Where is social naturism popular – and why?

Any naturist who’s at all aware of naturist opportunities in other countries besides their own has certainly noticed that there are large differences in social acceptance of naturism and nudity from one country to the next. This is true even when consideration is restricted to countries with modern economies, democratic political systems, and tolerance for social diversity. This is also true between different regions of such countries. For example, between states in the U. S.

There are a number of variables that could help understand the reasons for such divergences. These include such things as social attitudes that are favorable to tolerance and diversity, benign climates that allow for outdoor naturist activities, relative lack of religious strictures against body exposure, and sometimes just flukes of history that enabled naturists to achieve a critical mass of acceptance within the country.

And then there are economic factors that allow private businesses to profitably offer venues and services for naturists. Relative population density may be a factor. Consider two countries or regions that are similar in terms of the percentage of population interested in naturism and social nudity. If one country is more densely populated than the other, it should be easier to operate naturist businesses and resorts profitably, because there will be lower costs of travel to such businesses. It’s expensive and time-consuming to travel relatively large distances to enjoy naturism on a regular basis. So people who live in more densely populated areas are more likely to have a “local” business that caters to naturists – and are therefore more likely to patronize the business. I’ve done some simple checking to find out whether that’s a plausible hypothesis.

I should mention that there’s another possible factor that relates population density to naturist activity. Sociological research shows that the average adult has only, perhaps, 5 or so close friends (not counting family) – people you’d go well out of your way to help if they need significant assistance. Beyond the close friends, there are others, such as people one works with on the job, neighbors, and people who are active in the same social organizations (sports leagues, gardening clubs, political groups, etc.) Many of these will also be considered as friends, who might visit each other’s homes, go out together for dinner, etc. This might be another 20 to 30 people (or more). Then even beyond that, there will be people with whom one interacts less frequently – such as people who work at the same place (but maybe in a different building), or use the same public facilities (gyms, for example), or are good friends with closer friends that one has. It’s known that the number of people one might recognize and interact with socially and amicably on occasion is generally at most 100 or 150.

Now, suppose that in a given population only something like 1% or 2% might be fairly active naturists or at least have favorable attitudes towards social nudity. Then there’s less than a 50-50 chance of having a reasonably good friend who’s an active or potential naturist. And even if one of those people is in the naturist category, they may not have disclosed that to you (unless you are open about being a naturist yourself). But in the larger number of others you may be casually acquainted with, the odds are that at least one is in the naturist category. The number of people in this third group that one is likely to interact with will probably be larger the more densely populated the area is in which one lives. So there’s a greater probability that one of these people will be naturist-friendly. You might, for example, learn about your shared interest in naturism with them, perhaps in a casual encounter in a gym’s locker room where both of you have all-over tans and don’t try to hide your nudity. Or if there’s a clothing-optional beach nearby, you might recognize one of these folks enjoying nudity there too. Once you both discover this common interest, you might well want to become closer friends and participate together in naturist activities. This is all a more speculative possibility, and I’ll probably write more about it some other time.

Returning to the main theme here, the idea is to look for information on the number of clubs and businesses in different locations that welcome use by naturists. That doesn’t include only traditional naturist resorts and campgrounds. Other things to consider include non-landed (“travel”) clubs, naturist-friendly guest houses and B&Bs, as well as saunas, spas, and the like that are open to the public and allow naked use. The general idea is to identify places that welcome naturists and aren’t strictly private, and also groups that are organized to visit such places.

Beaches, rivers, hot springs, and the like on public land that can be used by naturists, even though they’re not businesses, should also be easier to visit in more densely populated regions. Such places tend not to be well-known, since people who use them are often reluctant to have the locations publicized. In relatively densely populated areas there will also be more people who are opposed to naturism in “public” spaces. So I won’t try to include such places. However, even without considering places like beaches that are suitable for naturism, it’s not easy to discover the real number of good naturist venues.

Although the places and groups of interest may be eager to be patronized by people who enjoy non-sexual social nudity, getting known by this target audience isn’t easily done for places and groups that are small or relatively new. But obviously the naturist community at large needs this information. No doubt many people who might be interested in social nudity haven’t been able to become involved, for lack of information on where they can go. So keep in mind that the available numbers for naturist businesses are probably underestimates – but by how much is very difficult to figure.

What I’ve done for a start is to consider a small number of U. S. states and the country of England – for which there are some statistics, however incomplete, on the number of things in the category of interest. I’ve combined that information with the facts about size and population numbers of the selected area and put together a small spreadsheet.

Here it is:

The only data there that’s not fairly certain is the number of clubs in a given region. It’s quite possible the numbers are low, maybe even by a factor of 2. There are legitimate questions about how small a particular place is or how much it’s actually used by naturists. The size of even the larger places also matters. Is the number of visitors or active members 100 a month or 1000? However, in spite of all the uncertainties, I think this data provides some interesting food for thought.

Here’s an explanation of the different columns. Population is given in millions of people. Area, and other quantities that depend on it, is in terms of square miles. So the population density is people per square mile. (England is notably more densely populated than U. S. states.) The number of clubs is based on figures from the relevant naturist organizations: British Naturism in England, and AANR in the U. S. I’ll say more about the numbers later. The population per club is the total number of people in a region divided by the number of clubs. Active naturists may be only 1% of that number, or much less, but there’s no way to tell from existing data. Clubs per person (Column G) is just the reciprocal of the numbers in Column F (but scaled by a factor of one million).

Column H is the total area of a region divided by the number of clubs. It may be thought of as the “service area” of a particular club – the size of territory from which a club may draw members, assuming no overlap. That would be the case if people went only to the nearest club. Of course, that’s not so for many reasons. But the value of this number will be evident in a moment. Column I gives the number of people in a “service area”. It uses the population density of the whole region (Column D) to estimate how many people might use a club – if all were naturists and didn’t go to any other club in the region. This gives some idea of how important the population density of a region is to how many people might use a club (if they were naturists). In many cases an assumption of no overlap isn’t valid. A naturist might well participate in several different clubs. But the number is still interesting to see.

Column J is especially interesting. The area of a circle with radius R is given by the formula A = π×R2. Using the value of A from Column H (the “service area”) and solving the equation for R gives the value in Column J. This is, in some sense, the average distance a naturist would need to travel to visit the nearest club. In practice, that might not be very close to accurate, if the population isn’t evenly distributed in the region. For instance, most of the population of a region may be in one small part (one or more urban areas), while the clubs may be elsewhere. This appears to be the case, for instance, in Oregon, which has the highest number of clubs per regional population in the table.

However, other regions where naturism is popular, such as England and Florida, also have relatively high numbers of clubs relative to their population. It makes sense that more people will go to naturist clubs – and more often – if they don’t have to travel “too far”. So short travel times – and more opportunities for enjoying social nudity – may be a side effect of population density. On the other hand, if people in a given region are more likely to be naturists, more clubs may be established. More people in an area means more naturists in the area – and then more clubs in the area. So obvious, so simple. But sometimes the simplest explanations have much to recommend them.

Still, the direction of causality isn’t clear. Even when two regions have similar population densities, they may have large differences in the availability of naturist opportunities. Or two regions may be comparable in terms of naturist places, in spite of different population densities. There must be other factors that are important.

Climate is certainly one of those factors. For example, Florida has considerably less population density than England, but it has a very favorable climate for naturism most of the year, so the existence of many clubs isn’t surprising. The “travel radius” there isn’t much larger than in England, and Florida has an even higher ratio of clubs to population, probably because of climate. Although England doesn’t have nearly so benign a climate as Florida, the higher population density may make up for that. Also, it’s possible that more clubs in England are able to use indoor pools, saunas, etc. – all year.

Arizona also has a benign climate, especially in the southern part of the state where most of the population resides. So that may help explain its value in Column G, in spite of the low population density overall. But what’s the explanation for Oregon having the highest number of clubs relative to population in this table? Most of Oregon is rural, away from Portland on the northern border. However, much of the northern part of Oregon is scenic and forested, and it has a moderate climate during the summer. So the distance from Portland isn’t too far, and the area is well suited for clubs providing a “back to nature” experience. And indeed, according to AANR, most of the clubs are in the northern half of the state, so the effective population density is higher than indicated in column D. In fact, 4 of the 8 AANR clubs are close to Portland.

What, then, what can be concluded from this small data sample? One thing’s fairly clear. Although population density isn’t the only factor, it’s still important, so that travel time for enjoying social nudity is low. Even in California, where the number of clubs relative to population is surprisingly small, most of the clubs are located in the outskirts of high population density areas. So travel time within the area isn’t too high. There’s just a lot of wide open space between those areas. Texas has a similar situation.

Beyond that, it’s harder to draw conclusions. Good climate is one factor. (New York isn’t strong in that respect.) Also, it probably helps if a region has good beaches, at least a few of which where clothing is optional. England appears to have that, based on information provided by British Naturism. Florida does, too, of course. Although California has a very long coastline, the beaches, especially in the northern part of the state, are often cold and foggy in the summer. And most beaches in the south are too close to large populations to be clothing-optional.

It would be great if there were better information on the types of clubs and facilities available for clothing-optional use, especially in the U. S. For instance, AANR lists many other places besides “official” clubs”, such as guest houses and B&Bs, but apparently not day-use spas and saunas. TNS, the smaller U. S. national naturist organization, has its “approved” list of “participating groups, parks, and resorts”. It doesn’t entirely overlap with AANR’s list, but I haven’t yet checked the differences.

This is a subject that still needs much more investigation.

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