Naked Jen’s nickname is straight-forward. Naked Jen gets naked everywhere: on the street, while walking her dogs, touring on vacation, on the steps of the capitol building and most recently at Chicago’s Navy Pier at it’s most crowded — just after the fireworks grand finale. She records this public nudity on her blog, NakedJen.com
It was at an after party for the annual Blogher conference that I met Naked Jen. As I walked nervously through the party, clutching my $9 vodka and cranberry, a tiny woman with pixie blonde hair made a bee-line toward me. “I love your dress, I have to know who you are” she said.
Later, Jen disapeared then arrived back at the party, nude coming down the escalator. She did a round about totally naked, then took a different escalator back up.
The idea for her blog came after a stint working the back-end of the Internet porn industry.
“After I left that job, I was kind of disenchanted. I knew we were selling a fantasy but the women the men were paying to see were not real; they didn’t have real bodies.”
This attitude and her casual, non-sexual nudity makes NakedJen a sort of counter-porn site. At it’s core, the site is about body issues, body acceptance and learning to love yourself, a backlash to distorted body perceptions fueled by the media.
Summing this up, Jen says, “Just think how many times a day any person says I hate ______ about myself, I say we try to not do that. My biggest message is ‘love yourself and love the body you have’. I think the more we love ourselves, the more we can love other people.”
Viewing Jen’s rather anti-sexualized naked photos was at once exhilarating and terrifying. Seeing someone put themselves out there in such a vulnerable way caused me a -fit of anxiety, about imagining doing it myself. But weeing Jen’s smiling face atop her nude natural woman’s body — wobbly bits and all — seemed so genuine. It had me wondering if Jen was really onto something.
Jen also admits she has not always been so comfortable in her skin. As a survivor of sexual abuse, getting naked was part of Jen’s healing process. The non-sexual aspect of her nudity then makes sense: getting naked is about reclaiming her body, truly inhabiting it and reclaiming her innocence. “There are a lot of people who have been sexually abused, and I worry that for some women seeing me naked might trigger them, but I do this to empower myself and to empower everyone” Jen says.
Each week Jen features “Naked Fridays” on her blog, with a nude photo of herself and a call for readers to spend time appreciating their naked bodies and loving themselves just as they are. With this segment she hopes to begin to change our perception of beauty, one body at a time.
So why is getting naked a positive thing? “Being naked is awesome because it allows you to live your truth, you can’t hide behind a mask. When you are naked and not hiding the bulges and flaws, you eventually no longer even notice them” Jen says.
She also points out that just the act of wearing something like Spanx or Yummie Tummie is a constant reminder than you are trying to hide something. Jen is also an advocate of more social nudity in general, something that has never caught on in puritan rooted America but is more acceptable in European counties. “In Europe I am very popular, they are just excited to have someone that is just so naked! There, people just see a body, they don’t get all like ‘Woooo she is showing her boobs!’” she says.
I decided to take Jen’s advice and celebrate my own nakedness. I’m not a total prude to nudity, I often find myself mindlessly naked at home as I go about tasks. Yet when it comes to focusing on my naked body and it’s appearance, I go into self-attack mode. However, I felt hopeful after having talked with Jen about using naked time to focus on body positivity.
The day after my interview with Jen I woke up early with the intention of spending some quality naked-time with myself. I walked around the house naked and tried to feel really in my skin. As I noticed the areas I would normally criticize or try to suck in and hide, I worked on accepting them, accepting and loving my naked self as I was.
I then ventured outside to my apartment building’s shared back porch. For whatever reason being outside puffed me with a feeling of confidence. I stood taller and felt blissful, focusing on loving myself and staying in the moment — the morning’s gentle breeze didn’t feel bad either.
It was an amazing start to my day, I think some nude porch sitting could be a positive indulgence every now and then, Chicago weather permitting. So now, my Naked Friday call: Try not criticizing your body all day, try to never say “I hate ________”, set aside some time to appreciate your body today as it is, go forth and get naked!