Amy Abbott runs one of New England's few year-round landed clubs, Abbott's Farm, where, through the end of March, you can learn how to make maple syrup . . . in the buff. Pilgrim Naturists of New England president Dennis Kirkpatrick says it's getting harder to find naturist venues in the city of Boston, and lately old standbys have dropped the Pilgrims' business, even during the recession. One organization was "deathly afraid" of being shut down if its town council found out it hosted after-hours naturist events.
Naturism organizations aren't there just to help people plan "nakations." The Naturist Action Committee (NAC) is a political-action committee that lobbies for increased tolerance of nudity in appropriate settings. (Now there's a lobbying group that's sure to score with Congress!)
Virginia Schnee, an NAC board member for the entire New England area, who sat down to talk with the Phoenix at a private nude polar-bear swim on the North Shore, says that naturism is simply a way to combat hypocritical images about bodies.
Schnee, who has three kids, ages four to 15, became a self-titled "lactivist" when someone at her son's school complained that she was breast-feeding her infant daughter at an assembly. In 2003, she testified for a bill that fines $500 for harassment of nursing mothers. Massachusetts was one of the last states to pass such legislation, finally signing the act into law last year.
"Our culture has inundated us with a specific body type, [which is] impossible to achieve unless you have major surgery. That's what drew me into the social aspect [of naturism]. I've always been an outdoor person; I've always loved to hike and camp and skinny dip out in the wilderness areas. But this was the opportunity to show my children that this is what normal people look like. It's okay to be, you know, very pale; it's okay to be very dark, to have different color eyes, different kind of hair — we're all human beings."
Then again, finding the right naked group can be tricky business. As avid naturist Max Harless, 47, put it: "Hanging out with people based on just that one interest is maybe a little flawed," he says. "Finding naked friends is no easier than finding clothed friends. In fact, it's harder."
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Aural Pleasures: Naked Girls Reading
For those looking for an in-the-raw thrill, nude reading is probably not what they had in mind. But though Chicago-based burlesque star Michelle L'Amour started "Naked Girls Reading" as a joke a year ago, it was so successful that she bought nakedgirlsreading.com, opened up Studio L'Amour, and began hosting monthly live events that are exactly what they advertise: approximately five naked women onstage, reading select works of literature in 15-minute spurts.
Producers in other cities — including Boston — have since approached L'Amour about starting up their own naked readings. (She will be in town the first week of April for the Boston Burlesque Exposition; go to burlesque-expo.com for more information.)