Nudity and Sex From a Cross-Cultural Perspective

Re-Thinking Nudity and Sex in the Textile vs Naturist World

Guest Blog by: Steve of YNA Upstate New York

Nudity and Sex

nudity and sex

An example of how nudity is so often tied into sexuality

Change is a fact of life; sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic.  An area of change in our culture and naturism is sexuality.  I would like to focus on this topic and its impacts on naturism in a short series of blogs.  These blogs will lead up to my sex-positive workshop at the Northeast Naturist Festival in upstate New York (July 30-August 4th, 2013). Within YNA we are working to embrace sexual change in a positive way i.e. sex-positive ways of thinking, doing, and being within a newer, emergent naturism.  This first blog, entitled, “Why Sex-Positive?” is going to focus on dealing with the changing aspects of sexuality within naturism, first in terms of mere language.  We are going to look at some basic reasons of why our claim that naturism is completely non-sexual seems so strange to the textile world, and what that means for us as naturists and nudists. 

I do not consider myself an expert in either sex-positive development, or naturism – I am relatively new to both.  But an area in which I have a master’s degree and years of experience is cross cultural communication.  I have been a translator and problem solver between many diverse people and language groups in foreign refugee camps, including sexual issues.  I also have years of personal cross-cultural experience, having been immersed cold turkey into German culture as a young professional and new husband. I look back now with humor at the mind boggling conflicts that arose cross-culturally over the subtlest linguistic, or body language misunderstandings.  Make no mistake, the problem of bridging the naturism-textile gap is a matter of cross-cultural communication every bit as complex as being dumped into a “foreign” culture and having to learn the language and culture to survive.  In the case of naturism it’s not just culture like, music or food – it’s culture at its most formidable, because few cultural issues are more controversial than sexuality.  Unfortunately in our culture naked = sex.  That is almost a universal association in people’s psyche for many reasons, and one which the pornographers have promoted and perfected for the purposes of sordid gain.  This linguistic association is the first of many cross-cultural reasons that we will explore in these blogs about why naturism needs to embrace sexual change if we are to reach our textile world.  So, in this blog we are going to talk about this mere linguistic association between nudity and sex.

Whether we like it or not, naturism continues to have an uphill battle when it comes to a non-sexual message to the textile world.  Consider an example; the German word for “gay”  (schwul) and “humid” (schwϋl) is nearly identical.  The difference is a very subtle matter of pronunciation, represented only by the “umlaut”, or double points above the letter ‘u’.  I knew a very macho American soldier who could not speak German well, but was too egotistical to know when to keep quiet.  At a German dinner party he insisted on telling the Germans that it was uncomfortably hot and humid.  What he did not realize was that he, the tough macho soldier, was insisting to everyone that he was “gay.”  He didn’t get the pronunciation difference – he was actually saying, schwul, when he meant, schwϋl! The contrast was too much and the laughter was uproarious. No offense to gay people – trust me, you would have all been embarrassed for him while trying like everyone to contain your mirth!  Well, it can be kind of like that when we insist to the textile world, that our nudity is non-sexual.  I mean, let’s be blunt. How is that teenage son or daughter supposed to understand that mom and dad who have never done anything crazy before, and may even go to church every Sunday, are now jumping in a hot tub with a bunch of naked people and it’s not supposed to be an orgy?  Without any supporting context or common experience, the kid’s hormones and sense of propriety inherited from his pre-naturist parents, simply protest the notion. We think we are explaining things one way in our mind, like the macho soldier.  But the language just isn’t there, especially when it has a history of very different meaning.

To a non-naturist friend or family member, naked = sex. Period. The naturism-textile cross-cultural communication gap is a vast void, consisting of a lack of common experience and language to connect two worlds as foreign as the Ithaca area, upstate New York culture I left, and the Hessisch and Pfälzer German culture I was suddenly immersed into.  The nudie has little or no precise language to communicate her new experience, and the non-nudie has no experience base from which to interpret the vague language.  Metaphorically speaking we may think we are saying “schwϋl” but we are really saying “schwul” when we insist to the textile, that naturism is non-sexual nudity.  Then we wonder why the non-nudist frowns, freaks, furrows his brow, or bursts out in laughter.  It’s really not even the right place to start the conversation.

OK fellow nudies, can’t we just admit it?  We have a cross-cultural communication problem of major proportions.  If we continue to insist to the textile world that naturism is purely non-sexual, especially in an increasingly hypersexual world, we are going to have to find better language to do it.  Our language, when it comes to sexology, is pretty weak.  Consider the Eskimos. They have 13 words for snow in a highly developed culture of snow.  They share common snow language and common snow experience.  Sex is a bit more complex than snow, so we can do better than to insist that being naked is somehow absolutely void of sexuality.  After all, in naturism, our genitalia, our sex if you will, is in plain sight.  If you take offense at someone seeing your penis or vulva, then of course you would not be a nudist.  On the other hand, most textiles would consider exposure of their naked body to anyone other than their spouse, either underhanded seduction, or some form of sexual abuse.  So, isn’t it kind of odd that we insist so strongly that our social nudity is non-sexual?  After all, it’s not the “neutral” parts of our bodies, like our elbows, fingers, or toes that elicit such strong emotions.  NO!  It is explicitly our exposed sexuality that brings out such reactions.  I think if we hope to win the battles of today to grow naturism it’s important to be honest with ourselves, and to understand where many of the textiles we are trying to reach may be coming from.   And it won’t do to insist that “schwul” isn’t “schwϋl” – non-nudists don’t get the difference!

In view of the above, sex-positive is a great start at developing a whole new, fuller, richer vocabulary surrounding naturism and sexuality.  Let’s stop pretending naturism has nothing to do with sexuality – in the non-nudist mind it does, and we need to start there.  Furthermore, for us naturists, sex-positive is a way to start being more confident about our own sexuality and therefore more genuine with the textile world.  Instead of being reactive and negative about sexuality, maybe we can take a lead role in teaching about truly fulfilling sexuality.  This in turn challenges us to a deeper understanding of our naked experiences and our sexuality, and how we may relate them metaphorically to similar textile experiences in a way that makes the non-naturist want to consider naturism as a real option.  Maybe we should consider this precisely because many textiles are looking for a way to bring balance, meaning, and fulfillment to their sexuality.   And so we must take a deeper look inside and really ask, is our naturism as non-sexual as we seem to say to the non-naturist?  What are we are afraid of, that keeps us from confronting sexuality in naturism?   Does the textile world see something that we don’t want to see?  All of this is why we need at least some change in our understanding, our experience, and our development of new language as we face changing sexuality within textile culture and naturism.  Sex-positive.  It is the first step in dealing with these changes, and hopefully in reaching many new people, so that they too may experience the freedom and joy that we have experienced.

In this blog we have considered that a large problem in reaching the textile world is that there is a cross-cultural communication gap between our world and theirs.  There is a lack of common language and experience to bridge this gap or deal with changing sexuality.   We need the sex-positive movement, because we need to start where non-nudists start – whether or not we like it, they start with nudity = sex.  Maybe, beyond this fear, they are even trying to gain a deeper understanding of their own sexuality. So that is where we start and it is sex-positive.  Once we accept this we can begin to examine what this means in terms of real experience within naturism and our encounters with the textile world.

In the next blog I will address one of the first and most formidable barriers we face with regard to changing sexuality and sex-positive, and relating naturism to the textile world. We are going to drop the insistence that naturism is completely void of sexuality and we are going to introduce the idea of breaking sexual silence.  

This article about Nudity and Sex was published By - Young Naturists And Nudists America YNA

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , ,

Category: Nudist Guest Blogs, Sex Positive and Sexuality, Social Activism

About the Author ()

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.
12 comments
SteveYnaNY
SteveYnaNY

ALL - NUDIST:  Thanks for your apology. Your comments were more than a bit harsh. Rather shocking to receive from a site that I been a fan of. For the record - sex-positive is not my personal agenda. It is a mainstream philosophy that is part of YNA. I am a volunteer leader who has sacrificed many hours for contemporary naturism. I took on the YNA sex-positive theme after long careful thought - not for personal kicks and giggles as you so crassly imply - but because it is a VERY important topic for todays youth. We need to get over our hangups if we want to reach them. It is really sad and unprofessional of you to castigate other people's serious work with condemning words, personal vitriol and outright rudeness. That is definitely NOT the naturism we are part of and no way to impress anyone with your 'altruism'.  I would love to think that you are not fundamentalist nudists - please give me one good sex-positive reason to do so. I have had my belly full of religious fundamentalism, and in naturism we thought we found some relief. When you tell people they are not welcome, tell them to go away, tell them their ideas and opinions don't count you ARE a fundamentalist by definition - I know that well. If you want to drop that wrap, then go change yourself first.  Come back when you are ready to dialog with respect.

SteveYnaNY
SteveYnaNY

To ALL-NUDIST:  Thank you for your criticism of our (YNA) sex-positive views. We respect your view yet disagree with it. So do MANY others. We have overwhelmingly positive responses to our sex-positive blogs, most vocally from traditional nudist venues; folks from AANR, many experienced AANR card carrying nudists attending our workshops, AANR certified naturist facilities who support sex-postive ideas in naturism, etc. NUSA Sun is running a feature titled, 'YNA-Ignore them at your own peril".  Cultural movements grow and change or die. Nudism is no different.  All-NUDIST does not have the sole power to define what naturism is to the whole world and it is sad you resort to personal vitriol a sure sign of iweakness. Not an example very winsome to most people. I have been an avid fan of All-Nudist - at this point however, I see your underlying fears appear are your dominant emotive force - thankfully the naturism as a whole is beginning to break away from these kinds of insecurities to reach younger people by addressing topics of great importance to them - including their sexuality. We are free people as naturists and we may do that without your permission. If I could make a political analogy of your demeanor - 'You are the fundamentalist exremists of naturism." Should you decide to direct more heat toward YNA and our sex-postive blogs on your site or on ours, please rest in the sure knowlege we won't be listening.

All-Nudist.com
All-Nudist.com

It's always amusing to see that those who "do not consider myself an expert in either sex-positive development, or naturism" are the first ones who express such lack of understanding of what naturism is all about, yet then continue to tell lifelong nudists/naturists why they have it wrong.

Kind of like that loser Brit (Piers Morgan) who can't find a job in his homeland but is happy to tell Americans why we are SO wrong.

No, nudists are not 'asexual' or 'non-sexual; we just know how to keep it in its place. It's that simple.  We act like grown-ups.  Yes, the Textile world doesn't understand this, nor do a lot of newcomers who would like to make naturism be something which it is not, something THEY want.   Those who don't understand how nudism CAN be 'non-sexual' have a bit of growing up yet to do.

Naturism, in its most basic form, is family camping without clothes.  It doesn't take a whole lot of deep clinical delving into sociological relationships or explanations about sexual relationships to understand that.  These concepts are brought up by those who just don't 'get' it.

Social nudism amounts to folks who enjoy being nude among others who feel the same way, period.  Singles, couples, families, but not those seeking sexual release. There are other places for them, but not within the nudist community.

That's the point; if you don't like it, don't DO it.  Go find your own clubs, beaches, camps, etc.  We've spent a hundred years building this and if you don't like it, go start your own.  And good luck, but do it fast before YOUR ideas change...

"The sex-positive movement is a social movement which promotes and embraces open sexuality with few limits..."  wiki

This may be an admirable concept, but it has nothing to do with social nudism.

As you say, you know nothing about that of which you speak.  That is painfully obvious.  Too bad, because a lot of what else you have to say makes sense. Perhaps stick to what you know instead of instructing those who have been there, done that, and found a way to make it WORK.

WE, the mainstream social nudist community, do not need the 'sex-positive movement'.   Perhaps you do to accomplish your personal version of what you would like 'naturism' to be.  Many have tried to do just that.  Just look at all the 'naturist' skin-pic sites that abound. 

Social nudism as practiced by millions all around the world may fail someday, but that's better than for it to become something less admirable, less wholesome and 'innocent' than what a few discontents propose in order to 'save' it for their own personal use.

Start your own movement, but please don't call it nudism/naturism; we have enough problems already with those who steal our honorable terms to lend legitimacy to their own concepts of doing things naked THEIR way.

Naturism is not about sexuality in any way or form.  It is a rare opportunity for people to interact without that particular boogyman.  If you don't understand that, then you are not qualified to speak about it at all.  You just don't get it.

 


    

IsisPhoenix
IsisPhoenix

I'm so relieved you're writing about this. The very first question I would get from any prospective male naked yoga student was a shame-filed inquiry around 'what if something comes up' during the yoga session? The answer was always 'Celebrate!' We're sexual beings, and while that may not be the focus of naturism it absolutely must be included in the dialogue. Speaking about it creates freedom and transparency and transmutes shame. I'm so grateful you're writing about this.

vanguardjag
vanguardjag

I have felt for years that while they are attempting to explain/defend the nudist lifestyle, the proponents as a whole, have harped on the "non-sexual" aspect of nudism too such a degree that they come across as not being "non-sexual", but "anti-sexual". We are all sexual beings whether we are nude or not, something more radically conservative nudists seem to forget, or at least deny.  This only serves to make them appear hypocritical &/or dishonest to the "textile world", that knows better (sexual beings, nude or not). Nudism is, & can be be very sensual (of the senses) in a healthy, respectful way. As long as we "behave" in the public areas (meaning no more extreme "PDA'S" than in the textile world) why should we feel like we should have to deny (to ourselves & the world) the warm, joyous, sensual feelings that come from being clothes-free?    I guess that when it comes to naked human bodies, there's a fine line between "appreciation" & "lust", lol. It's only when these feelings are acted on in a public area, that it crosses the line from sensual, to sexual, which is, and should remain, a "no no" in manistream nudism. That's why nudist resorts, as well as textile re- sorts, have hotel rooms.  I fully endorse what you are trying to accomplish with the sex-positive approach. Its sort of a common sense, honest, realistic, "middle- of-the-road" approach between the 2 extremes: the swinger, or "lifestyle" set, & the ultra-conservative set that "frowns upon" anything as remotely affectionate as holding hands with your significant other. Peace!

glaucks
glaucks

Very insightful and very true!  So I guess the first step is to learn what exactly it means to be sex-positive. 

All-Nudist.com
All-Nudist.com

@SteveYnaNY Upon re-reading my comment I realized that it came off sounding a bit harsh, and was returning to apologize when I ran across your reply.  I do apologize, it was unintentional.

However, I stand by the rest.  All-Nudist has always represented mainstream (read that again: mainstream) nudism and has opposed those who wish to change it to suit their own personal agenda.  For you to attempt to deride that position by calling it 'fundamentalist extremism' indicates that you neither understand naturism's history nor nudism today.

'Mainstream' is where social nudism is today, not a hundred years ago.  Mainstream is what it has evolved to through slow, considered change into a safe, workable, enjoyable pastime for millions worldwide.  Mainstream is a social order which allows the freedom for all to associate freely in a manner unthinkable to most of society.  Mainstream is still slowly evolving as times change.  Mainstream is conservative by nature for a reason: it works.

Mainstream works because adults have discovered that sex has no place in our community, and personal alternate lifestyle beliefs belong out of sight and out of mind.  There are many such lifestyles among us and they are tolerated as long as they are kept personal and not imposed on the rest of the community.

Those who feel that nudism needs to be more overtly sexual don't understand that it is the very lack of such visibility that is the glue that binds.  Everywhere else in society we are inundated with sex, and we see how well that works! 

No, nudists aren't afraid of sex and are far from sexless; we have just learned the hard way that it doesn't mix with naturism other than in a personal, private way.  That doesn't require a 'movement' and a major change in the way people practice social nudism, it just requires a little maturity and wisdom.  That's mainstream nudism.

Regardless of your personal opinions, All-Nudist will continue to support YNA when appropriate, as we have in the past.  We took a lot of heat over the last 'event' we defended and if we were concerned about losing followers for expressing our opinions in a public forum, we certainly wouldn't have jumped into the middle of THAT mess!  

We shall also continue to offer criticism whenever we see groups or individuals promoting philosophies which we feel are antithetical to mainstream nudism; that's what we're here for and what we do.  Some folks just can't handle that.

SteveYnaNY
SteveYnaNY

@IsisPhoenix Thanks IsisPhoenix!  We agree, and maybe the dialogue will help deal with some of the issues that people fear , and which hold them back from getting involved!

SteveYnaNY
SteveYnaNY

@vanguardjag Thank you for these insightful comments - very well said - ALL NUIDIST would do well to study your insights (see their more recent 'nudity fundamentalist' comments above).

SteveYnaNY
SteveYnaNY

@glaucks Thanks for the review and comment.  I intend to help shed some perspective on your question in the next couple blogs on this subject.  Stay tuned

FelicityJones
FelicityJones moderator

@All-Nudist @SteveYnaNYYeah, we disagree. I don’t think it’s just a lack of maturity that makes people think nudity = sex. It’s more like a result of social conditioning. If people are never led to question this assumption, they might believe it forever.

Nudism does not “need the sex-positive movement.”  Well, do naturists stand to lose something by being "sex-positive"? By promoting acceptance of others' sexual choices based on sex-positive principles?  

You can’t skew an entire movement by having open discussions. Sex-positive and naturism do not negate each other. You can be tolerant of someone else’s sexual choices while still practicing genuine naturism. Your Wiki definition of sex-positive is misleading. It doesn’t mean promoting public sex. As far as “with few limits” – there are actually a couple of very important limits, such always having mutual consent.

We must have 1,000 articles on what naturism is, and we clearly outline behavioral rules for events. If we start posting the same kinds of articles as a sex-ed website, or start posting overt sexual imagery, or start having sexual behavior at our events, then you can argue we’ve posed a real threat to naturism.

In my view, there is nothing wrong with education and discussion. Education is key to informing people that nudity can be nonsexual and harmless. I believe we should approach sexuality in an open, honest and thoughtful way with the mainstream.

Sex-positive is also just another aspect of our philosophy of tolerance and acceptance. 

You say: Mainstream works because adults have discovered that sex has no place in our community, and personal alternate lifestyle beliefs belong out of sight and out of mind.  There are many such lifestyles among us and they are tolerated as long as they are kept personal and not imposed on the rest of the community. 

Unfortunately, the naturist movement is lacking in values, and that includes tolerance of others’ sexual and lifestyle choices. I know one naturist leader who shames a certain woman's involvement in naturism because of her lifestyle choice that doesn't happen to fit the nuclear family model. This leader believes this lifestyle choice negates her ability to be a true naturist. You can’t join naturism and leave for example, your homosexuality, behind and "out of sight." (the woman is not gay, it’s something else). We are all sexual beings, we can’t leave behind our sexuality or lifestyle choices when entering naturism, and brushing sexuality under the rug doesn’t seem like the best way to address it.