Naturism and Images – It’s All About the Intention – Part 1

Genital free “safe” image. Obviously nude but not threatening.

There is a continual controversy on Twitter and on other social media sites that purport to deal with naturism, that argue about images that are tagged as naturist where and when the genitals are seen. I know I waver back and forth between allowing full frontal images of myself and “safe” photos where body positioning or judicious cropping takes care of the possibility of offending. But when I do this, I become the problem. At that moment, I stop being authentic and hope that somehow I can be in the collective, well at least a small corner of the collective.

See me? I have a Penis.

Many of the images are blatantly not about naturism, but rather about individuals desperately posting images of themselves with the focus fully on their genitals – “see me, I have a penis … am I not amazing!” Yes, the vast majority of these genital images are posted by men.

Fuck me ….

And there are images of women that scream, “fuck me.” In any of these images, you will not get a glimpse of a real human being vulnerable because of their nudity. There is no intention to present an authentic image of themselves. There is no reaching out to the world to invite you into their world through their images. These genital images are all about clichés, about distracting and hiding the truth of those whose images are being presented.

Both the man and the woman above are hiding their authentic self from the world by projecting another layer of camouflage. Yes, they are naked, but the intention of the images tell us that their nakedness is about their genitals, not about them, confirming our collective belief in clichés. We look, we leer, we are aghast, we respond to the clichés individually and collectively. And in turn, we reinforce the notion that nudity in which the genitals are present, is really all about porn and perversion, that our own naked bodies are somehow to be hidden or else we become lewd, sexual deviants.

I read an article by Melissa Laflamme who had something to say about clichés:

“I ask myself what would happen if the culturally-prescribed and unconscious roles we can fall into suddenly were shattered, replaced by the need to genuinely connect — to not only love each other without packaging and pretence, free and unpossessed — but rather, to survive and to rebuild not only a life, but an authentic way of loving?”

New Yorker January 10, 2017

She had spoken those words in relation to this image which appeared in the January 10th issue of the New Yorker earlier this year. The author of the article, Chris Wiley, tells us:

One of the most beautiful photographs I know of is an image of a woman standing in the doorway of a barn, backlit in a sheer nightgown, peeing on the floorboards beneath her. It was taken in Danville, Virginia, in 1971, by the photographer Emmet Gowin, and the woman in question is his wife, Edith. The picture is so piercingly intimate that I find it difficult even to look at it. This is not because I feel as if I am intruding, or being shown something that I was not meant to see, but simply because it seems to hover too close to the vital force of human connection. It is too poignant, too alive. Rather than merely avoiding clichés—about love and intimacy, artist and muse, public and private­—the picture seems to repel them, as an amulet repels evil spirits. Clichés are prophylactics against the complexity and intensity of direct experience, tools used to distance ourselves from reality, but this photograph brings love near enough that we can feel its hot breath.

The image, for all of its “shock” is far from being pornographic. Why? It comes down to intentions of the photographer and his wife. There is no, “Look at me I have a vagina,” no “Fuck me” message. I won’t claim to know the intentions of either the photographer or his wife, but I know what isn’t the message.

Tilling the soil

In this image, my penis is present. But the message isn’t the same as in the first  “penis” image above. Here the message is simply about being vulnerably honest. I’m not Adonis, I am just some ordinary guy doing some ordinary stuff. And, I just happen to be doing it while nude. There is no intent to lure some unsuspecting woman or man or child into some sort of sexual activity. The intent is to finish the task of tilling.

We need images such as this to reclaim our bodies from the clichés that we have somehow adopted as truths about our human condition.

Self-Doubts as a Naturist – It’s the Norm

The sun is out and it is freezing temperatures.

There was no way that I spent many minutes outdoors this morning while nude. Hopefully that changes this afternoon so that I can enjoy a cup of coffee in the sunshine. Until then, I have time to get down to my writing business, But in the meantime, I have a few thoughts that I want to share about some of the anxieties and issues faced by a naturist who has a spouse who isn’t a naturist.

This morning I had an opportunity to talk to another naturist who is a friend on Twitter. Like myself, this person is struggling with feelings of self-respect in terms of relationship. When a person is a naturist and his or her partner isn’t, there is a natural tension that creeps into the relationship. This isn’t anything new as all relationships struggle with differences between partners that may have nothing to do with nudity. For example, when a partner is a stay-at-home type when one is needing to interact with others and be active, there is tension. However, when it comes to one person being nude or needing nudity, there is an extra element that figures into the mix – a lack of support outside of the relationship.

Society as  whole, and our families, friends, and neighbours aren’t all that supportive of the idea of nudity, especially social nudity. So we struggle on our own with our situation. Self-doubt creeps in and we often deny ourselves of opportunities that present themselves to us. Perhaps if we just tried harder to keep our clothes on, it would get better and we wouldn’t need nudity at all? I’ve been there and tried that with no success. If anything, the feelings of self-betrayal when it comes crashing down – betrayal of self, and of partner, highlight our inability to disown the inner naturist that is clamouring to come out to be recognised and affirmed. We feel guilty about failing with our resolve to be “normal.”

Then, out of desperation to appease self and other, we become naturists only when alone, naturists in hiding in the house or in a private and secluded outdoor setting. For the most part, it is a lonely experience. But it isn’t enough to spend alone time nude. Something inside asks for more and more. We need to have others recognise and accept us as naturist, especially other naturists. So we turn to social media hoping that it will fill in the emptiness that needs filling.

For a while, we find what we are looking for in terms of connecting with others. However, it isn’t long before we realise that in the end, we are simply sitting alone somewhere with a computer, tablet or smart phone talking to others who are similarly alone. Social media is a head space experience, not a whole body experience. We still need the physical presence of others.

Turning back to our partners in our relationships, we try again to “fit in” or have them join us in experiencing naturism. By this time, both parties are well aware that the issue of nudity  is creeping into a front-and-centre position in the relationship. There needs to be resolution. Yet, when there is polarity differences, a win-win resolution becomes less-and-less hopeful. It isn’t because there is a lack of love in the relationship that plays a significant role in the tensions and strains on the relationship. Rather, it is love that makes the whole experience even more painful.

So, once again, the naturist typically retreats and attempts to disavow naturist tendencies in hopes of easing the hurt, the suffering for both the partner and the self.  But, the self can’t be denied. Secrecy and silence enter into the relationship – not a secrecy that could be characterised as cheating, for there isn’t an attempt to find a more compatible partner. It is more of an underground secrecy that is attempting to diffuse tension at the surface level of relationship. Of course, that is doomed to failure.

Then we retreat into an inner fantasy of wishful thinking, creating scenarios where we revel in all those experiences and gatherings we believe lie out there. Relationship becomes harder and harder to be in, especially in a manner that says  with honesty that “I am here, fully present, with free will, and full heart.”

Shaking our heads in disgust and disappointment with ourselves, we retreat from naturism over and over again in an endless cycle of attempts and failures to be like everyone else.

So what then?

Surprises While Skyclad and Pruning

Preparing our bushes for winter with a pruning.

I have been busy in the yard today, as the temperatures are warming up. While doing the pruning as pictured to the left, it was a balmy 18 Celsius. Little did I realise that the activity would become a lesson for me.

My neighbour walked into the yard in order to borrow a leaf blower. Nothing unusual with this as neighbours borrow things when needed. My wife had set out the leaf blower for her on a bench beside the garage. When she entered the yard and saw me pruning, she gave a start and began apologising for intruding on my space. My first thoughts were, “Oh, shit, I am in for it now. I’ve just offended one of my wife’s best friends.” Before much could be said, she went to the bench and picked up the blower then left the yard, again apologising.

Later, when I was done with my pruning, which I continued to do while skyclad, I went into the house and put on some clothes. I knew that “we” needed to have a talk as this is the neighbour who had just removed the trees, and in the process exposed my back deck to her view, as well as any who might visit her. She was still working in the yard, and came over to talk with me on the deck. She reaffirmed my earlier beliefs that my nudity wasn’t offensive to her. She was simply surprised as she thought I wasn’t in the yard. Had she known, she would have waited until another time to get the leaf blower.  She didn’t display any signs of nervousness or uneasiness while talking with me.

What I learned was that though nudity wasn’t her thing, she had no issue with my being a nudist in my own yard. With that lesson, I realise that the real issue is inside my own head. I also learned (well was reminded) that my yard is a mini community space with regard to my neighbours. And, as such, I need to pick and choose my time nude in the yard with more care so as to not shock or cause any distress. Almost all of my neighbours are women, older women who have not had the best of lives at the had of the men in their pasts.

This isn’t about being afraid of being reported, but more about being sensitive to needs of others. I wonder how this will look for me in the future when it comes to my being nude in my back yard. I am not about to build privacy fences with locked gates. Our neighbours are friends.

A Dozen Naturist Books Found New Homes

Sunset silhouette on the way home.

As expected, I made the drive to the city while nude. I made a stop about twenty-five minutes into the journey in order to fill up the car with gas. I did put on my clothes for this but was soon nude again before pulling out of the gas station. I found two photo locations en route for my naturist photo archives. I stopped once more on the outskirts of the city in order to put clothing back on so that I would avoid any trouble for the remaining minutes to the book location.

The day in the city went well. I managed to sell twelve books in just two hours including one of my poetry books. My best expectations had been for eight books, a hesitant expectation since none of the autobiography books were included in the book signing event at Word On The Street. Once that event was done, I spent some time volunteering with the writers’ guild. It was a quiet two hours and I was finally ready to head home once I had purchased the things on our grocery list.

The above photo was taken just as the sun was setting, a silhouette that doesn’t show that I was nude. But then again, it doesn’t have to as long as I am aware of that fact. My photos are taken for me at this point in my life. They aren’t meant to prove anything to anybody else. Still, I enjoy sharing the occasional photo with others who will not find them offensive. Just like these words here, the images are snapshots of an ordinary life being lived nude when possible.

 

 

Challenging Others With One’s Nudity

Holly in her hot tub as a reward for a day well spent.

It’s interesting how weather reflects what we do and when we do it. In the U.K. my friend Holly enjoys sunshine while here on the prairies in  Canada, we are under dark skies with very cool temperatures, occasional drizzle, and a breeze that makes it feel even colder.

Blustery day by the lake

Needless to say, I didn’t spend much time in the water. Yes, I did go in for a short while, but the water was definitely not warm.

The scene above with dark clouds, is reflective of how I am experiencing my life at the moment. I slip, periodically, into regions of darkness where the rules don’t seem to exist; that is, rules which keep one balanced and “civilised.” In this state of mind, I have been known to burn my journals, permanently delete photos (of myself only), and cause psychic mayhem. Knowing this, I am listening closely to what is bubbling within. Often, the shadow has something important to teach me. And in doing this, I came to realise that keeping a double life in terms of blog sites, was unhealthy for me, and likely something that caused distress to many who are in my face-to-face world.

As a result of this, I have deleted all but three posts at Through a Naturist Lens, since all of those posts and more are already posted here. These posts are less censored in terms of images, perhaps more honest because of that. I am leaving the other site in place because of my books which contain a link to that site. The posts remaining there explain why I am a naturist and that is about it.

I will continue to lead a double life in the world on this side of the computer screen, much like my friend Holly, because of family and community. Not many are truly comfortable in having to deal with a naked, older male. Now if I was a younger, female person such as Holly, I would hazard a guess that fewer would be challenged in seeing me nude.

Negotiating a Naturist Presence

Removing the sheet protecting the Swiss Chard

I was up early this morning, too early, because my head was swirling with scenes and possibilities with my planned new novel. Four o’clock in the morning is too early. I waited until five before turning on the coffee maker. By five-thirty, my wife and I were again looking out at the darkness waiting for the first hints of light to divulge the hills hidden in the darkness, hills that are a good six kilometres away as the crow flies. The overnight temperature dropped to one degree Celsius, a slight improvement from yesterday’s minus one temperature. By seven-thirty it warmed up to three degrees. so I went out to the garden to take off the sheet and blanket that we use to protect the few remaining veggies – Swiss Chard and Zucchini Squash.

In the early dawn’s light, on my back deck overlooking my neighbour’s yard.

My neighbour had three trees taken down yesterday, Boxelders, as they were hosting a huge population of box elder bugs. I will have to take down a young maple tree so that the bugs don’t migrate to it and infest my yard. With those trees down, the view into my neighbour’s yard, and vice-a-versa, from my deck is virtually open with only a few thin cedar trees providing any sort of privacy screen. What that will mean in the future as for my being nude on my back deck is undetermined. Her privacy, is now compromised. If I am on my back deck, she won’t be able to ignore the fact of my nudity other than by avoiding being in her back yard, or by my refraining from being nude on my deck. She has seen me nude in the past, and that was okay in small doses. No protest was ever given, so there is hope that there will be no problems in the future.

Each of us finds ourselves constantly negotiating our presence in the world of others. As we transform, the others around us change in response to us, As the environment changes, we change. How we change, and how the others around us change in response, demands that we reframe our understanding of ourselves and of the others around us. The greatest danger is to get stuck in old understandings which become like shoes we have outgrown. We end up harming ourselves psychologically in ways that leave us angry, depressed, and unkind to the others around us.

There is only one problem that presents itself, the fact that people rarely talk in any depth about the changes and their affect on intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships. Do I talk to my neighbour or just let time and experience teach me, and in return her? Or, do we both pretend that nothing has changed?

Planning the Skyclad Writing to Come

Touch-up painting

Today has been a long time coming. New tub and tub surround, new toilet, new sink, repaired walls, new baseboards, refurbishing the cabinet above the sink, and a host of small tasks that swirled around all of these steps in giving our bathroom a new look.

I got busy with preparations before breakfast and finished before it was time to eat lunch. Now, I am finding myself free – well at least for a short while – for some time here on the computer. That freedom will be short lived as I have to pick up a new roto-tiller for our garden, an afternoon project. When that is done, I have to winterise our small camper. I am thinking that these will be tomorrow projects. I don’t expect that I will actually till the garden for a few more weeks, so at least that is on hold.

A few thoughts on the new novel series are finding their way to the surface. I expect to begin the actual writing of the novel at the beginning of November, a time that should allow me to do most of the needed research before then. So far, this is what I have come up with:

  • One idea was to have the protagonist a man from the present time. I am leaning towards having René Beauchemin, the protagonist in both the Small Company of Pilgrims, and It’s Complicated, be the time traveller. Since I have already positioned him as an immortal because of his ability to recall his past lives.
  • A second idea is to ignore the theme of mythology and immortals, and simply have each novel in the series tell about the life and times of a family through the generations in North America up until somewhere around the near present. This parallels the first idea minus the link to the present and René Beauchemin.
  • A third idea is to have each novel be a period piece with no link from one novel to the next other than a loose chronology of history. This seems to be the most difficult, especially in trying to make it readable for a general reading audience.

If you were to think of reading a series of novels that tells the tale of Canada, and New England from 1600’s to around 1970, which of the above three approaches would be the most appealing. I look forward to your comments.