Many times over the past several years, I’ve read quite a bit in nudist-oriented media where countless authors are bemoaning the fact that youth participation at clothes-free resorts and destinations is declining. The identical chorus is repeated by nude resort owners, nudecentric advocacy groups, naked organizations and others. These same people are predicting the demise of social nudity altogether. This may indeed be true but I think what we’re experiencing isn’t necessarily the extinction of collective (social) nudism but instead an evolution in attitudes towards nudity in general and social nakedness in particular. Perhaps what’s happening isn’t the death of bare freedom but rather a blending of the naked and clothed cultures.
The fairly recent and rising popularity of social media has birthed another modern phenomenon, the “selfie” (self-photography or self-photo). Originally, these images showed the subject posing in front of the bathroom or bedroom mirror then posting the picture to their social media site. The trend exploded and it wasn’t too long before the postings became very revealing as more and more skin was exposed. Then the idea of total nakedness arrived and the fully nude selfie blasted into the norm as opposed to the exception. At first, the bare selfies were usually a full view of the back, now, full frontal nudity is the standard practice, especially among teens and young adults. Many of these youthful practitioners never before considered the possibility of involvement in social nudity.
In the past, skinny-dipping (naked swimming) was often believed to be the initiation of some into the naturist or nudist culture. In partaking of this ritual, many discovered the freedom that social nudity offers. It was the first step into an unknown world of carefree honesty, body acceptance and respect. A number of my friends attribute their “nude-defining” awakening to their initial skinny-dip. Once introduced to the activity, they became curious about other chances to interact with others while clothes-free. After stripping out of garments publicly just one time, subsequent occurrences became easier.
The same opportunity is offered to youth today through the selfie practice. These individuals are less inhibited about their nakedness and sharing their bare bodies with their friends and peers. This isn’t the death-knell for skinny-dipping, it’s simply now easier to meet similar minded folks to share in this experience. Nudity is losing the traditional stigma long placed on it by a puritanical society. It is now considered acceptable to appear in selected venues with or without clothing, especially outdoors during the summer. Fewer younger people associate naked as shameful and taboo.
Through social media, many are becoming comfortable with their exposed bodies and consequently, themselves. They view the selfie as a tool for demonstrating both body and personal esteem and pride. For them, social media is no different from social nudity: they’re both mediums of exchanging their true selves, absent from any judgment, embarrassment or censure. Both are methods of meeting and interfacing with peers and introducing themselves to others. Technology, like art, mirrors life in the real world.
An example of the confidence that the selfie inspires is clearly demonstrated by the growing number of photographs posted that are being made outdoors and in open environments. The earlier ones were mostly indoors and almost always in the bathroom and the bedroom, clothed and in private. The covering began to disappear yet the privacy setting remained. As the nude comfort level increases, the need for absolute secrecy decreases. Today, more and more share nude selfies publicly and in more public backgrounds and spaces. Body discomfort is on the decline as is the oppressive practice of excessive modesty.
This new attitude towards collective or social nudity, although not universally followed even by the millennial generation, is creating an atmosphere of tolerance of the nakedness of those who choose to go without clothing. This development isn’t producing a clothing-optional society overnight but it is the beginning of a gradual change in how we live and the freedoms that we all enjoy. The transition from puritanical values to a greater inclusiveness is now underway.
This past summer, beginning in June, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of four same gender loving men, all under the age of 25 years old and previously unknown to each other. Frank is a white, average built and moderately hairy undergrad majoring in both German and journalism. Tron is a student at a technical institute, black, hairy and stocky. Livorio is of Spanish origin, hairy with a medium-thick frame who works part-time and attends university part-time. Fuzzy (his real nickname) is a profusely hirsute muscular, African-American pursuing his graduate studies. This was their first summer indulging in outdoor social nudist pursuits. All acknowledged having skinny-dipped as teenagers and to posting nude selfies in order to meet other gay men who were interested in exploring social nudity. They each had varying degrees of comfort with public nakedness. Although originally from diverse parts of the country, currently all reside in Richmond, Virginia, while furthering their education.
Throughout the season, we all became casual friends and shared several naked outings together as a group. I soon became the group’s mentor into the clothes-free community. Our first excursion was a one-day trip to Gunnison Beach and the Sandy Hook clothing-optional area. Another was a day visit to a local nudist resort. These two ventures exposed (no pun intended) them to different nudity destinations. Aaron, my partner, joined us on a few of these road trips and we hosted all of them in our one-bedroom condo overnight after a nocturnal pool party sponsored by a gay social nudist group in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.
Their companionship was an enlightening experience for me as I hope mine was for them. They freely expressed their opinions and observations on contemporary queer nudist life and on what specifically was appealing and discouraging. One common aspect the foursome shared is their dislike of the shaved/waxed custom popular with some same gender loving clothes-free enthusiasts. Frank, Tron, Livorio and Fuzzy all kept their natural body hair, which ranged from moderate to profuse. They all felt the smooth look was too boring and sterile.
Frank and Livorio are both in a relationship. Frank’s boyfriend also enjoys nudity while Livorio’s man has no interest in trying it out. Frank’s mate joined us a couple of times on our adventures. Livorio felt some awkwardness balancing his growing fondness of nudity with his time with his partner. Both Tron and Fuzzy revealed their preference for a relationship with a man who is comfortable and supportive of their nude activities and the hope to find a man within the nude culture.
Our visit to a nude resort was disappointing for us all and is what inspired this posting. This was my first visit to this particular property and for my new naked buddies, their first ever to any nude destination. We had free coupons from the online website so we escaped the somewhat hefty admission fee. For me, this site was a 3.5 hour drive from my home in Arlington and for my companions, it was an hour drive from Richmond. We soon discovered the amenities weren’t worth the price of the guest pass and the fuel expenses for the drive. I did advise my friends that not all clothing-free centers are the same and that I had patronized gay-friendly ones that were worth the cost. Their consensus was that with nude beaches and socials available for a nominal fee, why pay for a membership.
As I mentioned in my introduction, many recognized leaders of the naturist/nudist culture frequently complain about declining youth involvement in naked events. My philosophy is rather than waste energy and time lamenting this trend, use the opportunity to explore options that will attract this population towards participation and encourage attendance. The problem is already known and there is a half-hearted effort through the Young Naturists movement to correct this. But more needs to be done to make this age group feel welcome.
Frank, Tron, Livorio and Fuzzy all cited two specific policies that made them feel excluded. The first was the male-to-female ratio in force at most facilities. Initiated to make women feel comfortable, it is seen by many as outright discriminatory against all men, regardless of their gender attraction. We’re all there voluntarily to experience social nudity. Why deny either sex the right of entry, especially since we all pay for access and have undertaken the journey to get there. This rule needs review and a reasonable accommodation made that’s fair to both men and women. This practice is non-existent at same gender loving nude properties.
The second regulation is the one that prohibits cameras and the taking of pictures. We all understand and respect the need of privacy. However, this and future generations are dependent on their mobile devices for instant communication and practically all phones today are equipped with cameras. Young people are extremely visually attuned. This restriction bothers them. If selfies are a means of interaction with others, again, this policy demands scrutiny with the goal of a compromise that is acceptable to everyone.
I am a man who tries to offer alternatives whenever I provide constructive criticism. A possible solution on the gender ratio matter is to create “solitude” spaces throughout the resort advising visitors that within the confines, it is for the use of those who wish to be alone. A suggestion on the photography issue is to designate a certain area within the resort as a “photo opportunities” site. Pictures are allowed here and guests are warned of that fact before they enter.
As practicing nudists, all we want is the chance to celebrate our nakedness with others who appreciate nudity and desire the same. With respect and patience, surely we can resolve these and other differences.
Peace! Get naked. Enjoy!