In the posts on my “heroes of naturism” I have chosen to write about people who I think have inspired me, and who I think have done a lot to promote naturism and make it more acceptable. They may not be the most famous of people, not the boldest activists. There are others who are probably more deserving of mention, but these are the people who I am inspired by. I say this because Stephen Crowley may not be the most obvious person for me to regard as a hero.
Stephen Crowley, also known as noodtoonist, is an Australian comic writer. Amongst several works he is the writer of Loxie & Zoot and the The Bare Pit webcomics, which are set in the Koala Bay Bares naturist resort.
In 1997 he decided to write a single page comic strip about two nudists, Loxie and Zoot, which was published in the Australian naturist magazine – Australian Sun & Health. There were a few follow up comic strips featuring the couple. Then in 2000 Loxie and Zoot got their own webcomic which featured them as the owners of a naturist resort. The first story arc, The Koala Bares, was about their conflict with an anti-nudity campaigner named Tex Tyler and their attempts to show that nudity is something which can be normal and acceptable. http://loxieandzoot.comicgenesis.com/archive.html As he continued writing stories they began to expand, to focus on more of the other regulars at the nudist resort. In 2005 he decided to create the spin off comic The Bare Pit, to accommodate the gradual move away from his title characters. http://www.stripamatic.com/~crowley/barepit/archive.html In 2009 Stephen also produced a series of comic shorts under the title Bare Manors for H&E manors.
The stories are generally light hearted and often very funny, but they do also deal with more serious issues related to naturism, such as body insecurities, voyeurism and the differences in what young and old people want from naturist activity. His most recent story arc was about naked activism in a highschool. Yet in all of this the comic remains true to itself. It is pure and innocent. The nudity is something natural, which the reader rapidly takes for granted, rather than being in any way sexualised. In one review it was described as “the nicest comic on the web.”
The Loxie and Zoot stories have been printed as The Koala Bares, which has had some very favourable reviews. “Without ever getting preachy, The Koala Bares portrays not only the good of today’s naturist life, but also where naturism has room to improve. In addition, The Koala Bares gives sexual attraction its honest and fair due, while maintaining a family-friendly tone. This book is suitable for all ages, and can be given confidently to anyone ready to explore in a lighthearted fashion what naturism is all about. – N – The Magazine of Naturist Living review, Mark Storey”
It is the family friendly nature of Loxie and Zoot which most impressed me. It is a comic which I would be quite happy to recommend for children to read. It is not sensationalist and portrays nudity and naturism as something completely normal, yet in a realistic and not too idealised way. The characters are interesting, well rounded people. When nudists have featured in films and on tv it is usually the strangeness and discomfort for visitors being around naked people which is the central focus. It is very rare to see anything other than promotional videos which try to show nudism as normal. This comic does just that. It shows naturism in a positive way and shows how natural and normal nudity can be. I had never expected to read a comic quite like this and I think that Stephen is a hero for having the courage to try something like this.
After 2012 Stephen took a break from writing the Bare Pit in order to concentrate on his superhero webcomic Magellan. http://magellanverse.com/ It is a great comic and one which I can highly recommend, but I really hope he will return to writing more of the Bare Pit in the none too distant future.
Stephen’s views on nudism are best expressed in his own words.
“Loxie & Zoot is a creative outlet for me to depict the fun and freedom of naturism. Overall it’s meant to be a bit of fun – a naturist sitcom of sorts – so please view it in this light. Full frontal nudity is depicted in pretty much the way you’ll find it treated at naturist resorts and amongst the wider naturist community; as natural and normal and without lewd sensationalism. The many naturist characters featured in this comic are male and female, all shapes, sizes and ages, and I hope you find them realistic, believable and fun to get to know!
I find the hang-ups around nudity that are so prevalent in Western society are just outright weird. Let’s face it, the default condition for every person’s body is nude. Yet there are very few societies where the unclothed human body is no big deal. In most parts of the world there are varying degrees of taboos about the body, from the silly and puerile to the outright extreme. Where there is distortion of body image people usually hate, or feel ashamed of, or inadequate about, some part or another of their own bodies (if not all of it). Generally there are issues – fear, fetishes, fixations – about other people’s bodies, especially of the opposite gender and/or gender of sexual preference. My experience with people who practice social nudity has been that there is a much greater level of acceptance of their own body and respect for the bodies of other people. That’s not to say they are perfect human beings, just more at ease about themselves and others.
In the mainstream media (or any non-naturist media, come to think of it) I’ve never seen people who “just happen to be nude” unless there is a specific sexual, shock and/or comedic intention. News stories/articles about naturists or naturist events always obscure the genitals and a theme of general disbelief usually colours the editorial position. I’ve read columns in liberal newspapers in which the writer has been angry or offended by naturists. They are shocked that naturists have real bodies – not those of super models – and that they would dare to expose themselves in all their wrinkled, wobbly and saggy glory despite this.
Generally, naturism is none of the things most people who don’t practice it believe it to be – and that is a very long list of strange perceptions. Naturism, in its healthiest expression, celebrates the person – not what they look like or how they dress. Naturism recognises no uniforms, every single body can be as unique as the individual who lives within. Naturism can be healthy for body and mind. Naturism can be a lot of things – fun, sociable, healthy, sensual, liberating and natural. I enjoy rugging up against the cold, sometimes it’s fun to get ‘dressed up’ and I certainly don’t advocate nudity for every situation (arc welding springs to mind). Clothes serve a functional purpose, but somehow, somewhere, clothes have taken over from self-esteem and self-perception as well. It doesn’t need to be that way.
If any of this sounds even in the slightest way exciting, why not explore the possiblities? There are many social naturist clubs and resorts and beaches full of people just waiting to welcome you (although single males may unfortunately find this not to be the case – but that’s another story). So join in! You can even do it around the house if you feel you need a bit of practice accepting yourself first. As a person who enjoys naturism when opportunity and climate permit I know what I’m on about in my own way. But please don’t take any of this as gospel over and above your own experience of life and naturism.”