Sunday, 4 January 2015

Erections and social nudity

So you're a male on a social clothes-optional camping trip. It's a bright morning and the sun is out and it's warm enough to be nude all day. Nudity is common in the social group. You wake but have a problem with 'morning glory'. Do you (a) wait in your tent until it goes away?...or (b) exit your tent in view of others? Where is your boundary on the left side of the social spectrum?

I love a good debate. One has become heated on Twitter over the last 24 hours so I thought i'd write a quick blog. Let me start by confessing that my personal answer is (a). However there is certainly a good argument for (b) based upon what we see as being acceptable and not-acceptable on the social spectrum given that people's boundaries are just never going to be in exactly the same place.

The arguement that (b) is acceptable surrounds the difficult subject of where sex meets nudity. An erection is stereotyped as being a male aroused state caused by mental process triggering physical change. Many women appear to think that this sterotype is fact. Unfortunately as my hypothetical at the top shows, it's not that clear cut. Men can have an erection without a clear mental trigger. The male body is more complicated. One of my Twitter friends is going hunting for the medical evidence to support the idea that erections can be caused by things other than clear mental arousal. I am sure a simple consideration of 'morning glory' pretty much confirms that the evidence will be there and well studied. The bottom line is that the stereotype is not quite correct.

This obviously leads to the argument that our hypothetical male getting out of his tent is ok to do so. The erection is clearly not arousal. It has nothing to do with sex. The boundary between sex and simple nudity is maintained, and 'naturists' can carry on their daily business without comment. The argument can then be extended. If erections can happen without a sexual conatation, then what about an erection in a photograph. In a photograph, there is no clear connection with arousal. If a picture of the hypothetical male at the campsite were to appear online after he has just stepped out of the tent with morning glory we know that there is no sexual angle. Yet the mainstream 'naturist' community represented by BN say, would probably be negative towards the photo.

Jeez this is tricky. Here is the 'front-line' between our personal version of 'naturism' and what we consider to be 'too liberal' for our comfort. It's why using a label is so fraught. The social liberal-to-conservative, left-to-right, spectrum is continuous, yet as human beings we find it almost impossible to live and discuss without making a continous spectrum, discrete, by 'binning' opinions and characteristics, and then marking the bins with labels. This is most easily seen by considering the rainbow...the rainbow has 7 colours right? Well the rainbow is a continuous spectrum of wavelength that can be measured by real numbers. Pigeon-holing in action. That's just how our brains work!

So the social spectrum is a problem for simple nudity because everyone has their boundaries in a slightly different place. At least two Twitter friends that have blogged/discussed the erection issue clearly have a 'left boundary' further to the left than me (and therefore I reckon i must appear 'conservative' to them!)....and hence would say (b) is fine, and hence an innocent photo of a man with an erection but no clear sexual connatation is ok.

We have to draw a line.

So having said all this, and presented the argument for (b) at the top, why do I stand by (a)? Well it's because of a big picture argument. It's a weak argument in the eyes of some I'm sure, but it's why i set the boundary in the place I do. The big picture is the campaign for the gradual changing of my/our culture to bring more acceptance to social nudity. Culture does not change in big immediate steps very often. I see it as changing gradually in response to small incremental pressures. If we want to shift culture leftwards on the continuous social spectrum, then I believe small baby-steps are the way to go. It is my opinion that if you try too hard to change culture in a big jump, then you get a reaction of the other end of the social spectrum, which usually does its best to put a giant spanner in the works!

The World Naked Bike Ride is a small incremental step. The little baby steps are so small that they happen without the right-end of the spectrum realising! However the liberal shift happens...and voila, the WNBR is now part of our culture.

Stephen Gough however, in my opinion, has got it wrong. Stephen is trying to take big culture leap...and he's got a reaction from the right...he's in jail. Only a few people in history can 'pull off' a big culture change leap. They are few. Stephen I don't believe is one of them.

So I'm for little baby steps. This is why i'm with (a) at the top. (b) is too big a leap for me. Personally I belive that it doesn't matter what an erection represents. I think it's moot. The problem is that we don't exist in reality...we exist in a perception of reality. Culture is  like a living shifts and reacts and changes. I believe the best way of changing it is to do so without getting an equal and opposite reaction from the right. So presenting erections as 'ok' I believe is not in my interest, and I don't believe it is in the interest of British Naturism.

As a last point I want to say's hard to find a perfect world. We are all different and even when we come together under the banner of 'nudity in a non-sexual context' we find that we still don't agree. In fact this is great...because I'd hate a world where we were all the same with exactly the same values and boundaries. I respect everyone's view on this topic, and debate on blogs and Twitter is fascinating and very interesting. Here's to more arguments! That's how we grow...


  1. Great post! I really enjoyed this.

    I actually wrote my own blog on this topic last night: Having modeled with an erection and having been to plenty of nudist venues, I think that an erection in artistic photography goes by different rules than an erection at a nudist resort or nude beach. Artistic nudity aims to capture various aspects of the person inside of the body, and while the erection itself is not necessarily meant to indicate sexual arousal, it can very well be meant to do that, particularly if the capture has an erotic focus. Moreover, the erection itself can be a symbol of pure masculinity, strength, vulnerability, etc. In any case, an artistic nude displaying an erection is an easier sell than sporting one on a nude beach because the viewer of the picture can choose not to see the picture and easily remove any exposure they have to the erect penis, but this is much more difficult when the erection is in your presence.

    In your scenario above, I'd also go with option A. I understand that there are multiple causes for erections but realistically, a man that gets an erection at a nudist venue is almost always sexually aroused, and like all of the other explanations for how men get erections, the "morning wood" scenario would be a very rare occasion compared to the usual ones when men would get an erection in a nudist situation.

    How would we feel if we were in a public shower and a man got an erection? I don't think that it would be wrong to take that as a sign of sexual arousal and it would be very inappropriate. I don't think that nudist environments should function much differently.

    1. "I understand that there are multiple causes for erections but realistically, a man that gets an erection at a nudist venue is almost always sexually aroused"

      That statement is to general in my opinion as erections can happen when not sexually aroused. I can happily be sunbathing away from anybody or walking naked in the countryside and get an erection from the feeling of the sun, and sometimes breeze, on my body. No feelings of sexual arousal. Not that it happens a lot and is only occasional, but it does happen. I have been to nudist venues before and never got an erection but I am not saying it could never happen. An erection is a normal state that a male experiences from time to time and we shouldn't get so hung up on it. Even if it was from sexual arousal, as long as he wasn't masturbating if he was in a venue area that permits such an activity, then no harm done and we are just accepting the male body for what it is and can happen from time to time.

      "How would we feel if we were in a public shower and a man got an erection? I don't think that it would be wrong to take that as a sign of sexual arousal and it would be very inappropriate."

      I go to a gym and use the communal male showers and shower naked. I am usually on my own but sometimes other males will be showering at the same time, some naked and some in their shorts. At all times, either on my own or with other males present, I am never sexually aroused even though I don't think that matters as long as nothing inappropriate is happening. The water, from the shower, on my penis causes me to get an erection and on one occasion whilst on my own, this was a very hard erection.

      When I have showered after a naturist swim, I have never got an erection but again, it could happen to any male.

  2. all guys get erections, lots are not sexually motivated but a reaction that you have no control over, in a mixed naturist environment it depends on how the guy with erection deals with it, if its say on a beach and you are just lying on a towel in the sun and suddenly an you get an erection I don't think that is at all offensive and should not be viewed that way, but if the guy then gets up and walks around in a manner to parade his erection to all in sundry then I would say that is totally unacceptable, I do think that we should all just a bit more relaxed about it.

  3. In an all male environment with close mates for example I would likely go with option B, otherwise I would agree entirely with your logic
    Marky Mark

  4. I have never had to deal with an uprising at a nude environment and only witnessed it once at a nude beach. The guy, about 18 - 20 years old , got up from his spot and walked across the beach to somewhere behind us and then came right back, flopping wildly as he walked, looking very angry the entire time. It was more ludicrous than anything else.