Archive | September, 2013

Images and Ownership (or, How I Unintentionally Made a Photographer Angry)

29 Sep

This blog has been a little quiet recently.

In the past few weeks I have been able to pursue a new career opportunity, in online communications (yes, this “writing stuff on the internet” thing is not only an amusing hobby but also something I will soon also kind of be doing in a professional capacity!) – this took a lot of time and hard work to achieve and so it was something I wanted to devote all my spare time to; as a result I didn’t have the opportunity to write any blog posts in that time.  Fortunately, I was successful in getting the new job I wanted!

I followed this very stressful couple of weeks with a week-long holiday with my girlfriend to Tunisia, which was much needed!

Tunisia isn’t a naturist-friendly country but I did make some observations about people’s dress on the beach which I wanted to write about here, but since arriving home in the early hours of this morning a few things have become apparent which I feel I need to address.

Firstly, I discovered my Twitter account had been hacked and used to send a number of spam messages to my Twitter friends.  As I had been out of the country and had no access to Twitter, the first I learned of this was when I arrived back in the UK this morning.  I am really quite annoyed by the whole thing and have now taken steps to increase the security of my account which will hopefully address the problem – however I would advise any Twitter followers who received a message from me in the past week to delete it without opening or clicking any links, just to be sure.

Secondly, to the main topic of this post (which I hope is unrelated to the Twitter thing).

In constructing this blog, I follow a fairly standard template for posts, one used by a lot of other bloggers.  I accompany each post with an image, meant to illustrate some of the things I am talking about in the article itself.

I almost always get these image one of two ways.  I either use Google to search for images tagged with appropriate descriptions or, more commonly, I use images being circulated by people on Tumblr (where this blog began and where I still have an account).

The problem with this second method is that Tumblr is a terrible forum for ensuring that the people responsible for creating those images receive appropriate credit.  Tumblr users “reblog” (share) text, images and videos from one another and often one image can be shared by several thousand people.  Even if the original poster gave the creator credit, it is often the case that by the time someone like me sees the image, it has gone through 1000+ iterations, with the credit removed by a poster at some point in the distant past.  It can be difficult, if not impossible, to track back to find who is responsible for the image; and that is if the original poster bothered to credit the creator of the image (which they often do not do).

I made the mistake when I started this blog of assuming that because an image was on Tumblr, it was “public domain” – in other words, if 10,000 people on Tumblr could use it, I would also be able to.

That got me into trouble with a gentlman who had taken a photograph of some members of his naturist club which I used without permission after locating it on Tumblr.  There was no sign that the image belonged to the club when I found it, however he obviously recognised his work and contacted me, asking that I provide appropriate credit.  I was happy do do so; although I took pains to point out that I hadn’t deliberately “stolen” the image or intentionally denied credit.

Why am I mentioning this now?

Well, I returned from my holiday to discover I had been served with an official-looking legal notice, a notification of a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) violation filed against me by a professional photographer named Al Stern (I won’t link his work here as he seems a touchy fellow, but you can find him on Flickr).  Mr Stern had found that I had used one of his photographs, without seeking his permission and offering neither payment nor credit, and had resorted to legal action to force me to remove said image from my blog via complaints direct to WordPress, who host this thing.

To be fair to Mr Stern, he did contact me first, posting a curt two-sentence comment on the article in question to the effect of “that’s my photograph. Take it down or pay me.”  But, this message came at a time when I was very busy, as I have said, with other things, so I was slow to act – my fault, I know.  That said, I was also put off by what I felt was Mr Stern’s incredible, staggering rudeness – he didn’t even say please.  I was a little offended by his tone and as a result I brushed off his communication; my reasoning being that if he couldn’t be bothered to be polite, I wasn’t going to rush to meet his demands.

Mostly his tone irked me because I had made it clear (or as clear as I thought I could be) in the post that I didn’t know where the image originated, and I invited anyone reading the article who did know to contact me.  A simple, polite notice from Mr Stern would have answered my question and cleared the matter up – if he’d wanted the photo removed, I would have done.  Instead, he chose to bark an order at me and when that was not followed, he went to an intellectual property clearing-house to tell them I’d stolen a copyrighted image and has caused WordPress to issue against me a warning which could lead to this blog being suspended, perhaps permanently.

Because here’s the thing, Al (if I can call you Al?) – I didn’t “steal” your photograph from you.

Your photograph was on all of these sites.  And probably many more.  I got it from Tumblr but there’s other blogs and a couple of porn sites there too, which probably constitutes a greater misuse of your image than me sticking it on my little naturist blog.

Does that make it right that I used a copyrighted image without the owner’s permission?  No, of course not.  But my point is that there was no sign that it was a copyrighted image.  And I at least, out of all those people who had used the image, was trying to find out where it had come from.  And my reward for that?  A warning and possible future suspension of this blog.

It is difficult, as a naturist blogger and amateur, to identify and use imagery which is both appropriate to the subject matter being discussed, but also available for fair use.  Some bloggers use their own photographs but a) I’m a terrible photographer, b) I don’t have the permission of my friends to post publicly the images of us attending naturist events (and I respect their privacy) and c) I don’t have photos which actually fit the context of the discussion anywhere.

So, in order to make my blog look a little less boring, I have taken images from the internet which I believed were freely available to me.  It turns out, of course, that if you use something someone else has stolen, you run the risk of being labelled as the thief yourself, and punished accordingly.

Mr Stern has contacted me again, in his apparently characteristic rudeness, demanding I remove another of his photos.  I have done so immediately this time – as a precaution, I have removed the entire article, so as to better protect myself from the wrath of WordPress and the DMCA enforcers they are afraid of.

However I would like Mr Stern to know, again, that I did not take this photo from his Flickr feed (which until it was emailed to me as part of his DMCA violation notice, I had not ever visited).  I found it here.  Go take it up with them, Al.

I have certainly learned some lessons this week.  But I don’t see a way for this to be avoided, should it re-occur.  I need, for my blog to stand out, to include images with the posts, and images of naturism are not something I can easily find by subscribing to a stock image provider.  However, the main sources for such material are, usually, disrespectful to copyright.  So try as I might to find safe images to use, I can by no means guarantee that I havent inadvertedly stepped on some copyright toes every time I use an image.

So all I can really do is to say categorically that if any photographer finds I have used one of their images, and doesn’t like that, please contact me and I will add credit or remove the image entirely; whatever you wish (if you do so politely, I will like you a lot more!).

But please also bear in mind – I am unlikely to have got the photograph directly from you.  There’s likely to be a whole chain of people behind me who passed this photo along and in there somewhere is the person who didn’t bother to credit you.  It’s a wider problem, and one that isn’t going to be dealt with by targetting individual hapless bloggers like myself.

I suspect if you are an artist or photographer yourself, it’s an issue of which you are already well aware.

Naturists – Are We An Acceptable Target (and Should We Be Bothered)?

12 Sep

Being a naturist blogger is sometimes a surprisingly difficult task.  For example, thanks to the internet, I’ve today had to watch an interview with Simon Cowell.  I’d really rather have not had to do that but it’s important to research something before you write about it, I think.  The things I do for you people…

Anyway, the reason I’m watching an interview with Simon Cowell is because the cosy chat, with Ellen DeGeneres on her Ellen show, has caused a minor bit of fuss in the online community of naturists on Twitter and elsewhere.


In the interview, Simon discusses his new lady friend, and brings up that the venue he chose to escape the lenses of the paparazzi was a well-known nude beach (clothing-optional beach would be a better description, as Simon and his lady love kept their cossies on throughout).  There follows a somewhat predictable bit of guffawing by both host and guest on the idea that people might go naked on a public beach, and the aesthetic qualities of the people who do.

In a nutshell, Ellen and Simon make a comment that in terms of looks, people who become naturists would probably be better keeping their clothes on.

The inevitable response from the naturist community online was; “hey, did Ellen and Simon Cowell just call us all ugly?”

Now, I’d be the first to admit that the interview with Simon Cowell was hardly the high point of Ellen’s comedy career (it’s worth remembering she is a professional comedian interviewing a talent show judge; neither are people who should always be relied upon to be making serious points).

And it’s certainly quite a derogatory set of comments to make about a group of people who had certainly done nothing to deserve such scorn; so it is perfectly understandable that someone who is a naturist might feel slighted by the remarks.

But in making naturists the butt (sorry) of a joke about physical appearances, was she really being offensive?  And does the lack of outcry from anyone other than naturists suggest that naturists are considered acceptable targets for (somewhat cruel) comedy?

Naked people are funny.  That is one of the less dramatic social reactions to nudity (certainly preferable to the “think of the children” screaming moral defensiveness that usually accompanies any notions of nudity being brought into the public sphere).  Being naked is seen as humiliating for the naked person (therefore we laugh at their embarrassment), or awkward for everyone else (so we laugh at the embarrassment of others).  Jokes about naturism tend to fall into the second category; the naturist in comedy is portrayed as oblivious to the fact that other people might be uncomfortable with his or her nudity, mining humour from situations where a “normal” person is therefore confronted with a person who is naked and unconcerned by the reactions of others (naturism is also played for laughs in cheekysaucy-postcard ‘seaside postcard’ humour but there the jokes are actually about bodies: bums and willies and big boobs and male reactions to attractive women with no clothes on: the nude beach is the setting for the joke, but not the subject).

Ellen’s jokes about people on nude beaches (which are basically “these people are naked and they look awful and they just don’t care and we don’t want to see that but when we do it’s awkward for us”) are in that same spirit.  As host, Ellen bonds with her subject and audience by exaggerating, for comedic potential, how “normal” people feel when confronted by the naturist unapologetically displaying their body without concern over whether they are attractive or not.

Naturism in comedy forces “normal” people into visual conflict with naked people; from Inspector Clouseau at a nudist club in The Return of the Pink Panther, through to modern comedies like the film Act Naturally (about two estranged step-sisters who inherit their recently deceased father’s nudist resort) and the episode of Family Guy where the Griffin family visit the home of new friends Jim and Dottie to discover that, as nudists, they are constantly naked.

There’s even a new sitcom (Clothing Optional) coming soon to Fox which was announced this week, which has as its scenario a family forced by hard times to relaunch their failing hotel as a naturist destination (itgoes without saying that the show will probably be terrible).

Even pro-naturist humour, such as The Bare Pit, mines comedy from the culture clash between the happy naked people and their friends (and enemies) who belong to the ‘textile’ world (although here, the joke is usually on the textiles for getting naturism completely wrong in their heads and then being pleasantly surprised).

The question is, where is the line between being the subject of a joke and being made fun of?  And, as members of the naturist community, how do we relate to and engage with people attempting to mine humour from our lifestyle choices?

For those who feel being a naturist makes them a part of a persecuted minority, it can be hard to stomach being the butt of anyone’s jokes.  There are a great many reasons why someone who is a naturist might justly feel persecuted or misunderstood in society.  Nudity is, after all, such a harmless thing, yet it is given some appalling reactions from many quarters.  From the naked people banned from public nudity in San Francisco, to nude beaches being closed due to complaints of lewd activity, to the Naked Rambler languishing in jail for his beliefs, it seems sometimes like the world really is against us.  So to turn on your TV and be called ugly by a popular chat show host just because you like to wear nothing on the beach must smart a little, to say the least.

For some it is particularly galling because Ellen DeGeneres has been, for close to two decades, a prominent figure in the acceptance of homosexuality in American mainstream media.  For the naturist who feels like a persecuted minority, it must seem particularly unfair that someone who routinely fights to have her sexuality accepted would stoop so low as to ridicule another minority group on her show (I almost feel it is needless to point out here, but being a naturist is not the same as being gay – naturism is a lifestyle choice, like drinking only decaf coffee, or moving to the country: something we want to do because we like it and it is better for us, but that if we chose to or were forced to, we could stop).

Except that Ellen has also often used self-deprecating humour to win acceptance for her homosexuality.  After her initial coming-out took place on Oprah, Ellen also chose for her sitcom character to also come out as gay.  Ellen’s coming-out was a pretty a brave act in front of millions of viewers, but it was clear Ellen was determined that it wouldn’t entail the sacrifice of her comedy.  The remaining seasons of her sitcom were absolutely chock-full of jokes about Ellen being gay (to the point where other shows began to lampoon the fact that all Ellen did was gay jokes).  Even as she retired from sitcom and made the transition to popular chat-show host, she never stopped sending herself up.  Ellen is proud of her sexual identity, but she is never humourless about it.

Perhaps instead of unthinkingly leaping on Twitter to call her a bigot when she makes fun of us, we could learn a little from her.  We could learn to be proud of the lifestyle we have chosen and the philosophy we have adopted, but without being humourless about it.  We could learn that there is sometimes power in taking things a little less seriously, in being a little less precious about things and a little less quick to take offense at a joke (after all, we are often among the first to offer criticism when someone assumes that because something involves nudity, it is offensive to then and, because they are offended, it shouldn’t be allowed).  We could remember that we are not a persecuted minority fighting for our right to exist, in the same way racial minorities and women and gay, lesbian and transgender people had to fight and are fighting (although many of us are also in those groups as well as being naturists); rather, we are a bunch of folks who like to take off our clothes and hang out naked and unashamed, wobbly bits on show to the world.

As a proud naturist myself, I am happy to acknowledge that there is plenty about that which is funny, and probably always will be.

You aren’t wrong if you feel upset by Ellen’s comments.  Nobody likes to feel like they being made fun of, and nor should you put up with it without complaint.  But maybe if we also learn to laugh at ourselves a little more, we can feel better protected from being laughed at by others.

True Nudists – The Nudist Social Network

7 Sep

According to a recent press release, True Nudists, which bills itself as the online social media site for nudists and those who prefer a clothing-optional lifestyle, has now reached the milestone of attracting 200,000 members, at an uptake of 50,000 a year.

That’s a lot of naturists.

TN isn’t the only social network for naturists out there.  Off the top of my head, theres also The NOOK, Nudist Clubhouse, Nudist Space, Skinbook (the revived version – the original Skinbook was taken down by its then-owner), Nudist-Friend-Finder, not to mention various naturist-related dating sites.


Are any of these sites really of any value to naturists?  Well, your experience of them will really depend on what you expect to get out of them when you join.  I can only speak from my own experience, which is that I’m not really sure it’s all worth the bother.

I’ve had a profile on True Nudists for a couple of months now and, honestly, it doesn’t get used much.  That’s not meant as a criticism of the site; but I’ve had much more success in building up a network of naturist friends using more universal social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and of course this blog.

True Nudists, though, is supposed to be a more exclusive venue; naturists-only.  The press release claims that True Nudists is provides “a safe online community where both male and female nudists feel comfortable sharing pictures and life stories in an attempt to meet others who think similarly.”  I can only hope that they are working hard to live up to that.

From what I’ve seen, True Nudists has some flaws, although to be charitable to the site and its creators, I don’t think the flaws are of their making.  Rather, they are flaws which you are liable to get anywhere on the internet where you are trying to create a network between a large number of people who might be naked.

When it comes to things that happen on the site, my biggest problem is the way site members react and respond to the presence of women, especially young ones.  While actually abusive behaviour is not tolerated by the True Nudists administrators, there is a lot of over-attention and what you might call “soft harrassment” of women on the site.

For example, users can comment on one another’s photographs; if a female member posts an image (especially a nude one) there will be a lot of men commenting about how beautiful she is.  These may seem harmless compliments but added up, on every photo, by every young woman, and it can give an overall impression that there is a peanut gallery of men on the site who are just there to enjoy looking at female members with their clothes off.  I know women who have left the site because they felt bombarded by messages from men; again, nothing particularly unpleasant, but in terms of sheer volume, it can become overwhelming.  The same is true in the site’s chat-room; if a woman is there, if she is young and fairly attractive and nude and chooses to turn on her webcam, you can bet the focus of all discussion in the chat room will turn to her.  Meanwhile, between males there is a lot less interaction.

As I’ve said, I don’t blame the True Nudists site for that.  It is just one of the disappointing things about the way people on the internet are prone to behave.  It has its parallels in things which happen on Facebook and Twitter and dating sites.  And if the press release is accurate, True Nudists do seem to at least be aware of some of these sorts of problems and mindful of the security needs of their members.

But until people can behave with maturity, respect for equality, and above all restraint when it comes to the way they treat naturist women on the internet, I don’t think “the nudist social network” is something I really need to be a part of.  At least on mainstream social networks, women can use them without immediately advertising to all male users that they like to go naked.  There is still harassment, any number of women will be able to tell you that; but it isn’t harassment related specifically to their involvement in naturism, by other people who would claim themselves to be “true” naturists.

Rants of a mad naked woman: ‘But you will get bored if you see it all the time…

5 Sep

Another excellent and thoughtful blog piece from Becky Stanworth. You can read her whole blog at:
Check it out!

Formerly clothes free life visit our new home

Rants of a mad naked woman: ‘But you will get bored if you see it all the time…: Ok, so my girlfriend recently told someone she works with about me being a naturist and her recent forays into the world of casual nudity.  …

‘But arent you so used to seeing her naked that you are not sexually attracted to her anymore? Surely it must kill your sex life?’

Now, this is just a very strange comment to me. In fact it is quite the opposite of other ignorant opinions that I have come across that think all naturists are swingers and sex crazed maniacs!

via Blogger

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Naturists – Why Are We Social (Naked) Animals?

4 Sep

Naturists Being Social (know the source? let me know)

I spent last weekend in the company of some very good friends visiting The Naturist Foundation Brockenhurst club/resort in Orpington, Kent.  Weather was great and there was a volleyball tournament on, but even as a non-player I had a wonderful time sunbathing, swimming, eating and drinking with my naturist friends.

We talked about a lot of things but one thing I asked a few people about was this: why are we all hanging out naked?  Why are we social naturists?

Almost everyone, when asked about why they are a naturist, will respond with the explanation of why they like to be naked.  They feel free, they feel comfortable, they feel better about themselves, they feel more natural or connected to nature.  That’s the usual line.

Those are all good reasons, great reasons, to take off your clothes and go naked.  But you don’t need to be a social naturist to do that.  If the only reason you are doing it is because you like to be naked, you don’t need to go to anywhere special.  You don’t need to travel far and spend money going to a club or a swim or a beach.  You can just leave your clothes off at home and live your life clothes-free and be as comfortable as you like.

But we naturists don’t just leave it at home.  We go out into the world and find places and times when we can take off our clothes and be naked in the company of others.  Why do we do that?

Well, of course, we want to socialise.  We want to get together with our friends and meet others who share the same views as us.  Who doesn’t?

But why should we need to do that naked?  If this is a meeting of sympathetic souls, why can’t we just all go to the pub or something?  Why do we choose to socialise together specifically in places where we can take off our clothes?

At the time when I was talking to my friends, none of us could come up with a quick, easy explanation.  But having given it some thought over the past few days, I’ve come up with a few different things which might motivate social naturism.

The chance to do other, different stuff naked

Most people aren’t content just to stay home all the time.  We need stimulation to mind and body in order to stay healthy and active.  Naturists don’t see that need as a reason to not be naked.  So we go to swims and naturist clubs so that we can do more naked than just watch TV on the sofa and do housework.  At naturist clubs and events we can swim and play sport without clothes on, we can eat dinner out, we can drink in bars, we can play games and dance, our kids can play, we can do any number of activities.  We could do these things elsewhere, but we’d have to wear clothes to do them.  But these naturist places and events exist, and so to us it is worth travelling to them to do the activities naked rather than clothed.

The ‘Might As Well’ factor

This is something I have thought about especially in relation to going naked when visiting other naturists (or them visiting me).  If you are in an appropriate location (be it a private home or a naturist venue) with other people who you know also enjoy being naked and are comfortable with nudity, then what really is the point of any of you having clothes on?  Even if all you are doing is getting together to eat pizza and watch a movie, if you are people for whom nudity is socially acceptable and preferrable, you might as well take off your clothes.  It isn’t necessary, it’s just something you do because it seems reasonable in that company.

To live for a while without concern

Many people who are naturists find some aspect or other of living in a non-naturist world restrictive.  It might be that we live with family or friends or housemates who aren’t 100% comfortable with nudity.  It might be that we don’t have a private garden.  It might be that our front windows face onto the street and so we have to choose between nudity and opening the curtains to let in natural light.  It might just be that we get a lot of visitors and so are forever shrugging in and out of dressing gowns.

Going to naturist venues and events is our chance, for however long we are there, to escape all that and just wander about naked.  It’s a break from the ‘textile’ world; a place where we can swim and sit and walk and talk without clothes on, without making any sort of compromise in the way we are living.  We don’t have to hide away this part of ourselves for a while.

We socialise ‘better’ naked

This is a particularly pertinent one for me, as it is one of the driving forces for me in becoming involved with naturism.

I get anxious about social situations.  I’m shy, and rather quiet.  I lack self-confidence and I doubt myself a lot.  I keep a lot to myself and it means making friends and being casual and conversational with other people is sometimes difficult for me.

But being naked in social situations with other, friendly, like-minded people helps, for me, to break down some of the barriers and awkwardness that my emotional state leads me to often create for myself.  So I seek the company of other naturists because they are people in whose company I feel relaxed.

Even if you aren’t quite like me, there is still something honest and truthful about being naked with your friends.

You can have those experiences without being naked, of course – it isn’t essential, good relationships with other people can come out of all sorts of situations.  But for people who enjoy naturism, it might be that we feel a wish to make those sort of connections through social nudity.

We want to feel ‘normal’

Naturism breaks some social taboos.  As people, we are raised in a world which tells us our naked bodies are private.  We aren’t supposed to be naked except for reasons of hygiene and intimacy.  Nakedness in front of others is supposed to be a sexual thing.

So when we decide that we disagree with that view, we can start to feel like we might be doing something wrong, or abnormal.  We can develop a mindset of isolation from those who don’t share our views and maybe even start to feel we are somehow weird.

To meet other naturists, and to discover great, healthy, well-rounded and diverse individuals from all walks of life who all share our beliefs, attitudes and enjoyment of clothes-free living, is a great reassurance that we aren’t actually doing something wrong by breaking that particular social convention.  It’s a reminder that we aren’t wrong, just different, and that there are plenty of other people out there with the same difference as us.

So those are some of the factors that I think inform that rather strange desire we naturists have to spend time and money travelling around the country and the world to find places to be naked and people to be naked with.

You might have additional feelings of your own which I haven’t thought of.  I’d love to hear your comments.