What is naturism?
In essense, naturism is a lifestyle enjoyed without clothing. But it can get a little more complex, as naturism means different things to different people. There are some people who like to go nude 24/7, or as much as possible, whatever the weather. Some like to be social, some are more solitary. For most naturists in the UK, going without clothes is something that is enjoyed when it is appropriate and natural to do so, be that around the house, in a secluded garden, on a naturist beach, or at a naturist club, spa or resort. For many naturists, going nude is accompanied by a greater attention to healthy living and being in harmony with the natural environment. The bottom line (pun intended!), though, is that being without clothing can be a liberating experience, and there is nothing harmful, shameful or embarrassing about the naked body.
But what if I am self-conscious about my body?
Once you are among like-minded company (for example, at a naturist club or on a naturist beach), you will soon find that, although we are all different, we are all the same too in that very few of us are perfect. Lumps, bumps, wrinkles and scars are what make us normal human beings, and naturism is all about body acceptance. Far from feeling self-conscious, if you join in you will almost certainly forget your hang-ups in no time. In fact, if you’re the only one who’s dressed, you may feel even more left out. Young, old, fat, thin – it really doesn’t matter. However, if going naked among friends makes you think more about how you could look and feel healthier, then this too is a good thing – but it must be for yourself, and not to please others.
Do I have to strip off?
No-one should ever force you to do anything you don’t want to do, and most naturist venues have a relaxed attitude towards first-timers and let them go at their own pace. Venues that describe themselves as ‘clothing-optional’ are generally recommended for first-timers as they don’t insist on people being naked all the time. The only place where you are very likely to be told to be naked is in the swimming pool – cossies are a real naturist no-no!
Where can I go?
You can start with your own home. If you like the idea of going naked, then (if it’s warm enough) try walking around the house nude and getting comfortable in your own skin. Get used to looking at yourself in the mirror, even if you’re not happy with your body. It’s your body, and it’s the only one you’ve got – learn to love it for what it is. Once you feel ready to join others, there are a host of places in the UK, for starters – see the Club Guide for a comprehensive listing. There are beaches all around the UK coast where naturism is officially sanctioned (not that going nude is illegal on non-naturist beaches, but you do have to exercise caution here). There are also scores of naturist clubs around the country, so there’s bound to be one near you. They will have a range of facilities and activites to enjoy as nature intended, and you should receive a warm welcome, as naturists are a friendly, social bunch in general. British Naturism also organises a range of annual events for you to meet others and get involved in the UK naturist scene. And if the weather isn’t great here, then there are countless opportunities for naturist holidays abroad. Spain, France and Portugal are among the most popular destinations, along with some great places in Greece, and further afield in the USA and Caribbean. See the ads on this site for some ideas, and a quick Google will bring up even more. Don’t let the closure of specialist naturist holiday firm Peng Travel lead you to think naturist holidays are not in vogue – they most certainly are, more than ever – it’s just that package holidays are a bit old-fashioned and more people are ‘doing it themselves’ and booking flights and accommodation online.
Do I need any essential accessories?
As naturism is about removing your clothes, it is one of the cheapest pursuits there is. However, there is one essential accessory – and that is a towel. If you are socialising with others, it is the done thing to carry a towel with you and use it to sit on, in the interests of hygiene. Other accessories are just a matter of common sense – for instance, if you’re travelling to a remote beach that requires a bit of a walk, bring some sensible footwear, and if you’re going on a naked walk on a beach or in a remote woodland area, always take a pair of shorts or a sarong to cover up with if you see someone approaching. And if it’s hot and sunny, then an appropriate sun lotion is a must. Just because you’re a naturist doesn’t mean you have to be a sun-worshipper all of the time. Stay sensible and safe.
I’m a man… will I get an erection, and what will happen if I do?
This is very frequently asked question, to which the answer is usually: it’s very unlikely to happen. Contrary to popular opinion, nudity in its simple state is not sexual, and naturist clubs are not sexualised environments. The diversity of young, old, fat, thin (see above) should mean that sex is the last thing on your mind. If you’re nervous or stimulated and it does happen, the best thing to do is to cover yourself with a towel, roll over on to your front until it subsides, or take a dip in the pool. The worst thing you can do is walk around parading it. This is likely to see you get chucked out of your club.
What if it’s my time of the month?
Don’t worry at all – it’s perfectly normal for women to wear bikini bottoms or sarongs if they’re on their period, and everyone will understand and not think twice about it. You won’t be asked to remove them.
Can I take pictures of my friends?
Be very careful when you get your camera out. Venues might have strict rules on photography, as obviously people may be sensitive about pictures of them naked appearing where they don’t want them. Make sure you know the club’s policy on cameras before you start snapping away. Make sure you have the express permission of people you are taking photographs of (if you’re a professional photographer, ask them to sign a model release form), and try your best not to get anyone else in the background in the shot. If you’re on a beach, again, exercise caution. By all means, take photos of you and your friends, but don’t point the camera indiscriminately, and especially not if there are children around.
Can I take my children?
Of course! Children benefit greatly from a relaxed attitude to nudity from an early age. If they are taught that the naked body is something to be hidden from others, this can lead to severe hang-ups about body image in later life. Lead by example and show them that there is nothing wrong at all by being naked. If they catch sight of you coming out of the bathroom, don’t shriek and grab a towel! Just act naturally around your children. Many clubs in the UK have family-friendly facilities – and, quite simply, families are vital for many clubs’ continued success, and for the health of naturism as a lifestyle. Your children are safe within naturist clubs: British Naturism has a child-protection policy in place which the vast majority of clubs are in step with, and club staff regularly attend training courses. There is arguably far greater supervision of children within a naturist club than elsewhere. Naturism really is for all the family, so do get everyone involved.
What will other people (my friends and family, for example) think if I tell them I’m a naturist?
Well, here is your opportunity to tell them, and dispel any myths! They will only think it’s weird and wrong if they are misinformed, and you as a naturist have a great chance to put them right about what the lifestyle really is all about. You could direct them to websites such as H&E and BN, all of which promote a healthy, non-sexual approach to nudity. You really would be helping the movement progress. It is understandable, though, that some naturists choose not to tell others about their lifestyle. We do sadly still live in an age where the mention of nudity sends some people into a fit of the vapours, and people in some child-centred professions such as teaching choose to keep their naturism secret as it might lead to more trouble than it’s worth. This is sad, as naturists have nothing whatsoever to hide, and there is nothing shameful or wrong about nudity. We would always advise openness and honesty wherever possible – because if you are secretive, it looks like you do have something to hide, which is not the right impression.