Naturist Demographics (or, Part Of Why KFFBS Exists)

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We took a bit of flak, in some circles, with our recent post explaining why the Kingston-Frontenac Free Body Society has membership restrictions. This was not unexpected.

We can completely understand the position, taken by many folks, that naturism should be completely inclusive, regardless of age or gender. That’s a nice ideal to strive for.

It is, however, not working.

Consider the population pyramid for Canada (shown below). It’s pretty well balanced male-to-female and, while birth rates are falling, the age distribution is also fairly well balanced.

pop pyr CAN 2015

Within what you might call the “naturist community”, the picture is somewhat different. Anecdotally, we’d peg it roughly along the red overlay on the following graphic:

pop pyr CAN 2015 b

In other words, what we actually see at many of the naturist venues we’ve been to is a population that is about 70% male, with a median age around 50 to 55. People our own age (the KFFBS co-organizers are, at the time of writing, in our late 20s) are a relatively rare sight.

There are exceptions. Wreck Beach, undoubtedly Canada’s most successful clothing-optional venue, attracts a crowd that’s evenly split along gender and age lines. Bare Oaks goes to great lengths to ensure that the under-25 crowd can afford to visit and will feel welcome when they do.

On the whole, though, the younger crowd does not identify with “naturism”. They’re fine with skinny-dipping, with topfreedom (in circumstances where it feels safe and everyone’s doing it) and with body-positivity, but naturism is often seen as something for older people, for our parents’ generation.

The Kingston-Frontenac Free Body Society is meant for this group. Our events, our ways of doing things, our discussions – it’s all geared for the 18-to-late-30s demographic. We omit the older male crowd from our membership simply because if we didn’t, the demographic structure would actively repel people our age. We have lots of older friends, and we go to plenty of places that are either all-ages or 18-plus, where we get along just fine with naturists of any age.

Within our own group, we have a balanced culture that’s comfortable and welcoming for younger adults, and particularly for women.

pop pyr CAN 2015 c

We’re far from the only group to make this call. OCETPFAS welcomes all interested women, but allows men to join by personal invitation only, for the simple reason that having too many men around tends to make women uncomfortable. We could probably rhyme off a half-dozen naturist sites that welcome women and couples, but not single men, for the same reason.

If you’re a woman or a couple and you’re a bit out of our age range, but identify as “young at heart”, you’re still welcome to join us. And finally, if you’re a single older guy and feel excluded by all this, then by all means go say hi to the folks at TNT!MEN in Toronto, where single men of any age are always welcome.

Our core membership is (and will continue to be for the foreseeable future) mostly in our 20s and early 30s, the gender split being 1/2 to 2/3 female, and this is one of many factors we keep in mind when deciding whether to accept or reject membership requests. Men in our age group are of course welcome to join – with the understanding that clean, respectful behaviour is expected, and any creeps who try to sneak in will be quickly and unceremoniously kicked to the curb.

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Why We Have Membership Restrictions

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We get a lot of questions along the lines of

hi im 52 m like getting naked want to meet like-minded people can i join ur group

No, unfortunately, you can’t. Our decision to limit who can join the group was not an easy one, and we feel we owe you an explanation of why.

There are already a lot of options around here for older folks to enjoy the clothing-free life. We have at least four naturist parks (FFNR, Lakesun, The Grand Barn and Sunward) within a short drive of Kingston, and there are several active non-landed groups in the nearby Ottawa area, all of which attract a middle-aged demographic. There are also several clubs in Toronto for single men. Of the naturist sites around here, FFNR in particular is a great place that is quite welcoming to everybody, and we do a few trips up there each summer.

But, except for us, there’s nothing specifically for the younger generation.

The reason the Free Body Society exists is because Kingston needs a safe, fun and comfortable clothing-optional space for our large student and young professional population, and in particular, the female & trans* members of that population. 25% to 50% of these folks are open to some form of body-positivity; less than 0.5% are comfortable going to existing naturist parks. We want to bridge that gap.

Our priority, in determining who we welcome into the group, is to keep the kind of culture that will be supportive and welcoming to this demographic. (We are, proudly, a no-creeps zone!). Yes, we often go to parks and events that appeal to a broader age group, but our core focus is on the student and young professional crowd.

Remember, also, that we try to provide a forum for intelligent and open discussion of the complex social and cultural issues facing the GenY / Millennial generation. If your only reason for wanting to join us is “because naked”, well, that’s simply not enough to go on.

And so we vet our membership rather carefully.

To actually find us in the real world, you have to read our Join Us page, then email us. You have to tell us a bit about yourself and why the group appeals to you.

Your introduction has to be honest. If your profile is that of a 25-year-old woman but you show up as a 50-year-old man, you’ll be sent home, blocked and reported. Similarly, if you claim to be a couple but only the man shows up, you won’t be staying – or coming back. We don’t require personal details or full names, but please provide enough of a profile for us to see that you are:

  1. A real live individual human (not a spambot or someone who writes like one).
  2. Genuinely interested in what we’re trying to create.
  3. Part of the demographic we focus on:
    • Women are always welcome (and if you’re worried about being too old, don’t worry, you aren’t!)
    • Couples and young families are welcome.
    • Those who identify with a non-traditional gender identity are welcome.
    • Single men are welcome if you are in our age range, and if you convince us you’re the kind of person who would be a net positive to the group. (This isn’t that difficult – just write us a nice, well-thought-out email introducing yourself.) We do not accept single men past late-30s unless one of us personally asks you to join.

Some of you are about to comment that these rules are “draconian” or “against the inclusive spirit of naturism”. Believe us, it wasn’t an easy decision. But we’ve seen what happens without these rules, and they must be like this if we’re to create a welcoming, fun and comfortable space for our own demographic. We would rather the group be something that grows slowly and incrementally into exactly what we need, rather than quickly taking off but losing its purpose along the way.

Do topless and nude protests work?

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With nude and/or topless protests apparently all the rage these days, we should answer a few questions about how the Kingson-Frontenac Free Body Society fits in to that scene.

(Short version: We’re not a protest group. We welcome people who do support or enjoy such things, but our events are private, relaxed and much more laid-back.)

When you want to make a media splash, a topless or nude protest is a pretty reliable way to get attention. It is, however, not a very effective kind of attention, for two reasons:

Nude/topless protests are polarizing. They can help to rally supporters around a cause, but they are also virtually guaranteed to galvanize opposition. FEMEN is an extreme example of this; many more people know them as “those angry topless women who keep getting arrested” than by any of their viewpoints. Even more moderate protest movements, though, tend to alienate the very people they are intended to influence – particularly when those who can actually effect change are powerful, well-established, and prone to becoming defensive when questioned.

Protests suggest their cause is a fringe viewpoint, unless the protesters are so numerous as to form a significant fraction of the population. It is fairly easy for entrenched interests to portray themselves as the moderate, rational voice and the protesters as just a small band of radical malcontents.

This is not to say that organized protests are a bad thing, or unnecessary – indeed, there are many key elements of modern society that owe their origins to public protest movements.

We should not naively assume, though, that protesting is the answer to every societal ill. This is particularly true of body freedom and women’s equality, concepts that are simply too advanced for some segments of society to accept if it’s suddenly forced upon them. Where the protesters are few in number and relatively radical in viewpoint – GoTopless marches being a good example – you tend to get a short-lived spectacle surrounded by a lot of camera phones, followed by business as usual with no lasting positive effect.

A better way, in my experience, is that of Mahatma Gandhi – “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

Topfreedom, for example, isn’t going to become the norm through protesting – it’ll become the norm when people just do it, without fuss or hyperbole. “Rape culture” isn’t going to be driven out by marches and slogans, as useful as those tools may be for making people aware of the problem; it’ll be eradicated by a generation of young men who internalize the belief that women are their equals and are worthy of the utmost respect.

We provide a space where people can try being topfree (or nude) without judgment or fear, and where we can talk openly about such things with friends.

The Kingston-Frontenac Free Body Society is not a protest group. If you’re interested in GoTopless, the World Naked Bike Ride and other stuff like that, great! You’re very welcome to join us, and you’ll be accepted as friends. Just don’t expect our meetups to be anything like theirs.

Further reading on this and related topics:

The Naked Writer on “Making a Topless Statement”

Free The Nipple

OCTPFAS on why it’s better to keep things quiet

By Matt of KFFBS

Nudity, Photography and Us

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We like having fun. We like being nude. We like the photographic arts. Why not combine the three?

Some of us have professional lives. We know that there’s nothing wrong with nudity, we know that we’ve found a way to experience the human condition in greater depth and with greater honesty than most people might imagine possible. But we still need to spend most of our lives out there in a society that’s struggling to adapt to modern reality, and some of us would almost certainly be judged unfairly if photos, without context, were to end up in the wrong hands.

The Internet is disrespectful. Respect is at the core of what the Free Body Society is all about. It’s also the polar opposite of what online cesspools such as 4chan are all about. There’s a small but non-negligible chance that our photos would be stolen, manipulated, and re-branded as “amateur voyeur porn” or something like that. So, while we’ll happily post photography by and of KFFBS members who want us to share it, we’ll never pressure our members into being photographed.

It can distract from the message. KFFBS is about doing real things in real space; our online presence is mainly to ensure that anyone who’s potentially interested can find out about us, learn what we’re about, and get in touch. As our friends at YNA recently pointed out, there are already plenty of places where you can find page after page of photos of naked people, with little context or meaning. That’s not what we’re about.

This is not to say we disapprove of photography! Indeed, the “Body Pride” workshops of C.K. Roberts – which we think are just brilliant – use the empowering magic of photography as a key component, and our friends at NYC’s Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society make great use of great images to prove how natural, normal and relaxing these kind of events are. One of our co-founders is a part-time pro photographer, and – like pretty much everyone with access to a camera – most of us have been photographed naked at some point.

But the only images we share here will be those volunteered by our members, with the informed consent of everyone involved.

 

Why Clothing-Optional?

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“Why is the group clothing-optional?”

The simple answer:

Freedom.

The detailed answer:

It’s easier, really, to add up the reasons why we might wear clothing, and then see what’s left if none of them apply.

Pretty much every garment has a purpose that is some combination of:

  1. To provide protection from the elements, harsh conditions, or hazards.
  2. To indicate rank or status.
  3. To shape other people’s impressions of the wearer.
  4. To comply with cultural norms and rules laid down by other people.

To expand on those categories, we can consider some familiar examples:

  1. Protective clothes include winter coats, bug- and brush-resistant jeans, mechanic’s coveralls, welders’ smocks, and sailors’ foul-weather gear.
  2. Military uniforms, business suits and red-carpet dresses are primarily about showing off one’s high status, rank, wealth or power.
  3. Bikinis and lingerie are designed to draw the eye to specific areas in a sexually appealing way; billowing pastel-and-lace long-sleeve dresses are designed to symbolize traditional religious purity; biker leather is designed to make the wearer instantly identifiable as part of a specific subculture.
  4. Most of our day-to-day attire is chosen, in large part, according to what other people like us seem to be wearing. Swimsuits, which serve no practical purpose outside of elite competition, are a classic example.

How does that apply to us?

We don’t have or want rank or status here. However those things might affect you in day-to-day life, they’re irrelevant to us.

We do have equality here; garments that specifically try to emphasize or repress sexuality or to put the wearer in a specific category tend to work contrary to that goal, and it’s much easier to be truly honest and open with someone when there’s nothing to hide.

And we’ve found that real freedom is pretty hard to experience when other people are judging your inherent worth as a human based on the fabrics that happen to be covering you at the time.

That leaves only protection – a logical, practical category that we Canadians, with our long cold winter and bug-ridden spring, can’t ignore.

So we try to be nude when it’s possible, we bundle up with fabrics when it’s practical, and the choice of what (if anything) to wear is up to each individual.

Hello! What’s this?

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We are the Kingston-Frontenac Free Body Society.

We’re a friendly, positive, safe, comfortable and civilized space to relax, share ideas, and simply enjoy being human.

We’re a social group, mostly in our 20s and 30s. Some of us are university or college students, some are young professionals, tradespeople, travellers, and so on. Occupation, race and class don’t really matter – here, we’re all equals.

Whenever possible, we’re clothing-optional. It’s good for relaxation, it’s good for openness, it’s good for honesty, it’s good for equality. And, of course, life’s just more fun that way!

We try to focus on creating a female-friendly, LGBTQQetc. friendly environment where folks in their 20s and early 30s will feel at home. We welcome members of any gender, but we will also carefully vet our membership to ensure that we are promoting the kind of safe, supportive culture that is essential to a group like this.

We do whatever our members enjoy doing. Sometimes that’s a hike through a pristine wilderness park, sometimes it’s an evening skinny-dip to watch the moon and stars. Sometimes it’s a lot of laughter and play in the waves at a beach, sometimes it’s a cheerful house party that runs late into the night over wine, cheese and fascinating conversation, sometimes it just means lying around naked in the sun with a good book and some good food.

What we’re about, in five easy points:

We’re about equality – whatever your race, gender, orientation, etc.

We’re about freedom – of body, mind, thought & expression.

We’re about sharing and discussing ideas – big and small, good and otherwise.

We’re about experiences – enjoying what this wonderful world has to offer as it was meant to be experienced.

We’re about friendship – because life’s just better when you have great people to share it with.