The Skinny on Nudism in the U.S.

July 21, 2004

People who do stuff in the buff say there are a lot of misconceptions in U.S. society about what they are doing and why.

There are nude cruises, camping grounds, tennis courts, and motorcycle rallies across the country. There are at least three nude summer camps just for teens and about 260 clothing-optional family resorts in North America—nearly twice the number of ten years ago, according to the American Association for Nude Recreation.

"Naturists" say the benefits to sloughing off both clothes and convention include a sense of freedom and a better self image.

Clothing Optional

"I've taken lots of friends to nudist beaches, both men and women," said Mark Storey, an editor of Nude and Natural magazine and a philosophy professor at Bellevue Community College in Washington State. Storey is also the author of Cinema au Naturel: A History of Nudist Film.

"Some of them walked away thinking it was great, some walked away thinking it was boring. But they all walked away thinking, Most people look somewhat like me."

Storey, like most naturism activists, points to most media portrayals of the human body as inaccurate distortions of what people really look like. "There are very few model-perfect people out there. At a nude beach, you get a more realistic perception of what humanity really looks like."

Nicky Hoffman, administrative director of the Naturist Society, said part of her group's mission is to promote an environment of body acceptance. "For girls especially, there is so much pressure in our society to be a perfect size. As a result, there is a whole generation of people killing themselves to meet a standard that is impossible. Part of living a naturist lifestyle is accepting your body and regaining a normal body image."

Hoffman further argues that when clothes are off, social distinctions shrink, creating a more level playing field for human interactions. It's hard to tell a bus driver from a lawyer without the social and professional markings of their dress.

"People will hide and mask themselves in a number of ways to look prettier, tougher, or to establish their social rank," Storey said. "But if you are buck naked chatting with someone, you'll be chatting with the real person. When you get past the fear factor and the initial embarrassment, you realize it allows for a more authentic human interaction."

Taboo in America

Continued on Next Page >>


SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES

ADVERTISEMENT

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S PHOTO OF THE DAY

NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.