The option of nudity

Most of the time, most people can get naked—on their own power, and with a trivial amount of effort. This isn't true for absolutely everyone, and it's probably not true for anyone at absolutely all moments (for instance, when in handcuffs), but it's broadly the case that stripping is physically actionable for most of us at any given moment. The operation of getting naked is something that most adults have done for themselves at least once a day (and hopefully at least once every few days) from a very early age.

Nudity, then, is an option, in terms of a pure physical potentiality for most of us. Standing out in the open on a cold and windy day, it may not be a very appealing or sensible option, but it is available to do.

So too in any other moment. At a beach on a warm and sunny day. Coming out of the cold and into the heated interior of a household, flushed with the exhaustion of moving through the winter in all those layers. Or on a bus, in a theatre, at school or work, in the backyard—absolutely anywhere.

Despite its eminent availability, it is rarely exercised—even in those cases when a little more nudity might spare people a great deal of sweat, discomfort, laundry, undue getting dressed, and other such unhappy burdens in the immediate term. And there are many reasons for this, but mostly they are social.

First there is the governance of space, and the fact that nudity will lead to friction, most of the time, with local authority, be it a boss, a teacher, a cop, or a bouncer.

Then there is the proverbial cop-inside-of-the-head, implanted through the long process called “socialization”, which produces its own sort of internally experienced friction.

Finally, quite apart from the blunt logic of bureaucrats enforcing rules and the cruel sensation of internally experienced shame, there are simply many ideas about nudity in circulation. These, too, lead to friction of a kind, which is simply the exigency to talk to others about the fact that one is naked, to justify it, whatever.

This friction renders nudity much less easy, and much less comfortable, than it otherwise might be, to the detriment of ease and comfort across the board. So, to the extent that nudism-comfortism implies any kind of “programme”, the core of it is this: a general expansion of the settings and situations in which it is okay to get naked (that is, in which getting naked is explicitly made okay), the goal of which would be to diminish this friction, alongside whatever other incidental benefits might come along (of which I think there would be a few).

I don't have any playbook to offer for making this general expansion happen, but the approach should vary quite a bit between settings and situations.

Most of my own ideas are orientated towards anarchists' spaces and sociality, because I'm an anarchist and that's what I know. Perhaps in future posts, I will try applying some of these ideas to settings and situations, both real or hypothetical, within the anarchist movement—but I don't think those posts will be very accessible to people who don't know much about how anarchists do things.

Nudism-comfortism, in contrast to stories that relate to my idiosyncratic and ineffable life, is the little I can offer to everyone—that is, both to anarchists (even those who are a little, or a lot, gymnophobic) and to everyone else who's worth talking to about this sort of stuff.

I also sort of think “the option of nudity” has some potential as a slogan or a meme? Like, it's really quite boring and lots of people (and lots of nudists and wannabe nudists) want things to be boring. It also gets the point across. It translates well, too.

I, personally, cannot really imagine myself ever standing naked in front of a government building with a placard that says We Want the Option of Nudity. I can imagine that some other people would, though, and I feel like, if something like that started happening in my city, I would provide it my critical support. Maybe even go to that part of town, keep my clothes on, and keep an eye on the police with a mind to keeping people safe—since, like, police are pricks sometimes.

My own approach, up to now, has been sort of anti-social—and I intend to keep it that way. I haven't spent much time at clothing-optional beaches because, in my region, they're difficult to access and effectively pretty expensive. Mostly, instead, when I have been naked outside of bedrooms, swimming/hygienic situations, and the occasional modeling job, I was getting naked in contravention of local laws and regulations, in total contradiction of established norms, and/or in open conflict with an apparently hegemonic culture of gymnophobia.

I don't get naked as often as I like, despite my occasional inclination to say fuck it I'm doing it. Far too often, even when I'm hot and sweaty, and I'm also quite certain that the first person I encounter won't be a person who will actually fuck with me in a way I can't handle (like a cop), I keep my clothes on because I'm afraid of the consequences. It sucks. I try to not care, I try to be badass (lol), but I'm not, really.

I want a general expansion of the availability of option of nudity—a general making-available, as it were—because I'm tired of this burden. I don't expect it to be relieved all at once, but I do think it's possible for people to make relief happen, more or less starting anywhere. Presumably, though, the revolution starts at home.