Chipping away at the norm, cloth by cloth.

I’ve had a tricky relationship with naturism so far. The constant feeling of doing something wrong hangs overhead like a worrying cloud. Of late, I have dramatically ramped up my practice. I’ve signed the forms, joined INA, and made the leap into organised meet-ups.

And every time I do, two things strike me. One is that it feels like the most normal thing in the world – I am home, with my tribe at last, and two is that what some people might worry about in terms of the impending menace of sexuality, somehow, isn’t a thing. Recently, I was naked in front of more than one woman for the first time. I, like possibly any man, wrestled with the impending worry of where I would look, where would they look, and would I get scared?

We live in a society where women often feel threatened in the most innocuous situations. They are still leered at like it’s 1973; they don’t like walking late at night, and the endless stream of pornography on any smartphone has left many men incapable of realising what is acceptable. And yet here they were at their most vulnerable, and it felt like an honour to be able to respect that.

I sat in the sea, my shorts and bag on the shore. For some reason (perhaps to do with clothes sticking to your body), I find the sea warmer with no shorts on, and that random Thursday, I saw the three female members approach the other male members and chat and say hello. I knew at some point I’d need to walk out. How would it feel? Would I feel ‘bad’ or wrong? Should I say hi? One of the group is super-friendly and chatty and as close to a magician in terms of normalising nudity as anyone you will meet. She quickly approached, joined the groups in her no-nonsense way and threw a grenade of acceptance into this clothesless comedy.

Everyone was allowed to find their own space, nobody was forced to do a thing. Nudity became invisible in seconds.

Embracing our shared vulnerability, the experience of communal nudity fosters a profound sense of acceptance and comfort. Stripped of pretence, our bodies become vessels of authenticity, forging connections beyond physicality. This unguarded state dissolves societal barriers, cultivating genuine human relationships and self-assurance. It’s a celebration of unity in our natural forms, where the absence of clothing is a canvas for normalised interaction, unburdened by sexual connotations. In this context, being bare with others evokes a serene, inclusive ambience where bodies are mere chapters of our collective story, beautifully interwoven in the tapestry of our shared humanity.

When approached with maturity and respect, nudity can offer society profound benefits. It promotes body positivity and self-acceptance, breaking down unrealistic beauty standards. Open nudity encourages honest conversations about bodies, health, and diversity, fostering a culture of empathy. It demystifies human anatomy, enhancing sexual education and reducing shame. Nudity’s normalisation challenges objectification and promotes equality by removing status markers like clothing. Moreover, it cultivates a more authentic, non-judgmental social environment, emphasising people over appearances. While cultural sensitivities vary, embracing nudity can contribute to a society that values individuality, self-expression, and interconnectedness, celebrating the natural human form as a unifying symbol.

Encountering diverse women and men on a nude beach that Thursday afternoon transformed my perspective. Initially fixated on physical aspects, I gradually transcended superficiality. Exposure to unguarded bodies fostered a holistic appreciation for individuality and the stories they embody. As familiarity grew, anatomical elements faded, replaced by a profound recognition of shared humanity. Engaging conversations dismantled objectification, replaced by respect for their whole selves. This shift reflects the power of normalisation; desensitised to mere body parts, I embraced the essence within. The nude beach experience underscored that authentic connections transcend appearances, enriching my perception of women as multifaceted beings, no longer reduced to singular components. It is truly a gift we should all share more.



One thought on “Chipping away at the norm, cloth by cloth.

  1. Michael McGrath says:

    Dear Colm,

    I found the description of the transformation of your mindset about the naked bodies of others at the beach very poignant and well-communicated.

    I found the same thing to be true for me. When my wife and I found naturism, it became completely natural to be in the presence of others au naturel. The leader of the naturist group we first encountered said to me, “Michael, your face is glowing! What’s up?” I replied, “I have NEVER seen a more beautiful group of people in my whole life! Every one of you are absolutely stunning!” Of course, the fact that I’d had a spiritual encounter with Christ wherein He spoke very highly of our human bodies as His temples (for those who allow such a thing to happen), was at the foundation of my appreciation for the beauty of my friends’ naked bodies.

    Shortly thereafter, I began sculpting and drawing nudes, and I’m still creating works of art depicting the beautiful human body.

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