Summer is the time of year when peoples of all races, genders and sexualities shed their clothes and inhibitions and head to the beach. Clothing-optional beaches are more popular now than ever before, and not just among gay men. They allow us to enjoy the seaside without having to worry about the length, style or fashionableness of our swim suits. In my opinion, the knee-length cargo shorts currently worn by most American men are hideous and an indication of the sexual double standard that still prevails in our society. (Female bikinis, which leave nothing to the imagination, are very acceptable.) I am more fortunate than most in that my nude beach of choice - Haulover Beach in north Miami-Dade County - is only 40 minutes away, easily accessible, and condoned by the local authorities. Haulover Beach is also blessed by the fact that the warm South Florida climate allows it to be open and functional year-round, which is something that cannot be said for clothing-optional beaches in colder climates.
Jesse's Journal: A Day at the (Nude) Beach
Like pornography, nude beaches seem to be more acceptable in the gay community than in "mainstream," heterosexual society. Even the Advocate web site Advocate.com has seen fit to publish a list of the "Top 5 (Gay) Nude Beaches." In addition to Haulover Beach, author G. T. McCallan lists in his top five Hippie Hollow in Austin, Hanlan's Point in Toronto, Little Beach in Maui and Wreck Beach in Vancouver. How McCallan manages to leave out Black's Beach in San Diego and San Gregorio Beach (America's oldest gay beach) south of San Francisco is beyond my comprehension. On the other hand, the relative inaccessibility of both Black Beach and San Gregorio Beach -- you have to go walk down a cliff to get to either one of these otherwise excellent beaches - make me appreciate the easier-to-get-to Haulover Beach that much more.
Like textile beaches, clothing-optional beaches attract all kinds of people; and those who expect a parade of models will be disappointed. The gay nude beach at Haulover - at the northern end, for those who are interested - attract all types of gay and bisexual men, from circuit boys, Colt models and muscle bears to tourists, senior citizens and guys who look like Jesse Monteagudo. On any sunny Sunday, Haulover Beach is one big gay party and, like any party, it's bound to attract a pooper or two. A few years ago South Florida Free Beaches/Florida Naturist Association, a group whose "mission is to secure the establishment and protection of public clothing-optional beaches, park and recreation areas, and to promote the concept and ideals of Naturism," posted on its web site (www.sffb.com) a list of "Naturist Beach Etiquette." These are just "a few simple rules of common courtesy [to] ensure that everyone's visit to the beach will be an enjoyable and memorable one." This is a list that bears repeating:
1. "Respect our non-naturist neighbors. A swimsuit or appropriate clothing must be worn outside of posted clothing-optional areas. The Naturist beach itself is clothing-optional; nudity is not required, and those who choose to wear swimsuits are welcome, as long as their behavior otherwise meets accepted standards."
2. "Respect others' privacy. Sit at a comfortable distance from others. Respect your neighbor's space. Looking is normal, but staring is rude and unacceptable behavior. Lewd or derogatory comments are immature and unwelcome. Keep music volume low."
3. "No sexual activity is allowed. Our community of responsible naturist beach users has zero tolerance for lewd behavior. South Florida Free Beaches [or whatever your local group is] supports the arrest and prosecution of all sexual offenders. Florida Statute 800.03 [or whatever your state statute is] forbids any public lewd or lascivious activity under any circumstances; FS 800.04 calls for felony penalties of up to 30 years in jail for sexual offences committed upon - or in the view of - minors."
4. "Photos. Ask first! Practice common courtesy, and ask the consent of your subjects before taking any photos. Minors should never be photographed without the express consent of parents. Commercial photography requires a county permit and a signed release from all subjects. All photography must be without lewd content."
5. "Keep It Clean & Pristine. Don't litter. Keep the beach clean - pick up stray litter you find. Glass containers are not allowed on the beach. Smokers, cigarette butts do not belong in the sea or on the sand, dispose of them properly. Stay out of the dunes and other environmentally sensitive areas."
6. "Do Your Part. Do your part as a good citizen to keep the beach safe and secure for all. Don't tolerate inappropriate behavior, but report it to the SFFB [or whatever your local group is] Beach Ambassadors, the Lifeguards, or the Police at once."
Naturists have enough problems preserving the few clothing-optional beaches that we have without worrying about a few bad apples. Though (straight) naturist groups try to convince the world that nudists have "family values" like everyone else, the fact is that most Americans still view nudists as downright weird if not perverted. Time and again, the authorities have used public sex as an excuse to crack down on nude beaches. Though I like sex as much as anyone, for political reasons I support the naturist groups on this issue, as long as the laws are equally enforced. Have a good time at the nude beach, but remember: "Sex on the beach" should only be a drink.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and nude beach goer who never forgets his sun screen. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.