Thanks USA Media – for confusing everyone about the concept of naturism!

About a year ago, I decided to augment this blog about naturist travel – which consists of things I have written about experiences I have had – with a second blog called The Discerning Nudist, dedicated to posting articles that are thoughtfully written, but mainly appear in the mainstream media, hoping that doing so will contribute to the over-arching ideal that naked is normal. Requisite of such a project is the arduous process of searching the web for material about naturism that one might actually call “thoughtful,” let alone effective in giving the reader some concept as to what naturism is actually about.

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Photo from European publication about naturism

As it happens, naturism, or nakation as it is often called these days, has been quite frequently in the news as of late, both in mainstream US publications, and any number of newspapers and periodicals abroad. What’s striking, however, is how the sensibilities of social nudity are portrayed in North America compared to that of Europe.

Consider, for example, this excerpt from a British newspaper, The Telegraph, speaking to the recent boom in naturist activities in France…

Some explain the popularity of nudism by an increasing desire to feel liberated from societal norms and the constraints of urban life. Sylvain Villaret, a historian, said: “The practice of naturism is linked with periods of great upheavals. Nowadays people are looking for meaning and many turn to causes like responsible consumption, environmental protection or social solidarity, especially the young. The values of militant naturism are in accord with with these causes.” 

France embraces the nudist lifestyle with yoga, restaurants and galleries  (The Telegraph, July 22, 2018)

Strangely enough, I have always held the perception that the British had the corner of the market on prudery, but even recent changes in law enforcement have reduced public nudity to a nuisance offense at most, and it seems more and more Brits are opting for clothes-free vacations at home and abroad. But then again, I’m not sure they have quite the same enticements one might find in an NBC news-feed…

Last night was crazy. Not in the Las Vegas sense of over-imbibing and forgetting where your hotel room is kind of crazy, but the kind where you go to a toga foam party and everyone ends up naked in a sea of glorious, sudsy, wild debauchery. And that was only the first night I spent at Jamaica’s Hedonism II, a clothing-optional resort situated against the sparkling blue Caribbean Sea.

Then later…

“Many, many people have at least unconsciously some sexual inhibitions, and they may long to feel less conflicted and more uninhibited,” she says. “Having an entity — like a resort — that other people endorse and subscribe to and gives permission to be extremely uninhibited (and in fact, for our society, unusually permissive), helps these people to feel excited and free in a way they normally cannot.”

Why Travel’s latest trend – the nakation – is gaining momentum  (nbcnews.com, July 21, 2018)

Excuse me? The nakation is gaining momentum? Which element of nakation? The toga foam party element or the permission to be extremely uninhibited element?

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Photo from American publication about naturism

But wait, let’s try a different source. Say, Forbes Magazine; a publication dedicated to leading business practices that had two features about nude travel in their July publications. Let’s start with the article about “cruising as the sexy way to travel.”

Like Bliss Cruise, Desire Cruise, whose parent company is called Original Group, is more than just a clothing optional experience for older travelers for whom curiosity is burning a hole in their bucket list. The cruises they host offer top notch dining and beverages, spa services, a clothing optional pool and erotic themed nights. According to their website, Desire Cruise invites couples to take their relationship “to the next level.” This, of course, does not refer to a higher deck on the ship.

Nude Cruising is the Sexy Way to Travel  (Forbes Magazine, July 30, 2018)

In fairness, that article talked about several nude cruise options, and that quoted clearly was at the extreme, but then again, if you lead out with the words “nude” and “sexy” in the title, it’s pretty clear where you’re headed.

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Photo from European publication about naturism

For another perspective, a female author wrote a quick guide to naturist resorts where she identified the benchmark destination as Hedonism II in Jamaica, a place that has found their marketing niche in helping people leave their inhibitions and their clothing behind.

Considered the granddaddy of clothing-optional resorts, Hedonism II in Negril, Jamaica, has been catering to open-minded travelers since 1976. Guests have the option of staying on the “nude” or “prude” side.

Nude and Clothing-Optional ‘Nakations’ are on the Rise (Forbes Magazine, July 12, 2018) 

Considered the granddaddy of clothing optional resorts? WOW! Grandpa’s really got it goin’ on!

Under the banner of interesting timing, Nick and Lins of Naked Wanderings just published a very interesting blog post called, Can a Nudist Feel Comfortable in a Sensual Resort? They make a very compelling argument for the live and let live perspective, which I largely agree with – beginning to end. In fact, I have no desire to get into the weeds about the underlying values or morality of one resort versus another, or what people are looking for when they get naked (or not) with their friends. And to reinforce what Nick and Lins have found, the only time we have found ourselves in a awkward position of an unsolicited advance was at a place that was considered by most to be the epitome of holistic naturism.

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Photo from American publication about naturism

This is not a matter of whether there should be different strokes for different folks, but more accurately, the inability of the media, and I daresay, most Americans, to discern that there is a difference between a naturist place and a sexual playground! People in France know what to expect when they go to Cap d’Agde, and how a vacation at a family naturist center like Belezy or La Jenny will have a completely different ambiance. But how do you explain that to your next door neighbor on Main Street, USA when even the headline news tells you that social nudity is about foam toga parties, lingerie dances, and embracing open minded ideals. What does that mean, exactly… “open minded?”

I don’t know that I actually fault the American media for broadcasting such a bizarrely mixed message (Or maybe it isn’t mixed at all!) about naturism. It seems that every journalist’s first call is to the AANR (the American Association for Nude Recreation) which has had its own share of problems drawing the line regarding what defines acceptable behavior at a nudist place, starting with the pudding toss, and sliding off the edge about the time the lingerie dance begins. And I have made the case in several other posts that when you’re dealing with a limited demographic, it’s essentially impossible to be all things to all people without pissing most of the people off at one time or another. To that end, it’s not the media circus that’s driving perception, but the paranoia and Puritan ideals of your average soccer mom that is driving the media. How on earth does one stop that vicious cycle?

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Only mildly seductive. Does that count?

Twenty years ago, when we first started taking our children to French naturist resorts, I had hoped that one day in our lifetime, the barriers and prejudices related to social nudity in America would go the way of so many civil rights issues. But alas, I fear we live in an age where we have never been so deeply divided by our social, religious, and moral beliefs, which has created nothing less than a feeding frenzy for the press. Why would one think it would be anything less when it comes to a flashpoint topic like social nudity.

It’s quite a conundrum. One American writer states, “‘Nakations’ – or naked vacations, are on the rise and the nude and clothing-optional travel industry is booming.” Part of me is really happy to hear that! Maybe the numbers will grow to a point to where the naturism tourist industry can multiply and divide? But in the meantime, it looks like I either need to book a another plane ticket for Europe, or if I’m staying in my homeland, I’d better allow time to pick up some sexy underwear on the way to the airport.

Sigh…

 

 

TOP PICKS: Naturist Hotels

My more fervent blog followers will know that as I write this, we are currently on Mallorca in the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain. As is typical when “breaking the ice” with other naked people you don’t know yet, we’ve played quite a few rounds of the Where have you been? game. If you’re a naturist, you most certainly know the drill – a roll call of sorts to see who has been to most, or at least the most exotic, naturist clothing-optional destinations.

We have had the good fortune to visit quite a few, but in this case, I decided to focus specifically on naturist (or at least clothing-optional) hotels, each of which have been subjected to an incredibly intense screening process that consists of two very directed questions:

  1. Did we – my wife and I – like it?
  2. Would we go back ?

There will be subsequent blog posts to share our opinions about other types of clothes-free accommodations, such as naturist resorts with self-catering units, B&B type places, and maybe even a list of most exotic naturist destinations, (Brazil, Australia, and South Africa come to mind.) but in this case, I set out to identify full-service hotels that include amenities and conveniences you might expect at similar properties where clothing is required. And… the place should be enough bigger than a B&B so you can have some level of anonymity should you choose to do so. (A place with two or three guest rooms simply doesn’t offer that!)

So here we go. Our faves, listed in alpha-order:

FRANCE: Heliotel


This little hotel with about 16 rooms sits near the top of Heliopolis, the naturist village at the crest of Ile de Levant off the Cote d’Azur in France. The rooms are quite simple, but tastefully decorated and air-conditioned, which is especially welcome in the evening when the mosquitoes come out. They have an excellent restaurant overlooking the sea that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and while most dress for dinner, it is not required to do so. Ile du Levant is sort of a quirky place with a unique set of regulations that frequently turn up in the news, but it’s difficult to find a more serene naturist environment, and there are several dining options within walking distance, many of which are clothing optional as well, which is good, since civilian cars are not allowed on the island.

Of course, one of the main attractions of Heliotel is the island itself, which offers a calm little beach and an excellent trail along the rocky shores were nudity is obligitaire! We typically try to make it down to the shore and back before breakfast, as climbing to the top of the village under the midday sun gets pretty intense.

GREECE: Vritomartis

To fully appreciate Vritomartis you have to have stayed in other little Greek hotels to contextualize the “luxury” of this naturist destination. Every place seems to have a unique set of rules, and those at Vritomartis mandate that you dress for breakfast and dinner, but if you’re having lunch at the poolside tavern, wear as little as you wish! There is a main building with traditional hotel rooms, and several blocks of bungalows, with rooms that are more spacious and have a better view of the sea. All have air-conditioning.

Breakfast and dinner are also served buffet style, which while offering a nice selection can feel a bit pedestrian after the third or fourth night. We typically alternate between eating there and making our way into the nearby village of Chora Sfakion where there’s a nice array of seaside tavernas featuring lamb, goat, or the catch of the day.

In all, the place may make you pine a bit for the good old days in Eastern Europe, but they’ve continued to upgrade from one year to the next, and the organized/optional activities, such as naturist hikes and boat-trips, are a nice diversion. An hour’s drive takes you to the breathtaking Plakias Beach, or you catch the early morning taxi boat to Sweetwater beach, then walk the rest of the way – naked – to Loutro.

HONDURAS: Paya Bay

You have to have a bit of adventure in your blood to go to Paya Bay, a smallish resort that first opened as a yoga retreat with one or two naturist weeks, but now seems to advertise itself as a naturist retreat with one or two yoga weeks. It’s located on the tip of Roatan, an island well isolated from the civil unrest on mainland Honduras, but we still feel most at ease when they come get us at the airport in a private shuttle and take us right to the resort. The rooms are quite charming, several perched precariously over the crashing waves, but you have to be willing to deal with a few third-worldish things like power outages and non-grounded electrical fixtures. (Don’t hang your toiletry kit on the bathroom light fixture! 😬 )

You can be naked pretty much anywhere on the grounds EXCEPT in the restaurant, but the real charm of the place is the network of paths and quiet places to sit with a glass of wine and contemplate life and the sea. The yoga hut is perched at the top of one such hillside that oozes peace and calm whether you’re into yoga or not. If you’re into snorkeling and have been dying to snorkel naked, book one of the packages with daily snorkeling excursions. You might need a pareo to get to the boat, but after that, you can work on your all-over tan on the boat and off.

MALLORCA: Skinny Dippers Boutique Hotel

Patrons of Skinny Dippers on Mallorca are a fiercely loyal crew, and for good reason. From a hospitality perspective, Grant and Jordi are hard to beat! At present, they are running two properties that are essentially next door to one another: the first with twelve rooms including full-service (most days) for three meals a day, the other essentially self-catering apartments. The attention to nuance and detail is world class, as are the amenities around the pool, and thus, they tend to attract an international clientele that have made this their annual naturist destination, which can be something of a challenge if you like booking your holidays at the last moment. Most people book here at least a year in advance. (Jordi says that 85% of their guests are repeat customers. Enough said!)

While one can remain quite anonymous here, the conviviality of the hosts, and the evening meals at the long communal table are a significant part of the Skinny Dippers experience. A little wine usually produces a copious amount of laughter, and Jordi is quite magical in the kitchen with his various culinary creations. Here again, we find that alternating between naturist dinners at the resort and exploring local eateries provides just the right balance. You’re only a short drive from the turquoise waters of naturist beach Es Trenc, and we’ve enjoyed many early morning naturist treks along the sea near the Cap ses Salines lighthouse. Truly a special place for the discerning naturist.

MEXICO: Hidden Beach Resort

In a class of its own, which in this case I would call, you pay (a lot!) what you get! We have never fully succumbed to the all-inclusive ideology, which seems to suppose that you’re going to drink your weight in tequila to fully maximize your investment. That said, this forty-room luxury resort is among the nicest naturist places we’ve been to. Perhaps it’s the proximity to the US, but of all the places I’ve mentioned so far, there’s always a bit more of a party atmosphere here – never inappropriate like some other places that cater to friends with benefits, but a little less holistic than its European naturist counterparts.

Perhaps not so ironic is that the beach at Hidden Beach is… well… hidden! You can spend the day under a waterfront palapa and even hear the waves crash, but it’s really not what you think of as a beach on the Mexican Riviera, lacking a few basic amenities like jet-skis and sand! The other thing to prepare for is the restaurant scene. We’ve had particularly positive experiences with the food service at Hidden Beach Resort proper, which tends to vary from one day to the next with an extensive BBQ set up, but you also have access to the all-inclusive (except for fine wine!) restaurants at the adjoining resorts. Call us foodie-snobs, but we have found the other resort restaurants somewhat reminiscent of eating at Disneyland. As one reviewer put it, it’s like the chef took a course of how make things that look like gourmet food, but missed the day they talked about flavor. We concur.

As I write this, I realize I sound a bit lukewarm on the place, but we really do enjoy staying there when we can get past how much it costs! We can justify (and totally enjoy) a long weekend. Not sure it would merit a two-week stay!

THAILAND: Lemon Tree Resort (Peace Blue)

OK – I’m a bit more passionate about this place than my wife – at least so far, but to be fair, I have had three opportunities to visit this sweet little hotel on a side street near Rawai, Phuket, and the only time my wife was with me, half of the resort was closed for a private party. That’s all of little consequence in the end, however, since they are about to move to a new facility built intentionally as a naturist hotel. (At one point they had considered keeping both properties, but apparently that didn’t turn out to be a viable option.)

Run by young entrepreneurs, Patty and Golf, they take the hospitality part of the equation to heart, bending over backwards to make sure you’re having a wonderful stay. (You see this again and again in the Trip Advisor reviews.) Particularly impressive are their efforts to organize naturist outings, such as speed-boat trips out to nearby islands where naturist snorkeling and nude sunbathing is possible – neither of which would be tolerated on a beach near the tourist center on Phuket.

During out last stay, they drove us past the construction site for the new resort, Peace Blue, which looks like it will rival any modern luxury hotel in the region. And of course the best part of the deal? When the rest of the planet is freezing cold in January and February, you can count on warm (and mostly sunny) days in Phuket. It’s quite a trek to get there, but at least you know you’ll be warm when you do!

USA: Desert Sun Resort

Formerly Desert Shadows Inn, we have been staying here since they first opened with nine rooms in the early 90s, and have stayed in each section of the resort at least twice. As far as we’re concerned, it’s really about the only viable option for a nakation in the United States, especially if you rent a condo room and the restaurant is in full-service mode during your stay. (The original hotel rooms are quite small, and feel, unremarkably, like reconditioned rooms from a vintage hotel!)

We’ve heard people say that Desert Sun simply isn’t as friendly as the other nearby naturist places, but quite frankly, I think that’s what we’ve most enjoyed about the place, as we typically go there for a weekend getaway with the intention of not interacting with other humans. And here again, there are a plethora of fine restaurants just down the street in downtown Palm Springs if the food on offer at the poolside restaurant fails to inspire.

A bit of trivia for those who keep track of such things. The original Desert Shadows was run by Stephen and Linda Payne who, before opening this naturist inn in the desert, had been in charge of Papagayo at Club Orient in St. Martin. They would later return to St. Martin to manage the entire Club Orient resort which has tragically washed out to sea in a category five hurricane last summer. At this writing, Stephen is regularly updating the Club-O Facebook page about the challenges of rebuilding a naturist resort below sea level in a hurricane path. Don’t know if I would have included Club Orient on this particular list, but it certainly isn’t there now. 😧

So there you have it! There are a lot of other choices out there, including a few honorable mentions, like Vassaliki Club or Panorama Hotel in Greece, Mira Vista Resort in Arizona, Living Waters Spa in California or even Hotel Eve in France, (Cap d’Agde is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish) but those listed above have simply become our go to places – again and again. Have a question about our stay at one of those places? Ask Naturist Dan!

Authors note: An interesting detail about assembling this post is where I was able to comfortably take our own photos as space and custom allowed, and where I had to defer to stock photos found on the web, as it simply wasn’t prudent to grab a photo on the grounds. That also says something about the ambiance of each property, don’t ya think?!

Yet another round of CRAZY on Ile du Levant!

I have been to Ile du Levant twice in the past six months, once by myself over a weekend adjoining a business trip, then just a few weeks ago – again for a weekend – with my wife and daughter. An annual pilgrimage of sorts. It’s an incredibly serene, beautiful place, well removed from the hustle and bustle of Nice and Marseille. The South of France as one might imagine it before all the hoo-hah about Bridget Bardot and celebrities at St. Tropez. But the best part… it’s a naturist island! Ostensibly, people live there – or at least vacation there – to live naked on the day-to-day. In this author’s opinion, there’s scarcely a better place in the world to do that. At least, until the police municipale* arrive to write you up for… wait for it… BEING NAKED!!

*In my original post, I had referred to the police as gendarmes. An on-line friend from France tells me that, in fact, the police municipale are actually quite a lot less that gendarmes – at the bottom of the ranking order for official authority in law enforcement. (Somehow, I’m thinking security guard at Walmart – with all due respect to those who perform that service.) But it does add to the comical drama of the thing. “Dispatch the security guards to secure the island from nakedness at once!” Ah, geez!

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If you read French, you can click through to read the entire newsflash (no pun intended) here! As it happens, the village of Heliopolis on the “Island of Levant” is actually a commune (or a borough) within the greater metropolis on the mainland called Hyères. It is apparently the law enforcement unit from that municipality that has dispatched two officers out by ferry boat to the island to make sure the inhabitants and visitors are abiding by three simple rules.

  1. You cannot be naked at the port! (Don’t want to frighten the people on the ferry bound for the next island. Seems a bit irrational in France, but let’s go with it.)
  2. You can be naked in the town square, but only if you are walking across the town square in transit to someplace else. If you want to stop to talk to a friend about the fresh croissants, you need to cover your genitalia – for hygienic reasons!
  3. You may not be naked in the shops on the island. Because… um. I don’t know because.

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In fact, we’ve been to Ile du Levant perhaps a dozen times now and I thought I had read every bit of legislation regarding nudity there, but this was the first time I had even heard about rule #3! Apparently, this has been a particular issue at a little grocery store with a terrace attached, where locals tend to perform on an open mic while onlookers soak up the late day sun over a glass of rosé. Mais non! say the police! Cover up now or we will issue a citation.

By the account in the newspaper, the locals – at least the diehard naturist locals – are outraged, which as has been typical in the past, leads to a call to bare arms and rally for the rights of people to live naked on the naked island.

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I have probably mentioned in a previous blog entry the most excellent book by Stephen Harp, Au Naturel: Naturism, Nudism, and Tourism in Twentieth-Century France. Among other things, the author tells the story of how the naturist movement first began on Ile du Levant well before World War II and continued to grow into a tourist boom-town, especially for Germans who were all too thrilled to learn of a place that was both warm and legal for nudists. Right from the start, there were issues with the local government about how naked is too naked, which resulted in this bizarre little garment called le minimum, which I think we would refer to today as a “banana hammock.” You can still buy them on the island, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to do so, as stuffing my genitalia into a little cloth sack held up by a g-string seems way more sexualized (or at least sensualized) than being completely naked.

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Interestingly, the post-war tourism boom brought even more people to this little nude island, which while controversial, was generating big money in both tourism and taxes, so the story goes that the local magistrate turned a blind eye to the entire enterprise under the guise of freedom of expression. But as societal norms became more liberal, altruistic mores like naked for the sake of nature and health became much wider, which attracted the swinger crowd who embraced a different mantra something like – “You’re naked. I’m naked. Let’s do it!”

Apparently, that all changed when the naturist quarter of Cap d’Agde came on line in the 1970s. The amenities were greater, the accommodations more modern, and you didn’t even have to take a boat to get there. The legend goes that the swingers moved to Cap d’Agde, and for the most part, Ile du Levant returned to its sleepy little self where naked was normal in the most bucolic of settings.

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I suppose the argument for hygiene is a legitimate one. Apparently, the authorities are reporting that people are showing up at the bars in the town square, buck naked, and planting their bare asses in lounge chairs to enjoy an evening cocktail. I have to say though, most of the naturists I’ve encountered – especially in Europe – have been incredibly conscious about hygiene, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone seated anywhere on the island without a towel or pareo underneath. The implicit dangers of stopping for a moment while walking across the square seem a bit too grotesque to imagine, but it’s difficult for me to fathom that’s really a problem having visited so many French cities where the smell of urine permeates the air of a plaza or parking garage from somebody’s makeshift urinal of the night before. (I was in a big city in France the morning after the World Cup, and I have to say, it smelled disgusting!!)

Of course, I’m an outsider. Maybe there’s more to the story that I simply don’t know. But I can report that every time I’ve brought this topic up with a local on the island the response is pretty much the same – a puzzled facial expression, and a simple reply, “It’s complicated.”

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Seems not so complicated to me. When I stop to consider the officer who reported to work one day last week to get his assignment, “Take the boat to Levant and yell at the naked people,” I have to wonder about the bewilderment on his face. It’s one thing to be pissed off about catching an policeman writing you up for a parking violation, but getting a verbal admonition for being naked, on a naturist island? Sounds like that’s a bad day for everyone involved.

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Rebels with a Cause: A story of two meandering naturists

My blog is just over five years old now, and after an incredibly busy year with great periods of sparsity for managing new posts with fresh topics, I’ve exploited a bit of down-time in recent weeks to catch up. In doing so, it occurs to me that people rarely click back beyond a page or two of a blog, if that. In the blogosphere, everything is more or less in present tense, until it simply ceases to exist altogether.

And thus, it occurs to me that my sudden influx of new readers  – resulting simply from a sudden increased presence amidst all things naturist on the internet – have little or no idea who we are, how we found our way into naturism, and why we would seek ways to promote such a thing.

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First visit to La Jenny

Seems our story is unusual, as it was my wife who made the first foray into social nudity, and well before she was my wife, or even an acquaintance. Though we attended the same university in California, we had not yet met when she was enrolled in a Human Sexuality course that included an action research project. Most students stayed pretty closely on script, visiting a home for women, or a Planned Parenthood clinic. But my (future-tense) wife and a friend decided to venture out to a famous nude beach near Santa Cruz to see what all the fuss about. The was the early 80s, mind you, when the last wafts of free love were still blowing south from the Haight-Ashbury. They weren’t out looking for that, or anything else in particular. They simply thought it would make for an interesting term paper.

We had been dating for some time when she first told me this story, which immediately caught my attention given my proclivity for home nudity as a kid growing up in a very conservative household. My father would frequently rant about the newspaper stories that gave the play-by-play about a nearby nudist watering hole, and I think he was genuinely giddy when the police finally raided the place and sent all the hippies away to find their clothes.

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First visit to La Jenny

Suffice it to say, I was nude-curious, but it would actually be another three years until I would work up the courage to bare all, with all the typical concerns about male arousal, wandering eyes, and comparison shopping! We were married by then, and it was immediately evident my wife had – unknowingly at the time – married a serial naturist. Neither of us had the body types that played well in a swim-suit, nor were either of us fashion conscious enough to even join in that game. But naked on the beach became an immediate and persuasive common denominator that would come to define many other values in our relationship, beginning with this unusual thing that we shared with each other, to the way we’d eventually raise our children in regard to body acceptance and self-esteem.

It is worth noting that at this point of our lives, children arrived early, and money was tight! And beaches in Northern California were always a crap-shoot even at the height of summer, as it might be 90°F five miles inland, but round the bend near the ocean, and suddenly you’re shrouded in fog! We found a quirky hot-spring establishment that was close enough for an occasional Friday night date, and if we could save up enough for a real splurge, we’d visit a brand new little nine-room inn called Desert Shadows resort in Palm Springs, California. I remember fretting over our first visit, trying desperately to read the subtext on a primitive 1993 website (remember those?) as to where you could and could not be naked, and is there an implicit expectation that we will be doing more there than lying naked by the pool? We watched the place grow up, and even took the kids a time or two, and it was… “OK.” Except for the part when they would ask, “Where are the other kids, mom? Thought you said there would be kids here.”

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La Jenny, France

We also checked out a couple traditional nudist clubs in the Bay Area, then later, on the east coast, far enough inland to be warm, and remote enough to be naked. But almost without fail, not only were we the token familial unit on the grounds that day, but we would be saddled with the sales pitch of “You can come three times, then you need to become members.” Membership might have involved a commitment to helping with spring cleaning, or to serve chili at the cook-out dinner, but it almost always required a hefty annual membership fee that at the time was roughly equivalent to two months of our food budget. Perhaps a worthy investment for some, but beyond our means at the time, especially when we knew that life with young kids – at least for us – did not mean every weekend at the nudist club, particularly since we couldn’t find one where our kids didn’t feel like Thing One, Two, and Three.

In the meantime, I had been corresponding with a guy named Don (Cadonick, I think was his on-line forum name) on a server called Compuserve. Even in its time, it was basic technology, and one had the sense that when you hit send, a pigeon carried the message from the back of your computer to that of the receiver several states away. Slow, cumbersome, and awkward were the defining traits of the platform, but it was about the only place I could find an internet message board about social nudity, or… naturism.

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Naturist Dordogne, France

This guy Don was married to a French woman. He read my post about my frustrations in searching for a place where we could practice naturism as a family. A place where we would all feel safe, where the amenities would be a bit nicer than a 1950s church camp, and where the children would feel like they’re part of a real community with families like ours, doing things that families do! After bantering back and forth on the topic over several posts, he finally gave me the clear directive that what I was looking for most certainly did exist, but I was looking on the wrong continent. He pointed me to a place called La Jenny, west of Bordeaux on the south Atlantic coast of France, suggesting my efforts were futile until I found a way to get there and see it for myself.

Remember, we were long on children, and short on cash! So it took several years until my wife and I could make our first reconnaissance trip to naturist France. We checked out St. Tropez, (Yeah, I guess!) and the famous, or infamous Cap d’Agde (Oh! Well… That’s something!), then finally made our way to Village Naturiste La Jenny, where Don’s words immediately rang true. Naked or clothed, this was a beautiful holiday center for families from all over Europe where everything happened in (at least) four languages, and as weather permitted, most things required no clothing. Nirvana!

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Corsica, France

Our children were near adolescence before we could cobble together enough frequent flyer miles and loose change to get a family of five to France, but from then on, we somehow found a way to make the trek every other year, until things got a bit better yet and we could go every year. Strangely, we never morphed into one of those “naked at home” families you read about in naturist magazines. For our kids, naturism was a vacation in Europe kind of thing, and the day we would get home, they would essentially revert to traditional American household modesty values. That was OK with us. In the last place, nudity was simply not a thing – one way or the other.

Around 2004 I put together a website about our family naturist travels, and started getting more involved in various message boards that far exceeded the technology that had been offered by Compuserve. I lost track of my friend Don and never had a chance to tell him that we had made it to France, and that he was right! In the meantime, the activist part of me said this ethos must exist in America – we just need to help other naturist families find one another with all these newfangled internet tools. To that end, I started a new website called Naturist Family Network, which I managed in my spare time for perhaps a year or two, mainly trying to create an online community where “real naturists” could find one another. Frustrated with the outcome, I eventually handed that off, and I’m not sure… it may still be hanging around the web someplace.

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As such things do happen, our children grew up, our discretionary income increased, and our discretion to use it on ourselves changed quite dramatically. One advantage of starting a family young is still being (relatively) young when they leave home and graduate from college. As we both have an affinity for seeing as much of the world as possible, the value-added component of finding naturist places became nothing short of an obsession for me.  The upside is that looking for a naturist place in Brazil, Thailand, or South Africa most definitely pulls you off the beaten path to where the real people live, and we will long cherish the conversations we’ve had with other naked travelers we’ve met there. But at the same time, we’ve stumbled into the reciprocal downside – that outside of a few European countries where nudity is a normal part of the social fabric, (Thinking Germany, France, Spain, and Croatia to name the biggies!) social nudity is at least as complicated and quirky everywhere else as it was in California thirty years ago. It some places, quite a lot more so.

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Corsica, France

But alas, we continue to meander, seeking out unique travel experiences – naturist when possible, but with a good bit of exploring along the way – while documenting our travels in hopes of accomplishing two things. First, that people will come to think of naturist travel the same way they think about back-packing or ski vacations. “It may or may not be right for me, but it seems perfectly normal that other people would want to do that.” And secondly, an effort to simply normalize social nudity itself, until again people might say… that’s not a thing! In the same way that hiking or skiing is not a thing. At least, not a weird thing.

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Jerolim, Croatia

There is an interesting bi-product/conundrum of keeping this blog. Now married well over thirty years, we can earnestly say that travel and naturism are most certainly defining characteristics of our life together. And because naturism is what it is, that’s been somewhat removed from the rest of our hustle-and-bustle lives. Many of our friends and colleagues know about our nakations; many others simply know we like to travel. The fact that blogging makes the private part of our life “anonymously public” is  something of an oxymoron. We simply hope that in doing so, we might encourage a few others to take the leap, and join us in the crusade for making naturist travel and social nudity more mainstream and less circumspect. Like… it’s not a thing.

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Naturism & Exhibitionism: Enemies or First Cousins?

Some people dismiss streakers, naked protesters and even nudists and life models as ‘exhibitionists’ without fully appreciating that we are all, to a greater or lesser extent, motivated by exhibitionism. We learn to be that way in order to stay alive. A baby needs to be seen and to be noticed by its mother, and this need continues to operate in us throughout our lives… Every human being is motivated by this deep desire to be seen, to have attention paid to them, to be noticed and to be heard.

Philip Carr-Gomm, A Brief History of Nakedness, 2012

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

I keep trying to figure out how the social media thing coincides – in a meaningful way – with the naturist cause. I recently re-established my presence on Facebook and Instagram, (simply waiting for someone on a minimum wage salary to shut off my account for too much butt cleavage), hoping I might reinvigorate my web/blog presence to keep spreading the word that naked is not as weird as some have made it out to be.

But I have to say, forging the shark-infested waters of social media can be daunting! I’m less than a week into a new Facebook profile, and I can’t even count the number of “friend requests” from “beautiful women” who all have the same bio and no profile, or even more bizarre (to me!) private messages that routinely follow this same script:

Them: Hi. How r u

Me: Well, thank you. Trying to get a lot of morning stuff done.

Them: r u naked?

Me: Ummm… (In fact, I probably am.)

Them: Full body shot focused on genitalia appears in thread.

Me: Wow. Nice work there. Gotta go, Have an 8 o’clock meeting!

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

I’m a blogger. And a middle aged white guy who spends a lot of time at the computer. You’re going to have to go a long country mile to even begin to register on my shock value meter, but really? Isn’t there a better place to show your wares than finding Facebook friends who call themselves nudists? There has to be a more direct route than that to finding what you’re looking for. Actually, what are you looking for?

But back to the point. Sometime ago, I wrote an entire blog post about Philip Carr-Gomm’s book, A Brief History of Nakedness; a book I would strongly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves fascinated with naturism, nudism, or simply shedding one’s clothes. I found the entire volume to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, in the best sort of way, but especially when he got to talking about the exhibitionist thing. My take-away from his assessment, and quite frankly, a belief that I’ve held for quite a long time is that that humans spend quite a lot of time, energy, and money trying to shape the way other people see us. You could begin with the fashion industry, and work your way down the ladder to how much you pay for a haircut, but truth be told – we care about how we are visually perceived by people me meet from one day to the next.

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Naturist or Exhibitionist?

I think that Carr-Gomm would make the case that from that perspective alone, we are all exhibitionists. We present ourselves in a way that we’d like people to perceive us, implicit of all sorts of information about our religiosity, our political or sexual persuasion, our social status… you name it. The bizarre part of this conversation, however, is how people see us when we’re naked?! I made quite a rant in a previous blog post called The Demographics of Nakedness suggesting that nudity is not quite the equalizer that we like to think it is, but that not withstanding, a person without clothing will be perceived someplace on a scale of vulnerable to seductive, with so many variations in between, that it is simply too simplistic to say that nudity is genuine, real, and forthright. Nudity has a full palette of social cues that are no less complex than those in the textile world, especially in front of the lens of the camera.

My personal sense of purpose on this front is quite clear. In a perfect world, I come home from work, feel constrained by clothing, remove said clothing, then seek the nearest warm spot that provides the necessary conditions for nakedness, such as the chair in front of the wood-burning stove or immersed in the hot tub in the winter, or simply walking out into the Mid-Atlantic balmy heat in the summer.

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

But tomorrow, we’ll load the dog into the car to spend the weekend at a naturist retreat some four hours from our home, (A long drive!) to spend a day or so with other naked people. I am fortunate. We have the space and the freedom to be naked at home, and to a large extent, behind our home. Our neighbors know about our proclivity for nudity, but we’ve made the appropriate adjustments to “protect them” from a chance encounter with our unclothed beings. But alas, we’ll make the long drive anyway to get naked, and be naked with other humans, who also have this strange affinity to be naked with us. I reiterate, we are a monogamous couple that is not on the prowl for new sexual conquests, and we are intentional in choosing places that uphold those values so there is no confusion as related to such personal boundaries.

But do we enjoy seeing other naked people? Well yes. In the same way, I suppose, that you enjoy seeing what the celebrities are wearing this year at the Academy Awards, or more aptly, the joys of simply people watching while sitting in a shopping mall or train station. “Hmm… that’s an attractive person. I bet s/he has an interesting story to tell.”

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Naturist or Exhibitionist?

Carr-Gomm says that humans are inherently voyeurs, and essentially implies that such is necessary simply to perpetuate the human race. That’s a dicey argument in this age of political correctness, but quite frankly, I think he’s right. Social nudity is validating in knowing that you’re with other people who like to be naked, but it would be a bit disingenuous to suggest that naked people don’t derive some level of “pleasure” in looking at other naked people, in the same way that humans take pleasure in simply looking at other humans – even when fully clothed. For many, especially when fully clothed!

I realize this is dangerous rhetoric amidst the super wholesome values and guidelines implicit of nudist club creeds, which seem particularly out of sync with the “so called nudist folks” who keep popping up on line that are all too eager to show me more than I asked for. But I think this is a critical part of the dialogue if we’re going to elevate naturism to a place beyond dumb jokes about nudist colonies and worn-out clichés about the people who frequent such places. Truth be told, a person who can find comfort in a social setting, bedecked only in his or her own skin, has found some sense of peace within themselves. I have to believe that’s really a thing.

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

When I’m naked in a social setting, am I guilty of gazing upon the other naked humans around me to admire the artistry of the human form? Yes, of course I am. And am I at least a bit self-unconscious about the parts of my physicality that I wish were a bit more gaze-worthy? Of course I am. I am human. We are hard-wired to admire, and we wish to be admired in return. Not sure that’s shameful. It simply is what it is.

Sorry… I’ll get back to the travel reportage stuff soon, but I do think these are conversations that need to be had.

All images in this post were lifted from Tumblr under the search prompt of “nudist” or “naturist.” Suffice it to say, I left out the extremes on each end.

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

Social Nudity and Social Media: Two great tastes…

So I’m a blogger.

As far as I can tell, there are two reasons to blog, both legitimate, but depending on who you are and where you are in life, maybe not of equal weight. 1) You blog to get your thoughts out into print. A sort of catharsis. An exercise to see if you can formulate your thoughts into a coherent sentence. If not, maybe your thoughts were actually… nothing. (Brian, Family Guy, c.2012).

Or 2) You actually have this delusional perception that maybe your thoughts, once committed to cyberspace, might actually sway the masses, or maybe even a few people on the fence, to consider for a moment the absurdity of the textile industry and how the entire human race has somehow decided that certain anatomical parts are dangerous, while others are simply… functional. A penis may get the credit for perpetuating the human species, but when I imagine life without elbows or opposable thumbs, I get pretty sad!

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To be sure, the airing of one’s thoughts in a public forum is cathartic, especially when it’s something you believe in, like naturism, for example! While some people can get a bit evangelical about this whole thing, I would be pretty happy if the “whole thing” wasn’t actually a thing. This blog is my third attempt to normalize the ideals of social nudity, so that people might even say, “That’s not for me, but there are things way more offensive than that to sit up and worry about!”

In the meantime, I had an awkward bout a couple months ago where I inadvertently linked my naturist Instagram account to my professional Facebook page. The implications of such a blunder are many and potentially severe, as one who works in an education-related field in an era where nude = lewd = sexual predator. I’ve pretty much come to grips with the “I go to nude beaches – I hope that doesn’t offend you” thing, but I’m not too keen on taking down my colleagues and institution on the basis of ill- conceived notions as to what social nudity is about, and why a rational person might find one’s proclivity for nakedness to be less abrasive than, say… anything coming out of the news channels in Washington D.C. these days.

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But more to the point… even the most humble of bloggers would like to think that when the tree fell in the forest, somebody said, “Did you hear that?” We should check that out!”

Today, I spent a good bit of time combing through the Instagram policies regarding nudity. Genitalia – check! Female nipples – check! But I have to say, the phrase “close-ups of fully-nude buttocks” is something of a gray area! Exactly how close is “close-up?” And for that matter, how is a buttock more offensive than a female nipple. (Note that male nipples are not problematic, though I would submit that in some cases, one might have difficulty identifying an isolated male nipple from the female counterpart, let alone a supple male “moob” from that of a lesser endowed female.) I get it. The corporate dudes at the Facebook/Instagram corporate offices have been charged with shutting down anything that is even remotely titillating (an intentionally poor choice of words) and they are simply doing their job. But really? A buttock? A nipple?

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I have made this point several times through my years of blogging on this site, but I also realize that people who read blogs may or may not be serial readers, so I will offer this perspective yet again. HAVEN’T WE BETTER THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT IN 2018 THAN THE RANDOM APPEARANCE OF A NIPPLE OR PUBIC HAIR?

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And then there’s Twitter and Tumblr, where I have a presence as well, where I typically seek out posters who are earnestly interested in normalizing social nudity, but quite by accident, stumble into threads of the most explicit sexual activity known to man or beast. I’m pretty open minded on such media, and rarely find such things particularly offensive, EXCEPT… when it falls under the nomenclature of nudism or naturism. Sex is good, and people should have some! Watch other people having sex on film should you so desire. But PLEASE… do not confuse the God-fearing public with images of intercourse and bestiality under the hashtag of nudism or naturism. Think about it! Everyone leaves disappointed, when some horny dude couldn’t find what he was looking for on a lonely Saturday night, while a would-be naturist couple resigns themselves to the fact that nudity does, in fact, equal sex. So once again, they wrap their selves in nylon and Lycra and find their way to the beach.

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In the meantime, like many of my naturist peers, I’ve been thrown off Facebook for the untoward display of buttocks, and I’ve gone through the painstaking process of isolating my Instagram account so that my colleague in the office next door doesn’t come asking for advice about the best naturist beach in New Jersey. Honestly, if that were the full extent of it all, I would welcome the inquiry and provide the information, but social media has essentially turned social nudity into a sex crime! A bizarre dichotomy, really. With the internet, people have greater access to naturist possibilities than they could have ever imagined a generation ago. But with that comes smartphones, Snapchat, and facial recognition software that pretty much negates any hope for anonymity even under the best of circumstances.

And so there it is. Social Media and Social Nudity… Two great tastes that don’t go so well together. I can find a remote naturist resort in a quiet corner or Europe, but I’d better make sure I have the location detector disabled on my smartphone when we arrive. And so it goes for naked people in 2018.

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Vignettes of a Blossoming Naturist

Hello faithful blog followers.

Just on the back side of a pretty intense push at work, so I’ve fallen off the blogosphere for a few weeks. I hope to catch up in the coming days, leading out with this post from a guest blogger. Our twenty-something friend has taken quite a liking to the naturist thing, and I think her words are fresh, inspiring, and quite instructive to the novice naturist. An excellent testimony to the fact that naturism is not a generational thing, but just a “you gotta get it right” sort of thing.

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Vignettes of a Blossoming Naturist

I found myself a naturist incidentally after I stripped off my clothes at 2 am and hopped into a hot tub under the heavy cloak of a sleepy happy that was made possible by a couple of glasses of wine. The next morning I remembered what happened only by virtue of the fact that I woke up completely naked and had to walk around and pick up my various articles of clothing that were strewn about the deck.

My next encounter with naturism lacked all forms of alcohol, without which I quickly realized that although I had been training all of my life to be polite and understand proper social etiquette, I was destined to become a rather clumsy nudist. As my naturist friends, who also happen to be a couple, casually seemed to emerge naked from various parts of the house, I felt as though every action of mine was destined to be awkward and incorrect. All social norms flew out the window, so to speak. For example, changing into your swimming outfit is most typically done in a bathroom-but as I found myself walking there (completely sober) to change out of my civilian clothes, and into…nothing…it seemed quite silly to be modest about that portion of the evening. I resolved, giving myself a silent pep talk, “Okay…so I’ll just take off my clothes here: in the middle of their living room.” With that settled, I undressed, only to wonder where nudists typically would leave their clothes strewn about. In the meantime, I’m simultaneously calculating when I shaved my legs last, if I should emerge from the house with a funny story as a distraction, and how I could possibly acquire more alcohol for the endeavor. In an effort to think all of this through, I suspect I looked a bit like some type of bug, stuck on its back, with its legs strewn about in the air, flailing in an attempt to join his fellow friends on their way to the promised land.

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I think my most poignant conversation took place with the same Naturist couple, who must have sensed my awkwardness from a mile away and asked me, “Where do people look when they are speaking to you?” After I responded with, “My eyes,” and they nodded and smiled, everything seemed to fall into place.

A recommendation for new naturists: Don’t get too comfortable before learning proper nudist etiquette. It’s a real thing. For example: chairs and other surfaces meant for sitting are not available to you unless you bring along a towel and lay it down before sitting down. It makes so much sense. I mean-who wants your remaining butt sweat on their own butt (or their chair)?

Yikes. Following this advice could mean avoiding a conversation like this one: “Hey, new naturist. You’re looking less and less like a flailing beetle every day, but we don’t want your butt sweat on our chair…so I’m going to politely hand you this towel, and if you could stand up and lay it down while we all silently judge you for your lack of naturist etiquette, that would really be great.”

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As soon as you’re feeling confident in your nudity and how one “blends in” and “plays it cool” as a naturist, it’s probably time to convince four of your friends to try out a naturist resort in Corsica. As far as I understand, the best ways to piss off people in a naturist resort are to be loud, take pictures of naked people, and to in fact, not be naked, especially at the pool (the only place in naturist resorts that really seem to require nudity). I’m guessing that you can already hypothesize that our chill day trip ended with friend #1 getting yelled at by a lifeguard to take off her swimsuit or get lost, girl #2 getting reprimanded by a different lifeguard for taking the perfect instagram photo of the naked people lounging at the pool that overlooked the ocean, and the rest of us getting shushed by virtually everyone because of our utter lack of self-awareness to realize that us trying to “get our shit together” was not something that EVERYONE at the entire resort needed to hear about. Point taken. Friends need to prep friends for naturist experiences with a laundry list of “do’s and do-nots.”

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I suspect by now, I’ve painted a rather dismal picture for blossoming naturists everywhere: there are bound to be awkward moments, you have to learn a new set of social standards, you have to remember where you put your clothes after you’ve discarded them, not to mention that some people simply think that social nudity, especially in certain company, is SUPER weird. Yet at this moment, here I am, lying on a beach filled with naked families and friends, all of various generations, just simply thinking, “does life get any more serene or better than this?” In this context, everyone is beautiful, and just about the only thing I can tell by looking at any one person, is that they too, feel super free and relaxed and simply happy to just “be.” There are no contextual clues from their clothing if they are well-off or struggling to make ends meet, and therefore, no indication of their jobs, careers or aspirations. It’s as though everyone’s simply a being, just like you or me, which simply could not be any more beautiful. Women with mastectomies, teenagers embracing their changing bodies, and children playing together in the water, oblivious of the social norms and pressures set by society that they will eventually (sooner rather than later) encounter.

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Whether I’m sappy about the whole thing (i.e. humanity is beautiful…see last paragraph) or practical, (Why cover your sandy, salt-covered body with a t-shirt after swimming if you don’t have to? Do you reallyyy want sand in your swimsuit bottoms? Really??! Isn’t that sweaty t-shirt of yours just making you so uncomfortable?! Wouldn’t you rather feel the warmth from this fireplace everywhere, not just on your hands and toes?) I find myself coming to the same conclusion: Life is better experienced without boundaries set by those in modern-day society. I mean, if you’re going to be like the cavemen/women/people with your Paleo diet, why not look like them too, and take off your shirt?

I’m definitely no expert, but as my other budding naturist friend captured so eloquently, “Is there really anything better than your nips blowing in the wind?”

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