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And God created perverts

Is our mistake getting kicked out of the Garden? Or in the revulsion we feel for our own bodies?



As the founder of Friends of Pirate’s Cove, I very much want this movement to be about preserving the last 1,998 feet of pristine coastal wilderness in an otherwise unbroken 9-mile-long wall of continuous development stretching from Oceano to Avila. But I read Shredder’s recent column (“Duned,” Nov. 14), and while I very much appreciate the support (and frankly laughed my ass off all the way through it), I feel compelled to address the characterization of naturists as “perverts.”

Henry David Thoreau called it sauntering, and I discovered it when I was perhaps 9 years old.

Trying to explain the value of nude recreation to someone who has never partaken is a bit like explaining the value of a bath to someone who has only ever showered. They might respond: “You sit nude and motionless, submerged in hot water up to your neck? For what purpose? It sounds perverse to me. Do you touch yourself while you’re doing this?”

The demonization of the human body sounds perverse to me. But, hey, it’s popular, like war, high fructose corn syrup, and television. We love to gawk at boobies and say, “Oh my, the filth.”

We can show nudity in movies—wrapped around a stripper’s pole.

We can show a woman naked, covered in mud and blood, desperately trying to cover her nipples with one arm as she wildly looks around for the stalking psychopath with the chain saw; this is perfectly acceptable and altogether common.

We can likewise show the naked man in the swamp, smeared with mud and war paint, holding an assault rifle, bandana around the forehead. The film is making a point: OK, now we’re down to the naked level of primal violence. He has been sharpened into a predator, ready to kill. We know this because we can see his penis, and he no longer cares. “There is nothing human left, or he could not possibly do this,” we think. He is ready to fuck, or to kill. They are the same: predatory, dominant.

We can show the woman and the man naked, having sex or making love, whichever the case. Or getting in and out of the shower. These are the appropriate places to be naked: bedroom, shower.

Still, more often or not, she slowly drops the sheet and examines her breasts, or vagina, or belly, often in shame of some scar or deformation or other insecurity. He may drop his towel and gaze upon his chiseled body, American Psycho-style—for who else does this?

Not a fat man, that’s for sure. We could never have a fat man love his own naked body. That would make us puke.

And you giggled there, maybe (some of you did). A naked fat man. What is funnier, more perverse, than a naked fat man? A naked fat man is inherently perverse.

We can show a nude child: This is innocence (but it is more often abuse, or deprivation: the crying child, the dirty child, the naked child). Sometimes we see them playing in the nude, in scenes in aboriginal jungles, and in Pagan art—even in the very earliest book of the Bible (for Adam and Eve are portrayed as children, until they become evil, at which point they become adults).

“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed,” says Genesis. And here there is a true miracle: For how could this be, but by some divine intervention? We all know that naked = shame. And violence. And depravity and perversion and deprivation. And abuse. And sex.

Henry David Thoreau called it sauntering, and I discovered it when I was perhaps 9 years old.

I lived in the rusty tin buckle of the Bible belt, where sermons were screamons, and every social infraction carried with it the threat of outright hellfire and damnation.

I was walking in deep, deep woods, far from home, in the absolute middle of forested nowhere, away from the oppressive cultural constructs. In these woods I could breathe free, and I came here often.

I don’t remember the thought. I do remember the feeling, as I peeled off my shirt, perhaps too warm, and suddenly realized that I was alone here, that rules no longer applied, that I was free, if only for the moment. I was free, completely.

I am sure that I remember feeling giddy for a moment, at this singular act of rebellion, this evil freedom, this one act of private defiance.

And it was perverse. I left my clothing, and I sauntered through the woods, and then I ran through the woods, laughing, and red-faced, in shame and sure of hellfire, and free, free at last, thank God almighty I am free at last!

Eventually I slowed my run, and continued on among the trees, and touched the bark, and felt the sun on my skin, and, at some point, I remember becoming aware that I was unaware of my nakedness; that somehow, this felt natural, not naked at all.

What was this? Why didn’t this feel wrong? What was wrong with me, that this didn’t feel wrong?

I wandered among the trees, wondering what was wrong with me, and, again, in the wondering of it, completely forgot that I was naked.

Is it wrong to return to the Garden of Eden? Is it wrong to walk through that gate, if Somebody leaves it open, perhaps by mistake?

Or does the mistake lay in our shame itself? Is the revulsion of our own flesh perhaps the greatest sin and perversion?

In the years since, I have hiked naturally in nature for many miles of the Rocky Mountains, and endlessly through the canyons of Utah. I once spent two weeks alone in the Escalante, and never dreamed of separating myself, via textile body wrappings, from the desert air or the cooling waters of the river.

“It’s really all about the boobies,” several people have told me recently, with “knowing” grins.

OK. Do me a favor, though: Head on out to the heart of Escalante Canyon.

If you see a booby out there, I’ll tell you I have a new resort I’d like to sell you in Avila.


Sean Shealy is founder of Friends of Pirate’s Cove. Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

-- Sean Shealy - Los Osos

-- Sean Shealy - Arroyo Grande

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