Last night I had the pleasure of attending a longstanding men’s nudist group called Men’s Naked Drawing NYC. This group helps guys of all shapes, nationalities, ages, and backgrounds come together to build their self-confidence, social skills, and artistic abilities. As someone who could use help with all three of these, I was excited to attend! This was my second time joining the group (the first was last week at a SoHo space). Last night’s event was held in a private apartment, hosted by a very kind and talented artist. 18 guys showed up, mingling with snacks and refreshments before the first model hit the stand. Models are asked to sign up before we begin, and I took the opportunity to go first when nobody else seemed up for it.
I’ve held some difficult yoga poses in my life, but was recommended to keep it simple for my first time (arms below the heart, specifically). I struck a basic standing pose and fixed my eyes on a vase to keep still. After a few minutes under the spotlights, I could feel the sweat dripping down my sides from my armpits. No stranger to sweat, this didn’t bother me. It was interesting to see heads bobbing up and down in my periphery, artists glancing to check their work and occasionally holding up a pencil for scale. I was tempted to glance down to see what they were doing, but I kept my gaze fixed to avoid even the slightest movement. Ten minutes went by surprisingly fast. My feet tingling, I made my way down off the platform.
Modeling was interesting, and my ego looks forward to seeing what the guys came up with. But that said, I think I prefer to be on the other end of the pencil. The guy who went after me held a menacing (or titillating?) belt between his clenched fists. This was a welcome pose for me, as fingers remain the most difficult thing for me to draw. The next guy, beautifully tattooed held a seated pose, but I only managed to get the basic form before the time was up. I had to teach early in the morning, so the next and last pose for me to draw was two gentlemen held in sweet embrace on the couch.
Unlike our all-gender events at Just Naked, this MND group doesn’t discourage erections or “sexy camaraderie” among members. While they explicitly prohibit sex or sexual activity during the meetings, there is plenty of self-touch going on (and sexual touch permitted for model(s) in a pose). Personally, I love that there are social nudist groups out there with such differing approaches to the glaringly obvious connection between nudity and sex. The comically conservative AANR groups, refusing to flatter any conversation on the subject, are at odds with this MND group which embraces the connection while drawing the line at explicit sex. Just Naked’s official position on the matter is somewhere in between the two, totally open to the conversation yet cautioning against erections, cruising, and touch at all-gender events. As you can read in our Principles, our goal is to educate attendees on cruising and other prickly areas of potential concern for women and those who are new to social nudity. We understand that some folks who are coming to our events might be in totally new territory, perhaps loaded with cultural conditioning that makes navigating the space a confusing and anxiety-provoking endeavor. I’ve been there, still am to some degree, and can say that a calm, empowering, and educational space would have served me well in the beginning.
In the spirit of growth, inclusivity, and moving this conversation forward, we’ve partnered with MND to publish one of their groups on our platform! Starting on February 19, you can join me at their monthly SoHo drawing group. The organizer, Shungaboy, is an exemplar of community organizing (and just a really sweet guy). I urge you to find their meetup group and get tapped into his world if this event interests you.
Shortly after Lea and I conceived of the idea to create a network of pop-up naked events, all operating under the same general principles, we started to see that this exact concept has been out in the world for a little while. Just in the last two years, Nude Centre has functioned as a directory for naked happenings. Additionally, Shungaboy from Men’s Naked Drawing is starting another hub (nude) for people to find naked happenings. The idea is catching on, and this is wonderful! Just Naked will always have its own way of doing things (ever evolving, if we’re lucky). We look forward to collaborating with these urban naked pioneers to create a bunch of amazing things. If you haven’t already, please check out Shai’s nudecentre.com for (mostly male) naked happenings all over the world. Coming soon, we will be co-hosting Shungaboy’s naked men’s drawing groups though our platform (so happy to get more stuff on here for the boys). It’s a bright future!
Click either of the images below to visit our friends…
Melek is a 23 year old algerian illustrator / comic artist.
graduated from HEAR, Strasbourg, France.
Lives between Paris, France and Oakland, California.
See more of her work here https://melekzertal.tumblr.com
*Photos of our coworking event at the bottom!
I’m happy to report that our naked dinner event was a beautiful success. Anthony and Maybel, curators at Residencia, were kind enough to lend a hand as I managed the food and checking in guests. Hard bop jazz played in the background as people got acquainted and munched on the mediterranean spread. I enjoyed opening the door to each new person, some with puzzled faces as they were suddenly the only clothed person in the room. Following Residencia protocol, I handed them a plastic bag and directed them to disrobe and place their belongings in the bag. This worked easy enough, though some suggested later that we hold a shared disrobing moment. Which would you prefer?
As we brought out the hot food I realized that I forgot the falafel at home! Luckily, this would prove to be the only tragedy of the evening. We still had enough eats to go around (with coffee and dessert of course). We gathered in the main room, seated in a large circle, and I started the discussion. The topic of the night was a meta-discussion on nude events/spaces. I explained why we started Just Naked, our philosophy and principles, then invited folks to share their thoughts. We received a lot of valuable feedback for how to present our events moving forward. For example, someone suggested listing our principles in the event description of every social page we share it on. I assumed that everyone would want to explore our shiny new website before purchasing a ticket, but this wasn’t the case. When I brought up the topic of allowing women to wear bottoms (but not men), a few of the female attendees said they didn’t realize they could’ve kept their shorts on (though they preferred to be fully nude anyway).
Sex-positivity and family-friendliness in nude spaces was another topic. If one grants that swingers are not inherently amoral, why are so many family-friendly clubs against swinger culture? Why do I have to take out my penis piercing at Rock Lodge Club? Many of these concerns seem to pivot around protecting children, but is this valid? If a child is accosted by a pedophile at a nudist club (the worst-case-scenario that inspires these policies), wouldn’t that child be more likely to report it if they were educated on acceptable human sexuality? Is there any correlation between the Catholic church’s practices of sexual conservatism and its industrial pedophilia? These are not hypothetical questions, but serious matters to be addressed if the nudist community hopes to emerge from the intellectual dark age and into mainstream culture.
There was so much more discussed, but in the spirit of keeping this short I’ll tease you with a few questions that came up: What exactly is voyeurism? How do we foster trans-positivity? Do same-sex events require the same rules? Should we have compassion for “creeps”? How do we normalize verbal consent?
I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to share these ideas, learning from others and designing future events based on this feedback. If anything you’ve read here inspires you to add your voice to the conversation, please send us a message or comment somewhere on our socials.
As we considered what events to offer this year, we got the idea to batch-test different event ideas and times-of-day to see what the turnout was at each event. If we received a lot of RSVP’s on a certain event or time, we would create more of those and discard anything that didn’t receive much attention. We created seven events over the course of three days; yoga/meditation, embroidery, drawing class, a French-speakers social, and a coworking space. This seemed like a good idea at the time, and perhaps it is, but a comedy of errors ended up corrupting our data and attendance this time around.
What happened? First off, our audience reach was too limited to pull this test off. With only a combined 300 followers on our socials, we barely scratched the surface of the NYC nudist community. Our following will grow in time, but RSVP’s will continue to be an issue as long as nudism exists on the (barely) acceptable edge of society. Once we have a few thousand active followers, we’ll be able to poll them (you?) about what you’d like to see. We’ve received a lot of requests for things that, for now, we are simply not large enough to pull off. Naked ballroom dancing, naked spa, naked run around Central Park? YES! In time..
Secondly, my wife Lea got sick right before we held our marathon of events. We plan as God laughs, they say, and I’m sure she was laughing this week. With two less hands to pull this off, we decided to cancel the few events which didn’t receive much attention online and focus our energies on the others. While she stayed at home to recover I held down the naked fort. I was sad to refund the handful of people who had bought tickets for the canceled events, but I hope they will understand if they read this.
By far, the most successful event was the naked coworking space. The first couple hours were slow, but I met a wonderful nudist who offered a lot of support and encouragement. Thanks to you, if you’re reading this. The afternoon picked up, with curious nudists trickling in to work on their laptops, chat, and nibble on the snacks and espresso we provided. By this time Lea felt better, so she joined us to do work and talk about future projects with the more eccentric attendees.
That evening I led an intimate (that’s the polite word for small) yoga class, and by then end of the night I had three people interested in leading their own groups in the future. While I’m passionate about normalizing naked, my favorite thing about Just Naked is meeting new people and growing from their positive influence. To see someone disrobe in a social nude space for the first time, first a bit shy but eventually blossoming open into their vibrant confidence; this brings me the deepest joy.
We have a lot of plans for the near future. Next week we start the Residencia series, led by Maybel Ovalles. This includes another coworking opportunity as well as a few art/movement classes designed by her (I highly recommend attending anything she is leading). We have two new builders who want to co-host a naked drawing group. We’re working out the details now, but it looks like it will be a free-draw session wherein the hosts alternate as model/facilitator (and perhaps some time for other attendees to model if they wish). Another naked dinner location might have emerged, though that’s too tentative to say much about. Finally, we are designing a women’s empowerment group for story-sharing and skill building.
That’s it! Thanks for reading.
After going live, we received some push-back from loved ones and internet strangers that our rhetoric and policies were unnecessarily militant and anti-male (read A Brave Nude World if you’re curious). We’ve thought about it, and are shifting our message to be more positive and less antagonistic. Additionally, we are now allowing Builders to create their own rules. Continuity is important to us, and we want the participants of any Just Naked event to know that the person holding space is thoroughly knowledgeable and shares our ethos. Aside from that, they are free to decide what rules they want to deploy for their own events.
The following is an attempt to shift Just Naked’s narrative. We hope you like it. Let us know!
Simple, platonic nudity can be very empowering. Taking off one’s clothes to commune with nature or socialize with friends can be transformative. Standing in a forest, an uninhibited breeze may inspire a feeling of transcendent unity with the environment. The camaraderie enjoyed between nudists might be equally fulfilling, removing their textile-armor to bare their innermost truth. In a perfect world, nudist clubs and beaches would not be demarcated, but a normality among humans living in harmony with the earth and each other. Just Naked’s mission is to create nude events that look and feel like any other popular clothed event, but with just naked participants. This may already seem to be the case at a glance, but a closer look reveals important disparities. For this reason, the normalization of nudity is a priority to Just Naked. Our goal is to approach these nuanced issues with honesty, courage, and progressive action.
Of all the nuances, the most obvious the confusion regarding nudity and sexuality. Is it porn or is it art? Why is a nipple not just a nipple? At public beaches, one may round a corner and find a clothed voyeur filming the scene, or a couple engaged in a barely-disguised sex act. This indicates that nudity is not just naked for everybody, but may be received as a subversive act that excites arousal or attracts predatory actors. Private “family friendly” clubs go to great lengths to address this issue, though some have embraced a severe conservatism that belittles the sensibilities of well-meaning participants (like no physical contact between men and women). To be fair, clubs and beaches are stationary and serve a large population. This makes effective legislation incomplete while increasing the chances of closure if the beach or club is regarded unfavorably by their surrounding community.
The result is a polarity between two styles of club: Sex-club nudist resorts which have less rules and greater female representation (discussed below), but charge men more than women. This solution entitles men, commodifies the female body, and robs members of the unguarded pleasure of a platonic space. Alternately, “family friendly” clubs enforce policies that repel young people. A couple making out heavily in a public park might be distasteful, sure, but in many “family friendly” nudist clubs this is grounds for immediate expulsion. Answering this dilemma is obviously difficult. Sexuality is a subjective issue, dependent upon each person’s life experience. Perhaps we could start by recognizing that one answer is not the answer, and acceptance of an ephemeral goal is necessary. Ongoing conversation, flexible rules, and kindness might be the key.
Another obvious difference between an ideal just naked space and what is currently available is gender representation. Women comprise far less than half of the usual nude population. Many have wondered why, and this is our answer: female bodies are censored differently than male bodies almost everywhere*. This causes a cultural feedback loop; shaming women into hiding which in-turn fetishizes their hidden secrets to men who might otherwise not be phased. A utopia of platonic nudists may seem unlikely when one considers innate reproductive urges, but the question dissolves when one considers the primacy of behavior.
It doesn’t matter what is going on in a person’s mind as long as they behave in a way that is acceptable. Luckily, behavior can be changed. Erections are not uncommon to men who are new to casual platonic nudity with women. Without fail, men who continue to engage in this environment (and do not harbor untoward intentions) gradually relax and may someday find the situation to be just naked. Similarly, women who are not comfortable being naked might be inclined to cover their stomachs during conversation or stay home while menstruating. Over time, these insecurities fade as they are inspired by similar women who are more comfortable in their skin.
Penis size is a common insecurity for men who are new to being naked. With time in naked space, one realizes that it’s just another genetic trait and, like hair loss or nose shape, has nothing to do with a person’s acceptance within a community (and if it does, the community is toxic and should be avoided anyway). Power imbalances between genders are a non-issue at men-only & women-only events, but they will experience other issues worth noting. Attendees of men-only events will not need as many rules as the men at co-ed events because men are be presumed to know how to stand up for themselves. However, some men find unwanted touching, staring, or cruising in these situations to be stressful. How should this be addressed?
What are the social forces that stigmatize the stomach and the penis? Can these forces be identified and affected? Can we foster indifference to these forces through the exposure therapy of just naked social gatherings? How can we serve trans folks and others who defy the gender paradigm? These questions are the purview of Just Naked. As a decentralized organization operating in heavily populated urban areas, we can test hypotheses to these questions without fear of closure or boycott. Our model encourages small groups to try new things, testing assumptions and arriving at previously unrealized conclusions.
These groups are created and managed by Builders, Just Naked leaders who are trained to approach this topic with curiosity with acute awareness of known threats to healthy and platonic nude space. Operating like a research laboratory, Builders freely share their findings with the public and hope that the most effective discoveries gain traction with other nudist groups around the world. Like any adventurous researchers, we will surely make mistakes. Some co-ed events will seem to be prejudiced towards men, with rules that create equity for women (such as allowing only women to wear bottoms). At some point women might feel coddled by such rules, instead preferring equal treatment in a space where their voice will be heard and respected. Our aim is to present these mistakes clearly, hoping that even in failure we succeed to learn and grow.
Indeed, we will grow. As of this writing, only one week after our debut, our message and approach has changed considerably due to the feedback we’ve received from friends and thoughtful internet commentators. Once our events are live, it will be up to the attendees, Builders, and the public to diplomatically decide what policies are most effective for each event. To engage the public on these issues, we plan to launch a podcast, a vlog, and will continue to post articles such as this one. Eventually, our website will host members-only content and a forum. Throughout these digital ventures, our aim is to humanize the naked form, sharing stories and fostering empathy with nudists and clothists alike.
Words are important, and we hope to use them wisely. We chose naked because the word nude feels insecure to us. Children are born naked, conditioned to a clothed world, then emerge as nudists (if they are lucky). We prefer to skip the conditioning and honor the innocent birthright of clothes-freedom. You, the reader, have a valuable story. Whatever brought you to these words, we hope that you continue to explore your personal freedom in the ways that feel good to you. We are so grateful that you’ve taken the time to read this message and we hope that this platform serves you in some meaningful way.
I’m an immigrant, transdisciplinary artist, community maker, teacher, and creator’s counselor, dancer, healer and ritual maker. Basing my work in body intelligence; I combine arts, relationships and human awareness practices, ancestral and systemic focus, and the mystic to gestate experiences that outline our impact as the creators of our own lives, and put awareness on the dynamics that bind us to each others and to greatest intelligence. I’m at the service of linking people in an intimate way, sharing practices that catalyze us toward unicity―the quality of being one of a kind. Evil and cruelty grow in ignorance and the sense of scarcity; that is why the pillars of my life are attention, compassion, and comprehension. I’m designing a community project, which brings together culture-makers, artists, healers, and visionaries. The home of it is Residencia in Brooklyn, (www.residencia.studio), and next, CAMP in Oaxaca, Mexico, (camp.is), that that will be open in 2020 to host retreats and community experiments.
I am a Venezuelan immigrant walking uncharted paths with tools to transform challenges. I’ve learned in classrooms of universities, institutions, schools as well as from legitimate and humble teachers who hold ancient traditions, from great experimental creators who share their inspiration with me, and from my contemporaries, who lead today social changes and create new culture in response to this world. Having lived in different countries gives me a various perspective of reality and too I am a self-taught person.
In Venezuela I worked with victim/perpetrator and grief/celebration when I was doing systemic practices from the Hellinger Sciencia. In Argentina, I taught about being vacant and mapping an uncharted path to other artists, within a method called the Unknown Art, Arte Desconocido, developed in the CMC, Center of the Movement of Creation, Centro del Movimiento Creador, born In Venezuela. I have practiced ecosexuality all my live without knowing that name. In Venezuela I also did systemic work with the LGBTQ+ community. I have led groups for the liberation of racism. I am studying with Malidoma Patrice Somé african indigenous technologies to learn more about holding rituals and incorporating multiple layers of reality, visible and invisible.
I am writing a Manifesto with the artist Judith Hilen Mugrabi from Argentina, with who I co-created @hilaroval ― an online platform of empowerment. I am researching a new media theater peace with the artist Balbelys Herrera, living in Brazil. I co-direct Residencia with Anthony Lione, a gallery of experiences in Brooklyn, where visionaries practice their discoveries. I teach classes there, and in festivals, including Touch&Play, Dark Odyssey, Burning Man, Connection Camp, etc.
I am mixed-race: European, African, and American indigenous people are in my lineage. I have explored this identity in many ways. When I studied literature and visual arts in the University I took classes and did sessions to reflect on the Latin American identity in the history of the world and in the art. Then, with systemic practices I went deep into the ancestral dynamics that are incorporated into my ethnicity, working with the inheritances from each of the races that make up my identity. I do Reevaluation Counseling (RC), a practice that has in their main objective the elimination of racism. I have discharged and thought about the oppressions that my race has lived as well as about internalized racism. When I teach I have a global perspective and I celebrate the difference, just as I am aware of the different oppressions that could be playing in a mixed race community, providing a safe space so that everyone can feel included and seen. Likewise, my corporeality invites the body of others to participate uninhibited from the patterns and anguishes that are immanent to each racial group.
I have explored my gender expression in my relationships and the roles that each person plays in them, and in my sexual expression. This will impact the way I teach and build a mixed-gender and gender non-conforming community because I will provide activities taking into account the different identities that each person chooses.
I am married in an un-fenced relationship with my beloved, Anthony Lione.