A Note of Thanks
As we wrap up our first year, there’s just no way to express the gratitude we feel for your support. We held upwards of 70 events this year, sold over 700 tickets, and turned dozens of first-timers on to the benefits of social nudity. And we had a blast doing it! None of this would have been possible without you. Through volunteerism, word-of-mouth promotion, and plenty of constructive criticism, you all helped build Just Naked into the force it is today. Thank you!
We began this project as a humble exploration: fostering connectivity and healing through vulnerability, with the goal of normalizing naked everywhere. I’m happy to say with confidence that we created a few dents in the social armor of shame. If we stopped today, I’d rest-assured that our efforts will ripple through time and continue this work for generations.
Luckily, we have no reason to stop here! 2020 will bring a whole new focus to this mission. We now have the resources and data to invest our energy in ways we could not before. While many of our offerings in the coming year will be exploratory, we’ve got some tried-and-true concepts that will be expanded on for our NYC-area audience. Details on the new offerings will come next month, as we are still working on a few foundational changes. The direction we set our sails, as usual, depends largely on your input. While we are happy to celebrate our successes, there is still much work to do. So let’s get to work.
What is the most ethical way we can achieve gender balance at our events? This is the biggest question we have at Just Naked. A victim of our own success, sometime around the middle of summer we noticed that most of our events were skewing 9-to-1 in favor of men. We had women leaving the events before they even started, and most never returned. We put our heads together, asked our Builders for input, and announced a new event model a few weeks ago. The new model is called Femme Fwd, and effectively asked the female population at our events to curate the male population. Our initial proposal gave women the power to sponsor up to 3 men, who would then be able to attend any Femme Fwd event (with or without their sponsor). We reasoned that a population curated by women would feel more welcoming to women, but we didn’t consider how this might affect those who do not fit so easily into the gender binary. We received a lot of constructive criticism on this point, and after careful consideration we’ve expanded the model to be more inclusive.
This is our current model of Femme Fwd, which we plan to roll out January 2020:
- As stated above, women will be allowed to sponsor up to three men, who will be added to our Femme Fwd list of approved attendees. These men are not required to attend events with their sponsor. We ask that men do not ask women directly for sponsorship.
- Men who have attended a men-only event will be automatically added to the Femme Fwd list. These men may sponsor up to 3 other men if they wish.
- Anyone who doesn’t fit the gender binary, or is concerned that they might present as a gender they do not identify with, may attend whatever event they feel most fits their lived-experience (past or present). For example, a trans man is welcome at a men-only event because he has experience as a man (assuming he navigates his life presenting as a man), and he can attend a women-only event because he was born a biological female and spent many years experiencing life as a woman.
We are not expecting a literal 50–50 split at all of our events. Our mission is to normalize nudity, and in that spirit we only hope that the population at our events closely mimics the population of similar textiled events elsewhere. In addition to gender, we are considerate of cultural background, age, sexual orientation, and any other measure that feels meaningful. Happily, I can say that our naked events haven’t reported any unusual representations in these other categories (of race, age, etc). We will continue to host fully inclusive events, meaning anyone who buys a ticket is welcome, but this decision will be left to the Builder in charge of the event. If only to serve as a control for the Femme Fwd experiment, we will keep a few events open to all.
Gender Specific Events
We are excited to announce an increase in gender specific events for 2020. A number of Builders have expressed an interest in hosting women-only events. This comes after much demand by female participants to have a space for women to connect and grow together, absent the stress of calculating the intentions of men in the room. Our women’s events have served as an entry-point for some who would otherwise never try social nudity. Once these women gain confidence and insight from veteran nudists, we expect a high percentage of them to try all-gender events. Some will have no interest in being naked around men, and that’s perfectly acceptable too.
Men’s events are tricky for a few reasons. We’ve found that our primary safeguard against predatory behavior, mandatory online ticketing, results in very few ticket sales for men-only events. We don’t think this is because a higher degree of predators are interested in these events, but see this as a sad result of a society that has violently persecuted gay men. A man who is not out, and would like to meet other male nudists, is less likely to leave a paper trail by submitting his card information online. We relented, allowing guys to pay cash at the door, and happily have had zero reported incidents of behavior that defies our principles. That practice will continue, as will our policy of honoring online ticket buyers’ spots in the class above those who pay with cash.
Personally, I’m curious to see if our men’s events will grow in popularity as straight guys realize this path of entry into Femme Fwd events. I can’t think of another way to grant gay men (who are rarely a problem for women) entry into Femme Fwd events without also admitting straight guys (who are almost always the ones being reported), but I’m not sure that I care to make this distinction. If a straight guy is willing to attend a men only event, participating fully, there’s less of a chance that he’s the type of guy we are concerned about. A straight guy who is willing to go through all of that, and is a good sport, deserves a chance to try our Femme Fwd offerings.
But what about non-binary, two-spirit, trans, and queer folks who might feel left out of the binary structure we have chosen to observe? Creating events limited to queer folks, gender anarchists, and anyone who might not feel welcome in the men or women’s groups, is on our radar. We see the value in that, and will offer our resources to anyone who wishes to lead such a group. Lea and I (the cisgendered heterosexual founders of Just Naked) normally take a commission on ticket sales, but we’d be eager to forego that if it encouraged someone to create groups like this. We will find space, create the ad copy, and promote the event free of charge. Please reach out to us if this interests you, or if you’d like to donate your space to this type of event.
Most nude clubs have some mechanism for limiting single men, whether that is a buddy/couple system or capping single male admittance relative to female members or attendees. There are many offerings in NYC that betray sexual, romantic, or body-freedom norms, and almost all of the ones I’ve attended are overwhelmingly attended by men (unless the crowd is curated somehow). BDSM events, sex parties, body painting, and our Just Naked events all fall into this category. When considering what to do about this, I had to answer a few pointed questions.
Why are women underrepresented in social nude spaces? Income (these things cost money), power dynamics, biology, and social stigma could all contribute. We decided to not charge women less than men, as some other clubs do, because this would commodify women and give men more power on balance. We offered women, but not men, the ability to wear bottoms at our events. This was well-received by women, who report that they would have not attended if full nudity was mandatory. From the beginning, we have expressed compassion for women. I’ll be the first to admit that we lacked the same compassion for men.
When designing these events, our attitude towards men was a combination of caution, annoyance, and ambivalence. We knew that men would come. We knew that if we had any trouble-makers they would be men. We knew that we had to signal against cruising, and have a very clear policy about erections. And we were right about all of that. We didn’t realize, until recently, the importance of extending the same compassionate view towards men that we grant women.
Why are men so much more interested in social nudity than women? Why do some men come to all of our events, and very few women attend more than once a month? Is it possible that the men who attend our events are victims in search of healing? Just Naked is perhaps the only space where they can consciously reprogram their minds to be calm around naked women, while not having to engage in some performative denial of their sexuality. We speak plainly about sex, attraction, and how all of that relates to nudity. We don’t ask men to cover up their erections (we ask them to leave until they have enough control to not get erect). In short, we invite them to accept their conditioning and do something about it. Because all of our events have a connection exercise, plus some amount of social time afterwards, these guys can practice observing their body and mind as they interact calmly with naked women (around whom men are commonly overwhelmed with sexual thoughts and, well, boners). Shaming men for this conditioning is wrong. Creating a space where they can learn to empathize with women feels right.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. Implementing these changes requires more staff and infrastructure. Luckily, we have a lot of people reaching out and offering support. We have a few new venues that will debut next year. We have at least one venture capital offer that will jump-start all of these changes. Moving into next year, we are overwhelmed with optimism and gratitude. More than ever, Lea and I are fulfilled in this work. We are eager to do better, to learn, and to grow alongside all of the people who have been nourished by this organization. As usual, we ask that you lend your voice to this conversation. Please send us an email to email@example.com with your thoughts, constructive criticism, and words of loving support. We will need it.
Just Naked Cofounder