Even in our “open minded” community, if you mention to people that you are a Naturist (i.e. a nudist) most will assume there is some sexual aspect to it. However, for the Edmonton-based Naturist group Buck Naked Boys (BNB), that’s just ridiculous; like sexualizing your standard morning shower. Naturism is about an increased comfort with your body; it’s about enjoying being naked, and for the BNBC it’s about being naked in a NON-sexual social setting.
Having existed since 1997, the Buck Naked Boys are a bit different from your average community group. They have no membership fees, no board members, and events are organized on a cost shared/cost-recovery basis. BNB’s main representative, Fred, does most of the planning for events, but he keeps his ears open to group feedback.
“I pay attention to what guys say and think, so my organizing is kind of collaboratively planned.”
While some events occur at the homes of members, BNB is also fortunate to have an outdoor venue just outside of Edmonton. This venue - Labyrinth Lake Lodge - is located a half hour drive from the Edmonton International Airport. In addition, the lodge is gay owned and naturist friendly.
“..the owner of the lodge is a close friend, major supporter of BNB and he, and often his husband as well, attend every event unless they are elsewhere.”
The lodge’s location is ideal, as it’s situated deep in the Alberta countryside, on a peninsula surrounded by lakes and trees. Therefore there are no worries about outsiders getting a free show. As Fred told us, they also keep an eye out for those who don’t belong there.
“In 14 years we have had one incident of somebody being around that should not have been. She drove up and started walking around the grounds like she had a god-given right to.” Unfortunately for her, even while naked Fred strongly protected BNB’s privacy and she was ordered off the property.
BNB has experienced steady growth since the group was first established. While the ages of the men vary, most are at least 40 years old. As to why the under 40 crowd seems reluctant to join the club, Fred’s opinion is, “younger guys are lacking in the self confidence needed. Comments like, I would have to go to the gym for at least 6 months before I could do that. There is a competitiveness to be the most attractive, the best, who has the best car, makes the most money, etc. and when you are naked, all that is so gone and they can’t handle it.”
As for when the group does attract new members, BNB usually tries not to dump them in the deep end if they are nervous about first experiencing the Naturism lifestyle. New members are invited to meet another member (fully clothed) for coffee first – both to introduce them to a familiar face, and also to let them know how the club runs (i.e. NOT a sex club).
Fred adds, “it is a big deal to most guys to attend an event for the first time. For many of them it means going somewhere that is new to them into a crowd of guys all of whom are new to them and you got five minutes to get naked and join the crowd, and most of these men are gay.”
If the person is closeted to some degree, it can be a bit intimidating. It’s not a stretch to say Naturism may come easier to someone who is out of the closet, perhaps an active member of the LGBT community, and an occasional attendee at public events such as Pride parades.
Regarding Pride, unlike in other cities, Edmonton’s BNB doesn’t promote itself at Edmonton’s Pride Festival. Even so, Fred says there seems to be a high awareness of BNB in the mainstream queer community – though he feels this awareness may not be equivalent to actually knowing something about the group. BNB is about letting your skin be as free as the day you were born, and letting drop all those expectations and walls we put up with clothing and possessions.
To illustrate that point Fred told us about how, a few years ago, one particular member started attending. This member was very nervous – even though he’d been an avid naturist all his life, it took him three years to commit to joining the group. He had lived a straight life and had been involved in all kinds of different groups, and professionally was a salesman. This gentleman has become one of BNB’s most energetic supporters, thrilled with the group dynamics. The membership get along great with one another, which Fred credits to the social constructs that disappear when the clothes come off.
Yet even while naked, some people still may have personal space limits – the club stresses to all new members to respect one another and be aware of the comfort zone of fellow members. A person may like getting naked, but still may not like to be touched beyond a handshake. “Touching, without the expressed permission of the receiver is not permitted,” confirms Fred. The group polices it very well, and there haven’t been any incidents of note.
Admittedly, naturism is not for everyone, but in our uptight North American society, I’m all in favour of more groups like BNB springing up. For those who oppose or mock Naturism, I have no reply better than the words of John Lennon:
”The main hangup in the world today is hypocrisy and insecurity. If people can’t face up to the fact of other people being naked or smoking pot, or whatever they want to do, then we’re never going to get anywhere. People have got to become aware that it’s none of their business and that being nude is not obscene. Being ourselves is what’s important. If everyone practised being themselves instead of pretending to be what they aren’t, there would be peace.”