Naturism and Gender Imbalance
Thoughts and musings about Naturism's "LADY PROBLEM"
Written by Rok, 26 August 2020
Single males greatly outnumber single females and couples in the Naturist world. Many naturist organisations and clubs strive to remedy this gender imbalance, but it’s an uphill battle and there seems to be no easy answer. It’s been an perplexing question for decades and there have been countless theories put forward to explain it. But there seems to be no single definitive answer – maybe it’s a combination of things. Let’s have a think about some of the reasons that have been postulated:
Women won’t join because they feel outnumbered by men.
Dr. Terry Hill, PhD, has this to say: “Too many single men about, hanging around, and women get very uncomfortable. Many women will avoid going to a naturist resort if the ratio is not comfortably balanced. I have been to over 25 resorts, here and in Europe, and have been a naturist for 30 years, as well as a sociologist who has researched naturism/nudism, and this fact stands. Women do not want to be constantly gawked at, especially when it’s obvious why those men go there.”
There are some problems with that viewpoint and I’d love to see the evidence that Dr. Hill has gathered to support his claim. It’s just not there! And as for women who are concerned about being gawked at, they could be gawked at by bisexual women and lesbians, too! I wonder whether the idea of this sensitive woman is more pandering to the male-formed stereotype of what the female is supposed to be - something to be protected by men, rather than supported and encouraged to stick up for themselves.
What I would have thought is more likely to put women off is not an excess of men, but a lack of fellow women who are prepared to lead by example. Here’s the thing: All clubs and all naturist organisations and all naturist websites such as this one had a beginning. Take Hauraki Naturally as an example. We started of with nobody – just me. There was certainly no overwhelming gender imbalance at that point, and we made it abundantly clear that the site was open to everyone – single males, single females, couples and families. But who joined the site? As at the time of writing this we now have 26 members – only one of those is female, despite the fact that females had exactly the same opportunity to populate the site as males did.
Women won’t join because they have a greater problem with body image.
This one is a bit of a conundrum and quire ironical. As naturists, we constantly strive to emphasise the fact that our philosophy dictates acceptance of everyone, regardless of colour, shape, size, age, body defects, and any other attribute. The benefits of naturism to everyone, and especially to women, are obvious in terms of body image acceptance and of liberation from the incessant need to conform to commercial precepts of what women should look like and be. But, sad to say, it’s men that are largely responsible for instilling that tragic notion in the minds of women and girls in the first place. Our culture has told them they are not beautiful or sexy enough – that they need to try harder to reach that Barbie-beautiful model of perfection that is, quite frankly, impossible to attain! Every time men buy into pornography or push their commercialised vision of beauty on their female friends and relatives, the fear is reinforced.
It’s up to us men, both within the naturist community and in society at large, to admit to propagating that lie upon women and to take on the responsibility of undoing the damage. Sadly, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. There’s too much money at stake!
Women won’t join because they fear being accosted or sexually attacked by men.
Considering the various naturist options open to women, this one doesn’t make much sense to me either.
Firstly, naturist clubs and resorts such as the Katikati Naturist Park have very strict rules about inappropriate behaviour and people exhibiting such behaviour would be evicted immediately. Obviously the venue has a reputation to protect, so this provision is strongly advertised. And any person has a vested interest in keeping his behaviour in check, as membership of a naturist club is not cheap!
Clothing-optional places such as beaches may appear to be more risky. But are they really? Do single women get attacked on a textile beach in view of other sunbathers and swimmers close by? Seldom, if ever! Why would it be any different on a naturist beach? Just stay within sight of other groups of naturists or, better still, go with other naturist friends.
Women are put off the whole idea of social nudity by the offensive, overtly sexual behaviour of men.
While this is extremely rare in Naturist clubs, the sad fact is that it is all too common on our beaches and other clothing-optional areas. Every summer there will be reports in local papers of single, middle-aged men – usually gay men – lurking in the sand dunes at places like Papamoa, Waihi Beach, Pekapeka Beach, and many others. We call them “Meerkats” – popping up their heads every few minutes to survey the beach for possible encounters. And one thing is certain – you’ll never see a female meerkat! They don’t exist! It’s always men!
To illustrate the point, first here is a review posted by a naturist who regularly visits Warnbro Beach, Perth, Western Australia:
“We settled in on the beach and found it to be very quiet, with the nearest people (single men) hundred metres away. I have already reviewed Swanbourne Beach and was not impressed with the many middle-aged single men that hang around in the beach dunes.
There seemed to be a lot less of these single men at Warnbro Beach, although it seems that this is a feature of Perth nude beaches, as they all came out of the woodworks as the day progressed and warmed up. One man came up to us and offered to take some pictures for us, which was kind of him, but he then settled 5m behind us in the dunes near us to play with his “one string banjo”.
This type of serenading seems like the normal thing in Perth nude beaches, so once you adjust to it, you accept it as if they are animals in the dunes. We jokingly laughed and called the men 'meerkats', as their heads pop every now and again, surveying the landscape of naked bodies. If this type of activity offends you, then don't go to Warnbro Beach.”
And here is a News report from the Otago Daily Times, 13 March 2019:
“Yet another naked man has been seen performing a lewd act on St Clair beach, before running off into the bushes ahead of the arrival of police yesterday evening.
Senior Sergeant Craig Dinnissen, of Dunedin, said police were urging people to get in touch if they saw suspicious activity in the area, and to take a photo if possible.
The incident is the latest in a spate of reports of naked men performing lewd acts at St Clair and St Kilda beaches in the past few months. This man did not match the descriptions of earlier men who reportedly performed lewd acts in the dunes, bushes or on the beach.”
A quick and simple search on Google will show how many more of these incidents keep hitting the news. It’s hardly surprising that women would be put off engaging in naturism by these deviants. They are extremely annoying to genuine bona-fide male naturists too.
Let’s make one thing clear at this point. I am not homophobic and I am not against sex between consenting adults. But there is a time and place for everything! And a naturist beach on a hot summers day is not the time nor the place, any more than a textile beach is! Meerkats seem to have the impression that a “beach used by naturists” is synonymous with a “beach for gay sexual encounters”.
The solution to this problem is simple. We male naturists need to take some serious action against these people. When you visit your local beach, help make it a safer naturist environment. Take action if it looks like a guy is making female visitors (or anyone for that matter) uncomfortable. If you notice that a woman appears uncomfortable due to someone else’s behaviour, ask her politely if she’s being bothered and, if so, offer to talk to whoever is being creepy. Don’t be afraid to confront the “meerkat”. But be respectful, polite and non-aggressive. Call the police or local DoC rangers if someone is drunk and acting belligerent or violent or sexually offensive. Use your cell phone camera – that should get the message across! The thing is that if we let these guys get away with what they’re doing, the situation will get worse. The philosophy of Naturism will fall into disrepute and eventually we will all lose the right to be naked on the beach or other public places. Just ask yourself if you’re ok with that prospect.
So, how do we address the problem of gender imbalance in Naturism?
One tactic that is commonly adopted by Naturist clubs is to monitor their membership demographics and ensure at least a 60/40 ratio of male/female by restricting membership of single males. The Go Natural website includes this on their FAQ page:
Do clubs welcome single people or just couples?
Most clubs have a number of single members. But to maintain a balance of gender, all clubs have various rules about their membership demographics, so you should contact the appropriate club to find out their stance on this.
The problem I see with this approach is that it flies in the face of one of the basic principles of Naturism – that it is totally accepting of all, regardless of gender, status, religion, race, etc etc. You cannot preach total acceptance with one breath, then exclude single men with the next. At Hauraki Naturally we will never turn down a membership application just because the person is a single male. I rather suspect that the majority of women who are likely to be put off naturism are unlikely to be encouraged by the enforcement of equal membership numbers anyway. And is there any real documented evidence to prove that trying to maintain a balance in numbers of men and women has ever really had any significant impact on the number of women prepared to become members? Or is it all really just a blind and convenient assumption?
But on the other hand social nudity isn’t really social nudity if it’s just a naked guys club! Seriously- who wants to just be part of a men’s club?
As previously mentioned, to a large extent we men do have some responsibility for women fearing and running the other way when it comes to baring it all. Men are in many ways responsible for the body fears that keep women out of naturism and men should not be so timid and incapable of finding female companionship whom they can sincerely convince to be part of something so important to their lives. There is a certain realism and acceptance of responsibility by encouraging single male naturists to find a female friend, spouse, or relative to bring along. But, again, this should never be a requirement, otherwise we yet again risk being accused of being heterocentric, rather than all-accepting.
As for me personally – of course it would be great to see men, women, couples and family groups all socialising in a naturist setting. But I would never force rules about it. I would never get to the point of refusing entry unless you brought a woman along. How sexist is that?! The price of entry is a woman! No, I am comfortable enough in my own skin, and secure enough as a person, that I don’t feel threatened whether outnumbered by either men or women.
If you cannot say the same, then I truly hope that by embracing the concepts of naturism, whether you are male or female, you will learn to overcome those fears and treasure yourself as a worthy and esteemed human being.
So what do you think? With the objectives of Naturism in mind, share your thoughts on the subject in the comments below . . .