Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Transparency in the Facebook Age

While I clearly understand why many people would rather not share with everyone they know, the fact that they participate in naturism (nudism), I thought it might be encouraging for some of my readers to know that at least one of us has done so without experiencing any significant repercussions. A little over six months ago, I decided to set up Facebook accounts for my wife and myself, as a way to facilitate communication with our son as he was away on a missions trip. Since he was already using Facebook as a means of keeping in touch with his friends, we thought it would be a great way for us to interact with him and get photos and updates, so that we would be able to more effectively support his efforts with our prayers.

Having already lived through the experience of having Yahoo! mash together my "personal" and "naturist" profiles in all of the Yahoo! Groups that I frequent, I decided that if I was going to set up a Facebook account, I wanted to represent myself truthfully, as an integrated, whole person. As I have previously put it to one of my Facebook friends, I want to present myself to the outside world in the same way that I try to order my soul--not compartmentalized, but a fully integrated whole. I decided to go ahead and be recklessly (some might say foolishly) honest about who I am and what I stand for, and let the chips fall where they may. Now, nearly seven months later, my "friends list" has grown to a little over 200 people, consisting of those I know from virtually every part of my life: personal friends; relatives; old school acquaintances; music contacts; people with whom I have worked; my pastor and his wife; other members of our church; even bishops and archbishops from the conservative branch of Anglicanism our church is affiliated with. From the very beginning, it will have been evident to anyone who has checked out my profile and perused the pages I have "liked," that I am a naturist. Further, anyone receiving my wall posts, will have seen (along with comments on food, music and theology) many references and links to naturist articles, including those on my own blog. In all this time, apart from a couple of "well, that's ok for you but it's not my kind of thing" comments, I've really not run into any opposition to the views I have been expressing. While this is probably at least partly attributable to the good character of the people I have in my circle of acquaintances, I haven't been all that discriminating about who I have accepted as Facebook friends. I've pretty much just accepted requests from anyone who sends one. I've also tracked down a good number of old acquaintances, and sent out friend requests to a number of people who's work I have admired (in music, the arts, or theological writing for instance) even if I've never met them, and I have been "friended" by many of them.

The nearly total absence of any condemnation about my naturist convictions is, I think, as it should be, given that there are no biblical proscriptions against social nudity. But cultural attitudes being as they are, it has been personally heartening to me, that no one has tried to make a moral issue of it. It gives me both joy and hope to think that the Christians with whom I am closely associated are apparently theologically astute enough to know the difference between biblical moral imperatives, and matters of Christian liberty, and know better than to take their moral cues from the surrounding culture. (The Church can err on either side of morality, being either too permissive, or overly legalistic.)

No one who wishes to see moral reform should be a cultural relativist with regards to morality. The unclad human body is either morally neutral, or it is not. Naturists are moral reformers, whether they think of themselves in those terms or not. Naturism calls upon people to regard their own bodies and those of others as acceptable, not something to be feared or reviled. So in that sense, naturism in a program of moral reform which exchanges the modern expectations of privacy which have become enshrined as a cultural aversion to nudity, for body acceptance more like that of the pre-industrialized ages, where nudity was, of necessity, accepted as part of life.

Despite the discomfort it may cause, technology continues to erode our expectations of privacy, and "Social Networking" is making us more transparent to one another. So far, my experience of Social Networking (my Facebook experiment in personal authenticity, if you will) has emboldened me to continue to speak-out for body acceptance and body freedom. The readership on this blog has been increasing, and I am now getting hundreds of hits from all over the world. Many have linked here from my Facebook and Twitter pages. Of course, I have no guarantee that it won't all come crashing down tomorrow with some major rift occurring in one or more relationships, but I am learning to leave the future in God's hands. At least from here forward, any new friendships I develop will be "full disclosure" relationships, and I think I kinda' like that--it's as freeing as, well...shedding my clothes!

Blessings in Christ,

Gregg Gatewood

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Determinism of Evolutionary Psychology

My recent post  has received a great deal more attention than any of my previous posts, to date. (Thank you, and welcome to all of the new readers from around the globe.) Discussion of the article has not been confined to the comments section here. There was a comment about the post by "Ben" on the Naturist-Christians-org Yahoo! Group. Since it occasioned some clarification of my position in my response, I'm re-posting both here:

In Naturist-Christians-org@yahoogroups.com, "Ben" wrote:

...I also think that evolutionary psychologists are getting a bad rap in the original post. I try to keep up with scientific literature, and I see no studies indicating simple nudity as a source of sexual stimulation in cultures where nudity is normal behavior. There is certainly a lively debate in the scientific community about why human females, unlike other genetically similar species, hide their time of fertility. That debate has led to several hypotheses being advanced including some involving humans wearing various ornamentation including jewelry and/or articles of clothing. In fact, one theory asserts that women in American culture are more likely to elicit a sexual response from men when wearing specific items of clothing than when totally naked.
My response:
Re: New Naked Truth Blog Post


From the context of your comment, I take it that what you mean by "evolutionary psychologists are getting a bad rap " in my post, is that these scientists sometimes say things that could be considered favorable to our perspective as naturists. While that may be the case (evolutionary psychologists say all sorts of things, some of them truly bizarre, but they are certainly not monolithic in their pronouncements), this may be missing the real point of what I was saying.

Despite the fact that evolutionary psychologists sometimes say things that sound like we make "choices" or have "preferences", it is their basic perspective that all of human behavior is determined--a mechanistic system of "stimulus and response" without any real freedom of choice in a true libertarian sense. Just as many evolutionists will occasionally slip into speaking in terms of "design" when they expound upon "adaptation", evolutionary psychologists often speak in terms of "choice" (ie: using words like "preference") when what they are really doing is describing "behavior." (Sometimes they can't help themselves since, as Francis Schaeffer noted, they are constrained by having to "live in the world as God has created it." Things appear the way they are because that is the way He has made them.) If pressed though, most will admit that "free will" has nothing to do with the human interactions they are studying. Those who actually believe that some sort of free choice exists, have no evolutionary justification for that belief, and do so by borrowing from a theistic worldview. Theistic evolutionists, overlay ideas which only fit within a theistic worldview upon the scientistic view that allows for nothing but deterministic event causation of matter and energy interacting over time. Evolution + Theism = Square Peg + Round Hole. This determinism is an unavoidable corollary of the scientism that is the reining paridigm underlying all of contemporary scientific thought (at least among the scientific elites), and has recently been forcefully reiterated in Stephen Hawing's latest book. (see http://bit.ly/bnAf9g)

My larger point then, is that it is Christians, not evolutionists, who hold a worldview which has the justification to refute the idea that "seeing someone nude automatically elicits a sexual response." That idea is deterministic, and therefore fits very well within the evolutionary worldview of scientism. Scientism allows for nothing supernatural (beyond or above nature) like the soul--it denies the existence of the soul. The existence of the soul only makes sense in a theistic worldview, and it is the soul that is the source of our ability to interact freely with the world around us. Because our souls are spiritual (supernatural) rather that physical, they are not constrained by the deterministic laws of the physical world (event causation), and we can choose (our soul directing our bodies) to initiate actions in the physical realm (agent causation). Scientism denies the existence of agent causation, and reduces all human behavior to event causation--all events, including the actions of our bodies, are said to be determined by pre-existing conditions and the laws of physics and chemistry acting upon our purely material (soulless) bodies.

We as Christians and naturists know better than this by our experience (and by our intuition!) We know that the choices we make are our own. But scientistic evolutionists deny that there is any such thing as a spiritual "self" directing the actions of our bodies. This is why I give very little credence to the pontifications of evolutionary psychologists. Why should I believe the random scratchings upon paper caused by the pen held in the hand of the evolutionary psychologist which is jerking in response to the pre-existing and purposeless biochemistry of his physical body? How could they contain veridical information having anything to do with the world as it really is? I would rather stand upon what I know to be true--nudity (and by extension, naturism) does not cause an automatic sexual response!

Sorry for the length of my response, but I hope this makes my position more clear.

Blessings, Gregg Gatewood

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Biblical Naturist on the Objectification of Women

Matthew Neal, on his blog The Biblical Naturist, has posted an excellent article (the first of a two part series) about The Objectification of Women. This is an important topic which Christians tend not to think very deeply about. Strong cultural assumptions, body fear and a general discomfort with the discussion of human sexuality seems to dissuade many Christians, especially those who lean toward fundamentalism, from questioning the conventional wisdom that certain parts of women's bodies (if nude) have the power to automatically incite lust in any "normal male", and so must always be kept hidden from view from anyone but a husband or medical personnel (the Doctor Exception.)

I believe that Naturists (Nudists) have a great deal to teach the Church on this matter, as their experiences seem universally to contradict that conventional wisdom. I have some comments of my own to add, but I would urge you first to read Matthew's article before continuing to my comments below.

stringsinger commented:

Great treatment of this subject, Matthew. Can't wait to read part 2!

There's another group that Christians find themselves unwittingly in agreement with when they assume that certain parts of the female anatomy "automatically" incite lust by merely being viewed by any "normal male", as it is often phrased. That group are the evolutionary psychologists who's materialist outlook forces them to characterize all human sexuality in terms of deterministic "stimulus and response" driven by an evolutionary imperative to "perpetuate the species". Because this topic is so culturally ingrained, and thus rarely questioned, I suspect that there are, even among Christian proponents of "Intelligent Design Theory", many who are yet in agreement with the evolutionists on this point, without seeing its inconsistency with their view.

Looking at the problem from an Intelligent Design perspective I have argued that, in addition to the "expectation" factor that you have outlined here, there is a certain amount of body conditioning (or training) that occurs. It is my contention that our bodies are indeed designed to "learn" through repetition, not only physical tasks like riding a bicycle or playing a musical instrument, but in much the same way, our bodily sexual responses are conditioned by the repetition of sexual experiences. Thus the use of pornographic imagery during self stimulation, literally "trains" the body to respond to visual cues. Conversely, those who experience other naked human beings is in the context of social nudism where rules of behavior apply, are repeatedly "practicing" civil, non-sexual behavior toward others who are in their created state (naked).

Unfortunately, my original Internet forum post on the subject seems now to have been deleted. (In any event I can no longer find it). However,though the context of the original thread is missing, the post itself has been quoted in its entirety here: http://bit.ly/9joErV (reposted below)


I really have to take exception to the idea that psychological theories about human nature are "basically fact." Scientific theories change all the time, especially in the softer (non-empirical) sciences like psychology. In particular, some of these theories about the differences in male and female "stimulus and response" have taken on an air of scientific urban legend in the way that they have filtered down into popular culture. It is reasonable to ask what kind of observations these theories are based on, and if the conclusions drawn from them are warranted. These ideas appear to be traceable to studies which attempted to measure the level of sexual response that male and female subjects experienced when shown sexually explicit (pornographic) images. The methodology of such studies is dubious since they do not reflect the real-life conditions of normal human relationships (and certainly have nothing to do with the way that people interact in social nudist situations.) All that one can safely and reasonably conclude from these studies is that (in general) men have a greater sexual response to porn than women do - not exactly an earth-shattering conclusion. One would have to make some pretty big assumptions though, about the nature of human beings in order to extrapolate from the actual data of this type of study to the kind of conclusions which seem now to have become part of popular consensus. It is now treated as common knowledge that the major, driving component of male sexual response is visual stimulus. But does the actual data from these studies warrant such conclusions? Only if one holds a certain reductionist view of human nature. The type of studies cited would tend to confirm the assumptions of evolutionary psychologists who's conception of human beings is purely physicalist. That is, that humans are merely physical (though highly complex) and are therefore determined -- behavior (output) is ultimately determined by stimulus (input) from outside, initiating bio-chemical changes within a human organism from the prior state that existed in that individual. This conception of humanity leaves no room for volition or true libertarian free choice -- human behavior is reduced to a merely physical/chemical chain of causal events. (Evolutionary psychology is the source of the idea that the differences in male and female human behavior are "hard wired" into us though sexual selection.)

Christians have historically held the view that humans have a dual nature, having a spiritual (soulish) component as well as a physical one (the body) and it is the soul that directs the behavior of the body. Indeed this is this view of humanity assumed by the texts of both the old and new testament scriptures. This classical Christian concept of substance-dualism brings with it a whole bunch of attendant ideas which present-day science under the reining paradigm of neo-Darwinism eschews, but which make much better sense of what we can readily observe in the world around us. Volition, free will, consciousness itself, and the possibility of life extending beyond the death of the body are all concepts that physicalism cannot (even in principle) account for. In addition to a number of good philosophical arguments for it, simple introspection about our own personal experience of an internal "self" gives us a common-sense intuition that this dualistic characterization of human nature is correct. If it is correct, and one assumes a perspective of Intelligent Design, we can reach some important conclusions from our personal experiences: God designed our bodies to be trainable to do various tasks though repetition. This is how we can learn to walk, ride a bicycle, drive a car or play a musical instrument. When we have practiced them enough, we can perform these tasks practically without thinking. Here is where all of this relates to the discussion of male and female participation in social nudism.

Let us lay aside the claim that women are "stimulated aurally" as it is less relevant. The more relevant claim is that men are more attracted to nudism because they are "wired" for visual stimulation. First of all, it only takes a little thought to dispel the idea that "visual stimulation" is a necessary component of male sexual response - if this were so, no-one would ever be able to make love in the dark. No, evolution hasn't "wired" men to respond sexually to visual stimulation, however in our modern Western culture, a great many men have "wired" themselves by the decisions they have made. Remember, I said that God has designed our bodies to be trainable through repetition? In our culture that shuns simple nudity, yet consumes massive quantities of pornography, men who repeatedly use porn to sexually stimulate themselves are literally training their bodies to respond sexually to visual images. Men who live in cultures where nudity is common, don't have a sexual reaction whenever they see an exposed female breast. Men who do not use porn and who's primary experience of other naked human beings is in the context of social nudism where rules of behavior apply, are repeatedly "practicing" civil, non-sexual behavior toward others who are in their created state (naked). Christians who criticize nudism on the basis that "male sexuality is visually driven" have (probably unwittingly) sided with the evolutionary psychologists. Their criticism would be valid if the claim were true. But it can only be true if evolutionary psychologists are correct in their physicalist conception of human nature, which would tend to undermine many (even most) of the doctrines biblical Christians hold dear.

I don't believe they are correct. I think my understanding of human nature (call it a Substance-Dualism/Intelligent Design/Body-Training view) makes a much better accounting for the-world-as-it-really-is. It also accounts for this universal testimony of practicing social nudists: far from creating occasions for heightened sexual tension and sexualized behavior, social nudism actually acts to demystify and de-sexualize the body. As such it may actually promote a healthier (even more moral) sexuality.

As for the real reasons that fewer women are attracted to nudism (at least on their own, without the encouragement of some significant male in their lives), I think it may have more to do with social conditioning. Women in our society seem to be under much greater pressure to be concerned about how they appear to others (both men and other women). In such a culture, it cannot be discounted how much clothing and make-up figure in most women's self-identity. Then, there are certain inherent differences between the sexes that are (at least in my view) God ordained. In terms of judging between the risk or payoff of a given action, women tend to be more protective (part of their nurturing nature) and men more adventurous (part of their drive for productivity).

-Gregg Gatewood

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Nakations" Promoted by Christian Radio Host

It gives me hope that the idea of naturism is actually making some headway against the body-phobia of our contemporary American culture, when a Christian media figure as prominent and as main-stream as John Tesh is willing to promote the idea of "Nakations", the AANR-coined word for "naked vacations". The growing popularity of nudist vacation destinations has been chronicled in a number of publications like the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and USA Today, but this is one of the first instances I have seen of this trend being positively reported through a Christian media outlet.

I only hope Mr. Tesh doesn't get tarred and feathered by too many well-meaning Christians who ignorantly take their cultural assumptions as a biblical proscription against nudity. (There are no such proscriptions in the bible.) Alas, since I know this element is alive-and-well as a small but sometimes vocal minority in American Christendom, I intend to send him a 'thank you' note for publishing the article. Hopefully it will help to mitigate any negative comments he receives. I would urge all of my Christian naturist friends to do the same.

Thank you John Tesh!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Are You A Naked Family?

Having raised our children in an environment of body acceptance, I think they have greatly benefited. With two young sons, Emma Waverman has also taken on this question on the parenting blog "Embrace the Chaos".

 "We live in a naked house, appropriately naked (at least we think it is). We aren’t making breakfast with all the bits hanging out, but there are times when I am getting out of the shower and walking to my closet when I am starkers and the kids are walking around. The younger kids still shower with either me or my hubby. And, yes, doors are crashed open while I am standing in the nude or going pee and my husband has been caught with the towel at his ankles while shaving."
Her post includes a video from momversation.com, of mothers discussing how they handle nudity in their homes. At the end of her piece, Emma asks her readers to weigh in on the subject:

"What do you think? Is your house a naked house or does the whole idea mortify you?"
The discussion that follows in the comments section is quite interesting, with much of it positive regarding in-home nudity among family members. Reading the views expressed, both in the article and the comments, it becomes quite evident that one need not identify as a "nudist" or a "naturist" to contemplate the benifits of body acceptance, and to incorporate its teaching in the home.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dare to Ask: Mom seeks nudist camp for 14-year-old son | jacksonville.com

Dare to Ask: Mom seeks nudist camp for 14-year-old son jacksonville.com

Submitted by Phillip Milano on April 7, 2010 - 12:00am Phillip Milano's Blog


Is there a nudist camp in Europe that can handle my request that my son of 14 be made to stay completely nude for an entire stay next summer when he is out of school? — Megan, 34, nudist, Paris


That is a horrible thing to do to someone. — Norbert, 17, Minnesota.

If my parent forced me to be nude, whether I liked it or not, I would hate them and question their motives. Camp is supposed to be fun, not a summer of hell. — Britt, female, Washington, D.C.

That's called "child abuse." I'm not sure what you think you're accomplishing by planning to shove your lifestyle down his throat, but ... he'll hate you for the rest of his life. Have fun with that. — Ann, 39, Kansas City, Mo.

Don't most parents "shove" their lifestyle down their kids' throats? — Rochelle, Williston, N.D.

Expert says

We're not sure what they make young'uns do in those high-falutin' Europe parts, but in these good ol' U.S. of A. parts, we don't like to force 'em to show their parts.

Sure, we may dress our 5-year-olds in stripper-tops that say "Juicy" or "You Want This" on them, but just because someone's got a sleazy mom, does anyone really put stock in that famous saying about the apple not falling far from the pole?

Nicky Hoffman of the 25,000-member Naturist Society, which "promotes body acceptance through clothing-optional recreation," said most 14-year-olds are body-conscious and don't want to be in the buff.

"And they're certainly not going to a camp with Mom and Dad. That's all teens, not just naturists."

The worst thing to do is force them, she said.

"They might be very embarrassed. And I'm sorry to say, but if a child is very upset and talks about it and it gets out, a mother could lose custody."

But are there long-term negative psychological effects on a kid going natural?

"I don't think so. We've done polls and found that just about everyone has skinny-dipped with others at some point. The key thing is it has to be their choice."

Some might wonder if it's OK at all to raise a child in a nudist culture. Hoffman said that first, measures are taken to protect children at resorts or beaches, through self-policing and guidelines. More importantly, letting it all hang out fosters a healthy body image.

"We call our parts by the appropriate names and aren't ashamed of them. There's no 'pee-pee' in naturism. We know our parts and what they are for."

Naturists tend to have lower numbers of teen pregnancies, she said. Girls and boys learn about inappropriate actions, and how not to clamor for attention or denigrate themselves or others for "imperfections."

"They end up with a deeper respect for the opposite sex," she said. "It's like there's no surprises. We look deeper than the surface ... you may grow up feeling intimidated talking to a doctor if he's got his suit and tie on, but when there's no clothes on anyone, it's an even playing field."

Post cross-cultural questions and replies at http://www.yforum.com/, or mail to Phillip Milano, Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL 32231.

Kudos to Phillip Milano for seeking out Nicky Hoffman at TNS to answer this question. I know the French are more comfortable with nudity than most folks in the USA are, but I can't imagine why any mother would want to compel her child to be nude, and remain so, in a social nudist environment. Yes, naturists/nudists should teach their values to their children. Yes, they should take them with them to the family naturist park, and demonstrate clothing optional body acceptance in the home. But, no one should be forced to be nude. This is akin to Christian parents forcing their children to take communion. It is abusive rather than meaningful to the child, until he has taken on those values as his own.

I consider myself fortunate to have been raised with naturist values. I grew up in a family with two parents and two sisters. Though we didn't specifically identify ourselves as "nudists" or "naturists" (I don't think that term had even been coined yet), it was not unusual or considered a "big deal" to see one another nude in our home. We simply were not taught to hide our bodies when dressing, bathing, drying off, or when walking to or from the shower. We even occasionally skinny-dipped as a family. My parents always slept nude, and made no attempt to hide that fact--a practice I eventually adopted for myself.

When I married Kathy, I discovered that she had been raised very differently. She had a number of body-shame issues to overcome before we were finally able to agree upon our own strategies for raising our children. Ultimately (and I'm very grateful and proud of her for this), she overcame her fears, and our children were, for the most part, raised as I was. I think our children have benefited from this kind of upbringing (as I know I have) in ways that they may not even fully realize at this point in their lives. They have grown up without the crippling sense of shame and insecurity about their own bodies or the morbid curiosity about the bodies of others that so many of their contemporaries exhibit. My daughter is recently and happily married, and my son just left home for a six-month Christian missions trip. I am unabashedly proud of what they are making of their lives, and excited to see what the future holds for them.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More on Topfreedom

Writing for The Huffington Post today, former Playboy "Feminist Playmate" Juliette Fretté weighs in on cultural double standards between the public perception of uncovered male and female breasts.

The Meaning of Breasts

She correctly identifies that the issue is one of socialization:

"How we socialize ourselves to believe certain stigmas are natural and normal. How we forget what breasts are really for. Which leads to the question: why we should punish female breasts and their owners for how men fantasize about them and how society at large perceives them? Not for what they really are?"

"At the same time, there should be nothing wrong with perceiving female breasts (or male breasts) with sexual adoration. But let us also be careful to avoid pigeonholing their entire meaning based on that appreciation. And moreover, if we insist on sexualizing breasts, then we must insist that sexualized body parts be free from double standards. If women's breasts are labeled obscene, then men's breasts should also be labeled as such. And if men's breasts are perfectly acceptable, then those of women should be as well. Consistency is key."

"This may sound completely radical and revolutionary, but if one truly examines how society has unfairly judged this body part, the fact that we ever did it and normalized the practice in the first place seems completely goofy."

I agree, and think that Ms. Fretté is correct to point out the double standard. Though, I'm not sure I understand her brand of "Modern Feminism." She seems more comfortable selling images of her own breasts in Playboy, than she would be exercising the public topfreedom rights she seems to be advocating:

"So what about legalizing the exposure of women's breasts? If men can do it, so should we, as crazy as that sounds. Yet even as a Playboy Playmate, I would be uncomfortable walking down the street exposed under such a liberal ruling in favor of women's bodies. But why? Perhaps it would not be the exposure as much as the context and response I am conditioned to expect from society for such an action."

Interestingly, she seems unaware that, in at least some States, women are free to be shirtless anywhere that men may be, and that some brave women are exercising that right in order to change public perception and begin the process of re-socialization toward a more gender-equal acceptance of that freedom.

(See my previous post about the Women's Topfreedom March in Maine)