The extremes of Nudism
Like most other political disciplines in life, Nudism has it's conservative and controversial extremes. Most of the "conservative" existence has come about in the last few hundred years as the British and Roman Catholic Church has had effect on countries of the world through conquer and colonisation. More recently, conservative beliefs are popping up in eastern cultures as they are "westernised".
The Conservative Nudist
The Conservative Nudist probably does not share with their textile friends that they are a nudist for fear of rejection. They probably belong to a "Nudist Club" which could be "Grounded" (i.e. own it's own facilities) or "Non Grounded" (exists only as an interest group and meets in people's homes, specially rented facilities or nudist resorts). The membership provides them with a level of protection against the unknown. Over they years "umbrella" groups have formed to permit interaction between these groups, normally by the issue of a membership card, which entitles the holder to visit other clubs. In Australia this group is called the "Australian Nudist Federation". A further umbrella (the INF or International Nudist Federation) provides the same interaction in a worldwide basis.
Many conservatives maintain that in a club atmosphere everyone must be nude, because they feel uncomfortable if the ratio of nude to clothed people gets out of balance. They become disturbed if couples touch and kiss eachother. As a rule it is rude to stare and taboos include touching others. Personal space is maintained, just as in a textile society. Conservative Nudists are a dying breed, primarily because the club culture in which they exist does not promote growth. However the "Conservative Nudist" movement probably represents more than 60% of all the Nudists in the world - so they're going to remain important for a long while yet.
The Controversial side
Touching, Stroking, Massage
There are two levels of taboo which can be broken here, that of touching your partner, and that of touching everybody or anybody else. Massage has of course existed as a formal avenue of human touch in both textile and nudist worlds for ages, but massage is predominantly a one way experience - from the masseur to the recipient. The massage is seen as therapy, a job .. something mechanical, which could also be done by a robot masseur instead of a human one. It can be taught, bought and sold. Formal massage remains the first frontier where by a nudist can touch another person, and massage is widely practised even in conservative nudist clubs.
Massage is a contract - and agreement. The recipient agrees to undergo "treatment". The massage involves known and taught technique. It is easy to compare it to a doctor and patient model and thus believe that the touching involved is obviously not sexual, but therapeutic or clinical- and therefore not likely to compromise conservative beliefs. Beyond Massage, we enter a zone of "reduced personal space". This might be experienced in a nudist environment in a crowded spa, or during sports events. The definitions are grey areas. The less conservative the environment, the more likely is the chance that personal space is less important because fear of the unknown is reduced. Once people "get to know each other" then the personal space becomes less important. But initial, deliberate touch contact between two relative strangers is still unlikely in a conservative nudist environment and when touch does occur, it's more likely to be as a result of accident or accepted as "part of life".
But once we get beyond the "personal space" we enter the controversial side of the touching argument in nudism - deliberate touch as a communications medium, to show affection to a fellow human who is not our partner. Examples could be people stroking each other in spas, and general physical affection (two way) being shown in public between groups of many people. Within this controversy we must then consider where on the body is "touchable", and at what point does this activity obviously leave the relatively safe definition of friendly affection and become sexual. Naturally many Nudists aren't willing to put themselves to the test, through fear of alienating themselves and others or worse, being misunderstood in a culture where traditionally "to touch" another is seen as "four play to sex".
Interest groups exist within Nudism which explore the notions of touch affection between others. One such loosely formed group in the US known as "the stroking community" has existed for many years as a special interest massage group - the difference being that they practice massage in groups of three or more instead of the traditional "one on one" doctor and patient model.
The general rule in most nudist venues is that touch is permitted where consent is granted. That consent could take many forms, and could be granted in non verbal means (a lawyer's nightmare..). Unfortunately the ability of humans to communicate to each other through touch is a "lost art" outside normal sexual relationships (and even within some!!) - but like nudity, touching and stroking need not convey a sexual message at all. The controversial nudists who practice touching and stroking of their peers have come to terms with this, and redefined the line where love, affection and honesty become sexual - just as all Nudists have accepted that nudity itself is not related to sex. (See also "Human Awareness Institute Workshops" section on this site.)
Body Painting is a controversial variation on touching, as it is necessary to touch a body in order to paint it. Having your whole body painted is a sensual experience. Initially it could be grouped into the same definition as massage.. but amongst conservative nudists this is not the case because body painting can be seen as "exhibitionist", and this contradicts with their ideals of nudism. For this reason it is seen as controversial, especially if the sexual organs are included in the artwork.
The most interesting thing about body painting is that it cheats the eye, and challenges our traditions to what is acceptable. Many artists specialise in literally painting clothing onto nude subjects and the result can be very difficult to define, calling into question the differences between nude and clothed. A painted nude body in a textile environment is an excellent champion for nudism, as it forces people to review just what is the difference between nude and clothed - which can sometimes lead them to the obviously correct conclusion - nothing!
Body painting is one of many activities which can only be enjoyed in a nudist environment. And many people do. Body painting competitions (of adults and children alike) are harmless fun for everyone, providing the correct pigments are used, and the artwork can be easily washed off. As an art, body painting is a fleeting glimpse from the artist - the artwork can only ever be temporary.
Flowing on from the art of body painting is the fun of simply getting dirty. Wallowing and / or getting your body covered in mud is another activity which can only ever be fun for nudists - even the smallest swimming costume becomes an absolute pest when you're covered in mud!
Mud is slippery and sloppy. Most of our parents probably punished us for getting dirty. Having a mud bath is our own way of thumbing up our noses to that authority figure and saying "who cares". For this reason the activity also finds itself in the "controversial" shelf. It often involves groups of people and the inevitable touching that results.
In the textile world a muddy nude body can be an amplified sex switch (for example, mud bath pornography and sex shows). But in the Nudist world this is not so. It is merely a fun activity. If you don't like it, don't participate. But remember.. anything is worth a try once.
Any sport however serious or silly, can be played nude just as easily as clothed, with the exception of some motor sports. But the best nudist games are the ones which are designed to deliberately invade personal space and require touching other participants. A group of total strangers will very quickly become familiar with eachother and be the best of friends after playing a few close contact nude games. The fun is in designing the games, and again the more the game involves invasion of personal space, the more controversial it's likely to be.
For some strange reason a number of traditional sports have become popular in Nudism, particularly the conservative side. Games like Miniten (a version of tennis played on a smaller court), Pentanque and Volleyball flourish, for some unknown reason. In general any game which can be easily learned and played by all people, will be successful as a nudist sport.
Body Piercing, Lingerie etc.
Right at the far end of controversy in Nudism are the individuals who are into body piercing and strange ornaments on their nude bodies often in very unlikely places like sexual organs, for male and female alike. Conservative nudists argue that this is clothing, and contradicts the freedom of being totally nude. They also argue that it draws attention to sexual organs. It can also be argued that such ornaments are painful and even unhealthy. Rings through breast nipples, penises and female vulva are examples of body piercing which are "controversial". As usual those nudists who have body piercing such as these will defend their action. The truth is that as individuals we only have control over what we do with our own bodies, and what others do with theirs should not be our concern. Perhaps they are attention seeking, perhaps not. But the most important consideration should be "who cares?"
Following on from this are "Lingerie" shows and fashion shops at Nudist resorts. The conservatives argue that it is a fallacy to claim that we don't need clothes and then spend so much time and effort getting them and taking them on or off. The controversials argue that it's a fun and harmless activity which (if done outside the nudist community) would be sexual. The jury is obviously out on these sort of issues, and individual opinion varies widely.
Yet another "controversial" persuasion group are known as the "smoothies", so called because of a tendency to shave off all their body hair. The conservatives argue against this "unnatural look", saying that it's not nudism but (again) exhibitionism. The cruel irony is likely to be that most of these "conservatives" have probably got shavers in their bathroom, and also visit the barber regularly. Since nudism itself declares no difference between the hair on a chin and the hair around a penis, it would seem that the "smoothies" are well within their rights to shave whatever and wherever they please.
The "Gay" Nudist movement came about due to the fact that many clubs and organisations lock out single males - and thus people who may have alternative sexual preferences. Gay Nudism is controversial because it obviously classifies people according to sex - and at the heart of Nudism is the notion that nudity and sex are not related - yet here is a movement which seems to relate both of them.
Coupled to this is the fact that gay nudism conjures up thoughts of voyeurs and sexual deviancy, especially at nude beaches "amongst the trees". It would be foolish to state here that the two are not related at all, but certainly the recognised Gay Nudist movement reinforce the fact that nudity and sex are not related. Gay nudist organisations prohibit sexual activity at their functions and frown on voyeurism. In every way Gay Nudists are the same as any other nudist - except that they are gay, and therefore may be coupled to a same sex partner instead of an opposite, which is still controversial in society today.
You don't see heterosexual couples having sex in the spa or on the grass at your local nudist facility. Therefore you can be quite sure that a gay nudist will respect the same values. Open minded nudists quickly find that sexual preference has nothing to do with nudity, and "who cares" what goes on behind closed doors anyway. The only reason the Gay Nudism movement exists is to provide for a group of people who are otherwise "locked out" by the proliferation of "couples only" policies amongst more conservative nudist clubs and resorts. The best springboard to explore gay nudism is Spike's Naked Planet - gypsy.rose.utoronto.ca/people/david_dir/TCAN/Groups.html
Public Nudism is any situation where nudists are nude amongst a predominantly textile situation. Naturally this causes contention and is thus controversial. There are two sides to this argument. Of course the laws of the land (whatever country that might be) come into play here too.
On the conservative side, many nudists do not like the notion of "forcing" their beliefs of freedom nudity on other people who might not appreciate it. This argument is of course nothing more than common courtesy and respect.
On the controversial side are the nudists who believe that to exist without need to wear clothing is a birthright of the human species, and that it is the textiles who need to open their minds. Of course this argument is also valid, so somewhere in between we find the tussle of public nudism, which includes the argument for gazettal of free beaches
Some (particularly European) countries have no laws regarding public nudity, and going nude in public parks etc, is permissible (however not common.. most of these countries have colder climates). However most western countries consider exposure of human genital areas to be an offence. It therefore becomes a tussle to bend the rules, or in most cases avoid being caught. There are many ways to go nude in public without risking prosecution;
Example of rienforcing a precedent - the San Francisco Bay to Breakers Fun Run
The most popular public nude precedent involves the Bay to Breakers fun run in San Francisco. Back in 1993 a small group of nudists challenged the status quo in this event by removing their clothes and running nude. The law did attempt to prosecute but after extensive public and media outcry the charges were dropped - thus setting a legal precedent for this event (and possibly other similar events..). Since that time the amount of nudists attending the run (the subset of which is known as the "Bare to Breakers") has grown exponentially, in the safe knowledge that if they were prosecuted there would be a good chance they would win the case using the precedent as a model. In 1997 there were 30 nude runners, in 1998 there were 62. And in 1999 over 170 totally nude humans joined the thousands of textile runners - and for the first time the organisers of the event officially recognised the "Bare to Breakers" contingent and actively promoted it's existence. Bare to Breakers participants remove their clothes only once the race has commenced and put something back on before they reach the finish, as the precedent only applies to the race itself and the law are ready to pounce on nudists who leave the pack and mingle with the watching crowd. (Interested readers should look at http://wanr.earthbiz.net/Bare2B.html for more details.)
There is an element of risk in all the above activities, and thus they are considered controversial in the nudist community. However public nudity is at the absolute forefront of change, and forces textiles to reconsider their belief that nudity and sex are related. Most new Nudists enter the community because they have been first challenged by reports of events like those mentioned above, then go on to research nudism in detail - and find the truth. The Internet is an excellent source of this previously unobtainable information.
It is important though to remember that _someone_, somewhere has to be the first to challenge the norm. The Bay to Breakers example involved a small group of people laying their freedom beliefs on the line, and years of hardship while the case ensued. Interestingly enough it was public outcry against the prosecution which eventually won the case. For some years a few nudists have considered a similar challenge to the "Sun City to Surf" in Sydney however there are inherent problems with this idea, the most obvious being the climate. The Sydney City to Surf is held in July - the middle of winter - in Sydney's windy Eastern Suburbs. It is also a much newer and more serious event than the San Francisco counterpart. It may be some time before the great southern frontier is broken!
At present the most successful Australian "public" nude events are the Beach carnivals now held in each respective state on legal nude beaches (except Queensland, which has no legal free beaches but holds the event anyway). These events are supported by a very wide range of people from staunch conservative through to controversial. Attendances of over 500 people are common. These "disorganised organisation" events usually have a stage area and silly games for children and adults, and also feature fun "best body" events. The various organisers are always thinking up new ideas. These beach carnivals are quickly becoming the "public face" of Nudism in Australia with wide acceptance and support.