The Coercion of Nudist Children:
Stripped of Personal Freedom
by collette marie
all art work by collette
Collette Marie's article, and accompanying drawings, destroy the nudists/naturists' most cherished illusion: the image of the happy, wholesome, smiling, well-adjusted, clothing-optional family. It's not the nudism in a family that makes it well-adjusted. It's other values, that make a family well-adjusted, and, in fact the nudism can be part of the abuse to some children's. Here's Collette's story. --Nikki Craft
Collette & I confront Ed Lange, the father of the U.S. Naturist movement on the Jenny Jones Show. The article about Collette and I confronting Willamettans Nudist Camp Managment.
In 1972, when I was 11 years old, I was molested by a pedophile at Willamettans Nudist camp in Eugene, Oregon.
My father forced me--through psychological manipulation and physical coercion--to strip naked and attend nudist camps when I was a child from the ages of 11 to 14, causing three years of almost unbearable shame, powerlessness, and unhappiness, the effects of which I still suffer today. I am now 29 years old.
The following is the story of how I was forced to attend these camps as a child, and necessarily concerns the ideology of sexism and child abuse that enables the victimization of women and children to occur in this society.
I have always had a strong sense of identity, even as a child. This sense of selfhood included a feeling of the right to have personal space: the need for bodily boundaries and safety, the right to say "no." This inner integrity that I had as a child began to combine with the self-conscious awkwardness of puberty, which for me began at age 11 in the form of small breasts.
Thus, at this time, I conceived of an ever-growing need for privacy. I always made sure the bathroom door was shut behind me, and always wore clothes around the house. I began to need and take more space in order to integrate the experience of a changing body--a vulnerable, confusing time since my body was sending me new messages that I needed to process at my own pace.
My father was a perpetual nudist around the house all the years I was growing up. Since he was also Lord and Master of the household and made the rules, my mother and younger sister (by 15 months) followed "suit," seemingly unselfconsciously lounging around the house without a stitch from dawn to dusk. I did nothing of the kind. I was the "black sheep," and my father was determined to shear me of my wool at all costs, to bend my will to his own as he saw fit, to "break" me of my "unnatural" and potentially dangerous "inhibition," as he conveniently termed it. How I came to despise that man-ipulative word!
Imagine my fear and confusion! My growing need for the freedom and privacy collided with my father's conviction that I had a critical "body-image" problem, and also collided with my own notion that parents--especially my father--always "knew best." I had been told this in so many words by my father and by other adults. Wasn't he, after all, older, stronger, and wiser than I?
All I knew was that I needed him; I couldn't survive alone in the world. So, since I had no good role models, I began to believe--or almost believe--that my father must be right about me.
I had no female role model. Yes, I had a mother; she was a nurturing parent, comforting me with her love when I was down. But she was silent, invisible--her selfhood was nearly non-existent.
I first became aware of the disturbing power imbalance between my parents at the ripe age of four, and everywhere I searched thereafter in the outside world for some affirmation, some consolation for being female, I saw instead the same sick, distorted pattern I saw at home.
In part, my early development of a strong selfhood was the result of a struggle for survival, a necessary and healthy response to the terror I felt of being annihilated in a vacuum of self-effacement, of becoming invisible and unheard like my mother.
At age four with this inner knowledge developing within me, I vowed not to grow up and have children like my mother. It seemed for women to mean putting one's own needs last and dissolving as a self.
I clearly perceived my mother's powerlessness and I hated and feared it, since as a female I was supposed to emulate her. I also intensely resented my father for his domination of her. At 11, I encouraged Mother to stand up for herself. Father never realized her potential autonomy; Mother was merely an extension of his ravenous pseudopodic ego and not a real person in her own right, existing merely to gratify his endless wants.
My father continually expressed his contempt for my mother and for women as a class. His "manhood"--his idea of not being a member of the powerless and contemptible female class--depended on it and was thus assured.
Father routinely ordered Mother around and insulted her. She'd be walking naked around the house, and he'd tell her that her body looked like flabby shit. Over a several year period he would feel my younger sister's naked butt approvingly and comment to my mother that she should have a firm butt like her daughter's. Sometimes he'd tell her she looked good; it depended on his whims. I remember how her face would fall when he'd condemn her body. Her world revolved around his universe and his judgement meant grace or damnation to her. Her sadness made me want to run and throw my arms around her and tell her she was great.
My father kept us kids in line with the usual spanking tactics, and occasionally slapped my mother. Since she was easily cowed by other methods, physical force was rarely necessary. He spit on her contemptuously once when I was five. My father dominated mostly through threats of physical force, verbal abuse, financial power, and psychological manipulation. In the latter my father was an expert: he had dogged persistence and polished wheeler-dealer skills acquired through years of selling real estate. He applied these techniques on his family with consummate gamesmanship.
By the time I was 10, my resistance to Father escalated the friction. I was beginning to "sass" him, to insist upon my right to privacy when he would nag me to disrobe like the less "inhibited" members of my family. I became increasingly "lax" in my household chores, resisting the beaten path of my house-bound mother. Spankings and groundings increased. I spent many hours of atonement standing in a corner staring at the wall.
I often felt tremendously guilty and confused. There were times when my father could be very loving and proud of my accomplishments. I reveled in the pride he took in me. I loved him so much that I often felt guilty for my inner rage toward him.
I was artistic and Dad's praise was always forthcoming. He really tried at times. But my father's radiant love often seemed conditional: he could "turn on a dime" and suddenly become a terrifying, threatening spectacle if displeased.
My father was an avid collector of pornography. He had boxes and boxes of Playboy, OUI, Penthouse, Hustler, and lots and lots of nudist magazines. He had some "underground" porn as well, including issues concerning coprophilia [sexual obsession with feces] and child molestation.
When I saw the magazines I was sickened and felt ashamed of him. In one creepy image, I remember a drawing of a father and daughter, in which the little girl who looked 5 or 6 was sitting on her father's lap, with the end of his huge dripping penis buried in her. I was horrified that my father wanted to own this stuff.
As my rebelliousness increased, he began to withdraw the praise I had come to rely upon for inspiration. He began to call me names such as "spoiled lazy selfish self-centered bitch-brat" (a favorite of his). I became angrier and more rebellious. A vicious circle had begun.
Glen Eden in Southern California was the first nudist camp I was forced to attend, back in 1972 at age 11. When he broke the news concerning our impending nude vacation day, I threw a tantrum, screamed and pounded the floor. To no avail. The next day we headed out by car for an hour-long ride--with me sobbing and protesting all the way.
The methods employed by my father to disrobe me once at the camp grew more and more devious--the typical "this is for your own good" line didn't work. Persistent nagging sometimes worked, as did threats that I wouldn't get to see my favorite cousins during school vacations.
Once on the way to Glen Eden I was sobbing and my enraged father reached around and slapped me hard across the face. Instead of shutting up, I started screaming with rage and humiliation. My silent mother never intervened on my behalf, and this incident was no exception.
I remember the time my clever father tricked me out of my clothes. He told me he wanted me to go for a swim, which necessitated disrobing entirely (strict camp pool rules). I made him promise to give me my clothes back when I was done; I thought that if I pleased him by going for a nude swim I would be granted clothes the rest of the day. He promised, and I trusted him. I took my swim and got out, only to find that he was holding my clothes high over his head, looking smugly down at me. I cried and jumped in vain to reach those clothes, calling him a liar. My trust had once again been broken. A favorite saying of his was "the ends justify the means." And he had achieved his ends.
The pervasive atmosphere at the nudist camps I was forced to attend was this: "This is a clean, family-oriented place; we're all healthy, safe, and free here, no need to hide. After all, the human body is not being repressed so there's almost no possibility of sexual deviancy of any kind." However, I intuited that this was a widespread form of denial, because I didn't feel safe. Later on my suspicions proved correct.
One clear memory of an overheard conversation concerned the friendly pool maintenance man I had seen a few times at Glen Eden. He'd been asked to leave the grounds permanently because he had been molesting kids. I was a bit surprised because he seemed to have such rapport with kids. Yeah, the jerk liked kids all right. I never saw him again.
During the summer we made the nudist camp circuit up the coast from California to British Columbia, Canada, and back, staying for several days at each camp. Summer vacations were a nightmare for me. Like many other nudist children, I never was able to grow accustomed to the camps. I couldn't accommodate the sense of violation and betrayal I was feeling from my father, and the impression that I was being examined by thousands of strange eyes.
One time while sitting by a pool at one of the camps I considered acting on a fantasy: I would grab my clothes and head for the scrubby hills yonder, and cause my father (among others) a lot of consternation. I would run away, and when found and asked why I had done it, I would tell the naked truth about my situation and expose my father like he was exposing me. I guess I had felt too trapped to actually attempt such an escape at the time.
Camp Willamettans, Oregon, is situated on the Willamette River. In the summer of '72 they repainted the convention building. I was 11 years old. Out at the pool I noticed a nude middle-aged, tall, thin, grey-haired man snapping shots of nude little girls. He went all over camp taking such pictures, with a few token shots of grown women. He made no attempt at concealment. Therefore everyone assumed he was above-board. Why was this old man so interested in little girls? I wondered at the time. Why didn't he photograph trees or buildings? He wanted to take pictures of me and my sister. My sister allowed him without hesitation, and warned me to do likewise or I would have to deal with Dad. She was voicing my exact thoughts.
I knew I had to prove I was uninhibited or risk a lecture, or worse, from Dad. So I agreed to let Lonnie "shoot" me because he was not going to give up. He was like Dad, very persistent. I got out of the water and stood in front of him at his request, and he gave me a beach ball with which to pose. I held it in front of my pubic area, but he asked me to put the ball on top of my head. My inner voice screamed "Noooo!" but I knew I couldn't listen to it. I was caught, snared, and he shot me, pinning me with eyes both human and machine, trapping my image on celluloid.
I felt crazy, the world felt crazy - but I was absolved. I pleased Dad through this old man, and this was one small raft of consolation on my sea of inner desolation.
Thus I spent the whole day with this old man, feeling the warm glow of absolution. The old man took pleasure in chatting with me. He told me they were repainting a building at the camp for the convention the next day, and we sat together while he answered my questions as to what "convention" was. It was getting dark; a few hours earlier it got cold and my father allowed me to put on clothes--at last--and Lonnie himself was in a robe. So I felt safe, comfortable sitting there dressed with this old man who had accepted and absolved me.
Then he asked me to take a walk with him; he needed to get something from his RV. I agreed to go. It was quiet, no one in sight. As we walked along Lonnie asked if he could put his hand up my shirt. This felt "icky," but I agreed. After all, he had seen me naked, taken pictures of me. I ignored the screaming inner voice, and let him. He was a fatherly old man who had condescended to talk to me, to me, one who was slowly becoming invisible, dissolving like her mother, because there was simply no way to stop this dissolution anymore. Nowhere to run and hide, to be safe and whole.
He felt one small nipple and then the other, saying, "You must be developing. "Yes," I agreed.
We reached the RV. Luckily, his wife was there, making the bed. Lonnie introduced his "little friend;" she expressionlessly greeted me and went back to her work. We left. Back in front of the convention building, he told me quietly, "By the way, don't mention my touching you to your parents, they wouldn't understand. It's just between us." I agreed to this but was suspicious. Something was definitely wrong here! It had to be bad if you couldn't tell! This confirmed my inner knowing. After a few more minutes I said good-bye calmly, but ran back to our campsite and sat at the table by my parents. My mind was confused, racing. I didn't want to tell, but I had to. I felt ashamed, because I realized I'd been tricked once again, betrayed by someone I let myself trust despite my inner voice.
Finally I "confessed." I was relieved that my parents didn't seem to be upset with me, but with the old man. But I still wanted to crawl into a hole and die, because I was so unhappy.
I begged them not to confront the old man; I didn't want to be further exposed by dissemination of the incident. I blamed myself for being stupid; I didn't want anyone else to know how stupid I was.
My father went off for awhile and returned with Lonnie's roll of the slides of me. Then Mom, Dad, and I went to the camp authorities. I told them what happened, and they seemed concerned and didn't blame me for the incident. I felt like a piece of shit, regardless. We left the next morning, and I never found out if the camp confronted Lonnie, or if he was asked to leave.
For Dad, nothing changed. I was still forced, that summer and following summers, to attend nudist camps "au naturel." I hated the whole affair more than ever now, and continued enforced attendance was sheer torment. I resisted in the same old ways and my father employed devious tactics. I cried often. I wondered if there were other kids like me who were being forced to strip at these nudist camps.
Sometime that year, my father gave a slide show of several rolls of images from our vacation and scenery shots to Tom Doyle, a close family friend who sometimes attended nude beaches with us. Suddenly, a nude little girl appeared on the screen. I couldn't even hear my father's narration, I was so shocked. There I was with the beach ball on my head, "smiling." I had never seen the image before and didn't want to see it now. Nor did I want anyone else to see it. My father had kept those slides instead of dumping them or turning them in as evidence! I was very angry. I remember looking at my father's face, wondering if he knew what torment he was causing me. His face was calm, at ease; he never even looked my way.
Another thing that disturbed me as a pre-teen about my father was that he seemed attracted to my 9-year-old friend (I was 11). Once my father said longingly that Brooke was very sexy for a little girl and he had no doubt she'd be having sex with boys her own age before the age of 14.
My Dad was threatened by the strength of the bond between Brooke and I. One time he snarled at me, "You and Brooke always have to be together. What are you two, a couple of little lesbians?" I was hurt by his tone, even though I wasn't quite sure what a lesbian was.
Later my Dad bragged to his friend Tom that he had "made it" with my precocious 17-year-old best friend. I was 18.
When I was 12, at another camp in British Columbia, a beauty pageant was being held--female flesh in the raw to be examined, prized, and possessed by males. I remember only men on the panel of judges. Suddenly, I gasped! Lonnie was up there on the stage, a judge at this pageant!
Mom saw him and quietly warned me to stay away from him. I was naked in front of him once again, so I felt especially vulnerable.
Naked women began to line up, seemingly hundreds of them, to enter the contest. Finalists would be hand-picked later. Tan lines, as I recall, were undesirable--points were taken off for any evidence of clothing. Tanned, naked women from ages 16 and up, lounged by the pool while buzzing swarms of men shot them with cameras. It made me sick!
All of the men with cameras were dressed, including my father, for once. The disparity between the men and the women was obvious; it's hard to imagine the reverse--buzzing swarms of dressed women snapping shots of nude, coy men lounging by a pool.
My mother would have entered the pageant, but was too pale for this one. She was a little disappointed. After all, she had won the Miss Tujunga-Sunland Beauty Contest in the early 60's. It didn't raise her self-esteem to have won that pageant.
One morning at Rawhide Ranch, near Sacramento, California, in 1972, a little boy and I took a walk around a lake. I had left for a couple of hours while my parents were still asleep. I knew I had been gone too long. Sure enough, upon arrival at the camp-site my father threw me down in the tent and spanked me hard. I was crying and, though I was dressed, he was naked. It disturbed me that he was naked while hitting me!
My father was voyeuristic. He was more obsessed with my body than I ever was. He'd get disturbed if I pulled my chest back from his when he would hug me. Once (I was 13) when I was getting out of the shower he made me hug him when I was naked (he was dressed). I was clasping my towel around myself, it kept slipping, and I felt strange.
Finally, at age 13 or 14, Dad let up on me. He said he had seen a psychologist who told him to stop forcing me to attend nudist camps, saying to him that I was getting "too old" for that sort of thing. I was so relieved!
However, the years of torment had taken their toll. I was hostile, distrustful, and confused. An overwhelming sense of shame for being female dogged me constantly. My father and I fought continuously concerning my sexual identity. Once, when I was 18, I made a half-hearted attempt at suicide. I wanted to die because of the shame of being female in this world. Mom was often suicidal too.
I began to consider running away from home. When our fights got to be too much, I'd run off for part of the night.
Father would laugh smugly at me if I complained about sexism in any way. He discounted all my ideas and feelings. When I said that women taking men's last names was just another way in which females are made invisible in our culture, he told me I was "making mountains out of molehills."
Dad believed that women were weak and men were strong. He said that the natural order of life is that men dominate women, and women desire to be dominated because it makes them feel more feminine! He said that if I couldn't accept this I was abnormal sexually--a potential lesbian. If repressing women was so natural, how come my subservient mother was beginning to slash her wrists so that she'd have to get stitches? To overdose on drugs so that she nearly died once? She had twelve electric shock treatments, was "tranquilized," incarcerated in several mental hospitals, all of which only seemed to exacerbate her problems. (Of course, one cannot expect a patriarchal institution to address the real problem, that Mother had been born female in a patriarchy.)
Around this time I was assaulted by another man, but not at a nudist camp. I didn't report the incident because I thought my father might blame me for it. My father once explained that if I got raped it would be my fault and not the poor man's, who just couldn't control himself. I fumed. Men have defined women's psychology, sexuality and spirituality, also deciding when, where, and to what extent women shall or shall not wear clothes.
In retrospect, I perceive that my father forcing me to strip down at camps was one segment along a continuum of bodily boundary violations. Perhaps he was attracted to my developing female body and denied this attraction, projecting blame, guilt, and hostility onto me.
I had inadvertently pulled to the surface some of his deep-seated insecurities. So he tried--maybe without fully realizing it--to crush my will by disempowering me through the humiliation of exposure. I think both of these factors were motivating forces in my father's oppressive treatment of me and why it was more healthy to end the relationship than to continue it.
How they never gave my growth a rest
At my etiquette or at my breast
Humility the hidden test -- I played along
But going through my day-to-day
I felt sure there was another way
I was wondering the price I paid to belong.
I left my father as only daughters can
I chose to see him as a monster of a man
I left my mother in her frameless cage
But never could I shake her rage
Now you with your visions
And you with your fancies
And you with your stories
I couldn't understand
My childhood adored you
And naked before you
I stand as a witness as timeless as sand.
White wing mercy carry me away
I hear them singing clear from over here.
White wing mercy I don't want to stay here
White wing mercy Don't you leave me here.
"White Wing Mercy"
by Ferron © 1978
Collette Marie is an artist and activist currently residing in Bellingham, Washington. She swims nude with friends and wants to organize a shirtfree demonstration someday. She has extricated herself from her father and dropped his last name.
Reprinted from the ICONoclast. Copyright (c) 1995 by Nikki Craft. All Rights Reserved.
More about Collette (and her art work) and Willamettans Nudist Camp.
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