Friday, August 28, 2009

GoTopless Recap and Comments

I thought I would do a quick recap of the GoTopless news:
I think the Raelians are great people. They are just like everyone else, and have the same freedoms as everyone else. I rode with a family to the protest, and had pizza with the whole group afterwords. I also saw, first hand, what people thought of the event. (Bob wasn't there.) Those who asked if we were Raelian never signed the petition and basically laughed at the event. Those who liked the idea of top-freedom as they passed by were the ones signing, and I don't think any knew that it was for a "UFO cult" at that point.

Bob's main points are:
  • Raelians are the ones out there doing the protesting.
  • They have every right to preach their religion.
  • The "UFO cult" publicity helps to get eyes on the issue.
The first one is a valid point. However, a look through the history of top-freedom in North America has a lot of naturist roots. Naturists are also involved with the World Naked Bike Ride, Freemont Solstice Parade, Bay to Breakers, Burning Man, and many other events which allow nudity among the general public. I believe they should get more involved in these topless protests as well.

I agree that they have the right to preach their religion. I didn't stop them at the event, and didn't say anything against it even though I don't agree with it. When asked, my reply was "No, we're not Raelians. We're naturists and we're supporting them in this cause." Even if their literature still talks about UFO's next year, I'll still try to help them out.

The last point is where Bob and I diverge. It's true that the headlines might get more eyes on them, but those eyes quickly dismiss them as crazy. "UFO cult" = "crazy", and therefore crazy people are supporting top-freedom. (Americans already think topless women are crazy, so it's an easy conclusion.) I'm sure that helps to sway the public.

I would never walk into a grade-school and say "Hi, I would like to be a teacher...and by the way, I'm a nudist." That last bit would guarantee that I won't get the job. However, it is akin to saying "We believe in top-freedom and equal rights...and aliens!" Chop off that last bit and you'd have a good convincing statement.

If they want to succeed in the top-freedom issue, they should to stick to it with no strings attached. It is their choice, and they have a year to decide. No matter what they decide to do, I'll still support them.

I still haven't found any pictures on Flickr of the Chicago protest. We had PLENTY of photos taken -- where did they all go??

UPDATE: He did eventually add my comment after about 5 days.

Monday, August 24, 2009

GoTopless Chicago!

We attended the GoTopless protest in Chicago! My girlfriend was interviewed for one of the bigger articles on the event, which includes photos and a video interview of the organizer.

This year's protest was organized by a different person than the one last year. The new coordinator (lady in news video linked above) had:
  • Women, including three from Canada.
  • Contact with a lawyer.
  • Pasties available for the women, since nipples are illegal. (Due to radioactivity, perhaps.)
  • Body painting, which alone makes breasts legal too. (My girlfriend sported black strapless paint bra.)

This was a safe protest, since there's nothing we could've been arrested for. Why not go? In my opinion, all naturists should be encouraged to go to these protests since they're about body freedom. It's important to note that the organizers of the GoTopless protests aren't naturists, but that they want basically the same end goals as naturists do.

We didn't set up at the beach house, as advertised. Instead, the organizers chose to set up along a busy walking path that connects with a pedestrian bridge. (map) The majority of the posters were directed to people using the bridge and walking northbound along the path. I was often holding my favorite poster ("Legal or not?") pointed at the southbound users. Other protesters loved both of my signs.

All of the men wore tops of some sort, often of a ripped white sheet to resemble a bikini top. The women wore the nipple pasties and/or body paint. (These both left horrible tan-lines!) There were 6 women who went topless, plus one who was nursing and couldn't wear pasties or paint. The rest were men, and maybe 5 of them joined in the protest after walking by. We didn't get nearly the numbers as LA or NYC, but we still did good.

The police did roll in about an hour after we started. It seems that someone called them to complain. A police squad truck showed up first, then a car, then several on bikes. Some men who stuck around left when they showed up. Many of the women put on tops, including my girlfriend. After a little while, the bikes and car left, but the big vehicle stayed. They almost completely blocked the pedestrian path while they sat there for probably 2 hours just keeping an eye on us. The women eventually slipped off their tops again despite them (and applied another layer of paint just in case) and continued on.

We were asked several times if we were Raelians. "No, us two are naturists, but we're supporting the same cause." Everyone else in the protest group was Realian. During the main speech, the organizer made sure to include a section on the Raelian beliefs. I couldn't help but roll my eyes. Here's my suggestion to them: People will take the GoTopless protests more seriously if you ONLY stick to the issue of top-equality! Once you mention aliens, people just consider you crazy and walk away. Take a look at the news stories -- they always mention the UFO cult, often as the headline. That's bad for getting people to take you seriously.

We didn't get the publicity that we were hoping for. Don't get me wrong -- I think the Examiner article is great -- but the mainstream media seemed to ignore us. (The Examiner guy was fun to talk to, although he only interviewed my girlfriend. We might see him again sometime since he occasionally visits Mazo Beach. Hope he doesn't mind me saying that! *grin*) There was one guy with a professional video camera who took a lot of video. I have no idea who he represented, but the rumor was that he was for a Chicago news station. I can't find his footage anywhere.

My girlfriend and I had a lot of success on the front-lines opposite of the bulk of the crew. She's bubbly and attractive, so men would stop and sign anything she asked them to. She had people signing almost constantly! But, she only did this for maybe 45 minutes.

One big issue that I noticed was that anytime bodies needed to be painted, or a kid needed to be watched, or anything needed to be done in back, the women always wanted to do it. There were only 6 women, and many weren't in front for extended times. Especially when bodypainting -- at one point ALL of the women were attending to that and it was all men leading the protest for at least 15 minutes. Often, it was the men holding the petitions too. The women should've been the ones with the petitions, and the men should've been doing the rest. That's a tip for next time.

So what's the best part about going to a protest? Reactions, of course!
  • Many seemed to support us, but few signed the petition.
  • Many of the guys just wanted pictures. (It's odd that I can't find any on flickr though... Please post to the comments if you find any.) There were around 7 guys that wanted their picture taken with my girlfriend. Whatever.
  • One guy stopped his bike in the middle. We asked if he'd like to sign our petition. "Nope," he said, "I just want an eyeful." Hey, at least he's honest!
  • Of course, a majority of people just walked by and ignored us.
  • There were several near-accidents with the bikes and people. I think they were distracted.
  • A few were absolutely disgusted. There's no reasoning with them.
  • One Swedish woman was all for our cause for obvious reasons. But, she said her breasts were "treats" that only boyfriends can see so she'd never go topless.
  • Many women said they'd never go topless, but agreed that women should have the right to.
  • Some guys thought that only hot women should be allowed to go topless. They just don't get it.
  • One of the protesters struck up a conversation with a he/she who was in the middle of a sex change operation. The protester was surprised to learn that he/she was AGAINST the top-freedom issue.
  • A lot of people brought up the "what about the kids" argument. For one man, we replied with "What about the kids in Europe? Being topless is normal there." His response: "Well the Europeans are all screwed up!"
  • One man hung around the event and supported our cause but didn't participate. He kept snapping pictures of my girlfriend and other women. After probably 5 minutes of the camera pointed directly at her, she lashed back: "Stop taking pictures of me, you're pissing me off!" I think he stopped with all pictures at that point. Yes, naturists have a sensitivity to camera use!
  • One woman thought it was cool that body paint and pasties were legal as long as it covered the areola. She glued on the pasties, added some bodypaint, then wandered down the beach topless. We saw her again at the end of the protest (2 hours after she was painted) and she was still walking around that way. You go, girl!
  • One lady flashed her boob as she biked by, twice. Others did a quick flash as well. Everyone cheered except us -- flashing doesn't help and they run the risk of being arrested and causing negative publicity. This isn't Mardi Gras.
One last observation that we made was that us naturists were more mature about the nudity than the Raelians. The men spent a lot of time praising the women, and looking at the women, instead of treating everyone equally like we did. (OK, so the men were largely ignored by everyone.) I made good eye contact with both the men and the women, and they knew it because I wasn't wearing sunglasses. Many of them were, so it's hard to tell what exactly they were looking at. I asked my girlfriend if they looked down a lot, and she couldn't answer because of that.

One of the Raelian guys asked my girlfriend why she was so comfortable being topless. She replied that she was a naturist and that she would like to push for naturist rights someday. They were immediately uncomfortable, and shyly said that they don't really agree with that. That ended the conversation.

The event coordinator, before painting my girlfriend's breasts, learned that this was our first protest. She then went on a speech on how liberating it's going to be for her, and how empowering it's going to feel. I asked my girlfriend later if it was liberating and empowering: "Not really, it felt normal. Well, except for the annoying paint all over my breasts."

In conclusion, the Raelians have a thing or two to learn from naturists. If they focus on the issue, and if we naturists would help out more, we'd have a bigger impact. Maybe next year the press will drop the whole Realian part of it. I'd say that the Chicago protest went very well, and I look forward to helping them out in the future. I suggest that you help them out as well in their quest for top-equality. Remember that it's one step closer to being naked, and one step away from cultural prudishness.

Oh, did you want photos? Here's a couple.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Underwear-Free Lifestyle

Back in January, my girlfriend wrote about "The Bra-Free Lifestyle". She has identified the bra as being more trouble than it's worth, and has chosen to not wear one unless required. She made this choice long ago, before I even knew her. In that post's header, I mentioned that I was thinking about ditching underwear. To me, it seems like a completely optional article of clothing.

Not everyone seems to think so. A news story recently reported that Florida city workers are required to wear underwear, and required to not show it. How would they even know? Wouldn't it be easier to just not wear any? It saves on laundry too. I don't understand how this is a hygiene issue, since things are still wrapped in cotton.

I made the switch to boxers about 9 years ago. It gave things the freedom to move around more, which is a good feeling, but also comes with issues of it's own. Sometimes things snake their way out. Sometimes the legs of the boxers bunch up. Sometimes they are just too hot during the summer, and things end up being sweaty all day. Oh well, I still wore them every day. My primary concern was that jeans would be too rough on certain spots if I went without underwear of some sort. I tried it for very short periods of time, and it did seem a bit too rough.

Earlier this summer, I was talking with a good friend of ours. He's a nudist, and never wears underwear when he's dressed. The idea stuck in my brain that it was possible to truly live without underwear. It was an idea that I wanted to explore further.

Come to think of it, all of the males I know who go without underwear are nudists. It's entirely possible that my viewpoint is slanted, since I know a lot of nudists and have seen what they wear under their pants. But, the ones who go as naked as much as possible tend to not wear any. Is it a natural step for naturist men to forfeit their underwear?

At Eastover, I started almost every rainy morning wearing my jeans and my TNS long-sleeve to stay warm. I realized that wearing just the jeans did start off a bit scratchy, but I quickly got used to it. I enjoyed the fact that the boxers never bunched up. I enjoyed the little bit of extra freedom. It was better than I was expecting.

At the end of the week, I decided to keep with it. I went underwear-free on the trip back to Wisconsin. I wore underwear back to work, but gave that up too after a couple days. I've gone without it almost every day since.

The difference between going underwear-free (males) and bra-free (females) is that it's much easier to tell with the females. Even if a male bends over, it's possible that the underwear is too low to see so it's difficult to reach any conclusions. With females, bra-straps, nipples, and bounce can be visible through even thicker fabrics.

At the moment, only nudist friends know that I haven't been wearing my undies. How would the rest of society act if they find out? Will they have a "look of disgust and surprise at the same time" like with my girlfriend's bra-free experiences? Will I be considered a horrible person for my decision? Do censored parts really need two independent layers of protection? I think not, and society had better accept that as my answer.

It may not be permanent though. As winter rolls in, I'll welcome that extra layer of warmth. At least now I know that I'm comfortable both ways.

[UPDATE 2010: The cold didn't work. I still don't wear them...]

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Body Acceptance

I had an interesting thing happen recently. Even though I'd like to jump ahead, a bigger story is needed to put it in context. You don't mind a personal story on body acceptance, do you?

I've mentioned it very briefly before. My major body issue is my chest. Anyone who has seen me knows that I have a unique feature with my chest. The medical term is "pectus excavatum", and mine isn't quite bad enough to need medical attention. It has its positive moments. My heart is shifted over about an inch, which I think is neat. Doctors seem to like it since they often invite in their staff to see it. That's about all for the list of positives.

As a kid, I was always very embarrassed by it. So much so that I wouldn't go swimming or take off my shirt on a hot day. I even warned my new girlfriends about it. I slept in a t-shirt during my college years, until I had my own room. It's safe to say that I had body issues, and it had an impact on my life.

I'm also not a shorts type of person. I almost never wear shorts. Partly this is because I don't like my hairy legs, so I don't want to display something ugly. The other part is because they don't go well with combat boots. Even on a hot walk to Mazo Beach, I'll still wear jeans. The legs look a lot more normal when naked, in my opinion, so it's either all or nothing for me.

I first gave home naturism a try about 5 years ago (with my current girlfriend), outdoor naturism a try about 3 years ago in Australia and loved it, and social naturism a try over 2 years ago at Mazo Beach. I've mingled with the regulars at Mazo, gone to several parties, visited a few resorts and campgrounds for events, attended a huge gathering, hung out with some good local friends, been naked around textiles, been naked on the net, been naked in nature and got published, and am on my way up in the naturist world.

Last winter, I told my parents that my girlfriend and I are both naturists. It took a bit of explaining (maybe 20 minutes?) to convey that we weren't swingers, and after that they were fine with it. We're both very open about it to friends and family.

This summer, my Aunt and cousin were visiting for a couple of weeks. One of the things I suggested was a canoe trip down the Wisconsin River since I knew the area well. Come to find out, there are no day trips that go past our favorite beach. Despite that, I still joked around during the car ride that I was disappointed about not seeing my beach friends. I made it known that we should paddle up-river a half-mile so we could visit the beach. My Aunt didn't ask any questions.

I was initially paired up with my Aunt in the canoe, I explained the reasoning behind my jokes and how I knew the area so well. She couldn't believe that we went to a nude beach! She had to confirm with my Mom that I wasn't pulling her leg. She thought it was funny, and mentioned that she'd never go to one, and didn't ask many questions about it which was a little surprising. She's normally full of questions.

With some pressure from the family, I was wearing swim trunks and sandals that day. At the first stop I had my shirt off. Years ago, I'd be wearing boots, jeans, and a shirt for the whole trip. This time, I got as close to naked as I could reasonably get.

When my Aunt was paired up with my Dad, she had to confirm it with him too. My Dad made a remark that surprised me: "I think it helped him get over his body issues." (My girlfriend overheard it and told me about it -- I was further away.) My Dad stuck up for my choice to be a naturist, and recognized that it's been a benefit to me even though I hadn't recognized it yet.

With that, I've realized just how much naturism has helped with my body issues! I never thought twice about taking my shirt off during the canoe trip. And the shorts? I was wishing they were off too. I still don't like wearing shorts -- but for opposite reasons as before. I've gone from being afraid of showing my body, to accepting my body and it's flaws and assuming that others don't care about seeing it.

It's a different mindset. Society has the impression that if you've got it, flaunt it. (And that if you don't, then nobody wants to see that.) Naturists don't care if they've got it, and they don't flaunt it -- they're just comfortable. They don't go places to check out other people -- they go to be comfortable themselves. It was hot, and I was getting comfortable. I wasn't worried about showing (flaunting) my skin like I would've been in the past.

This simple change of attitude could make a world of difference if more people would experience it.

There's another positive to my chest issue in the list. Uniqueness. It's been reminder that being different isn't always a bad thing. I've always been proud to break away from the norm, and to make my own decisions. Everyone is unique in their own way. Instead of hiding it, people should find strength in it. Naturism helps with this.

Side-story 1: At one point, we went to a large fitness club. After the locker room, my girlfriend and I compared notes. I saw many naked men, who didn't really cover up to and from the shower. My girlfriend walked naked to the scale, weighed herself, and walked back. She said that women were giving her looks of disgust because she was naked. The other women were very diligent in covering up.

Side-story 2: After the canoe trip, we ate at a place right by the landing. My girlfriend and I watched an attractive girl in a bikini getting dressed outside. (Yes, a bikini is technically dressed, but apparently not enough.) She had a towel around her shoulders, and tried very hard to balance the towel on her back as she put on shorts. After almost losing the towel a couple times, and quickly fixing it before continuing, she managed to get her shorts on. Her shorts ended up covering about an extra 2 inches of leg, but she was content. Before she lost the towel, she slipped on a muscle shirt too. My girlfriend and I were laughing through most of this. It seems that modesty sets in only after leaving the sand.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mazo Manor - S2E05 - Big Summer Festival (p2)

Previously, on Mazo Manor:
"A battle between the nudes and the textiles was on! .... The tug was dead even for what seemed like several minutes. Muscles were flexing on the rope, and feet were digging into the sand, but both teams held their own without an end in sight. Everyone at the beach was cheering loudly and were at the edge of their towels in anticipation!"

It was a low-balled tactic that finally ended the match. One naturist decided to sneak in at the end of the rope, which added just enough power to slowly overcome the textiles. The cheering got twice as loud as the naturists pulled to victory. The bikini girls didn't notice the below-the-belt ploy and never demanded a rematch. I gave the winners two tickets each this time. The bikini girls decided to stay on the beach (in the water) and mingle with the naturists for the next hour or so. As far as I could tell, they loved it just as much as we did. They have a good story to tell their friends when they get home...

The Elders were surprisingly quiet this year. Normally they cash in on the free food and remain active spectators. This year they kept to themselves entirely. We challenged Kingpin to some lawn games, and he declined as expected. Smokey was there to relax. He had his headphones on and tuned out everything. He at least talked with us for a few minutes when we challenged him to a game.

Another person I spotted at the beach was Boots. I didn't notice Tank around but the beach was busy so she might've been. I didn't get a chance to ask him how the trip went. He also didn't play any games.

There were several people that got games in during the last two hours. One notable group was two guys and two girls, all about our age and attractive. I've met them before at the beach and at the car show, so I knew they were swingers. It was obvious anyway since they often made flirty vulgar comments during the games. The photographer took pictures of them playing the games.

Note: I know I mention vulgar comments a lot recently. It's important to know that I always talk about the few instances that I witness. Almost all of the conversations and interactions at the beach are not at all vulgar or flirty. If kids are around, the conversations are always clean. This is a good reason to bring kids to the public beaches -- it helps to enforce a family friendly environment.

As I mentioned previously, there was a TNS photographer at the beach. That means the next N will probably carry a few of the pictures from the event. [UPDATE: It didn't, haven't seen them yet (early 2010).] If you see a group of four, with only the women's backsides, it's the group I mentioned above. He also took photos of all tugs, including the one with the bikini girls. (I really hope that one gets included in N!) The last photo I know about is of my girlfriend and I at the game table. I can't wait to see which ones are included, and I'm curious about who is going to do a write-up about it.

After the games, we had the drawing for prizes. About half of the people who won were there, so they were easy to deliver. I sent out all of the rest except one. That one hasn't returned our calls and so we don't have an address. Oh well, I'll recycle it into a prize for something else.

The same couple that brought our stuff in helped bring it out. They helped to pack everything up with both us and Gaia and helped move it to the vehicles. Not only did they drive our stuff to the parking lot (as we walked), they also unloaded most of it into our car by the time we got there. We got their information and have full intent of sending them a "thank you" gift, once we figure out something good to send. I'm sure they have the item mentioned above already.

Late that day, and on Sunday when they served food again, Gaia and Captain Planet picked up some trash around the beach. As expected there really wasn't very much trash left behind by the naturists.

A fun time was had by all, even the ones that didn't really participate. The event went smoothly, and the number of people playing games is about the same as other years. All-in-all, I'd call it a success!


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mazo Manor - S2E04 - Big Summer Festival

It was shaping up to be a perfect Saturday. We had a car full of stuff, and were cruising to Mazo early in the morning to meet up with Gaia. Today was the big summer festival!

We brought two tables, a box full of prizes, a shoe rack that doubled as a ticket bucket, two markerboards, and a roll of paper to cover things with so we could write anywhere. Since there were NO volunteers at the event coordination page, we purchased and brought Bocce Ball, Lawn Darts, and LadderBall. This was among a lot of other stuff that we brought. Our car full of stuff was parked, waiting, in the Mazo parking lot.

It was a lousy start to the day when we watched a big white truck roll in, go around the parking lot, then floor it on the way out to spray gravel all over. (No cars were hit.) I also checked the porta-potty while we waited, and discovered that all of my posters were gone again. We called Gaia at the time she was supposed to be there, and she hadn't left the house yet. She was waiting on someone else (who had a big truck) to give them a ride, and they were about a half hour away. We waited some more, and watched people trickle into the parking lot. Some people, especially the Elders, are impressive with how much they can fit on a bike. During our wait, Gaia called a couple who were on their way and told them we need help in transporting stuff. When they arrived we quickly loaded up their car. They used their gate key to drive to the beach while we walked. (This is the legal way to do it.)

At the beach, we unloaded their car and I snuck into the porta-potties. Both had the posters still there, which cast a big shadow of doubt on my idea of who was taking them. Where all the other posters went still remains a mystery.

Setting up the tables, it quickly became apparent that the Mazokats had no idea that it was Nude Recreation Weekend. We had advertised on all the common websites and Yahoo groups, emailed the thousands in the FOMB distribution list, taken lots of phone calls from Nude Rec Week advertisements, and often (or sometimes?) had posters at the beach porta-potties. Despite this, a majority of the 500 people who were there had no idea. Many hadn't even heard of TNS either. Also, nobody was there for the AANR skinny dip as far as I could tell, which is a good thing because we did NOT participate in that.

Instead, we were graced with the presence of Gaia, Captain Planet, CatHerder, and a TNS photographer. For those who don't know my character name mapping, they are all TNS or TNS affiliated. If my two tables were a shack, then their setup would be a mansion. They brought 2 grills, about 4 large tables, and about 4 more smaller ones, 2 gazebos for shade, an official tug-of-war rope, a huge stack of boxes and coolers for food, and a large wheelbarrow with a fat sand tire to shuttle it all from the overloaded truck. Combine that with the potluck they encouraged, and they had a free all-you-can-eat buffet with a better selection that most restaurants! It went so well that they did it again Sunday just to use up the leftovers!

My side of the event was the games, and they were going poorly thus far. The Contenders fulfilled their promise of bringing two volleyball nets -- one for the "pros" and one for the "special olympics". Captain Planet had the tug-of-war rope. We had the 3 lawn games we purchased. Nobody else brought games. And other than the Contender's usual games, nobody else was looking to play. I even sent my trusty girlfriend around the beach to let people know what was going on and to recruit people for games. Many went for the free lunch, but chickened out of the games.

I asked Gaia what was normal for game play. She said that after people have lunch, they are in a better mood for playing games. This was partly true. We had many different people play the lawn games. Almost nobody played the normal-person volleyball though, even though the Contenders and I both hear people complain that they'd play if it weren't for the pro's. They had their chance to play today, on their own net and with people of similar non-pro skills, but only a couple did. We tried and tried to get games started.

A good chunk of the tickets for prizes went to several people who brought food, and many who played lawn games. The rest were given out to the winners of the most popular game...

Mid-afternoon, Captain Planet declared a war... a tug-of-war! The rope was laid out along the edge of the water, and about 16 people piled on for the first tug. Soon after, the count was over 20 for the second tug and people were getting tired. It was break-time for a while.

Mazo beach wasn't the only popular one that Saturday. People were camped out on all the beaches we could see across the river. Many were on the island in the middle too, including three hovercrafts. (Cool! We want a ride!) The island that many naturists walk to (but shouldn't) also had a number of textiles, including a group of 8 cute college-age girls in bikinis and one guy with them.

My girlfriend gets super bonus points for setting up the most memorable event the beach has ever seen! On her own, she decided to wander over and talk to that group of young girls. Before I knew it, they were front and center on our beach and picking a fight. They were picking up one end of the rope, and several naturists (both guys and girls) were picking up the other end. A battle between the nudes and the textiles was on!

Of course, the naturists outnumbered the girls, so a few joined on their side to balance things out. Soon enough, the pull was on! Would the bikini girls kick the bronzed naturist butts? Or would the team everyone cheered for prove to be the true Olympians? The tug was dead even for what seemed like several minutes. Muscles were flexing on the rope, and feet were digging into the sand, but both teams held their own without an end in sight. Everyone at the beach was cheering loudly and were at the edge of their towels in anticipation!

To Be Continued....