Stripped – Virtual Nudism Undressed
There is a growing interest in nudism, or naturism in Second Life, with 60 nudist groups alone devoted to the lifestyle and 37 nudist destinations in-world for those who enjoy social nudity. The largest nudist group has 4,070 members who have all paid 350L to join. So, what motivates people to walk around virtually naked? Well, in a virtual world you do not have to settle for what Mother Nature gave you but can choose to look like Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt if you wish to. There is liberation in losing the inhibitions tied to carrying a few extra pounds or not being as well endowed as you think you should be. In creating an avatar there is a safety and security in anonymity. By losing your clothes, social barriers are broken down and status is irrelevant – there is an opportunity to meet people on an equal level in a scenario where, by virtue of the essence of naturist philosophy, open-mindedness is the norm.
But, how does virtual nudism differ from real life nudism? There are two nudist camps in Second Life. The highly sexualized, almost debauched environments of some nude beaches lend themselves to sexual liaisons taking place by providing free sex areas. The virtual sex industry is booming, and nudism is on its cusp. Nudists may log on hoping to meet like minded individuals who share their beliefs, but it is not very long before many are diverted into an entirely different environment altogether. By pushing a couple of buttons, it is possible to end up on a nude beach, flirting and having sex with any number of people, within minutes, if you desire it. The availability of sex in Second Life has pervaded a cultural and political movement, a lifestyle that has little or nothing to do with sex – and has gone to great lengths to distance itself from it. Change can be healthy, but has virtual sex corrupted traditional nudism in-world and set the movement back decades? Or is it just different?
Why does virtual nudism have a far greater emphasis on the erotic? In-world, many people may not be nudists in real life and associate it with eroticism instead. The environment can play a role too, the rules and the culture of a place can set the tone, if the environment is one that encourages an “anything goes” approach – people will expect sex to be on the menu, and nudity to be a prelude to closing the deal. Nudism, in essence becomes pixel porn and cartoon foreplay. Is virtual nudism male dominated eroticism, or do some traditional nudist philosophies prevail in a virtual world? The female owner of the busiest naturist resorts in Second Life, Kaiya Manbi, stays true to traditional nudist beliefs despite not being one in real life, which is something she considers an irrelevance. On her island, sex is off limits, clothing is banned and she has a member’s only area. Criticism has been leveled at her with people calling her a “fascist” and “not a true naturist” because of the strict rules she refuses to negotiate on – but people are flocking to her island in droves and are loving the fact that they can walk around naked without enduring harassment from sex obsessed avatars. Kaiya has observed that for women, her naturist resort, takes on a totally different meaning. Women find the safety of the environment to be sensual, seductive but not being on the menu invigorating and find the freedom thrilling.
Much like anywhere else, nudism in a virtual world will always attract people lured by a sense of the erotic who are seeking sexual intimacy but, really the only reason why virtual nudity is highly sexual is because many people are logging on to explore their fantasies in a safe environment, not necessarily to abide by naturist philosophy, they want to be stimulated in a different way. But for those who wish to seek out places where they can relax without fending off unwanted admirers, there are now places in-world they can go and, perhaps in time virtual nudism will evolve and catch up with the rest of the world.
Written: 7 May 2008