Breaking the Sexual Silence
Guest Blog by Steve Messmer, YNA Upstate NY
In our last sex-positive blog — Nudity and Sex — we considered that one of the problems we face in reaching non-nudists is the communication gap between the nude and non-nude cultures. There is currently a lack of common language, experience and understanding with some of the misperceptions about social nudity.
Many non-nudies associate nudity with sex. Naturism recognizes we are sexual beings, but for the naturist, social nudity does not mean public or group sex. We need a more sex-positive approach. Not because we want social nudity to mean public sex, but because we need to start where non-nudies start. We must recognize the non-nudist point of view and acknowledge their concerns in a real and clear cut way in order to engage them and show them something different. Therefore, in this sex positive blog, we are going to move ahead and talk about what it means to move beyond sexual silence within naturism. We hope that the discussion may be helpful to non-nudists who are open to naturism but need to understand more realistically what it means from a sexual perspective. Mainstream America needs more than the standard, and somewhat naive statement that ‘social nudity is completely non-sexual.’ Additionally, we are going to consider that perhaps naturism can find additional purpose in dealing with certain aspects of sexuality.
Let’s begin with the basic position of contemporary naturism. We recognize the fact that Naturism is founded on the notion of non-sexual social nudity, rest, relaxation and health. So, a fair question to ask is, why rock the boat? Why move the dialogue beyond the relative safety of this position? Well, perhaps we should consider that this standard position, while relieving the typical misperception that nudity = sex, may leave deeper concerns unexplained. By always responding defensively with the standard ‘non-sexual’ response, are we pre-empting a deeper more meaningful dialogue that may bring some people more eagerly into naturism?
We know that one of the greatest values we share in naturism is body acceptance. There really are a lot of people out there who are struggling with accepting their own bodies as well as others. Right along with that is the whole issue of accepting one’s own sexuality. It may be that non-nudists who take the time to investigate naturism may see our nakedness as the mark of an open, accepting and vulnerable community – the kind in which sexual silence can be broken, and in which it may be safe for them to talk about their bodies and their sexuality. They may be hoping for a place where they can learn about things they have never been able to freely discuss in families, culture, or religious communities, where all things body, all things sexual are simply taboo; where silence and fear reign.
Is it possible that they come from a place where the only sex talk they hear is the empty babble of the media, locker room and the porn industry? Maybe deep down, they don’t really want to hear that our nudity is “a-sexual”? Maybe there are people out there who want to know that we are safe. That nudists are not having sex in public or expecting them to. Perhaps they are hoping that we will be willing to address some of the questions they may have about sexuality in an open and non-judgmental way.
So where are some of those non-nudists coming from? At least the ones we hope may one day join our naked community. Perhaps, the best starting point would first be to ask ourselves – ‘Where did we come from?’ I really can’t speak for anyone except for my wife Susanne and myself, but I bet our story isn’t very different from a lot of other people. So with that in mind, I will share a little about where we came from.
Susanne and I came from a sexually silent ‘textile’ world. The topic of sexuality was just about non-existent in family discussions. We can’t blame the sexual silence in both our families on a commonly shared anti-sex culture – nope! Susanne grew up a continent and ocean away from me. She lived in a sexually liberal, non-religious, middle class family in the land of FKK (free body culture) – Germany. I grew up in an ultra-conservative, religious, middle class family in rural Upstate New York, near Ithaca in the Finger Lakes. Remarkably, in neither household, liberal or conservative, was the word sex uttered in “polite” company.
Sex education in her family came in the form of a pill (“the pill”). In Germany, a girl was quietly handed the pill at puberty because it was assumed that sex is what you do. Whether she wanted it or not any “normal” boyfriend would insist and it was her job to give it to him if she wanted a social life. Pleasing the boyfriend in this way is oddly patriarchal for such a liberal family. What a superficial, oppressive view of sex – just give it but don’t forget the pill. That was the version of her sex education in the liberal German culture.
On the other hand, in my conservative family, all things sex was simply anathema. One didn’t talk about sex other than the single obligatory “birds and bees” talk which was more confusing than helpful. It was assumed that healthy sex would just happen naturally once you were married. No need for parents to speak or teach anything about it as the process of osmosis was assumed operative for sex education.
Silence was the lowest common denominator with respect to sexuality in both our cultures. Usually the scariest, most controversial topics are the ones that don’t get talked about. Therefore, silence, in just about everything, goes hand in hand with doubt, fear, misunderstanding and insecurity. When people are whispering behind your back, you don’t know what they are saying and therefore it must be bad! Yup, the topic of sex is no different. The worst thing parents of all backgrounds can do in regards to sex is to remain silent. Most parents can’t get past their own sexual and body acceptance hang-ups and as a result, they end up passing them on to their children through the deafening sounds of sexual silence.
Understanding sexuality, having healthy body acceptance and ultimately healthy sexual relations isn’t a matter of liberal vs. conservative cultures – both camps seem equally afraid of it. Real sexuality and relationships has to do with true body acceptance and unconditional love. It gets beyond the silly embarrassments. One has to be raw, truthful, nakedly vulnerable to teach and learn about real sexuality. This attitude transcends superficial, social, political, or zealous religious alignments and / or lifestyles such as “conservative” or “liberal.”
Sex is one of the most bantered about topics, but the least understood. Behind all of society’s sexual noise is an astounding vacuum of meaning. The silence is maddening. For us, it translated into serious inhibitions that prevailed in our marriage for years.
Silence is a shroud of negative mystery. It foments fear, guilt, shame and misunderstanding. It wasn’t until we became naturists, got naked, accepted our bodies, our sexuality and that of others that we began to fully understand and shed those destructive inhibitions that had been holding us back for years. Shedding these inhibitions is a process. It is liberating. It is what allowed us to begin anew; the development of a much richer, deeper satisfying sexuality in our own relationship and ultimately a renewed marriage covenant. We fell in love again.
There are many people who are suffering from all kinds of inhibitions. Many have issues about their bodies, their sexuality, their lack of freedom and fulfillment. They are prisoners of these inhibitions stamped into them by sexual silence, negative sexual teaching and in some cases – sexual abuse. This happens despite all the sexual noise and the abundantly available nudity and pornography in our culture today. There seems to be a massive vacuum of real love, real acceptance, real kindness, and real fulfilling sexuality.
So, when people consider trying naturism it’s not as simple as just getting naked. Their reality is like onion skins – multi-layered. They know something is missing, hidden under the layers, but they don’t know what. Against this void, naturism truly represents something different, something hopeful.
Like we did, once they try naturism in its purest form, they feel the love, acceptance and openness of naturism. They experience its relaxing and healing power. The first layers of onion skin are peeled back and the inhibitions begin to melt away. They realize there is more and in their stark nakedness they are revealed as the essentially sexual beings that they are.
Naturists are not asexual humanoid units. We are beautiful beings of raw sexuality and that is how we encounter each other as naked brothers and sisters of all ages and backgrounds. Underneath the layers of textile we are all sexual beings by nature.
Many members of the naturist community gradually realize there is much more to naturism than just being naked. It’s about learning who they are. They really know (many for the first time) that they are not just people who have sex – they learn that they are sex and sexual beings. They begin to really accept themselves, their bodies, their sexuality and the same in others. They can break the silence. They can talk, discover, learn, and grow. How refreshing!
Could it be that sex education is an area where the naturist community could advance? An area where we could develop expertise beyond the sometimes inhibited world many non-nudists inhabit? In this context, sex-positive can be about facing, discovering and teaching about our bodies and our sexuality – an experience many people have never encountered anywhere else. And deep down they hunger for it.
One of the best examples I have seen of this was at the Northeast Naturist Fest at Empire Haven Nudist Park, in Moravia NY. For example, one of the seminars was about understanding our changing bodies. Models of all ages stood before the class, and dialogue ensued. Pointing out and observing changes in the human body that take place throughout life. It is this kind of experience that opens people up to accept themselves even during those challenging times of life, sickness and aging. People long for a safe place where their questions can be answered. A place where they can learn to accept their bodies as well as their sexuality and as a result, they might even begin a renewed sexual experience at home with their partner as a result!
I am going to suggest that in naturism we should have an additional mission. Naturism is not only about health, rest and relaxation but can also be about reaching the non-nudie world. Through a community of openness, vulnerability, and power we might be able to break the cycle of sexual silence in a healing way. Instead of being so quick to always answer that we are only about non-sexual nudity, I suggest we stop to listen. There are deeper needs. We can quiet non-nudist fears by reassuring people we are not about having public sex and orgies, but we are about being natural and sexual beings. We are able and willing to freely and openly teach and talk about real fulfilling sexuality. We should be able to talk about all the different aspects of sex and sexuality without inhibitions, fear or shame. We need to be able and willing to become experts in an area that the rest of the world is embarrassed about or merely exploits for profit. In our nudity we are able to show a way of peace about our bodies and our sexuality because we accept them and love them. Our message is that others can feel that warmth of being at peace because we also accept and love them in their full humanity and sexuality.
In the next blog I will delve deeper into some suggested concepts and language for broadening our understanding and communication of sexuality to the non-nudist world that may be looking to our example as a way to greater body acceptance and healthy sexuality.
About the Author (Author Profile)We are Steve and Susanne, leaders of the YNA Upstate New York Chapter. We enjoy the freedom, relaxation, and healing power of naturism, and are interested in sharing our experiences with others. Please visit our Facebook page facebook.com/ynaupstateny to get acquainted or join in any of our activities.
Well said, Steve! Thank you!
I'm sure you realize we're on a very long road in changing the typical North American's view about public nudity and our own sexuality. But, at least you have a positive, helpful approach for both sides of the worldviews about naturism.
As a sometimes, in the woods Naturist, I'm looking forward to your posts on sex education for adults and a new language.
God bless you!
@garyfpatton Thanks Gary. I agree, it is a verrry long road and an uphill climb. But to use a worn out cliche - every journey starts with a step, so we just do what we can!
Thanks for the feed back. More are coming . . . stay tuned!
Thank you for the review. The series will be continuing!