nudism as an illegalism

Below the break is an article by the conservative Cardus Institute, apparently published in the Calgary Herald on August 11, 2011; no record of the same has shown up, thus far, in my efforts to find it on the Herald's website. The text was taken from here, instead. It is presented on this blog – with some annotation, typographic clean-up, and contextualizing hyperlinks – as an amusing record of a historical event, namely a naked bike ride in Montréal that happened just over 10 years ago and some anarchists efforts' to contribute something to it.

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As Montréal falls down around its residents' heads, there is comfort knowing it is safe to drop your pants and bicycle through downtown at midnight.

Motorists forced to use the Ville-Marie tunnel for their commute when it reopened Monday [August 8] told media tales of terror at the prospect of another massive beam collapsing on their cars. [Part of the tunnel had collapsed on August 2.]

Bridges are considered unsafe at any speed. Overpasses mimic asteroids, tossing great chunks of debris from above: “Look out! It's coming right at us!”

But insouciance, which only sounds like a French word for idiocy, rolls on. Late Saturday night [August 6], it cruised through the heart of Montréal wearing nothing but a superior smile.

While I was safely tucked in my bed far away at the time (my staunch belief is nothing good can ever come of being awake after 10 p.m.), press reports advise that 40 to 50 naked souls rode the streets en masse to make the point that, well, no one's quite sure. Perhaps their only point was to show they had something to point.

Like everything these days, the nudie wheelabout was organized entirely on Facebook. There is no word whether organizers recognized this as a golden gift of paradox.

It's doubtful, however, that they did. No two groups of modern humans are more squint-eyed with sanctimony than nudists and cyclists. Plop a bare-buttocked progressive astride the ultimate vehicle for green self-congratulation and you create, on two wheels, a snob so myopic the Hubble telescope couldn't help him see things clearly.

Naturally, police passively stood by as public order was violated. What were they to do? Uphold the law? Arrest someone for brandishing a club in public? Not in Montréal, where failure to look the other way is deemed a dereliction of the duty to be insufferably culturally superior.

Curiously, the one yelp of agitation following the event was on a blog called AnarchistNews.org. Its auteur managed simultaneously to participate and slag other participants for their bourgeois blindness.

The work is worth quoting at length:

Every garment (and every commodity) is a thread in the most constricting of uniforms, imposed at gunpoint and at shopping centres: CIVILIZATION.

Whether we are naked or in parkas, our bodies remain trapped within the system that issues judgment according to clothing, skin colour, or desire. Whether we are on bikes or in Hummers, the police will enforce the rules of the road: keep to the right, don't torch department stores. As long as the logic of the commodity rules, the power of the well-dressed man in the limousine won't be threatened by the naked queer on the tallbike.

We take off our clothing to celebrate the beauty and diversity of our bodies, but what of the bodies we can't see, locked away in cells, or consigned to stitch American Apparel under fluorescent lights in “not sweatshops”? When will we see the bodies that are actually forbidden? Will we even see each other outside of this carefully controlled space with its set time, its predetermined route, its police escorts?

To begin answering these questions, we have to call into question the entire existing order. We have to strip away not just the layers that hide our bodies, but the entire apparatus of domination that ensures we'll put our pants back on and go back to work in the morning.

NO PANTS, NO MASTERS

means

WE MUST DESTROY CIVILIZATION

It would be fish in a barrel to dismiss this as the sophomoric mouth-breathing of a political imbecile. Although it is written in something approaching English sentences, for example, its “logic” is akin to one of those word wheels you spin to pick combinations of nouns and vowels that sound coherent, but are really genuine gibberish.

NO BIRDS, NO GARBAGE TRUCKS means WE MUST SING BARRY MANILOW SONGS.

NO GOLF, NO CONDOMINIUMS means WE MUST MOW THE LAWN.

One could go on. One won't.

Yet, behind the nonsense there is a kind of savage genius, and an eerie prescience given what's happening in England, in the phrase “keep to the right, don't torch department stores”. Likewise the sentence “imposed at gunpoint or at shopping centres”.

They are meaningless at the literal level, of course. Yet our anarchist's analysis ingeniously dispenses with civilized distinctions between differences of degree and differences of kind. In so doing, it presents a mentality prevalent well beyond niche political blogs. It represents the thinking that distinctions no longer matter because they belong to that outmoded habit called order.

So the core of a once great city can turn into a nude free-for-all zone while the edges crumble and become impassable. So taking your pants off in public becomes a valid political gesture and obliging motorists to dodge collapsing 25-ton beams is acceptable political inaction. What matter?

All things are just all things. And all things – pants, bridges – fall down.

Look out. It's coming right at us.

The last post on this blog didn't hit the internet in the way I would have liked.

At the time when I published the previous entry, I didn't yet know any name for the presumptive trans woman (whose last name is Merager, and who I will refer to by that name for the remainder of this post) who had been present in the women's section at Wi Spa on June 24. I first had a thought to write something a bit solidarious vis-à-vis the Wi Spa situation in July, shortly after the first antifa-vs.-maga clash in Koreatown, Los Angeles, on July 3, which is when I first heard about it. Alas, life happened and I didn't get too far beyond the draft stage – plus I still had another entry to finish up.

In an article published by Slate on July 9, it was said that the initial incident had simply been a hoax – or at least that there was strong evidence to suggest that it hadn't actually happened, e.g. there was no evidence that any trans woman had even been present at Wi Spa on June 24. I don't read Slate, but the lefty/progressive sorts of journalists and/or Twitter personalities I was getting my information do, perhaps, or at least they were saying much the same. I found the idea that it might be a hoax credible, which is to say, I'm not gonna put it past a certain kind of rightist to fabricate a story like the one that was being told in order to generate a useful controversy.

By the time I got around to actually putting together some sentences for the “Solidarity” post, however, it was already late September, and there had been some developments in the story. For instance, the Los Angeles police had issued a warrant for a suspect, who subsequently told her side of the story to a person employed as a journalist (and apparently that person was Andy Ngo, writing in the New York Post) before turning herself in to police. Slate updated its July 9 story on September 3. Of course, lazy hack that I am, I used a Wikipedia article on the Wi Spa affair to get myself up to speed; consequently I got some of the facts of these new developments mixed up, as I admitted in the October 2 update to my October 1 post. Wikipedia is often good enough for the sort of research I care to do, but that was absolutely not true in this situation, because several of these details were missing at the time when I was writing.

I stand by what I wrote and, to some degree, how I wrote it – which is to say, I think I had a good idea of what I wanted to do, and what I fucked up was the execution. The Wi Spa affair, which was at its origin a controversy about some exposed “private parts”, provided an obvious and relatively contemporaneous example of a situation in which nudists had a clear stake as nudists. I thought that articulating both the how and the why of those stakes might be useful. First off, I wanted to challenge a certain part of the naturist internet (in some ways, the most promising part, insofar as it has some kind of interest in doing quote-unquote “politics”) to transcend the single-issue activism mindset. Second, I also wanted to direct some energy from among those who read these posts (and I guess there are a few of you?) towards an ongoing issue that should have been of some concern for anyone with even half-decent attitudes about trans people. This would have worked a lot better if I had managed to publish initially in July, not October, but it is what it is.

It was always clear to me that Merager might be, at minimum, a person I wouldn't want to be seen defending – but also that nothing short of full-throated condemnation, never mind the available facts, would be enough to convince those whose minds are captured by transphobic, paranoid animus that I was not defending her. For these folks, my simple usage of the pronoun “her” in respect to Merager is enough to mark me as on the wrong side of a Manichaean fight between Good and Evil.

This project is about changing culture, for the better, but that second part won't be obvious to people with different ideas about nudity than mine and not much interest in changing those ideas. A lot of the time, too, there is political opportunity in mobilizing and enlisting a sort of common sense – often founded in ignorance and/or paranoia – that stands against change in how people live their lives, what will and will not be permitted in public, and so on.

All movements to change culture face opposition. In the present moment in much of North America, Europe, and elsewhere, rightist coalitions are stepping up to do just that, often mobilizing against the civil rights of LGBT people writ large or trying to isolate the T from the LGB, the better to target that letter specifically. This is what awaits those who wish for an expanded option of nudity in public, if we were to ever have ourselves a decade of “gains” parallel to those that like trans lib got between 2010 and 2020 (which is unlikely, because there is no such movement to speak of, at least at this time). By this, I would mean increasing familiarity with the philosophical underpinnings of what we're saying about clothes and bodies (without, necessarily, increasing acceptance), more accurate and/or sympathetic representation of nudist characters in popular culture, video games, and legacy news media (hooray), and correspondingly becoming more visible to those with an ideologically grounded grudge against us.

Furthermore, no movement and/or significant population of people is devoid of shady characters, ugly representatives, and bumbling buffoons. Merager, and a few years ago Jessica Yaniv, are to trans lib and/or the trans population what a certain woman from Berkeley – whose last name is Taub and whose first name (not the one given to her by her parents or recognized by the government) is an ethnic slur that she probably has no good reason to use as her personal moniker – is to the cause of decriminalizing public nudity and/or to nudists.

Let's talk about her. Taub was arrested on December 19, 2019, over accusations of stalking, and attempting to kidnap, a 14-year-old kid who had been friends with her son. As a result, whenever her name comes up on r/nudism and r/naturism – usually to discuss the nude protests that she was involved in organizing in the Bay Area over the years, starting in the lead-up to the 2013 ban on public nudity in San Francisco and continuing afterwards – there are invariably comments to the effect that, first of all, she is mentally ill and/or a moral wretch (and these two things are typically often conflated) and that, second, it is wrong to “support” her. There is never any question, of course, of actually supporting this woman, who has apparently spent the last two years in jail, by providing her with money for canteen, organizing a rally for her release, or trying to break her out of prison. Instead, simply commenting positively about her activism is framed as some kind of comprehensive endorsement, or at least almost.

To my mind, Taub is simply an important historic figure – at least within the limited scope of, say, the recent history of street activism in the Bay Area (which is not my concern) or the recent history of getting naked in public, and trying to make that option more available in general, anywhere on Earth. She is, in other words, worth discussing for her deeds and her impact, within the scope of conversations on these subjects. Although I am hardly an acritical supporter of her tactics or her ideas, I also think it's fine if some people, i.e. supporters of the minoritarian position that it should be okay to get naked in public, are a little bit inspired by the reason she is well-known. She actually did the thing, after all, rather than just posting on the internet about what she thinks would be cool and right.

I don't think we should ignore her history of inappropriate behaviour as regards young people (nor should we do the same for any other well-known activist), but that shouldn't be the only thing that can be said about her. Because, the thing is, almost no one wants to talk about Taub the whole person in these sorts of conversations; they want to talk about Taub as a means of getting to talking about a great political idea of their own (usually the most rudimentary, Reddit-brained sketch of a nudist utopia, but I'm not judging).

And, to the extent that people just want to shut down a conversation about street activism and nudism before it even happens, simply because someone started that conversation by mentioning Taub, I actually think it's not cool. All it is is derailing.

Merager is not an important historic figure at all (at least not yet), but the Wi Spa affair as a whole might be. Having already made the choice to write about the Wi Spa stuff, once I found out someone had been arrested, I was going to have to something about that person. The way I talked about Merager was then opportunistically used to derail any (online) conversation about the ideas in that post from manifesting, and to put forward instead a combination of uncontroversial truisms (like “protect women and children”) and specific anti-trans animus. I was also told that, by “supporting” her, I was destroying my own reputation going forward.

So, what did I say her? Well, apart from saying that I don't think she should be in prison, like an anarchist would say, I also presumed that I don't know everything about her just because she has a documented history as a sex offender, I did the pronoun thing (be mad about it), and I reiterated a basic idea among nudists, namely that seeing a penis is not an emergency. I suppose that a lawyer representing Merager's interests in the state's courts could argue some version of that last thing in order to get her a better deal of some kind, but that lawyer probably isn't reading this blog. I said these things because, surprise surprise, I broadly speaking support the goal of trans liberation, which is to say, the end of specific oppression of trans people by, like, society.

I have done nothing to support Merager as an individual. Certainly I have not sent any money to her defense fund.

By way of conclusion, there was one comment I saw on r/nudism that I actually did appreciate. It reads as follows:

Any sex offender, regardless of gender, should lose access to spaces where nudity is present. I see no reason that they should be admitted.

As someone who has experienced sexual assault, the place I feel safest is at the landed naturist club where I am a member. I find the bar is set much higher in terms of zero tolerance for harassment and in shared values. I feel far less safe in other clothed places, for example pumping gas or buying groceries.

The idea of safety in gender segregation is false. It's past behavior that is a much more realistic indicator.

I agree with this person. I have a lot of problems, personally, with both the notion of a state-administered sex offender registry, as well as the actual reality of it in California and many other places, because 1) I am an anarchist and 2) I read Foucault in university.

I don't think there is anything wrong, in principle, with identifying sex pests as such and excluding them from spaces where, for instance, people are going to be naked. I have more experience in demonstrations, occupations, and things of that nature; I have been annoyed when sex pests were present at these sorts of events, and generally felt okay about times when the organizers announced beforehand that specific people would not be welcome at the event. Exclusion is always complicated, but I don't think it's off the table, in other words. Sometimes it's justified on grounds far less than being a sex pest!

My concern, I suppose, how do assess the distance between cruelty and stupidity when it comes to trusting people to not keep fucking up?

CW: some inaccurate information (see update below), child abuse mention, discussion of genital terminology

Two notes before beginning:

  1. Instead of the overly Latin and slightly nauseating word “penis”, I have chosen to instead to use something a bit more whimsical and fun in this piece, namely “johnson”. For etymologically obvious reasons, this term does not pertain very well to the transfeminine penis, more colloquially known as “girldick” – but alas, for those who can only see a dick as chromosomally shaped mounds of flesh, blood, and other fluids, it might as well be a johnson for all they're concerned, no matter the precise context.

  2. With respect to people who read this who may be just a touch “gender-critical” themselves, I already know how and why I disagree with you about this. I think your views on gender are a combination of boring, outdated, and too amenable to authoritarianism that's either rightist or might as well be rightist (never mind all the left-wing and/or anarchist bona fides certain people may harp on about); I'm not interested in wasting my time discussing it. To the extent you want some spaces to remain “cis women only”, I hardly even care, but I don't see it being very difficult for all of y'all to do that. You have such spaces and you will, in all likelihood, continue to have such spaces. They just may not be the only spaces anymore.

So! At the time of writing, the opening paragraph of the Wikipedia article on the “Wi Spa controversy” reads as follows:

On June 24, 2021, a woman posted a video to Instagram in which she angrily confronted staff at Wi Spa, a Korean spa in Los Angeles, about the apparent presence of a nude individual with a [johnson], most commonly believed to be a trans woman, in the women's section of the spa. The video went viral, attracting significant attention from [trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) and right-wing] media, which led to protests and counter-protests on July 3 and 17 over the alleged access. Some media initially questioned whether the alleged incident had been a hoax.

The article goes on, stating that on August 30, someone “commonly reported to be a transgender woman” was arrested in connection to the original reported incident. There is at least one real person involved at the centre of all this, in other words – and things are still very much shaking out for her. I have not followed this story closely, and I don't even know how many details are easily available, but I suspect that she is in pre-trial lock-up at this time.

As an anarchist, I think that sucks. Furthermore, I think that all prisons should be burned to the ground; I'm into that shit. I am also open to the idea that this person genuinely sucks too, because I do not know what happened. My gut reaction, as a partisan in the culture war, is that this is (as some have claimed, because there was initially no evidence at all to suggest otherwise) a hoax, and that now some uninvolved trans woman is dealing with a lot of shit as a consequence. But I don't know – and hey, maybe that person has done some things I don't think are cool, at Wi Spa or elsewhere.

An aside: evidently, she was not arrested because she is necessarily known to have been at Wi Spa – although perhaps some witness testimony will come out in whatever court-and-media circus emerges from this some months hence. Her history of “indecent exposure” dating from about 2003, documented by the judicial system, is what flagged her as a possible suspect. She has apparently also been designated by the state as a “registered sex offender” since 2006, presumably for related reasons.

This woman, and the original incident in the Wi Spa women's changing room (be it a complete fabrication or not), is not really important, though. What is important is that there were, just outside of Wi Spa's location in Los Angeles, large rallies and counterrallies between rightists, on the one hand (including in some cases fascists, parafascists, as well as several people who are completely out of touch with reality), and on the other hand, a coalition of anti-fascist activists, e.g. various leftists, maybe some anarchists, the odd, essentially liberal concerned citizen, and so on. These events, on July 3, July 17, and possibly on other days since, were all overseen by the police.

What happened at Wi Spa was part of a larger story as soon as that went viral. It was, in fact, for at least a brief moment, The Story for both the “gender-critical” and anti-fascist commentariats, in the United States at least. This is what led to the rallies, which I am sure would have had various negative effects if left unopposed (difficulty for staff just working a job at Wi Spa, difficulty for many customers but certainly customers who are trans or might look trans, a sense of victory for the anti-trans side and/or their buddies the Nazis and the “Western chauvinists”), and so then there was also counteraction (widely framed as “antifa”), with all of its inherent risk for the side that, on other days of the week and/or with every breath, also happens to oppose the police, the colonial state, capitalism (of all kinds), the American flag, etc.

There were real stakes for both coalitions, in other words – both the rightist, TERF/“gender-critical”, religious conservative, and -adjacent coalition “opposing gender ideology” et al., as well as the trans, anti-fascist, liberal-progressive-secular, and -adjacent coalition that stands for “trans and queer liberation”, “LGBT rights”, etc., to one's tastes.

As an insurrectionary anarchist – which means, in the North American context today, a tradition within anarchism largely informed by people who had some close connection to struggles in Italy or in the Italian diaspora in the past, from Malatesta and Galleani about a hundred years ago, to the forebears of those forebears, and also to the lives of anarchists still living today like Bonanno, Weir, and others who got caught up in the biggest event for anarchists of the whole 1990s, which has been significantly degree identified with individualist currents as well in North America, also bringing names like Novatore especially to the fore – I inherit a tradition that, in its more modern, local, and generally English-language iterations, is extremely ambivalent about and wary of coalitional politics, insofar as it knows well that coalition partners, on the whole, aren't gonna fuck with what we think, aren't gonna put resistance to authority at the centre of their analysis and practice, and are pretty likely to betray us and/or disappoint us eventually.

All that said, there is a social-insurrectionary current too, which doesn't forget that it's not just insurrectionary anarchists or any other conspiratorial “elite” that makes the revolution – it's everyone, together. At least where I live, the individualist and the social-insurrectionary currents still exist in an uneasy tension, together sustaining (with difficulty) a form of anarchism that isn't just contemporary Blanquism lazily described as such.

Thus, in the spirit of realizing the perennial social-insurrectionary fantasy, of diverse demographics coming together, vanquishing various threats, and creating space for joyous novelty (also identified, by some, as “anarchy”), I wish to bring to the fore that there is also some stake in this for anyone who wants to “normalize nudity” in society at large.

The original controversy stems from the fact that a johnson visible to others for a brief moment in the women's changing room at Wi Spa on June 24 of this year; and if that was not the case, we can still concede that such a thing could happen, certainly has happened somewhere at some point, that it is in fact a logical consequence of a limited trans liberation taking place within the parameters of an otherwise unchanged society (i.e. a society that has commercial spas, which have bigendered changing rooms, and so on). And, either you're cool with that, or not.

Personally, I am cool with it, and not even on behalf of some especial militancy in favour of trans lib. It's more like, as a nudist, it is hard for me to understand what the big deal is about a loose johnson or a loose anything. “Don't look if it makes you uncomfortable” is my position, in more or less any setting, including in changing rooms, locker rooms, etc., to your preference.

Furthermore, I don't really believe that the specific “sanctity” of any space should be the most important principle in any ethical conundrum or social question, nor do I think it is acceptable or a good idea to accommodate ungrounded panic about sexual predators and pedophiles, especially if trans women and other groups are also being identified as the avatars of this threat. I suspect the rare event of a loose johnson in a women's locker room will be uncomfortable for some (though I would expect the discomfort to be more acute among isolated pre-op trans women than among cis women and girls who are in the company of other cis women and girls), but life is uncomfortable for everyone sometimes. Alas! Would that it were not, for everyone!

In men's changing rooms, there has also been a sort of drift towards less tolerance of loose johnsons in public view, which long predates more recent hysteria animated by the gains of pro-trans social movements. For example, where I live, local authorities have, in recent years, mandated that nudity is not to be tolerated in changing rooms for public pools, whether to change from a street outfit into swimclothes or to take a shower beforehand or after.

Although the policy applies across the board, the rhetorical focus was on the men's changing rooms, and the arguments were the same as those with respect to the Wi Spa controversy. Some people are uncomfortable with nudity, first off; it was implied that the people who were doing the complaining were mostly non-white immigrants, so when the policy was announced, both a potential “left” opposition to the policy was undermined for fear of association with racism, while a scapegoat was offered up by local authorities to magnetize the animus of any potential “right” opposition to the policy. A skillful maneuver.

There are also children present in men's changing rooms, just like in women's changing rooms. Apparently this matters because there is an epidemic of child sex trafficking happening at the public pools where parents and older siblings take young kids to cool off in the summer (fact check: there is not). What's really happening is that 6-year-olds are seeing normal human bodies in the locker room, and then potentially asking questions of their fathers and older brothers that can cause these men, young and old, quite a bit of discomfort and confusion. If we accept that the policy was adopted for exactly the same reasons as local authorities said it was, then the decision making doesn't give much credit to these men (among whom I suspect there are plenty of white “locals”, incidentally). Nor does a narrative that assumes crowds of cis women are uniquely threatened by the odd trans woman in a women's changing room (including the even rarer type of trans woman who is a bit large or a bit rude).

Even in the very limited number of spaces where public nudity has heretofore been considered acceptable because it is, in fact, quite practical – like, me being me, the nudist blog guy, I'd obviously prefer both the pool and poolside facilities to be comprehensively nudity-optional, but that's just not what's up – there is a push to keep “private parts” covered to an even greater point of impracticality than what was, mere decades earlier, still quite common in North America. And like, I think it should be as easy as possible, for everyone, for people to change their outfits when that is something they need to do just to enjoy their lives.

There may be more than one solution to this, none of which is likely to work for everyone, but a trans-inclusive policy with respect to bigendered changing rooms seems significantly better than simply ignoring the specific needs, experiences, or desires of trans women writ large in order to satisfy a bigoted sentiment among, for the most part, cis people, both women and men.

But, that's not what's going. The principal reason is a sort of anti-sexual hysteria, meaning confused and/or politically reactionary efforts to solve real sexuality problems that either lack strategic sense or, otherwise, are animated by paranoia and violent fantasy vis-à-vis identified enemy groups such as trans people.

This sort of thing never affects just one group of people. It has ripple effects. Certainly it has gotten mixed into the QAnon and -adjacent stuff at this point, e.g. ideological currents presently animating most incidents of fatality-inducing stochastic terror in the United States.

Among naturist spaces on the internet, the only one I am aware of that has any space at all for present-day political discourse is the r/naturism subreddit. At the time of writing, there is a wiki page “dedicated to resources to help the Black Lives Matter movement” as well as links to a “Belarus Solidarity Fund” and a “Hayastan All Armenian Fund” on the sidebar, presumably related to the ongoing situation in Belarus and last year's war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I don't want to be too mean or critical, but I find this sort of thing a bit confusing. It is clear to me that one or more of the subreddit's admins care about things beyond the concerns of nudism-naturism, that they want to help with apparently urgent matters like social uprisings, wars, and dictatorial crackdowns on dissent, and that they think the users of r/naturism – who mostly post blog articles about “nakations” or their own experiences as nudists or other very much subcultural and individual concerns – should also give at least some amount of a fuck. And, that's great, but there is not much of an explicit argument being made to explain why anyone should care (apart from already agreeing with some cliché principles of anti-racism, anti-imperialism, internationalism, etc.), what any users of r/naturism are supposed to do about that, and why any of the suggestions of places to donate or things to keep in mind might actually be helpful, fit into a larger strategy, etc.

With respect to the Wi Spa situation, it's different. First of all, it is presumably a place that many SoCal nudists already know of, or that they may even frequent occasionally. Second, the original controversy is about an exposed “private part”, a linguistic and philosophical construction that is a perennial bugbear for would-be nudists. There is, in other words, some space for nudists to participate in the social eruption around the controversy – just one beat in the pulse of a larger, more diffuse cultural conflict across the whole anglosphere and beyond – as nudists (or perhaps more accurately, as partisans of nudism, i.e. it may not be useful to participate actually naked) and in solidarity.

In so doing, they could link struggles and also sharpen ideas about, in this case, issues of apparel and nudity more broadly. Out of that, there is a possibility for something beyond mere defense of reason and decency in a space where it is threatened (which is, frankly, a straightforwardly conservative goal, whether it is articulated by defenders or opponents of trans lib). Instead, the Crucible of Politics and the Arena of History could do as they have done before, forging new affinities which might lead, in turn, to new architectures (both physical and sociocultural) and new understandings of the world that do not subordinate exuberance and personal freedom to tradition, paranoia, and/or negative stereotypes about certain kinds of people. And I genuinely think that, apart from what nudists can do for the right side in this struggle as people like any other (e.g. we can throw down, provide first aid, donate money, etc.), there is also something uniquely useful we can contribute to this specific struggle that emerges from a nudist political sensibility (e.g. the argument that no one should rightly care too much about a hanging johnson being in potential sight range every now and then).

An effort to create a more actively solidarious culture among nudists (or among any other group of people, of course) shouldn't be directed first toward “issues” that are simply serious, be they geopolitical issues (“Belarus”, “Hong Kong”, “Venezuela”, etc.) or social justice issues (like trans lib or whatever). The primary focus instead should be to identify situations where nudists could understand that they have some skin in the game, as it were – situations such as those around the Wi Spa stuff this past summer, as well as the larger backdrop of both a widespread social precariousness and a multiplicity of rightist factions that want to seize power, exterminate the human avatars of perceived “corruption” (which presumably includes a lot of nudists), and generally make the world worse for everyone.

The Wi Spa situation has been on my mind since it happened in 2021, but not long before that, in the context of nationalist campaigns to punish people for wearing certain kinds of apparel associated with non-Christian religions in places like France, Québec, Austria, and elsewhere, I have also thought that it would have been great if some organized association of nudists could have intervened strategically in the discourse (i.e. in podcasts, in writing, in which there are no distracting representations of naked people, so that the ideas can take centre stage).

“From burqini to naked,” their slogan could have read. “We believe that what others wear is none of your business.”

As an anarchist who has participated in black blocs before, I would have appreciated even symbolic and rhetorical efforts at solidarity from nudists in the face of previous years' (and obviously pre-2020) efforts in various places to demonize and specifically criminalize face masks and other types of sensible apparel for street fighting in the context of political demonstrations and/or just in general. (Probably a bit spicy for the vast majority of nudists on the liberal-to-conservative political spectrum, sadly.)

It is important to note that solidarity is the only means by which any sort of anti-systemic social movement has ever achieved its objectives – and it's generally pretty useful for social movements that are significantly less anti-systemic, too. Nudism-naturism (the dominant “philosophy of nudism”, e.g. a set of ideas about how to understand humans' relationships to nudity, apparel, and other aspects of their lives, as well as to how imagine better ones), nudism-comfortism (a different philosophy informed by anarchism, articulated here), and any kind of anarchist and/or radical egalitarian politics seem pretty much destined to remain positions of the small minority for the foreseeable future. The experiences of minorities of various kinds, too, will remain obscure to most people, especially while there is an ongoing, well-supported campaign in the anglosphere countries (and beyond) to remove purported “gender ideology” (a bogeyman evil that overlaps with other evils in a suspicious rightist's mind) from existence, perhaps alongside those who promote it and those who embody it.

We (nudists, anarchists, people who are both) can make our own spaces, and we can take our own spaces. Unless we have money, though, we will need to develop other skills, including social skills. We need to know, and have a good and trusting relationship, with as many of our neighbours as we can – and sometimes, with people who are further away, too. We need to show our friends, or the people we wouldn't mind having as friends, that we will have their backs if they're dealing with a crisis. And then, maybe they'll help us out, both when we need help due to a crisis of some kind, or because we have aspirations of our own that we want to realize, that we hope others can help us realize.

(Update, October 2, 2021: a comment on @news led me to type a name into my search engine, which brought me to this article, by Andy Ngo, in the New York Post. I do not like Ngo or the Post, but the article provided new information that I expect is accurate. For instance, what happened on August 30 is that the Los Angeles police issued a warrant for a suspect in the Wi Spa “indecent exposure” case; no one was arrested on that day. The individual named in the warrant then spoke to Ngo for his September 2 article, and announced that she would turn herself into police afterwards. I got these facts wrong. In the Post article, the sought-after individual also admits to having been present at Wi Spa on June 24, meaning that, at the very least, the initial incident was not a hoax. I do not think these facts invalidate the overall thrust of my argument – I stated that the person at this centre of this story could very well be a person who I would think sucks, and that it's not about her – but I do regret using an evidently inadequate Wikipedia article for most of my research.)

[comments: Raddle | Reddit ++ | @news]

1. In the legend of the Garden of Eden, the original humans, Adam and Eve, were unashamed of their nakedness. Then they ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and God cast them out. At some point, either after the fruit or after leaving the garden, they became ashamed of, at minimum, their “private parts” – and thus they covered up. Thus were clothes born, thus did humans come to know something called modesty, and thus was nudity made into sin.

The two most important salvation religions that the world has ever seen, Christianity and Islam, take the story of the Garden of Eden seriously. While the individual faithful, across centuries and vast geographies, have occasionally been anywhere between easygoing about nudity to committed nudists, the most politically important currents in both religions – which is to say, not short-lived heretical movements and libertine rebellions, but the Christianity of kings and popes, the Islam of sultans and scholars, the ideas of religion as promoted by states and elites – have promoted and enforced standards of dress that are quite covered up.

There are other religions, of course, and it's not as though people weren't wearing clothes in, say, Japan circa 1200 (e.g. long before Abrahamic religion or its adherents started making any big local impact). Clothes seem to be a common part of almost all of civilization, which is defined in various ways by different people, but which I will characterize as a society organized around the provision of resources and ruled by bullies, cult leaders, and the interests of people who have inherited generational wealth – all categories that overlap to varying degrees. This was true of ancient Mesopotamia, an era when there were individual cities, sometimes at the centre of empires, the geographic scope of which was limited by mountains, deserts, endless steppes, and the sea. It is true today, too, when this way of living has expanded to almost every part of the planet where humans can live comfortably, plus some. No one is going naked.

Never mind the hype about Europe, by the way. I am not certain that I could think of a non-European city where it would even be conceivable that a subway advert featuring head-on full frontal nudity (of a trans woman, no less!) would ever even make it to the train, but that's what happened in Vienna in 2014. Over in Europe, representations of naked people are more common in public spaces and on primetime TV than they are in North America, where I live, or possibly anywhere else – but that is completely immaterial to the fact that most Europeans still don't go naked (or even near naked) as a matter of course. They wear clothes, sometimes lots of clothes, even when clothes are stifling. When they strip down – for instance, at sandy beaches with access to nice ocean breezes – they mostly adhere to the broadly global norms of beach attire, e.g. they wear (highly bigendered) bathing clothes such as shorts and bikinis.

It's not a safe option to get naked at most of the best, most beautiful, and most accessible beaches throughout Europe, at least not without an army of people who support you and/or get naked themselves. It often isn't legal to do so, either. Even if it is legal, the cops, other local officials, or simply the other beachgoers may not know that, or they may not care. Either possibility may lead to unpleasantness that feels all the more unpleasant when you're naked and physically vulnerable.

This doesn't stop everyone in Europe (or elsewhere) from getting naked, and of course there are lots of (generally still more secluded and inaccessible) nude beaches and such, with some countries (notably Germany) having quite a lot of nudity-optional territory available, at least in comparison to countries that little to none. But there is a whole complex of laws, culture, and enforcement of norms – again, the stuff of civilization – that stops a lot of people, most of the time, from getting naked, even if that's something they would want to do. Few people are going to ride the Berlin subway or visit a Brighton basketball court without at least one clothed back-up person with a camera following along. It's just not worth the trouble.

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2. In the hot, humid, and largely tropical regions of the world (possibly including Mediterranean Europe), and especially outside of cities and regions exploited by cities, I am led to believe that near nudity as a norm of dress was once much more common. It's hard to know for certain what the situation was at points further back in time, of course. Most people throughout history were illiterate, and much of the tools and other object they would have crafted for themselves, like clothing, would have been made from materials that degrade over time.

So, in the historical record, there are some descriptions of “naked” people provided by others who were, by and large, either involved in efforts to conquer them, Christianize them (or occasionally Islamicize them), and occasionally either outright assimilate or exterminate them, or failing all that, at least invested in the idea of their own cultural superiority over these people and partial to the notion that nudity was a sign of inferiority. Suffice it to that, in the broad span of human history, I think there really were groups of people who were out-and-out naked and just living their lives until some combination of state agents and/or adherents to a faith of Middle Eastern origin showed up. But I suspect out-and-out naked people were a small minority, too. Based on documentary evidence I have seen that was produced from the 19th century onward, I think it's fair to say that the most naked of the people in Amazonia, Africa, and Southeast Asia who were photographed or videotaped (on a scale of how much of their skin was exposed to air and the camera) were, most of the time, still wearing some amount of clothing and/or ornamentation.

At some point, there is an arbitrary choice to be made in distinguishing “naked” from “near naked”, but given that we are talking about people with other cultural ideas about dress and nudity, I think it's probably accurate to say that, if any of these people had ideas about “nudity” that were more or less analogous to common modern ones (e.g. shame, embarrassment, inappropriateness, vulnerability), these people simply were not naked by their own standards – which I think are the ones that should matter, most of the time. Yet, to the extent that most of their skin was exposed, most of their ass cheeks were exposed, and almost the whole front chest was exposed, then I would consider those people, perhaps not absolutely naked, but certainly more naked than would be the global norm today.

This sort of near nudity, even in the regions of the world where it might make a lot of sense given local conditions, is vanishingly uncommon today. To the extent that it still exists as a norm of dress in some places and among some people, it is under threat from a combination of missionaries, national governments (e.g. especially when brazenly conservative and chauvinistic factions are in power or close to power, as is often true or increasingly true in Brazil, Indonesia, and India, for instance), and the myriad other forces that push toward either cultural annihilation and/or cultural change.

At a time when the climate in colder, more temperate zones is literally tropicalizing, e.g. becoming hotter and more humid, there are people in the world like the late John Allen Chau, who want to impose themselves, their Saviour, and (presumably) “more modest clothing” as well upon the inhabitants of a place like North Sentinel Island – never mind that the people were doing just fine already. Never mind, either, the historical experience of Operation Koteka in western Papua, in which the heretofore mostly forest-dwelling locals were obliged by force to cover up more of their skin, presumably because some chauvinistic Javanese bureaucrats thought they ought to. Many Papuans did not know (having had no previous reason to know) that they had to wash these new clothes, and they probably weren't informed of that fact in their own languages, so many of them got sores and rashes all over their bodies.

Finally mind, neither mind, too, that the globalized clothing industry is an ecological nightmare that every person should be seceding from as much as they possibly can right now, so that it, and the larger edifice of capitalist industry, falls apart as hastily as possible and while there are still humans around who will be able to dance on the ruins.

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3. Throughout the history of civilization – both in the tropics and elsewhere – fancier clothes and large, diverse wardrobes have always corresponded to wealth and high status. They have been used, in fact, as indicators of such status. Occasionally, in feudal societies, there were laws that aimed to prevent “commoners” from wearing fabrics, colours, and other accoutrements that were associated with more privileged classes of people, even if some of those commoners, in their role as merchants or whatever, would have been able to procure such luxury items for themselves through the market.

The poor in civilization, for their part, seem to have mostly always worn clothing as well. To be sure, without lotions that can protect the skin from the Sun's rays, it is probably not a great idea to be completely nude when doing backbreaking farm labour at the height of noon. Even if there was lotion available in a given society, it may have been expensive and/or time-consuming to procure. Living and/or working in some places might also mean biting insects, sharp blowing sand, intermittent violent conflict, and other hazards. If you were poor but a resident of a city or a market town, your living conditions were often cramped and unhygienic no matter what you did, and being naked in such circumstances, even if ambient weather conditions were permitting, would certainly make you more vulnerable in a dangerous situation: fires, disease, an outbreak of fighting of any variety. In addition, a lack of appropriate clothing might limit one's ability to carry (and sometimes also conceal) useful items from place to place.

And of course, the poor in civilization have never been completely immune to a tendency of emulating and replicating the values of the rich. Poor people aspire to be rich. A number of people always invest significant time and/or resources in projecting a wealthy status (or at least a relatively well-off status) to others. They do this for any number of reasons, not least of which is that they may want to attract partners, and projecting wealth or well-offness is often part of a healthy strategy for that sort of a thing. (All of this is contrary to an idea of simplicity that is important to a lot of nudists, and reflected in the affect of spiritually guided naturism, be it Christian naturism, gay pagan nudism, or whatever else.)

For anarchists today, and throughout history in fact, clothes have been a way of signaling to one another what one is about (be that community activist, insurrecto-cool, or “hello, fellow worker!”); and in this, we aren't really different from other political subcultures, because other people wear t-shirts with slogans on them, too. Anarchist “fashion” and/or anarchists' norms of dress would have looked different in and around a Parisian salon in circa 1899 than it would have done in a punk venue in the United States or Indonesia circa 1999, but similar dynamics exist below the surface. There is a desire to indicate certain affiliations, to indicate that one belongs in a given space, and of course there may also be an effort to have a distinct look that speaks to an important part of a person's identity, which for same people may be their self-conception as an anarchist – hence the need for a circle-A patch on the shoulder.

An interesting new development is that, today, the principal channel for indicating affiliations and expressing personality to others avant la lettre (i.e. before talking to someone) is now the social media account. This account may feature photos of the operator, perhaps wearing clothes or perhaps not, perhaps showing certain parts of the body (the face) or other parts, perhaps showing an illustration of an anthropomorphic fox character, or whatever else. The way to show others what one is about is, in any case, quite different from the dynamic at play when hanging out in a physical space, like a bar or a student association building or wherever, and providing a first impression only through the medium of clothing and ornamentation that is being worn at that moment in time and space.

Clothes, when they aren't symbolic in and of themselves, are often canvases for symbols, indicating adherence to a particular worldview and/or membership in a particular tribe in the most generic sense (and sometimes a particular national project, which is just a tribe on a much larger scale). A major rhetorical focus within naturist discourse, which is typically liberal by default, is that with nudity, all of that shit goes away: class, creed, politics, etc. I don't believe that for a minute, but I am certain that – absent some explicit and/or very specific tattoos or some particularly pointed and controversial hairstyles – nudity generally does succeed in obscuring one's chosen affiliations (although not necessarily any more than, say, a normcore dress aesthetic).

In the current moment, we are seeing a resurgence of nationalist and authoritarian politics (and corresponding apparel, either the Dionysian insanity of Trumpists-qua-Landsknechte or the Apollonian uniformity of police, paramilitaries, and all the quasi-serious wannabes), largely correspondent to many ideas about what “fascism” constitutes. We are also seeing global temperatures soar as a result of the carbonization of the atmosphere and other such things. At the same time, there is sort of a crisis of relevance for anarchism. It's hard to really measure this in a global sense, but it seems that there are fewer partisans, specifically, of anarchism, at least in North America and/or the part of it where I live. I think a lot of this has to do with the end of subculture, which itself has to do with the internet. People are no longer involved in relationships with people with whom they share space – which is to say, embodied space – and with whom, in many complicated ways, they can articulate a shared way of understanding the world, of signaling belonging to a group, of living together, even for a short time. Instead, people are largely involved in relationships on the internet, many of which are one-sided and “parasocial”; they do not share space, which is bounded and specific, but “platforms” that are, at least at the level of user perception, effectively infinite and boundless, such that anyone can go off and spin up their own supposedly cooler Discord server or subreddit or whatever. Eclecticism and idiosyncrasy are thus no longer incidental, the product of uniqueness, but instead often the goal; to have varied interests and diverse sources of inspiration is an indication of the breadth of a person's knowledge and experience.

From this emerges a recuperative monoculture, made up of images from the past, often from other places. A lot of people, including myself, view this as vapid and unfulfilling, and so they look for something more authentic, which more often than not ends up being some kind of sanguinary rightism.

Many people do not understand anything about the real history corresponding to these images from the past – or if they do, they have not thought about those understandings and tried to reach a better understanding through carefully and logically putting different aspects of their knowledge into dialogue with one another. Instead, they just appreciate the image's most shallow aspect, its aesthetic – that is, the recombination of all its apparent characteristics into a singular value whose purpose is to determine how an image, an outfit, a style, a person, is to be categorized.

In images of the past, what are we looking at? Is it a real image of people living their lives, captured more or less candidly, or is it an image that was constructed and staged by someone with an agenda or a vision? Why are people wearing the clothes they are wearing? Where did they get those clothes? What was the history of those clothes – the raw materials that made up those clothes – before anyone ever wore them? What did those people think about clothes in general, either their own or clothes in general? What kind of lives did they live, and how were those lives different from, say, yours or mine?

:: ### ::

4. Clothes originate somewhere between 50,000 and 500,000 years ago. As someone who doesn't know shit about shit when it comes to prehistory, but who is predisposed to confidently saying things about history anyway, I am gonna put my money on more or less 222,222 years ago as the time whenabouts the plot of this episode of Animals. happened in slow motion among a group of humans' ancestors for the first time – or, if you don't want to watch the episode (even though it's really quite good), in which people started to wear clothes.

Humans are descended from ancient primates; we have a common ancestry with other species to primates in the world today, several million years ago. The other living primate species don't wear clothes like we do, and to a species, they are mostly covered in fur – though often with “naked” patches, either without hair or perhaps with very thin, very sparse air.

Modern humans vary quite a bit, but once our clothes are gone, most of us are “naked” (e.g. hairless) almost all over our bodies. Even the hairiest of us – those with facial hair, chest hair, back hair, butt hair, leg hair, the works – still don't approach the furriness of most primates.

Our ancestors hunted game, and often their greatest strength was not any crafted tool they had in their possession (which certainly may have been important), but their superior endurance, e.g. their ability to give chase for a long time. Sprinting, they were perhaps significantly slower than what they were chasing, but they could keep going without completely stopping as a result of overheating. In tropical environments, this corresponded to a decrease in fur over time, which led to a “nakedness”, e.g. a comparable hairlessness, when compared with other primate species. Later, this in turn gave rise to a practical need for clothes when later generations moved into climes where protection from the cold, from the rays of the Sun, and from other elements was important for survival.

An important thing about clothes is that, until very recently in history, they were almost always handcrafted. Clothes were not made in factories and sold for money, which is how things have unfolded since capitalism emerged and took over the world. There were, in some places and some times, craftspeople, often called “tailors” or “cobblers” or whatever, who made clothes of a certain type if people could pay up in some useful currency. But for most people throughout history, who have mostly been poor, clothes were made by people who knew how to do such things, who were typically part of a person's family or community. This was often “women's work” in patriarchal societies, but that's not the point. What's important is that this is now rare; these skills have largely been lost in societies affected by mass consumerism. There may be small numbers of people, often enthusiasts and hobbyists, who still mend clothing, stitch quilts, and so on – and often such people have been found adjacent to anarchists, as punks – or who are at a distance from the reach of the global clothing industry (again, places like North Sentinel Island). Most people, however, and even the very poorest in any given society, wear clothes that were made in a dedicated facility far away in order to turn a profit for a given company's shareholders.

Today, incomprehensible quantities of garments are produced; the scale of the industry is beyond fathoming. Many people own many, many more garments than they could ever possibly use. Lots of people in affluent societies own clothes that they never wear. It is difficult, and usually effectively criminal, to not own any clothes, so the absolutely destitute usually still own something, though their clothes tend to wear out more quickly than would be the case if they didn't live on the streets.

Clothes that no one wants are gathered en masse, and flow through the international development charity racket to places in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, undercutting local garment industries, causing unemployment, and homogenizing global culture such that the whole world wears t-shirts and other types of “Western clothing” now.

Clothes are commodities, which is to say, all the history of violence that goes into their manufacture is obscured to the people who encounter them at the point of purchase or afterwards. Most people don't know how bad it all is (all the hell of production), or they don't dwell on it much. Others do, and yet they buy clothes anyway, at least in part because they do not really see any viable alternative to doing so. They don't have the skills, or the time, or the community, to make – or otherwise source – the clothes they need, when they need them. If they are even interested in living a life in which they are less alienated from the production of the things they use, clothes may, nevertheless, not be a major priority for where they want to start with things. People more often think about their food first.

:: ### ::

5. I think clothes are pretty cool, personally. Like, specific items of clothing that I own and that I like, as well as certain types of clothing in general, as well as the entire concept of clothing. It is all swell to me.

But I do not like how clothes are in this society – which is to say, how they are both pretty much mandatory in all social settings everywhere, as well as how, like lots of other things, they are generally ecologically destructive. But in a different kind of society, things could be kind of different.

I am, incidentally, entirely unsentimental about nudity in public as such. I personally believe that there should be no laws against it, and no involvement of police in resolving disputes about such things (because I suspect there would remain disputes about the appropriateness of nudity in certain settings, among certain people who have particular beliefs about clothes and such, etc.), but I would be pretty happy with a new norm that allowed for looser clothing (e.g. loincloths, sarongs, dresses – fuck gender by the way), more easygoing attitudes around exposed skin (e.g. maybe a little leeway to, say, change clothes in public without having to do a towel dance or squat behind a shrub or whatever), and a broad dismantling of the global clothing industry (and others industries, for instance those that encourage self-doubt and anxiety with respect to personal appearance, the body, et al.). Maybe that's reformist of me, but a revolutionary horizon in which the norm is that everyone is actually naked when unperturbed by, say, a cold snap, is just not that interesting to me.

That being said, I do like getting completely naked – and I figure that nudity could be a larger part of anarchist collectivity, prefiguration, and direct action than it is currently.

I don't care to get into specifics of what that could look like, but most projects – and really, all projects, when you think about it – require space. Nudity is, almost by definition, vulnerability, and if people are able to feel actually comfortable when naked in a space, that is an indication that they feel pretty safe in that space, which is perhaps an indication that something is working. There is a certain degree of trust that nothing bad and/or unpleasant and/or undealwithable is gonna happen as a result of a condition of nudity (or something worse than normal is going to happen, if conditions are just more generally difficult for a person for any number of reasons).

Besides, it is sometimes practical to be more vulnerable, with respect to certain hazards, if that means being more capable and prepared with respect to some other problem (for instance, how to conserve hot water, which may be scarce) – or perhaps simply more physically comfortable. We have to trust, of course, that people won't run off with our clothes (or the things in our clothes' pockets); we would need to trust that, even should the worst thing happen (e.g. the intervention of an external enemy, taking advantage of vulnerability), people would have each others' backs; we would need to trust that nothing uncomfortable (more often than not, meaning nothing sexual) would happen as a result of people being naked.

This sort of thing isn't impossible, even in a world where clothes are integral to civilization writ large and civilization is still apparently triumphant. To whatever extent a spirited culture of nudism among anarchists would allow us to free up time, resources, and mental energy that might otherwise be occupied, or allow us to construct a collective infrastructure of hygiene that would be superior to the shitty small bathrooms that many of us are stuck with – or even just decrease our reliance, even in a very small way, upon the destructive and doomed economy to which the global clothing industry is party – then, I believe, it would be to the good.

[comments: Raddle | Reddit ++ | @news]

Nudists have a hard time getting taken seriously, I think. This is true in the world at large, but it's also true among anarchists.

I have personally had the benefit of friends who actually take me a little too seriously. They're mostly nice about the nudism thing (as a conversational topic, at least); I do get teased occasionally, but it's typically pretty good-humoured and well-intentioned.

But there are some some people who aren't my friends, who dislike me as a result of one thing or another. Some of them, who might generally be on board with the idea of nudism themselves, would never cite my own inclination towards nudism (if they know about it) as a mark against me – and I appreciate that! But others, who are less into nudism, might indeed talk about that inclination as another reason that I'm a creep, that I have bad politics, that I shouldn't be trusted, etc., even though it is certainly completely unrelated to the reasons that our relationship is not completely amiable.

Most people in most anarchist scenes should, I think, be able to relate. Shared investments – into collective living situations, into projects of mayhem and mutual aid, into strong friendships and other intense relationships – often lead, at some point, into disagreement that metastasizes into bitter conflict that, oftentimes, either can't be resolved or at least doesn't. And then, particularly among the assholes who love gossiping about comrades and shit talking perceived enemies (which is probably the majority of people in most scenes, be they anarchist scenes or not!), other details start getting added to the story, all of which paint a picture.

Most people are assholes – at least sometimes, to some (sorts of) people. I'd like that to change, and I really do think there are deliberate things that can be done to help people not be assholes, in other words to blunt the tendency towards being-asshole that exists in more or less all of us, but all of that is kind of separate from the concern of this post.

In this world, where people are assholes, what does that mean for people who have eccentric interests? For instance, nudism? (This applies to other outgroups, too: sexual minorities of all types, furries, in past ages queer people and freaks and geeks of all kinds.)

My assessment is that, in North America at least, an inclination towards nudism is considered eccentric at best in anarchist scenes, and considered perverse at worst. In this respect, too, I don't think that North American anarchists have very different attitudes about nudism than is the case among the larger population of basically secular liberals. The attitudes might even be more markedly negative among certain subsets, e.g. the Marxist, quasi-Marxist, and otherwise workerist anarchists who understand nudism, and perhaps a few other things, as a bourgeois affectation – or, at the very least, somehow unstrategic with respect to serious political objectives of one kind or another.

Anarchists, of course, are very much of a part of the mass society in which they grew up and in which, in most cases, they continue to live. In a mass society affected by social movements, leftist ideologies, and so-called identity politics, they will be caught up in current events (hopefully local ones), in dogmas of one kind or another, and in confused and off-kilter understandings about what the stakes are or what the issues even are. Even if anarchists manage to escape to some kind of remote and autarkic existence, where at least some of these mass society problems might go away, they will still carry some ideas with them.

The best things about anarchist subcultures is that sometimes (not always, never perfectly) they are markedly more accepting of various kinds of differences between people – or certainly less actively shitty about, say, looking like a freak, being into weird shit, having specific issues, being broke and/or homeless and/or going through a hard time, bearing different markers of race and caste, etc.

This isn't really the case with nudism, though. I am sure there are many reasons for this. First off, to be a nudist is hardly a sacrosanct identity among anarchists – and to be clear, as I have written about before, I wouldn't want it to be, because I don't think we should do identity politics with respect to nudism.

Second, there is very little in the way of good analysis circulating in anarchist scenes, or in society at large, about nudism (and what it can do for you) or about nudists (and why anyone is trying to live their life that way). There is also a lot of history that people just don't know – from local histories of landed nudist clubs and associations, many of which may have gone out of business years ago, and which were in any case cloistered, hidden, and far away from larger concentrations of people – and which, to be sure, most people don't usually think too much about.

Third, there's really not a whole lot of possibility (or easy possibility, anyway) for people to be naked in “normal situations” in these scenes. Nudity often causes a lot of friction with laws, with police, or – and this is true even in relatively ungoverned spaces – with established cultural norms, not to mention various sorts of individual attitudes and ideas about sex, nudity, and ethics that may circulate in our subculture or among any of our neighbours. Even in societies where there is no law against backyard nudity and where police (evidently) will not bother to harass anyone over the matter, there are still going to be some people who object to nudity on religious-ideological grounds, for instance.

All of this has real effects, and not just on whatever minority of conspicuously nudism-inclined people there are who might have some interest in participating in anarchist scenes.

Like, sure, people like me exist. But everyone is occasionally inconvenienced by the obsessive and compulsory attitude around wearing clothing. There are health consequences, financial consequences, ecological consequences, and fun consequences. The importance of them need not be exaggerated, but these consequences are real. This is also true whether or not anyone recognizes that this is, or may be occasionally, a problem for them personally. Just because the problem feels normal to these people doesn't mean it isn't real.

Now, anarchists also have a hard time getting taken seriously. It's not that it never happens, but most of the time, anarchists either need to water down their own politics to the point that they are effectively just democratic socialists (at which point I wonder why you call yourself an anarchist at all, other than to give yourself some edgy cred) or they need to omit the fact that they are anarchists (by lying, avoiding the question, using a headscratcher of a euphemism, whatever). There are many reasons for all of this, a number of which could warrant whole essays in and of themselves, but the thing I want to bring attention is the manifest incuriosity of so many people – journalists, neighbours, partisans of other dogmas – to learn anything about the anarchist tradition or about anarchists. So many people are content, instead, to know nothing, or otherwise, to “know” just the things that they have been told by the police (on Twitter or in cop shows), by patriarchal figures of all kinds, by their own unexamined assumptions (which, because they have high opinions of themselves, they may simply assume to be correct assumptions), etc.

It is an unfortunate thing, then, whenever anarchists are themselves incurious about the lives, experiences, and ideas of others.

Obviously I am a bit salty as a nudist or something, and I think my ideas about nudism are worth taking seriously – but this is a broadly applicable point, that against goes beyond the specific shit that I'm into.

Many anarchists seem to understand that, with respect to adversarial ideologies (nationalism, fascism, etc.), there is a value in understanding where those ideas come from, why they are appealing to (certain kinds of) people, and so on. When it comes to conspiracy theories, many people understand that it's a good thing to familiarize oneself with the theories so that it is possible to recognize why people in our lives think the things they do, and so that we have a better chance of talking them out of it, if that's something we care to try.

But not so much with groups defined by a quality of grossness. Where did that idea that certain groups, or certain bodies, or certain activites, are gross... where did that idea come from?

An ascribed quality of eccentricity (“you're weird”) or perversity (“you're evil”) is really just the same thing, viewed from a different angle or maybe through a different lens. In either case, it terminates the possibility of any kind of serious conversation about the why of it all, the ideas or experiences that motivate a given behaviour, etc. I don't think that's ever a good thing in and of itself, even with respect to ideas and/or associated behaviours that I truly think are awful (e.g. not the ideas that are the topic of this blog!), because so long as certain things aren't up for discussion no matter what, I suspect it will be hard to figure out how and why some people – and here, I mean some people specifically – end up with these ideas and/or maybe doing some of the associated shitty things that most right-minded people worry about.

Said differently, it is my contention that the so-called eccentric, the so-called perverted, learn to be cagey about what they think and feel in a society that treats the object of their interest as something that isn't normal. To the extent that they might have something actually really bad going on, I think this makes it that much more likely that, when bad shit actually happens, it will happen in a way that is more unpredictable for everyone else (y'know, neighbours or society or whoever) because they were always so secret about where their thoughts were going, where their thoughts were taking them.

The option of nudity is not bad shit, though! And I would never want to overemphasize its importance with respect to, like, a concrete practice of anarchy (whatever that means for you, and assuming it would be important to you at all), but I do think there are several things to be said about body freedom, the benefits of ridding ourselves of anxieties about nudity, all sorts of incidental benefits with respect to projects we may already be engaged in (such as collective living projects), and so on.

This can't happen, though, so long as the idea of an option of nudity is considered just a weird thing that only “some people” are into, and that (supposedly) has no implications for anyone else.

[comments: Raddle | Reddit ++ | @news]

CW: detailed discussion of one person's groin area, somewhat extensive discussion of sexuality, child abuse mention

When I was a younger man, I came across the web page of a gay guy who was, like, really into being gay and really into sex.

So, I think of myself as being into being gay (because I am gay, and basically I don't have any hang-ups about that as far as I know, at least compared to some other “men who have sex with men” or whoever) and also, like, I think of myself as being pretty into sex (insofar as sex is something that I enjoy, e.g. you could qualify me as homosexual).

But this guy, he was more into sex than I was. Maybe not the actual act of sex (who knows!), but definitely the idea of sex, the aesthetic of sex. His gayness seemed to be infused with his sexuality – which is kind of a funny thing to say, insofar as we might understand gayness (or queerness) as a type of sexuality. But that's not how I understand my own gayness. The word “gayness” is just the word that I apply to my experience of being gay (or at least the one I'm using right now, lol).

The quality of being gay pertains to more than just my sexuality, but to other aspects of my personhood as well, which aren't all sexual. For instance, because people may happen to know that I am gay, they treat me one way or another, in situations that aren't sexy at all. I could get into what that looks like, but basically, to invoke that word and apply it to me – or to invoke any other, like the rather clinical Greco-Latin term homosexual – is to fail tragically to describe the uniqueness, or at least relative ineffability, of whatever my sexuality is. I can assure you that it is markedly different from the sexualities of others who may also be qualified more or less accurately or appropriately as gay, homosexual, queer, or whatever else, given the discursively constructed and historically contingent categories that are important right now, and around which they may have formed their own “sexual identity”.

So, back to this other guy. Basically, the reason I bring him up is that he had a tattoo of an erect penis, in colour, in a pretty choice location. The head of the penis was just below his belly button, and it was adorned with an eye – the all-seeing third eye that is, more often, depicted as being above and between the two eyes that everyone is used to, squarely in the centre of the forehead. The base of his tattoo penis met with the base of his flesh penis.

I do not remember, specifically, if this guy called himself a nudist or a naturist, or not. But I think he might have had some difficulty getting into some naturist clubs if he did. Calling attention to the groin area – with jewelry or tattoos or whatever – definitely needs to be the subject of a blog post at some point... Suffice it to say, though, a lot of naturists do not approve.

But, there is a certain current of “gay naturism” on the internet – and which certainly has a corresponding existence in the embodied world – to which I imagine he might be able to adhere. At the very least, as ostentatious as this guy was, he would have a better chance fitting in among other gay dudes.

Sexuality – among adult gay men – isn't always front and centre, but it often is, and it is never as hush-hush as is the case among most naturists (i.e. those who call themselves as much). So it is, too, in the online spaces that gay nudist-naturists populate. There are photos, as there are elsewhere on the naturist internet, but everyone in these photos appear to be men, which is to say, they have the sorts of naked bodies that gay men are typically interested in, sexually speaking.

On most of the pornier blogs, most of them are athletic and/or thin if they are younger, big and buff if they're older, and while most of the dicks are flaccid, there is a little more leeway regarding erections than is the norm for elsewhere on the naturist internet. On the less porny, more body-positive blogs, the guys are more diverse but they're usually still pretty cute.

The affect is typically one of wellness, of acceptance, of people who are in love with each other (when there are couples) and certainly in love with the way they are living their lives (among other things, nakedly). Photos are a lot more common than ideas, but there are often exhortations to a loose sort of peace-and-love spirituality, or quotes from religious teachings and scripture (especially from “Eastern” traditions). A general support for a vague environmentalism is also common, but there are rarely any other sorts of politics.

Gay naturism is a very visible current on the English-language naturist internet. The only other very large current is family nudism/naturism – and it is much larger.

I have denoted family nudism/naturism as such, with the slash and both terms, because there is no apparent preference for one or the other. It is, in fact, the adjectival marker family that is the more critical part of the combined term. Insofar as we can imagine “gay nudism” as the aggregate of nudism practiced by gays, the term “naturism” is necessary to qualify the subject as an ideology, i.e. a set of ideas about nudism as practiced by gays, and that accords this practice a special significance or purpose. But with the family thing, well, the presence of the word family is sufficient to impute some kind of significance or purpose to what is being done.

An aside: I thought, at first, that I would write about Christian naturism. To be sure, there are lots of Christian naturists, and seemingly much more in North America than, say, in Europe – but that makes sense given that there are so many more true-believing and church-attending Christians in North America. I only really want to make two generalizations about these Christian naturists. First, they do not understand anything in their religion to be in contradiction with a practice of nudism – and, in a number of cases, they may in fact believe that the Bible exhorts them to take off their clothes. Second, they are mostly also participants in, or orientated towards, something that's worth calling family nudism/naturism; I am sure there are a few Christian naturists who are doing something more hedonistic and sexual, and calling it “naturism”, but they aren't a particularly visible tendency.

Christianity per se is not a major factor for many family nudist-naturists who live basically secular lives, obviously. But in post-Christian cultures, the influence of Christianity looms large – as does the influence of the Industrial Revolution in post-industrial societies, as do the ideas of the Victorians in an age that came after the rise and fall of the British Empire. This history puts family nudism/naturism, which is the dominant affect within the English-language naturist internet, at odds with gay naturism. The issue is sexuality.

A clear difference between gay naturism and family nudism/naturism on the internet is that, pretty frequently, the family folks will have representations of kids – usually on the younger side of things. They're rarely photos, but it does happen. Ideas are significantly more in evidence than is the case with the gay naturist internet, and they often focus on raising up kids, which is what a family (in the normative sense of the term) is for. It is worth saying as well that white people appear to make up a larger proportion of the participants, as far as I can tell, than is even the case with gay naturist internet, itself probably inequitably white.

Gay naturism has an outsized presence on the naturist internet, I think, compared to what it corresponds to in the embodied world and/or the population of gay men. I have a theory as to why this might be (very quickly: gay men are more likely than the average person to be interested in nudism, and gay men are also more likely to spend a lot of the time meeting each other and/or “building community” on the internet), but that can be put aside for now.

Despite its outsized presence on the naturist internet, its relationship to the mainstream of naturism (on the internet, and in general) is similar to the relationship of Mormonism to the mainstream of Christianity. It is, at the very least, strange and suspect. At worst, it is heretical, a different religion altogether; maybe it can be talked about as such, and even tolerated for what it is, but it can't be considered the same. Certainly this is even more true of its most extreme manifestations, and this is the point in my weird and long-winded analogy when I will compare polyamorous Mormon fundamentalists (a group so scandalous and outrageous as to be the subject of a 2006-'11 HBO series with five seasons) to a wholly hypothetical penis tattoo guy that also considers himself to be a naturist.

In any case, these two affective currents, gay naturism and family nudism/naturism, are almost the only ones I can really find represented and reproduced on the internet. There is only one other current to speak of, which I will hesitantly denote as “youth nudism”.

This current comes off as mostly an “activist” project spearheaded in particular by conventionally good-looking white women in their 20s who are savvy with social media. There have been a number of “youth nudist” named associations, most of which don't seem to have lasted too long (such as Florida Young Naturists, or FYN, whose only online presence in 2021 appears to be a Wikimedia Commons category page). These folks have had gatherings, for one thing, which have been promoted in various online spaces. There are also some ideas present, most of which seem to concern a need to modernize, diversify, and otherwise improve the broader “nudist movement” as a whole, with a mind to the fact that a family naturist affect does not really speak to where a lot of “young people” (this category is often delineated as meaning 18 to 35) are at with their lives and/or what they could ever be into.

Personally, I appreciate that these folks generally avoid the word “naturism” (even if the name of the organization FYN is a challenge to that claim) and that they have always been trying to make things more relevant for me, up fairly until recently still just a spring chicken.

On the other hand, I have not appreciated the fact that they thought I could just spend a lot of money to go to Florida (mostly) or other sunny and/or expensive and/or faraway locales in the U.S., and I didn't like appreciate that, from what I could tell, I would have to do be into doing yoga or meditation or juice cleanses or other decidedly not-my-thing stuff in order to enjoy myself. It's also worth saying that, from what I have been able to gather, they always seemed quite heterosexual and coupled up, which might make me wonder how much I would fit in even if I was down to be an Instagram normie.

But like, I'm hard to satisfy.

So, why have I itemized these three currents? Well, it seems to me that these are the currents that most people, whoever they are, might be able to come across if they ever went looking for “nudism” or “naturism” on the (English-speaking) internet.

There is something gay for them to join: very large groups on TrueNudists.com, the relatively active (and selfie-focused) r/gayplusnudists, etc., which may arguably be kinda horny but it's all relatively tame and par for the course as far as gay dudes go.

There is also something family-friendly for them to join, realized in r/nudism, r/naturism, and most formal associations (which may or may not have a website and/or some kind of on-the-ground presence in a given area).

With youth nudism, it's more hit and miss; there are a few subreddits (which I won't link to) that are for teenagers or whatever, but there's generally less to find that's still active, that is able to sustain its own consistent pattern of engagement, new content, and so on (in many cases, as a clear complement to a largely willpower-driven project of making things happen in a particular place, which again, has mostly meant Florida as far as I can tell).

Still, third place is way ahead of whatever is in fourth place. There is no major visible nudist current with respect to any religion apart from Christianity; I suppose there appear to be a few nudity-inclined movements in India, but they hardly have an online presence (easily found using English-language search terms, at least) beyond, like, what results from a seemingly exploitative practice of publishing photos from the Kumbh Mela festival from time to time.

What a wasteland this digital landscape is.

Regarding other currents in “the West”, too, I certainly don't know of any nihilistic, iconoclastic, or Satanic practice of nudism; all the goth kids are dressing up, it seems, and not dressing down. There isn't even any kind of green anarchist and/or primitivist nudism, which has always struck me as a little weird, I suppose, because I feel those sorts of ideas they would pair nicely with most worthwhile parts of the nudist-naturist canon and tradition.

Perhaps there are more interesting affects around nudism that do exist, somewhere, among some people – but they don't exist in a way that they can be found too easily on the internet. I have been searching!

Speaking for myself, to the extent that I am gay and sometimes also horny, I have appreciated the gay naturist internet for providing me some, y'know, slightly classier material to concentrate my mind upon (when I'm in the mood for something that elevated), but I don't really think that a nudist current that, either, wilfully or just as a consequence of how it is, excludes a lot of people.

I have heard that “gay nudist gatherings” in my own city – advertised (in the time before covid) on Craigslist or whatever, mostly taking place in private homes – usually devolve into a circlejerk by the end of the evening, which sounds fine I guess, but it's not a thing that I could reasonably invite my mother or my brother to (in the rather unlikely event that they somehow also got turned onto the joys of nudism at this late stage). As for my sometimes cis, sometimes straight, in any case often a bit prudish anarchist roommates, I probably could invite them, but I don't know how fun it'd be for them or how comfortable I'd be as a result.

Also, to the extent that gay naturism makes the case for some kind of spiritual power or divinity about the naked male body, just by itself or in the act of sex or both or whatever, I find it... intellectually dubious. I think gay sex can just be gay sex, and that's absolutely good enough for me, an occasional gay sex enjoyer.

And the dominant ideological and affective current, family nudism/naturism, is also not my bag!

To be clear, all things being equal, I suppose I think that it would be better, on the whole, if kids were raised in families that were less obsessively clothed, that did not impart any more body shame to young ones than they would inevitably absorb from the wider society, and that in fact went against the grain of the wider society in terms of this sort of thing, affirming that nude is not lewd or whatever. But a) I'm probably not having kids (I'm not only gay, I'm also an anarchist, so it's not like anyone will ever let me adopt) and b) on an intellectual level, I mostly oppose the way that families are constructed and reinforced as the basic unit of capitalist society and discipline (e.g. I think, well and truly, that the generally patriarchal, always isolated model of the “nuclear family” ought to be systematically abolished everywhere).

Usually I'm pretty chill about all that, of course. And I think that, given how pernicious both capitalism and the couple form are, there is probably space to talk a bit about “better” rather than insisting on “perfect”. But yeah, I'm queer enough, in the (anti-)political sense of baedan, to not really want to give a fuck about this shit. Families can probably be done better, which might include better attitudes re: clothes, nudity, what the rules are, etc., but I think the basic structure is still something that needs to be negated. Especially because, insofar as we know that nuclear families are frequently generative of child abuse, it is impossible to ignore the fact that rhetoric on “nudity in our family” that a person could ostensibly agree with, might also be used as a cover for some bad shit.

And youth nudism, such as I have seen?

Well, it didn't do much for me in the whole time I was aware of it, and I think I might be too old for it now anyway.

My ambition for this whole project of internet-engaged writing is to give rise to a different sort of affective current within the naturist internet – one which will, I hope, actually be able to break from the naturist internet in a significant way (and on its own terms, too), but which can also be found by all those confused, possibly lonely people in exile in Cyberia. It probably won't be for everyone, but I think there are a lot of people out there that it could speak to.

It's important to say that I hate the internet – a lot actually. I would like that hatred of the internet to be part of whatever affective current I'm trying to build, I suppose – and I would say that there's just a contradiction here, that's worth acknowledging! But I live in a society where the internet exists and everyone almost everyone is plugged in, and more so all the time.

A discussion of affect is important, I think, because nudism/naturism by itself isn't really... anything. It is always something more, something connected to something (or everything) else, and to speak of nudism/naturism as a unified whole is to ignore its internal diversity and contradiction.

Each affective current I have spoken of, therefore, is strongly connected to a larger culture – be it the culture of gay men, the culture of heterosexual breeders and/or Middle America (largely overlapping), or the culture of relatively affluent, relatively young North Americans who are fluent in Instagram.

The current I want to help make a reality – one which I have previously called “comfortism” – ought to be connected to anarchists and the things that they do, and steeped in the ideas of that cohort (and preferably, good ideas, not just the dubious exhortations of new radlibs who fell off the back of some campus-connected activism and onto r/anarchism).

I'm just one guy, who happens to be an anarchist, and as I have said before, I don't want to be the only one doing this sort of thing – and ultimately, I can't be in order for it to take off. My own exhortations are probably not relevant for lots of people.

That being said, and being who I am, I do want to see an affective current of nudism that, apart from the inclination towards being naked when it's comfortable and actively fighting against body shame (which is obviously important, but nothing different from what the other currents are doing, or at least striving for), is also inclined against legalistic petitioning, inclined towards appropriation of space, hostile to representation, and at least doing its best to get past oppressive bullshit (like gender I s'pose), naïveté, and I don't know what else, let's say cities. So, y'know, nudism informed by a lucid, serious anarchism.

So, I'm doing my best to make it happen – but let's all make it happen, how about? There's f/nudism on Raddle already and there could be other forums for discussion too. I will certainly boost any interesting and/or anarchist analysis from my personal Hometown account on the ni.hil.ist fediverse instance, too.

Coda: affect is better conveyed by memes and images than blog posts that hover well north of 3000 words; this might be a strategic problem for me, the guy with too much to say.

[comments: Raddle | Reddit ++]

CW: extensive discussion of shit & adjacent topics

There are good reasons to dislike shit. (Throughout this post, feel free to replace the word “shit” with the word “feces”, “poo”, or whatever else suits your fancy, for the purposes of reading these words aloud on air or in excessively polite company.)

Shit is a potent vector of disease. It attracts flies and other creatures. People who smell like shit are disadvantaged in society. This is subjective, I suppose, and I'm not trying to yuck anyone's yum, but most people think it typically smells somewhere between bad and wretched.

Shit is also a part of life. It's something we will have to deal with ourselves if we ever want to have kids, grow a garden, track an animal, own a cow (or whatever), or live a life that includes a digestive system and no dedicated ass caddy.

Shit is everywhere. And I don't just mean the yeast shit in beer (i.e. the alcohol) or the shit produced by other microorganisms that leads to tooth rot. I mean human shit too, and pet shit, and wild animal shit. Some of us have to deal with it more than others, because of class, caste, the way our bodies work, our socially inscribed relationships to production and reproduction, or whatever else.

I think hygiene is good, notwithstanding early CrimethInc.'s most widely lampooned article. I repeat: shit is a potent vector of disease, and that alone is good enough reason to wash our asses and clean our toilets with some degree of frequency. But we shouldn't be obsessive about it. Shit is not an eradicable part of life.

It can be minimized, sure. But this process of minimization can go too far. For instance, scientific studies have shown that people living in environments that are regularly blasted with toxic cleaning chemicals, and who never encounter any pathogens at all, are typically less hardy than, say, people living in clean and tidy but very much shit-adjacent environments (for instance, Amish people, living on farms, adjacent to livestock, without the benefit of some of the products that are to be found in most North Americans' homes).

I don't think an excessive fear of butt germs does anyone any good. As 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds are taught, everybody poops – and fortunately, in most cases, people are quite capable of dealing with that reality in a responsible manner by themselves. To get worked up about the possibility of invisible, effectively undetectable traces of shit, then, is unhelpful. Of course there are traces all over the place, and probably in greater number than most of us would really like to care about. These traces don't meaningfully affect us.

It's not the sort of attitude that does us much good for those moments when we might actually have to deal with shit, for any number of reasons, and it's not very healthy to be quite so worried about it before those situations actually rear up.

I am sure that some nudists live differently (i.e. filthily), but I presume they don't have many people to hang out with. The most visible part of the naturist subculture, for its part, seems to be quite serious with cleanliness. I am against it, frankly – not because cleanliness is a problem in itself, but because I read some things in the queer nihilist tradition (the conclusion of Towards the Queerest Insurrection, for instance, in which the Mary Nardini Gang channels Divine and claims “filth is our politics! filth is our life!”) and I suppose I took that shit to heart.

But that's me. Most nudists are into naturism, not what I'm into and definitely not into, say, baedan at its most extra. They're, like, pretty clean people. My years of perusal of the nudist-naturist internet indicates that a lot of them jump into the shower every time they take a shit, which is probably pretty easy given that they're already naked. Even so, it is a matter of the most basic nudist-naturist etiquette to sit on a towel, or some other kind of individuated barrier item, instead of sitting one's bare ass on a seat that may be used by someone else later on. I won't pretend to think that most nudists with bachelor apartments sit on towels when they're at home, at least not every single time, but in the company of others, it's a pretty widely understood norm. Y'know, just in case!

A lot of people, including a number of anarchists I've met over the years, don't know about the towel thing, or they have a hard time believing it even if they've heard right. I feel like this must be because the naked and dirty semantic circuits are mixed up in their heads, perhaps along with the evil and/or wrong semantic circuits. I don't know how to untangle all of that for them, but I presume that learning a little bit more about what they're talking about – germs, nudism, nudists, the world at large – would help a bit.

I believe that a comfortist practice of nudism would benefit from the importation of naturists' towel etiquette, and I am not particularly interested in some kind of radical rethinking of the human relationship to shit; in other words, I do not, in concert with baedan,

insist upon flushing away the whole machine that chambers excretion and channels excrement.

My general opposition to civilization does not manifest itself in an acute opposition to either this chambering (e.g. a measure of privacy while on the toilet, in contrast to the open toilet chambers of the ancient Greeks and Romans or the panoptic regime that exists in many prisons today) or to the channeling of shit.

I repeat, again: shit is a potent vector of disease, which is why it is a broadly good thing to make efforts to channel it away from people; the fact that hundreds of millions of people lack access to functional sanitation systems of the kind that I enjoy, and may be forced to engage in open defecation in slum-adjacent canals or whatever, is a problem that I'm not especially interested in trivializing through some kind of anarcho-Delanyian embrace of the radical and/or transgressive potential of shit. I am amused by this communiqué from “the pentagon bumfuck committee” but I do not think that “elaborating a logic of scat” is nearly as important as attacking “the poo taboo” (as Sara Wickham calls it in this article related to her practice as a midwife), i.e. the undue fear of shit, to the point that even talking about shit is difficult.

It's a problem for a lot of reasons. Here's an example, from institutional contexts that have nothing to do with my life. It's possible to collect money from billionaires and middle-class people to build schools in “underdeveloped countries” – but building functional sanitation systems, which are far more basically necessary (because, uh, fuck schools, honestly), is typically a non-starter because people just don't want to talk about something as lowly and base as shit. With regard to the main focus of this blog, the taboo also stymies discussion of a different sort of culture or practice around clothes and nudity. Butt germs loom much larger than they should in the imagination of people when discussing a practice of social nudity.

I would argue that nudists probably have a more consistent and frictionless practice of hygiene than is the case with most people, but again, that idea goes directly against the widespread assumption in many societies that nudity is adjacent to filthiness – or at least not far from it!

More open cultures vis-à-vis nudity are pretty likely to be suppressed on the grounds that nudity is unhygienic and, consequently, detrimental to some notion of public health. In 2011 and 2012, for instance, the campaign to ban public nudity in San Francisco focused on the practice of people who would, apparently, regularly sit their bare asses on the chairs outside of cafés and restaurants, in the Castro neighbourhood especially. I think these people were mostly tourists who were ignorant of, or in any case had no respect for, the established naturist towel etiquette; they were simply doing something interesting, perhaps even thrilling, that they likely didn't feel they could get away with in many other places.

In my opinion, despite the fact that that was kinda gross (because, what if!), these tourist butts probably weren't really a huge problem. Most of the time that a bare ass hit a plastic seat, I would expect that excrement was not caking the inside of those cheeks. Even if, though? Well, shit is everywhere; it's unlikely that one unwashed bum on a plastic seat was going to cause an outbreak of anything, in and of itself.

I think this sort of bare bum tourist behaviour bullshit is shitty (lol), and maybe even worth a bit of shaming – but it's not a real issue and it wasn't really why, on February 1, 2013, nudity was generally banned in San Francisco. The bare bums on seats were just an excuse for achieving something that a coalition of property owners and political conservatives (a number of whom did not even live in the city limits of San Francisco) wanted anyway, which was to stop a handful of mostly older, mostly gay, mostly men (who were generally not tourists, but actually lived in the area) from hanging out naked whenever the weather was suitable, maybe smoking medicinal weed or talking about politics or who's dating who, and (it could be argued!) scaring away revenue to local businesses from people who are grossed out by nudists.

The local nudists (or at least the ones featured in a mainstream article I read in 2012) used towels when they sat down.

I am sure similar things have happened elsewhere, or could happen again, wherever a relatively easygoing cultural attitude and/or a light hand from local authorities gives rise to people actually hanging out naked a lot – and then, that area gains a reputation as a place where it is possible to have a one-off naked tourist experience. The people who oppose public nudity (and there will be some) are going to say whatever will work to stop it from happening, and a quality of being somehow unhygienic is just one useful thing for them to bring up. For this reason, I don't think it behooves nudists to go too far in trying to prove just how how hygienic we really are. It won't stop anyone from calling us dirty anyway.

I also worry about cleanliness-is-next-to-godliness puritanism and its effects, namely insofar as it divorces people further from their environment (it is telling how much American nudist clubs all exude a sort of 1950s “suburban idyll” aesthetic). Nevertheless, it is important to insist on some facts about nudism and hygiene, at least whenever we end up ensconced in conversation about these topics. One is that, logically, nudism makes hygiene easier. Another thing is that most nudists are probably already cleaner than most members of the basically clothes-wearing majority.

Bringing it back to anarchist spaces, it seems to me that both nudism and a concerted effort to degrade the poo taboo could be complementary efforts. I think nudism has a lot to offer, but composting toilets probably do too.

The main issue, for me, is that a lot of anarchists live in housing that is absolutely awful, or at least ill-suited to how we are attempting to use those spaces and how we would ideally like to live. We crowd into housing units that don't have enough bathrooms, using rooms that were intended as offices or living rooms as bedrooms, and sometimes we even put more than one person to a bedroom. In North America at least, most housing units have the singular shower in the same room (often a very small room) as a toilet (which is often the toilet). Given that these are the sorts of spaces that we live in, it would probably be for the best if we could, as a matter of course, foster relationships with other members of our households wherein it is okay (not good or desirable, but okay) to use these facilities at the same time as them, should the need arise.

Again, I'm not particularly fond of the idea of the ancient Greeks' and Romans' communal shitting rooms, but given an unideal architectural context that is not of our own devising, and the fact that occasionally we will face urgent situations of various kinds that conflict with others' privacy, I think it would be a good thing for us all to accept that both bodily privacy and/or the desire to never smell shit – while definitely the preference of the many – cannot and should not be considered sacrosanct. I think, too, that a number of accidents or other misfortunes might be avoided if we were all on the same page with this (or at least trying to be).

In many households, even in North America, people get on just fine with this sort of understanding among one another, without even necessarily sharing any affinity for a word like “nudism” or “naturism”; my understanding is that this usually happens in the context of nuclear families. Parents are okay seeing each other naked (if they ever had a sexual relationship, they've probably seen each other naked a lot), they don't really care about their younger kids being naked, and they are also okay with those younger kids seeing Mommy or Daddy naked (which is possibly good for kids' psychological development, but in any case not worth worrying about).

I can only presume that the larger the difference between the number of toilets and/or showers in the house and the number of residents, the greater the prevalence of this sort of thing. In any case, perhaps this sort of family understanding around nudity, clothes, and/or privacy goes on forever – although the wider society's stance on these things are likely to challenge or destabilize this situation at some point. Kids from nudist or quasi-nudist families will eventually get a sense that their other friends at school might roast them a lot if they were to find out about the home nudist thing. By the time kids are teenaged, they are pretty likely to have some insecurities about their bodies and their lives; this can manifest in a rejection of nudism.

Even for people who grew up this way and never had any shame or insecurities about it (or who got over issues from early puberty), it may be harder to “break the ice” as a nudist, so to speak, with peers with whom they do not share such long-standing and familiar relationships.

If a person in a house of anarchists or fellow travelers has to poop very badly, and someone (it may not even be clear who!) is in the shower, they may not feel comfortable knocking on the door, never mind barging in. And what shall be the consequences of such reticence? I can say, from experience, that sometimes the consequences are gross and/or embarrassing.

Again, shit is a part of life. So is one roommate showering while another has to use the toilet. I don't think it does us any good to be, like, so weird about this. We are bringing the weirdness, the awkwardness, to this topic – and we don't have to!

If anything, I think it would do us all some good to push back a little against whatever discomfort we have ourselves, as well as whatever attitudes we see in society that don't do any good, once we care to reflect on it.

I will say, too, that I have known a number of people in my life who felt fine just leaving the door open while sitting on the toilet; they sometimes did just that in the middle of a conversation I was having with them. The world didn't end, nor has it ever done so when I have, occasionally, done the same others (though I'm really a door-closed-while-shitting kind of guy, on the whole).

Also, when I was growing up, someone-on-toilet-and-someone-in-shower situations happened all the time. These violations of the household norm weren't exactly loved when they were happening, but neither were they a particularly big deal afterwards.

Barging in while my sister was in the shower, or having my dad do the same to me, did not translate to any kind of culture of extra-bathroom nudity in my own family, and neither would I expect leaving the door open while pooping and/or a degree of simultaneous usage of a shared bathroom necessarily lead to any akin thing among anarchist roommates. Maybe, though, ever discussing nudity in our household – or actively discussing, with a mind to rejecting, the sort of regime that exists in so many other households, namely that of an always-closed, not infrequently physically locked, but in any case socially untouchable bathroom door, No Fucking Exceptions – could have paved the way to something more broadly comfortable for everyone (including me, then an often uncomfortably clothed teenage nudist).

For anarchist households, I think there are some practical benefits to people feeling less weird about adjacency to others when sitting on a toilet or taking a shower. All the better if people have had a good talk about that kind of thing before someone in the household, or everyone, gets a bad case of the shits. Put it on the house meeting agenda before it's an issue.

(For the record, lest anyone think otherwise of me: I still think it will always be a good idea and/or polite to knock on a closed bathroom door, or just about any closed door, before barging in.)

[comments: Raddle | Reddit ++ | @news]

When I was a teenager, I ended up reading two books, by two different Japanese guys, within a relatively short span of time. The first book, by Fukuoka Masanobu (b. 1913, d. 2008), bore the English title The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming, and it was lent to me by someone I had a crush on at the time. The second book, called The Book of Five Rings in English (although my understanding is that it was originally either a scroll or a collection of scrolls, rather than a book per se), was by Miyamoto Musashi (b. 1584, d. 1645); it was lent to me by a friend's older brother, with whom I had started hanging out occasionally, perhaps in part because I had been seen to talk about Fukuoka's book from time to time.

Fukuoka's book, obviously enough, was (and is!) about farming – specifically, a technique of farming that did not rely on heavy industrial inputs. Miyamoto's book was (and is!) about using swords effectively in order to kill people (which is something that, as I understand it, he managed to do quite a bit of in his life). Neither subject had much to do with my life, either then or now, but the books are not just about those subjects; they are works of philosophy. Not in the sense of philosophy as an academic discipline, but in the more colloquial sense of a “philosophy for life”. In other words, both books can be understood, through a contemporary lens, as examples of self-help literature.

Don't get it confused, of course. They are absolutely about their respective subjects, and impart many lessons that could, presumably, come in handy if one wanted to be a natural farmer or a person who kills people with swords. But that's not necessarily why the books are shared and read. I remember that the blurb on the back of The Book of Five Rings had a lot of verbiage about how Miyamoto's words could translate into lessons for “business strategy”, that in fact a number of Japanese business executives kept his book on their front desks and Western executives ought to start doing the same. When I read Fukuoka's book (which, overall, was the more important of the two in my own life), I took a lot from his idea about a sort of considered laziness (my words, not his). When he affirmed that farmers, in the past, had had the time to write poetry and practice calligraphy and otherwise live a worthwhile life, I was into it. When he said that, whenever he was doing anything that he did routinely, he started asking questions of himself about whether he could get away with not doing that thing, whether there was a technique to reduce the amount of time he spent doing the thing, I was really into it.

So, for almost the whole time that I wanted to write a book or a zine about nudism, I wanted to produce something similar to what Fukuoka and Miyamoto had produced. I wanted to write something that furnished practical lessons about a subject that a reader might want to learn about, but I also wanted to convey something else, sort of between the lines. Something profound, I suppose.

The issue is that I don't have much to say that's practical, at least not in the same way as Fukuoka or Miyamoto. I certainly could say any number of banalities and/or absurdities about getting naked, recapitulating, for instance, this list of “100 nudity ideas to increase nude time and nudist friends” – but that's not my style. Alas, when it comes to what I want to be talking about, I don't really have the experience, and certainly not the know-how. I cannot offer a technique that is so refined that I have been able to furnish a name to it, akin to Fukuoka's “do-nothing farming” or Miyamoto's “Way of Strategy”. I can offer a “nudism-comfortism” that exists in contrast to a specialized and decidedly polemic notion about a “nudism-naturism”, but insofar as there is any technique here at all, it pertains to a way of thinking about nudism, and not the practice itself.

Unlike Fukuoka or Miyamoto, I am writing as a relatively young man, not as an old guy who sort of figured it all out already. But also, what works for me simply will not work for others, and I think it wrong to presume that it could. For instance, I have already mentioned that I am a man, but I'm a cis man at that. I also live in a specific part of the world. As a subject of diffuse systems of power – or however you want to conceive of things like race, class, (dis)ability, and so on – I exist at a particular point in that matrix, which is different from where others are at. I've certainly got my own body image issues, but I'm not and never have been fat by any meaningful definition.

The project, up to now, has mostly been one of critique. I have mostly been critical of naturism, which is, in my estimation, a failure from a philosophical and political standpoint. But I've also criticized anarchists, as a collectivity, for their failure to realize a “free body culture” (to use the German verbiage) within their own spaces, almost in spite of their professed ideas.

But critique, divorced from practice, doesn't amount to much.

The degree to which I have lived in accordance with what I think about clothes, comfort, nudity, and morality and/or ethics pertaining to the aforementioned items has been, up to this point, pretty limited. I have things to talk about, but I can't present myself as living, or having lived, an especially “nudist” life – by which I mean a life that involves being naked whenever it is eminently the most physically comfortable option. What I have lived, instead, is an anarchist life, which doesn't mean a life that is befitting of a “true” anarchist or any specific idea about anarchy and/or its aspirations (I would never presume so much about myself), but at least a life that involves engagement with anarchist scenes (and overlapping scenes), anarchist projects (and anarchist interventions), and stories about anarchist history.

So, I want to get from here – which may be different for me than it is for a reader in Europe, in Southeast Asia, or anywhere else, but by which I mean the prevailing culture as regards clothing and nudity in anarchist scenes writ large – to there – by which I mean a culture that is more comfortist in its orientation, or at least that allows space for the option of nudity, nudist-comfortist subjectivities, and even other things.

I don't know how to get there, but I have proposals. I'm not sure if I know how to articulate all of them yet, but I have said a few things already and I suppose I'll say more.

I am pretty sure that it isn't enough for me to simply get naked more often, as an individual. I would love to get to a different emotional place with stuff, to not care about a few things I still sometimes care about, but insofar as it just amounts to me getting to flex on others about how confident or unselfconscious I am being naked, that won't quite be enough to change my social context to the point that I feel less lonely as a conspicuously nudist sort of person. It's also not going to do much to keep my bare ass from getting incarcerated (or at least mixed up with the judicial system), depending on how I express any newfound devil-may-care attitude.

The sort of world I'm aiming for won't be bruteforced through brazen and unrepentant nudity, in other words – and certainly not by individuated action alone.

There is definitely something to be said for just doing the thing (in fact, there's a lot to be said for it), but it is not sufficient. And it cannot be said that reading theory, reading stories from history, and/or reading about the problems that other people have faced will never help others to do the thing themselves. So I write.

[comments: Raddle | Reddit ++]

I have a lot to say about the internet. Most of it is negative (insofar as I hate it, and computers generally, and would hypothetically prefer to do without any of it), but up to a point, I can wax positive too. I grew up with the internet, after all. Interesting things have come out of things that I learned there, or relationships with other people that were either initiated and/or substantiated there. Lots of people can relate, I'm sure.

I first heard about the fediverse – which I will explain better in a moment – in late 2018. At that time, I had been running a blog on Tumblr that was also about nudism (for the most part, at least), but then it was announced on December 3 of that year that Tumblr would be changing its policy on nudity in just two weeks' time, effective December 17. The content of my blog actually included quite a few depictions of nudity, and I felt that that was pretty much that on that, i.e. I wasn't going to continue using Tumblr. There weren't very many other nudist and/or naturist pages on that site that I considered worth following, but the few that I did care about also went defunct once they were no longer able to post pictures of naked people.

The current iteration of this blog, here on chi.st, doesn't have any pictures (except for that one of Luigi up at the top), and I have made a pretty big deal about being “against representation” myself – but I think it makes sense to imagine that, well, nudists and/or naturists will probably want to be able to depict “female-presenting nipples” and other such parts of the human anatomy from time to time. I certainly enjoyed reblogging funny, on-theme image macros from across Tumblr (and theoretically, I would do the same from my Mastodon/Hometown account on ni.hil.ist if, like, the fediverse had a similar output of nudism-relevant funny stuff as was true of Tumblr in 2018).

Right now, there don't seem to be very many nudists and/or naturists on the fediverse (if there are more, I don't think I have found them yet), and the nudist-naturist space on the internet seems to be pretty ignorant of the fediverse's very existence. Their screen time and their attention, instead, is focused on major platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and – to a lesser degree – the likes of Tumblr and Pinterest. In other words, platforms owned by major companies that seek, above all, to maximize profit.

As far as I know, all of these platforms have hostile policies with respect to unfettered, consequence-free sharing of depictions of human nudity. These companies are still beholden to governments, most of which have laws against the often vaguely defined category of pornography. Pictures of nudists living their lives run afoul of these laws in many jurisdictions, and even where they are legal, they may nevertheless be understood as pornographic by large numbers of people. Profit-seeking companies need to have governments on-side and populations on-board, and thus nudity is a problem. How, then, to handle that problem? A comprehensive ban may be more cost-effective than assiduous moderation that, more likely than not, will fail to even satisfy the larger, more important, and more conservative part of the user base, i.e. the users who matter, unlike representatives of the naturist subculture and/or whatever other assortment of libertines and weirdos there are.

It is, in any case, the shareholders and the CEOs – Zuckerberg, Doherty, et al. – who have all of the power here. These platforms are not public assets, beholden to the will of some idea of “the people”; they are privately owned fiefdoms, the property of monied partnerships. Even if (sufficiently online) nudist-naturists were thrice as numerous and/or thrice as politically powerful as is the case, their complaints and petitions would still amount to nothing in the calculus of making policy decisions.

From a perspective that seeks to perpetuate the naturist subculture, then, this is a problem. The operator of Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park's Reddit account, possibly Stéphane Deschênes himself, recently wrote that Facebook, Instagram, et al. are

de facto public spaces. If you don’t or can’t use them, you are excluded from public discourse.

There is certainly some truth in that comment, and I think it's fair to say that nudists of any kind are going to be less able to propagate their ideas than the partisans of any other position that is able to use these platforms without restrictions. Personally speaking, based on what I've seen, it seems that nationalism and conspiracy theory – simple ideas that act on anger and fear – are privileged by the algorithms on these sites, and the mere presence of depictions of human nudity (evidently a critical component of naturist activists' prefigurative politics) will cause a lot of people to recoil before they can take in any ideas at all. But, still, it's true: a different policy would allow nudist-naturists to participate in public discourse to a larger degree than they can currently, it would allow them to perform a certain kind of activism-by-selfie (hashtag “normalize nudity” and all that) that other people could see, and all of this might have some marginal impact on the vitality of that subculture.

But it's a moot point, because it's not happening.

If the goal is to post naked selfies – and that largely seems to be what it's about – then it makes so much more sense to build new web infrastructure than to petition these companies to change their ways or, otherwise, petition governments to force them to change. Even before the recent Facebook vs. Australia showdown, the idea that governments can do anything, in most cases, is laughable in and of itself, and it's even more ridiculous to think that they would take up the cause of nudist-naturists! This is simply not a realistic approach to the problem, such as it is.

Enter Mastodon – and the fediverse more broadly.

Eugen Rochko et al. have been maintaining Mastodon, a Twitter-like microblogging software using the ActivityPub protocol, since 2016. ActivityPub is a decentralized protocol, like email. What that means is that anyone can set up their own “instance”, at their own URL, which will then be able to communicate with any other instance in a straightforward manner, just as an email from nu@gmail.com can go to nue@yahoo.fr without problem. It is relatively easy to set up a Mastodon instance, or to use an entirely different sort of software that also relies on ActivityPub, but which is still going to be able to interact with other ActivityPub-reliant services that serve the same “type” of content. The administrator(s) of each instance can then determine their own policies about what content they will allow, which instances they want to block (because all instances are “federated” by default, hence “fediverse”), and so on.

In other words, it's a free-for-all where people can make their own rules about depictions of nudity or just about anything else. Governments may try to impose their rules over servers that are physically located within their jurisdictions, but they are much less likely to know about each small instance, much less likely to care about it, much less likely to know what to do about it.

The profit-seeking logics of bigger companies also don't really apply. Most instances are run at a loss, but a modest one, often sustainable on the salary of a single administrator or, otherwise, by a collection of people who are all willing to pitch in to pay the bills.

As far as a “public square” goes, the fediverse still has many less users than the big sites that have managed to corner the market in human attention, but that is to be expected. I don't think it's unreasonable to think that more users will show up, and I also think that, to the extent that this could be a good thing – or at least a superior option compared to other options, i.e. continuing to rely on Twitter, Facebook, et al. – there is some space for individual agency to have an effect, i.e. people can join up and encourage people they know to do the same. (I tend to think that the effect of people with larger followings, a Stéphane Deschênes for instance, might have a larger effect than relatively anonymous and obscure users saying the same.)

The major advantage of the fediverse, though, is that it avoids the “island” problem that exists with everything else, including purpose-built nudist-naturist websites like TrueNudists.com (which is, incidentally, utter trash). Perhaps there are still islands on the fediverse, each with its own rules and effective rulers, but it is relatively easy for people to migrate around, discover new content, and so on, without losing everything, having to learn a whole new software interface, etc.

At the moment, I am aware of only one Mastodon instance with a specific focus on naturism and/or nudism, the aptly named Naturism.Social, which is run by [redacted]. I have a lot of misgivings about this site, some of which has to do with my opposition to naturism as an ideology (as opposed to comfortism and/or anarchism), but more of which has to do with [redacted] himself, a guy with a Gab account – which, for those in the know about Gab, probably says enough about the guy's politics and how I might personally feel about them.

(Update, August 23, 2021: This individual has since shut down Naturism.Social – the URL now redirects to a Minecraft server, it seems – and spoken of “pending legal issues [and] unnamed individuals who stalk [his] every move.” Given that he's mostly just some guy, not some truly awful public figure, I've decided I don't want to make his life any more stressful than it may already be by leaving his name up on this post.)

It is fortunate, then, that naturists and/or nudists have many other instances – not necessarily on any kind of nudist or naturist theme – where they can set up accounts and post to their hearts' content. Not all instances are completely positive about nudity, but plenty are, and they may have other praiseworthy features as well.

At the same time, it is unfortunate that, apart from [redacted] (and one other person, whose lower-profile project I won't name publicly, for fear of bringing too much traffic to his site), there don't seem to be any efforts to build up fediverse infrastructure that specifically caters to the needs or desires of nudists and/or naturists. Once again, I feel the need to mention Stéphane Deschênes specifically, in part because a recent post on Bare Oaks' blog bragged that, thanks to a new fibre optic installation, those folks would now be able to host their own “naturist server farm”. Surely, then, he or others in his cohort could endeavour to learn about Mastodon, or some other software using ActivityPub, in order to provide a viable service that is neither an island unto itself nor, like Naturism.Social, under the sole control of a Trump supporter? I expect Deschênes et al. would also have enough of a following to bring a lot of other people on-board.

At this point, it's worth saying, again, that I think the internet sucks. More precisely, I think online sociality is a wasteland. And yet I cannot deny that it is important, at least for subjects (such as myself) who are caught up in societies that have, on the whole, gotten screenlost. Given this fact, and considering it more or less immutable, there are probably numerous incidental benefits to the relatively decentralized sort of internet that the fediverse represents a part of, as opposed to the highly centralized model of the internet that dominates at present.

I personally don't want to use the internet to post, or see, unremarkable naked selfies – or to join, like, a voice chat channel for “nudist gamers” with whom I can chat about... being naked? while gaming? Like, I sort of think this type of thing is weird and/or distasteful and/or seriously detrimental to the ability of people, either individually or collectively, to exercise any kind of power that can compete in any way with presiding power structures (e.g. Facebook, neoliberalism, civilization, etc.). But hey, I wouldn't mind, say, some capacity to find roommates in my area who would be chill with nudism, to share news about public spaces where swimming naked (or like, playing volleyball naked, whatever) will be lower-risk and/or free, etc. In other words, I would appreciate any service that allowed me to live a life online that facilitated the kind of relatively more naked life I'm trying to live offline, and that helped out anyone else with a similar life orientation.

In any case, my own preferences and positions should only mean so much to the ways that others choose to engage with the internet. Who am I to say that people shouldn't have a nudist gamer voice chat channel, this critique notwithstanding? Who am I to say that, uh, people shouldn't be each others' “virtual shower buddies”?

I should mention that, a few weeks ago, I was, quite apropos of nothing, made into a moderator of the mostly defunct subreddit r/anarcho_naturism, presumably because I recently posted a link to this blog there, been very clear about the fact that I am an anarchist, and the other moderator, whose flair is “anarcho-naturist”, is also a moderator of the significantly more active subreddit r/naturism, so it's fine to concede me that turf. Alas, in part because I am not a naturist, but a comfortist – and in part because I am really not okay with giving the corporate internet my attention for many reasons – it's not a particularly appealing bit of digital turf for me to own.

With respect to this project and its concerns – namely, articulating a specifically anarchist practice, philosophy, and sensibility of nudism (as anarcho-naturism once did, and which I hope either nudism-comfortism and/or anarcho-comfortism will be able to do going forward) – it seems useful to have some kind of space where other people can talk about the ideas, start to lead their own conversations (for instance, on topics I know less about, or about which I am less confident I have anything useful to say), and otherwise just build up some hype and/or leave me comments that encourage me to write more. I suppose r/anarcho_naturism could serve as such a space, but I much prefer raddle.me, which is run by an anarchist whose politics, as far as I can tell, I like. I also like a lot of the other users!

So, if you want, feel free to continue the conversation – about the poverty of online sociality or anything else! – at f/nudism. I'm looking for moderators, I guess?

A final word: chi.st runs on WriteFreely, which is another ActivityPub-based protocol; what this means is that this blog can be subscribed to using just about any Mastodon account, for instance, simply by searching @nudism-as-an-illegalism@chi.st within that application's own search bar. The URL https://chi.st/nudism-as-an-illegalism/feed/ can likewise be entered into an RSS reader. It's also possible to follow the Hometown account associated with this blog (Hometown being a fork of Mastodon), the discovery of which I leave as an exercise for the reader; I crosspost every blog entry on chi.st with searchable hashtags.

[comments: Raddle | Reddit ++]

CW: direct mention of heavy stuff (no details), dick talk (penises)

This will come off, at first, as a bit moralistic. But bear with me.

I don't think the sexual orientation of an “influencer”, “content creator”, or any other sort of “creative” (kill me) who primarily talks about nudism should be too obvious from the get-go, namely because sex is not the point.

If it is obvious (and not because the blogger has a selfie with their spouse on the About Me page), then that's an indication that that blogger – or Reddit user, or Tumblr account operator – might be doing something wrong.

My sexual orientation is not a secret. It comes up pretty often in posts I make elsewhere on the internet, and since I initially posted this entry, I have written another where it is brought up. But if this were the first thing of mine that you'd ever read, you wouldn't really have anything to go off (I think, anyway) that would indicate whether I'm straight, gay, or something else. You might not even know anything about my (relationship to) gender, either, apart from what you might have inferred from the fact that I use a naked Luigi on a dirtbike as my avatar (which is a pretty flimsy ground upon which to build any sort of theory about me).

I think this is good.

Most self-styled nudists on the naturist internet make it very obvious exactly what kinds of bodies they are attracted to, and sometimes even what kinds of sex they are interested in. Many users that post to r/nudism, r/naturism, and other such subreddits can also be seen, just by looking at their Reddit post history, to also be posting on a different class of subreddits that are dedicated to various genres of porn and/or discussions about kink. As far as I've seen, most Tumblr blogs with “nudism” or “nudist” in the description (most of which, since December 17, 2018, are now defunct) would focus entirely on photos of either mostly skinny naked cis men or photos of mostly skinny naked cis women, presumably because one group or the other struck the fancy of the blog operator. On TrueNudists.com, “sexual orientation” is a box that you are encouraged to fill in on your profile page.

This mostly sucks. Not entirely, or not in all circumstances necessarily. But taken together, all this paints an image of nudism as a sex thing – just another kink or fetish! This is aggravating for those who understand, in a way that others perhaps do not that, that nudism does not denote anything sexual, because nudity ≠ sex.

It's (part of) a way of life, for some people – in some cases, a way of life in which they were raised by their parents or other guardians – and otherwise it's just what people do sometimes, when they can get away with it, or when they feel comfortable doing it.

Yet nudity as a subject matter has a major overlap with sexuality as a subject matter, at least as far as the average North American is concerned. This is because, despite many human efforts to the contrary all throughout history, and certainly including the efforts of the naturist movement, it is impossible to bracket sexuality – or at the very least, some of its more innocuous and subtle aspects, such as the raw facts of attraction and hornyness – from other aspects of life.

In the current context, too, lots of people are first exposed to something denoted as “nudism” in the context of pubescent forays into pornography. Assuming they learn more about the subject, and start to like the idea of living a little or a lot more nakedly, they may form an ideal of romantic partnership that includes a shared nudist sensibility as an important prerequisite. If they ever go further, and actually step foot on a beach where nudity is normal, or onto the grounds of a landed club, they will take their sexuality (such as it is) with them, and will likely encounter the sexualities of others at some point at least.

Sexuality is, at least potentially, dangerous. It leads to people getting hurt, to one degree or another. This fact about sexuality has motivated lots of “anti-sexual” ideas throughout history, which I will not try to summarize, since the exact elaboration of these ideas has varied quite a bit. A common characteristic of these ideas, however, is to put sexuality in its place, to control it, and therefore to suppress any manifestations of sexuality outside of contexts considered appropriate.

Mainstream, liberal-to-conservative, “family-friendly” nudism-naturism exhibits precisely this approach. Sexuality is acknowledged to exist, but it is not permitted to manifest in spaces governed by naturist ideas. Unaccompanied men, in fact – that is, without wives, girlfriends, or (in sufficiently progressive spaces) other sorts of partners – are often excluded from such spaces as a matter of policy because they are, as a category of person, presumed to be sexually motivated.

I am sure this has occasionally been true. But, for lots of reasons (like being an anarchist, having typical anarchist opinions about things, etc.), I don't much care for this approach, and I have quite a bit of distaste for its worst excesses (which I won't itemize).

An approach more befitting of an anarchist approach to life, and a comfortist approach to nudity and nudism, is more akin to a radical queer politics (that is, a politics at least partially in the tradition of, or in dialogue with, the hard left wing of LGBT+ and/or queer activism in the capitalist countries, and a few places beyond the Iron Curtain, in the 1970s and '80s) than it does to the quasi-Victorian sexual ethics that predominate in at least some consciously naturist spaces (in the English-speaking world at the very least).

The radical queer position is usually accepting and often quite celebratory of sexuality, but more importantly, it is not afraid of sexuality and it never condemns sexuality as such. Instead, it seeks to understand, with the intent of providing care, and/or it attacks, with unbridled hostility, proponents of various kinds of bigotry. Sometimes (but too rarely!) it does both in the same breath.

I wouldn't want to end this post by insisting that an unqualified, probably fictive “radqueer position” on sexuality is somehow enough, though. It isn't. I don't want to go on a rant about sex-negative feminism, either, because the post is long enough already and I'm not sure I know enough about sex negativity to say much that's interesting. It seems to me, however, that most anarchists I know (and definitely the ones I want to keep hanging out with) have already internalized all the best lessons that are taught in radical queer scenes and adjacent scenes (and some folks have internalized a few lessons that are less good). A minority of anarchists I know, but definitely including some folks I respect a lot, have appreciated texts like “The Ethical Prude” and “Against the Couple Form” – or at least parts of them. Other literatures and histories have also been influential, and could stand to become more influential still. As elsewhere, the appropriate attitude for the anarchist intellectual is to take what's useful and (maybe) burn the rest.

It seems to me that sexuality is, and shall remain, a problem – at least for utopians. Sexuality is frequently generative of harm and conflict. The impulse to do away with sexuality altogether, to put it in its proper place (e.g. procreation? hedonism that you have to pay for with $$$ and access to further capital?) and otherwise not deal with it at all, certainly makes some sense to me in a nudist context or any other field of life.

But it's also sort of a managerial strategy, and I mean that in the worst possible way.

I am not a utopian and I try not to be a manager. I expect there will always be difficulties, disputes, and so on in the ways that humans relate to one another – caused in part by sex stuff, sure, but also caused by literally everything else. This is the human condition or whatever, and it's fine. What's less fine is the drive to end problems entirely through totalizing approaches.

Bad things, difficult things, or uncomfortable things are going to happen. What we need to do, then, is try to identify the causes of the worst problems with a mind to preventing them recurring. I don't know if it is possible to stop every sexual assault (keep in mind that I'm a bit of a pessimist), but I think that better practices of sex education, and different kinds of sociality, might go a long way towards that end.

But some things that are arguably or definitely bad, difficult, and/or uncomfortable are nevertheless not quite as serious as, say, sexual assault.

Let's take one practical example.

Erections (aka boners, stiffies, etc.) are visible indications that a person is sexually aroused – or so it is frequently said and widely understood, despite the fact that many people get erections randomly, or simply in the morning when they are waking up, is also widely known. Many people find the inflated flesh rods disgusting to look at, which is one thing to keep in mind, and lots of the people who roam this world with dicks hanging off their lower fronts are particularly embarrassed by the idea of getting hard (or even just showing a little chub) at an inappropriate time in an inappropriate place.

It seems to me that this specific “sexuality issue” is complicated in and of itself. It would maybe warrant a dedicated post if there wasn't already enough writing from within the nudist-naturist canon that, in my view, covers the subject well enough (here are some examples, and you'll want to scroll down to “Fear 7” for that last one). Whatever categorical imperative about boners that we might sign on to, however, there is no way to “solve” this problem entirely – at least not without doing some things that are far worse than boners ever could be.

People (some of them, at least) are going to have boners, and deal with numerous other bodily phenomena that others may or may not be able to relate to with respect to their own bodies. People are going to have sexual relationships, some of which will be bad on the whole or at least end badly. People are also going to have strong opinions, and strong emotions, about other people fucking, or the possibility that other people might be fucking or might start fucking. People are going to talk to each other about stuff they have lived through or things they have just heard about, and they will disagree about what is fucked up, what's questionable but not that bad, what's weird and/or funny and/or amusing to gossip about, and what's too boring or too banal to warrant any discussion at all. A lot of the time, and more often when people know more about bodies, minds, and relationships, people will deal with all of these issues with some temporary awkwardness, perhaps, but no lasting or grievous harm.

It seems to me that many sex things, if not all things, aren't really consequential problems – or maybe they are at the scale of individual lives, but not at the scale of society, and certainly not in comparison to the problems that more easygoing attitudes about sexuality might help to resolve.

More easygoing attitudes about sexuality would probably lead to more easygoing attitudes about nudity – so I think it is funny, and a little sad, that mainstream naturism in the English-speaking world seems to have adopted a particularly conservative attitude with respect to sexuality.

Many formally organized associations have copious amounts of policy and etiquette intended to “make everyone feel welcome” and foster a “family-friendly” environment, which is all to the good, but despite this, they have not completely gotten rid of creeps – and they probably won't be able to, because creeps can always learn the right rhetoric.

Creeps of all sorts are pests, no doubt, and I can understand the temptation to employ pesticide. But pesticide can be both ineffective at getting rid of the pests, while generative of other types of problems.

I hardly think that easygoing attitudes re: sexuality would get rid of creeps – and in fact, I imagine that a rapid and comprehensive embrace of such attitudes might even encourage some of them! This, in turn, could lead to worse outcomes. I don't know. Fortunately, though, I am not out to reform established naturist spaces, because I want to create new spaces, for people like me or like the people I like to hang out with.

I would love it if nudity-optional spaces emerged from within the anarchist movement, which is itself besot by various sorts of sex politics (and politics about bodies) that I think are imperfect, a little too dogmatic, and maybe a bit prudish. But I don't even really take issue with these ideas, which I presume to be on point in some of their more central critiques, even if some extrapolations are off the mark. What bothers me is that, no matter their internal points of disagreement with one another, anti-sexual ideas as an ensemble – and in concert with the law in most of North America, which is probably the more important factor – give rise to an intellectual and cultural climate among anarchists that serves to suppress a worthwhile practice of nudism from emerging among them.

And that practice is obviously what I want. I don't think it's the “bad ideas” that stop it from happening, either; they just provide a cover. The real obstacle is confusion about sexuality (a subject matter that, like it or not, has encompassed the subject matter of nudity), the compounding fear of sexuality (and thus, nudity too), and alongside this fear and confusion, an excess of strong opinion, from some quarters, about universal moral truths vis-à-vis complicated human realities that are often rather crudely aggregated.

It's not entirely insurmountable, but it's aggravating to be sure.