on June 2nd 2015
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Set mostly in Europe
People have been getting naked in public for reasons other than sex for centuries. But as novelist and narrative journalist Mark Haskell Smith shows in Naked at Lunch, being a nudist is more complicated than simply dropping trou. "Nonsexual social nudism,” as it’s called, rose to prominence in the late nineteenth century. Intellectuals, outcasts, and health nuts from Victorian England and colonial India to Belle Époque France and Gilded Age Manhattan disrobed and wrote manifestos about the joys of going clothing-free. From stories of ancient Greek athletes slathered in olive oil to the millions of Germans who fled the cities for a naked frolic during the Weimar Republic to American soldiers given "naturist” magazines by the Pentagon in the interest of preventing sexually transmitted diseases, Haskell Smith uncovers nudism’s amusing and provocative past.
The author of this book did a great job explaining what it is like to be at a nudist resort or activity and to take part even if it is something that you thought that you’d never do.
“There’s a refreshing honesty to shopping naked. In the textile world, people always check each other out, imagining what the other person might look like naked — don’t be coy, you know you do — but when you can clearly see the breasts of the woman next to you or the penis of the man standing behind you — in fact, when all around you are bare breasts and dangling penises and buttocks and bodies — well, a lot of the puerile fantasy that is commonplace in our society just disappears.”
Buttocks Not Burkas! should be the new battle cry.
He talks about different societies’ takes on indecency laws. Here’s the situation in a lot of the U.S.
“So, essentially, if some random dude, like a park ranger, finds your breasts erotic in some way, then it’s your responsibility to cover them. It’s no longer your decision, but the dirty mind of a stranger, that decides if you’re indecently exposed or not.”
He discusses the history of different nudist movements. It was big in Germany between the World Wars.
“Hermann Goring declared that nudism ‘destroys women’s natural feeling of shame, and causes men to lose respect for women, thereby destroying the basis for any real culture.’ Is he saying that real culture comes from women living in shame? What does that even mean?”
I learned a lot from this book. I feel like I can drop interesting factoids about nudism into conversation now. I like that after reading a nonfiction book. However, I do still have a few questions.
How are you not fried to a crisp?
This one was discussed. He was very worried about sunblock. I’m a burner. Just going to the beach requires spackling on huge amounts of sunblock. When I come out of the water I tend to lay with towels over me as a physical barrier to the deadly sun. I still burn.
What about chafing?
There is a section on naked hiking in the Alps. I don’t like wearing a skirt without bike shorts underneath because my legs touch. How are people hiking naked? I went to their website for purely research purposes and checked out the pictures. Maybe I’m just fatter than everyone else but that has to be an issue. Do you just put on a lot of Body Glide and hope for the best?
Ladies, isn’t playing sports painful?
I like quite a bit of scaffolding in the chest so my bits aren’t flopping all over and getting in the way. Are other people’s body parts just better behaved than mine?
Why are there no men at the Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society?
Yes, there is a topless book club in New York City. They have a webpage. They look like they are having a great time with lots of activities.
Are you all just preparing for the destruction of Earth?
Everywhere you go in these events you are reminded to always have a towel with you to sit on. Am I the only one who thinks immediately of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘s command to always carry a towel with you in case you need to hitch a ride off a planet? Coincidence?
“So what if people want to go skinny-dipping at the beach? If it really bothers you, maybe you need to take a long look at yourself and figure out why it bothers you.”
Have you ever been to a social nudist event? Would you go?