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Useful Notes / Nudism

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One of the more misunderstood philosophies of the modern era, Nudism (also known as Naturism, Social Nudity, or Clothesfree) is at its heart a belief that nakedness is not inherently sexual or immoral, and that non-sexualised collective nudity is physically and mentally healthy.

Modern nudism has its roots in India in 1891. This first nudist club (never colony) had only three members and lasted less than a year, but inspired the roots of what would eventually grow into the Nudist movement. In the early 1900s, the book Nacktkultur was published in Germany by a doctor, who discussed the benefits of nudity in co-education and advocating nudity in athletic activities for health reasons. Two books by Richard Ungewitter (Nacktheit and Nackt) followed, citing nudity (alongside a healthy, athletic lifestyle) was the secret to a long and happy life. These books reached moderate success, and in 1903 the first organized nudist club, Freilichtpark (Open-Air Park), opened.

Meanwhile, in France, a similar movement was started in 1903, based on the practice of heliotherapy (the idea that light — particularly sunlight — has healing effects). In 1907, an organized nude swim was taking place at a prominent Roman Catholic college, and a report on the growing German naturist movement was published in a famous French cultural affairs magazine (The Revue des Deux Mondes). The first official nudist club in France was founded by a nobleman in 1926, alongside the first nudist magzine, Vivre. Others quickly followed, and after one victorious legal defense, nudism was found to be legal — provided the land was fenced and screened.

Around the same time this was happening in France, the United Kingdom was discovering nudism. Unlike their French and German counterparts (who favored clubs that were open to the public), the British clubs originally were secretive and closed membership — one had to be invited. These "sun clubs" would split up and grow over the next 30–40 years.

Around 1930, a German immigrant moved to New York and brought Nudism with him — he organized the first Nudist event in the woods just outside New York City and founded the American League for Physical Culture. Shortly afterward, a retired minister (who was also the vice president of the ALPC) founded the first nationwide Christian nudism movement, which he later renamed the American Sunbathing Association. These early clubs prohibited alcohol in order to promote a family atmosphere. Smaller, private clubs began to spring up in the late 1930s.

In eastern Germany, a nudist beach culture quickly became mainstream in the 1960s, partly as a form of protest, and partly because bathing suits were hard to come by during the communist era. For several decades, swimming and tanning in the nude was considered normal in many German states east of the border. This part of culture is still proudly displayed in German museums about the era, and has no sexual connotations whatsoever. Nudism is also relatively well accepted in mainstream German culture — it is not unusual to see topless or nude sunbathers in the parks in Berlin (the Tiergarten is famous for this) or Munich (the legendary Schönfeldwiese section of the Englischer Garten is internationally known for this).

In the Netherlands, virtually all beaches have a nudist section, and topless sunbathing is legal everywhere. It's very common to see women sunbathing topless in parks, on campus, or on their own balcony. Nudity is not censored on television (on most channels - the evangelical channel is an obvious exception), and most Dutch films tend to include one or two nude scenes. In the Dutch film rating system, nudity was not a factor, but in recent years this has changed.

Nowadays, the American Sunbathing Association (renamed the American Association for Nude Recreation) represents almost 300 clubs and is the United States' member association of the International Naturism Federation. It is, however, important to note that the United States lacks any legally protected clothing-optional beaches — any "nude beaches" in the United States are either exclusively illegal but ignored by the authorities, or private property that is being donated to the cause. (If you're wondering why they might ignore skinny dippers on the beach — tourism. Naked tourists, particularly those from Europe, bring in a lot of money.)

Another thing that should be noted is that when it comes to The United States, nudity is seen as a very big taboo for many people as many will view the idea of being naked the same as having sex. While it's hard to pinpoint when it started, some believe it began sometime around the 1980s. Nearly all nudity that appears on TV networks is always censored with Scenery Censor to block the private areas or complete blurring. This is also very true with certain anime, as anime like Dragon Ball may occasionally feature nudity in non-sexual situations.

In many countries, there are numerous views on nudity. One good example is Japan. While it can be used in some works as fanservice, it can also be used to convey innocence and purity, as a nude child or a panty shot isn't intended to be sexual. A nude child in Japanese media is actually meant to represent a child's lack of knowledge of sexuality. Take the Bathtub Bonding scene in My Neighbor Totoro where the father bathes with his two preadolescent daughters. In the United States, some people see the father as a pedophile where some will go as far as calling it child porn, while it's considered completely normal in Japan. The country even has public bath houses and onsens, while the United States barely has any, if they do at all. A majority of European countries usually have the same views as Japan, having a relatively high number of nude beaches and resorts. While the United States also has nude beaches and resorts, there are far fewer than compared to Europe and Japan.

The basic tenets of modern Nudism are varied and difficult to put into words. Some people claim a difference between Nudism and Naturism — these people suggest that Nudism is more focused on the social aspect of clothesfreedom, Naturism more focused on the health benefits. Others expand nudism to a belief in social equality, environmentalism, veganism, etc. There is also casual nudism, where people do not belong to any nudist groups but simply enjoy hanging around their home naked.

Generally speaking, most nudists believe in the following:

  • Nudity, in and of itself, is in no way obscene, rude or offensive. ("Nude, not lewd")
  • Clothing creates artificial social barriers between people. Removing said clothing helps break down those barriers.
  • The human body is inherently beautiful, no matter what shape, size, age or quirks it has.
  • Being naked is much more fun, and often more practical, than being clothed. It is also liberating.

Unfortunately, Nudism has gained a wide variety of rumors and outright lies around it in recent years. Some of the quick ones:

  • Nudists are not necessarily swingers or hippies — although swingers and hippies are frequently nudists. Nudist events, generally speaking, make an effort to desexualise the nudity.
    • Some exceptions to the latter exist: For example, one nudist camp in the southern United States has a yearly beauty contest which has taken on a life of its own in recent years.
  • They are Nudist clubs or campgrounds, never colonies. Very few nudist areas have permanent residents, and the exceptions are usually in warm climes and attract retirees.
  • Nudists never wear any clothes whatsoever and they walk around naked everywhere. This is untrue due to many places having laws that have different stances on nudity, making this impossible. Nudists usually only wear clothes when they know that they have to wear clothes at certain places like stores, but will likely be naked most of the time in their homes or anywhere else where it's acceptable.

See No Nudity Taboo for tropes related to nudism.

Tropes generally associated with Nudism:

  • Beach Episode: On a nude or topless beach
  • Exposed to the Elements: Averted again. Nudists wear clothing when it's appropriate. The idea is that there's nothing wrong with being nude, not that it's wrong to be clothed. If it's a chilly morning at the camp, folks throw on a shirt.
  • Hollywood Nudism is split down two general tropes:
    • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Nudists of the "what are clothes" variety.
    • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Nudists of the "who cares" variety.
    • Neither are particularly realistic portrayals of actual nudism — very few real life nudists actually do not understand the nudity taboo (precluding the Innocent Fanservice Girl), nor are there many that would ignore other people's opinion about their nudity (precluding the Shameless Fanservice Girl). Variants of both — nudists who don't really "get" what the big deal about nudity is, and nudists who outright reject clothing (when appropriate), are closer to actual modern nudism.
  • Home Nudist: A person who practices casual nudity at home.
  • Naked People Are Funny: But in an "odd" way. People who go to nudist clubs to look at attractive naked people instead often see about the same ratio of attractive/normal/ugly that they see in clothed people at the grocery store.
    • Lampshaded in an early Sluggy Freelance comic: "The biggest problem with nudist camps is the lack of quality control."
  • National Geographic Nudity: Nudism is directly responsible for breaking down the rules about nudity in film. Nudists fought for and earned the right to show nudity in films about nudism. In the 1950s, American filmmakers used this as a loophole to show nudity in their own films — cue a hundred thousand "Tales from a Nudist Colony" films, some of which were actually intended as pornography.
    • Playing the trope directly, it's important to note that unlike in the media, the average nudist is just that — average. Think about that the next time you walk by, say, McDonald's.
      • To this end, stag films would bring in not-so-average women to be recorded on nudist club grounds rather than film the actual members. Even more hilariously, the men usually wore shorts to avoid having to deal with male nudity whatsoever.
    • Modern "Nudism" movies, especially those sold online, tend to follow this trend — most of them involve 4+ attractive nude women doing something otherwise normal, such as playing in a pool or randomly doing yoga. These have very little to do with actual nudism, as shown from the lack of average looking girls, any form of men, and the fact that the actresses have tan lines. In fact, quite a few of these videos focus on petite or outright underage women, using the nudism moniker to get away with what amounts to softcore underage pornography.
  • Not What It Looks Like: It isn't exactly illegal to take pictures at a nudist camp, but it is strongly suggested that you always ask permission first and respect people's wishes. This goes double and triple when it comes to pictures of children. People going around with a camera taking pictures of everyone without asking first tend to get asked to either stop or leave - and the staff is not at all embarrassed about calling in the local authorities (who are fully aware they have a nudist camp nearby and don't have a problem with that) to step in in extreme cases. Despite how "rustic" the camp may be, everyone is aware any picture you take could be on the Internet in seconds flat.
  • Older Than They Think: Adamites were a Christian sect in the 2nd through 4th centuries AD who believed in returning to the innocence of the Garden of Eden, including the shedding of all clothes. Modern Christian Naturists occasionally cite the Adamites as inspiration for their beliefs.
  • Skinny Dipping: Many clubs prohibit swimsuits in the pool. There's really no need for them, and if you're too nervous to be naked in front of everyone out of the pool, then you probably don't want to swim with naked people anyway. Some clubs claim that the threads for swimsuits tend to clog pool filters.
  • Sleeps in the Nude: Referred to as "nocturnal nudism".
  • Walking Swimsuit Scene: Applies to girls and women who don't wear the top half of their bikinis to the beach/pool.
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: Zigzagged. Most people that aren't nudists usually see being naked, other than washing your body, as taboo and they fear the idea of anyone they don't know personally, (their lover or their kids) seeing them naked. If a non-nudist were to accidentally stumble upon a nudist beach/clothing optional beach, they would likely see the people walking around naked as very weird, while said nudists likely wouldn't see anything wrong with walking around naked. Similarly, a nudist sees nothing wrong with being in their home naked with the rest of their family, which may include their children, while a non-nudist might view it as creepy and wrong.

Works featuring nudism:

  • In the film series Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez, the gendarmes sometimes go hunting for nudists who go about their business on beaches where it is forbidden.
  • In the 2011 film Act Naturally, two estranged stepsisters inherit their father's nudist resort.
  • The anime Waiting in the Summer features Mio Kitihara, a character who comes from a nudist family and is depicted as a home nudist.
  • Swords and Claws and the whole franchise of the same name, is set in a world with no nudity taboo.
  • The Bare Pit is based on this lifestyle entirely.
  • In the 2023 film Somebody I Used to Know, Ally Brenner used to be a nudist. She rediscovers this part of herself over the course of the film, with a nudist resort featuring at the end if the film.
  • In the 2012 film Wanderlust, Wayne Davidson is the resident nudist at the Elysium commune. An example of Naked on Arrival and a subversion of Naked Nutter, with Wayne initially distressing the main characters with his nudity before being accepted as a perfectly normal person.
  • Laurie Tromette/Transonic primarily appears in the Marvel's comic series "Generation Hope" and "Young Avengers". As an example of Posthuman Nudism, her skin turned blue and patterned upon mutation and, with occasional exception, she abandoned clothing. As a shapeshifter, she has stated "I am naked, but I'm not naked-naked. My flesh becomes a costume." She also qualifies as a Shameless Fanservice Girl however she displays discomfort at being crassly objectified. A subversion of the Technicaly Naked Shapeshifter, Transonic has shapeshifting abilities, using them to hide her nipples amd genitalia, but she otherwise still appears naked.
  • The John Carter of Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs feature an entirely nudist cast. Everyone on Barsoom, including the titular human John Carter, is an example of Diamonds in the Buff, being explicitly but unremarkably nude, save for jewellery, a belt for weapons/pouches, and sometimes a cloak. See also Exposed Extraterrestrials as they are aware of clothing, but look down on it as unnatural: "Earth men, almost without exception, cover their bodies with strange, unsightly pieces of cloth, and their heads with hideous contraptions the purpose of which we have been unable to conceive" - Dejah Thoris, A Princess of Mars (1912)
  • In "Million Yen Women", Minami Shirakawa is a Home Nudist, explaining to her housemates that she doesn't like anything that obstructs her. She is always shown nude with a Scenery Censor.
  • Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen exhibits Posthuman Nudism, having abandoned clothing with his growing sense of disassociation with humanity. Upon reconnecting with his humanity, he is still nude whenever he is not hiding his identity in following appearances.
  • Morgan Mackenzie, of the "Fate's Anvil" books by Scott Browder, doesn't start as a nudist, her magic was learnt while naked and she needs it to survive the wilderness. Later she embraces nudism when she commits to a class that prevents her from wearing any clothing under any circumstances rather than selecting a class that would allow her to wear clothes again.

Alternative Title(s): Naturism