So what about nudism?

When we started considering ourselves naturists, we kinda wondered what the other terms actually meant.
In the beginning, we thought nudism was actually a negative synonym for naturism. Like when you’re in favour of it, you call it naturism, if you’re against you call it nudism. Just like that.
But then we noticed other terms: social nudity, nude recreation,… What about that?


We decided to do some research, which we would like to share with you.
To really understand where the different terms come from, we’ll have to go back in history.


Side note: We’re certainly not fans of dividing people in categories, but to understand the difference here we’ll have to… But no worries, in the end we’ll put it all together again.


Very early naturism
In the beginning of mankind, nudity was the most common form of living. People were born naked, lived their lives naked and died naked. There was no other way.
The main reasons why people started wearing (something you could call) clothes was for protection of their body and because they started moving in different (read: colder) directions. It was all about comfort.
That’s why you can still find tribes around the equator where people are more or less naked.


And then morality and ethics started to enter society.
Laws and guidelines got written and at a certain point someone has decided that it’s improper to be naked in front of other people. Since people were already dressed anyway, this was not really a big deal.
Religion easily picked this up and started linking nudity with sexuality.
Men who exposed their privates to women were considered sexual perverts who should be avoided in all times, and women who showed too much skin were whores and sinners and were only doing that to excite men.
Public nudity was still somewhat allowed but only among the same sex (look at Roman and Ottoman bath houses where women and men were strictly separated).


Jules Richard, nude photographs 2- public Domain


New Cambium intext 3
Modern naturism
Now let’s flash forward to the end of the 19th century.
The industrial revolution was kicking in, big cities and factories were built and people started to lose the connection to nature. And as it always happens with revolutions, not everyone was equally happy about this. Some people wanted to get back to the roots and back to nature. And when in nature, they wanted to bring their body it it’s most natural form: butt naked.


So people started to spend time naked in their close environment, their garden, the forest at the end of the street or maybe even a skinny dip in the lake after sunset.
Soon these people found each other and searched for a place where they could practice their new habit together. They put some money together to buy a piece of land, built a huge fence around it and the first naturist camp was born.


Naturists were very strict about their way of living those days. It had everything to do with the connection to and the respect for nature. Clothing was not allowed, alcohol and tobacco neither and eating meat was also out of the question.
Naturism became a true a lifestyle based on harmony with nature and one another and the nakedness was only a small part of it.
Did you know that in  “Zon en Leven”, the first and still very active naturist organization in the Netherlands, alcohol and tobacco were banned until the beginning of the 21st century?


In the early 50’s of the twentieth century a “counter revolution” started. There were others who also wanted to spend their time naked, but who didn’t really follow the whole naturist philosophy. They didn’t feel such a strong connection to nature, they did smoke and drink and eat meat. But they also loved to be naked and spend time among equally minded.
These people were called nudist. Their main focus was nudity and nature got to the 2nd or 3rd place or no place at all.


World Naked Bike Ride San Francisco 6-13-2009 - by oldsterxxx - CC BY-SA 2.0


Nude recreation
From the nudist it’s said that he or she wants to be naked as much as possible. They only wear clothes in places where nudity is not allowed or at least very uncommon. The moment they get home they undress and remain like that until they have to walk out of the door again.
Okay, this might be a very stereotype description but it’s just to show the difference.


For others however it’s not necessary to be naked all the time, they just enjoy it once in a while. Often not because of the fact of being naked, but for whole other reasons: They don’t like the sticky bathing suit while swimming, they like to have a even tan or they just like the relaxed and easy-going atmosphere of a naturist terrain.
So these people visit the naturist site or sauna or camping for a Sunday afternoon and then go back home, live a “clothed” life and do it again after several weeks or months. And are totally fine with that.


Exhibitionism is often unfairly linked to naturism, that’s why I also put it here.
I say unfairly, although it depends a bit on which on the definition. In the news, the exhibitionist is the guy with the long rain coat who enjoys jumping in front of teen girls or old women to see the shock in their face when he exposes himself. This guy you won’t find in a naturist place, for the simple reason that nobody will be shocked.


Maestra Banner
In a more broad definition, the exhibitionist is someone who enjoys being looked at. On the other side of the line is then the voyeur, who enjoys looking at others. I think both can be found at naturist places and as long as they don’t bother others with it I don’t see a real problem.


streaker at the SCG during the first final between India and Australia - by Duncan Yoyos - CC BY-SA 2.0


What about us?
So now we’ve made the separation, let’s put it all together again.


Are we doing nude recreation?
Yes. We like to go to naturist sites for other reasons than the naturist and the nudist. We like the comfort of swimming naked and we like the relaxed atmosphere of a naturist site. (Note that cell phones, tablets and so on are not allowed on naturist sites because of the camera function. You have no idea how liberating that is!).


Are we nudists?
Yes. We also enjoy the simple fact of being naked. We love to walk around naked and we love to hang out among other naked people. It doesn’t have to be all the time, but it’s nice to have no clothes on.


Are we naturists?
Yes. Although when we started with naturism (read here and here) it had nothing at all to do with nature or connection. But that somehow evolved. Naturist campings are either within nature or have a lot of nature within them. So you easily start linking nature to your nakedness. And you get to learn natural sensations which you’re not used to but which feel very good: The feeling of lying naked in the grass, the feeling of a gust of wind passing your body, the sun everywhere on your skin,…


Can you put yourself in one of above categories?
Or do you think, like us, that you’re a combination of several?
What are your reasons to go naked?



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Photo credit: “Circle of friends skinning dipping in Dove Lake” by Thomas Eakins / Public Domain
Photo credit: “Nude photographs 2” byJules Richard / Public Domain
Photo credit: “World Naked Bike Ride San Francisco” by oldsterxxx  / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo credit: “Streaker at the SCG” by Duncan Yoyos / CC BY-SA 2.0

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15 thoughts on “So what about nudism?”

  1. Are we doing nude recreation? Yes, though we have to say that in the US the clubs we belong to they have a dividing line between the “weekend nudist” (where most of the resorts revenue comes from) and the more long term naturist/nudist who are here for more than the beer drinking in the pool and night club action. The clubs have outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, tennis and pétanque. They offer camping sites so you can actually spend some time in nature and in peace and quiet. They also offer activities for youth such as guided hikes, treasure hunts, bird watching and other activities.
    Are we nudists? Yes we are. We were both born into the nudist world, my woman (fourth generation nudist) in France where her complete family would meet for six weeks every Summer at one of the resorts near Bordeaux. They still meet today though she doesn’t go, living in the US.
    I am a third generation nudist raised in the US. My grandmother, mother and father along with my siblings went to a club near where we lived.
    Neither of us think this lifestyle is strange or weird. We go without clothes as often as we can.
    Are we naturists? Most definitely! We spend over six weeks a year, camping, hiking, backpacking all over the Western US completely nude. This is our favorite choice. We are very healthy, we watch what we eat and we are very physical. But hey, that is the way we were raised.

  2. Again, a nice summary, but the authors neglect the concept of sanitation, which is very important to all we nudists. Somewhere around the time mentioned in the paragraph headed ‘Very Early Naturism’, and at least prior to the second paragraph under that heading, people began to realize that human feces were, well, poisonous. Thus, wiping after defecation (with leaves, sand, or whatever) became important. Coupled with that was the realization that we all leak fecal coloform thingies all the time. If we had anuses configured like those of cats, it might be different, but that is not the case. Primitive tropical tribes, as are mentioned, wear thong-like undergarments for precisely that reason, at least originally. And to this date, any “proper” nudist carries a sitting towel everywhere, for the same purpose. Today, anyone with any true realization of biology sanitizes themselves with much better than mere toilet tissue (ergo, bidets and baby wipes). A more thorough exposition of the whole nudism topic would also mention the ridiculous supposition of clothing as a marker of social status, wealth and power, which has been forced upon humanity by ourselves since ancient times. But, leave that for sociology texts. In any case, a good read, but could be a little more thorough.

    • Very interesting comment Dan P, but we think that you’re missing a bit the point here.
      The purpose of this post was to explain the different terminology. The terms nudism and naturism are currently often used in exactly the same sense, but that hasn’t always been the case.
      And in order to explain the term “naturism” we felt like we had to give a slight history of (social) nudity.
      It was never our intention to write a scientifically substantiated history of naturism.

  3. Very nice article, agree with much, how it all started Im not so there with you, good story but I am a Biblical Nudist, (some call us Christian Nudists) I feel that God brought us into the world naked, He brings each one us into this world naked. But there were 2 reasons for clothing, first was Adam and Eves disobedience, and second as you pointed out elements changed outside the garden of Eden and precipitated the necessity for clothing in the changing climate. Over the years Nudity was not a big deal even in Biblical times, there were many jobs that those working would work either in full nudity or at least partial nudity and there was no thought about it. But where it came to be an issue was when religion started to right the rules to govern people. They had to add onto the 10 commandments (big mistake we don’t need any more than the 10) and started making judgements on others, this included the difference between wearing and not wearing cloths. I am a very faith based person, but I am not a religious person, I enjoy being naked in nature as I was meant to be and was brought into this world. Other than your “beginning” I think you are spot on. Nice job.

  4. Personally, I am a bit of it all. I love to be in nature and feel the wind and grass and sun all over my body – to really feel like I belong and am part of my surroundings. Our skin is the largest bodily organ and the more of it that is exposed, the more we take in all that our surroundings are emitting. I am also very social and love to share this experience with others in a group setting. I believe the same concept of being more in touch with nature while nude applies to being more in touch with other people who are nude, especially when you are nude as well. I would be naked all the time if the culture (and weather) permitted and am usually found wearing the minimal amount of clothes necessary in any situation. I am fortunate to have several female friends who, while only naked in the hot tub, have agreed that I have the right to be naked in my own home and neither they or my wife objects to it although they remain fully clothed. Of course, I never go naked in front of those who are not comfortable with it.

    • So, if nudity is not a bother, then it’s okay to be nude and both are comfortable. But when others are bothered by nudity, we always cover. Now we’re uncomfortable. Why is it that if someone is uncomfortable, it must be me??

  5. Depending on where you live, the two terms have become synonyms. They should not have because, as you correctly pointed out, naturism is a whole philosophy whereas nudism was just the nudity part. But we can’t control how people use language. What I came to realize is that people did not fit neatly into one category or the other. It is more of a scale. So I created the recreation naturism to ethical naturism scale. (or you could say recreational nudism to ethical nudism scale) See:

  6. My friends and I, about 12-15 male and female, consider ourselves “Nakedists”. We don’t subscribe to any of the Naturist stuff, so we’re not naturists,,,,, we don’t belong to any organized groups, clubs or other organizations, and we don’t go to nudist resorts, so we’re not nudists,,,,,,, What we DO do is enjoy being naked. Most of us stay naked in our homes, and get naked, along with our hosts, when we visit each other. Often we will have a group of us getting together for a naked barbecue, a swim in one of our pools, or an indoor party to celebrate something,,,,all done naked. Sometimes we will visit a clothing optional beach at the shore, or go skinny dipping in a lake or other appropriate bodies of water. We just love being socially naked, so we say we are “Nakedists”!

    • So, lables are important. Heaven forbid you adopt the wrong lable for your group. I find myself without clothes often, but rarely do I consider myself naked. Nude, yes, but naked implies that something is missing. If clothes are not necessary, then what is missing?
      Whenever I drive naked, then my seatbelt isn’t fastened. I must be at the beach. I am driving nude, my seatbelt is fastened.
      As a naturist, I do many of the same things you and your friends are doing. But I’m not naked, only nude. Nothing is missing.

  7. Ich halte sehr wenig von solchen Einordnungen der Menschen in Gruppen, die auch gleich genutzt werden, um Grenzen zu ziehen.
    Geschichtlich kenne ich den Begriff Naturisme nur daher, dass in Frankreich nach dem 1. Weltkrieg einige Menschen versucht haben, ihre Vorstellung der Lebensreform aus Deutschland, einschließlich der Naturheilkunde, in Frankreich zu verbreiten. Sie nannten das dann Naturisme. Heute wird das Wort dort oft synonym für FKK benutzt. In Amerika oder England ist das Wort Nudisme weiter verbreitet.
    In Deutschland gab es in der Geschichte viele Wege, eine medizinische, weltanschauliche oder rassistische Begründung für Nacktheit zu finden. Das ergab sich schon aus den vielfältigen Richtungen der Lebensreform.
    Wir sollten heute unsere eigenen Gründe dafür finden, warum wir gern nackt sind. Dabei sollten wir viel mehr individuellen Vorstellungen Raum geben. Gefühle, Gedanken und sogar Worte sind frei und sollten nicht in enge Grenzen gepfercht werden.

  8. I’ve never been a fan of any of these descriptive titles.

    I consider myself as a regular person who simply prefers to relax in the nude, whether that’s at home/in the garden or at a beach or other public place.

    From a very young age I preferred to be naked, as I believe most young kids do, but I didn’t grow out of it.

    I have been actively enjoying nudity at home and outside for over 50 years. The only synergy with nature for me is that it’s natural to be nude, it’s our default state.

    Occasionally, I use the terms “nudist” and “naturist” only for convenience.

    I honestly don’t believe it’s necessary to have these labels, and I’d go further than that and say that they are a negative thing when it comes to encouraging others to get involved.

    An example of this is one of my female partners a few years ago. She was a professional catwalk model who had posed topless and nude for artistic photography, but had never gone nude in public at a beach or anywhere purely for recreational purposes. She got into it through her relationship with me and she loved it. One day her best friend, another model, came to visit and my partner told her friend about us going to a nude beach and going on holiday abroad and spending our days in the nude on the beach. Her friend asked her, “So, are you a naturist now?” and my partner replied, “No, am I f**k!” And I believe she said that because of her own perception of how the general public perceive naturists, that is, in a nutshell, weirdo’s.


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