Issues in social nudity

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Urban skinny dipping in India.
Two women of the Zo'é tribe of Pará State, Brazil in the Amazon basin.

Social nudity is the nude appearance of the human body in relatively public settings not restricted by gender. This occurs both in public spaces and on commercial property, such as at a naturist resort.

Some isolated indigenous nudity still exists in the tropics, though this way of life is highly endangered, as is male nude swimming in public, which used to be very commonplace in Western civilization. Modern European-style naturism began around the turn of the 20th century in British India and Northern Germany, and it was later adopted in America as well.


Nude men at the Woodstock Festival in Poland.

The usage and definition of these terms varies both geographically and historically. In his book, Cinema Au Naturel, author Mark Storey states: "two related terms that we will continually run across are nudist and naturist. Although the meanings of the two terms are virtually identical, they often have different connotations for those who prefer one to the other. In America, people who believe that it is physically, socially, emotionally, and perhaps spiritually healthy to go about fully nude individually and in groups of mixed gender, wherever the weather permits and others are not offended, generally refer to themselves as "nudists". In Europe, such people more often than not, refer to themselves as "naturists".[1]

Ethical Naturism vs Recreational Naturism[edit]

Ethical Naturism vs Recreational Naturism is a concept first introduced by Stéphane Deschênes in the April 2011 episode of The Naturist Living Show Podcast.[2] which attempts to create a taxonomy that classifies the various types of naturists/nudists.[3] Ethical Naturists are described as seeing themselves as part of a philosophy with ethical and moral aspects while recreational nudists are simply participating in a leisure activity that involves nudity.[4]

Clothing optional[edit]

As the French social psychologist Marc-Alain Descamps wrote (translated): The reciprocal sight of complete nudity defuses the exhibitionistvoyeur relationship.[5]

Legal concerns[edit]


Public nudity in England and Wales is permitted anywhere provided it is not done with the intention to cause harassment, alarm or distress.[6]

Naturism was specifically excluded from the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (SOA) for England and Wales, under Section 66. Police and the Crown Prosecution Service were not adequately informed, and any report of nudity was then prosecuted under Section 5 of The Public Order Act 1986, which was created to deal with people who joined in riots. The Equality Act 2010 afforded Naturists with a protected status and use of the Public Order Act route was defeated in the courts in 2013. British Naturism felt police officers needed to be better informed, and after having discussions with the senior police officer in the College of Policing in April 2018 mutually satisfactory wording was agreed, and the resultant preamble and "decision tree" for dealing with complaints about public nudity has been uploaded to the Police Training manuals.[7]

Some laws specifically target naturism. In the U.S. State of Arkansas, nudism is illegal beyond the immediate family unit, even on private property. It is also a crime to "promote" or "advocate" nudism.[8]


Street photography at some public mass-nudity events, such as the World Naked Bike Ride above, is the norm.

The American Association for Nude Recreation issues a photo release form to allow people to give permission for the publication of photos of themselves or their children.[9]



Many naturist and nudist clubs have few young members.[10]

Reasons for this decline include parents being concerned about the possibility of false accusations or suspicions of child abuse by those who are unfamiliar with non-sexual nudity. In the United States, Child Protective Services (CPS) may investigate even if no laws have been allegedly broken. Although such incidents are rare among its members, the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) has an attorney on hand to assist. Many private nudist venues require that one or both parents, including absent parents, be consulted regarding the documentation of their minor children.[original research?] This may also include situations with partial custody, stepchildren, etc.[11]:216


Samoan girls, c. 1902

Organized social nudity usually attracts more people of European ethnic backgrounds. This may be due to it becoming a social movement in Europe, before spreading to other parts of the world. Other reasons include the fact that most resorts are located far from the cities, and have done little to promote themselves to those of non-European ethnic backgrounds.[11]:307

If someone is from an ethnicity whose recent ancestors had no problem with public nudity (parts of Africa, Asia, pre-European Americas, Australia, and the Pacific Islands), it might be thought of as being "primitive" by modern standards, and lacking in social status. (i.e. "Only the poorest of the poor would go about without clothing.") This contrasts with the more Western attitude that nudity and sexuality are somehow related, but nonetheless causes them to shy away from social nudity.[11]:308

Social nudity without labels or with alternative terminology[edit]

Many people casually enjoy social nudity without adhering to any term and without associating with any traditional naturist, nudist or FKK organization or any other groups or movements.[12] That is common, for example on nude beaches and other forms of public nudity, such as seen at cultural events like Burning Man or clothing-optional bike rides.

Several activists, such as Vincent Bethell, claim that associations to promote naturism or nudism are unnecessary, leading only to "nudity in tolerated ghettos". Activist Daniel Johnson believes that labels and affiliations overly complicate a relatively simple phenomenon, alienate others from a fear of over-commitment or undesirable stereotypes, and thus get in the way of integrating nudity into everyday life.[13]

Other issues[edit]

Non-naturists may get very concerned by issues that naturists do not perceive as problems.


In the early days of naturism in the U.S. (1930s-1950s), the rules at many resorts stipulated that when conversing, you must only look at each other face to face.[11]:162

In the 1960s and 1970s nudist royalty pageants and "Miss Nude" contests were held by some naturist clubs[which?] in the US and Canada. The former were open to men, women and children and were judged on the basis of audience applause, while the latter were typically open to women aged between 18 and 30 and were judged by panels drawn from the local community, businesses and the media as well as minor celebrities.[14][15]

Sexual well-being[edit]

Smith and King pose the following points in their 2009 peer reviewed paper Naturism and Sexuality: Broadening our approach to sexual well-being [16]

  • The relationship between naturism and sexuality is managed through social and spatial segregation. In commercial naturist resorts, eroticism and sexuality is controlled by applying hetero-normative values, and strict rules and policing. In other environments, eroticism is moderated through self-censorship of actions and behavior. This can make the practice of naturism an isolating, repressive, and anxious experience, rather than a liberating and social one.
  • Mainstream naturism relies on discriminatory and dishonest practices to manage sexuality, which limits the diversity of the naturist population, and presents an image and culture that lacks integrity and transparency.
  • Mainstream naturism puts strict limits on sexual feelings leading to physical arousal, and equates sexual exploration to deviancy. This may limit the educative potential of nudity in expanding our experience and understanding of sexual feelings beyond the genitals.
  • Naturist environments can offer unique public spaces to explore sexual feelings and experiences that may be repressed or limited in conventional public spaces and sexual relationships.
  • Mainstream naturism may pathologize (i.e. treat as psychologically abnormal or unhealthy) those who enjoy the eroticism of nudity. An asexual discourse can leave individuals who experience nudity as erotic, to feel uneasy, guilty, defensive, and marginalized within the naturist community. This is similar to the way that popular culture often pathologizes and marginalizes naturists.
  • Mainstream naturism may lead to conscious and unconscious repression of sexual feelings, and behavior that limits the relationship between naturism and nature.
  • Sexual feelings and behavior are often negotiated through unspoken consent based on the "ebb and flow" of feelings and body language. This subtle and non-verbal consent runs counter to government guidelines on clear verbal consent in sexual behavior. It is possible that the fear of not obtaining this kind of "consent" may limit future sexual exploration in naturist environments. It is also possible that frank sexual behavior may sometimes broaden peoples' sexual feelings, and consequently enhance sexual well-being. Currently, this positive relationship between naturism and sexuality remains undiscussed and repressed.
  • Some naturist environments can induce sexual feelings. Nudity in public environments where it is not tolerated was cited several times as a source of people's sexual feelings. Sensory rich environments were also cited as potential trigger for sexual feelings, while personal spaces may legitimize an environment in which nudity can become sexual, without it contradicting the public image of naturism.
  • The present law to combat deviant sexual behavior in a public space is inappropriate for the relationship between nudity and deviancy does not appear in the display of genitals, but in the behavior attached to the nudity. The abuse of nudity to cause "alarm and distress" can only exist in an environment in which nudity is absent from everyday spaces. By legislating against public nudity and sexual behavior, the sexual tension and "shock" value created by being nude in a public space may actually encourage those who wish to use nudity as a form of abusive, exploitative, and harassing behavior.

Spontaneous erections[edit]

Non-sexual erections tend to be more problematic with nudists and naturists in the United States than in continental Europe.[original research?] The world's largest naturist resort at Cap d'Agde in France is nonchalant about erections.[17] Clubs and resorts disallowing erections[which?] commonly suggest covering the waist with a towel, lying on one's stomach, or going into the swimming pool (if within the pool fence).[18]

Males of some indigenous tribes of the Amazon Basin[which?] live nude except for a light string worn around the waistline. This is used to conceal the foreskin of the penis from females, which is considered taboo in communal settings. Since the penis is normally held upright just below the navel, erections are much less noticeable.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Storey, Mark (2003). Cinema Au Naturel: A History of Nudist Film. Naturist Education Foundation. p. 11. ISBN 9780974084404.
  2. ^ "Ethical Naturists plus a Naturist Pioneer" (podcast). The Naturist Living Show. 24 April 2011. We introduce the concept of the Ethical Naturist.
  3. ^ "Ethical Naturism". Bare Oaks Blog. 19 November 2012. It is a life philosophy with physical, psychological, environmental, social, and moral benefits.
  4. ^ "Recreational Naturism versus Ethical Naturism". Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park. 2011. The Ethical Naturist and the Recreational Naturist . . . is a scale with most positioned somewhere between the extremes.
  5. ^ Vivre Nu: Psychosociologie du Naturisme, Marc-Alain Descamps, Edition Trismégiste, 1987, ISBN 2-86509-026-4
  6. ^ Welch, Andrew. "Policing Naturism - BN engineers a major breakthrough". British Naturism. Archived from the original on 4 September 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  7. ^ "Arkansas Law § 5-68-204 Violates First Amendment Rights".
  8. ^ "Photo Release Form" (PDF). American Association for Nude Recreation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-06-08. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
  9. ^ Daney, Charles (6 May 1998). "Why Don't More Young Adults Try Social Nudity?". Archived from the original on 2006-08-22. Retrieved 2006-09-13.
  10. ^ a b c d The Nudist Idea, Cec Cinder, Ph.D. c. 1998, Ultraviolet Press
  11. ^ Information from Being and Nakedness "Disorganized nudity" by Charles Daney Archived 2006-04-30 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Daniel Johnson (Spring 2002). "Beyond Safe Havens: Oregon's Terri Sue Webb". Nude & Natural (N). Vol. 21 no. 3. Archived from the original on 26 October 2010.
  13. ^ Gentile, Patrizia; Nicholas, Jane (2013). Contesting Bodies and Nation in Canadian History. Studies in Gender and History. University of Toronto Press. pp. 231–233. ISBN 9781442663169.
  14. ^ "Black Dancer Wins 'Miss Nude World' 1977 Beauty Pageant". Jet. Vol. 57 no. 17. Johnson Publishing Company. 14 July 1977. p. 15. ISSN 0021-5996.
  15. ^ Smith & King 2009.
  16. ^ The Naked Truth About Cap d'Agde Author: Ross Velton Publisher: Chris Santilli ISBN 978-0966268348
  17. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". American Association for Nude Recreation. Archived from the original on 4 February 2005.
  18. ^ Justin Rowlatt (5 March 2011). "The minimalist dress code of the Amazon's Awa people". BBC News.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]