WARNING: NUDITY BELOW.
If there’s one thing that Emma James really hates, it’s when she’s forced to put clothes on in order to leave the house.
Because for her — and thousands of others around the globe — being naked in public is a freeing and natural experience and one that should be totally without shame.
In fact the devoted naturist from Buckinghamshire, UK, tries to do everything possible in the nude, from swimming to playing volleyball, modelling and even theatre performances.
The 53-year-old is so passionate about the benefits of her lifestyle that she started the website Socks Off in order to encourage other more reluctant people to take the plunge and get out and about while in the buff.
Here she tells news.com.au about the unspoken rules of being a naturist and reveals her most memorable moments so far.
WHAT ARE THE DOS AND DON’TS OF BEING NUDE IN PUBLIC?
“There are a few rules which are unofficial codes of conduct in the community. The primary one is the importance of a towel. From a hygiene point of view, naturists always sit on towels and wander around towel in hand, whether on beaches, clubs, abroad on holiday.
“Towels also provide a useful screen if a man does get an erection. It’s very rare in a naturist environment, it’s just not an environment people feel (excited) in. There’s a relaxed, comfortable feeling to being in a naturist environment or around other naturists.
“Another rule of thumb for most clubs seems to be the mandatory stipulation; no swimwear allowed. We consider swimwear unhygienic, quite apart from the fact it feels so unnatural and if you’re in a naturist environment and someone stoically keeps their clothes on they’re regarded with suspicion. Naturists will suspect them to have ill intent or to be a journalist/researcher so you’d feel out of place with clothes on.
“People don’t tend to stare. It’s considered the height of ill manners. The premise is to maintain eye contact when you’re interacting with other people but just as you would do if you were walking around in a clothed environment, the eyes takes in your immediate surroundings.
“If someone is seen to be staring and it’s blatant, you’d find another member of the community would tend to go over and have a word with the individual, especially if the object of their gaze was unaware of the attention.
“The men are very protective of the women in the community and we all look out for each other. In a club situation, someone who was behaving inappropriately would be ‘out on their ear’ in a very short space of time.
“You can ask someone out naked of course. The community operates very much as if it were a clothed community although overt signs of affection aren’t encouraged i.e. passionate kissing, intimacy. Naturists keep their private lives in a separate sphere. We’re just as sexual as the next person but not in a naturist realm.”
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL NEWCOMERS?
“It’s very simple. Relax, take your clothes off and enjoy the wilderness or the company of fellow naturists. Don’t overthink it. Once we’re naked, we’re unified, there’s less posturing and ego and more accord.
“It’s a chance to really strip your life back to basics and feel free which in turn helps the mind let go of your day-to-day worries. There’s nothing nicer than being naked without shame — after all, it’s the most natural thing in the world.”
HAVE YOU ALWAYS EMBRACED NATURISM?
“Essentially, yes. My mother was very comfortable with her body so I was brought up with a healthy degree of body confidence, aside from my self conscious teenage years. I think the fact that I’m sporty and I’ve worked in the theatre also encouraged my body confidence.
“The body acceptance and non judgmental perception which I constantly strive towards as a naturist and healer was instilled through my initial training in therapeutic massage and learning to work with healing energy.”
HOW DO THOSE CLOSE TO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT?
“When I first became a public naturist, I wasn’t sure whether to be open about my naturism or to try and keep it quiet but after some deliberation, I decided it was imprudent to hide my involvement in naturism.
“As an active networker, I already had quite a high profile and I felt it would be more of an issue if I tried to be secretive and risk being outed. It’s a very individual decision though and I’m fortunate to be able to be completely transparent about my lifestyle choice.
“My business networking colleagues were intrigued but supportive, some close family members however, were initially horrified. They’ve grown to understand naturism more through my involvement in the community and far from being resistant, are now very accepting and in some cases have embraced naturism themselves with my encouragement.”
ARE YOU PART OF A LARGE COMMUNITY OF NATURISTS?
“I’m very much part of the naturist community in the UK although I am a relative newcomer to public naturism. I’ve been networking online and offline since 2004 and blogging since 2005 so I have a good understanding of social media and online communities.
“Once I’d decided to announce my naturism (which I did on Twitter) the next logical step was to weave my early naturist forays into my blogs which charted my experiences and growing understanding of naturism.