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by Rich Pasco,
Coordinator for the Bay Area Naturists
Reprinted with permission.

In many nudist communities there is an ongoing debate as to whether to designate themselves as “nude” or “clothing optional.” I’d like to share my perspectives.

For this discussion, “nude” means that everyone at the club must be nude, weather permitting. Those who choose to wear clothing are shunned or ostracized. Conversely, “clothing optional” means that clothing is the choice of each individual. Some members who advocate “nude” say the rule is to discourage clothed voyeurs. “If you’re not willing to show me yours, you don’t get to see mine” they say. They feel uncomfortable being nude around clothed people, so they want to make a rule that everyone else must be nude when they are.

As appealing as the vision of a community where 100% of the people are nude 100% of the time might seem, I have to take issue with a “mandatory nude” rule. Most of us came into the naturist lifestyle we share because we don’t like other people telling us how and when to dress. So why should we practice the same thing in reverse?

In my Florida nudist community, I haven’t experienced “gawking” to be a problem. I have noticed, looking out my back door, a number of people jogging around the lake in the mornings, some of whom are clothed, some are nude. As far as I can see, most are residents or guests of residents; a few are club visitors. I always thought the freedom to choose whether to dress or not to be a positive aspect of our community. I would hate to see this freedom fall to yet another unnecessary rule.

I am truly comfortable with my nude body and it doesn’t bother me to encounter clothed people. To me, the belief that “If you aren’t nude too then you must be there to stare at me” reflects a presumptive, paranoid inference of intent, which is often mistaken. What if a well-endowed woman feels more comfortable wearing a jogging bra? A man prefers a jock strap? I’ve heard my neighbors say, “I don’t want to feel on display.” To me, “on display” is not a feeling per se, it is a statement of discomfort based on a belief that it is somehow inappropriate to be seen nude by clothed people. If we let go of this belief, the feeling of discomfort goes away too.

I would like to welcome into any nudist setting, friends and relatives who are not themselves nudists, but who wish to be with their nudist friends. My 90-year-old mother enjoyed visiting Lupin Lodge with me, even though she never got naked there herself. If required to strip, she wouldn’t have come. At Julie’s and my recent nudist wedding, some of our guests had never been in a nudist setting. Being allowed to attend dressed, they felt comfortable, made new friends, and grew to better accept our lifestyle. And after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

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