Social Nudity: An Antidote to the "Beauty Myth"
Popular culture, reinforced by mass media, plays a cruel, tantalizing game with us all. In its commercial mode it creates an idealized standard of human appearance impossible for 99% of us to attain and then sells us products and services to help correct, minimize or disguise our inevitable shortcomings from this air-brushed image of perfection.
Though increasingly aimed at men as well, the primary target of this ongoing campaign of creative dissatisfaction has traditionally been female. It is, after all, women who have been more conditioned from early childhood to equate their destinies with their looks.
The wishful notion that with enough time, money, effort and will-power any woman can and should attempt to look like an extremely tall, young, slender-yet-bosomy, Nordic blonde model of a certain facial bone structure more-or-less summarizes the prevailing beauty myth. Minor variations of the basic look are introduced and recycled periodically to keep more buyers in the fashionable game of adopting the latest imagery.
This narrow concept of female beauty has been assimilated and perpetuated by both genders, though from quite different cultural situations. The desire for achieving the right image drives much of our media-saturated culture, especially the most impressionable, our young.
The goal of the professional image-makers is that we consumers buy all those self-improvement solutions to keep the market economy going. The unintended consequences are somewhat less benign. The beauty myth of our culture is the psychologically crippling equivalent of foot-binding in an earlier China.
Negative Body Images.
Americans tend to reject their bodies more and accept themselves less easily than any other comparable culture. The problem is most acute in adolescence when a female child first confronts the unattainable nature of the goal: that to become a successful person she and her changing body are supposed to look just like the most popular model of the day despite her own unique genetic reality. Her equally insecure peers reinforce this senseless standard with almost sadistic fervor.
A self-confident teen is a rarity in the U.S. Millions of young women suffer from chronic, health-threatening eating disorders. Some try to play the dangerous, often deadly game of becoming thin enough. Others opt out by stuffing their negative feelings with excessive, unhealthy food or deliberately making themselves less attractive. Some try to become invisible or even mutilate themselves in reaction to the idealized mold. No girl remains unaffected.
Girls with DNA not programmed to fit most of the highly improbable physical characteristics of the beauty myth just give up, often in depression. Even those who come closest to attaining the current "look" tend to magnify or imagine minor "flaws" and are often the least self-satisfied of all.
Substance abuse and irresponsible sexuality are among coping mechanisms commonly employed to deaden disappointment. Suicide is another growing reaction to an impossible beauty quest. In a 1994 survey of 18-25 year old women, over 50% said they would rather be dead than fat.
Weight Obsession and Fear of Aging.
By no means limited to the young, weight control has become a national obsession and a major, diversified industry. One large magazine survey found that adult women of diverse ages ranked weight loss far above all other goals in their lives. Dropping an elusive few pounds was specifically more important than family, personal relationships and career.
Since the exotic model is forever young as well as thin, ultimate failure is certain. The most any post-adolescent woman can hope for is to be considered attractive despite her increasing years. Her calorie-conscious goal is to appear more youthful than her birth certificate as she gamely tries to extend her shelf life with various forms of self-punishing strategies and over-priced cosmetics.
So few American women accept their natural bodies just as they are at any age that self-rejection could be considered normal. Many studies confirm a near-universal negative distortion of body image, especially as the average fashion model has become both taller and thinner over the past decade. Current cultural expectations approach pathological proportions.
Women would suffer more anxiety than men anticipating a first experience in social nudity even if the beauty myth were not so potent. Women have usually had less unclad locker room experience than men and more structural modesty imposed by the culture. Almost every woman has also been taught that to show her body is to invite rape, or at least to incite some testosterone-driven attention from men.
Whereas harassment risk or religious taboos might also be of some secondary concern, for prime visceral impact nothing approaches fat phobia, a widespread social terror for which our language does not yet have a word. A woman's predictable first thought is usually how many pounds she would have to lose in order to consider visiting a clothing-optional environment.
Just the thought of exposing her imperfect body among a group of critical strangers is a nightmare to almost every woman raised in our sexist, shame-based culture. She has internalized years of repetitious messages from women's journals and other mass media that she's noticeably overweight and probably feels guilty about having a female body which stores fat so naturally and not exercising/dieting enough.
Courageous women who permit themselves to cast off their clothes with others as a daring, novel experience discover a delightful surprise. Social nudity in a safe environment like Lupin reveals several transforming, reality-based insights and unique perceptions not found in a world of costumes and uniforms.
Human beauty exists in endless variety. There is no possible single standard, not even an exclusive spectrum. The "Beauty Myth" is bogus brain-washing, a warped and destructive notion in a universe of such amazing diversity. This reality check alone makes the risk of social nudity worth taking.
Either every being is perfect, or no one is, because no two of us on the planet are exactly alike, including identical twins. Each of us is a marvelous minority of one. Character of spirit, far more vital than form or features, shines though like a beacon when we get out of our socially correct roles and dress.
Aesthetic perceptions and preferences about the body are equally varied and individual. It only makes sense to accept, even love unconditionally the fragile, miraculous, mobile, custom-designed, self-healing, energy-converting, systems-regulating, environment-sensing, consciousness-carrying container of one's life, however uniquely shaped, scarred and different it may be.
No portion of a human body is shameful. Each part has a natural form and function designed for ultimate survival. Repressive body taboos and censorship only stimulate an unhealthy, pornographic curiosity.
Though some parts can be replaced or altered and overall weight can be marginally managed, each of us is issued at birth only one basic vehicle/body without choice of color or gender, and there are no warranties, loaners or return privileges. Loving care, good fuel, appropriate lubrication, non-abusive use and regular maintenance all matter in extending longevity of this incredible machine. So does an lifetime owner's positive attitude about it. The one-way road it travels is all too short.
The First Nude Experience.
Contrary to their fearful expectations of social nudity, women visiting Lupin for the first time are far more likely to experience empowerment than intimidation, acceptance than rejection, respect than harassment, humanization than objectification, and relaxation than stress. The social ambience feels more like family reunion than flesh market.
Couples, families and singles co-mingle comfortably in a safe, non-sexual context created by membership agreements and enforced by clear club policies against harassment and other predatory behavior. The ancient Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you") and a naturist ethic set the overall standard of behavior.
When sexual tension is removed by mutual agreement and voyeuristic curiosity is satisfied by reality, most men, who generally feel at least equally vulnerable when nude, tend to relate more to a woman's personhood than to her body. Diminished "meat market" motives enable lasting cross-gender friendships to evolve more naturally over time.
A Diversity of Equals.
People of all ages, sizes, shapes and origins enjoy nude recreation at Lupin. It's fun, healthy and as wholesome as a church picnic or summer camp, which it sometimes resembles. In many ways Lupin serves as playground for the universal child in us all. It's never too late to nourish that vital spirit.
There is only one race, and it is human. Though culture and melanin may vary widely, this unifying genetic fact is never more evident than in a situation of social nudity. Our differences are truly marginal compared to our commonality. We all share a shrinking global habitat.
Social nudity is also an equalizing experience in other respects. Wealth and status mean little without sartorial symbols to hide behind and project the image of power. Naked authoritarians are understandably rare.
Significantly, while men are usually more eager for an initial visit to a clothing-optional getaway like Lupin, it is women who tend to be the most enthusiastic about returning once they have absorbed the experience and learned to be less self-conscious. Though it may take anywhere from a few minutes to as much as several visits to become completely comfortable with social nudity, the benefits are lasting and significant.
Almost every woman comes away with a more realistic acceptance of her body and a greater appreciation of herself. She will likely fear aging less. She will also discover the delightful physical sensations of the natural elements on her skin and feel an uplifting sense of freedom. She will feel more connected with nature and her own center.
She will find a wonderful source of conscious friendships among unpretentious people who encourage her to relax and just be herself. She will probably acquire better insight into men, who ironically seem to be much less intimidating without their pants. Differences of gender, generation and genetics will all feel much less important in the diversity of a larger human family.
Because women usually have more culturally imposed baggage to overcome, women generally have relatively more to gain from the total body acceptance found in social nudity. An eye-opening, mind-expanding, consciousness-raising visit to Lupin offers any woman an opportunity to liberate herself from several thousand years of anti-female body taboos and the "Iron Maiden" tyranny of today's beauty myth. She can feel like the goddess she is.
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