Ralf Roletschek, GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html, via Wikimedia Commons

I recently shared a link to a political story on Twitter with my wife and she was a little surprised to then be presented with a myriad of pictures depicting naked young women. It didn’t occur to me that the link came from a naturist account, ergo, the other content suggested was all naked imagery.

In and of itself this might not have been a problem. What was a problem, is that the majority of images were all young attractive females, purportedly representing the ideals of naturism. Where’s all the men and fat people I was reasonably asked? Where’s all the ordinary folk who supposedly take part in this activity?

Herein lies a massive problem that naturism needs to remediate if it’s to redeem its reputation.

What I quickly realised when I started to look more cynically at even the most legitimate of naturist sites, is that there’s clearly an over representation of young attractive females, often in unrealistic poses, supposedly representing the virtues of naturism.

What kind of unintended message might this be sending? Certainly not one of family inclusivity. Not one of diverse group inclusion. It’s little wonder that the cynical, often suspicious public get the wrong idea about naturism. It actually brings to mind Eric Idle’s skit in Monty Python. “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.” Naturism. “Know what I mean? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Say no more.”

It could be the case that there is an appeal to this demographic due to a lack of actual representation. What message might this be sending to women however? Chances are, it makes women feel intimidated and excluded. Yet another example of picture perfect unachievable body perfection to compete against.

No doubt stock images help perpetuate this problem. It’s not difficult to source professionally posed photos of models baring it all. Is this really the image naturism wants to portray though?

To some degree why this is such an important matter to consider, is because of the all too fine line between the representation of acceptable nudity and gender biased exploitation of the female form. Naturism is at pains to distance itself from sexual overtones, but how can this be taken seriously when the imaginary used to represent it is so heavily biased?

If one considers a typical naturist environment, such as a camping ground, resort or beach. What you’re typically going to witness there is fairly similar to any other venue of the same nature. The only difference is an absence of clothing.

So why use images of models draped over boulders? Stretched out in lily filled ponds, and other such clearly contrived images?

This isn’t a great depiction of a wholesome family friendly lifestyle aimed at health and well-being. Such images focus almost exclusively on a more sensual aspect of nudity that merely fostered suspicion of a thinly veiled voyeuristic pursuit.

Hopefully with this realisation more people blogging and tweeting will give it some thought. What is an appropriate representative image to use?

Perhaps Creative Commons genetic images used so far on this blog aren’t very relevant or representative either. Nonetheless, far better that than stock images that only perpetuate the problem.

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