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Why making connections with other naturists should be a priority
Other naturists will be your best resource for getting the most out of naturism and can work with you to promote naturism itself
In the most recent issue (How serious has U.S. naturism's decline been in the past several decades?) I went into some details about how interest in naturism has been declining for the past 2 or 3 decades - at least in the U.S. But let's get past the bad news and start discussing what can be done to improve the situation.
In the newsletter issue just before that (Naturism's main challenge) I described what I think is the best way to start turning around the popularity of naturism. Since that issue came out a little over a month ago, let me repeat some of the key points. The most important point is relevant whether you're already actively involved in naturism, have only occasionally participated in naturist activities with others, enjoy nudity almost only in your own home, or are simply thinking of becoming more involved in social nudity. That point is that the most important thing to do is to start (or continue) to make social connections with other naturists. And that includes others who are at any of the stages of involvement with naturism just mentioned.
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The main point is making social connections in the real world - not just online - with other naturists. Subsidiary to that, I mentioned three sub-topics: (1) What are the risks of discussing naturism with other people you're already acquainted with? (2) Who should you discuss naturism with, and how should you do that? (3) What are the potential rewards to you for making those social connections?
This newsletter issue will focus on the second topic. The main problem is that there's an understandable tendency of most prospective or active naturists to be secretive about their interest in social nudity. Sure, if you're already acquainted with other naturists, there's no reason to be secretive about it with them. But discussing naturism only with other naturists doesn't do anything to interest people who aren't active naturists in becoming active themselves. Unless, of course, your discussions deal with solving the problem of how to interest others in naturism.
Let's step back for a moment and think about two distinct ways that exist to promote almost any type of agenda - not just the promotion of naturism. The first is the "top-down" approach. That's where some sort of organization already exists to promote a particular agenda, whether it's social, economic, philosophical, religious, political, or whatever. Obvious examples of such organizations include political parties, labor unions, civil-rights organizations, environmental organizations, etc. In the naturist world, most countries where naturism exists to any real extent have naturist organizations. In the U.S. there are two: AANR and TNSF.
Such organizations got started in various ways. They have also differed widely in their effectiveness. U.S. labor unions, for example, were quite successful in the middle decades of the 20th century at improving the working conditions and wages of workers in many industries. But since the last third of that century, their membership and effectiveness have generally declined, for various reasons. That pattern, incidentally, was similar to the rise and fall of many other completely different types of social organizations. But I'll save discussing that for another time. The two U.S. national naturist organizations have also experienced a similar rise and decline from their origins around 1930 to the present.
There are two distinct patterns for how the promotion of a particular agenda can proceed. It's between the “top-down” approach and the "bottom-up" (or "grassroots") approach. The top-down approach is what relatively large organizations that cover an entire country or large regions of one do. Most people are familiar with how such organizations work.
There are reasons why top-down national organizations like AANR and TNSF aren’t well-suited to promoting naturism to the public, so they don’t do especially well with the efforts they do make. If it were otherwise, naturism in the U.S. would be gaining popularity, not losing it. Neither organization actually does very much to promote naturism. Mainly they provide a few benefits to their paying members. Yearly memberships in AANR and TNSF are $64 and $70 respectively. For that, members get a few publications and discounts on fees at landed clubs. AANR provides an online directory of affiliated clubs, but TNSF doesn’t do even that much. Neither one provides much general information about naturism or other benefits online.
If someone’s looking for general naturist information, British Naturism is a much better choice, even if there’s no expectation of visiting the UK any time soon. Membership in BN is open to naturists anywhere, is only about US$54 (at the current exchange rate), and there’s a good quarterly magazine, as well as online services such as yoga and fitness classes and online discussion groups.
What about other sources of naturist information online at social media sites and other Internet sites like blogs? Except for the social media there aren’t really a lot of other sources, not even many blogs (although there were more in the past). And there are serious problems with all the largest social media. Almost all of them (except Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube to some extent) do not allow images of naturists or naturist activities that show “private parts”, reflecting and reinforcing, the ludicrous negative attitudes of the general public towards even nonsexual naturist nudity.
I won’t waste space right here listing other problems with the Internet as far as naturism is concerned. In fact, it’s starting to be discussed that Social Media Is Dead. (Reportedly, Tumblr has just decided to again allow tame nudity. Probably because Tumblr is desperate for users.) However that may be, good naturist information is hard to find online, often of uncertain reliability, and frequently hidden (especially on Facebook) in private groups with restrictions on who can join. Oh, and a big problem for many people is that they don’t want just anybody who happens along to know about their interest in naturism.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that individual naturists can be much better for providing good information about naturism and its many rewards. Large-scale naturist organizations provide relatively little information, except maybe “travel a long way to visit a club where you don’t know what to expect”. And the Internet/social media provide, at best, information that’s hard to find and of uncertain reliability. Consequently, a bottom-up/grassroots approach to promoting naturism makes much better sense.
None of the other sources provide detailed and useful information comparable to what can be learned from a trustworthy naturist friend, or a naturist who a trustworthy friend happens to know and respect. Trustworthiness is the key ingredient that’s lacking, especially in Internet sources. That’s the reason to focus on what individual naturists can do. In simplest terms, this means spreading quality information from an enthusiastic naturist to personal acquaintances or others who aren’t (yet) acquaintances but may be interested. Of course, that assumes anyone who wants to spread the ideas isn’t reluctant to discuss them with others - at least others who’re likely to be receptive.
How does a pattern of grassroots activity even get started? Usually, it's due to the activities of individuals who feel strongly about the issue and have at least some talent or ability in persuading others of the importance of whatever it is they feel strongly about. One term for such people is "organizers".
Organizers certainly don't do all the necessary work. But typically they do most of the following: (1) Carrying on informational and persuasive efforts with people in their own personal social network, or contacts made through that network. (2) Working on strengthening the degree of acceptance of the agenda by others who’re already interested in it and willing to help promote it. (3) Formulating and implementing plans for spreading information and justification for the agenda to others who may be interested in the agenda but know little about it. (4) Persuading others to assume organizing functions themselves through their own personal networks. Sometimes such activities may lead to the establishment of formal top-down organizations. But alternatively, most of the process can continue through simple person-to-person communication.
There's a large sociological literature on how organizers work. But a few of the key points have been summarized by a prominent organizer of recent times, Marshall Ganz. You can find a good summary of Ganz's thinking in a short essay of his: "Why Stories Matter". Perhaps the main point is this: "The initial challenge for an organizer - or anybody who's going to provide leadership for change - is to figure out how to break through the inertia of habit to get people to pay attention."
That essay is well worth reading. But the title gives the key thought: stories matter. To put this squarely in the naturist context, if you would consider persuading others of the value of naturism, then probably the best way to is to tell your own story of how you became interested in social nudity, found it worthwhile and enjoyable, and became an active participant. Telling that story is quite probably going to be more persuasive to others than just reciting abstract points about how and why social nudity is healthy, healthful, and a very good thing for general well-being. And it’s certainly easier than trying to discredit all the widespread misconceptions and misunderstandings about social nudity.
Obviously, a degree of self-confidence is needed to talk about naturism with others, even if they seem likely to be open-minded about it. The conversation could be as simple as how you became interested in naturism, things you’ve enjoyed about naturist activities, and how it’s become an important part of your life. In short, that means getting over being secretive about how and why you think social nudity is safe and enjoyable - and why learning about and trying naturist activities is very worthwhile.
It’s important to recognize that there are significant benefits for people who choose to be activists in supporting naturism. Activists can make many new friends - other activists, long-time naturists, and people new to naturism. That means many more opportunities to enjoy clothesfree activities with others in established naturist places, private homes, and outdoor places like hiking and camping areas.
Since you subscribed to this newsletter, you probably already know a fair amount about naturism and recognize the value of helping to promote naturism. The rewards of doing that include having more friends who also enjoy social nudity. Over time that will lead to there being more naturists, increased public awareness and understanding of naturism, and more opportunities for enjoying naturist activities. Opportunities such as parties and gatherings in your own home and the homes of naturist friends, new non-landed and landed naturist clubs, more outdoor places for enjoying naturism (beaches, hot springs, hiking and camping areas), clothing-optional visits to art galleries and museums, etc.
Of course, even if you already participate in some form of social nudity, you may be hesitant to become a promoter of naturism, even if you'd like to enjoy some of the opportunities just mentioned. Naturally, this is harder if you're an introverted sort of person rather than an outgoing extrovert. But in any case, you have to think seriously about how important nudity is in your life. If you decide it isn't really so important, then that's that. But let's assume you come to the opposite conclusion.
If you've realized that nudity really is important to you, then the practical problem is what to do next. You have choices to make. Perhaps you don't really want to become sort of an "apostle" for naturism and make an effort to persuade others you know - i.e., people in your current social network - about the value of naturism. That's a perfectly valid choice. But it leads to a different problem. If you want to continue enjoying social nudity but are reluctant to talk about it with others you already know, then you need to find other people who are already open about their enjoyment of naturism. Just being a "home naturist" who's seldom if ever naked in the presence of others is OK if that's what you're satisfied with. You'll miss out on all the extra satisfaction that comes with social nudity. But the choice is up to you.
However, let's assume you want something more than dispensing with clothes only at home, assuming others you live with accept that. But if you don't live alone and you're sure others you live with won't accept your nudity, then the only option for enjoying social nudity is to find people who aren't averse to nudity. The choice then is between (1) deciding not to be secretive with at least a few others in your current social network about your interest in naturism, or (2) seeking to find people who are active naturists but outside your current social network.
It's quite possible you have good reasons for being secretive with everyone in your current social network about naturism. There's no need to go into detail about those reasons. Concern about the reactions of people you work with or with others whose friendship you value isn't unreasonable. There certainly can be risks you just don't want to take, and that's OK.
However, if you consider the risks low, or if you're willing to accept them anyhow, there's good practical advice about how to discuss naturism with people you know and consider to be open-minded. A previous newsletter suggested ideas for revealing your interest in naturism and starting a conversation about it. Doing that may lead to others accepting your nudity in their presence. Your comfort with nudity may even get them interested in naturism themselves. If so, it's a win-win situation for everyone involved and for naturism in general.
On the other hand, you may reasonably choose to look outside your current social network for others you can enjoy social nudity with and even help interest additional people in naturism. In that case, there are two different matters to deal with: (1) How do you actually find people you will be compatible with who are already self-confident naturists? (2) If and when you are able to find such people, how do you present yourself to them as an individual they will welcome as a friend?
There are alternatives at every step of the way. Navigating the alternatives as they pertain to naturism isn’t always easy, so that’s a significant reason why naturism has difficulty finding acceptance in our society. But it's the reality we need to deal with. In future issues of this newsletter I'll discuss both of these matters.
For now, however, let me simply suggest reading a great article I just came across: "Meet Nudists: How to Make Friends In a Niche Community". Please read that, if possible, as background for further discussion in this newsletter. I think you'll find it worthwhile in the search for potential friends who enjoy being clothesfree as much as you do.
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