Nudity, Naturism and Pornography.

A lovely naturist lady, whose posts include photographs of many nudes taken in natural, naturist/nudist surroundings, seems puzzled that pictures like those she provides appear on ‘pornographic’ websites and blogs.

Why is the naked female body per se, then, however mundane its activities and however balanced and naturist in intent, perceivable as a pornographic image?

I’ve tried to expand this debate for a very long time, but it’s difficult. Even what I am writing here will no doubt prove of discouraging length. Even given patience, I suspect that there are men and women who are afraid of whatever ‘truth’ might be found out there, and there are those who are desperate to cling to largely self-serving prejudices.

My oft-repeated axiom is: “There are no more dangerous lies than the lies we tell ourselves”. Of every belief and rationale I have, I must ask the question, over and over again; is this what I truly believe on the basis of experience, evidence and understanding, or is this what I want to believe because it somehow suits my agenda? It is a hard question, but unless it is honestly asked anything which emerges as a belief or rationale is suspect.

I’ve quoted examples before. The dieter who tells him/herself that ‘one more biscuit won’t harm’, the alcoholic who says the same of ‘one more drink’, the burglar who genuinely convinces himself that his actions don’t matter ‘because they (the victims) are insured’, the litterer who tips his garbage out of the car window ‘because someone else will clear it up’.

So anything I write here has been tested and will be re-tested against the possibility that I am writing something because I wish to believe it is true, because I wish to be comfortable with it.
The answer to my main question, about the naked body being perceived by some as having pornographic utility, begins, I suspect, with the fact that we – men and women – screw each other up. I can only cover a fraction of that truth here.

For one thing we hold to that concept – ‘men and women’ – as if we are essentially our biological attributes alone and as if in some fundamental way all of one gender is the same as all the rest. A huge test of that concept has been homosexuality, and it has taken us at least a couple of thousand years (almost certainly more) to begin to accept in some societies that there are at least six classifications of male and female; male hetero, female hetero, male homo and female homo, male bi-sexual and female bi-sexual.

The desperation to cling to the single standard of male and female, standardly heterosexual, is something that renders many incapable of accepting one or more of those other standards. It does not matter what evidence is produced. It does not matter how self-evident the biological truths, there are those who consider non-hetero relationships ‘icky’ and – if their argument extends beyond that – to define those relationships in terms of ancient and discredited texts as ‘sinful’ or ‘evil’.

Nature in fact produces, from time, members of a seventh category, consisting of human beings whose bodies are neither exclusively male nor exclusively female, whose bodies combine elements of both. They go largely un-talked about, they are anomalies and freaks. Yet who says so? And who has the right to say so? In terms of numbers, in terms of their rarity, perhaps there is some justification for the anomalous view, yet if these individuals can find contentment within their ‘different’ bodies, regardless of whether they conform to a heterosexual norm, who are we to question what they do?

Yet the standard reaction in such cases is the advocacy of surgery. If something falls outside our definition of normal, let us use the scalpel to ‘normalise’ it. And if heterosexuality is our exclusive perception of the normal, let us use medication and pseudo psychology to ‘normalise’ those who don’t share our perception. It is cruel, it is sad, and it is stupid.
Seven or eight categories in, now, and we’re still left with certain concepts of normality. Yet I suspect that they are wrong.

Whether by nature or nurture, differences occur between different people within each of those categories. Physically and mentally there are, probably within all of those categories, those who might be considered macho or ‘butch’ and those who might be considered ultra-feminine and fey.

Pretty much every day I encounter men in the streets of my town who – in terms of appearance – could not be perceived as anything but men. They have – often – shaven, bullet heads, have frequently shallow foreheads, are as broad at the shoulders as they are tall, and radiate a kind of aggressive machismo. A great many of them, one suspects, are readers of our ‘Sun’ newspaper with its topless page 3 girls, are purchasers of girlie magazines, walk thuggish-looking pit bull terriers and would love to see a return to cock-fighting and bear-baiting. They are often scary people.

They define themselves as – and are considered by very many women to be – men. Archetypal, ideal men in many instances, capable of producing the requisite number of babies, never shedding tears in public (and often never in private) and capable of ‘defending’ their women if actually or imaginedly insulted by some stranger. Indeed in my daily life I am surrounded by teenage boys whose own definition of a man is someone who can fuck a female and physically fight an opponent, not realising that this is essentially the same definition as a pit bull dog.

Now, what baldness I have is quite naturally arrived at. I have never been a strapping, muscular chap and, in truth, if someone insulted my partner and had any sense of physical strength about him I would have to try to negotiate my way out of it. That’s something that is not easy to admit. It’s not ‘manly’. Yet I suspect it is more the norm than the bullet-headed Neanderthal.

In my own perception I am a ‘man’ on a different part of the spectrum of masculinity. Is it, though, a spectrum of masculinity or more a spectrum of humanity? Are there not female equivalents to the Neanderthals, female equivalents to myself? Is it not that each human brain contains elements, in-born or inculcated, which are not uniquely masculine or feminine but which retain a mixture of both?

Age old precepts have, I think, done us unimaginable harm. The idea that we were ‘made in the image of God’ seems to me to elevate us – flatteringly – far above the simple animals we in many respects are.
Seeing these putatively Neanderthal males, however, does not leave me wishing that I could be like them. Seeing them I see no less clearly than in myself the fears and insecurities which have shaped and continue to shape them. The only significant difference is that they would not so readily admit to being afraid. In a physical fight most of them would defeat me, but in a mental or intellectual struggle they would lose. Most of them know it as well as I do, and for that they are inclined to hate me.

But if there is only the one concept, heterosexual man, and I am not like them, am I a man? Some of them, and many of their girlfriends, would argue I am not.

At base, then, I am merely a human being, a human being with male genitalia, a human being with a particular reproductive role, a human being whose first choice of sexual partner would always be female and whose wiring or programming means that I find the female and the female form attractive.

I am also a male human being who finds particular things significantly awesome. These include insects, seen from up close, flowers, snakes, butterflies, sunsets, storms, thunder, lightning, birds, the paintings of Turner, Vigee-Lebrun, David, Delacroix, Degas and others, small mammals, middle size mammals, enormous mammals. I cannot be near to one of my cats without petting it, nor can I resist touching my wife, I cannot be near a tiger, an elephant, a meerkat, a dolphin, an orchid or a rose without wanting to touch it, to stroke it, to hold it.

Exactly what that drive is – to hold, to touch – I can’t say I know. I just know it is there. I know it has something to do with who I am and what I am, and that it is somehow about being in touch with the world in which I live and with the beauty by which I am surrounded.

I do know that I am not a ‘Disney’ anthropomorphist. When I visit my ‘local’ park and the squirrels clamber onto my patient knees or along my arms to take peanuts from me, or when the heron tilts his head and advances towards me for the fish I’ve taken as a gift for him, I do not imagine that these creatures like or love me, or that they might come to, or that they even know me. I know how small their brains are, how limited their perceptions, so that I am to them no more than a tree which happens to carry their favourite provender and happens to be at the right place at the right time.

I know that I am attracted by the perceived softness of fur and feather, by the sculptural qualities of their bodies, the delicacy of their movements and – of course – by the relative enormity of their eyes which, if they were human, might indicate that they loved me. Because they are birds and squirrels it means nothing of the sort, but I know that there are parts of my brain that see enlarged pupils as a warming, engaging thing to which it must respond.

‘Every man is a potential rapist’. Have I correctly remembered the quote, or was it simply ‘Every man is a rapist’? I don’t remember, but either way it attests to a believed quality of ‘man’ as an entirety. I hope I have argued with some reason that such an entirety is fallacious. We are not all the same. We do not all inhabit the same part of the spectrum.

Now I must revisit earlier times, the times when I as an adolescent first began to learn about women and about sex.

I am and always have been an exceedingly lonely individual. I suspect there are a great many of us. I found myself attracted to girls long before I knew what the potential outcome of that attraction was and enjoyed the company of girls, and the shape and form and nature of girls, a long time before puberty struck me. I loved their shape, their voices, the gentlenesses the world respected in them but did not respect in boys.
Reaching adolescence, discovering that this thing I used to piss through had a mind and an appetite of its own, I discovered masturbation and I discovered something of intimacy. Because there was no alternative, and because such things are probably quite normal (or were then) I discovered intimacy in a pseudo-homosexual environment.

I don’t know if it began or if it was merely reinforced by a quasi-homosexual experience as a boy scout. A total newbie, on my first camp, I was tidying up in a tent which had had its sides tied up to leave the interior open to sun and breeze when a schoolmate and co-scout appeared in a blur of movement from another tent and hurried to bury himself among the baggage and sleeping bags of the tent wherein I stood. I was amazed at the fact that he was stark naked, and surprised to discover that he was so as the result of a strip-poker game which had occurred in the scout-master’s tent.

I didn’t even know enough, then, to think this something terrible, something reportable, something indicative of a possible evil in the scoutmaster, and the continuing conduct of the boys showed nothing whatever in it that they had been somehow oppressed. Being new and untried, I was not involved in any of their ‘games’, which were various. I was afraid to be involved only because I was shy, and shyness precluded me from ever attending a camp again.

Friends of mine at the time, however, did occasionally come to my home around that period, and by playing games of strip poker and ‘strip darts’ we learned – certainly I learned – of the arousal that could occur simply because you or someone in your company was rendered naked, rendered vulnerable with a vulnerability that was never misused. Our penises – objects of humour and shame to anyone else – were objects of fascination to us, I think, though my memory of these far gone times is not too sharp.

Here, however, perhaps we come close to a key to things. There was stimulation, of some sort, ‘simply because you or someone in your company was rendered naked, rendered vulnerable’.

As I have said, that vulnerability was never (in my presence) abused. What happened occurred as a result of the process of accepting that nakedness was a vulnerable state, a state you only shared with anyone you absolutely trusted (however foolishly) and that nakedness, per se, was sensual and sexual.
Nakedness was an unacceptable state in any other circumstances except perhaps – and rather confusingly – single sex showers.
There is a key, I think, to who we are, in the biblical acknowledgement that the first evidence of Adam and Eve having sinned was that they ‘knew they were naked’. Thus is nakedness – or it was in those days up to 60 years ago – associated with sin and wrong-doing. I do not remember all the reinforcements of this that I received as a child, but clearly remember three.

In the first we were resident in an apartment block in Germany in the early 1950s. My father was a soldier and part of the British Army of the Rhine – the de facto army of occupation of the British sector. I remember very sunny days, sunny gardens and a shaded underpass to the block which contained the garbage cans of perhaps half a dozen of the nearest apartments. Somehow I, and a number of other youngsters (I was at the most 8 years old) got into playing naked hide and seek. Discovered, we were separated and told it must not happen again because, somehow, it had been naughty.

In the second instance we were all staying at my paternal grandmother’s house and I walked into the downstairs living room/kitchen area to find my father bathing in a tin bath before the fire. My mother swiftly ushered me out with some remarks about my father’s need for privacy. I am not aware that I ever otherwise saw my father or mother’s naked bodies, certainly never saw their genitals, and I am aware that it would have been considered a source of embarrassment to them if I had done so. Indeed, my mother having passed away a couple of years ago and in her 80s, I have no recollection of ever having seen her breasts.

The third ‘key’ sexual experience occurred when I was perhaps 9 years old, maybe 10, and I rushed happily to greet my mother as she returned home only to be greeted coldly and with words something like “You are a grown boy, now; I don’t ever want to see that again.” I was wearing pyjama trousers of the kind fastened with a bow at the centre of the waist and, it seems, they were gaping, revealing my penis. It was then that I learned that my penis was something to be ashamed of.
Some half a century ago in my life, and I am sure more recently in others’ lives, I learned that my body was a source of shame to those who avowedly loved me, that it behaved in ways I was not sure how to control, that it was not a source of shame among peers of my own age and sex but that, indeed, its own and other bodily functions were a source of humour. I had learned, too, that nakedness was in itself sexual.

This was reinforced, when I reached a certain age, by the discovery of ‘pornography’. The definition of a pornographic image when I reached the age of 15 or 16 was of an image which showed genitalia or genital hair. A mere wisp of pubic hair was enough to send an image for retouching. The Victorian painters had colluded – at the same time the word pornography was invented – by showing only hairless and uncloven pudenda in their paintings, it seems to me, and the sort of magazine available to me at that age consisted exclusively of images of naked women with their pudenda and associated sexual adornments hidden. What was revealed was exclusively breasts and bottoms.

What happened between the female legs remained a mystery.

This definition of pornography remained in force for a very long time, and the strongest images I saw before I reached marriageable age consisted of a sheet of magazine covers from Sweden, shown to me by an Italian male nurse, which consisted entirely of images of rigid penises with their heads thrust into vulvas, and images supplied by a controversial WW2-based TV series and the movie ‘The Fox’ in which the pubic hair of actresses was visible on their otherwise naked bodies.

The female body remained largely a mystery beyond those images, yet in fact those images – over which I and millions, no doubt, of others, fostered our erections, were less revealing than those which now appear on websites and blogs which describe themselves as naturist.

The first time I discovered that labia existed, and that they came in two sizes, and the first time I discovered what a clitoris looked like, was when I took my first lover to bed and – because she was hugely hung up on the possibility of getting pregnant – when I first approached cunnilingus.

Now I can pretty much see them anytime I plug into one of my blogs.

I don’t have an issue with that. These are beautiful, wonderful, miraculous things, and they are brandished – if I can use that word, for they’re often extremely ‘up front’ in the images – by some pretty beautiful-looking, wonderful-looking, miraculous-looking individuals.

A memory arises, a link, perhaps, between the naturist natural and the perceived pornographic.
In the repressed magazines of my youth, the tit and arse photographs were generally of young women with attractive faces as well as attractive bodies. There was no sense that these photographs had been taken through keyholes, or with hidden cameras, or in any way secretly, and every certainty from the poses and the look in the eyes that they had been taken with the model’s consent. Moreover, if you were stupid enough to succumb to the idea, most of the photographs were accompanied by a brief text which indicated that the lady concerned might be interested even in you, the reader/viewer. They were always apparently between boyfriends.

The photographs, then, were ‘up front’, even if the diminutive miracles of the female anatomy were not, and they constituted an invitation to look and desire. The naturist photo is intended to say ‘I want you to look, I want you to see my beauty, I want you to be aware – as you cannot fail to be – of my sex, and I want you to look and be aware at the same time that I am not showing myself to you in order to be desired by you but in order to demonstrate what a wonderful clothes-free way of life I have.’

I’m not sure that works. At least, not for everybody.

Let’s take a reality check.

A little crude, this parallel, but bear with me. In the window of a restaurant, or above the counter in a fast food joint, is a picture of a meal which the creators want you to be able to evaluate. In a cookery book it may only be a photo of a meal which, given the appropriate time and talent, you yourself could create. But whether you look at it as testimony to what can be created and provided by the restaurant or the recipe, or whether you look at it as an object of desire, does not depend on the image. It depends on how you see the image, on the environment operating in your brain, on how hungry you are.

The image is not seen in the same way by the individual with money in his pocket and the freedom to choose when and how his appetite is met, as it is seen by the hungry man with empty pockets.
And where beautiful, shapely women are concerned, most of us are hungry men with empty pockets.
And we’re confused, at times. We’re screwed up.

I’ve reached that age where I know that unless I become a millionaire – money being something that will allow a lot of young women to set aside other prejudices – I am never, ever going to hold a beautiful young woman in my arms again. That saddens me, though not perhaps for the most obvious reason, since thrusting my member into some young vagina now seems quite as improper, inappropriate and undesirable to me as it is likely to seem to her.

It is, however, the case. Day after day, especially in my home city, I see beautiful girls and women, pretty girls and women, attractive girls and women, fully dressed or what – in these days of skin-tight, shape-accentuating clothing – passes for it. Frequently but not always they are females who are fully made-up, females who wear on their faces the chemical simulacra of arousal – the darkened lips, the enlarged eyes – and who waft scents designed to attract. Intended to target – whether to target the current boyfriend or a boyfriend of what they consider to be appropriate age and circumstance – any passing man is susceptible to these broadcast signals, but ‘any passing man’ knows perfectly well that he must not be seen to react.
‘Look at me,’ she says in her innocence, ‘but don’t.’

If you are lucky they will return a smile, but if you’re not their eyes will shoot you down or, worse, show alarm because they think you might be a danger.

Let me be clear. Rapists, abusers, sexual abusers – I’d have them all shot, just to save a little time. The idea of using power as a tool to obtain from someone something they would not choose to give you, is to me an obscenity of the worst order. Okay, I’d rather such were cured, if curing is possible. I’m not a violent man, not a hating man, but the weight of carrying the responsibility of the male abuser is and has long been a heavy one. I’m the man who, finding himself walking behind a woman alone at night, crosses over to the other side of the street, distances himself to try to ensure that he is seen as less of a threat. I’m the man who would run to her assistance, were danger ever to threaten. I am the man, indeed, who would risk his life, at the drop of a hat, to protect a vulnerable human being or who, if he failed, would never be able to live with himself.

So there you are, in the photograph, your breasts, your vagina, perhaps your very labia exposed, and you tell me that you are this way because you prefer a life without clothes. I’m with you. I would prefer to live without clothes myself and love being naked. Naturism per se is not really available to me. For one thing I live in a country with a climate that is uncomfortably cold at least half of the year. Then, most naturist resorts of which I’m aware do not welcome men when they arrive alone – it’s mostly couples only, and when it’s not it’s a place beyond my economic means or my ability to travel. My partner’s not in sympathy, you see. She has a lovely 60 or so year old body and a wonderful heart, but she has absorbed those same mores that others sought to instil in me when I was a child.

In the photograph you are there, fully exposed to my view, but you never will be in reality, nor – I suspect – would you want to be. And part of the reason you would not want to be is because there are still other things you do not understand.

There is this lie, of course, that sexual stimulation in a man is a dangerous thing. It is only a dangerous thing, in fact, in someone who is less than a man. But it exists as a belief, even forms a part of judicial opinion when justice opines that a man did something awful because ‘he could not help himself’. Vile, grossly misleading nonsense. Teach a boy the facts, teach a boy the truth, teach a boy to feel the pain of others as significantly as he feels the pain in himself, and he will not become such a man, even if such a dick-led, brainless moron otherwise exists.

I was once a card-carrying naturist, received a monthly newsletter, ventured to an otherwise closed swimming pool with my son to experience swimming, sauna-ing and otherwise simply being naked. I loved it. Practical considerations obstructed it in a short while and I’ve never found a place since.

In the newsletters I would frequently read those initial enquiries that began “but supposing I develop an erection…” The response from the ‘children of nature’ was always the same – first the reassurance that you would very soon pass that stage, if you didn’t do so immediately, and second that you could always jump into the pool and hide it until it subsided.

What troubled me, and troubles me, is that I never read that one should simply ignore it, smile and move on with one’s life. Is the erection itself more unnatural than simple nakedness? Is it anything more than an unsought response as natural as breathing or bleeding and, at its very worst, anything less than a compliment to whoever has aroused it?

Not my fault as a man that I can’t double over every few minutes to check that the labia of the women nearby are not just a little swollen, their clitorises not at all budding, their nipples just a little peaking. No-one advises women in such circumstances to hide in the swimming pool. But then women aren’t dangerous. The brain, soul and conscience of an aroused woman cannot be overridden by its sexual desires in the way, it is supposed, in general, that a man’s can be.

Never, ever a danger to women or children, the perception has been shaped that I am one because I am a man. Yet the truth is that the defence ‘I was driven beyond my capacity to restrain myself’ is not even appropriate to the Neanderthal. Even in him it is a lie, a fraud for which he deserves to die a lingering death.

The penis is an inflatable piece of meat with a few tubes in it and an urge to spread semen. It is not a brain, nor a soul, nor a conscience, and it cannot defeat brain, soul or conscience unless we pretend that it can for our own purposes. To be far enough gone, to be sufficiently intoxicated or otherwise overwhelmed to be unable to understand the word ‘no’ would require a physical state in which the abuser could not maintain a viable erection.

Among the Neanderthals, then, and among the liars and self-deceivers who think that all men fit a single category, rape is excusable and the perception of a naked female body an explicit stimulant. That will not change until we change our understanding of men and men’s understanding of women and, perhaps, their understanding of life itself.

Where then, are we left?

I’ve been brutally honest through all of this. I don’t propose to cease.

There is a difference between attractiveness and beauty. There is beauty in the butterfly, the cat, the squirrel, the tiger, the flower, the nonagenarian and the child. None of that beauty promotes – in a normal human being – sexual arousal. Sexual arousal occurs in those who remain capable of it when they are confronted by something or someone which fits a pattern of desire created for the propagation and the maintenance of the species.

What one finds sexually attractive, another does not, though the determinants of sexual attraction have a dominant model which changes over time and to which most actresses, porn stars and others who make their living from attraction tend to conform. 100 years ago they looked different to today. 100 years from now they may look different again.

I look, then, at the photos from the mainly naturist-oriented blogs and the ‘beauty’ oriented blogs and what do I see? Much the same. Predominantly young (of child-bearing age) females, most of them happily conscious of their sex, many of them happily displaying the organs of their sex. Their breasts and buttocks range from the infinitesimal to the rather enormous, their skin from the smooth and supple to the rippled and wrinkled. All are beautiful to me, if not all are attractive to me.

But they also display their faces, their lips, their eyes…

Sexual fantasy figures exist in my imagination only when I can be bothered to create them. They are total fictions, unrelated to any living human being, because to fantasize about an existing human being without their express permission would be, to me, offensive, demeaning and disrespectful.

I enjoy sex, when it occurs, and could enjoy more, but looking at these images I am not aroused, nor tempted to slink off into some private space and jack-off over the physical attributes of strangers. As a teenager I might have – I hope I’ve been clear on that – but I’m not a teenager anymore, I am a man who loves.

And it is the faces, in the main, which reach me, which touch me. I see your beauty, your profound attractiveness, even at times the organs of your sex displayed, and I hunger not to fuck you but to know you; to see you smile, to cause you to smile, to listen to your voice, to have the privilege of telling you how beautiful you seem to me, to hear what is happening inside that greatest miracle of you which is your mind.
The faces attract, even when the bodies alone do not. Because you are people. You are part of the complexity to which I belong. You laugh, you cry, you smile, you frown, you depend and have dependent upon you, you organise, theorise, you reach out a thousand times a day to others that you know in the endless web of mind engaging mind, soul engaging soul.

Oh I would, if could, kiss those other lips, touch and stroke those intimate parts, just as I would do with the things I earlier listed, from butterflies to dolphins, but it would be with the same reverence, the same profound respect, the same amazement at the reality of your existence, at the miracle of your being.
But these things I cannot do. You will stand revealed before me in a picture, but you will never gladly stand before me in the same way in real life.

I am a man. I do not fit any simple category. Place me in any simple category and you will never, ever know me. I shall remain alone. You will never, ever know how truly beautiful I see you to be.
Sad, is it not?

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