We’ve been at least a half dozen times over the past twenty years, usually staying for two or three nights en route to another naturist destination. But this time, we were simply making a day visit with a couple friends – one a confirmed naturist, the other, new to the concept, but most certainty social nudity curious.
We did the best we could to prep them for this visit to the Naked City. For our naturist friend, this was something of a pilgrimage, having read so much about the most expansive naturist enclave in the world. And to be sure, depending where you’re looking on the internet, the place sounds like naturist Utopia. 24/7 nudity – in the shops, restaurants, and even in the post office. You can easily think you’ve got a good pulse on the place on the web without bumping into the language about foam parties and libertines (swingers) if you’re simply searching for the ultimate naturist destination.
On previous journeys, my wife and I have typically stayed in the modest Hotel Eve, tucked away at the edge of the village. While we’ve seen a few amorous couples there over the years, they have typically remained just within the lines of acceptable public display of affection. We understand “amorous”, and like to think we have cultivated a good appreciation for such in our 30+ years of marriage, but we have never chosen to imbibe in the libertine scene, nor are we likely to put our own affections on public display.
Admittedly, my wife and I hold differing perspectives on the sexual pulse of Cap d’Agde as you pass a club with pole dancers on the way to the grocery store, or a woman walking by in a negligée that simply exaggerates the body parts that a bikini typically covers up, while keeping her partner close by on a studded collar and leash. “There’s some wild and crazy going on in our midst,” we say. I have always thought it to be a bizarre study in humanity. While she has never felt like we’ve put ourselves in a particularly threatening situation, my wife finds the whole environment someplace between disquieting at least, and disturbing at most.
Until this time…
I had given a brief history of Cap d’Agde – the great naked city of France – to our friends in the car on our way down the autoroute from Provence, including the details of the original charter that still permeates the regulations to be acknowledged at the entrance today, banning overt sexuality and a wide array of other inappropriate behaviors. Some online reviews even tell stories of being denied admission at the gate due to the lack of an affiliation with a legitimate naturist organization.
In the meantime, I’ve kept up on my reading about the place over the years: the opening of a new “genuine naturist hotel” that hosts getting to know you parties on the terrace (along with alluring photos); the arson reports related to the total destruction of the most prominent swingers’ club (and the subsequent rebuilding) a few years back; and the varied reports of just what happens on the beach, especially around the time the sun begins to set. We certainly had an awareness of all that from our previous visits, but we simply weren’t prepared for what awaited us on this visit.
Once parked with clothing safely secured in the car, we made our way into the heart of the town where we consumed copious amounts of vin rosé beneath the relieving protection of misters that ameliorated the blistering heat during this prolonged heat wave in the South of France. We each ventured down to the beach now and again – the familial section of the beach near all the restaurants and shops – noting an occasional couple riding the waves locked in a suspiciously euphoric embrace. It was the typical intergenerational mixture of young families to senior citizens, with a near 100% compliance with the total nudity regulations. This was the Cap d’Adge we had experienced in the past.
Having made 8:00 pm dinner reservations, the defining moment arrived when we decided to take a stroll down the naturist beach as the sun was beginning to set. I suppose timing is everything on occasions like this, but we were hardly a few meters beyond the first beach bar when we came upon women on their knees pleasing their partners, then circles of spectators watching various displays of human sexuality – and as often as not, a circle of men, gazing on the event, pleasuring themselves in a participatory sort of way.
I should reiterate at this point that we (and thankfully, our friends who were with us) are of the live and let live variety of human. “Do what you want as long as it’s not invasive or hurtful to the other people around you.” But I have to say, this was a country mile beyond the world of bizarre. For me, it was something akin to a visit to the city zoo. “Ah, do you think we’ll see the monkey lick the other monkey’s butt today? And why doesn’t that bear ever come out of his cave!” What it wasn’t, however, (at least for me) was the least bit erotic. And my wife was (quite appropriately) offended by a woman who was simply gyrating in the sand to the pleasure of a circle of dozens of lonely-looking men. Naturist values be damned – this was in no way what we’ve come to associate with the pervasive values of social nudity in France!
It’s impossible to know the psychology at play amidst the people “playing” on the beach that day. Were they liberated? Desperate? Or just out having a good time with strangers and friends? Is that appreciably different than some of the groping and such that goes on at a New York City night club any night of the week?
Regardless of intent, what Cap d’Agde is not is the naturist Utopia the forefathers set out to create, if simply imagined through the eyes of a person who travels half way across the world to visit this iconic naked city. Even given our recurring experiences with the place, our wandering trek through the sexcapades, as perceived along side our young naturist friends, was simply over the edge! What if an eager husband has been working for years to convince his partner that naturism is a holistic movement intended to embrace body acceptance in a non-threatening environment? It’s difficult to imagine that if Cap d’Adge were the first stop on a journey of naturist exploration that the reluctant partner would ever go near another “naturist place” EVER – again!
I suppose this is really a microcosm representing the confusion in the general public’s perception of social nudity to begin with. We keep trying to convince people that it’s not just one giant orgy in the making, except… when it is! And in this case, the naturist charter that supposedly governs the place has been completely undermined by the actual law of the land. While Cap d’Agde is advertised as the great naked city, it is actually the primary destination for, well… MANY giant orgies, which in turn generates copious amounts of revenue through tourist taxes from the tens of thousands who go there each year to experience exactly that. I might add that this is not an effort to condemn such activities, nor do I have a desire to pass judgment on people who enjoy such an environment, but if one is trying to make a case for non-sexual social nudity, Cap d’Agde is not going to do much to help your case.
I’ve tried to imagine the dinner conversation for the young families who stay there for weeks at a time each summer. “Mommy, why were those men all standing in a circle around that woman this afternoon?” Perhaps that simply becomes a teachable moment over macaroni and cheese, but such a conversation would require a level of tolerance that most Americans could never imagine. Be that as it may, but just a word to the wise…
If you are curious about social nudity and you’re eager to find out what it’s all about, there are about three-hundred naturist centers in France alone. Cap d’Agde may not be the entry point you were hoping for.
Photos were found on a Google images search. If you find one that belongs to you, we will be most willing to remove should you ask.