Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nudism and Naturism at a Crossroads, or, Perception is Reality

I want to open this essay with a quote from my friend, The Academic Naturist:
There is no point in combining "sexuality" and "naturism" because they really are completely separate topics. Combining them, and drawing links between them, only adds confusion. Please stop.
The problem with this statement is that it ignores the fact that human beings are very sexual creatures, and much of the understanding we have of this comes from Sigmund Freud.
As Freudian ideas filtered into our society, many thought that Freud promoted uninhibited sexual expression. To the contrary, psychoanalytic ideas help us appreciate the arc of sexual development and the pitfalls that can befall those who do not successfully mature. Psychoanalysis describes the conflicts that we experience between intimate personal fantasies and the norms of social life and individual development. Psychoanalysis recognizes the necessity of developing normal controls over the uninhibited expression of these fantasies. Psychoanalysis encourages the idea that parents need to promote children's development so that they can eventually integrate sexuality in their lives in a balanced way, so that sexual and intimate personal bonds can be integrated as much as possible.
This is all pretty heady stuff. One more quote:
Paul Ableman writes: "It is interesting to speculate as to what kind of model of the human mind Sigmund Freud would have constructed if he had based it not on clothed Europeans but on, say, a study of the naked Nuer of the Sudan. Almost all the processes which he discerns as formative for the adult mind would have been lacking. Freud assumes that children will not normally see each other naked and that, if they do happen to, the result will be traumatic. This is not true of naked cultures. . . . Thus great provinces of Freud's mind-empire would simply be missing. There would be no Oedipus complex (or not much, anyway), no penis envy or castration complex, probably no clear-cut phases of sexual development. We are emerging rapidly from the era of Freudian gospel . . . and can now perceive the extent to which he himself was the victim of prevailing ideas and prejudices."
Nudism today is also a "victim of prevailing ideas and prejudices", being pressured on both ends of the spectrum. On one hand, some think that nudism is too tame and boring, and that it needs to evolve into a sexually charged activity to attract more people into the lifestyle. On the other hand, family nudism is threatened by a worldwide hysteria over child pornography and the misconception that any image of a nude child, even a toddler, is indecent.

Two traditional nudist clubs broke ties with AANR when they made the decision to go with more adult activities. Angye Fox, public relations director of Caliente Resort in Florida, openly courted swingers groups and developed an "Eyes Wide Shut" party based upon the orgy scene in the Stanley Kubrick film. When suspended by AANR over these unacceptable activities, Caliente quit. The same scenario occurred with Paradise Lakes, which stirred things up with a "Miss G-String International" contest. In Australia, the owner of the White Cockatoo resort explains that he converted the nudist venue into a haven for swingers because the "prudey nudey market has certainly diminished worldwide for the past couple of years."

Keep in mind that people who socialize in the nude are, by definition, most certainly not prudish.

Another clear sign that nudists and naturists are beginning to "loosen up" a bit is the online schedule for the Mid-Winter Naturist Festival coming up in February at Sunsport Gardens in Florida, a Naturist Society event. Among the 300 activities are seminars on polyamory, Wicca, the Tantric approach to sensuality, "raunchy" burlesque, Voodoo, ancient Roman sex and fun, and circles on intimacy and sexuality, all mixed in with children's activities such as ice cream socials, pool games and campfires.

The bottom line is that declaring that there is no connection between naturism/nudism and sexuality is almost as absurd as saying there's no link between schools and sexuality, or churches and sexuality, or business and sexuality.

Do they not teach sex education in schools? Do preachers and ministers not speak out from the pulpit about human sexuality, and do they not counsel people on sexual matters on a regular basis? Is not sex in the workplace a part of everyday life?

And where in our vast country does most sex and discussions of sexuality occur? Why in the home, of course. It's under the roofs of houses and behind the doors of apartments where human sexuality is in full bloom.

So why is it that nudists and naturists are expected to deny any links to sexuality, as The Academic Naturist suggested? According to the Naturist Society and its "205 Arguments and Observations In Support of Naturism", there are at least 20 reasons why naturism promotes sexual health, among them "#30. Nudists, as a group, are healthier sexually than the general population."

If nudism/naturism has a positive effect on human sexuality, how can anyone deny a link? The truth is you cannot put nude men and women together in social situations without an element of sexuality. You cannot put CLOTHED men and women together in social situations without an element of sexuality. The key component to the success of all social gatherings is BEHAVIOR. When nudists and naturists say that the lifestyle is not about freedom and body acceptance, and not sex, they are not denying sexuality, they are advocating maturity and self-control over one's sexuality, and a behavior while unclothed which is on a par with a behavior when wearing clothes.

ANY social situation with mixed genders can get out of control - office parties, college parties, proms, sporting events. People behave badly, they drink too much, they have casual sex, they curse, they fight, and they inflict physical and emotional damage upon each other. So much is made in the media of people who are naked in public, there's always someone lacking clothes who is targeted by police and tased, but far and away most pain to society is caused by people who are fully dressed.

We all express different behavior depending upon the situations. We are quiet in libraries and churches, respectful and attentive at lectures and theatre presentations, raucous and enthusiastic at the ball park, hard-working and diligent on the job, and relaxed in the home.

What nudists profess is that the wearing or not wearing of clothes is not behavior, it is mere adornment. The type of textile that one chooses to wear or not to wear should have no bearing upon the way that person behaves. The complete lack of covering on the skin is the great equalizer. Nude we resemble one another.

But society today is consumed by fashion. We are told that "clothes make the man (and the woman)", that certain clothing is appropriate for specific situations. We can wear a swimsuit at the beach but not at the mall, we can wear a t-shirt and jeans at home but not at the office, we dress in team colors when at a football game, and at Halloween we don masks and use clothing to actually transform who we really are. When we are cold we bundle up, when we are hot we wear less. The power and practicality of clothing is one of the strongest social bonds, so ingrained that laws mandating dress around the world are accepted without a second thought.

The nudist/naturist movement is merely a century old, begun at the end of the Victorian era as a crack in society's wall.
In the early 1900s, a series of philosophical papers was published in Germany. Dr. Heinrich Pudor, under the pseudonym Heinrich Scham, wrote a book titled Nacktkultur, which discussed the benefits of nudity in co-education and advocated participating in sports while being free of cumbersome clothing. Richard Ungewitter (Nacktheit, 1906, Nackt, 1908, etc.) proposed 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 reference to "moral-life view" confirms that even in the earliest days, it was understood that the shedding of clothes in social situations was good for sexual health and maturity.

The nudist philosophy is essentially unchanged since those beginning days, but the way people express themselves in the lifestyle is changing. As the bathing suit has evolved from full-body woolies in the 1800s to the skimpiest bikinis and Speedos today, so have attitudes about sex and the human body.

It's not all good change. With Kinsey in the 50s and the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s, coupled with the rise of widespread pornography, the door was opened wide for experimentation and illumination about sex, but at the same time sexuality became a product, something to be manufactured instead of experienced. While the human body has always been used as an object in art, it suddenly became just another means to sell products. In this process, the body has been manipulated and exploited to such a degree as to be nearly unrecognizable as something human. These idealized and stylized images have created the most severe body image problems in history, compelling people with self-loathing to seek surgeries to "correct" what they perceive as imperfections. The body has gone from a something we live in, to something we cannot live with.

From The Naturist Society:
The Naturist Society celebrates the nude human form as inherently wholesome and natural; TNS promotes attitudes of tolerance and respect toward the body, and rejects the exploitation of the body for commercial or sexual purposes.

The Naturist Society views clothing-optional recreation as essential to body acceptance. Through clothing-optional recreation, participants, be they individuals, couples or families, learn to appreciate the diversity of body types, gain a better understanding and acceptance of their own bodies, and reap the social, psychological and physical benefits of a healthy and natural way of life.
In a society which has such a widespread disease of body dissatisfaction, it would seem that nudism/naturism would be an obvious part of the cure. At the same time that the worldwide interest in nude recreation is booming, both AANR and TNS have seen a decline in membership over the last decade.

Organized nudism and naturism in America is at a crossroads, and several societal changes are presenting challenges to the traditional family-friendly lifestyle.

1) Society's war against nudity. The Woodstock generation is losing the war over legal public nudity. In recent years several towns and cities have passed laws banning nudity: Huntington Beach, California, Ashland, Oregon, and Brattleboro, Vermont. The state of California has banned nudity at San Onofre Beach, and nude sunbathing at other state beaches could also be at risk now that the long-standing Cahill Policy has been declared invalid. Successes like Haulover Beach in California are few and far between.

2) The Women's Topfreedom Movement. This one seems like a no-brainer since men have the right to go nude from the waist up just about anywhere in public, but it's still a crime for most women to bare their breasts unless it's for feeding an infant. While it's legal for women to go topfree in some areas of the country, like Columbus, Ohio and New York State, in most places it's still illegal and can result in fines, jail time, and even putting women on sex offender lists. Aside from a handful of nude beaches in America, it's also illegal for women to be topfree at the beach. This is a movement which should be flourishing instead of floundering.

3) The World Naked Bike Ride. This event grows every year and now includes 70 cities in 20 countries. London alone had 1200 participants in 2009! The WNBR incorporates elements of nudism, protest, street theatre and streaking, and should serve as a model for nudist organizations to follow in making nude recreation more popular and widespread. AANR's first world record skinny-dip in 2009 shows that someone is paying attention.

4) The Decline in Print Media, and the Rise of the Internet. Both AANR and TNS need to immediately begin phasing out their printed publications and go online with password-secured PDF files for its members to access. The money saved on printing and mailing costs can be used for public relations and membership drives. Within the next decade just about everyone will do their reading on a portable device, a computer, or their television. And while AANR is proving to be adapting to the electronic world with it's blog, forum and newsletter, TNS still has an archaic website with broken links and images, which is absolutely inexcusable.

5) The Swinging Lifestyle. It's impossible to put a number on the number of people engaged in "The Lifestyle", but it's pretty safe to say that there are more swingers in America than there are traditional nudists/naturists, and that many nudists are also swingers. While personal freedom regarding sexuality is something I wholeheartedly support, the influx of swingers in to nudism, and the transformation of some clubs into something less than family-friendly, is a direct and serious threat to traditional nude recreation.

6) The Death of Porn for Profit. The pornography industry is shrinking fast. Why? People are making their own porn. “People used to be ashamed to say their girlfriends did porn. That is gone. Anyone can afford a Web site now,” said Pete Housley, who aggregates porn on Twitter. While it would seem logical that a relaxation in attitudes towards porn would help nudism, it's actually damaging, making mere nudity seem tame next to the thrill of real sex.

7) Child Pornography and Pedophiles. The 24 hour news cycle is probably most responsible for perpetuating the hysteria over sexual predators, focusing on sensational child abductions and murders for weeks at a time, filling the empty airwaves between short segments of actual news. As a result, people have become so overprotective of their children that they fear even the most fleeting nudity, and have developed a false mindset that all images of nude children are pornography. A man in Ashland, Oregon, was seen walking legally nude close to a school, which prompted the city to ban all nudity out of fear. People actually believe that airport body scanners used on anyone under the age of 18 is indecent and the creation of kiddie porn. A district attorney in North Carolina wants to restrict nudist events and resorts to those over the age of 18. Since Virginia banned teens from attending nudist camps without parental supervision, Florida is the only state left that still allows such activities. Artists like Bill Henson and Nan Goldin are constantly under fire for their non-sexual photos of nude children. Unless this irrational trend is reversed, the presence of children at nudist venues is under serious threat.

8) Sexting. You might think that the fact that 20% of teens have taken nude photos or videos of themselves is a plus for nudism, but it's the opposite. Such behavior only serves to further the objectification and sexualization of body parts, and the overreaching authoritative pushback only reinforces the notion that the body is dirty, and sex is criminal.

9) Gymnophobia and Body Image. According to a 2007 report by the American Psychological Association "a culture-wide sexualization of girls (and women) was contributing to increased female anxiety associated with body image." In our society, nudity has become synonymous with sex - one rarely experiences one without the other. This perception of the body as mere sex object is causing widespread anxiety in many people, who seek cosmetic surgery in order to "correct" themselves in order to conform to an unattainable "perfection". In addition, normal and natural nudity is rapidly disappearing. Skinny-dipping, once an acceptable innocent pastime, has been banned in most areas of the country. Even a pool in the UK has banned nudity in the shower room out of fear that people would be offended and children could somehow be harmed.

10) The Law. Public nudity is illegal in nearly all areas of the United States. Once bastions of freedom, California, Oregon and Vermont have seen new laws and ordinances banning nudity over the past few years.

When it comes to sexuality, Americans are conflicted. On one hand we make celebrities out of people who sell sex, such as Hugh Hefner, Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, Ron Jeremy, and Jenna Jameson, yet we crucify others who yield to their sexuality like Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, preacher Ted Haggard, and virtually any politician who "strays". It's about more than hypocrisy - we have an insatiable appetite for sensationalism, and for watching people's lives destroyed.

The problem with nudism/naturism is that it falls somewhere in-between sex and chastity. The non-nudist, or "textile", cannot grasp the concept of nudity without sexual behavior because the two elements have been so deeply ingrained in our minds by popular culture. Generally, with few exceptions, when someone takes off their clothes in a movie, sex is sure to follow. As a result, nudists have over-emphasized the fact that sexual behavior is not tolerated, to the point where even a hug and a kiss between two people is grounds for suspicion. First-time visitors are required to present a photo ID at the gate of nudist parks, and most are given at least a cursory background check in order to preserve the safety of all club members.

Dr. Paul Rapoport, editor of the Federation of Canadian Naturists publication "Going Natural", has this to say about how sexuality has influenced nudism/naturism over the past few decades:
It's okay to hold hands now. Same-sex couples are admitted more. Naturists are also probably as likely to discuss sexual matters (humorously or not) as non-naturists are, which means more often than before.

Principally, it's problematic to say naturism is totally non-sexual and that naturists should *never* be allies of the sex industries. The former is a bit of a political position not based on observation of reality in naturism. Still, it's mostly non-sexualized, meaning there's not much overt that's more sexual than equivalent activities with clothes on. It may justifiably be less so sometimes, because of the need for some people to strengthen psychological boundaries when physical boundaries are removed.
My fear is that the misconceptions over what is and what is not child pornography could eventually remove all those under the age of 18 from the lifestyle, even at home. A little over a year ago in Pasco County, a caseworker blocked two children from having visitation rights with their grandparents who live in the Lake Como nudist resort, erring on the side of "safety and well being" for the children.

This brings us back to the Mid-Winter Naturist Festival at Sunsport Gardens in February. As noted above, mixed in with all the children's events, are seminars on polyamory, Roman sex, and "raunchy" burlesque.

When it comes to human sexuality, I am very libertarian. I think it's terrific that Morley Schloss and the folks at Sunsport promote spiritual, physical and ecological health, and I think it's perfectly fine that some members are in polyamorous relationships. And I am presuming that these more adult-oriented seminars will take place without the presence of children.

The question is in a hostile social climate where people think everyone is a potential pedophile, when even innocent childhood nude photos are condemned as pornography, and where even an electronic scan of a child by airport security is considered indecent, is it wise for TNS to be flaunting its freedom so openly on the Internet where some ambitious politician can come along and make a case about nudist camps being unhealthy or dangerous for children? Nudist/naturist arguments generally don't carry much weight in court when moral outrage drives politicians, prosecutors and judges. Perception is reality when it comes to how non-nudists view the nudist community.

Sunsport and its youth camp are perhaps the last bastion for true family naturism in America. Images of children have been gradually disappearing from TNS and AANR publications. FCN's "Going Natural" maintains a healthy mix of all ages in its photos, and European magazines have never had an issue with showing nude images of kids.

Should Sunsport come under attack, and lose their youth camp like White Tail Park in Virginia, consider it the end of organized family nudism in America for a long, long time.

This is the time. We are at the crossroads. Nude cruises, adults-only resorts, and swingers holidays are providing the excitement and luxury that many people want on vacation, while traditional landed clubs in the U.S. are suffering from declining attendance and advancing ages. Here in Ohio, children's play areas go unused, and many resorts are a little too rustic to compete with more upscale options.

AANR has recently proposed new bylaw amendments, one of which is "AANR welcomes all people willing to conform to its principles and standards, regardless of age, gender, marital status, religious beliefs, ethnic origin or sexual orientation." A couple of years ago my wife and I invited a same-sex couple to visit an AANR resort. I emailed ahead of time and was told in no uncertain terms that our friends would not be welcome by the members. When I complained to AANR, I received no response whatsoever. The old "ignore it and it will go away" strategy.

This is a major shift for nudism/naturism, which is plagued by institutional discrimination against people with skin color other than white, and sexual orientation other than straight. The only way these nudist/naturist organizations are going to survive in an increasingly tolerant and diverse world is to open up and capture the attention of a lot more people. As I said before, the world record skinny-dip is one such event which has the potential of attracting more people into at least trying nude recreation.

Personally, I do not want to see nudism change into a more adult-oriented lifestyle, but at the same time I am very tolerant of nudists looking for something a bit more exciting than volleyball, miniten, petanque, and pot-luck dinners. People can always find a truly hedonistic lifestyle if they want it. But nudists are held to a higher moral standard, mostly because of their own declared "no sex"philosophy, and come under criticism for hosting events like the "lingerie bowl" or "Miss G-String" competitions. I've spoken out strongly myself against such exploitative events in the past. Many others criticize nudists for "questionable" activities like costume dances, body painting, etc., and events like these have taken place for many years.

The question is that in a society where sexual taboos are dropping, can nudism and naturism grow and thrive while offering merely nudity and family-friendly activities? Is the Naturist Society's Mid-Winter Festival schedule a sign of things to come, a opening up of the lifestyle into a new awareness of the human expression of sensuality and sexuality through nudity?

Right now there are many diverse expressions of nudity in society, like the Spencer Tunick installations, the World Naked Bike Ride, the new FKK movement in San Francisco, photography, fine art, magazines, films, etc. Nudist organizations are failing to capitalize on all these new manifestations of the nude spirit within us all. There needs to be a bigger tent to bring more of these like-minded people together. A failure of imagination as well as a strict adherence to tradition will turn AANR and TNS into dinosaurs, following drive-in movies, video stores, and land-lined telephones into extinction.

Perhaps it's time for organized nudists to recognize that there are all kinds of nudists, just like there are all kinds of people. The strict definitions and guidelines laid out by AANR and TNS are fine, and I espouse them myself, but it seems to me that it's time to recognize that clothing-optional enterprises like Caliente, Paradise Lakes and Castaways travel are forms of nudism, too. After all, "Striptease" and "Finding Nemo" are both movies, and through a ratings system people are able to make a choice about which one is appropriate for children.

I am hard-pressed to find a reason why AANR cannot assign ratings to its affiliated clubs, rather than force those with more adult activities out of the network. This is a change of thinking on my part, I admit, but over the last few years of watching clothing-optional clubs leave AANR, and the NAC go to war with AANR over San Onofre, my feeling now is that nudists and naturists need to find ways to come together over diverse issues, and that splitting up is not the answer.

Traditional family nudism must be preserved if the philosophy is to survive. Families and children provide social balance, foster a caring atmosphere, and control behavior, demonstrating that the simple act of being nude with others is healthy, fun, natural, and normal, and not stimulus for sexual activity. Preservation might only be able to be achieved through the recognition that family nudism is not the only form of nude recreation.

For example, college students might first experience social nudism at a clothing-optional beach. A next step might be adult resorts like Caliente or Hedonism, and when families are formed and children come along, traditional nudist and naturist resorts would be more appropriate.

Deb Bowen, spokesperson for Caliente Resort in Florida, makes no apologies for the "explicit" tone of their events, explaining that the idea is to attract a younger generation. It's possible that when AANR split from Caliente, a move which I supported, it was a mistake. It might have been better to keep Caliente in the fold, but designate the resort as an "adults only" venue. It's difficult to maintain a position of censorship over someone else's lifestyle while at the same time seeking acceptance of one's own.

Perhaps it's time to take an honest look at how society has changed so much over the last half-century. Birth control, nudity in magazines, sex in cinema, abortion rights, gay and lesbian rights, the bikini, sexting, Viagra, and so many other factors have pushed sexuality from the bedroom to the kitchen table and beyond. Yes, there is still much conservative and Christianist opposition, showing that the culture wars are certainly not over, but it's clear that the sexual revolution of the 60s has become sexual evolution today.

Nude recreation needs to redefine itself in the face of a changing society which is passing it by. Family nudism, adult nudism, gay nudism, political nudism, environmental naturism, artistic nudism, performance nudism, home nudism, Christian nudism, holistic nudism, commercial nudism, vacation nudism, freehiking, nude yoga - these all need to be embraced as viable means of nude self-expression, and personal liberty.

Yogi Berra once said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." The nude lifestyle has come to that fork, where down one road is the preservation of family-friendly naturism, and down the other is a move towards a more adult clothing-optional recreation. Maybe, just maybe, the nude lifestyle can go down both.


MciBear said...

Finally it seems like someone gets it. You can choose to keep the sexuality out of your actions, but you cannot change the fact that as a human you have some form of personal sexuality. You are right in saying that it is about behavior. When clothed people will find themselves having sexual desires, but it is a matter of what you choose to do.
If walking down the street and see a an attractive person do you go up to them and fondle them. Of course not, you look, you enjoy what you saw and move on (or if you have the guts to, you try and get a phone number.) If on the other hand you and all parties, monogamist or not, go into a setting where it is clear that it is a sexual one, then sexual actions may be acceptable. The point being that it is the context we choose to set ourselves in.
The issue being this, how is nudism perceived by individuals who do not participate. Depending on who you ask we are anything form extreme immoral people, to stodgy boring people. the fact of the matter is that any one approach to nudism will not win over all people. Some individuals want a family friendly environment, some want a nonsexual adults only environment, some want a sexually charged environment, some want to escape to nature, some what to be in a pampering environment, and this list could go on and on. Each person is an individual, and their wants are individual.
The simple fact of the matter is the each landed club is a business. It has bills to pay, property to maintain, and has to have paying costumers to stay open. If what clubs are doing right now isn’t doing that, then they need to change the way they market themselves, or change the product that they offer. If this means that some clubs change to adult only, then it happens. I was saddened the day the Glen Echo (Canada’s oldest nudist resort) had to announce it was shutting down. The owners wanted to sell, but nobody was willing to buy because they could not keep the place afloat.
The long and short of it is that nudism can either go the way of the dodo, slowly disappearing into nothing, or we can adapt to a changing market and offer a range of products to meet the desires of the market. The main challenge with this being we have to break the perception of nudity is always link with overt and explicit sexual behavior. So it just could be time to review ho nudist organizations chose to react to clubs or resorts that choose to be something other then family friendly.

Rick said...

Thanks for saying what needed to be said. It's a lot to digest at one sitting but I agree with the gist of it.

I, too, do not want to see family nudism disappear into oblivion. Organized nudism as it exists today can't be all things to all people but there have to be ways to accommodate different interests and philosophies. It won't be easy turning back the tide of fear, paranoia, and prudery. It's about PR and marketing.

Anonymous said...

In Australia, censorship is about to hit so wide that women in their early 20's will not be allowed to be seen on the internet or tv, etc should they have an A cup bra because somehow, it's pedophilia.

Brought to Australia by the Australian Labor Party: Art Censorship, Internet Censorship, speech censorship, breast size censorship, sexual function censorship - this is ridiculous!

NudistStop said...

I would like to thank you Nudiarist and compliment you on this essay. It is unqualifiedly one of the best I have read on the subject ... ever.

As I was reading the article, the one thing that kept circling through my mind was "Yeah, but what about the oppostion." The opposition of course being the forces that seek to eliminate any occurrence of public nudity (and often any private nudity as well). They are aggressive, not particularly concerned about representing the truth in their arguments, highly vocal, well organized, well funded - in fact, their opposition to nudism is often a fundraising cause - and have a long history of success in persecuting/prosecuting the nudist lifestyle and anyone associated with it. Nudists of course tend toward the opposite side of the continuum on all of these properties. And it is largely because of this dark force that nudists have historically been so extremely paranoid about allowing nudity and sexuality to intersect within the community.

But then I got you your final paragraphs and what you presented was a simple and elegant solution: a rating system. In the late 60's Hollywood executives knew that there was a growing demand for more provocative material but theater owners were the ones who were largely the recipients of the public push-back against the exhibition of such titles. Thus was born the MPAA ratings system. Though it was (and still is) far from perfect, it has allowed the industry to blossom with a rich and diverse selection of content over the last 40 or so years.

Your recommendation can conceivably help accomplish the same thing for the nudist community while at the same time giving us a powerful argument against the forces that seek to eliminate nudism. When we can objectively demonstrate that family nudist facilities comply with a family nudist rating (and practices) and other facilities catering to a more adult audience are subject to an established, yet different standard then much of the opposition’s argument related to "protecting the children" effectively disappears.

The powers that be at AANR might argue that they already do that, but in fact, as you have observed, by shoving the problem under the rug and not addressing it directly, they leave the problem unresolved, causing conflict, while maintaining a glaring inconsistency that allows our opposition to hammer us. Yours is a proposal that deserves serious and immediate consideration.

Well done Nudiarist!


Tom Roark said...

I like it.

I had a theology teacher in 1968, a Jesuit priest, who provocatively chose a cute co-ed in the front row, and said that they had a sexual relationship. Of course, the sexuality in their relationship was the chaste, but inevitable, shaping by Father Whatsisname's being a man, and the coed's being a woman.

As I write this, there's another comment next to my comment, "You are right in saying it is about behavior." How can 21st century developed world men and women's hanging out together in the nude not be sexual? It doesn't mean we are going to have sex.

I'd say that denying the fact of nudism's sexuality could factor into somebody's calculus, so that she decides it's not a good idea.

Elton said...

Not all Christians are against nudism. Some Christians like myself believe that when Christ saved us, he removed the need for clothing since we are no longer "fallen."

But the essay is good. However, in order to keep family naturism from dying, the best way is to promote family naturism. To have organized family naturism, people need to decide which club is best for their family. Clubs who promote family naturism should promote family naturism period. End of discussion.

Clubs that want more hedonistic activities should promote them. I think AANR and TNS are dinosaurs. They need to die and be replaced. Its sad, I know, but their needs to be an association of nudist clubs that all clubs belong too that can promote themselves as family friendly or not.

I disagree with MciBear. If Nudism is a pure absolute truth, then there will be always people who will accept nudism and be naked. The Truth will not go away, however as a commercial enterprise it will go away.

Maybe its better for Nudism as a commercial enterprise to disappear for a time. The World is just not profiting on Truth.

Of course I could be wrong.

Nudiarist said...


I mentioned Christianists, not Christians in general, only those that use their religion to push political agendas.

I agree that family nudism / naturism needs to be promoted and preserved, but my point is that in order to do so, there has to be some resolution of this issue of some clubs going more "explicit" in order to attract the younger generation.

It just seems obvious that learning to live with different forms of nudism / naturism is a better alternative than waging a constant battle. It's time for some clarity to come out of all this confusion.

Anonymous said...

I think pretty damn simple. Most nudists don't want swinging going on nudist resorts nor do they want nudist resorts to be confused with strip joints.

Anonymous said...

We are foolish to beleive that when males and females get together, there wont be any sexual tension. There are thousands of years of evolution to overcome.
If someone wants to sexualize another persons "ankle", that cannot be stopped either.
Most of the people I have spoken with at nudist events openly admit some attraction to a specific person or body part but that doesnt mean they will act upon it.
But then again as you stated, that occurs at the office/mall/etc. and society still functions.
Resorts and clubs need to drop the manditory membership rules and allow more frequent visits on a pay as you go basis. All should band together and create better, more current marketing strategies that can be used to attract families and couples.
Thanks for saying what I thought should have been already known.

Elton said...


"It just seems obvious that learning to live with different forms of nudism / naturism is a better alternative than waging a constant battle. It's time for some clarity to come out of all this confusion."

People aren't willing to unite over this. Question is, why so many swingers? Is sex with someone else other than just your wife so thrilling?

Anonymous said...

Caliente and Paradise Lakes are actually special cases. Each is a large up-scale residential community and includes a separately owned (for profit) 'Resort w/Night Club'. PL is actually five condominium associations and two homeowner associations. Some are chartered as 'Nudist Communities' not clothing optional. The residential communities are in the process of getting their own AANR charters. However the 'Resort/Club' is the face the public sees and uses to identify the entire property.The residents of the communities have no recreational amenities of their own. It is necessary to become a 'Resort/Club' member (with no voting rights)to enjoy a pool, tennis courts etc. AANR needs to represent dues paying nudists/residents, not 'Resort/Club' owners. The 'Lifestylers' that 'Resort/Clubs' are increasingly attracting have no interest in joining AANR. Few 'Lifestylers' have any interest in living in nudist communities. They are not nudists. AANR has no business representing a constituency not is not theirs.
Resorts/Clubs that are catering to 'Lifestylers' should not be allowed to operate at nudist communities. I hope Pasco County monitors this closely.

Academic Naturist said...

Oh my... When you start a post by quoting me, I know I've caused some trouble...

Anyway, I never said that we should *deny* links between sexuality and naturism. The conclusion in my post said that "a part of sexuality exists in a part of naturism", which is a weak link that can be said about any two random topics. Ideally people should quit glorifying this weak link, but not deny it either. There is a gray area where we just don't talk about it.

The above doesn't really affect your general theme much though. I agree with 99% of what you're saying. I'll have a post soon about that last 1%.

Lastly, you say: "The truth is you cannot put nude men and women together in social situations without an element of sexuality." Sorry, but I've been there. I went to a cookie exchange before Christmas with about 20 others, and there wasn't a single instance of sexuality. No sexual comments, behavior, or weird looks -- nothing! And to the best of my body-language reading ability, I don't think they were even having sexual thoughts.

@NudistStop -- You'll be interested in my next blog post.

@Elton -- It's a little unfair that we call the sex clubs "swinger". The clubs are popular for couples, who only have sex with each-other in different settings. (The thrill isn't always "who", but "where" and "how".)

Nudiarist said...

Anonymous, certainly the situations at Paradise Lake and Caliente are far more complex than what I touched upon in my post.

But when you say "AANR needs to represent dues paying nudists/residents, not 'Resort/Club' owners", you are ignoring the fact that many resorts require 100% participation in AANR from its members. AANR is far more invested in the clubs than with its individual members.

You also say that lifestylers are not interested in joining AANR. That's certainly true, but the same can be said for the majority of nudists, too. Haulover beach in Miami attracts over a million visitors each year, yet AANR has 50,000 members at best, down from about 60,000 a decade earlier.

It's clear that AANR is doing something wrong, otherwise their membership should have doubled over the past decade.

I agree that lifestyles resorts and traditional nudist venues don't mix, and I'm not suggesting that they do. I just think it's time to recognize that there are many forms of nude recreation, just like there are many different types of books, movies, etc.

You wouldn't put "Lolita" on a grade school reading list, and few adults are interested in "James and the Giant Peach", but both books can be found in the same store, just in different sections.

Nudism was founded at the end of the Victorian era which saw a great deal of sexual repression. Today we live in an era of sexual liberation, and even though there are still a lot of Puritanical attitudes and laws in our society, nudism simply means something different than it did 100 years ago.

Without open discussion and meaningful change, nudism / naturism is destined to remain cultish and stagnant, out of touch with an entire generation.

Nudiarist said...


I have yet to be at any nudist resort or event where there was a sexually charged atmosphere. I want to keep it that way. But one cannot deny that there is always some element of sexuality when men and women gather together in the nude. It might not be obvious, but it's there. Same for a high school dance, an office Christmas party, a wedding, or any other occasion where people gather to have fun and socialize. It's not the lack of clothing, it's just human nature.

Elton said...

@Academic Naturist -- Sorry, I'm confused over their motives. Although Nudiarist is right, there is a small charge of sexual tension at most any social event.

But it is possible to control oneself. Nudism to me, is a way you can show that you are capable of controlling yourself in the nude. For years, growing up as a Textile, I was afraid of being nude because I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to control myself. However . . .

IT's cool! I can control myself around naked people. Embracing nudism allowed me to show myself that I'm capable of self control. I love it! Although I don't know how you can package self control as a selling point in a world where self control is thought to be Anachronistic.

Brad Fults said...

I appreciate the discussion you’ve started here and I think it’s important to have. I agree with much of what you say, but I think the idea of a ratings system for AANR clubs would be a large misstep.

You say that “Perception is reality when it comes to how non-nudists view the nudist community.” and this is exactly correct. If AANR starts “approving of” (even with an adults-only label) sex-involved venues and activities, it will forever be associated with those activities in the public eye, regardless of how many non-adult AANR clubs there are elsewhere. Zealous moralists and politicians will always be looking for ways to “catch” or corner marginalized members of society and persecute them for sensationalist value while claiming to be “helping the children”, “preserving decency” or some other such nonsense.

You mentioned that sexuality is inextricably tied into all aspects of our lives, which is undeniably true, but take your own examples of where else sexuality mingles: “schools and sexuality, or churches and sexuality, or business and sexuality” and imagine those with ratings systems or adults-only venues. The situation would be even worse if AANR sponsored such a system because it is a *brand* with a relatively small market segment and thus a lot to lose in the way of brand legitimacy.

Can you imagine if Fedex stores started posting G-X ratings on their stores, to indicate that some sexually-charged office banter may escalate to sex in the maintenance closet between employees? What about all Seventh Day Adventist churches imposing a rating system all of a sudden? What would happen to the churches that couldn’t secure a “G” or “PG” rating? People would assume the worst, membership would drop, and the entire franchise of Adventist churches would be looked upon by outsiders with intense scorn and suspicion. The same conclusions apply to schools, but even more so because there are children present.

In short, the establishment of a ratings system by anyone attempting to represent wholesome, innocent nude recreation (as AANR does) would only serve to tarnish the reputation of nude recreation as a whole by explicitly associating it with sexual content. The implicit association will always exist, just as it does in schools, churches and businesses, but it’s much harder to point to implicit associations in the courtroom (though they try). Once that association is made explicit, the death warrant of nude recreation is signed—every overzealous anti-nudist moralist in the country will be testifying that “the nudists’ own national organization admits that their lifestyle leads to sex and debauchery—just look at the R and X-rated clubs!”. And that’s all she wrote for “the credible voice of reason for nude recreation”.

Changes, though, are obviously necessary. I think the World Record Skinny Dip was a good first step by AANR and I think we’ll see a lot more in that vein in the near future. AANR needs to *compete* with the idea that places like Hedonism and Caliente are the only way to attract younger nudists and they need to do this by touting the wholesome, innocent nudist philosophy as one that is suitable for *all* ages.

Yes, nudism is at a crossroads, but Robert Frost once said, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Maybe, in the case of nudism, the road less traveled is the one that doesn’t capitulate to easy membership gains via sex; maybe it’s the one that will require much hard work and positive PR from both of our national organizations in order to set a new bar for nudist involvement and success in this country. As a 26-year-old nudist, I certainly hope for the latter, because I have no desire to see nudism stripped away from us by ignorant moralists.

Nudiarist said...

Brad, the problem with your argument is that AANR's reputation is already tarnished. The general public does not see the difference between nudist, naturist, or clothing-optional. Caliente resort is always referred to as "nudist" in news stories.

As for ratings, are there not many, many examples where age is restricted? Drinking, voting, driving, movies, magazines, car rentals, credit cards, working, etc.? There are politicians on the move now to restrict nudist venues to only those over 18.

Either nudism accepts the current perception, or it takes the bull by the horns and begins to DEFINE the differences between resorts. People understand ratings.

As for churches, they too define themselves. Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Mormon, etc. In addition, there are Hispanic, Polish, Russian, Italian and other ethnic churches.

And there are a myriad of different schools. In kindergarten a child can learn to fingerpaint. In college a student can study Alfred Kinsey. People understand the differences between types of churches and schools because they define themselves.

A ratings system for nudist resorts would begin to end all this confusion. Currently all resorts are NOT the same. I know one resort, which shall remain unnamed, which has a reputation as a swinger's hangout, yet it's listed in AANR as being just another affiliated club.

Some AANR clubs are clothing-optional, some require nudity. According to AANR's own website, "most clubs welcome children", which means that at some children are not welcome. There is already an invisible ratings system, why not clarify?

For over three decades the movie industry was ruled by the Hays code which "spelled out what was acceptable and what was unacceptable content for motion pictures produced for a public audience in the United States." In the 1960s when sex and adult themes began to make films more explicit, the code was abandoned and a ratings system was created. This allowed the public to make educated choices about the type of entertainment they were seeking.

I believe that in order for family nudism to survive, there have to be clear distinctions drawn between all these clubs which are all offering something a little different. The losses of Paradise Lakes and Caliente show that AANR's current rules enforcement is not working, and it's only a matter of time that other clubs follow suit.

The motion picture industry struggled with the enforcement problem for years. In 1951 they actually stiffened their code enforcement, which did not work, and eventually the floodgates were opened with films like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "The Pawnbroker". Ratings did not kill Hollywood, as some suggested at the time. Arguably some of the greatest films of all time were made in the wake of the ratings system implementation.

Ignoring the situation will not make it go away. Something has to be done.

Nudiarist said...

BTW, do a Google search for ADULTS ONLY RESORTS and you will see how that aspect of the clothing-optional industry is booming.

Mark said...

If nudism dies, better to let it die standing up for something.
Letting sex infiltrate nudism will kill it. Why? Because then it ceases to be nudism. It becomes swinging or whatever other sexual thing comes along. So rating sex clubs is no solution.

How can nudists support sex clubs, when they directly violate the very ideas that define nudism? Are we really both sides of the same coin just because we all like to be naked? What's next, should we invite Al Qaida to join Congress? After all, aren't they just a different kind of political group?

Of course there is always some level of sexuality involved whenever men & women get together. But when people single out nudism as having a "sexual component," it implies that true nudism is impossible, so we may as well all give up and have sex. Because after all, we must always ACT on every impulse at every moment, right? If I get mad at someone, I should just hit them because it's a natural impulse and I have no choice.

The argument that sex is needed to attract a younger crowd is ridiculous. I got into nudism in my 20's because I felt safe and accepted in my imperfect body when I visited nude beaches and resorts that stuck with nudist values. Younger people do not need a sexual environment to be interested in something. The sustainability, or "green" movement is not sex-based, yet millions of younger people are devoted to it. Maybe nudism needs to be more of a cause, instead of just a leisure industry.

What younger people need from nudism is far less exciting to talk about than sex. They need to feel welcome, safe, and they need to have access to the information that nudism is even available. Most people my age and younger don't even know where resorts and beaches are in their areas.

Let's not obsess about keeping up with every other trend that comes along. Let's help nudism thrive instead of turning it into something it's not.

PS: AANR did not leave Caliente, that would be impossible since Caliente was a member of AANR, not the other way around. Saying it that way puts all the blame on AANR, which is not fair. Caliente went against AANR's principles, and left when AANR called them on it. They have a right to do business with swingers, but then they have no right to expect nudist support.

Nudiarist said...

Mark, I appreciate your comments, but we're not talking about "sex clubs".

Anonymous said...

While I understand where you are coming from Nudiarist, I think that you probably would never have changed your opinion had family-oriented nudism been strongly growing in the world. The problem is, we are already have strip clubs and sexually-oriented adult venues where people are nude- this has been part of the problem the whole time. I'm not saying nudists can't teach classes where pertinent sexual information is given out, but opening our doors to raunchy behavior (even if it claims to be good clean fun) only serves to change people's mindsets back to, or keep them at, the problematic one that says nudism is just an excuse to be able to get a little action in the sack. Heaven knows we already have enough college males who are more than ready to embrace that venue. But then they bring that mindset with them into all the others.

As for how to reverse the issue of typical family-oriented nudism shrinking, the problem is that AANR isn't creative enough and active enough in the right ways to be able to make people interested. A theatre that only puts on one show will stop having people go to it rather quickly. But this doesn't mean AANR needs to put on sexual content to attract attention, it means they need to come up with more family-friendly fun events that get people interested and raise publicity. It is an organisational issue, not an ethical issue.

As for AANR not allowing gays, I think they should. What a person does behind closed doors is their own business, and AANR not allowing them only serves to reject the rest of that person outside of them being gay. As the christians say "Hate the sin, love the sinner." People won't ever change if you throw them in a garbage dump. But if you love and respect them, even if you don't agree with them, they are a 100 times more likely to be open to what you have to say. Now if those gays broke standard conduct rules, and were sexually harassing other people at the resorts, then those resorts would have every right to kick them out. But otherwise, their sexual preference isn't negatively impacting their ability to act properly in a nude setting, and so it shouldn't matter.

If you think some of my paragraphs contradict each other, they don't. There is a big difference between saying "we are fine with these beliefs" and "we are choosing to interact with these people, despite their beliefs."

Nudiarist said...


You ignore the fact that I am not calling for the end of family nudism, only the recognition that adult nudism is also a legitimate form or nude recreation.

ADULT NUDE RECREATION ALREADY EXISTS. Clubs, cruises, etc. are becoming increasingly adults only. Must we exclude all of those people from AANR or TNS? It makes no sense.

In addition, nudist resorts are already rated. Try walking into any nudist resort without a parent or legal guardian if you are under 18 years old. ALL NUDIST RESORTS ARE ALREADY CONSIDERED ADULT-ORIENTED, that is why children are admitted only when accompanied by adults.

The point is to SAVE FAMILY NUDISM by separating it from Adult nudism. I have yet to see a cogent argument about why this would not work.

Right now nudists are complaining about two things - the increase in swingers in the lifestyle, and a lack of younger people. Nobody seems to be able to agree about how to solve these. AANR's split with Caliente didn't solve the problem because that resort is still marketing itself to nudists and naturists.

There has to be a way to expand tolerance for different forms of nude recreation without compromising the traditional values of family nudism.

Doing nothing will eventually bring about the demise of AANR and TNS because the only organization needed for Caliente, Hedonism and other adult clothing-optional resorts is a single travel agent.

Anonymous said...

You are really talking for generation Y. Good job.

I have been reading a lot about naturism latly, and I have been frustrated by the naive view point of many nudist. You seem to see things as they truly are.

Tony Young said...

I am wondering if there is actual evidence that family nudism is dying. Have there been a decline in memberships?

Still that doesn't take into account non-landed clubs and unorganized groups taking their kids for a swim by the lake.