Let’s face it. There are many excellent reasons for socializing naked. (A much briefer list is here.) Yet most people don’t actually know any naturists, or at least aren’t aware that anyone they know is a naturist. As a result, most people are likely to have some – or many – misconceptions about what naturism really is. So there’s a real chance that misunderstandings about naturism could cause you to miss out on something great.
This is a vicious circle. Naturists are too often secretive about their enjoyment of nudity, because others may judge them unfairly. So it’s difficult to dispel the erroneous beliefs about naturism, because naturists are afraid to reveal their interest in it. Consequently, the misconceptions fail to be corrected. It would help a lot if naturists would be more open about their enjoyment of nudity. Young naturists, especially, should become more comfortable discussing naturism with their peers.
Almost all minorities have faced similar problems. Being “different” from what most people consider to be “normal” isn’t easy. Yet many minorities have overcome such problems when it’s recognized that their differences from what the majority considers to be “normal” are harmless and don’t threaten “social order”. The list is long: ethnic, racial, and sexual minorities; handicapped people; people with “unusual” body types – among many others. Fortunately, in reasonable, modern societies there are now laws against discrimination against people in most minority classes like those just listed. In some cases, such as LGBTQ people, legal protections against discrimination continue to be controversial – but that is slowly changing.
The main reason in most societies that progress against discrimination is difficult is that people who consider themselves “normal” based on prevailing and long-standing cultural traditions constitute a substantial majority. And they feel threatened by people who don’t fully accept the prevailing traditions, which is mistakenly regarded as a threat to “social order”. Naturists usually fit in this latter category in most countries, because they believe that in many circumstances nudity is enjoyable, harmless, and poses no real threat to anyone.
Unfortunately, however, naturists seldom have any legal protections against discrimination, because the majority can’t – or won’t – understand that naturist nudity is harmless and unthreatening to society. Because of the majority’s mistrust and the consequent lack of legal protections, it’s unsurprising that naturists tend to be secretive about enjoying nudity. Yet this secretiveness itself is one more reason for the majority’s distrust. It’s OK to be secretive, if that seems necessary, and still be able to enjoy naturist activities. But it’s better if naturists are willing and able to be open about their lifestyle, and they’re neither ashamed of it nor concerned about adverse consequences.
Young people have an advantage in this respect. For one thing, they generally have fewer friends and acquaintances than people several decades older – so there’s less need to be concerned about losing friends. (Unless, perhaps, one actually has very few friends.) Also, compared to someone older, it’s probably less difficult for a young person living in a part of the country where there are strong prejudices against naturism to pick up and move somewhere else where open-mindedness is more prevalent.
Hopefully, your fears won’t dissuade you from continuing to be interested in naturism, and you’re still seriously thinking about giving naturism a try. It’s OK to do that without discussing it with people you know, so you can feel more comfortable exploring naturism to find out wether it’s right for you. In the long term you’ll probably feel less need to be secretive about it. You may well want to recommend it to others.
So if you’re still interested, let’s look at common areas of concern. Some reasons social nudity can be difficult for many people have been described before. But let’s go into the subject more deeply. Be prepared to rethink various erroneous ideas about nudity and naturism.
Note that some of the section headings are generally true (and may contradict common misconceptions), while others are common misconceptions that are merely assumed to be true. The text under the heading will explain further.
For simplicity, most of this discussion will assume you live in North America. Being a naturist in various European countries is often easier, but it may be only slightly harder over here.
1. Often there are few young people at U. S. naturist places these days
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of truth to that. If you’re young and have read much about naturism you may have noticed frequent reports that most people at naturist places are considerably closer to your parents’ – or even your grandparents’ – age, than to your own age. If you’ve visited even 1 or 2 naturist places already, you’ve probably noticed this yourself. This is another example of a vicious circle. Since you don’t expect to meet many young people at a naturist place, you have little incentive to go yourself.
The best way to fix this situation is to go ahead and give naturism a good try yourself. Don’t be discouraged if your first experiences don’t quite meet your expectations. If you start to enjoy it and you’re willing to discuss naturism with others near your age, then gently persuade them to participate with you in a naturist activity, or try it on their own. If they visit a naturist place with you, at least you won’t be the only young person there. Don’t forget to explain that most places require full nudity only to use a swimming pool or spa – not all the time.
2. Many young people make jokes about naturism and think it’s of interest only to older people
There’s no doubt that people of different generations tend to have many differences of preferences or opinions. But that shouldn’t prevent people of any age being able to enjoy naturism. In fact, people of all ages happily enjoy naturism together in a number of Western European countries (and elsewhere). Sadly, many young people have a lot of incorrect opinions about naturism. That’s especially true if they have families with young children. There are various complicated reasons for this, but the mere fact that few young people in the U. S. currently participate in naturism deters other young people from participating for that reason alone.
You can find a long discussion of this here. There are two different types of factors. The first is that participation in naturism can simply be impractical, for reasons of insufficient available time or income. The second factor, however, is not so understandable. It’s whether you prefer to “follow the crowd” and do only what “everyone else” is doing. Or, alternatively, you’re willing to strike out on your own and follow a path that appeals to you. If you’re that second type of person, and the idea of naturism interests you, then you should definitely check it out.
3. Naturists probably have etiquette rules you aren’t aware of and you’ll be embarrassed for violating them
There really aren’t many obscure etiquette rules, and they’re all fairly simple and obvious. Take a little time to learn them, and you won’t have to worry about embarrassment due to unawareness of proper behavior. Staring at others or making comments about others’ bodies are the main things to avoid. Some rules may be specific to a particular location. For instance, there may be places that are off-limits for most people. A clothing-optional beach may have limits on what can be brought to the beach, such as pets. You just need to find and read the location’s specific rules, which will be posted on signs or the location’s website. If in doubt about any detail, simply ask anyone who should be knowledgeable for advice.
Keep in mind that the whole purpose of etiquette rules is to ensure nudity feels safe and comfortable for everyone. There are only a few standard naturist etiquette rules to be aware of. You can find good summaries here, here, here, or here. Memorize these simple rules and you won’t have to worry about being thought to have a sexual intent or being embarrassed for violating naturist etiquette in other ways.
4. Specific naturist places like resorts and clothing-optional beaches may have other rules that could be embarrassing if violated
Especially when visiting for the first time a naturist place you’re unfamiliar with, there may be unwritten expectations about what’s considered “proper” behavior. This is possible, but unlikely, because most naturist parks and resorts provide new visitors with information on any important rules to observe. Just be sure to read the available information. For example, a few parks and resorts may not allow you to bring a pet dog. At busy times visitors may need to make a reservation before arriving. Also, it’s common to require a new visitor to allow a background check and take a guided tour of the facility.
Often there won’t be explicit rules at private naturist gatherings, such as when first attending a meeting or event of a nonlanded club. In that case, it’s best to contact someone who knows the expectations – especially if that’s someone you already know. In any case, if you do happen to make a minor faux pas, someone will politely explain the misstep. Anywhere this isn’t handled politely is probably not a place you’d care to visit often.
5. Non-naturists usually think an interest in nudity is mainly about sex
Naturists have a core belief that open sexuality is unrelated to simple nudity and never appropriate in naturist activities. Naturists won’t misunderstand your interest in social nudity – unless some aspect of your behavior gives them a reason to. One common reason is staring at or making comments about others’ bodies. Another is doing or saying anything around others that suggests a sexual interest. That would violate naturist etiquette and reasonably cause suspicion. So don’t do it.
Obviously, you should avoid touching yourself or any others in a way that might seem sexual. If you’re male and have little if any naturist experience, you’ve probably also worried about involuntary erections. After just a little experience, they won’t happen. And if one does happen, just cover up or go for a swim until the problem is over.
Unfortunately, the general public has many misconceptions about naturism, Possibly the most common of these is that it’s mostly about sex. That idea is quite wrong, but it must be addressed. Be prepared to assure anyone who might know of your interest in naturism that sex is definitely not a part of it. That could mean you simply can’t tell certain people about your interest. But for people you regard as good friends, it’s reasonable to expect they’ll respect your interest if you explain it carefully – even if they can’t imagine being interested themselves.
6. The behavior of some people at naturist places may be unpleasant for others
Women (especially), but many men also, are generally uncomfortable when anyone stares at their naked bodies. But offensive staring is very rare among naturists. As already noted, staring and gawking are violations of naturist etiquette. Etiquette rules exist specifically to curtail unpleasant behavior. So you needn’t be very concerned at genuine naturist places, such as private campgrounds and resorts, private naturist parties, or events arranged especially for naturists. Any violations of etiquette should quickly be admonished by other naturists, and you should feel free to politely ask violators to please refrain. Everyone should be as respectful of others as they want to be respected themselves.
Sometimes, however, naturists are with non-naturists who may or may not be naked themselves but don’t understand naturist etiquette. This could be at clothing-optional beaches or social gatherings where naturists and non-naturists might mingle. There’s little that can be done about the behavior of non-naturists, unless their behavior is rude or otherwise unacceptable. A good approach for someone new to naturism who’s concerned about this is to bring a friend or partner with them.
Other types of unpleasant behavior, apart from staring, might be experienced. Naturist etiquette covers those as well. For example, it’s considered unacceptable to make comments about another person’s general appearance, body, or specific parts of it – even comments intended to be complimentary. The only exceptions might be compliments among good friends. For example: “looks like you’ve lost a little weight – your diet must be working!”
Another possible cause for serious concern is photographing others without permission, either overtly or covertly. This is strictly verboten at naturist places, but it may occur at clothing-optional beaches. Most naturists present will take appropriate action whenever possible if it occurs.
7. It’s very unlikely you’ll be hit upon for sex, because sexual harassment among actual naturists is very uncommon
Uninvited sexual attention, even short of unwanted touching, is just about the worst type of behavior that could be encountered in association with naturist places or activities. Fortunately, as long as other naturists are around, it isn’t tolerated. It’s a flagrant violation of naturist etiquette. If it ever occurs, it should be reported as soon as possible to event organizers or the management of a naturist resort. Unless there’s been a genuine misunderstanding, an offender will be told to leave and not return.
At some official and semi-official clothing-optional beaches there are local naturists who are known as “beach ambassadors” (or something similar). Any untoward behavior can be reported to them so that the offender can be asked to leave.
8. You may be afraid people will consider your body unattractive (or worse)
If your body isn’t in the same class as that of a famous athlete or movie star – congratulations! You’re in a large majority. But wearing anything, even conservative clothing, may not make a big difference to people who’re inclined to be judgmental. Fortunately, real naturists aren’t judgmental. If you visit a clothing-optional beach or somewhere else naturists are often found, you’ll see that hardly any of the naturists have “ideal” bodies either.
The fact is that there are many different but common body types among humans. Although people may often prefer others who have a body type similar to theirs, many other personal characteristics that often aren’t visually obvious should be more important than body type. Naturists prefer to pay the most attention to those other factors. Real naturists simply are not judgmental about appearance, usually because they know their own bodies are definitely not “perfect”. So there’s no need to be embarrassed about one’s physical appearance.
9. Being seen fully naked is likely to cause feelings of embarrassment or shame
This is probably one of the main reasons people don’t even consider becoming involved in naturism. There are different possible concerns – especially the assumption that people are naturists for sexual gratification. But that assumption’s wrong for real naturists. In any genuine naturist activity, concerns about the sexual intents of oneself or others simply should not exist, so there’s no reason to feel any shame.
Feelings of embarrassment or shame often have little to do with one’s overall naked appearance. Instead, the feelings may be caused by one’s social conditioning as a young child – especially the supposed need for covering genitals. Unfortunately, that’s due to the mistaken idea that genitals are necessarily “private”, ugly, or even “obscene”. (Deliberately touching your or others’ genitals in public or without permission is, of course, still unacceptable.)
Young children often enjoy getting out of their clothes – and most parents too quickly discourage that, for reasons the child can’t understand. Consequently, in most “modern” societies, nudity in the presence of others is uncommon or very rare, so it’s considered problematical for no very clear or valid reason.
10. It may be uncomfortable if certain body parts, such as genitals or female breasts – your own or those of others – are uncovered, visible, and possibly stared at
This is one reason it’s a violation of etiquette to stare. Also, even discussing such parts may be awkward. Enjoying nudity basically means being unashamed if no parts of the body are covered. (Although some covering is natural if you’re a woman having her period, there’s a medical reason, or some other good reason, such as protection from the Sun, insects, or cold air). Naturists believe no parts of one’s body should be considered “private” and covered up because they’re wrongly considered are ugly or “obscene”.
But understandably, most non-naturists and people new to naturism may be unsettled if their entire body is uncovered and fully visible. Yet everyone has parts that are supposedly “private”. Such parts occur in many different sizes and shapes, which people have very little control over. They’re simply normal body parts, just like ears, feet, and elbows. Long-standing social customs, however, insist these parts should almost always be covered. So leaving those parts uncovered is a serious social taboo, and therefore discomforting for non-naturists or even people just getting into naturism.
Naturists, of course, believe those social customs are too strict as long as people are respectful of others. Consequently, enjoying naturism entails rejecting the taboo and social conditioning responsible for discomfort with allowing “private parts” to be visible. Naturists get used to that not being a problem. And if they live with non-naturists, they need to help others overcome the unreasonable taboo – unless they don’t mind staying at least partially dressed around others.
11. For most men who’re new to naturism, there’s often a fear of having an embarrassing erection when naked with others (especially women) who’re also naked
That’s very common. It’s an indication the understanding that sex and nudity aren’t necessarily related hasn’t been completely internalized. Experienced naturists never have this fear, and never need to, because they don’t want or expect sex and nudity to become entangled in naturist activities.
The first few times you engage in naturist activities you should be aware of your preconceptions and do your best to put them out of your mind. If you’re afraid you won’t be able to do this, then carry a towel (which you should do anyhow if you’ll be sitting down) so you can cover up temporarily if necessary. Or take a walk away from the crowd, or if you’re near a beach, just go into the water.
12. Since there are sometimes good reasons for a person to cover up, you may worry about being expected to be completely naked unwillingly
Even if you’re generally comfortable being naked you might sometimes wish to cover up partially or fully for a reason already mentioned. Fortunately, most naturist clubs, parks, and resorts these days don’t require even partial nudity in most areas – except in or around swimming pools and spas. If this is a concern for you, just be sure you understand what the specific expectations are, so you can avoid problems.
On most beaches where nudity is allowed, it’s optional. If for any reason you don’t feel like being completely naked at the moment, just be careful not to be mistaken for a voyeur. Sometimes there are sections of a beach where nudity is usually or always expected. That’s fairly rare in the U. S. But if nudity really is expected, then everyone else will actually be naked, and there might even be a sign stating the requirement. Even if you have a good reason to cover up a little, it may be best to avoid an argument and find a spot that’s more suitable.
13. Some people have tattoos or body jewelry that’s normally concealed by clothing, but might disturb others if uncovered
If someone has tattoos or jewelry with sexual or other controversial characteristics, that could be a problem. People have a right to decorate their bodies almost any way that pleases them and possibly others close to them. But other people may not have a similar appreciation of some choices of body decoration or modification. Most naturists may accept those choices, even if the choices aren’t especially to their taste. Not all naturists may be so accommodating. If others seem to be uncomfortable with the choices, covering up appropriately in their presence to respect their sensibilities would be polite.
14. Some people you live with probably wouldn’t want to see you naked
If you live with people who aren’t naturists and probably don’t have much understanding of naturist motivations, values, and principles, there might well be problems. If these people are open-minded, you should explain what naturism means to you, and why their unfavorable ideas about naturism are just common misconceptions. One thing to point out is how you are comfortable being naked and simply want it to be a wholesome part of your lifestyle – as long as it doesn’t make others uncomfortable.
Nevertheless, it’s also quite possible that some you live with really don’t want to see someone naked who’s living with them. Or your nudity might not bother them personally, but they would worry about the reaction if they have unexpected visitors. If anyone like that is a family member or good friend, you’ll probably have to negotiate some compromise. In other cases, you should consider making other living arrangements.
But unless you bring up the subject because you’d like to be naked at home at least some of the time you probably won’t know how others feel about living with someone who’s sometimes or often naked. You might, however, be surprised how many people wouldn’t mind seeing someone they live with naked. It could well be that people you live with, as well as good friends, might actually admire your self-confidence in being naked around people who aren’t.
15. Various people you often interact with might want to avoid you if they know you’re a naturist
How to handle this depends a lot on what part the people play in your life. The preceding point deals with people you live with, either family, significant others, friends, or simply housemates. So let’s start with people you have a good relationship with, whether you live with them or not. They might be family, relatives, good friends, or simply people you often work with. For people like that, unless they tend to be somewhat narrow–minded, you can explain how being a naturist feels very good to you. Then you may well be able to persuade them that enjoying nudity isn’t anything aberrant, immoral, or something “wrong” with you. In that case, reaching a reasonable compromise that allows you to enjoy naturism without causing problems for them shouldn’t be very difficult.
Naturally, if you’re in a romantic relationship with someone, making sure they are supportive, or at least understanding, of your naturist activities would be best. Keeping secrets from anyone you’re very close to really isn’t a great idea. Although some time may be required, if your relationship actually is strong, it should be possible to gain their approval of your enjoyment of nudity. They might even be happy to join you in naturist activities!
Next in line come your various friends and acquaintances that you’re on good terms with, but with whom you don’t interact very frequently. They may not even have to know of your naturist activities. However, they might find out from others. If they do know, they may actually be happy for you to have found a lifestyle you like. Or they may simply not care, as long as your interest has no effect on them. Hopefully, you’ve chosen these friends wisely, so they’ll be open-minded enough not to react negatively or believe you have poor judgment because of your enjoyment of nudity. It’s also possible that one or more of these people might be interested in naturism too, but you didn’t know because they were secretive.
And then there’s “everyone else”. Unless you choose to be fairly open about your interest in naturism, most of these people should have no need to know about it. Of course, they might find out from mutual acquaintances. But if you think that could be a problem, you should let your acquaintances know you prefer to be cautious about who else might find out.
If you’re not currently in a relationship, then clearly you should make approval of naturism a requirement for entering into a relationship. It may come down to what’s more important to you – either naturism or some particular person. Having to make such decisions is sometimes unavoidable.
16. There may be significant legal risks for participating in common naturist activities
Walking naked around your neighborhood is usually illegal, at least in the U. S. But that’s hardly a typical naturist activity. With few exceptions, however, there’s very little risk being naked if you can’t be seen from outside your home and property. You’re also very safe in many other places, such as naturist parks and resorts, homes of other naturists, established clothing-optional beaches, and most other places that are regularly used by naturists.
In places away from most people, such as in forests or other natural environments, there often aren’t specific laws against nudity. In that case, there’s little risk of hiking or camping naked. Many others you might encounter in such places won’t be bothered by your nudity. However, if you have any concerns, it would be prudent to carry something you could quickly cover up with. And it would always be a good idea to ask local officials or other knowledgeable sources about the actual legal situation.
Unfortunately, laws in the U. S. and Canada just aren’t as tolerant of nudity as in countries more enlightened about nudity, like England, where nudity is generally legal as long as it’s unlikely to cause offense or distress to others. Still, even in the most tolerant countries, what is or isn’t legal can be a matter of opinion. So some caution is generally advisable.
17. If your family has young children and they see you naked there could be problems or even get you in serious legal trouble
If you’re already in a family situation with young children, then this is an understandable concern. The thing here is that there’s no evidence that nudity per se is harmful to children. In fact, young children often spontaneously enjoy being naked themselves. And there are definite advantages for children’s development to learn at an early age what adult bodies – which they’ll eventually have themselves – look like.
This article considers the issue, both in general, and in one specific case where the law seems especially abhorrent. Many U. S. states aren’t so ridiculous in how nudity around children in one’s own family is treated. But there are a few U. S. states, such as Utah., that have very narrow-minded and unreasonable laws, so that exposing children even to completely nonsexual nudity could be problematical. The Utah case put a young mother in trouble simply for being topfree, not fully naked, in her own home. If you suspect you might be living in such a state, this is an instance where seeking legal advice might be a good idea.
Other interesting aspects of issues concerning children and nudity in other countries are here and here. There’s also more discussion of this topic in a section of this previous post in the series. Here are some references you’ll find there:
- Eight Things to Know About Nudity and Your Family
- Parental Nudity: Good for the Children?
- Is It OK to Be Naked Around Your Kids?
- Children, Social Nudity and Scholarly Study
18. If someone in your workplace knows you’re a naturist you might lose your job, or at least be denied a promotion you deserve
It’s possible this could be a problem, but generally that’s unlikely. In most U. S. states, employment is “at-will”, which means it’s possible to be fired or laid off for almost no specific reason. A lot depends on the type of job you have. If you have a professional job that requires expertise, specific skills, or significant experience, you’re probably pretty safe. Lower-level jobs in retail sales or customer service may have little risk unless there’s a manager who (a) knows about your naturist interest and (b) is hostile to the idea of naturism. Only a few types of jobs, such as school teaching, are at some higher risk, especially in certain parts of the country. Talking with a lawyer about the local situation would be a good idea if you think that being a naturist could put you at risk if it becomes known to your employer.
19. There’s a risk of meeting someone you know at a naturist park or clothing-optional beach
This may be the concern that makes the least actual sense. If they’re at a naturist place or clothing-optional beach of their own volition then either they’re already naturists themselves, or seriously considering it, or at least aren’t upset by the nudity of others – including you. There might be a problem only if you were at the naturist place just to find out what it was like, but didn’t want anyone you know to see you naked or discuss your visit with anyone else if you decided naturism wasn’t for you. In the latter case, just ask the other person to keep your visit a secret.