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Naturism is the practice of not wearing clothes, especially in places wher clothes would normally be expected. Naturists see clothes as a hindrance to contact with nature, and as an artificial means of conferring status; thus, not wearing clothes is said to increase health, and to lower artificial social barriers. Naturism is practised in many Western countries to a greater or lesser degree.
The movement includes a large range of variants including "naturism", "nudism", the "free beach movement" as well as generalized "public lands/public nudity" advocacy. While there is a large amount of shared history and common themes, issues and philosophy, differences between these separate movements are sometimes contentious. The usage of these terms varies geographically; people in the US often prefer the term nudism, while people in Europe more often than not refer to themselves as naturists.
The movement also works in parallel to and sometimes influences and is influenced by popular culture as well as individuals and activists (see clothes free people) as well as organizations (see clothes free organizations).
- The terms naturism, nudism and social nudity are generally defined as the practice of going nude, especially in a mixed social setting. The terms naturism and nudism generally also mean that the activities are done in non-sexualized, family-friendly contexts. The usage and definition of these terms varies geographically and historically.
- A naturist or nudist community (club, resort or facility) may insist on complete nudity when practical (to ensure that no one feels inappropriately undressed, and other reasons). Some controversy exists on this topic among naturists, with some saying that a resort that is "clothing optional" fails to support naturist values, and others saying that a resort that is "compulsorily nude" is in fact as restrictive as the outside world where nudity is forbidden. Nudist colony is no longer a favored term.
- Clothes free/clothes-free and clothing free/clothing-free used when preceding other words as a descriptive term is used sometimes by some arguing that it allows more inclusion of both the naturist and nudist philosophy without showing preference or bias to either labels or philosophy.
- Clothing optional and nude optional can describe a policy or a venue that allows or encourages nudity but tolerates the wearing of clothes.
- A nude beach or free beach is not so much one without an admission cost, but one in which people can be entirely free of wearing their clothes.
- Freehiking or free hiking is the practice of hiking in the wilderness while nude.
- Freikörperkultur (FKK) (see article in German) or Free Body Culture is the name for another variant of the general movement in Germany.
- Gymnophobia is an irrational fear or anxiety about being seen naked, or about seeing others naked.
- A landed organization is one that owns the real estate for its facilities. Non-landed (or travel) clubs meet at various locations, such as private residences, hot springs, landed resorts and rented facilities.
- A shaved or smoothie individual is one who shaves off much of his/her body hair.
- Textile is a nickname for a person who does not practice social nudity. A clothist.
- Topfree means bare-chested (leaving chest and breasts uncovered), or a place that allows uncovered female and male chests. The term was coined by activists to use instead of the term "topless", which has a negative connotation to some, in part because it is used by strip clubs.
Philosophy and practice
Many people believe that the naked human body is to be accepted, respected, cherished, and enjoyed. They believe it is not inherently shameful, corrupting, degrading, or dangerous. Many of them enjoy clothes free activities. They reject views that being naked with other people is morally wrong, indecent, or sexual per se. They argue that nakedness is a healthy, natural state, that being nude is to be in your purest form, since everyone was born nude. They generally find that they quickly become so accustomed to being nude among nudes that it no longer seems very remarkable. It is, rather, simply one part of their lifestyle.
Modern social nudity is mostly a revival of ancient customs and mores, when it was more pervasive throughout the world. Even the Inuit of the Arctic went nude in their igloos. The indigenes of Tierra del Fuego went almost naked under conditions of snow and bitingly cold wind. Only a few small, isolated examples today survive of societies which have retained from ancient times a customary life with little or no clothing ever. They are mostly in the Amazon basin, sub-Saharan Africa, and New Guinea. They endure continuing political, economic, and cultural forces which are assimilating some and killing others, often destroying their traditional habitat.
Social nudity in less extreme forms is practised in many cultures, especially in the contexts of social bathing or swimming, sometimes with mixed sexes. Nude activities can be indoors and outdoors. Typical activities are relaxation, sunbathing and recreation (including many sports). Some also prefer to work nude, etc., when the temperature and the social situation allows it (including when one is alone). A nude party may be public or private. Some clothing-optional communities do exist for those who wish to live in a supportive environment. In fact there are communities under development that even cater specifically to Christians that desire to practise Christian naturism.
Practitioners say that they are not pruriently interested in seeing others naked or in being seen naked by others. People participate in clothes free activities for various reasons. Many are convinced that increased exposure to the natural environment, made easier through nudity, can result in numerous health benefits. Sunlight has been shown to be beneficial in some skin conditions and enables the body to make vitamin D, a necessary nutrient.
However, with the increased awareness of skin cancer, wearing of Sunscreen is now part of the culture, and recently more education has been carried out to warn of the risk. Whereas nudist parents do not require their children to put on clothes before going outside at a clothes free area, most do require them to put on sunscreen lotion. Overall, those who enjoy clothes free activities often claim that they are more relaxed and in a better state of mind when they shed their clothes.
Many people say that being nude in groups makes them feel more accepted for their entire being--physical, intellectual and emotional. They say that they tend to be more accepted, in spite of differences in age, body shape, fitness, and health. Without clothing, one's social rank is generally obscured. They report feeling more united with humanity, with less regard to a person's wealth, position, nationality, race, and sex.
Those inexperienced in social nudity often say that they fear that it contributes to an imbalance of power between men and women. They say that women and children are more vulnerable when nude, and can be exploited. While that might be true in a situation of commercial nudity, such as a strip club, women advocates of social nudity assert the opposite, especially in an established nude group. The men are nude there as well, no money is changing hands, nor is anyone in any sense giving a "performance".
Being around like-minded people can make interpersonal interactions, such as meeting new friends, easier. Many pro-nudity organizations promote frequent social activities. Some of the clubs have strict entrance requirements, including the requirement to supply references, a sponsoring member, a trial membership, committee approval and/or, due to fears of sex offenders, criminal background checks. At the other end of the spectrum are 'unorganized' clothes free events and activities on public lands where there is nothing to join, no one to pay, and only civil, common and criminal law to serve as rules of etiquette. Many people get their first exposure to the clothes free movement through that kind of informal approach (e.g. a clothing optional beach, a friend's place in the woods, a party on the shore or skinny dipping).
Genetic studies of the human louse Pediculus humanus, which feeds on the body but lives in and requires clothing, suggests that humans started wearing garments 72,000 years ago +/- 42,000 years. This estimate matches that of the first appearance of physical evidence of clothing-making tools. The species Homo sapiens itself has existed for 200,000 or more years, so there is a strong argument that the 'natural' condition of early humans was nude. Early humans are thought to have been covered in somewhat more body hair than we are today, and preferentially inhabited the warmer areas of the earth. The competitive advantage that clothing gave these early peoples as they expanded into the less hospitable parts of the globe was a strong driver for its widespread adoption. In tropical conditions however, the human body does not physically require clothing and it continues as more a social convention than as a biological necessity.
Ancient cultures (the Greeks and the Romans for example) sometimes had quite different attitudes toward the unclothed human body than are common today. In fact, the word "gymnasium" comes from the Greek word "gymnos", meaning "nude," because athletics in Greece was routinely practised naked by its participants.
Nudity taboos may have developed simply because people got accustomed to wearing clothes for practical reasons, as in temperate or desert climates. Perhaps it became a habit, was culturally ingrained, and was elevated to a requirement.
Feminist theory, however, generally links the historic and pre-historic development of body "modesty" to the subjugation of women. In patriarchal societies, it is often the men who most desire to cover the women, ostensibly to protect the women, but, according to the theory, it is more to keep a woman from developing relationships without the approval of her father or husband. An alternative formulation of this theory is that hiding women's bodies (or at least a given society's selection of "erogenous zones") keeps the ardor of unauthorized males at bay. Women may feel that this protection, whether or not it is really meaningful, has value.
Objections to being nude are often religiously motivated, even when that idea started as a cultural taboo, as in the previous two paragraphs. Many peoples around the world started wearing clothes only after missionaries argued that it is more civilized. However, there are many religiously devout nudists who attend worship services regularly. They argue that they do not need to shed their morals with their clothes.
The Adamites, a Gnostic sect, practised religious nudism.
Another religious sect, the Doukhobors, migrated from Russia to western Canada. They practise or practised occasional nudity, such as while working in the farm fields. One of the three subdivisions of Doukhobors, the Freedomites, went so far in the 1900s as to publicly strip in mass public demonstrations to protest against government policies which were meant to assimilate them (see documentary Spirit Wrestlers below in references or in reading).
One of the two main divisions of the Jain religion of India is "skyclad", or naked, though generally it is practised by the males. The term "scyclad2 is also used to describe ritual nudity in Wicca.
Although there is no well-defined date in Western society when it became unacceptable to be seen nude in public, the era of Queen Victoria certainly ended whatever remained of it, with nothing emerging until after her death in 1901.
The spread of philosophy and the rise of formal communities
The earliest known naturist club in the "western" sense of the word was established in British India in 1891. It was founded by Charles Edward Gordon Crawford, a widower, who was a District and Sessions Judge for the Bombay Civil Service at Thana. Evidence for its existence is only known by a few letters he sent to friends, and the club reportedly closed in 1892.
In the early 1900s, a series of philosophical papers was published in Germany that examined the negative psychological effect of self-hate of the body based on both religious and severely negative community views. The basic position that the human body, in and of itself, was neither sinful nor obscene was combined with a new philosophy to create the modern Western nudist movement. The proposition was advanced that combining physical fitness, sunlight, and fresh air bathing, and then adding the nudist philosophy, contributed to mental and psychological fitness, good health, and an improved moral-life view. The wide publication of those papers contributed to an explosive worldwide growth of nudism, in which nudists participated in various social, recreational, and physical fitness activities in the nude.
The first known organized club for nudists, Freilichtpark (Free-Light Park), was opened near Hamburg in 1903 by Paul Zimmerman. About the same time, another German, Dr. Heinrich Pudor, wrote a book titled Nacktcultur, which discussed the benefits of nudity in co-education and advocated participating in sports while being free of cumbersome clothing.
The nudist movement gained prominence in Germany in the 1920s, but was suppressed during the Nazi Gleichschaltung after Adolf Hitler came to power. The state-controlled leisure organization of the Nazis, Kraft durch Freude, refused to recognize it. However, it was later discovered that Luftwaffe (Air Force) head Hermann Göring had single-handedly written his own strict anti-nudity views into the Gleichschaltung, thereby imposing his views on everyone. (He had been one of its main authors.) Many in the Nazi party thought he had gone too far, so after nearly a decade, the rules were eventually softened in July 1942. Nevertheless, all naturism clubs had to register with Kraft durch Freude, which meant excluding Jews and Communists. Also, they had to keep all activities well out in the countryside so there would be virtually no chance of being seen by others.
After the war, East Germans enjoyed nudism as one the few freedoms they had under the communist government, chiefly at beaches rather than clubs (private organizations being regarded as potentially subversive by the regime). It quickly rebounded in the West also, and today, united Germany has many clubs, parks and beaches for nudism. Since German reunification, however, nudity is said to have become rare at some locations in the former eastern zone. Vacationing in Mediterranean France at the large Cap d'Agde resort also became popular for Germans when it opened in the late 1960s, and Germans are typically the most commonly-seen foreigners at nude beaches all around Europe.
In the United Kingdom, the first nudist club was established in Wickford, Essex in 1924. According to Michael Farrar, writing for British Naturism, the club adopted the name "Moonella Group" from the name of the owner of the ground, Moonella, and called its site The Camp. Moonella, who was still living in 1965 but whose identity remains to be discovered, had inherited a house with land in 1923 and made it available to certain members of the New Gymnosophy Society. This Society had been founded a few years before by H.C. Booth, M.H. Sorensen and Rex Wellbye under the name of the English Gymnosophical Society. It met for discussions at the Minerva Cafe at 144 High Holborn in London, the headquarters of the Women's Freedom League. Those who were permitted to join the Moonella Group were carefully selected, and the club was run by an "aristocracy" of the original members, all of whom had "club names" to preserve their anonymity.
By 1943 there were a number of these so-called "sun clubs" and together they formed the British Sunbathers Association or BSBA. In 1954 a group of clubs unhappy with the way the BSBA was being run split off to form the Federation of British Sun Clubs or FBSC. These two organisations rivalled each other for a while before eventually coming together again in 1964 as the Central Council for British Naturism or CCBN. This organisation has remained much the same but is now more commonly known simply as British Naturism or BN.
In the United States, German immigrant Kurt Barthel organized the first nudist event in 1929 in the woods just outside of New York City (NYC) and founded the American League for Physical Culture (ALPC). Social nudism in the form of private clubs and campgrounds began appearing in the 1930s. In 1931, according to a history, a Baptist minister named Ilsley Boone was elected vice president of the ALPC and gained the nickname "The Dictator." Boone created his idea of a family atmosphere by prohibiting alcohol at all member clubs. According to the Federation of Canadian Naturists history and the Lupin Naturist Club history, Boone was toppled in 1951 by members dissatisfied with his autocratic style. This, together with Boone's desire to open a new club closer to NYC than others had wanted, led him to form the National Nudist Council.
Elsewhere in the USA, a 1935 advertisement claims Sea Island Sanctuary, South Carolina, was the "largest and oldest" resort where nudism could be practised year-round. Rock Lodge Club, in Stockholm, New Jersey, about 40 miles (65 km) from New York City, started in 1932 and is still in operation today. Nudism first began appearing on the west coast of the U.S. and Canada about 1939. In that year, the first club in Canada, the Van Tan Club, formed and continues today in North Vancouver, BC. Kaniksu Ranch, about 45 miles (70 km) north of Spokane, Washington, opened the same year and is still in operation.
In 1995, the ASA renamed itself, becoming the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR).
In 1980 The Naturist Society (TNS) was founded by Lee Baxandall as a successor to the Free Beach Movement. The emphasis of TNS is on nudity in public locations rather than on private premises.
In Canada, individuals around the country became interested in nudism, skinny-dipping, and physical culture in the early part of the 20th century. After 1940 they had their own Canadian magazine, Sunbathing & Health, which occasionally carried local news. Canadians had scattered groups in several cities during the 1930s and 1940s, and some of these groups attracted enough interest to form clubs on private land. The most significant clubs were the Van Tan Club and, in Ontario, the Sun Air Club.
Canadians who served in the military during the Second World War met like-minded souls from across the country, and often visited clubs while in Europe. They were a ready pool of recruits for post-war organizers. A few years later the wave of post-war immigration brought many Europeans with their own extensive experience, and they not only swelled the ranks of membership, but often formed their own clubs, helping to expand nudism from coast to coast.
Most of those clubs united in the Canadian Sunbathing Association, which affiliated with the American Sunbathing Association in 1954. Several disagreements between eastern and western members of the CSA resulted in the breakup of CSA into the Western Canadian Sunbathing Association (WCSA) and the Eastern Canadian Sunbathing Association (ECSA) in 1960. The ECSA endured much in-fighting over the next decade and a half, leading to its official demise in 1978. The WCSA continues today as the Western Canadian Association for Nude Recreation (WCANR), a region of the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) which itself was formerly known as the ASA.
In 1977 the Fédération québécoise de naturisme (FQN) was founded in Québec. In 1986 the Federation of Canadian Naturists (FCN) was formed with the support of the FQN. The FQN and FCN joined to be the official Canadian representatives in the International Naturist Federation (INF).
Social nudity is nudity in private and public spaces. It is sometimes controversial for addressing, challenging and exploring a myriad of sometimes taboo subjects, stereotypes and mores relating to the nude appearance of the human body, mixed gender nudity, personal space, human sexuality, gymnophobia, modesty, physical attractiveness, vanity, objectification, exploitation and consent.
- The Sex Party of British Columbia (Canada) promotes normalization of all parts of the human body and destigmatizing human sexual organs. It would pass legislation requiring all public parks and beaches larger than one hectare to designate areas reserved for nudists.
- The Dutch party Naastenliefde, Vrijheid en Diversiteit would pass legislation to make public nudity legal everywhere, provided that a towel is used when sitting on a public bench.
- The short-lived Naturist Lifestyle Party in New South Wales, Australia aimed "to bring naturism fully into the public eye, with view to getting an equitable allocation of public resources to those who support the naturist lifestyle."
- Story, Marilyn (Sept. 1984) "Comparisons of Body Self-Concept between Social Nudists & Nonnudists" Journal of Psychology 118
- Story, Marilyn (1979) "Factors Associated w/More Positive Body Self-Concepts in Preschool children" Jour. of Social Psychology 108 49-56 56
- Story, Marilyn (May 1987) "A Comparison of Social Nudists & Non-nudists on Experience w/Various Sexual Outlets" Journ. of Sex Research 23 No. 2 p197-211,
- Robin Lewis & Louis Janda (1988) "The Relationship Between Adult Sexual Adjustment & Childhood Experiences Regarding Exposure to Nudity, Sleeping in the Parental Bed, Parental Attitudes Toward Sexuality" Arch. of Sexual Behavior 17 No.4
- Mary S. Calderone, M.D. (1981) in "The Family Book About Sexuality" ISBN 0-397-01377-9
- Information from Being and Nakedness "Disorganized nudity" by Charles Daney
- Nude & Natural (N), Beyond Safe Havens: Oregon's Terri Sue Webb, By Daniel Johnson Issue 21.3, Spring 2002 .
- ↑ In October 2006, the party was dissolved, as announced by party Secretary and parliamentary candidate Sylvia Else: "Naturist Lifestyle Party" (Topic), in aus.culture.naturist at Google Groups
- Lee Baxandall's World Guide to Nude Beaches & Resorts: New for the '90s (1997)  ISBN 0-934106-21-5
- Naked Places, A Guide for Gay Men to Nude Recreation and Travel (2006)  ISBN 0-9656089-4-8
- The Canadian Guide to Naturist Resorts & Beaches (2000)  ISBN 0-9682332-2-8
- North American Guide to Nude Recreation (2002)  ISBN 1-882033-09-4
- Bare Beaches (2004)  ISBN 0-9544767-1-9
- Naturisme, The INF World Handbook (2006)  ISBN 90-5062-080-9
- Storey, Mark Social Nudity, Sexual Attraction, and Respect Nude & Natural magazine, 24.3 Spring 2005.
- Storey, Mark Children, Social Nudity and Academic Research Nude & Natural magazine, 23.4 Summer 2004.
- Jim Hamm Productions Limited Spirit Wrestlers, a 2002 documentary video and DVD about the Russian Christian sect called Freedomite Doukhobors, which is mentioned above in Historical era.
- World Naked Bike Ride
- Public nudity
- Nude beach
- List of public outdoor clothes free places
- Gay naturism
- Clothing-optional bike rides
- American Nudist Research Library
- About Nudism in Scandinavia
- American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR)
- Australian Nudist Federation (ANF)
- British Naturism (CCBN)
- Deutscher Verband für Freikörperkultur (DFK)
- Federation of Canadian Naturists (FCN)
- Fédération Française de Naturisme (FFN)
- I Nudisti - An online community of naturists.
- International Naturist Federation (INF-FNI)
- International Men Enjoying Naturism (IMEN) Male
- Young Naturists Association International (YNAI)
- New Zealand Naturist Federation (NZNF)
Organization and landed site directories
- The Naturist Camping Guide - An extensive list of naturist campsites worldwide
- NaturistHoliday.Info - A guide to naturist holidays around the world
- Nudist Beaches.Info - A guide to the world's nudist beaches
- I Nudisti - An online community of naturists.
- World Nude Beach Directory
- Dutch Camping Guide - Dutch Camping Guide (worldwide)
- Naturism in the South of France - Naturist beaches, resorts and clubs.
- 205 Arguments in Support of Naturism -
- "Is Nudism OK for Children, Preteens, Teens and Adults?" - Family nudism article
- Diary of a Nudist - Nudist news and issues, updated daily