Naturism and Race

3 Nov

This post came out of discussions about how to make naturist events more inclusive. It is deliberately quite short, we are wanting to tease out some of the wider issues in later posts. We are looking for people who are interested in sharing their own personal experiences with us, please get in touch through the contact details here

Have you noticed how everyone in the naturist community is white? Well, maybe not everybody, but there is certainly a noticeable lack of people of colour in our community. Its worth noting that quite a lot of other communities; vegans, feminists, activists, etc. also have this problem.

How can we explain this? Asking around, a few people have made vague attempts to explain it away with “cultural differences”, but this doesn’t seem to sit right with me. The “cultural differences” explanation puts the work in addressing this problem back onto communities of colour, or at least somewhere external to our community. It says that people of colour need to change their cultural identity in order to fit in to our (white, western) naturist community.

Whilst culture, particularly religious ideology, may play its part – there is nothing innately white about a liberal attitude towards non-sexual nudity, nor is the anything innately non-white about a more moralistic attitude. My parents, who are as white and as English as you can get without falling over, raised me in a Christian evangelical environment where women who didn’t wear hats were going to hell – nevermind the women who choose to wear nothing at all! Hell, my mother once went to a life drawing class and spent the entire time drawing the pot plant on the windowsill because she couldn’t bring herself to even look at the naked man in the room! But here I am, getting my kit off at every opportunity – I managed to access our community despite coming from an environment that doesn’t approve of public nudity, and I’d wager quite a lot of naturists have similar stories.

Its unsurprising that in a society where racism is still endemic, people with white privilege are able to access resources and communities easier than those who don’t have white privilege. Perhaps, then, if we are to meaningfully address this problem, we need to be thinking not just about external factors, but also internal ones. How do we create non-racist spaces?

Anti-Racist Spaces Audit – a resource people might find interesting.

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21 Responses to “Naturism and Race”

  1. Andre Lawson-Walters November 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Hi I’m Andre and I run a naturism website in the UK called iNAKED (http://www.i-naked.info), I’m black (also I’m Bi and a Christian, but that’s another story). I too was brought up in a Christian evangelical environment and it wasn’t till my early twenties and me changing church that I felt really comfortable about being really open about my naturism and myself.

    Looking at my own life experiences, nudity and sex (especially gay sex) was always taught to me in a negative way, I was told that this was not part of my ‘culture’, ‘it’s not what black people do’ or “believe in’. I grew up thinking that my body and the way I see the nude human form was somehow ‘sinful’ or ‘evil’. It took a long time for me to get over this and to get to where I am now. I still worry about some members of the black community view me for being a naturist, but this is my life and that I only get one to live – so I will live it how I see fit.

    Anyway, black and asian naturist do exist. A very famous one in the UK is LadyGod1va (http://ladygod1va.wordpress.com/). I think part of the problem is that not may of ‘us’ feel able to be open about their naturism for fear of rejection from their respective communities and that in naturist publications you don’t pictures or videos of black/Asian naturists.

    There is podcast (which I’m in) which talks about the same topic: http://www.naturistliving.bareoaks.ca/search/label/visible%20minorities

  2. Ironcandle November 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    Hello, it’s me again. Funny you should touch on this subject, as I had this very conversation with LadyGod1va a short time ago. I found it interesting that she is a nudist and of Indian descent. I have been on some nude beaches where no person of color could be found, even though the island was mostly black. So, where were the black folks? I just figured they didn’t need an all over tan, but blacks DO tan and they go to the beach. The only thing I could see a difference in was culture and family pressure. Not sure what you mean by “white privilege”, though. You don’t need to be privileged to remove your clothes and be comfortable. Would mind expanding on that part a little more, please? Thanks for your Blog, it is very interesting.

    • radicalrabbit November 4, 2011 at 12:59 am #

      So, I guess “white privilege” is a way of conceptualising race issues where you dont just focus on people of colour being actively oppressed but also take into account the advantages that white people have (over people of colour). What I as a white person see as the “norm” isnt really a norm but a position of privilege. We often talk about race in a way which implies that people of colour fail to reach a norm that white people possess, which means that a lot of the time it is not something that we as white people have to address. If that makes sense?

      So as a white person, Im much more likely to be given a whole host of opportunities that a person of colour might not have – Im more likely to receive a better education, and so get a better job and be better paid. the fact that naturist holidays and other events can cost a fair bit might be a factor in why few people of colour feel they can access them.

      The fact that a naturism started off as a white european past-time potentially means that people of colour may feel othered or out of place in a situation where there is a whole bunch of white people and a whole lot of skin on show, for example.

  3. J. Applebee November 3, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Thank you for writing this post. I’m black, and only got interested in naturism after going to a one-hour ‘Naked Lunch’ at a Bicon (a bisexual weekender). I was surprised with how relaxed and enjoyable it all was.

    I’ve never once seen an image of a non-white person who is a naturist. I’ve thought of going to naturist events, but I dread being the only black face there. I dread the casual racism and fat-phobic crap that I tend to get anyway, but in a space where I’d feel even more vulnerable than usual.

    Thanks for realising that there is an issue here. White privilege often means that people don’t want to admit there’s a problem in the first place. I wish you the best of luck with encouraging more people of colour to explore naturism.

  4. Andrew Taylor (@Andrew_Taylor) November 3, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    I go to Skeptics in the Pub, and I’ve heard very similar concerns (rightly) expressed there. I suspect it’s in part because skeptics share a lot of demographic traits with naturists, veggies, feminists and activists.

    Skepticism also skews heavily male. One solution was to start a women-only event which would be less intimidating and where there was no real danger of casual sexism. I’m not sure how successful it’s been or if a similar approach would work in other contexts.

    I agree that blaming cultural differences is unhelpful, but equally, money and education aren’t distributed equally and that has to contribute to the imbalances in this kind of group. I don’t know if my immediate circle of friends is any better balanced than naturism or skepticism.

  5. Felicity J. November 5, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    Since we started our own naturist organization, we’ve been trying to diversify and reach out to black, latino and other communities because they do seem to be missing! As we’ve grown however, we actually realized that we have a pretty diverse group! It doesn’t hurt that we’re located in the melting pot of NYC.
    I think the reason relates back to how the naturist population is not only white, but “privileged.” Many of the private nudist clubs and resorts are considered a luxury for many, and it’s easier for blue collar or middle class who can afford it to visit and join as members. The crowd is often more diverse at a nude beach, which is open to the public and much cheaper.
    Young Naturists America doesn’t cost anything to join, we keep our event prices low, and we negotiate group deals when we visit clubs. I think all of that has helped to draw in people with both low or high income and people who’d just rather be part of an organization with less commitment / ongoing cost.

    • radicalrabbit November 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

      I does seem like there is a lot to do with class-privelege, where the people with the biggest disposable incomes are the only ones who can afford to be naturists!
      It probably goes a long way in explaining where there arent many people my own age (23) and younger involved in naturism, we don’t have the money to go to naturist clubs and holidays!

  6. Brian Earl November 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    THE COLOR OF NUDE – Part 1
    Hey to all fellow nudists here and abroad! This has always been a topic of concern for me as a black man who became a active, social, and eventually “card-carrying” nudist out of my own comfort and acceptance of the body being a beautiful but simply naturally freeing feeling. After my visits to a few nude beaches 10yrs ago, I too started to ask why more black people (and others of dark complexions) did not take part in something so naturally, mentally, and “stressfully” freeing. But with this took on a move to action, followed by a internet group of almost 400 nudist minorities and 2 annual nude beach meets that encourged more to enjoy the positive aspects of nude recreation and life. But it is just that, that is in question – ACTION. Many of us as people of culturally different backgrounds, organizations, associations, nude resorts, travel entities, and the like can talk the talk, ask the question “why don’t and why isn’t there any… , etc.

  7. Brian Earl November 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    THE COLOR OF NUDE – Part 2
    We must all remember 2 simple rules. 1. Everybody likes to feel welcome and accepted and 2. When you are the greeter (go to any local “wally-world) everyone should be welcomed and accepted with a smile. Our nude industry business leaders and activists alike should be evermindful that what goes around comes around in terms of the images COMMUNICATED, SEEN AND NOT SEEN. Just as there is an valiant effort in showing and explaining the negative thoughts and lewd misconceptions that nudism’s philosophy is not. There must also be the same effort to back up and support the “FREEDOM” and “ACCEPTING” concepts that is in pictures and in words. But people of color who are interested in this philosophy be it lifestyle or recreation must also take time not be afraid to step forward and take part and or action as well..as thoughts with actions always nullify any opportunities or new life experiences. Yes my partner and i are nudists, yes we even joined a local resort, yes we took part in events, and yes the resort community got a chance to see us, meet us, and get to know us, and want us included in great happenings here. Now we are full time nudist residents and everyone is happy about. So if nature saw fit to inlcude colors/races who are we not too as well..

  8. Krystal Price November 10, 2011 at 3:57 am #

    Largely, I think it’s about how people are raised and what social situations you feel comfortable in. I am a 26 year old Black female, however, I don’t hang out with a lot of other Black people. Having been raised in a pretty affluent neighborhood and having a mother that is gay, I have always been very accepting of everyone. So going to a beach where there are NO other black people is not as intimidating to me as it would be to pretty much ALL the black people I know.

    I don’t understand the comment about “white privilege” however. Am I less of a Naturist because I prefer going to my local beach than the posh, expensive “resorts”? Or that I have a regular job that I go to and can’t afford to fly down to Florida and spend all day by the pool with other naked people? I think not.

    I love getting naked and go to the beach when the weather’s nice and I believe I’m as much of a ‘naturist’ as other people that bare their ‘buns’ every day. Because I do too, just not in public as much as I would like.

    • radicalrabbit November 10, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

      Thanks for your comment 🙂

      I guess I explained white privilege really badly. this article is pretty good, although long and a bit too academic. Its written by an american writer, so I dont know how accurate it is cause I live in the UK. Theres some good practical ways in which the author feels they have white privilege that are pretty transferable to the naturist community, stuff like “I can go to a naturist beach/ look in a naturist magazine and know that people of my race will be well represented”, etc. http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html
      I guess the wikipedia article would probably explain it better too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege

      I guess since I cant afford to go to naturist resorts, beaches and events if it involves parting with money it took me a while to class myself as a naturist. I kind of always thought that naturists were people who were members of naturist clubs, not people who just liked being naked! I guess its stupid now that I look back on it, but maybe it is something that puts people off at least using the word “naturist” to describe themselves.

  9. John November 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    I think this might all be missing the real issue, though I’m in an American context that might be different from Britain. But as well as being a naturist, I’m in an outdoors/environmental organization (think of the Ramblers Association) and it too is close to all white, despite the fact that everyone is a good liberal who’d love to see some faces with a few different hues. So I wonder whether it’s just naturism that suffers from being majority-only, or if it’s social organizations generally. Can it be that even though we try (when we’re at our best) to oppose racism, the insidious damage it’s done is that minorities and whites just don’t have much expectation of mixing? And even without anyone acting to exclude anyone else, we tend to do things separately rather than together? Though I’d also accept that people think of naturism as being more intimate than most things we can do together, and hence an activity we need an extra comfort level for.

    For what it’s worth, where I live the local naturists have occasional parties and gatherings, and our informal “social director” actually is a black man. The way things work is that he’s always at least partially the co-host, no matter whose place the event is at–he’s just naturally good at it. But he certainly stands out in the crowd, and that’s a pity. I’m sure he thinks so too.

  10. amelia January 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    there is less black people in the uk i think, thus less black people at things.

    there was only one black person in my class at school.

  11. Richard January 14, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    I have read the thread following seeing the Channel 4 Program on the 12th Jan. A possible response to “naturism and race question” and why similar groups are under represented is possibly reflected in what still appears to be driving many in the ethnic minority groups – “Material Aspiration”. Having sat at the meal table with collegues who are first and second generation asian and far eastern the key conversations were around comparative “sucess” of family and friends. My wife works in a sector of education that is highly qualified (to Phd level) but until recently has few from the ethnic minorities, as pay is relatively poor compared to being a doctor or lawyer.

    The relative simplicity of many of the activities that “whites” engage in reflect a search for simplicity and escape in lesure: eg walking, cycling, camping and in the same line naturism. It possibly reflects how close a culture is to what it want to escape from (or fears). Think about it maslows pyramid of needs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs) it might be possible to interpret that natursim and similar “simple activities” are for groups of people who no longer have the NEED to to be SEEN as sucessful. (it does not mean they are not sucessful).

    It is a dichotomy, but food for thought not just at the vegan meal table.

  12. naturistreview March 7, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    I wrote a few thoughts on race and naturism. “The Color of Naked”

    http://naturistreview.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/the-color-of-naked/

  13. homeclothesfree March 28, 2012 at 12:15 am #

    Reblogged this on home clothes free.

  14. Richard Terry January 5, 2014 at 12:17 am #

    I have been looking for a black naturist site ever since I went on a bare necessities cruise to Greece, Turkey and Egypt a few years back. My wife’s parents, who are naturists, granted us this cruise because they couldn’t go due to health issues. I had a lot of fun, however, except for the staff and crew, I was the only passenger of color on the ship and, became a celebrity because of it. Everyone knew me by name although I never met most of the passengers or even remembered their names. And the few who befriended me from the moment I came aboard were anxious for me to take my clothes off. As much fun as I did have visiting those countries, cruising the mediterranean, and going around nude for the most part, I would want to do it again, but, this time within a mostly black or people of color environment.

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