Talking about gender in naturist spaces

2 Dec

Originally printed in H&E magazine 

Last year I was member of one of the local naked bike ride organising groups on facebook. The group was made up of the typical mix of cycling enthusiasts, naturists, and environmentalists with discussion focused around organising routes and advertising, alongside the odd post for bike or nudity related events. I didn’t get involved in discussion much, but one interaction did get me thinking about how we, as naturists, deal with conversations about gender.

Someone from a local cyclist group posted an event advertising a women’s-only bike maintenance workshop. As I understand it, the workshop was organised in response to many women feeling uncomfortable in the mixed gender workshops as there was a problem with some men in the group dominating conversations in a patronising manner. Women’s participation in the workshops dropped, and the organisers decided to try a women’s-only session to see if that made a difference.

When the event was posted in the naked bike ride group, some of the more prominent male organisers commented saying that they didn’t feel that a women’s-only bike maintenance workshop was needed. A long discussion between a handful of men nay-saying the event and a couple of women defending it ensued, getting quite heated. I interjected briefly to comment that perhaps all the men objecting were probably not the most qualified to comment on whether women’s only events are necessary as they are not women themselves.

After making that comment, I got a good few messages from women in the group thanking me for the comment and saying that they didn’t feel comfortable with arguing the case for the event in a group where male voices consistently dominated conversations. It struck me that a similar dynamic can sometimes occur within purely naturist spaces, particularly around discussions around the “Single Man Problem”. I’ve read countless articles online and in naturist publications discussing the issue and it surprised me how few were written by women, emphasised women’s voices or highlighted the role of women’s-only events in increasing women’s participation. What strategies are your groups using to address the male domination of naturist spaces? Have they been successful in increasing women’s participation?

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3 Responses to “Talking about gender in naturist spaces”

  1. Justin Black December 2, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    The Single Man Problem does exist in naturism, I have tried to join three local clubs this year. Also being gay, I asked one such club if gay people were accepted, and it was the general attitude that gay people would not be encouraged to join. I joined British Naturism this year, but I doubt if I would ever renew my membership.

  2. pauljw11 December 3, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    Hi all, this is one of those questions that I just don’t know how to answer. I do think that there is a distinction to be made between segregation due to one sector wishing to exclude another, as was the case with “mens clubs”, many golf clubs and doubtless many other things, and segregation due to one sector feeling intimidated by another, or worrying that they will look stupid, as is probably the case with the women’s bicycle mechanics workshops. I also feel that there are many men out there who would gladly sign up to men-only sewing classes but would feel intimadated going to “mixed” classes for similar reasons. As for the single male naturist–again this is awkward. Unfortunately there are men who go to nudist swims to ogle naked women, I have never heard of this happening the other way around. I do know of a place where a nudist club started a mixed, “all welcome” nude swim, week one there was about a 3-1 male:female ratio, by week four it was 100% male, by week six it had to close as most of the men stopped going when the women did. Another club in the same place did not allow single men as a rule, and men who would not consider going to the in effect all male swim were banging the doors down demanding to be admitted. The idealistic part of me thinks one way, and the pragmatic part the other on this one.

  3. Phill December 31, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    I’ve read a lot also about the single man issue. Currently I’m not a member of a naturist club and I’ve not attend any naturist sessions. I will be attending my first event early Jan guess it will be interesting to see what happens. I’m also gay. I would be interested in hearing Justin’s views about how he has been accepted or not, within the naturist world.

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