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Introduction to Naturism
Welcome! If you're curious (or skeptical) about clothing-optional recreation, on this page I attempt to address some of the common misperceptions and answer some common question about nudism.
- If you have a question about nudism such as "Since I'm a male, what if something 'comes up'?" or "Is there any nudist etiquette I need to know?" please see my Nudist Q&A, you might find the answer there.
- If you are new to nudism, wonder what nudist clubs and resorts look like, and what goes on at them, and/or think you might like to try a visit to a nudist club, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of the North American Guide to Nude Recreation. The Guide's pictures and descriptions are a very nice introduction to nudism, and when you've made up your mind to try it, you'll also have a list of clubs and resorts nearby that you can visit! If you don't want to risk even a small amount of money on a book purchase, start at the web sites for AANR and TNS, you can link to many of their member clubs' web sites and view their facilities and descriptions online.
- If you are thinking, "They don't have children at these places, do they?" or "Isn't nudity a sin?" you may wish to see my discussion of Nudism, the Family and Religion.
Happy reading! --JMF
What Nudism/Naturism Is...
- Most simply, nudism is the idea that humans can recreate and socialize in a non-sexual way without the need for clothing.
For some people, this merely means being nude for comfort during hot weather or while swimming, or to avoid tan lines while sunbathing. Other people prefer to be nude at all times, even for mundane everyday activities, only using clothing when absolutely necessary for protection from hostile weather conditions. This is sometimes phrased "Nude when possible, clothed when practical."
- Nudism is a philosophy that all parts of the body are good and acceptable.
Nudists who are religious maintain that the entire human body was created by God and found to be "very good" -- not just the parts above and below the waist, but the whole body! Children in nudist families do not learn that their bodies are dirty or shameful, and thus are less susceptible to low self-esteem and conditions such as anorexia.
- Nudism is a philosophy of acceptance of ourselves and others.
Not only do nudists not fear their own bodies, but by being around other unclothed normal people, they learn that most humans do not look like Sharon Stone or Arnold Schwarzenegger. People at a nude beach or resort come in all shapes, colors and sizes, and may have surgical scars, artificial limbs or blotchy skin. By seeing the range of human body types, one learns that one's own imperfections are normal, and also to not judge others on their body appearance.
- Nudism is the ultimate democracy.
Our social status is in large part displayed by our manner of dress. In a nudist setting, these social differences are cast aside. There are no designer jeans, no Armani suits. A corporate executive is indistinguishable from a grocery store clerk. Nudism shows us that wealth and social standing do not make one human superior to another.
- Clothes-free is a highly comfortable and, very often, highly practical manner of dress.
If you've ever been to the beach and experienced a clammy, clingy swimsuit full of sand, you might be able to imagine how comfortable it would be to simply not wear one; this also eliminates damp suits in your beach bag on the way home! Really, the idea that one has to have a special kind of clothing to go swimming makes about as much sense as wearing underwear in the shower, and indeed, swimsuits were completely unknown prior to the Victorian era. And when you're working in your garden, getting covered with mud and dirt, remember that your skin is much more easily washable than any fabric.
- Naturism is a philosophy of simplicity and increased harmony with nature.
Many people feel more connected to nature when enjoying the great outdoors without the artificial barrier of clothing. Some people feel that excessive reliance on clothing is actually and directly harmful to the environment, because of the energy and resources required to manufacture and market clothing, and the energy and chemicals required to launder clothing.
(Note: The terms "naturism" and "nudism" are very often used interchangeably. Nudists in Britain in particular seem to prefer the term "Naturist" to "Nudist." Some people also like the term "naturist" because of the connotations of the word "nature.")
What Nudism/Naturism ISN'T...
- Nudism is not sexual.
Many people, particularly those in the USA, find this hard to believe and accept, because our society teaches us to equate nudity with sex, and our entertainment media (TV, movies, magazines) only show nudity in sexual settings. Consider, however, that our mouths are used for eating. Just because we are almost always displaying our mouths doesn't mean we are constantly in a state of hunger and always getting ready to eat. In the same way, the fact that nudists display organs that happen to be used for procreation does not mean that they are constantly sexually aroused or always getting ready for sex. Most people new to nudism find that after their first few minutes at a clothing-optional beach or resort, nudity quickly ceases to be shocking or even interesting. After you've seen 1000 nude people, there is little that is new or fascinating about number 1001.
As one nudist guidebook puts it, "One nude posed upon a divan is erotic. A hundred nudes waiting in line for potato salad are not."
- Non-sexual nudity is not harmful to children.
Children are natural nudists. Nearly every parent has experienced the two-year-old who removes their clothing as fast as it is put on them. Toddlers don't know anything about sex, they merely know that they are more comfortable out of their clothes. Children who experience clothing-optional settings from an early age see that men and women are shaped differently, and simply accept that difference as part of the natural order of things. Later, as teenagers, they will not have an overwhelming curiosity to get a look at bodies of the opposite sex, since they already know what they look like, and they know it's no big deal. (Children of nudist families generally have a much lower rate of teenage pregnancy as a result.)
- Nudism is not exhibitionism.
Exhibitionists display themselves in a manner that they know will shock and offend, and they get a thrill from provoking reactions from others. Nudists enjoy being without clothing for its own sake, and do not wish to shock or offend. In most cases, traditionally nude beaches are in remote locations in order that non-nudists will be less likely to come across them and be offended.
- Nudists are not "swingers."
Some nudists are Republicans, some are Democrats. Some nudists drive Volvos. Some nudists play volleyball. Some nudists are swingers. In none of these cases does one imply the other. Most nudists that I know personally are very conservative and monogamous in their sexual behavior. Family-oriented nudist resorts have policies regarding displays of physical affection, restricting any manner of public sexual conduct. (This is not to say that nudists are anti-sex or don't enjoy sex; but like anyone else, we enjoy it in private.)
Please be aware that some resorts which cater to the swinger market do call themselves "nudist." Don't be misled! If you prefer a non-sexual atmosphere and wish to avoid "swingers", your best bet is to look for nudist resorts which are affiliated with AANR and/or TNS, since swinger clubs are typically unaffiliated.
Several years ago some friends-of-friends visited us at our house -- a family with a daughter about 14 years old, and (surprise!) a new baby boy in diapers. We all were having a pleasant conversation, when nature took its course and their son needed to be changed. To our disbelief, they made their teenage daughter leave the room and shut the door, presumably so there would be no chance of her (horror!) seeing a penis, even an infant penis belonging to her baby brother being diapered. In my humble opinion, something is very wrong with this picture.
Children come into this world with surprisingly few preconceptions and pre-programmed fears. They have to learn to avoid the hot stove, the angry dog, and that it is not a very good idea to shut one's fingers in the door. Some of these lessons come through painful trial and error, some through observation of the parents' behavior and listening to their teaching. Human bodies are part of a child's natural environment; how the child reacts to them depends a great deal on the parents' attitudes. If parents carefully avoid even the most innocent nudity (coming out of the shower, bathing, changing clothes), and treat the unclothed body as dirty, shocking, and unfit to be seen, then the children will quickly learn to fear nudity. If such a child thereafter accidentally does see one of the parents or another person nude, they will probably be afraid and upset, because they have been taught to react in that way. On the other hand, children who experience occasional innocent nudity without accompanying reactions of shock and embarrassment do not learn to fear it, and for them it is of no concern whatsoever.
My college mailbox is directly across from a small art gallery which (among other things) occasionally shows work from the student art classes. When my wife or I are checking the mail with our son in tow, he always wants to visit the gallery and see what new and interesting art is on display. On one occasion when he was four, the gallery had examples of student sculpture done from nude models. When our son entered the room, everyone else who was there got very quiet and embarrassed. (Oh no! -- there's a little kid in here! With all of these naked statues!) Now, our family has been visiting clothing-optional beaches since our son was barely able to walk, and he has seen thousands of people of all shapes, sizes and colors in all manner of dress and undress, and he knows perfectly well what human bodies look like. So, the fact that the statues were nude didn't bother him in the least. He studied them all carefully, and his question was: "Why don't they have FACES?" (Evidently the sculpture class was not concentrating on facial features that month!)
Based on my observations of my own and some other nudist families with children, here are some of my conclusions regarding the developmental benefits of a nudist environment:
Obviously family nudity is an issue that many people feel strongly about on both sides, so instead of discussing it at greater length here, I would like to suggest these links for further reading and additional viewpoints:
- Nudist children do not learn to regard their bodies as objects of shame and disgust, thus they have higher self-esteem on average, and are less likely to suffer from anxiety disorders such as anorexia.
- Nudist children are less susceptible to sexual abuse. (Abusers depend on secrecy, and if a child is ashamed of their body to start with, they will have a harder time telling someone they trust about an uncomfortable incident.)
- Nudist children have much less interest in and curiosity about bodies of the opposite sex when they become teenagers, and tend to be more knowledgeable and responsible about how their own bodies work, thus teenage pregnancy is much lower than average among children of nudists.
Nudism and Religion
As you might expect, I have a somewhat unusual religious outlook. When I was growing up, I was somewhat shy about expressing my emotions, and my religious philosophy, a very emotional thing for me, is somewhat on the personal, introspective side even today. In particular, I have never been all that good at verbal proselytizing. Instead, having been musical from an early age, my primary means of religious expression is through music, as a church organist, and perhaps more so as a composer of both sacred and secular classical music.
Another aspect of my personal philosophy is tolerance and non-judgement of others. Unfortunately, many religious people (in the United States especially) seem to be not content merely to follow for themselves what they feel to be a moral standard of behavior; they seek to compel others to follow their same standards, by force of law if necessary. In my opinion, even if you "successfully" force a group of people to observe a moral standard under threat of law, those so constrained are not truly behaving morally, they are merely obeying the law! They are no more moral in thought than they were before, the only change is in their outward behavior. The only way to truly make another person moral in belief is to teach and persuade them that certain behaviors are good and worthwhile even though not legally compulsory -- and the best way to do that is to inspire others by your own example.
Nor do I think that simple, innocent nudity is, in fact, a form of sexual immorality at all. Consider that other mammals, from mice to elephants to primates, never wear clothing, and constantly see other members of their species without artificial covering. But these creatures still manage to hunt, eat, care for their young and go about their daily business without feeling compelled to mate constantly, only doing so occasionally -- and yet, these are animals who are much more ruled by instinct and hormonal cycles than are humans! Our human intellect should allow us to separate sexual desire from simple nudity more easily than animals do, not less.
Other far better Bible scholars than I have debated the issue of nudism and religion many times, but let me mention a few points. Leviticus 18 and 20 are frequently mentioned in arguments against social nudity. However, consider these two adjacent verses from the King James version:
[Le 20:19] And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister, nor of thy father's sister: for he uncovereth his near kin: they shall bear their iniquity.
Many of the surrounding passages are similar in construction to these two, and use the phrases "take", "lie with", and "uncover the nakedness of" interchangeably in the same position within the verse. It seems clear that "uncover the nakedness of" is synonymous with, and a euphemism for, sexual intercourse. These passages are clearly intended to prohibit incest, not nudity. (It is worth noting that in the New International Version these same verses do not use the word "naked" or "nakedness" in the translation.)
[Le 20:20] And if a man shall lie with his uncle's wife, he hath uncovered his uncle's nakedness: they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.
I also think often of Paul's statement in Romans to "not be conformed to the standards of this world." This is typically cited as a moral admonition to avoid worldly "wickedness," but I had a flash of inspiration one Sunday morning as this passage was being read that this common interpretation might if anything be backwards. For example, the current standard of this world for men's swimwear is to wear baggy shorts well below the knee! (I definitely don't conform to that!) My interpretation of Paul's advice in Romans is that one's faith, intelligence, and common sense are much better guides to behavior than simple mindless conformity to "what everyone else is doing."
And of course, the ultimate Biblical treatment of nudity is in Genesis. In alt.christnet.nudism this is often hotly debated, with arguments about whose idea the post-Garden-of-Eden clothes were, God's or Man's, whether the clothes were a punishment that we must carry to this day, or instead a loving divine gift to help protect us from this nasty world we'd gotten ourselves into. My own interpretation of the clothes is that they were (at least symbolic of) an attempt to hide from God, and not a very good attempt either. Adam and Eve could just as well have run away, or hidden in a tree, or stuck their heads in the sand. Whatever you think of the origin of clothes, however, there is still the undeniable initial state: The man and woman were created without clothing, and were without shame, and were very good. Whatever occurred later, I think that this shows that the unclothed human body is not in and of itself an object of shame or sin.
So, after reading all this, you should not find it surprising that some of my best pieces of religious music were composed while relaxing nude at the seashore. (It's certainly not surprising to me, though I admit that I sometimes smile to myself at the irony of it!) I find the ocean very relaxing, and to remove the artificial barrier of clothing allows one to fully experience the refreshing sensations of the natural beauty of creation. It's like taking a vacation from the world and stepping back into a natural innocence, and yet, you don't have to leave the world or your friends completely behind, they can still be there with you. And I personally find that when care-free and clothes-free, the music that is such an important part of my own unique religious experience flows that much more easily though my mind and soul.
--James M. Fitzwilliam, May 2000
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. . . . Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person, when its aim is to arouse concupiscence, as a result of which the person is put in the position of an object for enjoyment. . . . There are certain objective situations in which even total nudity of the body is not immodest.
Here are some Christian Nudist pages for further reading:
Also try my Links Page under "Special Topics."
Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), Love and Responsibility
Questions and Answers About Naturism
|Q: ||OK, I've read all this stuff, and I understand that nudity isn't necessarily sexual, but I still don't understand why you want to "recreate and socialize" without clothes in the first place.|
|A: ||There are a lot of reasons, but I think the simplest answer is: It doesn't hurt anyone, and it feels good. Certainly being nude outdoors on a sunny day isn't sexual, but it is sensual, that is, a delight to your senses. Without clothing, you have improved blood circulation in your skin and nerve endings, and you feel the cool grass on your feet, and the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the breeze on your entire body. Unless you have tried it, it's hard to believe how much more alive being nude can make you feel. And the practical benefits of swimming without the inconvenience of a suit have already been mentioned.|
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
"On Clothes," Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
|Q: ||I think I'd have to be a lot better-looking to try this.|
|A: ||Nudists come in all shapes and sizes. One of the philosophical ideals of nudism is to accept people as they are, without judging them on their bodily appearance. At just about any clothing-optional beach or resort, it is almost guaranteed that you will not be the smallest or the largest person present. Participating in nude recreation is an excellent way to feel better about yourself and how you look, even if your looks aren't perfect. Actually, most "ordinary" people look far better nude than they do when trying to stuff their bodies into unnaturally tight clothing, or into one of those swimsuits designed for anorexic supermodels. When you are nude, your body takes its best, most natural shape and proportions.|
To cite just one example of this (and I don't wish to pick on any one body type; many other examples could go here equally well) women with large busts sometimes face a dilemma in the matter of clothing. Tight-fitting clothing tends to emphasize the breasts, not always to good effect, whereas clothing that hangs loose from the bust tends to make the abdomen look larger than it really is, almost like maternity wear. The best, most attractive outfit is actually: None At All.
And if you aren't comfortable being nude right away, many beaches and resorts are "clothing optional", so you can wear as much or as little as you prefer.
|Q: ||As a male who has no experience with being nude in public, what happens if I become visibly aroused?|
|A: ||Believe it or not, this almost never happens, especially if you are honestly worried about it, since anxiety and embarrassment are pretty much incompatible with erections. Most newcomers to nude recreation find it so natural that after a few minutes, they forget that they are nude. And in that same short time, you realize how non-sexual the situation is. The most important sex organ in the body is the brain, and if you aren't thinking sexually, your body will not respond sexually.|
Now, of course, sometimes spontaneous erections do occur, but what is most important is what you do next. The best thing to do is ignore it and concentrate on whatever else you are doing, and the situation should correct itself quickly. If the condition persists for more than a minute or two, a dip in the cool ocean or pool, or lying face down on your towel, will take care of it.
My own experience: In all the years I have been involved in nude recreation, I have felt my own gears "starting to turn down there" only twice. Once was while having a conversation with my wife, who made a remark to me with a bit of romantic innuendo in it, and the other time was due to bouncing around while playing volleyball. In both cases, "thinking about something else and ignoring it" canceled the "action" immediately before it really got started -- result: not a problem.
|Q: ||Nude recreation is a new social situation for me, are there any special rules of etiquette?||A: ||If you act with the same courtesy and respect towards others that you would while clothed, you probably won't have a problem, but here are some common things to remember:
- When seated on a piece of furniture or other public surface, sit on a towel (your own). This is good hygiene and is also courtesy toward the property of others. At nudist clubs and resorts, you will see many, if not most, people carrying a towel with them for this reason. (One place this rule is relaxed somewhat is sitting on the sand at a sandy beach.)
- If you are at a beach, obey any posted rules that apply to that beach. (Some beaches don't allow glass containers, some don't allow alcohol, some don't allow pets.) Stay out of dunes and other environmentally-sensitive areas. Try to leave the beach cleaner than you found it; hike out your trash (and more if you are able). If you smoke, remember that your cigarette butts are trash too, don't leave them on the beach.
- Stay in established nude areas. Nudity in areas where people are not expecting to encounter clothes-free people can cause offense, and remember, nudism and exhibitionism are not the same thing! It is best to avoid (as much as possible) complaints that can lead to the closure of clothing-optional areas.
- Save any overt sexual behavior for the privacy and comfort of your own home, cabin, or motel room. While in public areas, limit displays of affection to those that would be appropriate at a church picnic, or when bringing a date to meet your mother at her house.
- Photography is not prohibited at public beaches, but sometimes clothes-free people worry about their picture possibly being exploited on the Internet, so it is polite to ask others around you if they mind before taking snapshots. In particular, do not take pictures of other people's children without the parents' permission! Many private nudist clubs and resorts do not allow photography at all without prior permission from the management, so check first. If in doubt, leave the camera at home.
- Remember to bring your own supplies, towel, sunscreen, beach umbrella, food, drinks.
- When meeting new people, don't monopolize their time or engage them in long conversations if they prefer peace and quiet. In particular, trying to "pick someone up" is usually a real turn-off to others, so if you're single, just relaxing and being yourself is the best bet; nobody likes a "beach Romeo." If you're not behaving in an obnoxious manner, you will probably find that nudists are just about the friendliest people anywhere.
- Remind others of proper etiquette if necessary and appropriate, and report any illegal activity to the proper authorities for that location, either the club or resort owners, or the park rangers or police. Illegal activity can get clothing-optional beaches closed, so it is in our best interest to be responsible citizens and help the authorities do their job.
|Q: ||This can't be legal, can it?|
|A: ||Laws in the United States regarding nudity vary from locality to locality and state to state. Generally speaking, nudity in private residences and in private nudist clubs and resorts has few restrictions; one notable exception being within the state of Arkansas!|
Here is a quick summary of possible legalities at the public clothing-optional beach, hot spring, or other watering hole near you. (Remember that I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.)
Here are some online resources on nudist legal issues:
- Some beaches are absolutely legal for nudity, complete with official signs and police patrols that protect the beach while totally ignoring simple nudity. Haulover Beach in Miami, FL is one example.
- Most states do not have laws against simple nudity. In most cases, nudity is not against state law unless accompanied by lewd conduct. This is not to say that you can leave your clothes behind while shopping on Main Street, unfortunately; you would probably be charged with Disorderly Conduct if nothing else. Also remember that cities and counties can have their own laws regarding simple (non-sexual) nudity.
- At a number of beaches, nudity is officially "tolerated" and safe even though it is technically against state, county, or local law. Example: Lighthouse Beach in New York (one of the three states with a law against simple nudity).
Unfortunately, shifts in the political climate, sexual crimes that happen to take place nearby (and cause heightened public sensitivity to anything perceived, correctly or incorrectly, to be sexual, such as beach nudity), and the influence of religious or conservative groups, to name a few, can sometimes lead to enforcement "crackdowns", even at beaches that have been traditionally nude for decades.
- There is no federal law against nudity, so some of the more-established nude areas are in national parks. To a large extent, each park superintendent has discretion on how to "manage" nudity. In cases where it is decided to disallow nudity, the principle of "concurrent jurisdiction" can allow state and local laws against nudity to be enforced on federal land.
At some national seashores, there are officially-designated areas and signs indicating where nudity is expressly permitted, such as at Apollo Beach in Florida, and Gunnison Beach in New Jersey. The only national park where nudity is specifically totally prohibited is Cape Cod National Seashore, but a group of nudists has been working to improve relations with park officials, with the result that nudity is at least somewhat tolerated in certain areas there.
|Q: ||When I search for "nudist" or "clothing-optional" in my favorite Web search engine, all sorts of pronography* sites come up.|
|A: ||It should not be surprising to anyone that the pronography* industry, whose primary commodity is depravity, has no recognizable scruples in its business practices. Pay-to-view pronography* web sites use a number of legal (but underhanded) techniques to ensure that they get lots of visitors, i.e. potential customers:
So what can you do? Continue to use your search engines, but be extremely wary of the results. And once you do find a legitimate non-sexual nudist web site, take advantage of any links there, because legitimate nudists almost never link to pronography.*
- Pronography* sites deliberately pack their pages with keywords like "nude" and "nudity" (and even "clothing-optional" and "naturist"), repeated dozens or hundreds of times, so that they will come up in just about any search even remotely related to nudity. These keywords are put into the META tags which search engines use to locate keywords, into the ALT tags which describe image content, into the window titles, into invisible comment fields, etc., so that even the best efforts the search engine companies use to ignore these cheats are overwhelmed.
* (By the way, you may have noticed my repeated deliberate misspellings; I don't want my site to come up in a keyword search for, ah, "pronography," thank you very much!) The pronographers honestly don't care that someone searching on the phrase "clothing-optional beach" does not want to see intimate pictures of women with farm animals.
- Because of this, "index sites" such as Yahoo often ignore or are very slow to respond to requests for a site to be listed as "nudist" or "naturist", even if it is a legitimate nudist site.
The hard-working people at portal companies like Yahoo don't want to get involved in debates over what is nudism and what isn't, and they don't have time to sift out the huge amounts of garbage, so often they ignore the whole topic, and the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. This means fewer incorrect links to pronography* sites, true, but it also means there are fewer real nudist sites listed that could drown out the smut.
- There is a common saying, "A lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its boots." Pronography* companies have lots of money and no inhibitions, so they have acquired every Internet domain name they can get their hands on. "www.nudist.com"? A pronography* site. "www.nudism.com"? A pronography* site.
Since "nudist" and "naturist" are not trademarks, nothing can legally be done to stop this. The pronographers* have even registered domain names that are misspellings of major company sites! If you're typing something like "Yahoo" or "Excite" into your "Open Location" box in your browser, and you accidentally add an extra letter or reverse two characters, if you don't get "site not found," there's a good chance you'll wind up at a smut site. Very sneaky.
|Q: ||You keep mentioning "nudist clubs and resorts." These places have memberships and other fees, right? There are free places to be nude, too, aren't there? What are the differences between a nude beach and a nude resort?|
|A: ||[JMF's Answer Under Construction]|
Here is an excerpt from a discussion that took place on Usenet in May of 2000 on this very topic:
Date: Fri, 12 May 2000 07:44:10 -0700
From: Rich Pasco
Mike J Oropeza wrote:
> I continue to choose a beach over a club because:
> * Fewer rules
> * Less expensive
> * Bigger variety of friends and clientele
> * Clothing optional
> * Late night bonfires
> * Sand in the volleyball court
> * Nobody questions my motivation at the front gate
[Rich Pasco responds:]
All good reasons, but I continue to choose a club over
a beach because:
* Security staff screens out weirdos
* Regular clientele makes it easy to make lasting friendships
* Restaurant, pools, hot-tubs, and other amenities
* No sand to get into everything
* More dependable weather inland than coastside (in CA)
* Indoor spaces when weather does get bad
* Evenings have professional entertainment
* Clothing optional
I guess it's all a matter of taste! :-)
You may also wish to refer to my Links and Bookstore pages for more material on what nude recreation is all about.
Last modified May 30, 2002.
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