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An important investigation into the appropriateness of boners at nudist camps

Photo: Peter Lewis/Getty Images

Here’s a question you, as a presumed non-nudist, probably haven’t considered: What happens when someone gets a boner at a nudist camp? Does everyone shrug and move on? Do they scream and shield their eyes? Does a spontaneous, depraved orgy come to pass? Believe it or not, the question of erections and how to handle them in a nudist locale is still a hotly debated one.

A new article on Vice explores the phenomenon, with reporter Mark Hay speaking with multiple experts on the etiquette surrounding boners in nudist culture, as well as the social implications of them as nudism has evolved throughout history. Some feel it is polite to simply cover one’s self with a towel when aroused, while others bristle at the idea that they should view “a natural bodily function as taboo, even shameful and inconveniencing to others.” There’s also the fact that not all erections are sexual in nature; sometimes it’s a simple reflex. The boner is nondiscerning, however. There’s no telling one from the other.


Hay elaborates:

One might expect that society’s slow acceptance and normalization of sexuality would have outmoded some of these rules. [Author] Brian [Hoffman] does note that there was a strong pushback on nudism’s perceived sexual conservatism in the 1960s counterculture and that there always has been and still is a strain of nudism that rejects the mainstream view on erections as hypocritical, stuck in the past, and limiting. But fears about pedophilic gazes, unwanted sexual advances, or triggering memories of assault and other negative experiences of aggressive male sexual norms are all still relevant and legitimate—especially in communities where everyone might not know one another. And for spaces that might not be able to take the fiscal or PR hit of a scandal, minimizing the risk of any unwanted or unfortunate erotic exchange, misread or otherwise, is just plain prudent.


Oddly enough, it all seems to center back to themes of wholesomeness. Despite nudism serving as a means to destigmatize sexuality and self-consciousness over the human body, the culture is also tasked with ensuring a safe space for participants. According to the piece, “That often meant hyping up wholesomeness and downplaying the risk of anything that could be read as an erotic or virile response.”

Managing that risk seems downright impossible, though. No matter how enlightened or open-minded one is, the fact remains that there is simply no nuance to a boner.


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