The inner-most layer of the human brain is casually referred to as the Reptilian or Lizard Brain. It is so called because its key functions are evolutionarily comparable to… well… a lizard. It manages unconscious actions, such as breathing and hunger, as well as fight or flight survival instincts. With some help from another layer, called the Limbic Brain, it also activates the sex drive.
The Lizard Brain is quite powerful and essential to life, but it is also the source of challenging issues that entangle and limit the Nudist/Naturist Movement. One such issue is that society associates nudity with sex and consequently views social nudism with discomfort and skepticism. To be fair, a measure of doubt is justified. Even amongst Nudists themselves, stories are commonplace concerning experiences with creeps, gawkers, voyeurs, social media trolls, indiscreet libertines and so forth. It is hard to reconcile the joys and benefits Naturists experience, which can be the antithesis of prurience, to the obscene behaviors of some and society’s somewhat justifiable viewpoint.
The reality is that the powerful sex drive of the Lizard Brain is inherent to the human condition and serves a good and useful purpose. However, it can also cause people to behave in ways that stray from the acceptable norms of civil society. It is true that nudity does indeed activate the sex drive, but it is also true that mere nudity does not always and everywhere trigger it. There are many excellent, working examples of social nudism that are wholesome, non-sexual, and family friendly. The key is that there are other factors, besides the absence of clothing, that play a role in governing whether and when a person experiences nudity as sexual or not.
It so happens that the human brain evolved beyond that of the lizard and developed higher order capabilities. Outer layers of the brain, such as the neo-cortex, handle processes such as problem solving, social behavior, language, and abstract thinking. These layers are commonly referred to as the “Rational Brain” and they have allowed us to develop the moral, rules-based cultures that enable civilized society.
In general, our Rational Brains run the show and make different, usually superior decisions than our Lizard Brains would. When Naturists use terms such as “acceptance” and “respect”, they are referencing higher order principles from the Rational Brain. Our Lizard Brains, however, are still with us and are ready to engage our most basic instincts. This means that for everyone there is a set of conditions that will activate their Lizard Brain and perhaps even over-ride their rational self. For some, the mere thought of a nude human is enough to conjure up powerful erotic desires. For others, it takes a more particular context, and mere nudity is simply associated with a variety of enjoyable but non-sexual pastimes.
Nudity can heat things up… or cool things off. There is a difference!
We believe that cultural conditioning is a key determinant of what activates one person’s Lizard Brain versus another. People who mostly experience nudity in a sexual way or receive messaging to that effect will have nude sensitive Lizard Brains. Others who often experience a variety of non-sexual nude activities and receive nude normal messaging will have less nude sensitive Lizard Brains. Importantly, at least as far as Naturism is concerned, this nude sensitivity does not appear to be static or permanent. One can start out sexually sensitive to nudity, but with the right set of experiences and messaging become less so over time.
Unfortunately, society conditions people from early childhood with messaging that associates the nude body with sex. These messages range from labeling genitals “private parts” to sexualizing ads for the latest fashions to outright pornography. While this conditioning may be useful for commercial exploitation or to assert various power relationships, it is not particularly healthy. A variety of social ills, including harassment, sexual abuse, eating disorders and porn addiction, can be connected in some degree with societal sexualization of the body. It is therefore no surprise that there are people who act out their sexual impulses in disrespectful or socially dis-functional ways. Nor is it surprising that descent, textile folks, particularly females, are cautious concerning social nudity. Their Lizard Brains are tuned in an unfortunate way.
Experienced Nudists and Naturists, on the other hand, have managed to overcome this conditioning and possess a broader set of normalized nude conditions than most textile people. They have internalized an understanding that nudity is non-sexual at certain times in certain places. Their Lizard Brains sleep quietly while they enjoy the company of their family and friends in nude recreation. It is in this environment that many of the enriching benefits of Naturist life emerge. Obviously, they still have sex like everyone else, but they rely on other, more precise cues than mere nudity to wake up their Lizard Brains when it is appropriate.
Given all this, a few points can be made concerning the Lizard Brain and its implications for the Nudist/Naturist Movement:
One, by letting the lizard sleep, it is possible for people to engage in social nudism with norms of behavior that are equivalent or superior to those of textile society. Wholesome Naturist norms may in fact be essential to facilitating the proliferation of Nudist culture so it can reach a critical mass of social acceptance. Establishing really good clarity on and broad awareness of the places and times where wholesome Naturist norms are present and enforced will be key in this regard.
Two, organizations that promote Naturist values and healthy body culture should be supported. These include not only national entities (AANR, TNS) but also local clubs and resorts as well as free beach associations. In this way, right messaging will be continuously disseminated to society at large and safe, controlled settings will be made available to serve both rookie and veteran Naturists in a positive way.
Three, as individuals we can model sound Naturist values and even evangelize for the Movement. Practice your Naturism in appropriate settings at appropriate times for the broadest, reasonable set of life activities. To the degree possible, share your Naturist story and teach these ways to others. Join a club, become a beach ambassador, or just embody a healthy body culture that models not only letting your lizard sleep but also an ethic of acceptance and respect that is much needed in the world. If you happen to possess more liberal or unconventional sexual attitudes, that is fine; just contain your tastes behind closed doors while acting perfectly polite and normal in public socially nude settings.
Four, given the structure of the human brain and how it works, there will always be people whose behavior gets misguided by their Lizard Brains. Naturists must be vigilant and responsive to situations where someone is acting inappropriately. Every Naturist has a role to play in enforcing good social norms and responding if someone gets out of line. With a little leadership and the collective will of a community, it is pretty straightforward to create an environment where Rational Brains prevail, and Lizard Brains are left to sleep.
Five, this is not about opposing sexuality (we’re all for it!) but about helping people to apply better contextual cues than clothes to de-sexualize social interactions. Great sex, close bonding relationships and babies happen when we let our Lizard Brains roam freely. This is a good thing. The fulfilling experience of Naturism, on the other hand, happens when we let our lizards sleep. This is also a good thing. It is possible to know the difference and have both rather than either/or.
Obviously, there is a long way to go. It may take generations to achieve a world where Ethical Naturist culture is commonplace. However, by letting the lizard sleep, supporting Naturist organizations and modeling sound Naturist behavior, we can build a foundation for the future that allows this wonderful way of living to grow.