The X Factor: Naturism’s masculinity problem

There are proportionally far too many Y chromosomes in the world of Naturism. That’s too say that the world of nudism proportionally skews toward the masculine. A quick visit to naturists’ sites, whether actual or virtual, tells us that women are scandalously underrepresented. Perhaps the way I’ve started this and the fact that I — a man — am writing this is telling. We too often look at the world from the male perspective. And then we wonder why naturism’s masculinity problem exists.

This is indicative of the world at large not just in naturism. And I am certainly not blameless either. Friends have accused me of failing on occasion to even notice the presence of women. Admittedly, as a gay man, when in public I definitely notice the presence of men more. But in public nudism activities, this is eased by the fact that usually there are few women to notice anyway. While looking through my photo archives for images to accompany this text, I discovered that the only pictures I have of women engaged in nudism are from some of the World Naked Bike Rides I participated in. And those slant heavily to the male body too. Granted there we in fact more men. More vindication of my original point. Bare women are not as prevalent as men.

Nudist Planet Naturism's Masculinity Problem vertNude women in art

The picture above is of the painting Nausicaa by William McGregor Paxton. Classical art is a rich source of female nudes. Almost entirely by male artists. The female form was — and is — celebrated and revered in art. As it should be. All bodies should be. But to me, this painting says so much about naturism and feminism. Firstly, the women seem to have been enjoying some time of freedom sunning themselves nude in a stunning spot on a beautiful day. Who wouldn’t love that? Yet even that liberation comes with restraint. We notice this in the conformity of their appearance: same bodily build, same pale complexion, same hair style, same annoyed look. And of course, their serenity is disrupted by the appearance of a man — Odysseus in this case. The women hastily seek cover.

I recognize that a major reason for the lack of participation in naturism by many women is the threatening and disconcerting presence of men. Again this is true of all culture in general. Women can never assume safety is guaranteed when confronted by unfamiliar men, much less so when nude. For most naturists, naturism is about comfort. Being comfortable physically due to lack of restraint. And comfortable in accepting your body and yourself. It’s hard to feel such comfort when you are uncertain of the intentions of those around you. So it’s perfectly understandable that women are reluctant to let down their guard in this sense.

It’s not only naturism’s masculinity problem

Society presents women as objects of desire and thus many men treat them that way. And women do too. Slut-shaming is more an activity of women than men. It goes back to the idea of conformity. That which is different to our lifestyle and way of being makes us question why we are as we are. And this can be a sobering challenge. It’s simply easier to shame those who diverge from the norm. For this reason, non-naturist women often accuse their nudist sisters as wanton or immoral. “Why would any women get naked in the presence of a man unless she was up to no good?”, they think.

As nudist men, we can help by accompanying our female friends into naturism. We can also show respect to the unfamiliar women we encounter when practicing nudity. Providing a little distance and allowing women to initiate any interaction, will help to enhance their sense of comfort. We are the threat that holds back participation by women. And only we can neutralize this threat. Make and effort.

This weekend 2-4 June is Women in Naturism Weekend. Help to solve naturism’s masculinity problem: invite the women in your life to join you for some bare activity.

10 thoughts on “The X Factor: Naturism’s masculinity problem”

  1. Seriously, the movement that struggles to attract more people also says that there are too many of certain category? If you are trying to bring more women in, it’s one thing, but saying that there are “too many” men is another

  2. When we first started the World Naked Bike Ride, one woman who was ready to participate and was nude, was approached by an older guy who put his camera close to her chest. No one intercepted the guy, maybe no one noticed while talking with others. It was unnerving enough to her that she was totally put off joining the ride. It only takes one guy to spoil the ambiance. Dave in Toronto.

  3. When we first started the World Naked Bike Ride, one woman who was ready to participate and was nude, was approached by an older guy who put his camera close to her chest. No one intercepted the guy, maybe no one noticed while talking with others. It was unnerving enough to her that she was totally put off joining the ride. It only takes one guy to spoil the ambiance. Dave in Toronto.

  4. A very thought provoking post, Kenn! I enjoyed your presentation and your perspective. I’m one of those gay men who always doesn’t notice the under-representation of women in naturist/nudist venues or in the otherwise male-dominated world. I definitely need to pay attention. Thank you my bare blogging buddy for your reminder of my many shortcomings! Much love and many naked hugs!

  5. Is this an American issue? When I visit Nudist Resorts I almost always meet a world traveler telling stories of other countries where nudity is normal, for men and women, even at public venues such as pools and parks.

    1. Most of the naturist places I have visited have been in Europe and Asia. And in my own experience, they tend to have overwhelmingly male participants. It doesn’t mean that women are not equally free to participate, but they don’t in the same rates as men.

    2. We agree Tony, over here in Belgium in Belgium and the Netherlands we almost always find an equal male – female ratio, and also in the bigger campgrounds of France and Italy it never occurred to us that there would be more males. But we also hear that it does happen quite often in the USA an also the UK that there are more males.

      We do believe that sometimes for women it’s a bigger step to take. Mostly for the same reasons you’ve mentioned but also because historically men have been in a more free position than women. For many years and in many different cultures women were seen as the possession of their husband and should not expose themselves to other men. And somewhere that feeling got stuck in the background. That’s also an explanation for the slut shaming.

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