It is 1:33 a.m. on a Saturday night and I am at church. Or more precisely, I am standing on the roof of a Ukrainian cathedral in North Melbourne. “I can feel the wind through my pubes, ” Jordan giggles from the other side of the domed structure. I glance over and watch the hazy outline of his lanky body, backlit against the glittering vistum of the CBD.
Oh, did I forget to mention? We are butt naked.
This is how Jordan, a 21 -year-old Bachelor of Science student, regularly expends his free evenings. He is vegan, an avid reader of Chuck Palahniuk and a nudist.
Some nights, he sneaks into rail yards and dances naked on top of train automobiles. Others, he goes for jogs around deserted parks at 2:00 a.m. in the nude. “Whenever I do stuff at night, I like to just get naked and meditate and relax, ” he says, eyes half shut, legs hanging precariously over the scaffolding that snakes around the church tower.
If the rickety wooden timbers underneath us decide to give, there is a 20 -metre drop to the pavement below. Not precisely my notion of a meditative environment.
I had agreed to risk my life and conduct our interview sans garb, partly for the experience, partly to say I get naked in the name of journalism. Which is how I saw myself perched on the highest structure around for kilometres, with breeze caressing parts of my body that had never felt breeze before.
Jordan assures me we will not be caught. “I mainly do it at night because I don’t truly want the scrutiny of society, ” he says, one hand on the carpet of a ladder leaning against the scaffolding, “Shall we maintain climbing? ”
Nudists , not to be confused with egotists, do not find thrill in exposing themselves to the unsuspecting public, but instead enjoy the freedom of being nude in a non-sexual decided. According to the International Naturist Foundation, nudism( also known as naturism) focuses on “self-respect, the respect for others and the environment.”
That Jordan and I are breaking the law is simply circumstantial. In fact, nudists generally convened in designated clothing-optional regions or on private property, and take part in regular activities such as yoga, pond parties, or even hiking.
Jordan discovered the lifestyle in Year 8, after developing insecurities about his body due to constant bully. “Everyone was so narcissistically-driven and people would always comment on my snout and how skinny I was and I was always like, oh shit, maybe someday I’ll just get surgery and I’ll bulk up.”
Having reached puberty before his friends, Jordan’s body became the subject of much discussion in the change rooms. He recalls the unwarranted comments about his developing pubic hair: “I’d be like, stop talking about my penis.” He pauses. “I’d be just as insecure if people were talking about my knees or my face.”
Jordan began expending more and more hour unclothed in the privacy of his own bedroom, as a route of subduing his insecurities. “At the end of the day, some people knows where to find me attractive, other people won’t, ” he says pragmatically, “There’s no point in me expending my energy and trying to look like something when I could just not give a fuck.”
Jordan is barely alone when it comes to his experience of body-consciousness. A national survey conducted in 2016 by Mission Australia revealed that young Australians, both male and female, identified body image as their third major issue of concern. Of the 21,846 participants, 30.6% indicated that they are extremely or very concerned.
When the standard for what our bodies should look like are contrived, hyper-sexualized images of unattainable ideals, force-fed to us through publications, billboards, and digital screens, it is no wonder our perception of beauty is so skewed. We expend billions of dollars each year on the newest apparel tendencies, cosmetics, fad diets, detox teas, protein powders, and the list goes on, all in hopes of buying acceptance and self-worth.
Could the answer to this modern epidemic be as simple as donning on our birthday suits?
For Mark, an IT technician in his mid-3 0s, discovering nudism surely helped him vastly with his self-esteem and confidence. Having a shaven head adorned with a flame red beard of impressive proportions-courtesy of his Irish descent-and an intricate tableau of tattoos etched into his arms, Mark does not blend into the background. He was an active member of Vic Bears for many years, a community for gay men who pride themselves in their ruggedly masculine physicality. “Think your truckers or lumberjacks. Big, fuzzy, usually a bit of facial hair. The kind of bloke where you look down the street and go,’ Is he a biker? Why is he holding the other guy’s hand? ’” he chuckles softly.
Feeling “burnt out” by the judgmental nature of the bears community, Mark joined several nudists websites in an effort to find a less image-focused group of people. He had already been practicing nudity at home as a route of unwinding from the stress of everyday life and so hanging out with a bunch of naked strangers was naturally the next logical step.
Mark had a million doubts intersect his mind before he stripped down at his first nudist beach. Are they going to judge me? Where will they seem? And most importantly, he underlines, the question that runs through every man’s head: “What happens if you get too excited? ”
“Eventually, shorts[ come] off. And I’m thinkin’, oh shit, I’ve done it, I’ve done it, I’ve done it. Nobody even bothered a second glance, ” he says. He was agreeably surprised that his new friends were more interested in the stories behind his tattoos than his conspicuous hair color or body shape.
Mark has since attended numerous nudist events including pond parties, bushwalking, and camping, where he met his current partner. “You talk about anything and everything and you don’t even bat an eyelid at the fact that no one around you is wearing a sew of garb, ” he says with a shrug. “We interact, cool, you’ve met someone new. You looked at my bits? Okay, that’s nice. Do you want a gold star? ”
So what happens if you do get “excited? ” I ask.
“Generally, out of politeness sake, just roll over or hop in the water or think of the Queen, ” he replies without batting an eyelid.
Unfortunately, for women interested in the lifestyle, there are more serious concerns that cannot be solved by a simple stop, drop-off and roll. Audrey, a recent graduate, is held back from co-ed nudist environments for dread of being objectified by men.
Being comfy in her own scalp is one thing, says the 21 -year-old, but navigating the complex process of reclaiming her body and sexuality from the dominating male gaze is another. “I can speak from a woman’s view that it’s the sexual objectification of the woman’s body since forever that constructs it so hard to want to be naked in front of people.”
Although we have acclimated to seeing more skin in contemporary culture, there is still a deep-rooted Puritanical notion that nudity is indecent, amoral and obscene. Much of this ingrained mentality can be attributed to the lack of non-sexualised nudity in practice and represented in the media.
It is great that Kim Kardashian feels #empowered by posting nude selfies to Instagram, but in doing so, she sends the message that a woman’s self-worth relies on her sex appeal. Her meticulously filtered and posed production does nothing to challenge the dominant paradigm.
Currently teaching English in Europe, Audrey recollects visiting a clothing-optional park in Munich where 90% of people who were nude were men. “It reinforces that girls feel less comfortable in their bodies than humen, ” she says.
Even though she is not ready to attend a mixed-sex nudist event, Audrey’s experience at a segregated Japanese bath house was nothing short of positive. “I was able to observe other female bodies like mine, of various shapes, and felt comforted that women who have flaws like me were comfortable being nude.”
At this moment, Audrey is content with being naked in the privacy of her own bedroom, drinking tea with a few trusted friends. “It’s about coming to terms with my body and accepting it for what it is without clothes on…in a world where we’re conditioned to hate our bodies.”
For those of us who do not have the privilege of lounging around our apartments sans-underwear without seriously pissing off a housemate, get out into nature and get into your birthday suit. Forget socially constructed ideals and reconnect with your body. You only get one and it can do some pretty cool things( like climb a Ukrainian church ).