This week's letter winner, Hank, is of course right when he says that one can't say about a thing like nudity that "it means this!" in a final way. It's true it means different things to different people at different times.
But what we are doing with this site (OK, what I am doing) is simple what most of us are doing in little or big ways: trying to convince others of the rightness of our way of thinking. When somebody equate nudity solely with sex, I think it is too limiting. And when I see somebody react with horror to nudity, I think that it is not only limiting, but almost destructive, and I want to do my little something about it.
It may take us a while to solve the mystery of shame and guilt is so deeply ingrained in the human psyche, but I don't think that should stop us from trying to, you know, just get over it, as it were. Keep working on it.
And a readership of several hundred thousand is too good an opportunity for me to waste. Thank you for being here.
You might say that I'm "preaching to the converted", but isn't that all anybody is ever doing? Nobody is ever 100% converted, and those who are halfway there are the ones who will listen and think.
I was brought up a nudist, and for me, the difference between nudity and sex is not quite as simple as some of your members are claiming.
The problem is that you can't say "it means this!" in a definitive way. It may not mean that; and again, it may. I think it is easiest to explain if you perceive these things correctly - like the difference between the words "a l'eau" in French, and "hallo" in English. It's the same sound; it just means something different.
For some girls, when I was a boy, in the very wild country side of sub-tropical South Africa, clothes were a protection from thorns. If there were no thorns, it was too hot to bother with clothes, and we didn't. And our parents didn't bother to explain why they were wearing halter-tops when we were in loin-cloths! - so it wasn't until I was quite old, around 15, that it started to dawn on me that "breasts are not just for feeding babies" and "if a girl hides her chest from you, it might be because she wants you to notice them...?"
But the penny did drop, eventually, when one rather nice young woman offered to pose for my sketching, and asked: "Would you like me to take my clothes off?" - and when I just drew her, she got vexed with me!
A more conventionally minded friend was able to translate. "When she took her clothes off, she wanted you to touch her, silly!" It was, as they say, a language problem. In the context of a nudist society, taking your clothes off was like wearing a particular colour hat.
However, in the language of a woman who had been brought up to think of nudity as an expression of reckless lewdness, what better way could she think of, to attract my attention to her availability?
The problem is that it's relatively easy to spot when someone speaks French. It would be fun, not a serious comment should someone use the old joke: "A'leau! c'est l'heure!" ("hello, sailor") to suggest it was time for a swim. And to say: "OK, let's swim!" would be a pathetic misunderstanding, when you should say something witty to indicate that you aren't a sailor, but hallo, anyway... nobody would be really confused!
With naked bodies, that's not the case. For a person who has never been nude in the company of other adults, except when preparing for love-making, the association is total. "I am taking my clothes off, and obviously, this means we are going to make love." That's *what* *it* *means* - as unambiguously as a newspaper seller saying what the edition costs. He means: "Give me the money!" - and if you say "Thank you for the information," to the newsvendor, help yourself to a copy, but don't pay him, you can expect fireworks!
But there's something else, and that is curiosity. And here's my little story. I knew a girl - Jennifer - in my home town, who was said to have a tongue which had a dimple in the end when she stuck it out. And one afternoon, we met in the long road in the open countryside, with a mile or two to walk to get home, and walked along for a while.
Initially shy chatting turned to joking and teasing, and eventually, she did stick her tongue out at me. It was true! I said: "Wow. You have a dimple on your tongue!" and she said: "Yes. Want to see it again?" and stuck it out even more rudely. And then she giggled. "I'm surprised you were interested," she said. "You're supposed to know all about what girls look like...!" and she explained that I was known to be "clothing optional" in my habits.
That was something that had never struck me as interesting. Who would know? - we lived three miles outside town, with no neighbours. And if they saw, who would care? And if they cared, why would they discuss it with anybody else? And yet, obviously...
So I said my piece about being natural in Nature, which I'd learned from my mother. And Jennifer said: "If we went down to the river to cool off, would you really take your clothes off?" so I explained that it would be bad manners to embarrass someone by doing that if they didn't want to. "Oh, no, it wouldn't bother me!" she said. And it was hot - very hot - and the river was very near and quite private, so we did just that.
We had a swim. She took her top off, and then her shorts, and I did the same, and it was just "getting ready for our swim." You can't say there was anything other than swimming involved; both of us were hot, neither of us wanted to get our clothes wet (you don't want to walk a couple of miles in wet shorts) and the terms of the deal had been discussed and both of us knew what we were doing.
We had a great time, and then, drying off on a rock afterwards, she did it again - stuck her tongue out at me. And I didn't notice, because, as it happens, I was staring at her breasts.
The thing is, although I'd seen breasts before, they'd all belonged to women of my mother's generation, and it had never been in any sort of "stimulating context." And you have to remember that 40 years ago, pictures of naked women were not available on every shelf of every bookstall!
I wasn't prepared for the astonishing firmness of these brand-new swellings. My eyes were fixed on them; Jennifer thought this was very funny, and mocked me gently: "Oh, so you've seen naked women before, it doesn't mean anything to you? But somehow, suddenly, you didn't notice my dimply tongue...?"
We got dressed. I was dreadfully embarrassed, and she took pity on me. "What is bothering you?" she asked. I hesitated, stuttered, and eventually admitted that I was fascinated by the shape and firmness of her breasts. And, in particular, I was consumed with utter curiosity: "Are they hard? They sort of stick out!"
She grinned, took her top off again, and told me to feel. And this time, there was no confusion about what it means to take your clothes off in an intimate context, or the difference between "getting naked" and "exposing your body."
"I urge and recommend all members, to tell everyone they know who would appreciate a site like this one, to come and check it out for themselves. Also let them know that a membership here is well worth the price for a site that is continually improving and continually adding more beautiful nude women each week." - JD Aspen <incomingmail[-at-]sympatico.ca>
[e-mail address used with permission]
Much more in the members' area.