Nudism, Gender and Single Male Nudist Policies
Nudism and Discrimination of the Single Male Nudist: Yay or Nay?
A few months ago on my blog, I talked about “why naturism has a lady problem.” The problem being that women don’t show up to many nudist places and events in nearly the same numbers as men. I’ve observed that men (of all ages and sexual orientations) are more comfortable being naked in social settings. They are almost guaranteed to show up at any publicized nudist or naked affair. (It’s different in other countries but I’m talking only about the U.S. here.)
I’ve come up with several reasons for why women don’t express the same level of interest in naturism as men do. They have to do with body image, sexual objectification, slut-shaming and rape culture. These are all big social and cultural issues affecting women today. (Of course, again, what I’ve written is all based on my experiences and observations as there hasn’t been any studies or official surveys done.)
I originally identified this topic as a “problem” because it has long been recognized as such in the nudist world. Most nudist clubs, resorts, events and places want equal gender participation. They don’t want to be “overrun” by “single” men. (Many nudist men aren’t actually single — just unaccompanied by a significant other.) Presumably, this is what members and visitors want as well.
So how do we address this problem? It’s definitely not one that can be fixed overnight, and I think it’s a bit complex because the issues affecting women are widespread and deeply ingrained.
One common and controversial solution has been to implement discriminatory policies. Clubs have been doing this for decades. They’ll restrict the number of single men that can visit depending on their current demographics. And they’ll offer discounted entry rates to male / female couples and single women, with single men paying the highest rates. Or they go couples-only and ban singles altogether.
There are some problems with this approach. I think a lot of clubs have taken this too far, and some still do. I’ve heard from men whose wives passed away that they found themselves no longer welcome at their nudist club. I’m sure the same thing happens to guys who break up with their girlfriends. I think this is just heartless and shameful to suddenly reject someone who’s become part of their community.
When single men are invited to visit, there’s also the matter that in some clubs, they are treated with the utmost suspicion. They’re followed around and assumed to be perverts with the wrong intentions, until they prove themselves innocent. (For clubs having trouble growing their membership, this might be a contributing factor.)
An even bigger problem with the single male policies is the resulting LGBT discrimination. In nudism, the term “couple” has long been known to refer to a heterosexual male / female couple only. A “couple’s discount” would only apply to male / female couples. In some places, that’s still the case. In the 20th century, in order to be more accepted by mainstream society, the nudist movement was trying real hard to be as “heteronormative” as possible. I discussed this in a post about the nudist beauty pageant trend.
I don’t think nudism has quite gotten past this heteronormative approach.
A while back we got one upsetting email from a transgender woman who was denied entry to a club because she had a penis… and therefore wasn’t welcome as per their “single male” policy.
This sort of discrimination is unacceptable. As we’ve said numerous times before, all nudist clubs should be openly inclusive and welcoming of transgender people!
But speaking to the single male policies overall, we think there’s a better way to operate: Let everyone in and don’t discriminate at all.
It seems like this is where organized nudism is heading. Clubs and resorts are becoming more inclusive, and some are doing away with the single-male policies. We believe that the gender balance shouldn’t be such a big deal. Nudism after all is not a sexual environment, nor a dating service. In nudism, people are supposed to be viewed as people and not be completely defined by their gender or genitals.
That being said, I understand why clubs discriminate, and I have done the same at certain events I’ve organized in the past for YNA. At some indoor events, my partner and I monitored our guest list and restricted the number of single men in order to have a better ratio. One of our main concerns was to have new, single women show up and feel uncomfortable being surrounded by a lot of men in a confined space.
When you don’t get as many women, you want the ones that do attend to feel at ease and not like they’ve just walked into a male voyeur party. (*Not that it’s actually like that, as most naturist men are not voyeurs, but it can feel like that to a woman who’s new to it.)
So it is tough. I think it’s going to be some time before we see equal interest and participation of all genders. If we had true gender equality and LGBT equality on all levels, I don’t think this male-female imbalance would be present in nudism at all.
This brings me to an important point: there’s no indication that men are inherently more likely to be nudists than women. As in, this is not a thing because women are “naturally” like this and men are “naturally” like that. That would be gender essentialism — the idea that men and women behave differently because of innate characteristics specific to each gender. This has long been disproven by science and research.
The fact that nudist places in other countries don’t have a gender balance problem is also evidence that this is not about gender essentialism.
It is clearly a result of our culture and as I like to remind myself: We can change the culture!
Single male discrimination is not the only possible way to mitigate gender imbalance in naturism. Read my follow-up posts: