Nudity as a Tool

We took our first steps into social nudity at a wellness centre. For those of you who are not from Belgium, Germany, or The Netherlands, wellness centres are like water parks for grown-ups. They offer a variety of swimming pools, saunas, hammams, hot tubs, cold tubs, massages, and other things that are meant to give you total relaxation. Nudity is the dress code at these places, for reasons that we’ll get to in a moment.


In the years that followed, wellness centres would be the only places where we got naked among strangers. Until one evening of the first day of a camping trip. We had arrived at our destination a little late, found a campground, but were immediately overwhelmed by the noise. The place was packed and there seemed to be a contest going on for who had the loudest voice and television. This was not what we had in mind for a relaxing camping trip.


When we wandered around the campground in search of a quiet spot, we noticed a fenced-off corner with a sign saying “naturist area”. We couldn’t look inside, but from what we heard, this part must have been deserted. Quite to our surprise, when the receptionist gave us access we found a lot of campers in the naturist area. Everyone was just doing their own thing, playing games or drinking wine, and felt no need to yell at those on the other side.



Practical naturists

We sometimes wonder whether if this event hadn’t happened, we would still have become naturists one day. If the clothed part of the campground had been quiet and relaxed, we may have never found out that there was a naturist part as well. But we were there, enjoying the sounds of nature.


In the next few days, we would discover other advantages of the naturist area. At the time, we camped in a two-person igloo tent and getting dressed and undressed often felt like a circus act. In the mornings, our clothes would often be damp from lying on the cold floor of our tent. Now we could just take off our clothes outside, put them in the car for the night, and the day after walk naked to the car to find nice dry clothes.


Maybe the biggest epiphany came when it was time to shower. We still fail to understand why, but shower cabins at campgrounds never have more than two hooks. Often just one. How are we supposed to put pants, underwear, a t-shirt, a sweater, and our towel on just one or two hooks? Maybe there is a special trick that we never learned, but we can’t remember a single time when not at least one piece of clothing fell on the floor. Most often right in the middle of a puddle. But here, we could just walk naked to the shower block, put our towel on the hook, and afterwards just walk away naked. All clothes still nice and dry in the car.


New Cambium intext 4
We have to admit that there was a downside as well. After this experience, we would dread showering on “textile” campgrounds even more. Because we knew that there was a more practical option if only it was socially accepted to walk naked to and from the shower block.



It’s not about being naked

Back to the wellness centre. If you’ve visited naturist clubs, resorts, or beaches before and are going to a wellness centre for the first time, you’ll notice some significant differences. One is the demographics. Wellness centers are often female dominant and it’s quite likely to find groups of women. Which is rather rare at naturist places or nude beaches.


Another big difference is that the standard package includes a bathrobe and that you’ll find many of the visitors wear them when going from the pool to the sauna to the hot tub and back. Lastly, there’s the terminology. When you look at websites of wellness centres, you’ll almost never find the terms “naturist”, “nudist”, or “nude”.


This is where it becomes interesting. Unlike nude beaches and nude resorts, wellness centres don’t advertise as places where you can be naked. The social nudity is only for practical reasons. In places that are hot, wet, and steamy, the naked body is a lot more hygienic than any kind of clothes or bathing suit. No fabric touching the water is also a lot better for the filters. And it’s commonly known that not having to think about clothes or makeup enhances relaxation.



What’s your goal?

For many Belgians, Germans, and Dutch, the wellness centre is their first encounter with social nudity. Just like it was for us. Also for many, it’s their only. This has everything to do with the purpose of the place. Wellness centres focus on relaxation, so they attract people who want to relax. The social nudity, and the benefits that come with it, are just side effects.


If we ask you to describe nude beaches or naturist resorts in one sentence, you’re likely to say something like “places where you can be naked”. In these places, social nudity is the central element, the goal. Of course, many visitors at naturist resorts have other reasons than just “being naked”. They go to get an equal tan, to work on their body issues, or they also never found the trick to put all clothes on two stupid hooks. But here, those reasons are rather seen as the side effects.


Maestra Banner
So obviously, someone who visits a wellness centre with the goal to relax, may not be immediately attracted to a place where the goal is to be naked. Even though those places are often very similar.



The new non-naturist nude events

For many, there are only two types of social nudity. Either it’s naturist/nudist or it’s sexual. For a long time, the terms “naturist” and “nudist” were a guarantee that you wouldn’t end up in an orgy. For clubs and resorts, using these terms was the ideal way to tell potential guests what to expect. Although this was never 100% waterproof.


During the last decade though, a variety of new non-sexual social nude events are popping up that don’t use the terms “naturist” or “nudist”. A strategy that is very similar to that of the European wellness centres. Naked yoga classes have been popping up around the world. When we participated in a Naked in Motion class in New York, we remember that more than half of the others had never been to a naturist resort or even to the famous Gunnison Beach around the corner. They came to these classes to experience a different type of yoga or because they noticed the benefits of not being restricted by clothing.


Our friend Rikki organises body positivity workshops. Communal nudity is an important element in these sessions, but we doubt that anyone joins them just to be naked. Then there is The Füde Experience, where women get together to enjoy food and art in the nude. We would even add the Bare Cruise of GetNakedAustralia to this list. It would have been so easy to market this event as “a unique opportunity to be naked in the harbour of Sydney”. Yet, they chose to focus on “empowering people” and “love the skin you’re in”.



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A post shared by Füde (@thefudeexperience)


Nudity as a tool

In none of the above examples, being naked is the goal, but nudity is used to enhance the experience. To lift it to a different level. When we started this blog many years ago, we chose the slogan “because everything is better without clothes”. We hadn’t given it that much thought at the moment, but thinking back about it now, it also shows that we were seeing social nudity as a way to make things (well, everything) better. We could have chosen “Because it’s great to be naked” or “Living as nude as possible”, but we didn’t.


Interestingly, this is also how naturism started back in the 1920s, as a health movement. Some people realised that soaking up Vitamin D had mental and physical benefits, especially in combination with nature and sports. Nudity was used as a tool to boost this. Even today, some naturist clubs still have the words “sun” or “sport” in their names.


If we look even further at how social nudity was practised in history, from nude sports in Ancient Greece to the communal bathing of the Romans, nudity was never a goal but always a tool. And yet, if we ask you to describe nude beaches or naturist resorts in one sentence, you’re likely to say something like “places where you can be naked”.



What’s next?

From wellness centres to naked yoga, from Füde Experiences to Bare Cruises, and from body positivity workshops to any other kind of event that uses nudity as a tool, they generally attract a different audience than the average naturist resort. An audience that’s often better age and gender balanced. Sometimes also called “the missing generation in naturism”.


When we ask people at these events why they’ve never been to a naturist resort, they often reply “I don’t feel the need to be naked all the time”. Just being naked is not a goal for them and they are missing a purpose. A reason why they should be naked. Especially in Europe, resorts are starting to change their approach to focus more on this group. They are loosening their nudity rules while focusing their marketing on community, body positivity, health, and relaxation.


But they’re stuck with the term “naturist”. Most people who have been to a naturist resort know that it’s about a lot more than just being naked. But to the outside world, the nudity element will always be seen as the most important – if not the only – goal. With more and more events dropping the terminology and using nudity as a tool, we wonder if the resorts will eventually follow the trend. Will the future give us more “freedom clubs” and “positivity resorts”? Or, why not, a “comfortably showering campground”?

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14 thoughts on “Nudity as a Tool”

  1. Wellness was also the first step for us… We have already taken many friends to a public sauna, which they never used to do…
    Later we started going on naturist holidays and even brought friends along…
    During the autumn holidays we take our neighbors to Athena Ossendrecht (Wellness was the deciding factor). In November it is not the weather to walk around naked in Belgium, but for them this is a first introduction… I am sure that they have lowered the threshold in areas such as Ossendrecht by opening a wellness center there…

    • It seems like you’ve followed a similar traject as us. As we’re from the same country, that doesn’t come as a surprise though. The shoulder seasons are a good time to introduce people to a naturist place. The weather makes the whole place kinda clothing-optional, which gives people time to adjust.

  2. I wish people were more relaxed in the uk but now you hardly ever see women topless which is a start but I feel there’s to many leering men from other cultures in Europe now that puts a lot of women from trying and men . Centre parcs use to have a natural night in the sauna area in the uk but sadly they stopped it

    • It’s easy to blame other cultures, but that’s never the whole problem. Where we are now in Spain, we can actually see the African coast. There are plenty of immigrants here and still the majority of Spanish women won’t put on a top when going to the beach. Interestingly, if you spot full bathing suits, they’re often worn by the British 🙂
      So it’s a lot about mentality. And of course, you don’t particularly have the weather in your favour

  3. Every experienced naturist/nudist I know recognizes that nakedness is about more than just “gettin’ nekkid”. We get that there are psychosocial benefits to the relaxed intimacy that rises among naturists. But especially in the US and other body-restrictive nations such as, say, India and Saudi Arabia, nudity is both a taboo and an object of fascination; so much that a majority cannot or will not look beyond getting naked and cannot even imagine how we do it with no more sex than at the average church social.

    That’s what we naturists are trying to change!

    • Well, we have a different experience. Many of the long-time naturists we meet will tell you that it’s all about being naked. Whereas it’s the newer naturists that seek purpose.

  4. I have come full-circle on this. Growing up as a kid on our farm and rural community, being naked was a very unremarkable state. After school we swam naked in the river. We used to take the horses to the beach not far from our farm and ride them up and down the beach, then go swimming and surfing. We never bothered with clothing. On summer weekends we’d get up in the morning and there was no need to get dressed. We had no idea of the terms “naturist” or “nudist”.

    As an adult, moving to the big city and the local suburbia, I came to learn about these terms and the way that being naked was, to some, a kind of special-interest group that required a like-minded community and special places to practice this interest. There were beaches around Auckland (and still are) that were popular with “nudists” – usually secluded, hard to get to, and not the nicest of beaches. And there were clubs you could join that you could go to, so that you could take your clothes off and socialise with other naked people. Yes – the aim was to simply be naked! It all seemed rather odd to me, but I came to realise that city folks had more hang-ups about being naked that we did in the country areas.

    About twenty years ago I met up with a family who described themselves as “naturists” and they ran a website (now defunct) called “Lets Get Naked” – with the aim of gathering together people who wanted to go skinny-dipping, hiking, cycling, etc while naked – and asked if I’d help with running it. I can’t recall the moment of deciding to wear the “naturist” label, but it seemed to fit with how I was living and I had no problem with it.

    But, now that I’ve seen and experienced the world of naturism, the people involved, and the general purpose, I don’t wear the label any more. I’m still involved with the naturist community, but I’m also involved in a lot of other activities where clothing is not necessarily required, but not forbidden either. To me, being naked is a dress-code – nothing more – and it should be my choice. There are times when wearing clothes is unnecessary and uncomfortable – so I go naked. Other times I’m more comfortable wearing some clothing. Still other times clothing is expected and I have no problem with that. I don’t get all anal-retentive about needing to be naked as much as possible in order to prove I’m a “true naturist” – whatever that is!

    • It is also very location dependent. By nature, we’re not really attracted to clubs that still maintain the old-fashioned naturist club model. Yet, in New Zealand, this was actually why we enjoyed the clubs so much. No matter which club we visited, we knew almost exactly what kind of atmosphere we could expect.

  5. I remember the point when my wife told me “oh, you’re a nudist,” after years of getting naked in “the right environment.” I was adamantly opposed to the idea when she first said this, and mainly because of the points highlighted in this post, I was just more comfortable being naked when it was more obvious or convenient to be so.

    Why would I wear a bathing suit when diving off a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean? Why would I put on clothes in the morning before I workout? Love your camping story, and why do we need to worry about covering up when we are trying to be more one with nature?

    At this point, I don’t mind being called a nudist, but in reality, I’m just not willing to accept social norms that say I’m supposed to put clothes on in certain situations. Thanks for a great post!

      • Exactly, Zibi! A couple of years ago I wrote an article about this very thing – a bit of a tongue-in-cheek piece about starting a new movement called “Shorteeism”, defined as: “The belief in, or practice of, wearing a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt, both alone and in social and usually mixed-gender group settings.” It was a bit of a fun look at whether there really is any need any more in today’s society for people to follow an “ism” in order to be naked. Probably in conservative countries such as the U.S. maybe, but in Europe and here in NZ and other places plenty of folks simply choose to be naked when the occasion arises (me included). No need for labels anymore.

        • This is why we are fans of the clothing-optional concept. We believe it’s important to give people the opportunity to be naked “when the occasion arises”, and we need to understand that “the occasion” is different for everyone. This is in contrast with the naturist mantra “naked when possible, clothed when necessary”.

    • It’s funny how to some it can sound so logical, just as you say: “Why would I wear a bathing suit when diving off a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean?”. While to others, there needs to be put a label on it to understand.

  6. La desnudez, o la posibilidad de estar desnudo, en espacios públicos como playas, senderismo,… privados como campings, clubs, … y participar en eventos sociales como marchas en bicicleta, días internacionales como el día de la jardinería desnuda (por cierto es el próximo sábado 4 de mayo),.. ayudan a que estar sin ropa se convierta en algo “normal” socialmente, aunque requiere tiempo y trabajo como cualquier lucha de los derechos sociales que la humanidad va logrando. Los nombres que se dé: naturismo, nudismo,… no son importantes, lo que si es importante es la libertad de poder ejercer el derecho de poder estar sin ropa si lo consideras oportuno.


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