday to a resort or condo rental in a place where winter sunlight and warmth are almost promised. As a result, we do the best that we can. Even when the temperature drops to only 5 degrees Celsius, we find a spot outdoors, if even for just a matter of minutes, to remind ourselves and our bodies of the freedom and feelings of well-being that comes from being outdoors such as Lukas, my friend from The Netherlands, has learned.

sun, nature and a sense of belonging

I am in a warm climate as I write this, however the skies have been dark for almost a week. Still, I walk the beach seeing so many who have only a week, or a long weekend to enjoy the sea. They take what they can with the absence of the sun. I know that I would find myself saddened if I didn’t find any sunshine when that was my objective for a tropical vacation. It is at these kind of times that I turn back to moments of the past that I have captured on film, reminded that this warm and sunny season is coming back. Like Lukas, I take what is given realising that there is a bigger picture within which we exist. And so I learn patience.

Pushing the Boundaries of Acceptable Nudity

Suitably covered to avoid an issue

I don’t know my original intention when I took this photo. I have this “wrap” which I had redesigned and re-purposed for my use when I needed to quickly cover up my nudity because of some situation. Normally I wear shorts when not on the balcony; however, I keep this wrap nearby should I need to respond to anyone who hails me from the yard, or to make a trip downstairs for another cup of coffee or for some tea. In spite of the occasional “skirt” comment, this isn’t a problem for me.

Challenging the boundaries

In spite of that, I risk full exposure and whatever storm that might arise should I be caught with my proverbial “pants down.” Naturally, when I do take these risks, I do so only after having ascertained that the likelihood of being seen is extremely low. In a way, it is a challenge to myself, not a dare. There is always an “edge” to taking such risks. The one that I feel has most value is that occasional, partial glimpses by others leads to a normalising of seeing me nude by others. A second value is in the sharing here where others can relate to the issue of boundaries.

Which boundaries are more self-imposed than by others? If the past four years of my life are any indication, casual nudity is likely to be more tolerated by others than one would believe. I was first seen nude by a neighbour woman who had come to our house through our back yard. Seeing me sitting nude in the kitchen, she stopped and continued looking until I realised that she was there. I was in a panic as I was sure that she would report me, tell everyone in the community about the pervert two doors down, and worse still, tell my wife. None of that happened. I reached for a towel to cover up and then opened the glass patio door which had been locked for her. Since that time, she has frequently seen me nude, almost always arriving without notice when I am likely to be nude.

A similar situation occurred with my next-door neighbour three years ago. I was sitting on my back deck, tucked into a corner by the patio doors when she came into our back yard in search of some garden produce. When she finally realised that I was there, sitting without any clothing on as I wrote using my laptop, she hesitated, then approached to ask about getting something from our garden. Like the first neighbour, she has seen me nude on numerous occasions with one major difference. She only gets to see me nude outdoors, and never with the intention of doing so on purpose.

Other neighbours have seen me as well, and no one makes any comment about it. It happens and it isn’t about intentionally trying to disturb them and they know it. I wouldn’t have arrived at this point in my life if I hadn’t dared to extend my boundaries, if I had limited myself to only being nude in my home office.