A Twitter thread burst into flames yesterday when Nick and Lins from Naked Wanderings posed a simple question, “…when it comes to naturism, Europe is decades in front of the USA. Why isn’t there any European style naturist resort in the USA?” (You can find that post on @nakedwanderings on Twitter, posted on August 27, 2020 at 4:47 pm.)

Why, indeed? Is that even true? America has loads of naturist places, and some of them are really nice. And don’t even get Americans started on another country doing something better than we do.

Naked in France

In a couple months, this blog will celebrate its eighth anniversary. I launched this particular effort to document our travels as we were about to depart for Europe, during which time we would live in the South of France for a year while exploiting every opportunity we could to check places off our travel bucket list, naked or not.

Prior to that, back in 2004, I developed a real webpage, P and C Naturist Travel, in an effort to advocate for family naturism similar to that we had experienced in Europe – essentially an effort to answer the question Nick posed yesterday. By my best calculation, I was about the age then, that Nick is now. A big part of our quest was finding a place to take our pre-teen kids on nakation. Someplace like those big family naturist resorts in France, but in the United States.

My literal obsession with that led to the creation of a second website called the Naturist Family Network (NFN). The idea was that while the US lacked the infrastructure for family naturism that was so common in Europe, given a country of more than 300 million people, there must be enough like-minded families out there who were all looking for each other, and perhaps we could build a cyber-community that could begin to get the word out about the virtues of social nudity in family-friendly settings. We did find a few families, but like everyone else who’s attempted to run an online community, we found even more lonely dudes – mostly well intended – but not conducive to creating the safe space we were hoping for. The Naturist Family Network ran for a couple years until I handed it off to friends more tenacious than myself, until finally the domain registration expired, as did the dream.

Naked in America

So here we are, fifteen years later, and I’m still searching for an intelligent answer to Nick’s question. He even says right in the post that Europeans have always looked at the US as leaders “that the world follows by example,” but not when it comes to social nudity. What IS our problem?

I think I’m about half way through my Naked in America project. As we’ve been unable to leave the country this summer, we’ve taken to the US Eisenhower Interstate System to visit, or revisit, naked places on American soil. I’m quite back-logged on trip reports at present, having already posted about Florida, Connecticut, Virginia, New Jersey, and Vermont, but we’ve also visited “nudist resorts” in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Maryland. I think it’s safe to say that each place has had some unique and enticing attributes that are worth touting, while a few have – shall we say – exceeded our threshold for quirkiness. All we have visited advertise themselves as family-friendly, but outside of a token child or two, all have been devoid of families. Soon, we will take to the road again, this time heading westward, in hopes of visiting a few more renowned naturist destinations, but summer is drawing to a close and the weather is starting to turn. I don’t expect those statistics will skew appreciably with future research.

Naked in Greece

There’s an interesting subtext to this thread that came out in a live interview with Nick and Lins. They don’t have children, and are not seeking a place to take their naturist kids. But, even when traveling in Europe, they clearly have a strong inclination to give a thumbs up to a place that embraces the values of family naturism. In short, is this a place you would be comfortable hanging out naked with your kids? Even if you don’t have kids?

This is where the Naturist Family Network idea starts to unravel in America, and finally, where we might find the answer to Nick’s original question. To that end, I offer a few observations in an effort to sort this out in my own mind:

  • American parents are frightened of getting caught naked around their children. Whether urban legend or not, everyone seems to have a friend of a friend who was arrested for the naked bathtub picture posted carelessly on Facebook or Instagram, which of course, led to an intervention by Child Protective Services. Does this really happen? Doesn’t matter – people believe that it does. The message is clear. Don’t get naked with your kids, and for God’s sake, if you do, don’t advertise it.
  • It’s simply not appropriate to be naked around your children. I’ve posted several mainstream media articles about family nudity at home, (This one is my favorite) on The Discerning Nudist. The research is conclusive. You shouldn’t be naked around your children if you don’t feel comfortable being naked around your children. Otherwise, there seems to be no inherent damage of your children seeing you naked. I’ve yet to read research that says family nudity is harmful, except in the minds of people who believe that it is.
  • “We will not take our kids to that sex club posing as a nudist resort!” Most American nudist places have a very difficult time figuring out their marketing position, if indeed, they have one at all. Discounting a few places that simply put it out there that they are targeting swingers, many webpages for family nudist places post conflicting information right on the splash page. On the left column, you can click through to read the strict behavior guidelines that will get you thrown off the property, but right next to that is an advertisement for Saturday’s “Butts, Boobs, and Bubbles” party. (Only a slight exaggeration.) The only place I’ve seen that sort of contradiction on a European website is for a place like Cap d’Agde, which every seasoned naturist knows to be an adult playground – not a family naturist destination.
Naked in Montenegro
  • The shuffleboard court is in terrible disrepair. It has been pointed out to me over and over and over again that Europeans have four, five, or even six weeks of vacation compared to their American counterparts who are lucky to get one or two. Fair point. (And an interesting tangent about the general orientation for quality of life in Europe, but I won’t go there now.) But the unintended consequence of this is that most American nudist places are weekend destinations, OR… wait for it… retirement communities! Who else can afford to park their four-season RV for weeks at a time? (Can most Europeans even afford a huge house-like RV?) And if you are lucky enough to have two weeks of vacation, are you going to plant your family at a place with a decrepit playground, no bar or restaurant, and only two other children on the grounds, both of whom are under five years old? And oh… the shuffleboard court is in terrible disrepair!
  • Please! Let me in! I brought a towel, and I swear, I’ll behave! I’ve probably reached out to two dozen naturist places this summer to learn about current COVID regulations, reservation policies, or simply to ask, “If I (we) come, will you let me (us) in?” As often as not, email and web-form inquiries go unanswered. Phone messages – about the same. Appropriately enough, most places have state-imposed limits on the number of guests on the property any given day during COVID. That makes sense. But in addition to that, nearly every American nudist place requires “a tour” for first time visitors… “Well, we can only do two tours a day, each limited to two people, and we only do tours on Saturdays and Sundays between 12:05 and 12:37 pm. So, our next opening is… on… um… November 12th! Don’t forget to bring your wool coat – it’ll be freezing by then.” (Again, only a slight exaggeration.) Of course, the tour includes a background check, and explicit or not, some kind of interview to see if we might be child predators disguising ourselves as nudists, which is particularly ironic since there will likely be no children there to prey upon. Imagine if you had to go through that process every time you wanted to visit a new theme park?
  • How about a big sauna and pool complex like those in northern Europe? There are huge sauna and spa complexes scattered throughout Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Nick and Lins note that most of these places are careful to distinguish themselves not as naturist destinations, and in fact, most have rather strict policies about covering with a towel or a bathrobe when you’re not in the sauna or the pool. But these places attract thousands of customers, seven days a week, none of whom seem to bat an eye when it’s time to go Full Monty for the sauna infusion ritual or at the swim-up bar in the pool (See: So Many Naked Germans…) While I’ve read about Korean spas in the US that seem to be replicating this model in the US, they are generally gender separated. No mixed bathing or sweating. Which begs the question: Are Americans self-disciplined enough not to go absolutely bonkers if they find themselves naked, in the sauna, with someone of the opposite sex? Have we no self-control whatsoever? Interestingly, a young woman named Felicity Jones set up a series of nude sauna nights at a spa in New Jersey a few years back, and literally got run out of the club by angry patrons who found out there had been naked people at the spa after hours the week before. There are certainly enough people in the New York metropolitan area to support a Therme Erding sort of endeavor, but no American business-person would ever be crazy enough to put up the capital for such a controversial enterprise in the US. Bummer!
Naked in Spain

With our children grown and out of the house, we’re well beyond looking for a place for family nakation (though it would be nice to have one if and when grandchildren come along). But my obsession with family naturist destinations is anything but diminished. It’s not the family part of the equation, but the value system that goes with it. A value system with less paranoia about breast-feeding and nudity on TV. A value system that allows the average worker more than five vacation days a year. A value system where people don’t freak out when talking to their children about nudity and sex, and use real words like penis, breast, and vagina instead of amassing so much anatomy into the mysterious region of “private parts.”

Family naturism in Croatia

And so, I keep blogging, ever more fascinated with Twitter feeds that capture images of early American nudism (See: Naturist Vintage on Twitter) where ironically enough, family naturism may well have been more acceptable when everyone was purposefully hiding out at the secret nudist camp just outside of town. Seems that back then, Europe and America were pretty much on the same page with nude recreation. Somehow, Europe found a way to turn that into family tourism, while America can’t quite get the messaging right.

Maybe if enough bloggers get out there and fill the social media airwaves with a better story about naturism, and social nudity in general, we can help Americans turn the corner. One thing’s for sure… There has never been a time when just about anyone could become an influencer capable of bringing about significant change in pervasive perceptions and ideals. The US has proven to be particularly susceptible to that. Sometimes, it all begins with one intriguing, eyebrow raising Tweet!

23 thoughts

  1. Something we learned while traveling in the USA, is that Americans are scared to get sued. We understand where this comes from. After watching a couple of hours of cable TV, the commercials almost convinced us that we were about to be sued as well and that we definitely needed legal support. (and that we’re probably very ill and in urgent need of drugs). We believe that for many American naturists, taking the kid to a naturist resort is the same as driving into an unexpected police checkpoint. Deep inside, you know you did nothing wrong, but it does make you feel uncomfortable.

    Some American naturists who we met, also said that they didn’t want to be around nude kids that are not their own. They didn’t want to see naked kids and didn’t want kids to see them naked. We could almost feel them imagining a line-up, with the kid pointing “that’s the man whose dingeling I’ve seen officer”.

    This, in combination with the taboo around social nudity, is probably a reason for many to not include their kids in their naturist adventures. Just the “what if”…
    Especially in reconstituted families, what if one of the exes hears that you’re taking his/her kids to a naked place? A lawsuit is always just around the corner.

    We don’t really believe in the theory of the difference in vacation days. Because that would mean that also all textile vacation resorts would be retirement homes.

    It’s all about a difference in attitude. The recent topless-case in France is a great example. When 2 women on a French beach were asked by the police to put on their tops, they made a huge fuss about it online. This went so far that a French minister had to publicly blame the police force for making such a bad decision. Those women didn’t fear a lawsuit. They were just protecting their legal rights.

    1. Ah yup! I forgot to bring up the lawsuit thing, although that’s certainly implied in the two points about being naked with your children at home. You’re spot on. Litigation is BIG BUSINESS here in the US, and your point about getting in trouble with your ex is a big deal too.

      As to the vacation thing, I would take you to the mat on that one. By and large, Americans take shorter vacations, even domestically. A concentrated fun-fill week at Disney World is the model!

      I remember the first time we checked in to a naturist place in France and the receptionist was shocked we were only staying for four nights. (“Most stay for at least two weeks,” she said.) We thought that we were using a huge chunk of our first European adventure at a naturist place with no particular sight-seeing to do nearby. Americans are pretty neurotic that way.

      But even if you don’t buy that… Of ALL the places we’ve visited this summer, they essentially become a ghost town during the week. (Even Cypress Cove in the middle of July.) Crowds start arriving on Thursday night, and the place is really happening by Friday night.

      Could be a chicken or the egg thing here. If the place were more interesting, had more amenities and activities, maybe people would stay the week. But at most places, you need to be 100% self catering by lunch on Monday as you’re probably 30 miles from the nearest market or café, as there are zero options for food on the property. Cypress Cove did better than that. A couple others had a food truck. But enough to call it a vacation destination for a whole week? I’m going with “nope.”

      Have been following this topless case with the gendarmes over the past week. Don’t want to hijack my own thread, but I find it intriguing that a topless woman in France is an international news item – it came up on nearly every one of my news feeds. Weird. For the record, a similar case went up last summer in Maryland. The township won and there is now an EXPLICIT ban and fine for sunbathing topless on Maryland beaches. 🙁

  2. One of my major issues with nudity in the USA is the lack of public nude beaches or beaches where you can be nude. I can name on one hand the number of public nude beaches in the nation. I chat with several people in Europe and they are always talking about going to the local beach where they can be nude. It might not be a NUDE BEACH but they can be nude at the beach. The USA’s prudish attitude toward the human body is one of it’s many problems.

    1. Agreed. And at the risk of droning on, especially when you put children into the equation. I’ve been researching hot springs for an upcoming road trip, and review after review warns people that it’s not suitable for children as they may encounter naked people. I keep thinking the prudery will subside, but as best I can tell, it’s only getting worse.

  3. I think this excerpt from your article says a lot.

    It’s not the family part of the equation, but the value system that goes with it. A value system with less paranoia about breast-feeding and nudity on TV. A value system that allows the average worker more than five vacation days a year. A value system where people don’t freak out when talking to their children about nudity and sex, and use real words like penis, breast, and vagina instead of amassing so much anatomy into the mysterious region of “private parts.”

    That pretty much sums it up for me. We can hope that offering a place where these values are fostered and can teach people about the benefits, creating the changes needed to grow and spread. These values are already present in many places in Europe, so there is no hurdle to jump to be successful. With anything, if it easy to access by most of the population adoption is inevitable. Analogously, we will see the adoption of digital or alternate currencies once the applications are easy to use by anyone.

    Thanks again,

  4. Great article, Dan! As we discussed over email a couple of months ago, I had hoped to visit our local resort this summer, then covid-19 hit. In talking with another nudist with kids my age, this particular resort has 5-6 young families that regularly attend (pre-covid). Thinking about attending fills me with excitement, and anxiety. I’m excited to find a place the whole family can feel comfortable going AND have fun! And I’m anxious because I want to find a place the whole family can feel comfortable going AND have fun…

    The reputations of resorts are as you described: not welcoming to young families (by welcoming, I mean either by way of condition of facilities, or by attitudes of other guests or residents.) Bringing the whole family is a BIG DEAL. The typical answer when I’ve expressed my concerns is “just go”, but that doesn’t really work. If the kids and/or the wife don’t have a good experience, they’re not going to want to go back or give another club a chance.

    Weekend camping at a nude resort competes with so many other activities or other places to visit. Carving out time is also a big deal. It’s not like young families can just say, oh well, maybe next weekend… There’s soccer tournaments, Cub Scout camps, classmates’ birthday parties, festivals that have become an annual tradition, extended family gatherings and vacations, and more that book up all weekends in a summer by the time memorial day rolls around.

    I would love if more resorts did what Bare Oaks does and designate a family weekend at their club! That would help take this guesswork and gamble out of it for families, and encourage them to come more! Maybe even make friends with other families that the could arrange to meet up again on a non designated family weekend, only driving more traffic to themselves on other weekends and increasing membership and helping their futures… The members that don’t want to be around kids can choose to do something else that weekend.

    Maybe we can get all AANR affiliated clubs to designate one weekend a summer as a family weekend like Bare Oaks does? How would we do that?

  5. It sounds like a daunting task to find or run a family orientated European style resort. Although new to naturism, I have found it even more difficult to find naturist venues in Western Canada. Living in British Columbia there are only a handful of resorts/clubs, most of them being near Vancouver or on Vancouver Island. Some may only have activities on weekends, or just a monthly swim and those are during the winter months. One last thing, I’ve found that most people equate nudism/naturism with sex.

  6. I have found that sometimes the “old-timers” have a certain amount of ownership and don’t want new people to rock the boat. And even in a nudist setting I find harsh political views out in the open.

  7. I hope this isn’t off topic.
    And god forbid if you’re gay. Since a lot of gay men are single it can be difficult getting into a nudist club. We have two men’s nude clubs here. I started the oldest one, Kentuckiana Gay Nudists, about 30 years ago and it’s still going strong. The other club is a MeetUp group. Both clubs have monthly meetings (pre-virus) and sometimes more. One club is non-sexual and the other not so much. But even if sexual activities take place it is at a designated time and people can leave if they so choose. We also have a men’s nude yoga class held in the sanctuary of a church. Sorry, can’t name the church. LOL. All of these clubs and yoga classes are well attended by men who want to socialize nude or work out nude. All three groups help build a strong gay community. But, if we want to go to many nudist clubs, we are not allowed either because of being gay or being single men. And most of us are fairly liberal and Democrats so when you walk into a place and the first thing you see is a MAGA banner you don’t want to return, if you stay at all. Again, it’s all part of the USA fear of difference and the body. And how can we change it? When I was a teacher all my students, the faculty, and the administration knew I was gay and married to a man but they didn’t know I was a nudist. Go figure.

    1. Haha… I’m not gay, but have lots of friends who are. And indeed, I’m not surprised by the discrimination, particularly in your part of the country.

      As I continue to research, I’m finding something of the opposite. In fact, if you go to a place like Palm Springs, it seems the gay (naturist) hotels outnumber the straight (naturist) hotels by at least five to one. I suspect the decorum varies from one property to the next, just as you describe.

      I find it interesting that you remain a closet nudist, though not surprising. Especially in education. In my mind, sexual preference, what one does on the weekend, and who one does that with lives under a general banner called, “Mind your own business!!”

      Thanks for checking in. 🙂

      1. Actually now that I’m retired I am no longer a closet nudist. A former student told me that some of my former students found some of my naked photos online. At first I panicked but then I thought, WTF? Who cares. I’m naked, I got a dick, big whoop. Now I look forward to seeing my students at a gay nudist party or nude yoga.

  8. The question remains why America reacts so anxiously on the idea that children or adolescents would see a naked body. By the time they grow up they have seen hundreds or thousands of kills in movies or on television. That seems to be no problem, but seeing genitals or a naked woman’s breast in a nonsexual context would harm the children?
    It is hard to believe it is for fear of teenage pregnancies. Despite (or because of?) her prudish attitude, the United States have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in the world.

    1. Seems the US has been struggling with this forever, and if anything, we’ve become more lax about violence and more uptight about nudity. Go figure.

  9. This is an interesting read for us, being a couple from Britain, especially having just returned from nearly a week each in two wonderful naturist campsites in France. Most of the problems that you describe with the American approach to naturism also apply to British naturist clubs. Even our local club, which we enjoy being members of (and where they insist that nudity is always the default, not really a choice, unlike many others), is almost entirely the domain of older (usually retired) people, and is incurably conservative in its outlook, especially in its paranoid efforts to discourage dreaded single males. Like you, our children are grown up, so we are not particularly looking for a family-oriented naturist venue, but it is so encouraging when you find one. On our recent stay in La Sabriele, in south-east France, we quickly realised their customers were a perfect range of ages, sexes, sexual orientation or whatever, and that not only did everyone there consider this to be normal, but it was the most naturist place of the several we have stayed in, which is to say everyone there was naked virtually all the time. The result was the most de-stressing few days imaginable. We have now come to the conclusion that it will probably take generations – indeed, if it ever happens – for the negative and conservative attitudes prevalent in the US and Britain to change, and if you really want the glorious freedom and liberation of true naturism, you will probably have to go to continental Europe to find it. The only good thing about being a British naturist is this is on our doorsteps, comparatively (and it is still accessible, with only a little difficulty, in the Covid era). However, if you are American and you can afford to and you are able to make it to any of the many great naturist venues in continental Europe, that may be your only answer for sampling the true joys of proper naturism as the Dutch, French, Germans, Croatians, Spanish, et al, understand it. And if you can, you will not be disappointed.

    1. Hahaha!!! You need to dig around on my blog a bit more! I think I’ve annoyed a good many of my (domestic) readers in my incessant banter about how much we LOVE European naturism, for all the reasons you describe. Most of our naturist travel, up till this summer, has been in France, Croatia, Spain, and Greece, but that simply wasn’t possible this summer. The small camping in France you describe sounds lovely. We’ll add that to our bucket list.

      Not sure what things will look like once this COVID thing is all over, either in terms of international travel, or the economy that will make that possible for us again, but one day, we’ll meander back to naturist Europe again.

      Thanks for checking in and for your thoughtful comments.

      1. Dan:
        Glad to hear you are still actively advocating naturism – yes – also in the States – yes also in COVID-times. From my humble European perspective, even though you may have “annoyed your fellow citizens”, I think it is almost as important for Europeans to recognize through your blog that there are at least some Americans who are holding up family-oriented naturist values, who subscribe to a healthy way of life, and who are not “just messed up” about the whole oh-my-goodness-nudity thing. My belief in the predominantly exported U.S. value system has been shattered long time ago, so I deem it a privilege to know you and your search for liberty and peace.
        As for societal change that may or may not take decades – maybe It won’t take decades.130 years ago there were a few crazy people living in the woods south of Munich, and that minority was all it needed back then, and a generation later there were millions of crazy Germans. I would not be surprised if we saw many people embrace natural freedom after the worst of the pandemic is over. Psychologically speaking, this humbling experience brings us to our knees and in contact with our inner selves and true needs. I feel it’s almost certain that the pandemic is going to invigorate the naturist idea and associated activities in Germany. Let’s hope for the same in the U.S.!
        All the best, Matt

    2. The general attitude towards social nudity is definitely still a reason why Great Britain doesn’t have the great family resorts that can be found in France or Croatia, but another, maybe even more important reason is the weather. France and Croatia are top vacation destinations for naturists because they generally have great weather throughout the summer. This makes it interesting to invest in places like La Sablière.

      Let’s be honest, in non-COVID times, would you stay in the UK for your holidays in case there was a Sablière-like resort, or would you still cross the channel to France where you can find similar resorts but with a guarantee on great weather?

      The Netherlands and Germany are countries that are very relaxed about social nudity. Both countries have lots of naturists. The Netherlands has exactly one pretty big naturist resort (Flevonatuur) and Germany has none that we know of, just small club resorts. Why? The weather 🙂

  10. This post is well done. 🙂 My father and grandfather were nudist in Germany and they came to the U.S. just before the war. They applauded the nudist subculture of the 50’s and 60’s, but they were weary of its longevity. They were proved correct, unfortunately. My father often commented that without the family nudism loses both its boundaries and its vision.