No Laughing Matter (or is it?)

This is a subject I’ve seen a few other bloggers post about recently, and I think many nudists feel the same way I do — the feeling that nudity and nudism/naturism are too often treated like a juvenile joke. Even when a nudist resort, gathering, or activity is featured in a “news” story, the article is often filled with double-entendres, often focused on penis jokes.

But “journalists” are just a small part of the issue. When there is non-sexual nudity in a movie, most in the audience will giggle at it. And getting laughs is usually the only reason to include nudity. Even when the word “naked” is mentioned in a group setting, the jokes are sure to follow. Why is this?

I think part of it is that the thought of being naked is uncomfortable to most people, and covering up their embarrassment with (attempted) humor is a natural, human response. Of course, the jokes are rarely new, and usually not truly funny (unless you’re 10 years old). But most feel the need to laugh at it to cover up their own embarrassment, or perhaps so that the others won’t think that they enjoy nudity. To many nudists (including me), this feels like they are being ridiculed, something that never happens in a true nudist/naturist setting, although if you go to a nude beach, you may run into such boors. But worse, it perpetuates the myth that nudity is always sexual, and/or worthy of ridicule.

Throughout most of history, and in most cultures, nudity has been something natural and expected, at least in certain settings. It’s only been about 70 years since nude swimming for boys in American schools was the norm, and often required. I’m not going to speculate here on all the reasons this has changed (especially in the U.S.), but it has changed, drastically, and that’s very unfortunate. Now we raise generations of kids that have skewed and unnatural attitudes toward nudity. They grow up worrying that they don’t look “normal” or good enough, which can lead to eating disorders and worse.

If we are ever going to “normalize nudity”, we have to stop making it the butt of jokes — yes, pun intended, but a pun is not the same as a ridiculous juvenile joke. And this is part of the problem, some nudists/naturists make jokes about it too. Which jokes are funny, and which are offensive? That’s very subjective. To paraphrase: “I don’t know humor, but I know what’s funny.” Personally, I prefer to share serious insights about the benefits of nudism/naturism, rather than just try to get cheap laughs.

Obviously, this kind of attitude is deeply ingrained in many people, and isn’t going to go away overnight. But it would certainly help if news stories about nudists were more serious, and included testimonies from people about how nudism has made them more comfortable in their own skin, improving both their body image and their self-confidence.

Let’s make a positive difference in the perception of nudism and nudists, and not always treat it as something to be laughed at.

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