Sunday, 31 August 2014

Paul Gauguin - Naturist Painter?

Paul Gauguin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach by Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) was a leading Post-Impressionist painter. His peers included Vincent van Gogh and his work influenced other famous artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. It should be noted that he was hardly a model citizen. He gained notoriety for a lascivious and indulgent lifestyle.

He lived in Tahiti for the first time from 1891 to 1893. There he discovered casual nudity among the natives and spent time nude himself. From those experiences, he recounted an environment where the lack of clothing desexualized women and created more equal relationships between the genders. It is particularly interesting that he made these observations given that Gauguin was infamous for having relations with multiple young Tahitian women.

His observations are similar to the ones that are often heard today from naturists. That when people are free of clothing their attitudes change. The conversations are often more genuine and without pretense. We present our authentic self to others – not just physically but emotionally and spiritually as well.

From Noa Noa published in 1919 by Paul Gauguin:
(Translated by O. F. Theis)

Among peoples that go naked, as among animals, the difference between the sexes is less accentuated than in our climates. Thanks to our cinctures and corsets we have succeeded in making an artificial being out of woman. She is an anomaly, and Nature herself, obedient to the laws of heredity, aids us in complicating and enervating her. We carefully keep her in a state of nervous weakness and muscular inferiority, and in guarding her from fatigue, we take away from her possibilities of development. Thus modeled on a bizarre ideal of slenderness to which, strangely enough, we continue to adhere, our women have nothing in common with us, and this, perhaps, may not be without grave moral and social disadvantages.

On Tahiti the breezes from forest and sea strengthen the lungs, they broaden the shoulders and hips. Neither men nor women are sheltered from the rays of the sun nor the pebbles of the sea-shore. Together they engage in the same tasks with the same activity or the same indolence. There is something virile in the women and something feminine in the men.

This similarity of the sexes make their relations the easier. Their continual state of nakedness has kept their minds free from the dangerous pre-occupation with the "mystery" and from the excessive stress which among civilized people is laid upon the "happy accident" and the clandestine and sadistic colors of love. It has given their manners a natural innocence, a perfect purity. Man and woman are comrades, friends rather than lovers, dwelling together almost without cease, in pain as in pleasure, and even the very idea of vice is unknown to them.

Here is the original version in French:

Chez ces peuplades nues, comme chez les animaux, la différence entre les sexes est bien moins accentuée que dans nos climats. Grâce à nos artifices de ceintures et de corsets, nous avons réussi à faire de la femme un être factice, une anomalie que la nature elle-même, docile aux lois de l'hérédité, nous aide, sur le tard des races, à compliquer, à étioler, et que nous maintenons avec soin dans un état de faiblesse nerveuse et d'infériorité musculaire, en lui épargnant les fatigues, c'est à dire les occasions de développement. Ainsi modelées sur un bizarre idéal de gracilité—auquel nous restons, quant à nous, pratiquement, étrangers—nos femmes n'ont plus rien de commun avec nous, ce qui ne va peut-être pas sans de grades inconvénients moraux et sociaux.

A Tahiti, l'air de la mer et de la forêt fortifie tous les poumons, élargit toutes les épaules, toutes les hanches, et les rayons du soleil et les graviers de la plage n'épargnent pas plus les femmes que les hommes. Ils font ensemble les mêmes travaux, avec la même activité ou la même indolence. Quelque chose de viril est en elles, et, en eux, quelque chose de féminin.

Cette ressemblance des sexes facilite leurs relations, et la nudité perpétuelle, en écartant des esprits la préoccupation dangereuse du mystère, le prix qu'il prête aux "hasards heureux" et ces couleurs furtives ou sadiques de l'amour chez les civilisés, donne aux moeurs une innocence naturelle, une parfaite pureté. L'homme et la femme, étant des camarades, des amis autant que des amants, sont presque sans cesse, pour la peine comme pour le plaisir, associés, et la notion même du vice leur est interdite.

Friday, 1 August 2014

The Sarong: Destroyer of Naturist Worlds!

The following article was published in Canada's Going Natural, France's La Vie au Soleil, The Australian Naturist and New Zealand's Go Natural.

The Sarong: Destroyer of Naturist Worlds!

by Stéphane Deschênes in collaboration with Michel Vaïs

On a recent visit to a naturist resort in France, I was struck by the multitude of people wearing clothing away from the beach and pool (nudity was mandatory in those places). Women seemed to have a particular affinity for the sarong, also known as a wrap or pareo.

But naturism is a philosophy, not just a dress code for the beach or pool. So I decided to make some inquiries in order to better understand the reasons behind these sarongs.

Early explanations were about practicality: “I always have something to sit on.” But is it really more practical to carefully tie a sarong around the waist than to just casually drape it around your neck or over your shoulders? I also noted that most of these women carried some sort of bag that would easily have accommodated the thin sarong. Clearly, practicality didn’t seem like a valid rationale, so I persisted with my investigation.

When I discussed the topic in more depth, some admitted that they felt uncomfortable being nude while so many other women were covered up. We now see the reintroduction of clothing as a tool of embarrassment. That is consistent with the textile world, where the sarong is commonly worn for “modesty” to cover up a bathing suit.

Some explained that they felt more attractive wrapped in the colours and styles of the sarong. Here we see the reintroduction of body shame. One woman even said that she felt more “feminine” when wearing a sarong. Imagine believing that cloth is more feminine than your own body!

Of course, as so many women cover up, it is predictable that men would begin to feel some discomfort and embarrassment as well. So not surprisingly, shorts were very common among men—an item of clothing that, without a shirt, does nothing to keep the wearer warm.

Marc-Alain Descamps, the French social psychologist who wrote many treatises on naturism, said that “the reciprocal visual bestowal of complete nudity defuses the exhibitionist/voyeur relationship.”1, In other words, a nude person in front of dressed people may feel somewhat exhibitionistic and perceive them as voyeuristic. That creates an imbalance that results in emotional discomfort.

Another element of textile mentality is the provocative tease. While it may not be the intention of the woman wearing a sarong, that aspect quickly manifests itself. As she walks, her legs are intermittently exposed, and occasional glimpses of her hidden body are revealed through the wrap’s slit. As naturists know, and many textiles will agree, partial exposure is far more erotic than complete nudity.

While the majority of women wrapped the sarongs only around their waists, some were wrapping their entire bodies. This is clearly a sign of further expansion in the redevelopment of body shame.

Although nobody expressed any issues of social status, I suspect that it will eventually creep in as well (if it hasn’t already done so). Wearing the “right” sarong or demonstrating your wealth/status through more expensive designs/materials can’t be far behind.

It was not possible to determine how many had devolved back into a textile mentality versus those who had never achieved an enlightened naturist outlook. But clearly an environment where the people around you are generally dressed is not conducive to a successful adjustment by those who are new to the movement.

The sarong is like a virus from the textile world. On the surface, it appears innocuous. But as you can see, it can easily re-infect our minds with the negative attitudes towards the human body that we are fighting. It becomes a tool for shame, status, allure, and enticement. As naturists, we must be forever vigilant against these incursions from the outside world. We must recognize them and stop them before they destroy our worlds by making our philosophy meaningless.

Nudity is not the objective of naturism. But it is a fundamental tool to achieve the movement’s goals. Out of respect for others, we must make an effort to present our complete, authentic, and open self.

Original quote from the film Vivre Nu: “Le don visuel réciproque de la nudité intégrale désamorce le rapport exhibitionniste/voyeur.”