By Kel Baker, 19, Citrus College
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Reprinted from May – June 1998

Illustration by Ramsey Rickabaugh, Downtown Business Magnet

"And as they ate it, suddenly they [Adam and Eve] became aware of their nakedness, and were embarrassed. So they strung fig leaves together to cover themselves around the hips." —Genesis 3:7

When I was 10, I remember feeling ashamed of my body. The 13- and 14-year-olds at summer camp would make fun of us younger boys for not being as developed.

I attended a Baptist high school where they scared us with a lot of talk about sexually transmitted diseases. We thought that homosexuals and sexually active people all had AIDS and we could get it by them breathing on us. And we thought our bodies were something to be hidden. We’re supposed to try to follow the Bible.

Although I attended a Baptist school, and I’m a church-going Christian, I have a mind of my own. When I learned that there are actual families that live a nudist lifestyle, and it’s just as normal as any other lifestyle, I didn’t see it as sinful. I wanted to know more about it.

I went about calling several different nudist residences throughout Southern California. I used my most professional speaking voice. "Hello, this is Kel Baker from L.A. Youth, I’m trying to do an article on social nudism and …" Now that’s when they would say "L.A. what?" or ask how old I was. Their first instinct was to write me off as a joke caller. I made about five calls before I had some success. I called a nudist resort in the Riverside area. The director, Dick Stephens, really caught me off guard when he invited me over that same weekend. I’m a bit of a procrastinator (that’s why you are reading this now, and not 3 issues back).

At first they were suspicious of me

I accepted the invitation and I went to the nudist resort dressed very nicely and met two men "barely" dressed in sandals and shorts— Dick Stephens and his associate. Are you 18 or over? they asked suspiciously. I showed them my ID. When they found out that L.A. Youth was distributed to L.A. high schools, they became leery. They didn’t want high school students coming down there and disrupting their way of life, especially students from the "city." Dick Stephens pointed out that they came there to get away from city life. I asked how many people 21 and under visit their resort. No more than 5 percent, he said, and minors 17 and under must come with a parent or legal guardian. He stressed that they’re extremely careful to monitor any photos of youth and children or anything that might be interpreted as child abuse.

In my opinion, it’s a healthy environment for a young child. Nudist kids think no more of seeing each other’s private parts than you or I would think of seeing someone’s face or hands. I think there’s probably less chance of molestations because the kids are not too curious about it.

Then came my big interview. I was invited to a different nudist residence in Palm Springs. Raymond Lovato, owner of Desert Shadows Inn in Palm Springs, and representative of the Association of Nude Recreation invited me. For this interview, there would be two major differences worth mentioning:

#1. I would be around naked people and
#2. I would be naked. (Read on, read on!)

I made some special preparations. I started wearing one of those plastic suits for an hour every day. I wanted to lose five pounds before my big visit. I also tried to get someone to go with me. But neither plan worked. I only lost two pounds, and my friend sheepishly backed out at the last minute. I was on my own!

When I got to my destination, I saw a man and a woman talking to each other in the nude. I was surprised, even though I was in a nudist camp. They didn’t even know me and they were completely comfortable standing there talking.

Soon I was talking with naked people

I was greeted by Mr. Lovato wearing only a sweatshirt. Later a naked young woman came to join the conversation. It felt weird but the awkwardness quickly faded. Very soon it made no difference that I was carrying on a conversation with a half-naked man or that this young woman stood before me completely nude. I had made it over that hurdle. After we talked long enough, Mr. Lovato figured I should go to my room and get dressed, which in this case meant getting undressed. I went to my room, undressed and looked at myself in the mirror. I said to myself, "Well, this will have to do."

I apprehensively opened the door and stepped outside. The wind was blowing over me in places where it doesn’t usually go. I couldn’t go back—I had already shut the door.

I walked over to an area where a volleyball game was in progress. As I walked over I checked everyone out to see if they were staring at me. Nobody seemed to be looking, so I talked myself out of running back to my room. I sat down on the grass and someone started a conversation with me, this time not even concerning nudity. Someone else came up and offered me some sunscreen. She said sometimes her husband gets sunburned in sensitive areas.

As we talked, I felt more and more comfortable. The warm sun and the wind now felt good. I watched the volleyball game a little while and eventually got into the pool. I met a lady who told me that Palm Springs was the "greatest place to vacation" for her and her family. I couldn’t believe I was naked in a swimming pool talking to a naked lady and we talked about vacations and the "good weather" in Palm Springs. Then I joined the volleyball game, and I was more concerned with my volleyball skills (not terribly good) than my nudity.

In a nudist environment with people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, where there is rarely a perfect body, you don’t feel like you are being evaluated, because nobody can judge you by your clothes. They do not know if you are rich or poor. The males seemed to feel comfortable not having a Hulk Hogan or Arnold Schwarzenegger-like physique and the females seemed content not having a body like Tyra Banks or Miss America.

I felt it was a purer way of living. Sex doesn’t take as high a priority. Ray Lovato told me that when a beautiful woman comes, men’ll look once, and that’ll be the end of it, whereas in the clothed world, men might look and undress her in their minds and fantasize about her—or even act out their fantasies.

Later that day Mr. Lovato asked me if I noticed how nudist books and magazines with pictures of families doing family things would sit right beside the trashy porn magazines when the two hardly have the same goal in mind. I remembered how, in doing my research for this article, the only materials on nudism I could find were in the porn sections of stores.

He also told me that some local hotels wouldn’t display the pamphlets for his nudist colony because of a tiny photograph of a couple turned backwards with their butts showing—even though that is the one "private part" everybody has. I thought, it’s just a butt. Why is that such a big deal? You have a butt, don’t you?

I think if nudity were the standard, there would be fewer sexual crimes and healthier self-images. Nudity can free you from a lot of labels that clothes put on you. Nudity in itself is innocent—it doesn’t have to be sexual or dirty. Nudity is just being naked.

To learn more about nudism

If you want to learn more about nudism, use the search words "Naturist" or "Naturism" or "Nudism." Unfortunately it may also be easy to access pornographic Web sites in the search for information on the naturist lifestyle. Usually nudist Web sites have information, not naked photos.

Kel Baker, who is earning an AA in child development at Citrus Community College, is an intern at a talent agency. He said he wrote this article because it was the only topic he could think of which was as gutsy as Daniel Weintraub’s "Gay thoughts" article.