Considering visiting a nude beach on your next warm weather vacation? At the repeated recommendation of one of my clients at Feminique, I decided to take a day trip to Gunnison Beach, a nude beach at a federal park in North Jersey.
It’s not so much that I had any particular interest in being naked in public or seeing strangers in the buff, it’s just that I hate that I’m a conformist. I’ve spent my life trying to be unique and original and the fact that I’m modest and uncomfortable about walking around naked as the day I was born bothers me. I shouldn’t be embarrassed, but I am. This was my attempt to buck society’s blasted invasive mind programming of shame. Plus I thought it would be fun.
I dragged my boyfriend Ryan along, and when we left the parking lot and headed toward the pathway through the dunes, we were greeted by a sign that said, “WARNING. Nude bathers may be present on the beach”.
“Oh my god! Cover your eyes Ryan", I told him mockingly. While being naked in public might be nerve racking for me, I could never understand the illegality of it. I could also never understand the uptightness with it, in terms of finding a nude person “obscene” or needing a capital letter “WARNING” before stumbling upon one. The fish, the seagulls, the sand mites, the seaweed- every other living thing on that beach was naked. Humans are the only fools who clothe themselves in 100 degree weather.
Of course the reasons we (Americans) have problems with public nudity is because we have linked sexuality with nudity, and since we are completely erotophobic, nudity has thus gotten a bad rap too. And then absurd things happen, like a woman getting arrested for developing photos of her baby naked at bath time, and a teenage girl getting charged for possession of child pornography for having nude photos of herself. It’s an outrageous injustice. But I digress. I didn’t get naked to get political; I got naked to challenge my boundaries and feel the hot sun and cool breeze and brisk ocean on my bare behind. And that’s what I did.
We spread out our blanket a long way from the surf, where only a few people, so far away we could barely see them, were dotted along the edge of the dunes. I thought a little privacy would help us warm up to it rather than dropping trou on the crowded beach.
Whipping off my top,
Me: I’m doing this.
Ryan: You’re not wasting any time.
Me: Nope, but I’m gonna lay down so I’m not drawing attention to myself.
After being topless for a moment, lying next to Ryan shoulder to shoulder both looking up squinting at the sun…
Me: My boobs are out.
Ryan: Yes they are.
Me: My boobs are out!
Ryan: Yes they are!
Next came the bottoms. But as soon as I started to get comfortable with being 100% naked, I quick rolled over on my stomach as a beach patrol SUV came rolling out from behind the dunes. Tyler laughed at me as I scrambled to cover myself.
Ryan: They’re not looking at you. They see naked people all day every day.
Me: Says the clothed person!
With that Ryan took off his swim trunks, but was sure to lie only on his stomach.
Me: Everyone’s gonna know we’re new at this.
Me: Look how white our *sses are!
Ryan: Haha true!
After a quick nap as a delightful breeze blew places it’s never blown before, Tyler announced his back was burning and he was going “full frontal”. We laughed while applying sun block to our genitals (there’s a first time for everything), sat up to have a snack, and even felt comfortable enough to stand for pictures.
But we were getting bored and decided to put our bathing suits back on and make the long trek down to the ocean. We were expecting to encounter half a dozen naked aging hippies and maybe a few other clothed people. We were wrong.
The beach was packed and looked very much like any summer Saturday at any beach in the country. There were middle aged women reading trashy romance novels under colorful umbrellas. There were teams of college students playing volleyball. There were young kids running around and families building sandcastles. There were people of all ages, colors, and body sizes boogie boarding in the waves. The only difference- each and every one of them was naked, except for Ryan and I, and suddenly we were the weird ones out.
We decided to move our beach blanket to the crowded ocean front, disrobe and take a dip. This made me think about the idea of conformity. Truth was, I was still conforming because it that setting, it was abnormal and uncomfortable not to be naked. What an unbelievably powerful and pervasive need it is to belong. Maybe it’s not so much that society is programming us to feel shame about our naked bodies, it’s that we have a need to belong to the majority group, and it just so happens that in most scenarios, that majority group is clothed. But when it’s not, the desire to fit in almost just as strong.
As a lover of individuality, I hate this truth.
We walked to the ocean holding hands. I suppose there’s a certain power in solidarity (this day was just full of sociology experiments). We frolicked. We swam. We came back to the blanket and stood there to air dry. I was just remarking that it was all so “normal”, that I get more leers walking down Gay Street completely clothed than I did buck naked in front of hundreds of people when a man yells out to Ryan, “is that a Phoenix?”
It’s not unusual at beaches for people ask Ryan about his back tattoo of a giant Phoenix. On more than one occasion a stranger has asked to take a picture of it. Never has this happened while both Ryan and the tattoo admirer stood there naked. I chuckled as I watched him chat about the work he still wants to get done to it, knowing he was feeling completely and utterly awkward but pretending he wasn’t because, again, in this scene being awkward would be socially unacceptable. Then I realized as I was so busy acknowledging his discomfort that I failed to realized that I too was naked, standing next to a strange naked 60 year old man. It was all so bizarre.
The whole thing was another example of how I don’t fit anywhere- I’m a crazy liberal in mainstream circles, and an uptight prude in progressive circles.
As you can see in the background of my very cropped photo, this beach is across the way from Manhattan. So we decided to get dressed, hop the train, and have dinner in NYC. I love spontaneity! Over a delicious shrimp and scallop pasta in a tomato cream sauce, we could not stop talking about our day.
Ryan: We were naked today.
Me: We were.
Ryan: We were naked today!
Me: We were!
Ryan: I’m glad we did it.
Me: Me too.
Dr. Jill McDevitt is a nationally recognized sexologist, and the only person in the world with a bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree in human sexuality, making her the most formally educated person about sex on the planet. Dr. Jill has reached a documented 8.1 million people in her relentless promotion of the idea that sex should be fun, and everyone has the right to enjoy their sexuality without fear of
violence. She founded Feminique, her sex education business, at just 21 years old.