There are many people in the general population who are open-minded about nudity. This is shown in surveys that find significant percentages of the population who’ve skinny-dipped in small groups – or would if the opportunity arose. Many often enjoy nudity in their homes and with selected family members and friends.
Unfortunately, though, many of these people are reluctant to become involved in organized naturism through landed and non-landed clubs, as well as various less formal options, such as public clothing-optional beach usage. This is certainly a problem for naturism in general, so trying to understand it is necessary.
One likely aspect may be that people who could be described as “nudity-positive” feel uneasiness and stress about engaging in social nudity activities that include people with whom they don’t have close personal relationships. Heading the list here are concerns about the consequences for job security and relationships with people who have negative attitudes towards nudity if one’s interest in social nudity became generally known.
Another possible source of discomfort involves moral and ethical principles. There are various roots of such principles, but the most fundamental is not to cause harm to others, however “harm” may be defined. Naturists believe nonsexual nudity shouldn’t and doesn’t cause harm to either oneself or to others, although that is in disagreement with beliefs widespread in many cultures. This disagreement can be a source of discomfort for naturists and potential naturists in such cultures. Choosing a path fairly different from that of a majority is understandably not the easiest way – but it can still be the right choice.
Formal laws, norms of particular subcultures, and religious strictures are secondary roots of behavioral principles. As with the main principle of not causing harm, there are always ambiguities about the applicability of such principles to when and where being naked is “acceptable”. Such ambiguities are themselves a source of discomfort, because of the uncertainties they present to individual naturists and potential naturists. It can be difficult to understand whether specific naturist activities are in conflict with any of these varied principles. But how these principles apply to naturism is a topic that’s far too vast to deal with here, except to make note of it.
This discussion considers only normal, nonsexual naturist activities in order to understand the kinds of anxiety or stress that may accompany such activities. Most people can easily learn to deal with these. One aspect, of course, is concern about how others will unfavorably judge one’s naked body. Also, many people, especially women, worry about experiencing unwelcome sexual attention. But it’s unclear how to disentangle such concerns from a general feeling of not understanding what exactly constitutes “proper” social behavior in naturist activities. So let’s take a closer look at that.
When naturists are asked to explain why they enjoy nudity so much, the answer is often: “Because it just feels so good!” And that’s correct. Being naked and free of clothing comes with very pleasurable sensations. And there’s nothing wrong with that, any more than, say, enjoying a fine, expensive wine or the thrill of skiing down fresh powder snow.
But there are limits to the enjoyment of almost any pleasure. The feeling of warm sunshine on bare skin is great – as long as you’re careful to avoid a sunburn. The taste and aroma of that fine wine are exquisite – unless you imbibe to the point of inebriation. The downhill skiing is exhilarating – provided you’re skillful enough to avoid serious injury. (In the last case, the danger itself may be part of the thrill. That could also be true with social nudity, at least for some people.)
Enjoying nudity in the company of others is exactly the same. It feels wonderful – as long as there’s no crossing of an invisible line that separates the camaraderie of being naked with either friends or strangers from making “innocent” remarks or mistakes of etiquette that people accustomed to nakedness might consider inapt.
Among naturists, examples include unconsciously showing signs of either embarrassment or flaunting your nudity, “inappropriate” staring, or comments (even if favorable) about another person’s body. Perhaps the main thing to worry about is giving any indication you consider full nudity to be anything other than perfectly normal and unremarkable.
Anyone new to naturism needs to understand what the lines are that shouldn’t be crossed. Fear of crossing the lines is a significant cause of the stress, and it comes from lack of experience with social nudity. Most people, after early childhood, simply never have the opportunity to learn what is or isn’t considered proper behavior – in a naturist context, where nudity is the norm and clothing is the exception.
This is a direct result of the norms and conventions in most societies that strongly discourage nudity in nearly all situations. How is one supposed to learn correct behavior without any clothes on if dispensing with clothes is broadly considered unacceptable?
Fortunately, enough experience with social nudity can eliminate the stress and discomfort. The more time spent naked with others, the sooner wearing nothing can be enjoyed carefree. It’s much like becoming comfortable with public speaking or any other activity that one hasn’t had enough time to gain confidence in. Growing confidence – in socializing naked as well as public speaking – comes from doing it and therefore learning where the hazards and hidden lines are. Then dispensing with clothes becomes natural and stress-free.