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This report is brought to you by Brenda S.

The Naturist Perspective
by Brenda S.

I have recently completed research on issues facing the naturist community for a university project. In this article I will share my finding with you. You may associate these findings with your own naturist experiences and feelings.

Naturism, all you have to do is take your clothes off and your worries get thrown aside along with your clothes. Is this accurate? Maybe not! Although we still enjoy the time that we spend being nude, there are still many problems and issues involved with being a naturist.

There is a lot more to naturism than taking your clothes off in a public setting. This lifestyle that we participate in is relaxing and stress free but can be problematic at the same time. Many naturists are not able to integrate this lifestyle into everyday life, and may lead two lives. Few naturists are able to integrate this lifestyle into their everyday life, where all of their friends and family participates or has knowledge of their lifestyle.

Many non naturists believe that taking your clothing off is sinful and immoral, and teach this to their children. It's from this type of thinking that misconceptions are formed that equate nudism with sex and a corrupt mind. As naturists these types of beliefs are offensive and harmful. A good example is a teacher who is a naturist is terrified that her job will be in jeopardy if anyone finds out that she is a naturist because the school board would regard naturism activity of having loose moral character. Equating loose moral character with nudity is preposterous to naturists but makes sense to many other people because they equate nudity with sex. Education is the only method that can be used to counterbalance these misconceptions. If every person can understand that naturist resorts and clubs offer a wholesome and healthy family orientated environment, then we would not be subjected to external disapproval of our chosen lifestyle.

The lack of understanding and ignorance affects naturists in a negative way. We are confined to very few private (and expensive clubs) and our back yards. We don't have the rite to use any parks or beaches because of the strong opinions against nudism of MPP's and because we are such a small minority. If half of all Canadians were naturists then we would have sanctioned areas. Perhaps there are ways around restrictive legislature, but finding that route is the difficult part. The bible describes Adam and Eve, nude in the garden of Eden. There was no shame or immorality, just beauty and happiness. This makes me wonder why so many religious icons declare nudity immoral. Perhaps they chose to ignore the meanings that Genesis demonstrates.

The anti naturist point of view is that not wearing clothing is shameless. However, naturists can not quite understand the fixation with shame. We can not quite understand why one should be ashamed of their nude body. Perhaps shame comes from being scared to acknowledge one's imperfections as normal. Naturists agree that they are not shameful of the human body, perhaps it is this that binds the community.

Mentally, there is an association for many people between nudity and sex. Since there is an association that is already present, it is sometimes assumed that there is overt sexual conduct in the nudist/naturist environment. This is very much untrue, since the nudism community has strict rules about no sexual behavior. It is more taboo in the naturism environment than it is in other places because the naturism community is a family environment. The nudity equals sex misconception is embedded deep within many people in the world today. The only way in which naturists can counterbalance this misconception is by educating the non-naturist people.

Many naturists have pointed out to me that a lack of understanding what naturism is in the outside world is very apparent. Ignorance of the general population towards naturism affects the naturist community in a very negative way. Naturist organizations are trying to combat this ignorance of the general public through education. Today, the Federation of Canadian Naturists and like organizations are trying to make the public aware of what naturism really is. However, even with such organizations doing their best to overcome the "nude is lewd" idea, there are still too many people who maintain these ideas. Unfortunately, this hinders the naturism community. Since Canada is very conservative, there are only a few designated clothing optional beaches, none in the Toronto area. Naturism can only be practiced in very few private places. Extremely restrictive legislature is another issue that naturists face today. There is lack of clothing optional beaches and areas where naturists can be free to take their clothes off.

Another issue important to naturists are stigmas associated with clothing. Clothing has become an infatuation, a status symbol that people hide behind. People are judged by the clothes and ornaments they wear. Clothing separates people by ranks and uniforms. A man in a suit is important, a blue police uniform is a sign of authority. Naturists agree that it is okay to dispose of the social hierarchy created by clothing. When there is no clothing that separates people, everyone is equal. As one respondent told me; "There is only one uniform and everyone is wearing it." Almost every participant in the surveys and interviews conducted, stated that there is a great sense of equality that is present within the community. It seems that sexual differences are stressed through clothing, and not nudity. The sexual equality that is present at naturist clubs and gatherings is a big difference from everyday life outside of the naturist lifestyle. The only type of sex segregation that is present at naturist clubs is washroom segregation, even this is not always so.

Naturism includes the whole family. Clubs welcome children and have special playgrounds and pools for them. However, there are many people who do not include their children in this lifestyle. Generally, most people who were naturists before the birth of their children are more likely to raise their children in the naturist environment. Those who have discovered naturism after or during their child's teenage years are less likely to raise their children as naturists. Even those children who were raised in the naturist environment may separate themselves from naturism and then come back to it later in life. Teenage hood is difficult for a teen due to body and hormone change and naturist children are no exception.

Several club owners claim that raising your children in the naturist environment is a healthy way to raise children. If raised in an environment where nudity is no big issue, children grow up to be less curious of the opposite sex. Parents that I have spoken to have told me that they truly believe that naturism benefits their children in many ways.

The most apparent characteristic of the naturist lifestyle is the lack of stress. Every survey participant agreed that naturism alleviates stress. The time spent in the naturist environment is time spent at leisure. It is so relaxing to swim and sun and play sports. The atmosphere at resorts and gatherings is relaxing, friendly, easy going and fun. If one was to go to a normal swim at a neighborhood pool generally, they would not be in the habit of talking to people that they have never seen before. The atmosphere at naturist gatherings is the opposite, new faces are greeted and welcomed. It is easy to understand why people keep coming back to resorts or gathering, because they relax and like to meet people like themselves who enjoy what they do.

Another issue that is important to naturists, is that their mates may not be interested in naturism. I have heard about many of these cases, all of them occurred with men. The spouse of the naturist resents time spent in the naturist environment, as it takes away time spent with the spouse. This can cause problems in their marriage and family. On one side, it not always easy to support something that one does not believe in and on the other, it is not easy to give up something that you enjoy whole heartedly. Naturists respect that naturism is not for everyone, but they are greatly affected when their spouse is the one in that position. Although there are problems with non-naturist spouses, many naturists feel that they can not give up the naturist parts of their life. Most of the people that are in this type of situation are males. Of the people interviewed 36% of the individuals were in the situation where their spouse is not involved in naturism. Some are understanding, but many spouses are unsupportive. The numbers show that the nudist spouse is willing to come out alone. Every response received in this situation was received from the male participant.

When attending a nude swim in Toronto, the first thing I noticed was the lack of gender balance. More men were at the swim than were women. However, at naturist resorts, there is more of a gender balance. Naturist resorts prefer to have couples as members, and many resorts do not allow single men to join, or may even have a maximum number single men members. However, single women are more than welcome to join or visit and some clubs even have special discounted membership prices for women. Men are more attracted to naturism for many reasons. It is more acceptable for a man to be overweight than for a woman. Magazines portray beautiful women as exceptionally thin with make up. Men don't feel as pressured to be thin as women do. Many women feel that they don't have the perfect body, which 99% of the population does not possess. In the words of one survey respondent; "men will always explore new frontiers, women feel more safe with what they already know" Most of the survey participants were male, which suggests that there are more males than females in the lifestyle, which is what I noticed at naturist gatherings.

Some of my research has been done through the internet, surveys and web pages provided me with much needed information. Almost all of the web pages are very positive sites about naturism. However, one site was a negative one that alerted me to the problems facing many naturist families, with children. "Nude events all over the country were being used by pedophiles to network with one another and to meet , photograph and gain sexual access to children..." Many naturists are concerned about the type of people going to naturist functions, and to some degree, that was a topic that was mentioned in a few of the surveys collected. Although there are some documented cases of child molestation at naturist resorts, these are very few when compared to the non naturist environments. However, the fact that it does happen is some concern to everyone.

At the same time when looking at cultures that are tolerant of naturist and nudity such as Germany and France, there are much lower percentages of sex related crimes and a lower percentage of teenage pregnancies. This implies that the few cases of child molestation that may occur within the naturist community is of no comparison to the much larger percentage that occurs in non-naturist environments.

I noticed that there is an invisible line that is present when it comes to behavior within the community. Everyone knows what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. Physical touching is not common in the environment. Occasionally, there are people that do not act appropriately, such as touching intimately. When this occurs, they are either asked to stop or to leave the establishment. Inappropriate behavior undermines nudism and is dealt with immediately.

The issue of restrictive legislature affects most naturists in a negative way. Numerous naturists feel that they are being denied their right to be nude in public. To quote one survey respondent; "Nudity is a basic right by birth denied to us by society and cultural misconceptions."

Being a naturist offers both benefits and liabilities. The benefits occur naturally. Simply by shedding your clothes you shed your stress and socially assigned responsibilities. The liabilities come from non-naturists who gawk, denounce and regulate the naturist lifestyle.

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