Created | Updated Apr 14, 2008
Naturism: A way of living in greater fidelity to nature, with a norm of full nudity in social life, the genitals included, when possible and appropriate. We aim to enhance acceptance and respect for one's self, other persons and the biosphere.
- The Naturist Society, 1997
There's no bird-watching here - no philosophy of natural causes, or doctrines of religious truths derived from nature, or precise reproduction of life in art or literature. That would be naturalism.
If, instead, you're looking to drop your clothing and enjoy social nudity with others of like mind, for reasons of health, body acceptance, relaxation, and getting closer to nature, you're in the right place.
History of Naturism
Naturism1 is generally considered a synonym for nudism. Most naturists prefer not to be called nudists, because of many historical stereotypes (the term 'nudist colony' is so obsolete as to be almost quaint), as well as preferring the connection to nature implicit in the term 'naturism'.
There are many references to early examples of required nudity, such as biblical baptisms, Greek athletic competitions, and the Hindu Gymnosophists (literally 'naked philosophers') who used nudity as part of their spiritual practice. Modern naturism started in Germany with the Freikörperkultur (free body culture) movement in the beginning of the 20th Century, in part as a reaction to Victorian restraints, and in part as a movement towards a healthy, Utopian lifestyle, with compulsory exercise and vegetarianism as part of its philosophy.
Through the remainder of the century, the naturism movement spread throughout the world in many forms, with various naturist groups both reacting to, and attempting to coexist within, the cultural guidelines and restrictions of their particular nation or region.
Naturism is a way of life in harmony with nature characterized by the practice of communal nudity, with the intention of encouraging self-respect, respect for others and for the environment.
- International Naturist Federation, 1974
Clubs and Resorts
There are a wide variety of organizations and locations around the world where you can become a member and take part in naturist activities within a supportive group.
The most basic type of group is the non-landed club (organization without its own resort or property) that organizes activities at people's homes, or perhaps a nude night at the local bowling alley or municipal swimming pool. At the other end of the spectrum is Cap d'Agde, a nudist city of over 40,000 people in south eastern France, where you can do all your shopping and banking in the nude. In between are a host of resorts, usually with their own lake or swimming pool, camping areas, and even rental apartments or cabins.
Clubs will usually have a membership requirement, which may be restrictive (many clubs try to balance the number of male and female members), and a membership fee. Many clubs have special events, like art or music festivals, which may be open to non-members in order to bring in visitors and recruit new members. Resorts are usually open to anyone who pays the cost of the stay at the resort.
Recent years have seen a growing commercial industry in naturist vacations, including nude cruises and other speciality tourism activities. This trend is providing an economic incentive to support naturism, which could end up having more of an impact on the acceptance of naturism than any other factor.
The Free Beach Movement
The commonly accepted (though often clandestine) activity of 'skinny dipping' joined with naturism to produce the free beach movement which is, in part, an effort to make naturism more acceptable to a larger portion of the population who might not feel comfortable joining a naturist club, but fondly remember skinny dipping as kids. This effort has sought to identify, establish, and protect public beaches, swimming holes, and hot springs where people can swim or sunbathe in mixed company without clothing.
One of the strongest advocates of this movement has been The Naturist Society. The Naturist Society also publishes the World Guide to Nude Beaches and Resorts, which is the most comprehensive world-wide resource for finding places to go naked in public. A copy of this, next to your towel, is a valuable travel companion. In addition to listing major legal resorts and beaches, it also includes common-use remote locations in areas where not supporting the fashion industry may be illegal, with directions something like:
Drive 17 miles past the old general store, then turn left on the second dirt road and take it to the end. Park in the field, climb the fence, then turn right and go down the cliffs about 100 meters to the old stream bed. Follow it about two miles to the spot where there's a rock you can sit on. Make sure no one else is around to be offended before you strip.
Most so-called nude beaches are actually clothing optional, which means that you may be clothed or naked as you wish. However, if you ever happen to be the only one wearing clothes on a beach with 1,000 naked people, you will soon realise that you're the one who feels 'naked'.
The kids Truth and Falsehood grew up as close friends. One day they went skinny dipping in the river. Falsehood climbed out of the water first and decided to dress in Truth's clothing. Falsehood then offered to swap hers for Truth's. But naked Truth chose to remain just as she was.
- Anonymous fable
Naturists include the full gamut of ages from babies to grandparents. Young children are particularly open to the idea, since they're born naturists and usually have to have it conditioned out of them (have you ever tried to keep clothes on a young child on a nice day?).
Many naturists believe that children raised in a naturist environment are likely to have a higher self-esteem, particularly about their own body, thereby being much less susceptible to eating disorders and other body esteem-related conditions, as well as having fewer hang-ups about the body during adolescence and having a more open view towards other people of all types. There is also the belief that many individuals who are prone to sexual violence have been raised to view the body as something shameful or perverse, and that this view contributes to their violent outlook.
Being natural and matter-of-fact about nudity prevents your children from developing an attitude of shame or disgust about the human body. If parents are very secretive about their bodies and go to great lengths to prevent their children from ever seeing a buttock or breast, children will wonder what is so unusual, and even alarming, about human nudity.
- Dr Lee Salk, Psychiatrist2
Naturism and Religion
Despite the fact that most religions do not have anything against nudity itself in their core beliefs, there are a lot of organized religious groups who see mere nudity as something sinful and are determined to shut down any nude beach or club they can, in any way they can, including attempting to pass anti-nudity legislation, picketing, making formal complaints, or publicly labelling all naturists as sexual deviants, perverts, and paedophiles. These people apparently wish everyone to be ashamed of God's creation, and instead, worship Him wearing polyester. These groups exist everywhere, but are particularly prevalent in the USA.
On the other hand, there are religious groups who use naturism as part of their form of worship, under the notion that being closer to nature is one way of being closer to God. They point out that The Bible has no prohibition against nudity per se. Not only was public nudity common in biblical times for practical reasons (or poverty); but, in some cases (baptisms, prophets, etc), it was required. They also note that the use of the word 'naked' in various translations of the Bible often means something else. For instance, references such as: 'And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister, nor of thy father's sister: for he uncovereth his near kin.'3 are actually using 'nakedness' as a euphemism for 'having sexual relations with' or 'lusting after'.
Sexual modesty cannot then in any simple way be identified with the use of clothing, nor shamelessness with the absence of clothing and total or partial nakedness. There are circumstances in which total nakedness is not immodest... nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness. Immodesty is only present when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person... The human body is not in itself shameful, nor for the same reasons are sensual reactions, and human sensuality in general. Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of the individual.
- Pope John Paul II4
Naturism and Sex
Do Naturists have sex?
Well yes, of course they do. They're human like most of the rest of us. They just don't have sex as part of their naturist activities. In fact, most naturist groups will go out of their way to discourage sexual activity in public, in order to combat the perception that nudity equals sex.
Social nudity is not by itself sexual, and is certainly less titillating than skimpy costumes on textile (clothed) beaches. In some countries, where cultural beliefs are gained from the media and cinema, many people have the false perception that nudity only happens when beautiful people are having sex.
If you'd like to take the plunge, here are a few tips:
Practice going naked at home. If you think the dog is looking at you funny, it's just your imagination... he's naked, too.
Find a naturist beach or club to attend and find out what you can about the place. Contact the club for details, read about the beach in the guide to nude beaches, or check it out on the Internet (figuring out which half of the information to believe).
Know the local laws... social nudity in jail is probably not what you were looking for.
Leave your camera, radio, and pick-up lines at home.
Bring a book, a towel, and something to share.
Bring sunscreen and a hat. Some parts of your body haven't ever seen the sun, so apply the sunscreen thoroughly. If you're fair-skinned, consider bringing a beach umbrella or other shade.
Relax and enjoy the setting. You'll feel comfortable in no time.
How to Spot a Naturist
A co-worker asks you if you want to see his tan lines and he takes off his ring.
You see a green capital letter 'N' bumper sticker on their car. The capital green N is the symbol for the Naturist Society.
They've got freckles... everywhere.
Early in the summer a friend has returned from the beach, she can't sit down, and she has her bra in her pocket.
You invite someone to go swimming and they have to go out and buy a bathing suit.
12-foot fences around the back yard.
Even though you live on the coast, your friends drive four hours each weekend to go to the beach because 'it's a nice beach'.
At the entrance to their driveway there's a huge sign saying: 'Warning: Beyond this point you may encounter nude sunbathers.'
Frequently Asked Questions
I see a guy that looks pretty hot, and I'd like to flirt with him, but I'm already naked. What do I do?
This can be a bit of a problem, particularly if you depend on the tease of clothing for your flirting. Your best bet is to go up to him and say: 'Hey, would you like to watch me put on my underwear?'
What happens if I get an erection?
This is the most common question from half of the population - we'll leave it to you to figure out which half - when considering naturism for the first time. In fact, it's not much of a problem. It's true that at first, that portion of your body may get a bit confused, but eventually it'll figure out that sex isn't included and go back to sleep. In the meantime, bury it in the sand, a towel, or the water until it calms down. Note: trying to reason with it out loud is generally not recommended.
[cruel Internet bulletin-board hoax answer to the same question:]
No problem. Everyone around you starts to point and laugh at you, until some mesomorph/homophobe thinks he sees you looking at his girlfriend/self and beats you to a pulp. After this happens a number of times, you get conditioned to go limp at the sight of a naked body.
My [insert body-part names here] are too fat. I can't go naked!
Just about everyone thinks they are too fat somewhere, but you'll soon discover that normal people come in all shapes and sizes and you'll fit right in, unless you go to the Supermodel Nude Beach (directions are here5), you'll get over it quickly. In fact, being naked can be an advantage over wearing a bathing costume which tends to force sections of your body out of the suit, drawing attention to the fat.
I have a tattoo/piercing on my [insert private body-part name here]. Will people accept me naked?
Of course. Unless you tattooed your online banking password there, you probably would like people to see your body art. Here's your chance.
If I go to a nude beach, will I be able to meet some overweight, middle-aged, single guys?
In the old nudist magazines and films, you always see them playing volleyball. Is that just a stereotype?
No. Naturists do play volleyball. Nobody knows why.
What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognise the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful that the garment with which it is clothed?