Naturism And Naturists Defined and Explained
Learning about naturism and naturists from the experts at YNA:
Before we begin explaining and defining naturism and naturists, here are some articles you may want to read first. These articles will provide you with the terms that are used in the naturist world as well as some basic facts about naturism:
- Naturism and Naturist Dictionary
- Why Naturism Improves Self Esteem
- Naturism and Children
- Naturism and Girls / Women
- Naturist Resorts
- Young Naturists and Young Naturism
- Naturist Organizations
- Naturist Defined
- Naturism and Sexuality
What is the Definition of Naturism?
Naturism is officially defined as: “The practice of going naked in designated areas.” This is the dictionary definition.
Another commonly cited definition of the word “naturism” comes from the International Naturist Federation: “A lifestyle in harmony with nature, expressed through social nudity, and characterized by self-respect of people with different opinions and of the environment.”
Within the naturist community, there is no set definition of the word, but the INF’s definition is often used and agreed upon.
Where did Naturism Begin and What is the Naturist Philosophy?
Early ideas that were incorporated into the naturist philosophy of today are rooted in Germanic ideals of health and fitness that flourished in the early 20th century.
The return to nature, as man was intended to be, is at the core of naturist ideal system. From Germany, the values and ideals of Naturism spread throughout Europe and to North America.
The Deutscher Verband Fur Freikorperkulture (DFK) is the German naturist organization. Founded in 1949, it advocates for incorporating sports into the naturist lifestyle.
Naturist vs Nudist:
Becoming a member of the YNA naturist community involves much more than simply living a clothes-free lifestyle. The naturist way of life, based on the YNA philosophy, is also about acceptance, equality, respecting others and respecting the environment.
Naturists can and should actually use nudity as a means of enacting positive changes, both individually and socially.
The term “naturism” is basically interchangeable with “nudism” in the U.S. So it goes without saying that for the most part a naturist is a nudist and vice versa. The word naturist is more commonly used in Europe and nudist is more commonly used in the United States.
But some people will make different distinctions between the two. Some claim that a naturist is someone who enjoys being nude while in a natural setting such as a forest, lake or nude beach and a nudist will enjoy being nude all the time and every chance they get.
Some will say that being a naturist means being dedicated to a nude lifestyle, and that nudists just engage in social nudism sometimes.
That being said, for all intents and purposes and especially in the United States, the terms are interchangeable.
Whether or not you call yourself one or the other, both pretty much like the same sort of activity. The activities that they participate in and the locations they visit are the same. Both like to go to the beach, visit nudist resorts, enjoy social nudism and social nudity as a whole.
Naturists and The Naturist Lifestyle
There are millions of people worldwide who call themselves naturists. Most of them can be found in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Surveys and polls show that over a third of Americans have skinny dipped or sunbathed nude at some point in their lives. Such people could be considered naturists, though they may not know much about naturism or use the terms.
Many misconceptions exist concerning naturists. They are often thought to be “swingers,” or people who otherwise experience sexual gratification from being nude around other people who are also naked.
However, naturists are simply normal people who enjoy going naked for reasons that have nothing to do with sex. Many of them feel that the sensation of warm sun on their skin is one of the best feelings they’ve ever had. Some even like the way gentle raindrops feel on exposed skin.
Those who want to know what a naturist looks like, should simply look at the people around him or her. Naturists come in all shapes, sizes and walks of life. The sturdy man in the business suit in front of you on the bus who is reading the morning paper with such a serious look on his face could very well enjoy spending his leisure time at nudist resorts.
The elderly woman next to you in the deli ordering a ham and Swiss cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread could have recently returned from a naturist nude cruise through the Inside Passage of the state of Alaska. The policeman who gave you that speeding ticket last month could also be a practicing naturist.
There is simply no way to tell if a person prefers to spend time unclothed unless he or she tells you. Naturists are not part of some secret society, they don’t have a special handshake or use code to communicate with one another. They are, quite simply, everyday people.
Is There A Commitment Requirement To Being A Naturist?
The range of commitment among naturists runs from a casual day at the beach to incorporating the ideals into every aspect of life. Some are deeply committed to the entire naturist philosophy; others simply enjoy being clothes-free.
The ideals of naturists traditionally include respecting the environment, healthy living and accepting others as they are. Of course, each club and individual has variations in their beliefs.
Those devoted to the naturist lifestyle seek housing in areas that are either designated as naturist or clothing-optional, or are remote enough to offer the freedom to live without clothing.
Which People Can Practice Naturism
Essentially, naturism is appropriate for anyone who would enjoy being naked in a nonsexual setting. A naturist also needs to be able to abide by the rules and etiquette of a place or organization. Families with children are welcome at many events or locations that welcome naturists.
Any event or place that discourages children should be looked at carefully unless it is a grueling hike or a late night dance at a club. No matter your marital status, sexual orientation, gender, race, age, disabilities, or physical attributes, you can be a naturist.
Regardless of a person’s age or situation, the naturist lifestyle has a lot to offer. The YNA naturists are people who value interacting positively with the natural environment and other people. Anyone who also values these things should learn more about what it means to be a YNA naturist.
Why Do People Become Naturists?
Naturists are attracted to the lifestyle by a number of benefits. For example, a key aspect of the naturist philosophy is acceptance. Many naturists notice that they feel more accepted when interacting in nude environments.
Clothing has long been an indicator of social status, and groups of naked people are less likely to feel divided by differences that are no longer apparent. This lack of social rank makes it easy to feel more united with humanity. Another reason so many people become naturists is that it returns them to a more liberated and natural state, free from many dysfunctional modern habits.
Naturism and Naturists and The Human Body:
Although most naturists don’t have the bodies of models or actors, they’re more likely to have healthy body images than others in our society.
Naturism is about acceptance of the human body no matter what the size or shape. Even though almost everyone has had (or still has) some sort of body image struggles at some point in their lives, naturists are more likely to accept themselves for who they are.
They don’t beat themselves up because their bodies don’t conform to some impossible standard made up by those who profit from the insecurities of others.
Naturism and Sexuality
Naturism is not about sex. The only reason people associate naturism and naturists with sexuality is due to how nudity is treated in American culture. In most cases, nudity in a movie is associated with romance scenes and other sexual acts.
While sexuality is a part of human nature, it isn’t mankind’s reason for existence. Since people only see others naked in sexual situations, the brain forms an artificial connection between nudity and sexuality. However, naturism doesn’t have to be associated with sexual behavior.
In a naturist society, people are free to express their bodies in non-sexual ways. This often opens people up to a new way of experiencing life, connecting to nature and to other people.
Where Can People Enjoy Naturism
Those who enjoy being unclothed in nature or indoors have many available options. Naturist clubs and resorts are popular for those who like a social setting and want to pursue a variety of activities outdoors.
But there are also many other ways to experience naturism: nude beaches, nude cruises, festivals, hot springs, swimming holes / skinny dipping spots, naked parties and more.
Where Was The First Official Naturist Beach?
Croatia, with its extensive coastline and hundreds of islands in the Adriatic Sea, was the site of one of the first naturist beaches in 1934. Plenty of privacy and an abundance of sea and sunshine provide this area with the perfect spot for soaking up the sun.
Currently it is the site of over 30 official nudist beaches and nudist resorts with a wealth of other unofficial sites along the coastline. Other countries in Europe have offerings ranging from apartments and camping to beaches and resorts include Spain, Italy, Denmark, and Ireland. Facilities abound throughout the world.
What Should I Expect At Landed Naturist Clubs?
“Landed” or membership naturist clubs are those that have their own facilities. In the U.S., there are two types of clubs: privately owned and co-operatives. Privately owned clubs are for-profit businesses, and co-operatives are run by the members with an elected board.
Both offer the same types of facilities: pool or lake, sunbathing area, sauna, hot tub, tennis courts or other sports facilities, clubhouse or communal space, and more. All clubs and resorts usually have a basic set of rules in common.
Overt sexual behavior is not tolerated, and there are rules and etiquette meant to ensure it’s a safe, positive space for everyone. The demographic will vary from place to place, but members may range in age from infants to centarians.
That being said, every place has a different culture. Some clubs promote a naturist philosophy, while others are just about offering a place to be naked.
The terms “nudist” and “naturist” are often used interchangeably, so it’s best to learn about a club or resort first to see if it’s right for you, rather than make assumptions based on which term they use.
YNA does not agree with such exclusionary policies, and we believe they go against what naturism is truly about.
What is a Non Landed Naturist Club / Naturism Group?
Non-landed naturism groups, also known as travel groups, don’t own any land or facilities. Instead they travel as a group to visit clubs or naturist places, meet at people’s homes, or rent out spaces for private events.
Some also just gather at annual festivals such as World Naked Gardening Day, held in May, or a World Naked Bike Ride event, which is a clothing optional event that seeks to bring awareness to the vulnerability of cyclists and automobile pollution. Another naked-friendly festival is the annual Burning Man festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
What Are Some of The Older and Larger Naturist Organizations?
There are few organizations that utilize the term “naturist.” Two of the most well-known are The Naturist Society (TNS) and International Naturist Federation (INF). TNS was established around 1980 by Lee Baxandall with the idea of promoting naturism on public lands.
They publish a quarterly naturist magazine called Nude & Natural magazine. TNS also has an educational arm, the Naturist Education Foundation whose goal is to provide information in an attempt to raise awareness and acceptance among naturists and non-naturists alike.
The INF is a network of naturist organizations in over 30 countries. Every two years they bring together representatives from various countries to attend a “World Congress.” They also host other events and work to promote naturism to the general public.
Another important organization is the Naturist Action Committee (NAC). NAC is the political adjunct to TNS, but for the most part operates independently of TNS.
However TNS and NAC still support each other. NAC works the legal scene to defend naturist locations and prevent anti-nudity laws from being passed.
The American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) is the oldest nudist organization in the United States, founded in 1931.
TNS, INF and AANR are membership-based organizations. (And NAC welcomes your donations.) All of these organizations promote the basic idea of nudism and naturism as the practice of being naked in a nonsexual setting. However they differ in their missions, ideals and philosophies on what it means to be a naturist. It’s a good idea to read up about the mission, work and values of any organization before deciding to join.
Misconceptions About Naturism and Naturists
When people talk about social naturism and nude recreation, there are many misconceptions as to what it means. It does not mean sex, which is what most people first think of when they hear nude or nudity. Social nudity simply means socializing with others naked, without sexual behavior involved.
Naturists pursue the same sorts of activities that people do with clothes on, such as swimming, sunbathing, hiking, dancing, yoga, games, volleyball, sports and more. These activities do not become sexual when clothing is removed.
Another common misconception is that naturists live in secluded colonies where they can be naked 24 / 7. First, there are no colonies, only naturist clubs and resorts. The term “nudist colony” is a very outdated term, but it lives on because the media keeps using it.
Second, as previously stated, people practice naturism to varying degrees. Some limit their naked time to a nude beach once in a while, and others like to be naked at home all the time or live within a year-round club. What do naturists do in the winter? They put clothes on like everyone else.
A third misconception is that naturism is not a family activity, and nudity is bad for kids. This is totally untrue. There are many families with kids at naturist clubs, resorts, beaches and campgrounds, all over the world.
Children are not harmed, physically nor psychologically, by seeing simple nudity. Studies on the subject of children and social nudity have actually found that children benefit from being raised in a naturist environment, in a variety of ways.
How Do People React To Naturism?
It’s strange to think about all the restrictions and rules that an individual must follow in modern society. While lots of rules are designed to keep other people safe, some rules don’t make very much sense at all. For example, nudity can turn a tame movie into an R or X-rated film. However, extreme violence or murder only warrants a PG13 rating.
In the United States, nudity is treated as a perversion. It’s still a big taboo. People are taught to shun their naked bodies as if they were marked with a scarlet letter. Instead of celebrating one’s body, people must hide it beneath layers of clothing.
When the public opposes naturism, it’s usually because they’ve been a sold on the idea that it’s bad for society in some way. A common reaction is, “What about the children?” because people believe the aforementioned myth that nudity is somehow harmful to kids. But the majority of people are okay with naturism being practiced in designated areas.
Your upbringing, family, community, culture and social norms can influence your reaction to social nudity. Your comfort level with personal nudity is yours. In many cases, it can be challenging to break the societal norms and conventions that one has followed for his or her entire life. In addition, it may take time for one to become used to the exposed feeling of nudity and being naked, especially while in a social setting. Apprehension initially can be expected and as they say, everyone has to have their first time.
It’s important to remember that body shame is learned, and it’s possible as well as beneficial to un-learn it. Bodies are a celebration of a person’s true self and nature in this world. By pursuing naturism, it’s possible for a person to experience this for themselves.
Instead of being fettered by the bonds of society, a person can express themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually in the non-judgmental naturist setting.
When telling your friends, family or acquaintances about naturism, you may encounter different reactions. It depends on the person.
But even those who you think will react negatively, may be familiar with naturism and may have even gone to a nude beach or gone skinny dipping before. Sometimes you just never know how someone will react until you tell them.
The Legality of Naturism
Anti nudity laws are a bit complicated in the United States. Private naturist clubs and resorts are legal in most states, though county lawmakers are proposing new laws all the time that could outlaw most forms of public nudity. Many times these laws are meant to regulate “sexually oriented businesses” like strip clubs, but then nonsexual nudity gets included, too.
These types of laws take away freedoms from everyone, for no good reason. Many anti-nudity ordinances also discriminate against women by criminalizing female toplessness.
The Naturist Action Committee works on behalf of naturists to alert the community of these new laws and to keep them from going through.
Some nude beaches may be technically illegal, but then still have a sanctioned tradition of nude use. This allows people to go naked without fear of arrest. There are also festivals across the country where nudity is anticipated and accepted, as an exception to the local anti-nudity laws.
Public nudity laws vary from state to state, and sometimes the county laws override the state law. Vermont is one state where the law forbids public lewd behavior, but not simple nudity. However, this doesn’t mean you can walk the streets of a city in nothing but your sneakers.
Being naked in public is not socially accepted behavior (outside of designated areas or events), so you can still end up arrested and receive a fine. Public nudity offenders can be charged with indecent exposure, disturbing the peace or creating a public nuisance.
Arrests often depend on what the police officers or prosecutors think, not what the law says. In some states, you can even be charged as a sex offender just for being seen hiking naked in the woods.
Women are still sometimes harassed for breastfeeding in public in some areas. The law can even go as far as prosecuting parents for taking innocent nude pictures of their children.
Not everywhere is like this, however. In more broad-minded areas, the difference between indecent activity and simply being nude for the pleasure of being nude is taken into consideration.
Even some celebrities are and have been naturists. Several U.S. presidents have been naturists, including John F. Kennedy and John Quincy Adams. Benjamin Franklin was another noted naturist. Remember the old cartoon character, Mr. Magoo, who chugged his way absentmindedly across so many of our country’s television screens?
The man who provided the voice for our lovable friend, Jim Baccus, was another famous person who preferred the naturist lifestyle.
How To Get Started in Naturism
If you feel that naturism or that becoming a naturist is right for you, do some research to see where you might be able to try it in your area. You can always try going naked at home first, in preparation for trying it in a social setting. Social or public naturism is not something you need to rush into.
When deciding to visit a club or resort, be sure to thoroughly look through their website first to find out if it’s a good place for you.
Many clubs have certain policies for first-time visitors. If the club doesn’t require you to call ahead first, it may still be a good idea to do so if it’ll be your first experience.
If you’re not sure about your first public experience, see if there are any clothing-optional locations where you can undress at your own pace. It can also help to invite a friend to go along with you.
A public nude beach would be one place where you can keep your suit on at first and get used to the idea. Just don’t stand around too long fully clothed, or the naturists there might take you for a gawker!
You can also start networking online to chat with other naturists. There are naturist groups on Facebook and Meetup.com as well as forums and social networks just for naturists, such as the Naktiv Nook.
You may be surprised to find what’s in your area, since many private clubs don’t do much advertising online or in public like other businesses. Many naturist clubs used to conceal their address online and would try to be as discrete as possible within their communities. But this has changed as naturism has become more accepted.
Within your personal life you may find an issue with a spouse or partner who doesn’t wish to participate on the same level as you. The best thing to do is be understanding and not push them. If they hesitate to try it, let them read up on it and give them space to consider it.
So in closing, people can call themselves a naturist or a nudist and enjoy the same activities either way. But one can argue that naturists and nudists at least have one definitive thing in common: a belief that people should be accepted as they are and not judged based on their appearance, race, gender, age or sexual orientation.
This is a fundamental part of the YNA philosophy that we will continue to promote. If you agree with our naturist philosophy and want to support the work that we do, then consider becoming a YNA member!
This article which describes in length what are naturists and what is naturism was published by – Young Naturists And Nudists America YNA