I asked some friends recently at a popular naturist / clothes optional beach whether they conceded that naturism has an element of exhibitionism. Having been raised by my parents in the naturist way, I get the freedom bit. But there surely has to be some exhibitionist or, in reverse, voyeuristic value to baring all in public.
Your average naturist will be in denial, for sure, but why else would the population at such a venue be around 80% male, a large proportion of who like to strut their stuff up and down the shore and beyond.
Don’t read me wrong here; I’m hardly likely to knock the concept or the freedom naturism brings. And nor am I writing to sell it. But nudity and unity combined are a fantastic couple and the beach is such a cool place to… er… hang out.
So I thought I’d ask Uncle Internet what he thought about the subject – this post brings together a few muses and opinions from a couple of articles found. And… oh it would be – the first ‘review’ is about a nudist beach near to Swanage!
We’re at Knoll Beach in Studland Bay – one of the most prominent nudist beaches in the country, and situated (like the bulk of them) along the south coast, presumably because it’s warmer. Studland may be renowned for its naturist area, but that’s what it is – an area. The entire beach is two and a half miles long, but the nudist bit takes up less than half of that. Still, at 900m, it’s pretty hefty. You also have to walk to it – the car park is some distance from the naturist section, which is clearly marked by signs.
At first it simply feels weird – as if you forgot to do something, like get dressed. And you wonder if anyone is staring.
You keep imagining a police officer suddenly appearing out of nowhere, covering you up with his truncheon (oo-er), followed by a public indecency prosecution. What’s more, you find yourself glancing up at the people walking past, who are deliberately trying to avoid eye contact. The British Naturist Beach Code (yes, really, it’s a thing) tells you to ‘avoid confronting or approaching textiles’ – the naturist equivalent of Muggles. But soon you realise that no one is looking at you, just as you are not looking at them. The dog-walkers and strolling couples have eyes for the ocean, or each other. They’ve seen the warning signs promising Naturists Beyond This Point, and they’re still here – so they can’t care that much.
That’s one of the old signs I think – they read different now. I used to think it was odd and that the word ‘may’ should have read ‘will’. After all, at the height of the summer season, thousands flock there to enjoy (hopefully) warm sunshine and a refreshing balmy sea,
But what they were saying. the thing is, if you start early, you bypass all those worries. And nobody bats an eyelid when you turn up at a beach and disrobe – why would they? Everyone else is naked – or ought to be.
Some things I don’t get, like textiles (the word for those of the clothed persuasion) that turn up at a naturist gathering and subject their children to all manner of the naked form (and I’m talking piercings and worse here) – and there’d be an almighty hoo-hah if we went and stripped off on ‘their’ beaches.
It wouldn’t be illegal however unless the intent was that you were aiming to cause distress or could be proven – it would be quite difficult I would imagine for it to stand up in court.
Needless to say, such cases are rare because naturists tend to frequent official venues so, when in Rome and all that.
I’ll tell you something else that’s great about naturists too. When you are at the beach, nudity is such a great leveller. You could be rich, poor, fat, thin, whatever AND here’s the thing, the people are so much more friendlier. You imagine a day at the coast when you’rr crammed like sardines near to strangers – bottom dollar they won’t talk to you.
Then there’s this weird concensus from people who’ve never tried it, they say… so you’re fully nude in close proximity to friends or people you don’t know and… you don’t think about S-E-X???
That to me is where it kind of falls down. The misunderstanding. Oh and the fact that naturism doesn’t really fit with Britain, a country (and one of very few left) that still changes itself under a towel. It’s no wonder the rest of Europe laughs at us Brits. Go into Europe and most beaches are clothes-optional.
The Carry On movies and the saucy seaside postcards neatly sum up our general attitude towards nudity and that other thing.
See, I was raised on Whizzer & Chips and Health & Efficiency and neither did me any harm. Plus I know I was one of those children who’d happily strip off at the beach. It was natural – you don’t get taught that.
Because most of my nascent was away from the seaside and I grew through the awkward years, I didn’t return to naturism until my early twenties and even then found it a little awkward, a bit like being out of practice. But when I returned to my birth county I went back to the aforementioned venue and I’ve been there ever since.
This article I found interesting, from The Independent, is about a naturist cruise for… yes, 2,000 people! Here’s a potted excerpt…
“We are safely away and you can now enjoy a…” There was a pause, as if the cruise director was having trouble choosing what, exactly, he should call what was about to happen. Finally he said, “…a carefree environment.”
The announcement was still reverberating through the ship when the scrotum airing began in earnest; shorts and shirts dropped to the ground and penises dangled in the south Florida sun. Permission had been granted. Now buttocks could swing from side to side with no restrictions, and breasts – finally released from the prison of blouse and brassiere – burst into the open, to be caressed by soft tropical breezes. We were on a boat. One thousand, eight hundred and sixty-six nudists living the “anti-textile” dream.
Not that some of them weren’t almost nude before the cruise director gave the all clear. Many were in various states of undress, itching to toss their clothes aside. A skeletal man in his eighties wandered around the ship wearing only a fluorescent thong, his loose skin draped around his bones in cascades that looked like freckled frosting, and a gigantic, barrel-chested man – he looked like he’d eaten an actual barrel – lumbered around the lido deck on an industrial-strength cane, wearing only a loincloth. A few people soaked in Jacuzzis, surreptitiously slipping out of their swimsuits, while the less rebellious sat by the pool, looking somewhat forlorn, waiting for the green light. These were nudists, after all. And they had paid big bucks to frolic in the buff. When the all clear was sounded, they didn’t hesitate.
There are rules for being a nudist. It’s not enough to drop your trousers and waggle your genitals in the sunshine. That might be fun – or, depending where you are, get you arrested – but it’s not nudism. You can take off your clothes and run across a football field, but that’s not nudism, that’s streaking. Jump in a lake and frolic naked with several of your friends? That’s skinny-dipping. Fun, but not nudism. Even bathing in a Japanese onsen isn’t nudism. Yes, you’re naked and with other naked people in a hot spring, but after you’ve cleaned and refreshed in the cold plunge, you get dressed and go out for ramen. A nudist would eat noodles naked, with other naked people.
I had never been on a cruise ship before – I’d never even been interested in being on a cruise ship – but this wasn’t just any cruise, this was the Big Nude Boat, a special charter offered by Bare Necessities, the premier “nakation” (a portmanteau of “naked” and “vacation,” but you probably figured that out) travel agency. Not only that, the cruise was on board the Nieuw Amsterdam, one of the Holland America Line’s more luxurious ships, which meant this was the deluxe version of non-sexual social nude recreation. Meaning nudism. Or naturism. Depending on who you ask. There are several theories floating around about which word means what – historically speaking there are some actual distinctions – but the reality was that I was on a boat with almost 2,000 people who weren’t wearing clothes.
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So I think that in Britain we are lucky to have the clubs and beaches and of course, those with secluded gardens can enjoy naturism in the privacy of their own homes. But my original point still bugs me. There’s a conflict there. I like being naked and being in the company of other naked people – it’s just liberating, simple as that. Am I an exhibitionist? In that sense, I am, I guess… but most naturists would disagree. And that’s fine, just like naturism. There is nothing innately wrong or disgusting about the naked human form. If we teach our children that there is then we’re on a slippery path I feel. The children of today would be tomorrow’s naturists but misuse of modern technology means that they will never have the freedom I was given forty years ago and that’s a great pity.