On seriousness

CW: too many links to too many subreddits

As of June 27, 2022, the “About Community” sidebar for the subreddit r/makenuditylegal reads as follows:

This page is for spreading the word that public nudity isn't sexual in nature, and is about expressing yourself without wearing clothing. This community hopes to change the minds of those that think being naked is about sex and make it legal in the near future, as America and surrounding areas are very negative about it. We aim to legalize public nudity in the U.S. and abroad. Please subscribe and spread the word :) Being naked is human, freeing, and society has a backwards view on it. Be free!

The subreddit presently has just over 3000 subscribers, which puts it far below the r/nudism subreddit with its 83,000+ subscribers as well as the more modest r/naturism subreddit with 17,000+ subscribers. It is a forum of ideas more than images, too, which is to its credit. There are many other ostensibly nudism-focused subreddits that have anywhere between one (1) and tens of thousands subscribers (for instance, r/nudists has ~46,000), but the posts on most these subreddits are overwhelmingly made up of photos, with very little in the way of links to news articles or to meaningful discussion (insofar as meaningful discussion is something that happens on Reddit).

The likes of r/makenuditylegal, r/nudism, r/naturism, and a very small number of other subreddits with even fewer subscribers (like the puny r/anarcho_naturism with its ~800 members) stand out, then, from the dozens of subreddits catering to those who wish to see photos of naked people in the woods, naked people gardening, naked people camping, etc.

Next, within this small group, r/makenuditylegal has the distinction of actually being committed to a fulsome “nudist politics”, i.e. the realization of a world in which nudity is “legal”, which I take to mean a world in which people can be naked in public places without risk of detainment, jail, fines, and/or the fear of any of those three.

Within the “idea space” of nudism on Reddit, then, the “Pro-Legalists” (as I will hereafter refer to them) of the r/makenuditylegal subreddit constitute a sort of activist or pro-revolutionary hardcore with respect to realizing an expanded option of nudity in society. Obviously posting on the internet isn’t really activism, but in the post-Gamergate era, it should be recognized that there is at least some kind of relationship between discussion forums, on the one hand, and social movements and subcultures that exist in the real world, on the other.

So, the problem with r/makenuditylegal isn’t really the subreddit’s name, even if that is objectionable to me as an anarchist. As far as I’m concerned, as much as I might personally benefit from public nudity being legal in the place where I live, legality ought to be done away with insofar as legality is a function of societies being dominated by states. But that’s a topic for another day, and probably, another outlet.

If anything, I respect the Pro-Legalists for the immoderation of their rhetoric in articulating their political objective, which—though framed in a statist way—is really not so much about the legality as it is about the nudity. The Pro-Legalists don’t see any good reason for nudity to be criminally sanctioned and punished, and they speak clearly and to the point on that subject with reference to their principles. This is in contrast to moderates on r/nudism and social progressives on r/naturism who often argue that the status quo vis-à-vis nudity is fine, and that those who push for social change (the existence of a non-arduous option of nudity in public, the legalization and/or decriminalization of nudity in public, broad social acceptance of a “right to nudity” and/or the basic inoffensiveness and banality of naked human bodies, etc.) are extremists who do nudists as a whole a disservice. Never mind that not all nudists can afford the resort and nakation lifestyle, and some will never be able to!

There is a much bigger problem with the Pro-Legalists. It's that they—that is, a large proportion of the most active users of r/makenuditylegal—are basically kooks and cranks.

I’m not going to get into all the details of it, but we’re talking transphobia, Trumpism, and vacuous freedom talk steeped in an intense form of capitalist realism.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s not exactly fine, but it shouldn’t be a big problem in and of itself. Transphobia, Trumpism (and other forms of reactionary right-wing nationalism), Reddit, climate change, and so on are examples of bigger problems we should be more worried about than we are. Except, there’s one thing... At this time, there is no other space on Reddit—no other space on the “Front Page of the Internet”—for people to discuss the political project of improving options for nudity in the embodied world, except among the cranks.

There is no real welcoming environment for a discussion of tactics, and the ethics of those tactics, on r/nudism. Sometimes the discussion in r/naturism goes in that direction, but not often. Discussions of activism—whether blustering calls to actions, considered strategic proposals, or discussions of historical episodes (which are often poorly documented)—aren’t really on the table on these subreddits. Only on r/makenuditylegal, alongside bad political opinions and somehow even worse image macros, is there actually some good faith discussion about this stuff. Kooks and cranks are absolutely a part of those discussions and often leading those discussions, and that overall sucks, but these discussions still have value to me, an anarchist who wants to be able to talk about this stuff. Because, well, I’m not seeing it many other places.

But r/makenuditylegal is also sufficiently unfit for purpose—if not, at times, dangerously out of touch—that I feel, personally, something better needs to supplant it as the only “political” nudist and/or naturist subreddit that's worth a damn (and sorry, r/anarcho_naturism, but you were never gonna cut it).

It sucks that any energy at all is going to be spent on doing this on Reddit, but I think it has to be this way, at least right now, in the summer of 2022.

So long as Reddit remains the ultimate clearinghouse of information about nudism in English—chiefly in the form of r/nudism and a few lesser subreddits, including the more explicitly political r/makenuditylegal—then I don’t really know what other platform can provide something that the masses (in North America and/or other countries) can use easily enough. And at least Reddit is, ostensibly, about link sharing, e.g. information sharing.

Thus I have made a new subreddit, r/naktiv. (If you want to be a moderator, just let me know.) The name is a portmanteau of two German adjectives, nackt and aktiv, the meanings of which I expect are obvious enough.

It is dedicated to (discussion of) activism—not just spectacular street activism, though probably including some of that—that is aimed at articulating the virtues of nudism as well as realizing more nudity-optional spaces and defending that option where it already exists. Some discussion of adjacent topics (such as the tactical deployment of nudity in other forms of activism) will be allowed, but the goal is to stay overall on topic, and especially to avoid getting bogged down in topics that make up the majority of text posts on the other major nudism-themed subreddits, namely the resort and nakation lifestyle and a litany of newbie and/or adolescent concerns about bodies, social etiquette, etc.

There is no singular, sloganistic demand to unify r/naktiv; basically, anyone can post about anything that is relevant to the topic. However, to the extent that the aggregate conduct of the community that uses r/naktiv has some bearing on how much others will want to use the subreddit and/or how others will perceive the “position” it upholds, then it does make sense to speak of a few practical rules. The most important, I think, is that an account’s post history matters.

Far too often, I click on an account that has posted on r/nudism, r/naturism, r/makenuditylegal, r/nudistmemes, or some other nudism-related subreddit, and what I find is a long post history that in large parts consists of posts on subreddits like [r]preggoporn or [r]hairypussy (I won’t put in the hyperlinks for these ones). Additionally, I sometimes find pretty straightforward bigotry—not just opinions that I disagree with, but rude, insulting, and thoroughly contemptuous comments about entire groups of people. Other stuff is simply embarrassing or perplexing. I am sure the anti-underwearist position (which argues that underwear has no purpose, something that is manifestly untrue) has some merit, but this is actually weird stuff that reveals a manifest unseriousness about the cause.

Accounts that are too horny, or too gross (especially in cases where people are being transgressive for the sake of being transgressive), will be excluded from r/naktiv. No doubt this will drastically reduce the number of accounts that can post on this subreddit, but I believe that will be to the good. Quality over quantity.

To be sure, Reddit is part of the problem, I think. For this reason, I have also set up a mirror community on Lemmy, a Reddit-like forum software built on the ActivityPub protocol. The reader may wish to consult my (dated, imperfect) first post on the fediverse—that is, on interoperable web services using ActivityPub—from last year. Suffice it to say, however, that having a Lemmy community provides redundancy (there will still be a forum even if Reddit bans/quarantines the subreddit or the Reddit servers themselves simply go offline). Lemmy also allows users to better control their own experiences, and to know, within reason, that their data probably isn’t being mined for someone else’s profit.

I have chosen to use the general purpose sopuli.xyz Lemmy instance because I like the rules and, given Finland’s generally better approach to issues around nudity when compared to North America, it seems to me that a Scandy ambience could be a suitable substrate to help give rise to an appealing “naktiv aesthetic”.

Aesthetic, and the related matter of message discipline, are part of being serious. So is a commitment to working with other people who don’t share all manner of ideological presuppositions—but within reason, because certain bigoted beliefs, for instance, sabotage “movement building” of any kind, and risk a repetition of German nudists’ experiences in the 1930s. “First they came for [...] and I did not speak out...”

Being serious also means learning over time. It is not really my place to say, in theory, when a debate about the utility of certain tactics or the merits of a certain strategic approach is actually closed, but I believe that some things ought to be off the table. We cannot remain forever at a 101 level of discussion. In fact, discussion for its own sake, without any connection to real world projects big or small, might best be avoided—unless people are really going to try and inspire others with their imaginations.

Anyway, check it out, either on Reddit or on Lemmy.