This is sort of a slow starter, so I hope you will “bare with me” until I get to the twist!
I was chatting with my millennial friend Addie the other day about outing oneself as a naturist through social media, noting that we both work in education related fields that frequently involves working with minors, and a well-intended misstep could easy escalate into an unintended kerfuffle. In fact, I endured one such incident about a year ago when my naturist platforms became entangled with my professional profile; when Facebook algorithms grabbed my Instagram data and started asking all my professional colleagues to follow Naturist Dan!
I found the glitch and disabled the effected accounts for a few weeks and essentially shrugged it off as, “Well now, there are a few more people who’ve seen my naked ass than existed three days ago.” One never knows the long-term implications of such an episode, but at the same time, I’m finding that one of the benefits of aging is caring less and less about such things, as my professional endeavors are gradually taking a backseat to my ambitions for personal fulfillment. If I had a therapist, I suspect he’d say that I’m making good progress with that.
It’s here in the conversation where a reader will typically chime in to admonish me for not coming out with the Full Monty, proudly posting photos on any social media platform that will allow full-frontal nudity, while fervently proclaiming, “I’m a naturist dammit! If you don’t like it, don’t look at me!” I’ve been the direct recipient of this sermon on repeated occasions, and I get it! We can’t fully normalize social nudity if we are apologetic at best; coy at least about revealing our identity. In my case, even if the platform allows it, (e.g. Twitter) I have yet to post personal photos that reveal genitalia, nor am I willing to let anything out there that could be picked up by facial recognition software. I’m really not eager for someone to go searching for my latest bio pic before an upcoming professional presentation, only to find me butt naked at the swim-up bar at a Mexican naturist resort. (Thank you Google Image search… you’re miraculous!) In fact, that would be awkward even if I had swim trunks on!
But here’s where the conversation gets interesting!
As the youngest of four, my older siblings were young adults during the Summer of Love. Despite the fact that we lived only an hour away from the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, I don’t think any of them were “cool enough” to really get into that scene, nor did they exploit the era of “any California beach could be a nude beach!” Truthfully, we were a blue-collar, Protestant work ethic, All-American Family, and the social norms of the household were extremely clear. “Thou shalt not bare thy ass in public, and should you choose to have sex before marriage, you are destined to burn in hell!” By the time I came of age, the Moral Majority was on the rise and Family Values were the heartbeat of every political campaign. With the sudden proliferation of AIDS, the once common bathhouses of San Francisco were shuttered as dens of promiscuity, and the Summer of Love gave way to the Cold War on Sexuality. “Put your clothes on, cut your hair, and get on board with Nancy Reagan’s message about abstinence and maybe we can save ourselves from the moral collapse of America.”
I mentioned Addie at the front of this piece. (You can read her guest blog posts here and here.) She is roughly the age of my own children, and embraces a similar ideology of my own children. She is neither promiscuous, nor is she narrowly conservative. And thus, given her moderate live and let live perspective, the knockout punch was her consternation as to what exactly the average rank and file human thinks naturists do when they get naked together?
Of course, any seasoned naturist knows that you have to be careful when choosing your nakation destination, should you inadvertently stumble into a swingers retreat when it wasn’t your desire to make new friends with immediate benefits. But Addie’s immediate counter to that was, “But why the hell should anyone even care about that? How many 25-30 year olds haven’t been to a social gathering in the past ten years where casual sex and hooking up with a new acquaintance was simply part of the third beverage and beyond protocol?!?” Just who chooses to participate, and what benefits they are willing to provide is a matter of personal preference, but am I just being delusional when I observe that anyone outside of today’s super-conservative religious enclaves has long since accepted today’s terms of casual sex, and even the stigma around “open relationships” has increasingly morphed over to, “Yeah… I guess if it works for them… whatever.”
So, as I scroll through innumerable memes on Twitter with catchy sayings like “Nudity doesn’t equate sex,” or “Newd isn’t Lewd,” it suddenly occurs to me that the social construct of promoting social nudity is even more complicated than I thought!
To that end, I thought I would see if I could create a new set of guidelines to help us all get on the same page. Let’s see…
Sex before marriage = Well, of course. Expected.
Sex on the first Tinder date = Acceptable.
Sex on the second or third Tinder date = Required!
Party with alcohol = Expect unauthorized physical contact
Party with more alcohol, and good friends = Expect marginally authorized physical contact.
Party with LOTS of alcohol = Make sure you choose a house with enough bedrooms!
Come out as a naturist to your friends = Expect your friends to ask, “Are you a sexual deviant? WTF??”
Get caught naked on the internet snoozing on the beach = Get labeled as a sexual predator and banned by all social media as a menace to society, and maybe even lose your job.
Turns out, I guess, that nudity doesn’t equate to casual sex. For most people in 2019, casual sex is just an everyday thing. But if you dare to take off all your clothes and simply go for a walk in the woods or take a nap in the sun! What the hell were you thinking?
Photos in this post are from vintage naturist magazines located on the web.. If you find one the violates copyright infringement, please notify me and I will remove it immediately.
Naturism… and Instagram. Two words that are inherently
problematic when they appear in the same sentence.
I have several Instagram accounts, though it’s only been within the past six months or so that I’ve become one one might consider an active IG contributor. I find it quite annoying that the platform is almost impossible to maneuver from a real computer (as there are things that can only be done from your mobile device – like posting a new photo!) and it’s even more annoying that IG has been swallowed up by the Facebook conglomerate (where I have multiple personalities as well), and you simply have to concede to the fact all those platforms are connected and it’s pretty easy to inadvertently get your wires crossed.
Why so many different accounts? Well, at the risk of invoking a cascade of rage comments from the “bare all or go home” crowd, it’s a simple fact that while what you do in your free timeshouldn’t matter in your professional circles… it matters; especially when your work involves interactions with minors. Looking for an annoying example? Read this ridiculous article about the locals who staged a protest against a British Naturism event held at a water park in Great Britain last week!
And so, I have IG accounts that are connected to various elements of my professional life, but two accounts that I actually care about: one dedicated to our love of world travel (@mileagerundan), and another specifically focusing on… well, our naked asses (@naturistdan) as we’ve sought out naturist places all over the world.
I’m a little surprised at myself that I’ve gotten into the IG thing at all, but it’s turned out to be strangely cathartic! For starters, we’ve amassed over 100,000 photos since the advent of digital photography in the early 2000s, and digging back through the archives that document our travels – naked or otherwise – immediately lifts me out of the daily grind, if only to take a moment to muse over places we’ve been, people we’ve met, or moments of reveling in a great meal in a quirky cafe in Thailand.
But beyond that, it has been fascinating to watch the feed develop as the list of people I am following – naked and otherwise – has grown. Sometimes a quick shot of “naked in nature” is simply that inspirational jolt you need to augment that morning Cup of Joe. And on the mainstream travel feed, I’m forever finding places to add to our bucket list, quietly envious of some twenty-eight-year-old dude who’s working his way across Asia with one spare t-shirt and a smartphone, capturing images of nature and humanity along the way.
So, this all sounds lovely, I suppose, but there are decisions to be made and strategies to be considered in shaping one’s IG presence. These perils are best documented by a recent post from Nick and Lins blog (@n_wanderings is their new IG account!) where we were fortunate enough to make their Top Twelve List of IG naturist accounts. This, after they’ve been going through something of a reconciliation process with Instagram since their account with 42,000 followers was suddenly dropped after posting a screenshot from Austin Powers that, ostensibly, was well within the criteria for acceptability.
FORTY-TWO THOUSAND FOLLOWERS!! THINK ABOUT THAT! Knowing that in the current format, you get a sponsored ad for about every four or five “organic” posts on your feed, and here was an account that was playing by the rules, attracting a diverse and highly engaged audience, and POOF! Disappeared without a trace with no recourse or process for an appeal. In an age when people are so paranoid about censorship from the government, doesn’t anyone give a flip about censorship from commercial social media?
As I write this, my naturist IG account is creeping up on
1600 followers; the fully-clothed travel account continues to hover around 300
followers. Which brings up an intriguing element of the psychology of posting
on social media altogether. Quite directly… Why bother?
The fervent naturist community likes to tout the mission of
normalizing nudity in mainstream media. That’s certainly been my stated
modus-operandus, though quite honestly, I can’t really tell if a presence on
social media is actually helping or hurting the cause. It seems there are three
positions on that front:
Converting the Converted: I don’t know that other naturists need to be convinced about the virtues of social nudity, though that sense of solidarity is sort of nice.
Entangling with Erotica: With all the preaching (from naturists) that nudity is not inherently sexual, I find it challenging to decide who I’m willing to follow on IG under the banner of naturism. A photo of a naked person walking in the woods, that draws you into their feed where you find photos of a couple in a deep embrace, then you scroll down and there she is posed in a decidedly seductive position. And then you’re suddenly getting suggestions for other accounts that are downright pornographic or hook-up leads for swingers. Again, no wonder people are so confused about social nudity!
Sustained Success to Sudden Death: So, you amass 1000 followers, or 10,000 followers, or 100,000 followers, then suddenly some algorithm in the nipple detection software catches one of your images and your entire identity disappears from the internet! Just like that! So many naturist profiles that read, “my last two accounts were deleted – Starting over!”
Starting over! Why bother? And what is that addictive drug that causes us to covet followers in the first place? That same impulse that causes you to check-in every few hours to see if your Pic of the Day is getting the love it deserves (measured in likes and comments). But if we’re going to be honest, there’s a clear hierarchy that garners “likes” in the Instagram game…
Pics of your family vacation will draw a handful of followers and a smattering of likes
Put humans in the picture (clothed) and you’ll get more
Put a naked human in the picture (Sorry – but especially an attractive female*) – and you’ll get a truckload of hits.
Hint at full frontal nudity and WOO-HOO… You’re an instant celebrity!
*I use the word “attractive” with a good bit of trepidation in this analysis, as naturists like to embrace the idea that every body is beautiful, but I think it illustrates the point.
This whole concept became a bit more curious when this topic came up with an IG-savvy friend who pointed out to me how people will follow your page just to get you to follow them back, then as soon as you do, they unfollow you! Huh! Turns out my social media friends aren’t such great friends at all!! They just liked my pic of the Golden Gate Bridge to curry my favor in adding one more follower to their own feed! Jeez! We humans are so petty!
My point in all this? Well for starters, I’m mad as hell that advocates like Nick and Lins have followed all the rules while doing all the right things to promote something I feel so passionately about – the right to embrace social nudity in an appropriate context. But in the last place, their efforts have been thwarted by the very cause they’re rallying against.
And what does that say for the rest of us who are chipping away at the social nudity acceptance cause. In the end, it seems that us naturist types can be as altruistic as we’d like, but amazingly enough, even given the bottomless pit of every kind of pornography anyone could ever hope for on the internet, the naturist cause will always fall victim the biological desires that sustain the human race. (Thank you for sharing your picture of Mt. Rushmore, but could you just put up a photo of a naked woman instead?) It’s simply a mystery to me why someone would spend time trolling naturist social media accounts for a glimpse of nipplage when there has never been such easy access to so much erotic material at one’s fingertips at any time. And this says nothing about the number of times I’ve gone searching for “genuine naturist information” on these very same prudish social media platforms, only to accidentally click into a thread of hardcore sex videos that have yet to be detected by the nipple and buttock detector bots. It seems those sites can survive for months – unnoticed and unfettered, even with direct links to porn sites.
Here we are in 2019. People in my age bracket have seen a fleeting image of Janet Jackson’s nipple – blurred of course, for our safety – and it’s almost impossible to set parental controls on the family computer to keep your seven-year-old from stumbling into a hard-core fetish site. All the while, protesters are gathering outside organized naturist events to “protect the children (they don’t even know) from psychological damage,” and butt recognition software is routinely freezing and deleting legitimate accounts that are lobbying for one simple concept: “A body part is a body part is a body part. Don’t objectify or sexualize. Just realize that most humans have one set of parts or the other, and they are all attractive and beautiful in their own right.”
And so, I’ll play the Instagram game for another day, knowing I’d best avoid posting an image of Austin Powers lest my followers and I are eliminated in an instant – just like that.
Humans! How can we be some complicated and so simple minded all at the same time? Can’t we all just be naked and get along?
I’m writing this post from 38,000 feet on a flight home from
Berlin. My wife and I spent the weekend in this Renaissance city with the
intent of doing a bit of sight-seeing, enjoying a couple nice meals, but most specifically,
checking out a few German spas (“Saunas” or “Thermes”) that are particularly renowned
for their traditions in nude bathing – on in the case of the saunas – nude
I’ve already written this post from a somewhat different perspective in a piece called The Demographics of Nakedness, where I sought out to dispel the myth that nudity is the great equalizer. “We are all the same when we’re naked,” have said so many people in advocacy for nude recreation. “You can’t tell a doctor, from a business tycoon, from a pipe-fitter when everyone is nude, as clothing provides the social cues that allow us to form our preconceived notions about other humans.”
I love the genuine sentiment and conviction of such statements, but
the longer we’ve participated in social nudity, the less I have been able to
lend any personal credibility to such a mantra. And never has that been so
evident as during this brief qualitative study we just completed while visiting
the most nudity-friendly spas in Berlin. What did the study prove? Well… naked
humans are simply human, but naked! Profound…
I know! 😐
SETTING: Just a couple
blocks from the Berlin Aquarium and Zoo, each of which border the expansive
Tiergarten, this is most definitely a center-city location that would probably
be best described as “my neighborhood sauna.” The striking element of this
particular venue is how it is situated amidst the commercial and residential
high-rises of downtown Berlin, with a rooftop view of several historical
landmarks. Of course, that means a reciprocal exposure of the sundecks to the
inhabitants of those high-rises, which must be a source of amusement in the
middle of summer when I suspect the rooftop nude sunbathers are plentiful and
in clear view of the apartment dwellers across the street.
We arrived late on a Thursday morning and stayed into the
early evening hours. Even on this near-freezing day, the “seasoned locals”
showed little reticence about meandering out onto the veranda in the
all-together. It immediately made me think of the insultingly redundant
comments on sites like Trip Advisor where first time nude beach goers comment
on “the perils of encountering the people you never want to see naked.”
But if I’m going to be completely truthful, there is a discomfort in visiting a naked place where the clientele is mainly in the “over-80-years-old” bracket, not unlike that of visiting my 93-year-old mother in a “sunset-living community” where everyone starts lining up with their walkers and wheelchairs at 4:00 pm for the first seating at dinner. This is always a reflective dance with one’s own mortality that has little to do with nakedness, but everything to do with how each of us grapple with the aging process. In that spirit, part of me wants to jump up and say “GOOD FOR YOU NAKED OLD PEOPLE!! I celebrate your confidence for putting so many decades of wrinkles and scars on display.” But in that very same breath, you find yourself catching a glimpse of yourself reflecting in the glass walls in an attempt to quickly assess where you are in that process. Sobering, at least.
As the day progressed at Europa-Therme, the crowd grew a bit
more diverse, with a couple dads and their kids (Yup – naked children at the
spa! That’s a thing in Berlin.), and some middle-agers that looked more or less
like us. You could tell this was a place that was once on the cutting edge, but
now on the backside of reality. Who knows, maybe the local hipsters show up on
Saturday night to soak in the rooftop pool and gaze at the Berlin skyline,
(Which sounds like fun!) but I sort of doubt it, because now they have other
between a city park and a soccer field, you could easily walk past the front
door of Vabali Spa Berlin amidst the local service industries and apartment
blocks in the sprawling development at the foot of the track where the Berlin
Wall once stood. But once inside the door, you are guided down the path of
Asian influenced self-realization into a labyrinth of saunas, hot tubs, tepid
swimming pools, and rest areas with luxurious waterbeds that invite napping
even when you thought you were wide awake. Children are allowed, but we only
saw one mom with her young daughter in tow. This is a mecca for young adults.
Interestingly enough, friends visited the Vabali Spa in Düsseldorf a few months ago, where their defining moment was a reprimand for being “too naked” – a result of walking from one attraction to the next without bothering to wrap themselves in a towel or a robe. That most certainly resonated with us as we observed this to be a place that is really well managed, or perhaps more appropriately – micro-managed!
As best I can tell, they opened in sometime in 2014 (with
the Düsseldorf establishment opening in 2017, and a third location scheduled
for Hamburg in 2021). As part of a consortium with Claudius Therme and
Neptunbad in Cologne, they have similarly strict policies that forbid you to
leave a towel or a robe on a lounger, at which point, said item will be
confiscated and sold on Ebay before you can utter the word Aufguss! Along with that comes a sense that you are being watched
all the time-in the pools, in the quiet rooms, walking around naked – whatever.
The rules are in place for a reason, and they must be adhered to.
I get it. There’s a strong tradition of sex clubs in Berlin
that have hijacked the “FKK” nomenclature that once belonged exclusively to
hard-core naturists, but now denotes a nightlife where, truly, anything goes.
Vabali is clearly seeking to set an industry standard, which could quickly be
tarnished by people getting frisky in the hot tub.
But alas, I’ve drifted off topic. And that is, who goes to
Vabali? Well, pretty much anyone that might identify themselves as a young
professional hipster, along with a few strays like ourselves. We were in a
smallish minority of those without tattoos ranging from subtle line-art to body
sleeves. Lots of young couples apparently took Friday off, while several “girls’
day out” groups seemed completely at ease with the co-ed naked part, but
uniformly uncomfortable with the “Crap! It’s cold out here” part. (Many of the
most alluring parts of the property are outdoors, decidedly uncomfortable when
making your way from the outdoor pool to the deep-heated resting areas.)
But again, to the point… The crowd at Verbali looked very
much like what I would expect to encounter in the mainline nightclubs of
Berlin. Successful, educated young people out to have a relaxing and sensual
day at the spa. Naked was not the attraction for coming here – Chillaxing is
what’s on tap, and what’s the big deal about naked? “We all get naked… every
day… right? Why not spend the days that way with my friends?
SETTING: Kristalltherme is a chain of sauna and pool complexes scattered throughout Germany, though the venue at Ludwigsfelda, a 25-minute train ride outside of Berlin, is known to be “the most naked of the entire chain.” On Wednesdays and Sundays, bathing suits are allowed, but during the rest of the week, the expectation is total nudity in the saunas and in the pools. Covering with a robe or towel is the supposed expectation when walking about, but many – male and female – don’t bother to cover up at all unless making their way to the food concession, and even then, nobody seems to care. (A marked difference from Vabali where the immediate action upon exiting the pool was to wrap in a towel.) And on a Saturday? This is most definitely a family water park. Those under 18 are allowed to wear swimsuits, and I would say roughly half of those in that age bracket did so – but the rest were naked.
This was my third visit to this naked water wonderland, the most relaxing in some ways, and somewhat disorienting in others. If Europa-Therme has assumed the role of a senior day center, and Vabali has found its niche as an enclave for open-minded hipsters, then Kristalltherme falls in that middle ground of “a place for the rest of us.” To that end, it was interesting – given the lack of textile cues other than bathrobes and towels – to imagine the lives of these patrons fully clothed on a workday, and in that light, I would surmise this to be the most socio-economic diverse crowd I’ve encountered at any place where social nudity is practiced. Keep in mind that our ability to converse with the locals was essentially non-existent, leaving one to draw such conclusions on the basis of people-watching alone, the same way one does in an airport, a restaurant, or a grocery store. Sure enough, clothed or not, people send off innumerable non-verbal cues that define who they are and where they fit in.
We arrived early, having read that finding two loungers together after the opening bell on a weekend could be a challenge, and for a good while, we felt a good twenty-five years younger than the prevailing median age. But as the day progressed, families arrived in droves until our departure at dusk when the young couples surrounded the bar, creating an ever-evolving ambiance in the warm pool.
It occurred to me while I was sitting in one particularly
unique sauna at the Kristalltherme – called Brutal
Aufguss! that had this been my first experience at such a sauna, it might
have also been my last. Whereas the typical demeanor for the sauna infusion
ceremonies is one of meditation and mind-expansion, this particular theatrical presentation
– all in German, of course – involved an aggressive dialogue between to two
sauna-masters which apparently played a bit over the top even with the locals. (It
was called the “Brutal Sauna”
experience, after all.) But in that moment, it was something of an epiphany to
me. Just like anyone in the hospitality industry, the most important element in
a business plan is to know who your
target audience is, and why wouldn’t that be true for businesses that cater to
naked people as well, since as I stated earlier, naked people are just as
different from one another as clothed people, except without the clothes!
In Germany, I believe there are nearly 300 saunas, some similar to one another,
but none exactly the same as the next. In France, there are nearly as many
naturist centers, some of which cater to people looking for “lots of friends
with lots of benefits;” others which seek to create a family friendly
environment something akin to Disney World. But at the end of the day, except
for the very most adventurous, people want to hang out with people they feel
inherently comfortable with, which is why there are so many different restaurant
and hotel chains, boutique malls, and discount super-shopping centers. It’s
difficult enough to find one’s niche when fully clothed, let alone putting
yourself out there wearing nothing but your own skin. Perhaps the awkward truth
is that even if you have no intention of actually socializing with other people
at a particular place, most of us are hard-wired in our efforts not to stand out from the crowd.
I have written before that I think millennials may have a
golden opportunity to sway attitudes regarding social nudity in America in a
very positive way, but in the end, and in the same breath, one’s first
experience with public nakedness will quite likely be their last if it doesn’t
turn out to be at least a marginally positive experience. Especially in
America, given so few opportunities to even “give it a try,” it seems a bit of
a long shot for getting it right on
the first try. That can only lead to
the riveting cocktail party story that goes, “I got naked this one time, and
you wouldn’t believe how it turned out. OMG… SO awkward!”
Thanks to the ever-growing database of reviews such as those on Google, Yelp, and Trip Advisor, and a few tireless bloggers who are adding more substantive information about experiencing social nudity, there’s more information out there than ever to help you find the right place. That said, I suspect if you go to a subpar restaurant and don’t like the food, you may never go back to that place, but I doubt you’ll give up eating. But if you’re contemplating your first experience of getting naked with others, you may want to do a bit of research. I suppose it’s like any number of experiences that stretch your horizons – Once you find your way there and have a mountain top experience, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to try it in the first place. The tricky part? You have to get it right the first time!
[It takes me a while
to actually get to the point on this one, but eventually, this post is going to
be about the absence of children at most naturist places in the US – or at
least my perception that this is the case – and what that may or may not mean
for the future of naturism in America.]
I’ve been ruminating on this post for quite a long time. In fact, since my oldest daughter just turned 31 a few days ago, maybe for about thirty years. The subject matter? The ever-controversial topic of children and social nudity, and simply what to make of it all.
The blogosphere is a strange place as people don’t typically
read a blog in any sequential sort of way. Maybe one finds a link on Facebook
or Twitter and clicks through. Or perhaps you’re even a follower of a
particular blog, and if the timing is right, you’ll read posts as they are
released in succession. But personally, I find the digital age to encourage
rather impulsive behavior. “Oh… look at that! I think I’ll read that, or maybe part of that post, or maybe I’ll
bookmark it for… I don’t know when.” All that said, if you’re a regular reader,
I apologize for the redundancy here.
My first efforts related to internet advocacy for naturism date back to 2004 when I bought some space on a remote server to launch a full-blown website called P and C Naturist Travel. I had little to no experience with web design and the result was pretty rough around the edges, but the mission was clear. We had taken our children to Domaine Naturiste La Jenny for the first time in 1999 after several attempts at finding a suitable place for family naturism in the United States, and I was hell bent on starting a campaign that would contribute to the efforts to normalize family naturism in America! By then, we had made several trips (with kids) to Europe and had discovered a plethora of places where children were not only welcome, but plentiful. When our kids went on nakation in Europe, they essentially thought it to be a holiday resort on par with any large family campground or resort. Similar demographic. Amenities you would expect in a large summer seaside village… but no clothes required at any time. Natural in every sense of the word. That first webpage was simply a series of trip reports about our naturist travel.
A subsequent effort led to the creation of a “community”
called the Naturist Family Network. It occurred to me that the United States of
America is a big place, and there must be others like my wife and myself who
were eager to cultivate the ideals of French naturism in this most diverse
nation on the planet. Surely… there would be others who were in a similar conundrum
as ours, fully enthralled with social nudity, and wanting to create a safe and
enjoyable space for their children when seeking a summer vacation destination.
I stayed with that project for a year or two, met a few interesting people,
(one who would eventually take over the project) but also encountered a lot of
trolls or lonely single guys (as are prevalent on Facebook and Twitter today)
feigning an interest in family oriented naturism for who knows why. That message board was handed off to several
entities, and as I do a quick Google search at this writing, it seems the last
remnants of that project have finally disappeared. It was a valiant effort.
I suspect I’ll receive a number of messages and comments in
response to this post, as I did
during the years that I maintained those two websites, that I have missed the
boat, and that family naturism is alive and thriving in the United States.
Which brings me back around to the title
of this post as I have found myself wondering time and again about the Case of the Disappearing Nudist Children.
I keep hearing about them. I’m told there are places where they are plentiful,
but when visiting those places, especially on a weekday even in the summer,
they are scarcely to be found!
We have visited perhaps two to three dozen naturist (nudist)
places in the US over the past thirty years, and indeed, a few times have found
children – mostly preadolescent – to be present. But then we have stories of a
visit to a place in Pennsylvania where the senior citizens (the predominant age
group at this place) were reminiscing about the party the night before, still
in something of a drunken haze the morning after. No kids around.
Or a couple places in Florida, both advertised as family
naturist destinations, the first of which was highly charged with sexual
energy, while another led to an unfortunate incident where our children – the only
children on the premises that day – were chewed out by a not-so-friendly owner
when their ball bounced out of the pool. And then there’s Desert Shadows (now
Desert Sun) Resort in Palm Springs that was going to be the ultimate family
naturist destination, but ultimately, a change in management resulted in the
banning of all children from the premises. Had you purchased a retirement
property there in the early days, you would later find out that your grandkids
would never be allowed to visit you!
There will be those who are quick to tell me that my aim is poor and my timing is bad. And, in fact, I’ve written about quite a few naturist places the world over – most recently in South Africa – where children are, indeed, part of the mix, but maybe only on the big Saturday BBQ and pudding toss festival day! (I’ve always thought the “pudding toss thing’ to be a funky idea at naturist places… just sayin’) This leads to yet another interesting phenomenon when it comes to naturist places outside of Europe, and that is, most of them lack Europeans!
Europeans know how to do vacation, and are allotted the time
to do a week in a mainline tourist destination, but with one, two, or three
weeks left over for a relaxing stay in a sprawling naturist resort (or
wherever) with all the amenities one would expect at a Disney resort. Such a
place can’t exist if the critical mass isn’t there to fill the place to capacity.
Especially when social nudity is the main attraction, and even in the warmest
corners of Europe, (let alone North America) that’s a season of five or six
months at best. So even if you find a place with a great family vibe going over
the weekend, which is tricky to do in the first place, what happens on Monday
morning when everybody has gone home and back to work?
This got me to thinking about my friend Addie who has contributed several posts to my blog over the past year, including one about dating and finding a naturist soul-mate. Turns out she is quite well traveled as well, having visited several naturist places in Europe, and even Paya Bay on Roatan. Would she have the fervor for the naturist cause had those not been her first defining experiences?
And what if she is successful in finding that naturist-friendly soulmate and they start a family? Won’t they find themselves in the same conundrum we did thirty years ago? Most young families are stretched for resources to begin with. Will they have the time and resources to take the kids to France or Croatia for the annual nakation? Or alternatively, even if they are fortunate enough to live within an hour or two of one of the few resorts in America that have a vibrant family naturist weekend scene, will two or three weekends a year sustain a lasting culture of family naturism? We have been several times to Gunnison Beach in New Jersey where there are typically a few kids amidst the crowd, but you can’t really compare that to the demographics of the large naturist beaches on the southwest coast of France where most everyone there is there with children.
My hunch is that Addie will figure it out, and in all likelihood, will have the wherewithal to do so, but if there truly is a generational divide related to the future of naturism in America, I think this is it! There most definitely appears to be a counter-culture resurgence amongst the millennials that is funding a social nudity renaissance of sorts in the pre-family demographic, and AANR is quick to fire off statistics that nudism is on the rise, due in large part to endeavors like the Big Nude Boat that is capturing the discretionary income of the empty-nesters. But what about that twenty-year stretch in the middle, when the kids are young, the parents are strapped, and the family traditions are being carved into stone? Most of the naturist families we’ve met in Europe are multi-generational… “Yup, I’ve been coming here since I was a child when my grandparents bought that little house over there.”
Who knows… maybe the millennials will pull a rabbit out of
the hat on this one. In the greater context of time, the huge naturist centers
of Europe are not really that old. France’s
naked city, Cap d’Agde (a questionable exemplar for family naturism, to be sure)
has only really existed since the 1970s, and the sprawling resorts in Croatia
opened not that long before that. But could the American culture of paranoia or
highly sexualized perceptions of nudity be ready for the open-minded
twenty-somethings who are ready and willing to bare all? And is there a capital
venture entrepreneur who is prepared to put down the money to build it so they
will come? (Seems that was the plan for both Caliente in Florida and Desert
Shadows in Palm Springs, but maybe it just wasn’t time yet.)
We’re counting on you, millennials! Drop your clothes, stand, and be counted. Now is your chance to create a body-positive environment for your own children, and all those in the generations to come!
Photos for this post were found on internet sources such as Twitter and Google. If you find an image that belongs to you and should be removed, please let me know and I will respond accordingly.
Special thanks to Nick and Lins, the Naked Wanderers, who agreed to let me use their photos for this post. We have a lot of naturist photos, but not so many from our 30s – and they’re actually in their 30s, which makes this all seem a bit more relevant. If you don’t know their site, and if you’re not following them on Instagram, you need to do that!
If you’re a follower of our blog, you’ve come to know our friend Addie – the one who’s recently come to realize that she’s a hard-wired naturist, and like those who have gone before, has developed something of an obsession with the cause. She had become “part of our family” for quite a long time before she would practice naturism with us, but come to find out more recently, she had been a naked yoga enthusiast at home, even when her boyfriend (at the time) thought it a peculiar habit. In short, her story goes a long way to lend support the argument: naturists are born, not made.
What’s particularly intriguing now is that Addie has made something of a party game out of revealing her preference for clothes-free recreation, travel, and I suspect if she had her way about it, everyday life. And as an enthusiastic and compelling person by nature, she has been quite successful in demystifying social nudity for her closest friends, and is well on the way to converting them into the mindset of, “Yeah, I’d do that.” Throw in a story like her recent blog post about her visit to Paya Bay, and suddenly they’re all planning a naked “galentines day” and maybe even a group nakation to some exotic destination.
As she boasted recently that she thought she had made another convert, it suddenly occurred to me that this probably goes a bit differently for a young woman than it would for a guy of the same age. Truthfully, I can’t even say my data is skewed, as I simply don’t have any. By the time I was Addie’s age, I had been married for a few years, and while we were, just then, exploring our naturist inclinations as a young married couple, we found ourselves reticent to share our proclivity for clothes-free recreation with our friends. Granted, it was a different era thirty years ago – nestled between the Summer of Love and the advent of so many stories of sexual abuse by the Church and in the schools. What’s more, most of our friends at that time were either affiliated with our involvement in the church or through our work in the public schools. Were we simply just being prudent, or were we suffering from unnecessary cowardice? Probably a combination of both, but especially once there were kids in the equation, we found it more complicated than not to broach the topic of nude recreation – even as a party game.
But let’s face it – finding friends as a young naturist couple may well be more complicated than identifying like-minded humans as a single. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to be in a relationship where both partners enjoy social nudity, the chances of finding others where both members share such naked desires are slim to none, unless you gather the nerve to visit the local nudist resort – which has been documented time and again as related to the infrequency of young naked people. Wow. This just gets more and more complicated.
But back on topic, Addie doesn’t suffer from the inherent constraints of religious induced body-shame, (She’s not a religious person.) and has created a self-identity in other parts of her life that would read something like, “Do what you want, but I really don’t care to conform to your societal norms just to avoid the risk of offending some unknown stranger. You go to the mall – I’m going to sit on the back porch and read a good book – naked.”
But what if a 30-year-old guy introduces this ideology during the half-time banter of the Superbowl?
“So dudes, I was thinking that we should start planning that weekend bash for spring break and I know this great place in Mexico where we could be naked all weekend!” Galentines Day or a girl’s weekend at a nude yoga retreat sounded like cutting edge, but somehow, I imagine that same proposal from a male member of the species would elicit a very different response.
“Dude! Did you just suggest we all go get naked together? Will there be hot girls there? Or hey… is there something you need to tell us about your… you know… sexual persuasion and shit like that?”
And that’s just if you’re making a pitch for a single gender endeavor. Walk into a coed gathering and propose that next week the party will be at your parents’ house with a private yard and a pool, but hey – “NO SWIMSUITS ALLOWED!” – and see how that goes over!
Again, I can only hypothesize on this, as Addie has already approached more of her friends in the past year than I have over the course of my thirty-some years as a naturist, but my educated guess is that when a guy initiates the conversation about coed social nudity, people are much more likely to respond with either some hint of homophobia, or worse yet, they will immediately assign some flavor of predatory association with the underlying intent. “Sure – that’s a quick and easy way to surround yourself with naked women! Don’t be a creeper!”
I suspect a well-grounded anthropologist could draw up a quick and easy case as to how this goes back to the prehistoric interactions between the male and female of the human species. You can find several entries in my blog where I grapple with the elements of sexuality in the naturist context [See: Making Waves in the Naturist Pool for starters] as there’s no question that there is a biological blueprint at play that is intended to perpetuate the species. And to that end, my naturist Instagram account suggests that there are plenty of women who are willing to bare all to expedite the procreation process – or at least the physical pleasure part of that.
But what if a male is wired like Addie? “I do have standards, and I would be happy to come to your naked party, but no… the evening is not going to end in the bedroom. I just think it’s more fun to party naked!” A girl saying that sounds credible. A guy saying that sounds like a wolf in no clothing.
Seems there was a trend ten or fifteen years ago that was particularly prevalent at Ivy League colleges called, quite simply, naked parties. My read on it was that there were intelligent young people who were seeking to be more real with one another, and in an effort to accomplish that, everyone would check their clothing at the door, somehow in agreement of an unspoken code of ethics that this will be just like any other party, except, hey – it feels genuine and refreshing to reveal our naked selves in a social context.
Has that gone away? Was it a failed experiment where those events morphed into unbridled orgies? Or are we simply a society on an increasingly conservative trajectory that has caved to the fact of an ideology that says, “I’m a weak human and I’m about to get drunk, and naked or not, I’m sorry I can’t be responsible for my actions by the end of the night! If we’re all naked and drunk, I’m sorry I ended up on top of you.” Hmm… that may not subscribe to the tenants of anyone’s naturist charter.
I should be clear, I’m not trying to make this into a #metoo for males. In fact, perhaps pointing out that most men, especially straight men, are not comfortable with their bodies, or their self-image, or how they are perceived by others, or to be specific, their ability to exert self-control amidst visual stimulation. (That’s clearly a problem even in situations where NOBODY is naked!)
Despite the fact that I’m well beyond Addie’s age bracket, I have to say, I’m quite envious of her ability to advocate for the naturist cause. I’d love to join the crusade, but as a guy, I’m just not sure it would play out quite the same way.
How is it that a thin layer of fabric, or rather – the lack thereof, can make things so incredibly complicated?
Another post from my millennial friend Addie who was recently on a family cruise that had a stopover on Roatan. “Roatan?!” says I! “You need to check out Paya Bay at the south end of the island. I’m pretty sure they have a program where they’ll come get you at the boat and take you to their yoga-retreat-turned-naturist-resort for a day visit of naked nirvana.” While she couldn’t convince familial members to come along, she did take the plunge solo, as Michelle from the resort met her at the port to give her a quick guided tour of the island that culminated in a few hours of naked bliss. Her words about her day there are more eloquent than mine ever could be. [Photos are from our most recent trip to Paya Bay in 2017. We’re not millennials, but the pics give you a sense of the place.]
As I stood butt naked in Honduras in the middle of a rainstorm, I tried to remember a time that I felt so very elated and alive. Water droplets rushed down my arms while hummingbirds, iguanas, and lizards all scurried to find shelter on the quaint seaside cliff. Climbing through a tangle of vines, the greens seemed effervescent. The rain’s warmth, egged on by Mother Nature’s humidity, surprised me, as I expected a chill that never came. In the midst of the sensory overload, I worked to figure out WHY I felt so very euphoric. I eventually navigated to one simple truth: novelty. I have never, in 26 years, stood naked in the rain.
Just saying…you should probably try it.
Now, mind you, the conditions need to be right; I’m not proposing that you saunter outside in a January downpour in the middle of Central Pennsylvania. However, naked in the rain should probably get to the top of your bucket list pronto. Why is this not featured on every “30 things to do before 30” bucket list you might ask? I’m not really sure, BUT I can tell you why it was so incredibly magical for me. Maybe someone will add it to some bucket list somewhere. Hey Buzzfeed, listen up!
As I stood in the middle of the jungle, grinning and giddy, I recalled the day before, when I cowered under my dinky black umbrella next to a beach bar in my romper, willing the rain to stop. It’s not that I’m grossed out by rain, or that I haven’t embraced the rain before; I just didn’t feel like sitting around in my sopping wet clothes for the remainder of the day. I’ve gone for runs in the rain, and I can recall a couple of romantic strolls with my boyfriend when we decided to embrace Mother Nature’s downpour. Those moments felt special too, mainly because of the feeling that by walking outside in the middle of a thunderstorm, we actually were giving a giant “fuck you” to all societal norms. There was something special about feeling so very far away from the other humans in the world who all cowered in their houses, hiding from the droplets that tumbed from the sky. But you can’t just walk outside in a thunderstorm in your clothes every time you want to defy social norms. To get your clothes wet, the circumstances must be perfect. There are many questions to consider: What bra are you wearing? Are you trying to go somewhere with air conditioning afterwards? Do you have a change of clothes ready and waiting?
Naked in the rain brought the rush of adrenaline without the considerations that clothed rain-goers must consider. This was completely different. In this moment, I embraced the rain without the impending doom of having to peel off of a sopping wet t-shirt and leggings at the end. THIS was the excitement, the elation, the unbridled joy that you feel as an adult when you experience something new and something sensory. This was simple. This was natural. This was FUN! After the rain subsided, I continued my seaside hike through the Honduran jungle, ending on the beach. By the time I arrived, the skies had parted, it was clear and sunny, and the sea breeze had naturally done its job in drying me off. My towel remained perfectly dry as I sunk on top in a grateful snooze under a Palapa.
I almost hate to reveal the wonder that is this Honduran paradise, but you too should probably check out Paya Bay on the island of Roatan, which Dan has already mentioned in quite a number of posts, one of which you can view here. The food was phenomenal, the staff incredibly accommodating, helpful, and kind, and the amenities beautiful. The sea not only sparkles in the sunlight, but can only be described as a puzzle of aqua, turquoise, and sea foam green, all piecing together until it’s swallowed up by the horizon. The vegetation is natural, with palm trees and vines and plants that you probably can’t name shooting up from every direction. It’s a beautiful, quiet, and peaceful place in which you can say adieu to your tan lines. . . in short, it’s a little slice of heaven. Just remember-when you go, and warm rain cascades down from the sky, toss off your clothes and take in the sensory overload that will constitute your first rainstorm in the nude; you won’t regret it!
I know… First World Problems and all that! But while one might think that naturist photography has become a lot easier in the digital age, in many ways, it’s quite to opposite.
I feel like I can speak with some sense of experience on this topic, if not outright exasperation. The first time I remember bringing a camera to a naturist place was in 1994. We were visiting a modest nudist place in the San Francisco Bay Area and brought along our 35mm camera hoping we might grab a few pics for the archives. (We’d be moving to the east coast soon, and who knew if we’d ever find a place to get naked there!)
It would be difficult for somebody under the age of 30 to remember what it was like to carefully calculate your film consumption, as the most you could hope for was a 36-exposure roll of film. If you were going to set up a shot, you’d better get it right. In fact, they had you coming and going: Not only would you lose the frame on the film roll, but then you’d have to pay to have that random and blurry photo of your foot developed! Seems to me that if we got ten good shots out of a 36 exposure roll of film, we were feeling pretty good. Some of our earliest naturist photos are either blurry beyond recognition, of inadvertently cropped out appendages such as arms and heads. Not suitable for any photo album, I dare say.
And if the shot had nudity in it… What then? I remember taking a few early rolls to the drug store hoping that would “be OK.” The general word on the street back then was as long as there was no sexual content, you were probably going to be fine. Then there was a big scandal where a mom took a roll of “bathtub pictures” in to be developed, only to find herself facing criminal charges, despite the fact that the pictures were of an innocent nature. As I recall, that led to a wide sweeping ban, led by the likes of Walmart, to immediately sequester any photos featuring nudity – especially child nudity – while the authorities were to be summoned.
Soon there were digital cameras. While I think we purchased our first one around 1999, I remember taking a spiffy new Canon 35mm model with us on one of our first explorations of naked France. It looked, felt and acted much like a traditional 35mm camera. Suddenly, it was “take all the pics you want!” You’re only limited by the size of your flash card and disc space on your computer. And you didn’t have to worry about that moment at the One-Hour photo place when the middle-aged woman watching your naked ass slide out of the developing machine at the CVS store freaked out. Nor did we have to find one of those discreet photo developers listed in the back of a naturist magazine, pay twice as much, and wait for three weeks for a blurry picture of a naked foot. Nakation photography was here to stay!
Who could have predicted the explosion of the internet back then, let alone the advent of the smartphone? As I write this from a smallish resort in Thailand, it took me five tries to position my phone with the timer to create a discreet photo by the pool, early in the morning, before everyone is up and about – ever so diligent about not catching one of the “no photography” signs in the background.
I get it! Once an image is captured in 2019, who knows where it will end up? And I’ve already ranted in other posts about oh so many websites that claim to feature genuine and fully authorized naturist photos, but how does one even begin to go about verifying that? So most small resorts invoke the only logical policy – NO NAKED PHOTOGRAPHY, OF ANYONE, EVER!
That said, generally speaking, I have found most places in Europe and Asia a bit more easy going on this policy than those in the US. (Thinking of what almost came down to a body cavity search at a nude music festival in West Virginia a few years back!) Though yesterday, during my visit to Chan Resort in Pattaya, there were at least two guests reading books on their smart phones, (Would have loved to have gotten a pic of the guy doing that right below the no photography sign!) as was I, as this is my primary reading device when traveling. My wife was doing the same thing in a German spa a few years ago and was told to put her cell phone away – and fair enough! Who’s to say she’s not taking advantage of the occasional photo op every now and again, which by the way, she was not.
Of course, if you’re at a large naturist center like some of those in France and Croatia, where people simply have more private space away from the pool complex, naturist photography is quite a lot easier. Or, if you can find a place where naturist walking is possible – the shores of Mallorca, isolated paths on a Greek island, resorts with significant acreage, or just about any beach in France – a few more opportunities open up even yet.
Interestingly, I got in a bit of a tussle recently with a long-timer on reddit about the proliferation of naturist images on the internet, which of those might be considered to be in the public domain (He would say none!), and which of those were simply a gateway drug to pornography. All valid points, I think, but ironically enough, I think this all cycles back to one of the greatest difficulties of being a naturist in the 21st century. The issue shouldn’t be the proliferation of photos depicting simple non-sexual nudity; the issue should be that there’s really nothing wrong with simple non-sexual nudity. In an era where paranoia is dictating just about everything, from rules in the public schools to foreign policy on immigration, most of us naturists are scared to death that the wrong photo will somehow turn up in the wrong place. In thirty years of naturist activity, this has yet to happen to me, and on this end of the spectrum, it is not only seeming less likely, but I’d like to think I’m less likely to care.
In the meantime, we not only enjoy documenting our naturist travels, but have also taken a great deal of pleasure from a slideshow that runs fairly constantly on my desktop computer. It’s simply a travelogue. We travel naked about half the time, so about half the photos feature nudity. We enjoy reliving each moment of each particular place, as each of those places have a story. But it’s also interesting – if not a bit disquieting at times – to watch out bodies age within the typically human struggle of accepting that is simply what humans do! While body acceptance at 35 was easier than at 55, I’m hoping I’ll have the constitution to appreciate the inherent beauty of my 75-year-old naked self when that time comes.