Sunday, 4 January 2015

Erections and social nudity

So you're a male on a social clothes-optional camping trip. It's a bright morning and the sun is out and it's warm enough to be nude all day. Nudity is common in the social group. You wake but have a problem with 'morning glory'. Do you (a) wait in your tent until it goes away?...or (b) exit your tent in view of others? Where is your boundary on the left side of the social spectrum?

I love a good debate. One has become heated on Twitter over the last 24 hours so I thought i'd write a quick blog. Let me start by confessing that my personal answer is (a). However there is certainly a good argument for (b) based upon what we see as being acceptable and not-acceptable on the social spectrum given that people's boundaries are just never going to be in exactly the same place.

The arguement that (b) is acceptable surrounds the difficult subject of where sex meets nudity. An erection is stereotyped as being a male aroused state caused by mental process triggering physical change. Many women appear to think that this sterotype is fact. Unfortunately as my hypothetical at the top shows, it's not that clear cut. Men can have an erection without a clear mental trigger. The male body is more complicated. One of my Twitter friends is going hunting for the medical evidence to support the idea that erections can be caused by things other than clear mental arousal. I am sure a simple consideration of 'morning glory' pretty much confirms that the evidence will be there and well studied. The bottom line is that the stereotype is not quite correct.

This obviously leads to the argument that our hypothetical male getting out of his tent is ok to do so. The erection is clearly not arousal. It has nothing to do with sex. The boundary between sex and simple nudity is maintained, and 'naturists' can carry on their daily business without comment. The argument can then be extended. If erections can happen without a sexual conatation, then what about an erection in a photograph. In a photograph, there is no clear connection with arousal. If a picture of the hypothetical male at the campsite were to appear online after he has just stepped out of the tent with morning glory we know that there is no sexual angle. Yet the mainstream 'naturist' community represented by BN say, would probably be negative towards the photo.

Jeez this is tricky. Here is the 'front-line' between our personal version of 'naturism' and what we consider to be 'too liberal' for our comfort. It's why using a label is so fraught. The social liberal-to-conservative, left-to-right, spectrum is continuous, yet as human beings we find it almost impossible to live and discuss without making a continous spectrum, discrete, by 'binning' opinions and characteristics, and then marking the bins with labels. This is most easily seen by considering the rainbow...the rainbow has 7 colours right? Well the rainbow is a continuous spectrum of wavelength that can be measured by real numbers. Pigeon-holing in action. That's just how our brains work!

So the social spectrum is a problem for simple nudity because everyone has their boundaries in a slightly different place. At least two Twitter friends that have blogged/discussed the erection issue clearly have a 'left boundary' further to the left than me (and therefore I reckon i must appear 'conservative' to them!)....and hence would say (b) is fine, and hence an innocent photo of a man with an erection but no clear sexual connatation is ok.

We have to draw a line.

So having said all this, and presented the argument for (b) at the top, why do I stand by (a)? Well it's because of a big picture argument. It's a weak argument in the eyes of some I'm sure, but it's why i set the boundary in the place I do. The big picture is the campaign for the gradual changing of my/our culture to bring more acceptance to social nudity. Culture does not change in big immediate steps very often. I see it as changing gradually in response to small incremental pressures. If we want to shift culture leftwards on the continuous social spectrum, then I believe small baby-steps are the way to go. It is my opinion that if you try too hard to change culture in a big jump, then you get a reaction of the other end of the social spectrum, which usually does its best to put a giant spanner in the works!

The World Naked Bike Ride is a small incremental step. The little baby steps are so small that they happen without the right-end of the spectrum realising! However the liberal shift happens...and voila, the WNBR is now part of our culture.

Stephen Gough however, in my opinion, has got it wrong. Stephen is trying to take big culture leap...and he's got a reaction from the right...he's in jail. Only a few people in history can 'pull off' a big culture change leap. They are few. Stephen I don't believe is one of them.

So I'm for little baby steps. This is why i'm with (a) at the top. (b) is too big a leap for me. Personally I belive that it doesn't matter what an erection represents. I think it's moot. The problem is that we don't exist in reality...we exist in a perception of reality. Culture is  like a living shifts and reacts and changes. I believe the best way of changing it is to do so without getting an equal and opposite reaction from the right. So presenting erections as 'ok' I believe is not in my interest, and I don't believe it is in the interest of British Naturism.

As a last point I want to say's hard to find a perfect world. We are all different and even when we come together under the banner of 'nudity in a non-sexual context' we find that we still don't agree. In fact this is great...because I'd hate a world where we were all the same with exactly the same values and boundaries. I respect everyone's view on this topic, and debate on blogs and Twitter is fascinating and very interesting. Here's to more arguments! That's how we grow...