Picture this …. The tranquil beaches of an island far away. Forget the pebbles of Brighton instead only white powdery soft sand sticking to your toes. A gorgeous sunset throwing every hue of orange and purple, crystal clear water that looks good enough to drink, that mixture smell of sea breeze and sea water that lingers in the air. But as you take in the surroundings of this most beautiful setting and look at your fellow man beside you, you realise that you are the only person with clothes on for miles to be seen.
You’ve guessed it …. Surprise your at a Nudist beach!
“Naturism is a lifestyle in harmony with nature, expressed through personal and social nudity, and characterised by self-respect of people with different opinions and of the environment.”
What is it about nudity and the bare human flesh that makes us think of filth and the forbidden? The reality is we are at our purest, infantile, most raw and vulnerable state when we are naked. Perhaps its this vulnerability that we as society are most scared of, after all none of us want to feel exposed and unprotected. It should also be remembered that this stigma is one created largely by western society as there are many parts of Africa & South America where nudity is a long standing cultural tradition, so it isn’t the entire world that shares this view.
But on the western part of the hemisphere whoever chooses to embrace this rather organic side of living are known as nudists or naturalists. Contrary to public perception nudism/naturism is an organised legitimate lifestyle choice rooted in so much more than just the absence of clothing. Modern naturists work, enter into politics and are active members of our society, who choose to honour nature and return to their naked state where ever possible.
There are approximately 26 – 50 nudist beaches out of a total of approximately 779 in the UK so on average you have a 3.3% -6.4% chance of coming across one at any given time its in that knowledge we see nudism/naturalist as more than just a trend, but a growing community. Nudity within the context of nudism/naturalism is largely encouraged as a social activity with things like group swims, days out camping, holidays & festivals among part of their annual events.
Lancashire Sun for example is a long established Naturist Club in Preston, Southport UK and has many social events that take place all year round on their private acres of green land, such as ‘bare -obics’, fancy dress parties and would you believe naked jam sessions!
Beyond the social aspect, naturalists in particular have a general set of rules and ideologies that are adhered to particularly pertaining to the ever controversial subject of eroticism and sexuality.
“Individuals have formed nudist groups for a variety of specific purposes. It is generally agreed by naturist organisations that eroticism and blatant sexuality have no place in naturism and are, in fact, antithetical to its ideals.”
“Ecological or environmental — rapport with the natural world.
Health — bathing in the sun, fresh air and water
Diet — moderation with alcohol, meat, tobacco, drugs; seeking out health foods and adopting healthy eating to prevent obesity. This can extend to teetotalism and Vegetarian or Vegan eating habits. The latter two also interface with having respect for the environment.
Agriculture — avoiding unnecessary fertilisers and genetically modified organisms. Against factory farming
Medicine — should be natural if not entirely homeopathic
Psychotherapy — as a way of effecting personal changes
Rapport with other humans — equality and respect. An anti-war, pro-world government stance
Pedagogy — children should be respected as equals instead of being patronised
Spirituality — man is no more than an animal, and nudity has a place in religion.
Dress — nudism, as clothes are unnecessary, unhealthy and build social barriers.
Sports — to develop a healthy body.
Arts — should be to develop individual talents, not as a means of financial exploitation
Tourism — to understand other peoples’ culture, concentrating on camping to remain close to the earth.
Liberty — no one has the right to tell others or their children that they must wear clothes.
Pollution — less clothing to manufacture and maintain means lower carbon footprint.”
As an institution they are as organised as your local church or religious group with a under 30’s youth group called Young British Naturists (YBN) that partake in annual events, days out as well as form strong social groups that discuss the typical issues faced by the young such as puberty and body image. They are heavily involved in politics and regularly campaign against issues affecting their community such as censorship & legislation. Most recently they were victorious in a campaign to stop a law from being extended that allowed garden nudism to be prosecuted.
Incidentally many Nudistts/Nautralists don’t practice the act of being nude all the time, they operate as average people do, go to work or do shopping etc but once in the comfort and safety of their home or while on holiday at a designated camp or resort, go without clothing. What occurred to me is that most who described themselves as nudists found this lifestyle on most occasions by accident. Couple John & Roberta of www.nudist-britain.org.uk describe their finding of this new community:
“We first considered becoming nudists after we both stripped off during the summer of 2001 when it got too hot and humid to wear anything around the house. We then started to go nude when working and relaxing in the secluded part of our garden. Over the following winter months we visited Blackpool & Fylde Sun Club swimming nights and found these to be an excellent way of experiencing recreational and social nudity for the first time. Since then we have enjoyed several nudist holiday breaks including Pevors Farm Cottages in Essex and a beach bungalow at Riva Bella nudist village in Corsica. We are now members of Lancashire Sun and we also enjoy nude caravanning holidays at designated sites and clubs throughout the UK,” John and Roberta.
Nudism or Naturalism, whatever your preference may be, is to viewed as any other lifestyle choice. As a institution it is as valid as any other ideology from liberalist, conservatives, christianity or atheism. As contributing members of society who exhibit far less violence, aggression, stress & danger than than their fully dressed counter parts, contrary to public perception are a civilised as any other human being. The question remains however what is so wrong with being naked? Is it over exposure to eroticism in our society that makes us automatically associate bare skin with sex? It is archaic establishments dating back to biblical times, that have brain washed into thinking of it as sinful? The fact remains that nearly 4 million people in the UK describe themselves as Naturalists and growing. Perhaps as a result of the ever increasing news of food contamination, pollution, poor body image and social exclusion on the rise. Whatever the reason people are wanting to return to simpler and purer times. With odds somewhere around 1 in 17, who knows, the next time you’re on a bus or tube the guy sitting a few seats down from you just might be a closet nudist ….