Nudism & Gender Issues: Let’s Talk About Safety and Harassment
It was good to see that my last article about naturism and single male policies generated a lot of discussion on our website and on social media. It seems like most people actually agreed with us that naturism should be inclusive rather than exclusive.
I’d added a poll at the end of my article asking if nudist resorts, clubs, groups, etc should restrict entry to single men in order to have a better gender ratio. Out of over 400 votes, the overwhelming majority – nearly 80% — said “No.” Twelve percent voted yes, and about 9% said “Not sure.”
Some of the online discussion around my article focused on a different issue related to men – harassment and /or behavior by men that makes women (and / or others) feel uncomfortable.
Like it or not, harassment does happen and nudist places are not exempt from such behavior. (Guys, even if you don’t see it yourself, it does. Ask a woman.) And when it does happen, more often than not, the target is a woman and the perpetrator is a man. I know there are times when it’s couples and even women doing the harassment, and men have experienced it too. But as I said, the vast majority of the time, it’s men doing it to women.
Harassment is seen as a secondary justification or excuse for restricting men’s presence. But I don’t think it should be. I think the important question is not, How do we keep the male creepos out? so much as it is, How do we create a more comfortable environment for women?
Here’s why. For one thing, harassment at nudist facilities is not that common – far less than just walking down NYC streets. (Sexual assault or more serious crimes are even less common.) Most men, single or not, behave as they’re expected to and don’t cause problems.
I think a woman is more likely to be harassed, aggressively pursued or groped by a stranger at a bar (or by a non-nudist family member perhaps), than within a nudist club. Private naturist clubs, events and nudist groups screen their guests and have strict rules in place. There’s a place / person to report bad behavior, and management can swiftly deal with it.
If we’re going to restrict or ban single men with the idea that it’ll reduce the pervert count, we might as well ban all men.
As I previously noted, clubs have also been known to treat all single male visitors like they don’t belong until they prove otherwise (in essence they are guilty until they prove they’re innocent). I think this is really unproductive and bad for business. People should be judged by their behavior, not their gender. Like they say at Freedom Fields Naturist Ranch in Canada, “Your behavior is your passport.”
Public nude beaches can be a very different story as far as harassment goes. They definitely attract more weird people, and it’s not as easy to confront someone on your own. On some nude beaches people are pretty good at scouting out creeps and looking out for each other. I swear I’ve also seen more women at Gunnison Beach than I have at certain nudist clubs!
I think that when harassment does occur in a nudist place, the bad behavior may be more subtle. Like a guy who stands just a bit too close, invading your personal space. Maybe he also puts an arm around you. Or a guy who just quietly stares or leers at you. Or maybe he looks you up and down or offers an unsolicited “compliment” about your naked body.
This type of behavior is difficult for others to witness (and confront right then). It’s also more difficult to report. I think that these guys are trying to do whatever they think they can get away with. They know they’re doing something wrong but they push the envelope.
However, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be reported. Women (and people in general) should always be encouraged to say something when someone has done something to make them feel uncomfortable. And whatever the reported behavior is, it should always be taken seriously. I actually have heard stories (not many) of clubs that have brushed off women’s reports of someone harassing them. That should not be happening, EVER!
We must remember that outside the nudist world, female victims of harassment, sexual assault or rape are very often not taken seriously. They are dismissed, discredited and even blamed for what happened to them. For this and other reasons, a large percentage of sexual assault crimes and sexual violence go unreported. With rape for example, even when it is reported, very few cases result in jail time or punishment for the rapist. And don’t get me started on the crazy backlog of rape kits across the country.
Some women experience sexual harassment on the street every single day. For many, safety considerations are a normal part of everyday decisions – like what might be the safest route to take home or how late to stay out.
Harassment at a nudist place can possibly ruin a woman’s experience and completely turn her off nudism forever. For a female first-timer, any form of harassment may be compounded by the fact that she is naked and already feeling vulnerable.
I think we need to keep all of this in mind when we’re considering how best to maintain a safe and comfortable nudist environment for women.
So how DO we make women feel safer and more comfortable?
I wish that increasing women’s sense of safety in naturism were as simple as coming up with new anti-pervert policies. I said we should instead focus on the above question, but this one is much harder to answer. Why? Because we’re talking about an internalized problem.
In the single men article, I talked about our concern that women will show up to a male-dominated naked party and feel like they just walked into a social event for male voyeurs. Even if every guy is respectful and not creepy, to the woman it feels like “danger ahead.”
I’ve known some women who really have trouble enjoying a nudist setting because they are so preoccupied with the idea that men are looking at them, whether in a sexual way or not. (Like the author of this Buzzfeed article for example.) It’s unfortunate but also an obvious result of our culture.
Addressing these types of internal feelings is much harder than coming up with a new policy. As I’ve said before I think it requires a major cultural shift. It’s slowly happening but I think it’s going to take a while.
We can’t regulate feelings and we can’t prevent every incident of bad behavior in co-ed nudism. But we can set clear, solid rules of behavior. We can respond quickly when inappropriate behavior occurs. And we can also make sure everyone knows how to report an incident and that we always want them to come forward – “if you see something, say something.”
With the standard rules of harassment, I think some words about consent would also be helpful. “Nudity is not consent” is a good feminist rule.
I also think being straightforwardly inclusive and LGBTQIA-friendly would help convey that a naturist place or event is a safe environment for women and everyone.
The Naturist Living Show Podcast
I recently discussed my last article and nudist gender issues with Stéphane Deschênes for the Naturist Living Show podcast (stay tuned for this episode to come out!). It was interesting to get the perspective of a club owner (he owns Bare Oaks Naturist Park).
He talked about how they deal with the occasional misbehaving male visitor at Bare Oaks. They’ll give out warnings (“you’re making others uncomfortable”) for the more subtle inappropriate behavior, but every incident is handled on a case-by-case basis.
Stéphane said that he’s not only concerned about reported behavior but about incidents going unreported. And that’s a concern that every club and group should share. You can’t address something you don’t know about.
He brought up the question of how to tell every new visitor to report any harassment without it seeming like it’s happening all the time. Of course we can put it in the rules (which some may not read). But I think the best approach is to simply tell everyone to come forward if anyone makes them uncomfortable in any way.
You can hear more of our discussion on the podcast episode, available for streaming below:
I’d also like to hear from the community on this and especially from women. Have you experienced harassment in a naturist place? Was it handled well? What else can we do to make women feel safe and comfortable in social nudist settings?