Naked, Except Not Really

There’s been a huge amount of support among naturists, nudists and nude-friendly folk lately for campaigns like #NormalizeNudity, #NormalizeNaturism, and #IAmTheFaceOfNaturism.

Backsplash for the #NormalizeNudity campaign on change.org, featuring many well-known naturists including yours truly

It would seem like a no-brainer that we would also support more non-sexual nudity in entertainment media, another nude-friendly agenda item for which there seems to be a lot of support lately. Someone on naturist Twitter forwarded the tweet below the other day, from a professional TV writer who has worked for Saturday Night Live among other programs. I might not agree with her anatomical vocabulary choices, but I will clap right along with her message:

And indeed, at least according to Wall Street Journal, there is currently a “golden age” of nude men in entertainment media, especially on the streaming services. This is important because full frontal male nudity has traditionally been more taboo then full frontal female nudity.

But there’s an important caveat. Even though the WSJ article subtitle declares “Hollywood’s male stars aren’t scared of full-frontal nudity anymore” — stars such as Bradley Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch — what we learn in the article is that there is an entire industry out there for the creation of prosthetic penises. Actors are left to clarify, only if they so desire, whether the anatomy in the scene was real or not, or perhaps that of a body double: Naked, or Fakéd? A currently popular film on Netflix, Don’t Look Up, ends with a social nude scene, in which one might think that Meryl Streep decided to throw her clothes off with everyone else, but it turns out it was a body double. Isn’t CGI, uhm… amazing?

Even though anyone who has a penis knows that the organ changes shape and size all the time, and that there is quite a range of sizes in humans, it’s a safe bet that prosthetic penises aren’t being ordered in the smaller sizes. This is a pernicious, insidious message for men – and for everyone. Naturism is about body acceptance, not about normalizing expectations churned out by the adult entertainment industry. For those actors (of any gender) brave enough to be truly nude, sans prostheses or body doubles, bravo! But since it’s not always possible to know what’s naked and what’s fakéd, then the general upsurge of more nudity in entertainment media is compromised. Do we #NormalizeBodyDoubleNudity? Do we #NormalizeProstheticPenises? I think not.

It’s a matter ripe for exploration in naturist fiction, and in fact the great pioneer of naturist comics, Grace Crowley, addressed the issue twenty years ago in the Loxie & Zoot classic, The Koala Bares. Villain Tex Tyler is going to infiltrate the Koala Bay Bares Naturist Resort, but of course he can’t bring himself to do it in the nude, so he orders an entire male nude body costume complete with outsized penis, because, as he tells his laughing wife, “And for your information, Alice, all noodies have huge dongers!” Of course the naturist reader knows this is not true, and even the non-naturist reader would understand it is not true, precisely because of Crowley’s wonderfully realistic range of bodies among the many pages of naturists so lovingly depicted in the story. Predictably, Tex’s body prosthesis provokes a series of “wardrobe malfunctions” at the naturist park, including the time he doesn’t notice that his “donger” has dipped into a bowl of blue acrylic in the bodypainting tent. His suit, quite literally embodying his insecurities, is indeed what undoes him, and the naturist community triumphs.

In the comic, Tex’s nude suit is both prosthesis and body double, an impossibility meant to fit in among real bodies, and it does not work. In other media, one result of the greater recognition that CGI, Photoshop and etc. can so thoroughly alter and distort our bodies, is a growing attention to real bodies, perhaps surprisingly aided by social media. Does it look like greater body acceptance will be gained, even when social stigma still looms strong? In the end, it’s the same old story: we want to accept our bodies no matter what, BUT we also want to look good, whatever that means. It would be terrific if there could be a happy ending a la Koala Bares. What do you think?

9 thoughts on “Naked, Except Not Really”

  1. Absolutely spot on Will. Hollywood demands perfection from actors and impossibly thin, young people as people who grow old just don’t fit their mold. Until we can change the mindset that a small fraction of people they hold up as the “standard” do not represent, nor even come close to representing the rest of us, we can’t normalize naturism.

  2. Good article. It hits home for me with my struggles to accept my aging body. Social nudity really helps.

    It’s amazing how so many of us respond to the medias “norms” by putting ourselves down.

    Thanks, Will

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ken. I agree. I know in my case I try to focus on all the good my body has done / held for me.

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