For quite some time now our family has noticed and remarked on the increasing amount of social media and news articles proclaiming the connection between naturism, or nudism and “Body Positivity”. Now our family is one that is particularly health and fitness focused. I was, in my past, a professional, and SA champs level runner, fitness and cross-fit fanatic and my husband was an ultra distance trail runner, iron man, mountain biker type. Consequently we have a family culture of staying fit and strong and eating in such a way as to assist that. The natural result of this is our bodies, certainly from a western ideal standpoint, have always been “in good shape” and one would assume that would result in body confidence, right? Not so! There are, and always have been, a number of things I don’t like about my body. I have looked at friend’s feminine curves with envy and wished for bigger boobs, thinner ankles and better skin. I have had friends who are beautiful enough to grace the covers of magazines tell me that they would “kill” to have my abs! My husband is no different in having things about his body that he isn’t crazy about, and weirdly some of the physical features I love most are things he doesn’t necessary like. He has developed love handles at various times where work has occupied more exercise time than it should, and I have to admit, while he is horrified by them I love them!
And there is the crux! The fact is, we are more aware of our flaws and weaknesses than others are, and we tend to judge ourselves unnecessarily harshly. In a world where we can’t easily escape social media and advertising, and where the selfie culture has created a obsessive need for external validation from strangers, the pressures of feeling one cannot present themselves as anything less than perfect are further fueled by filters. It’s such a double edged sword, isn’t it. You post an essentially fake version of yourself to get that endorphin hit from every ‘like’, ‘love’ and ‘follow’, but deep down each post is quietly affirming and reinforcing that belief that “I’m not good enough”. So what is the link between literally stripping all of that away and yet supposedly helping body positivity? How can social nudity possibly help?
I imagine that practically every person at that point where they were on the brink of their first “nude in front of others” moment experienced some amount of stress visualizing themselves being witnessed. Suddenly your flaws will be exposed and there would be no cloths hiding your too fat thighs, your belly pooch; your cellulite dimpled bum; your too small or too big or uneven boobs; your too small, too long, too fat or too skinny penis, weird scar, stretch marks, man boobs, flat butt, pot belly, concave chest, circumcised penis or overly long foreskin, ugly tattoo, uneven labia, outie clitoris, hairy back, protruding bellybutton, flabby arms, Cesar scar, love handles, boney hips, third nipple etc. etc. etc. Everyone has something right?
Cloths hide all of that. We use cloths and jewelry and makeup to cover, mask or disguise our flaws and enhance our features and so it seems ridiculous to claim that stripping (literally) all of that away could possibly be good for ones body image. And yet, it somehow, counterintuitively, is! And this is why Naturism can ultimately be so effective in building body positivity. It forces you to be vulnerable and “real” and similarly forces everyone around you to be real too! All your supposed “flaws” are out there along with everyone elses, and for the first time you are truly seeing that literally everyone is different and yet also the same; and those ‘flaws’ are not actually flaws at all, just signs that we are all human! Even the most perfect clothed and made up specimens are imperfect! It is immensely liberating to be allowed to be yourself and be accepted as you are! Social nudity is the great leveler. This is why, mere minutes into standing in a group of naked people you suddenly realise, that you have forgotten you are naked and at the same time you are not even noticing that the people around you are naked, you are simply seeing people, and they in turn are seeing you the same way, as just a person.
All I can say is give it a try, at best it will be a positive experience of self acceptance in the most honest of ways, and at worst it will give you a lasting memory of “that crazy time I got naked with a bunch of other crazy people”. :o)
– S (KZNNA Member)