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What is Naturism/Nudism?


What is Naturism/Nudism?

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Although some see subtle differences in the words “naturist” and “nudist.” Many associations and federations around the world are happy to use either, SANNA (South African National Naturists Association) puts it quite simply “Naturism, also referred to as nudism is the practice of being nude as often as possible.” Some do insist there is a greater difference but let us deal with that elsewhere.

In this article, we will use the term “naturist” because it is the word we have grown up hearing but please feel free to insert the words “nudist” or “nudism” when reading if they are the words you are most used to using.

The most recognised definition was put into words in 1974 by the INF (International Naturist Federation). “Naturism is a way of life in harmony with nature characterised by the practice of communal nudity with the intention of encouraging self-respect for others and the environment.”

Not a bad suggestion and if we replace the words naturism/nudity with other positive feelings we can see how the sentence still makes sense. “Happiness is a way of life in harmony with nature characterised by the practice of communal happiness with the intention of encouraging self-respect for others and the environment.”

Replace the word with a negative state like hatred or anger and the sentence no longer makes any sense. So what we have is that naturism is a positive sense of being, like goodness or contentment.  Anyone considering whether they wish to try naturism should ask themselves do I want to be happy, if the answer is yes then they should try it.

Is it all Inclusive?

Unfortunately, people are not always able to be naked in a social setting. Maybe they are housebound, maybe it is illegal where they live, maybe they live too far away from a club or beach or maybe just too shy or nervous. Should a lack of community involvement mean they are not naturists? I don’t think so. If for example, you enjoyed cycling you may wish to learn in your back garden, you may just do it on an exercise bike in your home or cycle alone on roads or cycle tracks. You may get to a place where you wish to organise cycling with others and also join a cycling club but you are still enjoying and being a cyclist no matter how you manage to do it.

In an ideal world, we would all be able to be naturists in a social setting as it is great to be in the company of others. As NZNF (New Zealand Naturist Federation) say naturism “is a feeling of freedom and, for many social nudity is personally liberating. Through it, we come not only to accept ourselves but others as well.” Even if they are just strangers on a beach it is great to have human interaction of some kind or another.  Nowadays we have the internet so there are ways for many to join communities that they were unable to find a few years back. It is not the same as actual physical company, but for many, it is a good alternative and for others, it may be a stepping stone to actually getting out onto a beach or joining a club.

SANNA sums it up nicely “For naturists being nude is natural, comfortable, and about the freedom of being without restrictive clothing. It’s a healthy and liberating experience and promotes self-respect, body confidence and a positive body image. Some enjoy being nude in the privacy of their own homes alone or with their family, while others enjoy socializing with friends, going to resorts or beaches and spending time in nature in the nude. It’s also a lot of fun!”

What isn’t Naturism?

It isn’t living in a cave without electricity! It doesn’t mean living completely without clothes. Though that would be nice. We use clothes for protection, warmth and social interaction in which clothes are expected.

Naturism isn't Sexual and is not about Pornography

The Isreal Naturist Society state "Pornography is not naturism, even if it is marketed as such. The attitude of naturist to the human body is the exact opposite of that of the sex industry and pornography, which uses the body as a product and markets it for the enjoyment of others." and they add "Naturists do not welcome signs of sexual arousal, and certainly not sexual activity in public."

The NZNF write on the subject “The public has a misconception that nakedness must be sexual as most people only undress to take a shower or have sex. But naturists know there are other situations (i.e. normal daily life) where you can be naked and feel good without it being sexual. Naturists are not against sexuality but agree that there are appropriate times and places to experience it.”

It isn't about Exhibitionism or Voyeurism

The NZNF also point out that it isn’t about being an exhibitionist. “An exhibitionist will expose their body to shock others or seek attention. Naturists do not agree with this type of behaviour. An exhibitionist will soon lose interest at a naturist club as the “Wow- look at me” factor is non-existent. Naturists just enjoy being nude.” Likewise, voyeurism is not part of naturism, people who find sexual pleasure in watching others nude are not welcome on beaches or in clubs. We, naturists, wish to enjoy our environment without feeling that we are being ogled at, or being secretly photographed.

Naturists like most people enjoy watching people and like to be noticed and to be found attractive. That is part of social interaction. Getting sexual pleasure from seeing others or being seen is completely different.

There are times when nudity is used to make people think about certain ideas, attract attention to certain causes or even just think about the human body. Is a nipple any more worthy of censorship just because it is female? Should the genitals cause any more offence if exposed than a kneecap? Whether this sort of nudity helps naturism itself is open to debate, but on the whole, I don’t think it is anything that naturists should take offence to.

So it is Family-friendly then?

SANNA states that “Naturism is a healthy activity for the whole family. Children are natural naturists and benefit greatly from a relaxed attitude to nudity from an early age. If you teach your children that nudity is natural and their bodies are not something to be ashamed of they will learn to respect their bodies and develop a positive body image.”  They sensibly advise “Children should always be under the supervision of their parents, nude or clothed, and should  never be forced to take their clothes off if they don’t want to.”

What does Family Mean to You?

The traditional meaning of family is a group of people who are related to each other, such as a mother, a father, and their children. Many people no longer live in such traditional families. The idea in the minds of many youngsters is that a family is a group of people who you can rely on, who respect you and make you feel secure and comfortable. They are not necessarily related to you by blood but instead connected through mutual sharing with no hatred or judgement.

Many naturists must see their local club as an extended family. I have seen many groups of people on naturist beaches regularly meeting to share food, chats and to take it in turns interacting with the various younger members of the group while others switch off for a while. Try using the idea of “familiness”  in the INF definition of naturism and once again we see a very satisfactory definition.

Both naturism and families work best when adhering to high moral standards and discipline. Naturism needs these standards for society to believe in naturism as a respectable lifestyle. Families need them to encourage society to continue to want to understand and respect other peoples lives and choices.

And it is Universal..

There are countries whose laws prohibit social nudity. Some people believe that their religious faith is against the idea. Others just see it as wrong. We believe that naturism should be part of basic human rights. Why should anyone be seen as causing offence or breaking the law purely through being naked? Why should anyone consider it wrong or consider their god as seeing it as wrong? Everyone should have the choice to decide on appropriate attire, at appropriate times and at appropriate venues. Many countries accept the idea that it is inappropriate behaviour while naked (or dressed) that should be treated as a punishable offence and not the act of being naked (or dressed!). This idea should be considered by cultures, laws and religions all over the world.

Thanks for reading - Anna and Steve 

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Anna and Steve have shared over 150 articles and blog posts on and write regularly for naturist publications. If you would like to collaborate with them on any naturist / nudist promotional activity or quote from any of their work please contact them via email at [email protected]