Naturism & Body Image on The Humanist Experience Podcast Ep 4: “Our Naked Bodies”
I recently contributed to a new podcast called The Humanist Experience hosted by Seráh Blain and Evan Clark. They describe the show as a:
“series where we seek out radical experiences that educate our emotions and expand our world.”
They define humanism as:
“taking responsibility for the value of every life without reservation — through reason, compassion, experience, and hope.”
For the next year or so, Seráh and Evan will be traveling around the United States, exploring various social issues. During their trips, they will be conducting interviews and talking about their experiences for each bi-monthly episode.
One of their first stops: Shangri-La Ranch Clothing-Optional Resort in Arizona. For episode 4, “Our Naked Bodies,” they embarked on a weekend of nude camping at Shangri-La in order to immerse themselves in the nudist culture. They also focused on the issue of body shame and how the human body is viewed in American culture.
Much of the episode focuses on body diversity and how naturism can foster self-acceptance and greater self-esteem when people see this diversity. I also spoke a bit on the show about how much variation there is with genitals in particular.
In addition to speaking with me, they interviewed Kimberly Dark who is an author, storyteller and sociologist. During her interview, Kimberly described her experience visiting a bathhouse and being around hundreds of naked women of all shapes and sizes. She was struck by how quickly she forgot what society defines as the ideal body. She remarked that “bodies have their own internal sense of logic to them,” and she found herself appreciating the beauty in everyone.
I know many woman have had a similar experience. This is why I’ve advocated for more women (and people) to experience communal non-sexual nakedness whether in a spa or a naturist setting.
Seráh and Evan talk about their own anxieties with body image before getting naked at the resort. Seráh said she felt self-conscious about her lack of muscle tone as she has a balance disorder that sometimes keeps her in a wheelchair or bed-ridden. Evan worried about not looking athletic enough to others.
They both also felt nervous about seeing each other naked for the first time. (They work and live together, but have never seen each other naked before.)
Yet they try to offer some perspective on how they felt going into this. They talked about their “irrational” anxieties and how those were shaped by “social conditioning” rather than “facts or reason.”
As they get naked and explore the resort, their nervousness and anxieties seem to melt away.
Evan notes that this new experience feels strange, but that “…the only reason this weird, is because society tells me this is weird.” They laugh and joke about how funny it is to be naked and about whether or not it’s weird to apply sunblock to your penis in public. (It’s not! ;)
They see all the different, unique bodies there and talk about how clothing actually makes everyone look the same. This is so true! We think of clothing as being so unique and expressive, but it really does pretty much package everyone into the same array of shapes. And it hides a lot of what is unique about our bodies. Especially these days when the same clothing and brands can be (and are) purchased anywhere and everywhere – we all end up wearing the same basic things.
To their pleasant surprise, Seráh and Evan quickly adjusted to the new norms and rules of social nudity. And this is where they and Kimberly Dark touched on an idea that I really like – the idea that we can reshape the culture we live in.
A lot of our social rules and cultural norms around nudity are illogical and can even be harmful. But culture is made and shaped by humans. This fact means that it’s constantly changing.
On this subject Kimberly Dark said, “We can make small changes in how we relate to the body in culture that affect others and ultimately affect the culture we live in.”
And Seráh added, “We can change our social norms when the old ones don’t serve us — and in fact, when cultural constraints hurt people, we have a moral obligation to reshape culture.”
As naturists, we often think of ourselves as battling to gain acceptance in mainstream society. But there’s a different way to look at it… we, as naturists, are influencing and reshaping the culture around us by being who we are and sharing our philosophy, ideals and values publicly.
This is what many naturists have been doing or trying to do for a long time. Naturism is still arguably a fringe culture, but it is important to remember that we do have the power to affect and change culture for the better! And many naturists already have.
At the end of the episode, Serah and Evan say that this experience didn’t turn them into nudists. Nor did it completely cure all their body image issues. However they certainly seemed to enjoy it, and it did inspire them to think about how they can positively influence culture when it comes to nudity and body acceptance. They also became much more comfortable with nudity in their day-to-day lives.
You can listen to the whole 33 minute “Our Naked Bodies” episode below via SoundCloud. Or visit The Humanist Experience website at www.humanistexperience.com. It’s also available on iTunes. Their other episodes, so far, are pretty interesting as well. So check ’em out!
What do you think of the episode? How can naturists reshape culture? And are there any nudist humanists out there?
This post, titled: Our Naked Bodies: The Humanist Experience Podcast was published by – Young Naturists and Nudists America