Recent articles on nudity and naturism, 10/18/19

It’s quite striking how much better-accepted naturism is in the UK compared to the US, considering how many other things (including language, to some extent) the two countries have in common. Although UK naturists are still definitely a minority, the articles discussed here should make US naturists very envious of the Brits. (The previous collection of articles also had much evidence of this.)

  • Hundreds strip off and brave North Sea in the nude in mass autumn skinny-dip
    Since 2012 British naturists in Northumberland have participated in a skinnydip at the beach on Druridge Bay close to the time of the Autumn Equinox. Almost all participants this year waded in completely naked, even though the beach is in the north of England on the North Sea, near the Scottish border – and the event began at sunrise. Daytime high temperatures in the area during September average about 60°F (16°C). The organizer of the event, however, said the temperature was “the warmest it has ever been”. He also explained that “I think people are trying to understand what we are trying to do a little bit more. It’s not just about taking our clothes off[;] it’s about taking a risk, connecting with nature, celebrating life and embracing our own bodies.” For some participants it was their first experience with social nudity. And unlike many naturist events, there were about as many women as men. But it wasn’t just a naturist event, as it also had the purpose of raising money for a local charity. The official count of participants was 737, probably a new high, and each donated £15. More than £50,000 had been raised in the previous 7 years. The event was widely reported in British news media and elsewhere, such as

  • Royal Academy visitors are invited to brush past naked man and woman in recreation of 1977 performance artwork
    Performance artist Marina Abramović came up with the simple idea of having two entirely naked performers stand facing each other in a narrow passageway and inviting members of the public (fully dressed) to squeeze between them. Marina herself and her then-boyfriend put on the first performances at an Italian art gallery in 1977. The performance was called Imponderabilia. It’s now scheduled to be repeated at London’s Royal Academy of Arts main galleries from late September to early December in 2020 – where it will be available for the general public. Two young artists will recreate the performance under Marina’s supervision (and possibly with her own participation). Although members of the public are expected to remain clothed, the piece is intended to challenge their reactions to very close interaction with others who are naked, and to “confront themes of naked vulnerability”.

    Britain’s The Sun tabloid persuaded their reporter Amy Nickell to do a reenactment of the performance together with a male model (Miguel) – both appropriately naked. Pictures of various people squeezing between Amy and Miguel give the impression (for the most part) that both handled the experience pretty well, although some of those who were required to navigate between the two did so with less equanimity – especially those of larger girth. Nevertheless, Amy reports “I was glad when I got dressed again.” Perhaps – but would she admit it if she actually enjoyed the experience? Here’s an earlier article from The Sun about the forthcoming Royal Academy of Arts performance.

  • The Yorkshire naturist club and why we shouldn’t be embarrassed by our bodies
    This is a reasonably positive article on Britain’s Yorkshire Sun Society, which was founded in 1932 and is the second oldest naturist club in the country. Patrick Galbraith, whose article this is, does remove his clothes at times. But he doesn’t seem entirely sold on the idea initially, as he begins with the admission that “It had been at least a decade since I’d seen another man in the buff and I was immediately overcome with the urge to apologise to him profusely before running away.” Although he doesn’t quite answer the implied question in the title of the article, by the end of his stay he does have this thought: “I had gone in search of the weird and discovered that it is perhaps people beyond the gates who are the weird ones – those like you and I who sweat like mad on a hot summer’s day because of some inherited belief that thighs and tummies are inherently sexual or offensive.”

  • Naked cleaners wanted in Devon and Cornwall – and they earn £45 an hour!
    What real naturist wouldn’t want to have other naturists handle tedious house cleaning chores (if the price were affordable)? It sounds almost too good to be true, so one might be a bit suspicious that a business of this sort is actually legitimate. Yet, apparently, it is. There have been a number of articles in the (British) news media about such businesses, and the article here is among the latest. The company is named Naked Cleaners (duh). According to the website, the company operates “throughout the UK”, but it is based in London. As you’d expect from a legitimate business, customers are expected to observe a number of rules, spelled out in their FAQ. For instance, touching, photographing, or videoing the cleaners isn’t allowed. Also, nobody except occupants of the home or apartment may be present – but they may be naked themselves. (They’re naturists, after all.)

    The rate for naked cleaners is £45 per hour (about $58 US). But that’s what the company is paid – presumably the cleaners don’t get all of it. Although the cleaners work naked, they aren’t necessarily long-time naturists – let alone “adult entertainers”. They may be quite new to working naked. One cleaner, quoted in the article, said “I was new to naturism. I had never done it before – I hadn’t even been on a nudist beach or anything like that. I’d just done it in private. I wasn’t nervous because I’m quite comfortable being naked.” However, she explained, “I found the first time quite liberating if anything, because I like being naked. If I’m by myself or with my close friends or a boyfriend, I’ll walk around naked. I’m not sure exactly why I like it, I just feel more comfortable that way.”

  • Student animal doctors strip off for naked calendar to raise money for drought-stricken farmers
    We turn now to Australia, another English-speaking country where naturism is (probably) more successful than in the US. Since we’re nearing the end of 2019, ’tis the season for a new spate of calendars to make their appearance for 2020. Last January we asked the question Why are calendars featuring naked people such a fad in Britain? It was noted then that Australia also had such calendars – and the latest for 2020 is also from Down Under. According to the article
    Student vets have stripped off their scrubs for a cheeky naked calendar to mark the end of five gruelling years of study. The calendar has become a tradition for veterinary students at Australia’s James Cook University – and this year’s class are no exception. Striking nude poses with strategically placed hats, 40 classmates took part, with the proceeds going towards their graduation ball and a local charity.
    Although whoever decides such things (pusillanimously, as usual) didn’t allow any full-frontal nudity, the calendar pictures are generally entertaining and imaginative. The calendar can be purchased online for $20 AUD (about $14 US) plus S/H at Vets Uncovered. Quite a bargain. Another article on this is here.

  • 10 Biggest Fears of a Beginning Nudist and How To Overcome Them
    The hyperactive (and non-US) bloggers at Naked Wanderings list some of the most common fears that intimidate prospective naturists. The list will be very familiar to current naturists. And the truth is that if a prospective naturist will actually give social nudity a try in a suitable environment, all but one of the fears on the list will quickly be perceived as small problems, at most. The one remaining fear, unfortunately, is the biggie: “How will I explain this to friends and family?” This one needs a lot more thought and effort to overcome.

    The advice given in the article for this fear is really too skimpy. For instance “The easy solution: Just don’t tell them. It’s none of anyone’s business if you prefer to spend your free time at a nudist resort.” That is, of course, quite unrealistic unless you’re a hermit living by yourself – in which case you may already be used to getting along with few or no clothes. Not only is the advice unrealistic, but the tendency of many or most naturists to be secretive about their enjoyment of nudity is most unfortunate. It’s probably the biggest reason that naturism has struggled so long and so unsuccessfully to really catch on. Simply put: people who become curious about naturism probably have at least some relatives or friends who share their interest – but aren’t aware of that since the others are also secretive. So people who are curious about naturism have much difficulty overcoming the other fears in the first place. A good approach would be to bring up the subject of naturism casually in conversation, perhaps by mentioning news stories like any of the above. If done often enough, others who don’t have a negative attitude towards nudity could be found. It’s also important to become convinced that enjoying nonsexual social nudity is not doing anything wrong. After that, it’s easier to figure out how to explain this fact to others.

Recent articles on nudity and naturism, 10/8/19


Credit: British Naturism

  • Highland Wilderness Walking Weekend
    The Corrout Estate in the central Highlands of Scotland is a remote 57,000 acre estate on the edge of Rannoch Moor. In July this year a group of 18 members of British Naturism visited the Estate on a weekend to enjoy various recreational opportunities available there. Some of the group opted for less strenuous activities, such as walking around or swimming in Loch Ossian, on whose shores the hostel where the group stayed was located. Others ventured farther afield to visit remote bothies (small huts or cottages in the wilderness). The most adventuresome subgroup opted for “20-mile-plus epics taking in multiple mountain peaks”. Being naturists, the participants enjoyed their activities naked. However, the group had decided in advance to “cover up when we met members of the public only when we felt as individuals that this was the right thing to do”. The Estate does have day visitors despite its remoteness, because it’s easily reachable by train from both London and Glasgow. It was estimated that members of the group “probably interacted with more than a hundred non-Naturists”. They encountered a variety of reactions, but “received no complaints or hostile reactions”. That seems to be common for interactions between naturists and the general public in the UK, where naturist nudity is, in general, legally tolerated, at least when it’s not lewd or deliberately offensive. Most of the group were also naked for their Sunday evening meal at the train station restaurant (having obtained advance approval from the management). They even had a group picture (still naked) taken at the station after their meal.

  • Women in Naturism
    A page about British Naturism’s project to increase the participation of women in naturism was included in the 8/30/19 collection of recent articles. There’s now a brief follow-on with a few more details. The (reordered) list of what they hope to achieve is interesting:

    1. Helping more women to discover the life-affirming, exhilarating feelings of social nudity – and great community and social life that accompanies them.
    2. Creating a network of Naturist women who can keep the profile of Naturism high in the media, be advocates amongst women’s groups, organise and host events, be a contact point for newcomers, and more.
    3. Helping the men in Naturism to show the benefits to the women in their life.
    4. Improving awareness of the negative effects of societal pressure on women to conform to a particular type of body shape and appearance.
    5. Providing mutual support to help women be happier and more confident about their bodies.

    As noted previously, Item 2 may be the most actionable point. It’s crucial for women who become curious about naturism to find other women who already participate in naturist activities – to help a new person learn about the naturist opportunities that are most convenient and suitable for her. Item 3 is also important, because the naturist men that a woman knows and trusts can also provide information and encouragement. In particular, the article contains a list of suggestions for men that may help them facilitate a woman’s first experience of a naturist activity – with nudity the first time (or times) being optional.

  • Our Bodies Our Selves
    As it happens, all but two of the stories in this collection deal with naturism in Great Britain. This one is by British Naturism member Roger Coupe, who notes “In the hot summer of 2018, Naturism grew in Britain with many reports of skinny dipping, naked rambling and cycling. There has been much favourable media coverage.” He refers to experiences of another Brit, Alice O’Keeffe, who became an “evangelical” naturist that summer. (I summarized her article here.) Perhaps naturism really is experiencing a renaissance in Britain. Roger’s article describes an early morning naked walk in the countryside. The best paragraph may be this:
    I have been on this naked dawn walk many times and it has become very precious to me. I have encountered only a few humans, none of whom seemed particularly surprised by my nakedness. There was a young man in a suit, maybe on his way for a train to town and another hot day in the office. As we greeted, I thought he looked as though he rather envied my freedom. There were two workmen in red overalls, a cyclist in hi-viz with flashing lights, a few lightly-clad dog walkers. These were people very much engaged in a human world and separated from the natural world of animals with hair, wool, fur or feather that has welcomed me, the naked ape with a little body hair, boots and a hat.

  • Skinny-dipping in Cornwall’s historic miners’ pools
    It seems that the southwest coast of England is especially well-endowed with good beaches – Cornwell in particular. Some of them are even clothing-optional, at least de facto. Photojournalist Greg Martin provides impressive photographic evidence for a certain type of ocean bathing spots: tidal pools, some of which are natural, and others formed deliberately by tin miners in the area. The fact that many of the pools are in secluded locations not easily visible from a distance makes them ideal spots for au naturel bathing, especially for people who might otherwise be shy of that pleasure. One frequent visitor of the pools who Greg spoke with prefers to swim nude. She says “Getting naked outdoors might not be for everyone but swimming nude is one of those money can’t buy feelings. With tidal pools offering privacy it means you can strip off and enjoy the water in a truly immersive way. When appropriate it is the only way I choose to swim.”

  • A nudist camp near the Quad Cities has long been an open secret. Not anymore
    Here’s another good example of U. S. mainstream journalism that takes naturism seriously and treats it respectfully. (It is marred slightly by one cliche subheading: “the bare facts”.) And this is for a spot not in Florida or California, but in prairie lands near the border between Illinois and Iowa. What explains this positive treatment? It’s probably a result of new camp management that welcomes publicity. “Blue Lake recently transitioned to new management. Past owners discouraged publicity, but the new owners are intent on engaging with the public and encouraging outsiders to explore nudism.” Once again, rejecting secretiveness seems to have paid off.

  • The 3 Technologies Killing Nudism
    Rory Andrews observes that in (roughly) the past decade, U. S. society has made good progress in disposing of obsolete social prejudices and attitudes, as evidenced by such things as the expansion of LGBTQ rights, the legalization of marijuana, and the #MeToo movement. It’s true that reactionaries are still battling fiercely against these examples of social progress, but the reactionaries will eventually be defeated. Rory asks the obvious question (for naturists): “So why hasn’t this unyielding tide of revolutionary tolerance touched nudism?” His answer is that rapid advancements in three different technologies are (at least partially) to blame. The technologies are “Photoshop and Snapchat Filters”, “Cellphone Cameras”, and “Pornography”. It would take too much space to summarize the arguments – just read the article if you’re curious. Of course, you may wonder why “pornography” is considered a “technology”. It’s not at all new, but what is new is that the Internet and cell-phones have “made porn more ubiquitous and accessible than ever before.” It’s a stretch to blame naturism’s failure to become more widely accepted on technology alone. There are many other social factors at work, but entire books could be written to address them properly. However, as far as technology is concerned, Rory makes the optimistic suggestion that naturism, rather than being a victim of misuse of new technologies could be at least a partial remedy for the unfortunate side effects. “Nudism could be a radical form of exposure therapy that can teach us what real human bodies look like, strip away our social media and status facade, and step away from the oversexualized digital world that does little more than confuse us regarding what sex and bodies are actually for.” Perhaps before too long the technology of virtual reality may allow people to experiment easily with naturism in a non-threatening environment.

Thoughts on “Why I am a Nudist”


Photo credit: Mona Kuhn

Nick Alimonos is a prolific writer of fantasy fiction and also on naturism and philosophical topics. Why I am a Nudist is a recent post of his. I can’t disagree with any of the main points, but it does suggest a few additional thoughts. To be clear, I prefer to use the terms “naturist” and “naturism”, but I see little significant difference from “nudist” and “nudism”. Since Nick has written so much on naturism, I haven’t yet read all of it, so I apologize in advance if he has expressed the same ideas I’ll present here.

To begin with, Nick writes “The reasons I choose to be a nudist is something I feel I have failed to adequately express, but the simple answer is: naked feels good and naked feels natural.” Actually, Nick has written that before, for example, in “The Devil’s Advocate: Why Nudism is Wrong*” he tells about how he responded to his skeptical wife’s observation that many of the commonly cited justifications for naturism (such as healthfulness, etc.) can be countered with: “The genitals do not have to be exposed for that to work.” Indeed, one gets nearly as much vitamin D at the beach whether or not one is wearing a (sufficiently small) swimsuit. Nick’s eventual response is that “the reason we choose to be nudists … can be summed up in three simple words: It feels good.”

I certainly agree with that, but I don’t think it fully counters his wife’s observation. If what you’re wearing at the beach (or at home) is just a string bikini or a (man’s) speedo why does the exposure of a few additional square inches of skin make any significant difference? Wouldn’t the difference need to be qualitative as well as quantitative? And if so, what is the difference in the quality of the feeling, between covering nothing at all and covering only the genital area? I do believe there is an important difference in the quality of the feeling – and it’s decisive for naturists – but it requires a bit of explanation.

In the recent post, the very next thing Nick writes is that his realization about why naturists love being naked is “tantamount to a religious experience, a form of Buddhist-like enlightenment.” I think that the realization is far more Buddhist than Nick suggests. I can’t claim to know a lot about Buddhism, but the sense I have is that the ultimate goal is freedom from “needs” and, ultimately, from “desires”. For naturists that means, in particular, not only freedom from wearing clothes but also from feeling any need or desire to wear clothes. In this sense, very few naturists are able to achieve this degree of freedom – because physical comfort and the demands of society usually get in the way. However, it is the amount of freedom from needing or desiring to wear clothes that naturists are able to achieve that is an important part of why they are naturists. Freedom from quotidian encumbrances “feels good” by itself.

From there Nick goes on to explain why it is that being naked “feels good”. He observes that the skin is the body’s largest sensory organ. Consequently, wearing any clothing at all interferes with that organ’s ability to perform its function – in proportion to how much of the skin is covered by something else. Of course, if the proportion is small, as with a minimal bathing suit, that isn’t necessarily important. But in “ordinary” society, covering one’s skin by clothing is much more extensive most of the time. So naturally, naturists will prefer a social environment where the required amount of clothing is none, or at least as little as “possible” – as long as the sensations conveyed from their skin are pleasurable. Obviously, most naturists will choose to wear enough to avoid unpleasant sensations, such as excessive cold – but the more avid naturists will do so only reluctantly.

If enjoying nudity is only about what “feels good”, why would a naturist be reluctant to put clothes on if the ambient temperature is low? Presumably, there’s some point at which nudity stops feeling good. Many naturists, however, are able to tolerate lower temperatures than people who habitually wear clothes. (It’s humanly possible to tolerate rather low temperatures with very little clothing. See here or here for examples.) But committed naturists may still prefer being naked even if they find the temperature somewhat uncomfortable. Some will even trek naked on chilly Scottish Munros. That suggests there’s more to the preference for nudity besides pleasant sensory feelings.

A quote from Walt Whitman indicates what’s involved: “Perhaps the inner never-lost rapport we hold with earth, light, air, trees, &c, is not to be realized through eyes and mind only, but through the whole corporeal body, which I will not have blinded or bandaged any more than the eyes.” Clothing that covers any part of the skin diminishes sensory information coming through the skin. Just as covering eyes, ears, or nose will interfere with their sensory function, covering the skin with clothing has the same effect. Such covering is an impediment to our contact with the external world. We wouldn’t generally want to interfere with our ability to see pleasant sights, hear pleasant sounds, or smell pleasant scents. Likewise, why interfere with the skin’s ability to sense moderate sunlight, the warmth of a campfire, the stimulation of gentle breezes, or the caress of flowing water?

Nevertheless, I don’t think that’s still the whole story. Nick goes into great detail to make the case that “Nudity is Practical, Clothing is Not”. Obviously, that all depends on circumstances. Nudity is especially practical for various activities, such as swimming, exercise, sunbathing, washing cars, doing household chores, and (as far as naturists are concerned) socializing with other naturists. Clothing is impractical for many of those things just listed, but also because it costs money, has to be washed periodically, takes up space to be stored, wears out, needs to be changed to be “appropriate” in differing social contexts, and so on. But clearly there are situations where the degree of practicality is reversed – such as going anywhere that’s cold, interacting with non-naturists, or creating an appearance of authority, wealth, status, sophistication, or hipness. Notice how many of those factors are related to social interactions.

Nick also has a lot to say about “shame”, and how that is in fact simply an “illusion”. Shame related to nudity is a social construct that in most societies is conditioned in most children at an early age – by parents, peers, authority figures, and society in general. He points out, quite correctly, that “shame, and body taboos, are social constructs, which quickly disintegrate once examined closely.”

But there’s quite a lot more that can be said about this social aspect. In my opinion, the way nudity works in a naturist context may be the most compelling reason for being a naturist in the first place. Consider the simple social custom of shaking hands with a new acquaintance or a friend one hasn’t seen for a while. Supposedly the custom arose as a way for people to demonstrate to each other that they aren’t carrying a weapon and don’t pose any threat. I would suggest that – in any context where clothing is optional and nudity is allowed – choosing to be naked signifies that one neither poses a treat to others nor feels any threat from them. And therefore friendly interaction is possible, while naked, without fear of improper or unwanted behavior from others.

In most societies, there are various functions fulfilled by wearing clothes. As already mentioned, one function is that clothing can signify things like authority, wealth, status, sophistication, or hipness. However, clothes can be used to conceal or mislead about personal characteristics rather than to convey accurate information. Naturists rightly claim that when everyone’s naked, it’s not quite so easy to deduce accurate information about another person – or be deceived about the truth – by the clothes they (don’t) wear. At the same time, though, it’s incorrect to suppose that nudity prevents making judgments about things that clothing can signify. The truth is that people, even if naked, reveal a lot about themselves in a number of ways, such as their manner of speaking, their vocabulary, their body language, the things they talk about, and feature of their body’s appearance (hair styles, jewelry, tattoos, physique, etc.) Some of those features can be deceptive too – but not as readily as with clothing.

I think non-naturists probably regard clothing as a sort of armor protecting them against judgments others might make about them – or against possible overt unwanted behavior. People are naturally wary of how others they don’t know well might think about them or behave towards them. It’s just human nature for people to be concerned about their appearance to others, let alone about their physical safety. But, at least, when everyone’s naked, nobody uses clothing as armor – so there’s less reason to think clothing is necessary. This assumption is even better in an environment in which naturist behavioral norms are in effect – for instance, at popular clothing-optional beaches, naturist clubs and resorts, body-painting events, “World Naked Bike Rides”, and private homes of other naturists.

The problem in most societies today, including ours, is that most people don’t know what the naturist behavioral norms are – specifically that naturists don’t need clothing in order to behave well and respect others’ boundaries. All societies depend, to a large extent, on the existence of sensible behavioral norms. Societies can’t function if people can’t trust most others they interact with to behave “properly” and predictably. Educating society about naturist norms is a problem that must be solved, in order for naturism to become more “normal” and acceptable. Only then will people realize that the “armor” provided by clothing isn’t necessary. If others around me are comfortable being naked, why shouldn’t I be also? That’s a big reason why people who realize this can become naturists themselves and enjoy a naturist lifestyle. It’s simply more pleasant to interact with people who don’t need or desire to wear clothes, because there’s general agreement that whatever armor clothes provide isn’t necessary.

There’s another way of thinking about this. Among naturists, it’s easier for people to be more open with each other in their interactions when they’re naked. Nudity expresses (honestly, one hopes) that “I have nothing to hide” and nothing to be ashamed of. Think about the words “close” and “disclose”. “Close” is the opposite of “open”. So to “disclose” something is to become more open about it. “Disclothe” is an actual word, meaning “to remove clothes”, though it’s seldom used in modern English – but it is in the Oxford English Dictionary. It means the opposite of “clothe”, so is the same as “undress”. Now think about how similar “disclothe” sounds to “disclose”. That might be simply coincidental – but it accurately represents what’s going on. One discloses something of oneself by disclothing. Naturists consider that a good thing. Being “nude” or “naked” in both law and common parlance means that genital areas (and/or female breasts) are uncovered. Therefore, covering those parts is not compatible with what naturists seek to do.