TAKE IT OFF! (Introduction to Naturism)
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Nobody knows, for certain, exactly how many naturists there are in the world but the numbers of those enjoying a clothes-optional lifestyle appear to be on the increase.

A 1999 study, by the Federation of Canadian Naturists, found that 2.7 million Canadians have visited, or are willing to visit, clothing-optional beaches, naturist clubs or resorts. A further 3.5 million Canadians are comfortable skinny-dipping in mixed company.

Unfortunately, naturism still carries a stigma - born largely of ignorance. To some, naturists are well-meaning but slightly dotty individuals who flit naked through the woods, pausing coyly behind strategically placed leaves. To others, they are immoral hedonists, congregating in mixed groups to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh in orgies not seen since Caligula hung up his toga. Or they are pornographers, perverts and child molesters intent on corrupting the 'normal' way of life.

As with any prejudice, based on misinformation, misconceptions and vivid imaginings, the realities of naturism are very different indeed. What follows is intended to put right some of the misconceptions, play devil's advocate with some of the prejudices, and hopefully convince you that naturism can be of benefit to everyone - especially you!

SO WHO ARE THESE NATURISTS?

Well, it can truthfully be said that all of us are naturists under our clothes!

Naturists come from all walks of life. A naturist might be a doctor, a lawyer, a housewife, a checkout clerk, a teacher, a priest,…, rich, poor, blue-collar, white-collar, self-employed, unemployed… You don't have to have taken illegal substances during the sixties, own every album Bob Dylan ever made or have named your offspring Moonchild or Rucksack. Anyone can be a naturist. The only qualification needed is a genuine desire to enjoy a clothes-optional lifestyle!

IF GOD HAD WANTED US ALL TO BE NAKED, HE WOULDN'T HAVE INVENTED CALVIN KLEIN.

Guys, have you ever gone to a tailor to be fitted for trousers and been asked which side you 'dress' on? Why do they do this? Simply because, as most men know, if you get this wrong the trousers can be somewhat uncomfortable!

Any woman who's ever worn a bra knows that lifting and separating might give a pleasing outline under a sweater but that you could just as easily call it pinch and strangulate.

Clothes often force your body into shapes and positions that aren't natural. How many men truly enjoy wearing a collar and tie? How many women have pulled on a girdle because they really wanted to?

The next time you've been dressed up 'to the nines' take a look in the mirror when you've undressed. Have a look at the crease marks around your waist, from the belt that was too tight, or the deep gouges in your shoulders, from your Wonderbra, or the ribs around your shins, from socks, and the redness of your poor little toes, from being squashed into fashionable shoes.

Nudity is the most natural thing in the world. Despite the fact that the fashion industry wants us to believe we cannot live without their latest creations; we are all born naked! (There are some, of course, who would, no doubt, prefer that all baby boys emerge pre-clad in a three-piece business suit and baby girls pop out wearing pinafore dresses and tights.)

We live in a society that has come to view the human body as something to be ashamed of and hidden from sight. Naturism takes the opposite view. It regards the human body as good, normal, varied and something that needs covering only if its owner wants to cover it. There is nothing lewd, crude or distasteful about the unclothed body.

COME ON — ADMIT IT. YOU'RE ALL JUST SEX MANIACS!

Well, assuming that naturists are representative of the population as a whole, it's entirely possible that we number the odd sex-maniac amongst us. The law of averages makes it likely that there are also some fetishists, a healthy quota of gays and lesbians, a celibate or two and a handful of swingers. There are probably even a few naturists who gain a sexual thrill from dressing up! But all of this ignores one very important point:

NATURISM HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SEX!!!

For many people, the only time they are naked with someone else is during a sexual experience, so it's understandable that they would have difficulty separating the two…but separate they are.

It's a little like kissing.

A kiss is a sexual act, yes, but it also has many innocent meanings: a gesture of friendship and welcome, a way of saying hello and goodbye, a comforting gesture or, if you live in Hollywood and air-kiss, it can mean anything from 'Fancy seeing you here' to 'Drop dead you cow'!

We all know what's appropriate and what's inappropriate - depending on whom you're kissing. If you're alone with a lover, then a little tonsil hockey would be entirely correct; if you're saying 'Happy Birthday' to Granny, then tongues are probably not appropriate.

The majority of naturist clubs and resorts are family oriented, and all are on the lookout for voyeurs or anyone acting in a suggestive or crude manner. Anyone at a naturist resort who made overt sexual gestures or inappropriate remarks would be asked (often forcefully) to leave.

One benefit of nude recreation is that it takes place in a non-threatening atmosphere where people are free to relax, let their guard down, and be themselves.

Naturist resorts share many similarities with the other kinds of resort, the exception being simply that clothes are optional for most of the activities happening there.

ISN'T IT UNCOMFORTABLE THOUGH, NEVER BEING ALLOWED TO WEAR CLOTHES?

It isn't a question of never being allowed to wear clothes! There are lots of situations where the wearing of clothes is very sensible — and naturists don't remove their brains with their underwear!

Naturism is meant to be freeing and relaxing. If you live in Canada, a long nude walk through the woods, in the middle of January, is probably not a good idea. Similarly if you are at a naturist resort and feel that your skin has had enough sun for one day, you won't be tossed out for daring to put on a T-shirt or a hat. Some sports may even require the use of protective gear. Footwear, for instance, is always a good idea.

There are few circumstances in which it is mandatory to be naked, and naturists are not campaigning for a clothes-free world. They just don't see concealment as the sole reason to wear clothes.

BUT I'M A GUY — WITH ALL THOSE NAKED BODIES AROUND WHAT IF MY LITTLE BUDDY?… YOU KNOW?…

After a little while, in the company of new friends at a naturist resort, the only thing you're likely to forget is that people are naked at all. It just isn't an issue.

Of course, becoming a naturist doesn't mean that your normal body responses stop. Men get erections — it's a fact of life. They're as natural as the weather and sometimes just as unpredictable. Just when you're hoping for a depression in the mid-west, suddenly all is bright, sunny and positively perky! It is, however, much less of a problem in a nudist setting than you might suppose — simply because the social atmosphere among naturists is very relaxed and non-sexual. If it does happen then it's just a matter of using common sense. You'd maybe want to roll over for a little while, take a swim or practice a little strategic towel placement!

AS A WOMAN, THOUGH, WHEN I'M HAVING MY PERIOD I GUESS I CAN'T GO NAKED.

Not so. It depends largely on how comfortable you feel with it. Naturists understand that menstruation is a natural part of life and you won't be singled out for special notice. The use of tampons enables women to take part in most naturist activities. If you prefer to use pads instead, or if you would just feel more comfortable doing so, wearing shorts is perfectly acceptable during your period.

I COULD NEVER BE A NUDIST — JUST LOOK AT MY BODY!

Stop reading those magazines!

Naturism isn't about comparing bodies. Naturists are not exhibitionists. It's about enjoying the freedom that a clothes-optional atmosphere brings.

Naturism is about accepting the human body for everything good about it and not something to be ashamed of. So men don't need to hit the gym for six months, buffing their muscles to perfection, and women don't have to look like Baywatch babes. The entertainment and advertising industries are mostly responsible for promoting this cult of bodily perfection but, the truth is, the vast majority of people do not now, nor are they ever likely to, resemble this impossible ideal.

For naturists there is no such thing as too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too hairy… Nobody's going to comment on the size or shape of your breasts or critically evaluate your genitalia. If you have any surgical scars or other distinguishing marks — don't worry — just ignore them like everyone else does. For most people, their initial discomfort disappears very quickly, once they realize they are not being judged by their appearance.

BUT WHAT DO PEOPLE GET OUT OF IT? IF IT'S NOT ABOUT SEX, JUST WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

It's about comfort, relaxation, freedom from restriction and, to a very large degree, it's about honesty.

With 'nothing to hide behind', naturists are judged on their personalities alone. This is very healthy, because it means that naturist relationships are built on openness and, as people get accustomed to being open with one other, there is less temptation to embellish! People's true personalities usually come out when they're nude and, as a result, naturists often form close non-sexual friendships with a very strong bond.

Honesty also spreads to most other aspects of naturist living. At naturist resorts, thefts and other crimes are almost non-existent.

Being nude is incredibly relaxing. The feeling of air, sun and water on the skin is a terrific antidepressant. Most people know this of course: Even non-naturists can't wait to rush outside on sunny days and rid themselves of all but a tiny fraction of clothing! It's really not that great a step to go from wearing a swimsuit the size of an amoebae to wearing nothing at all. That final bit of freedom makes a huge difference.

Many people, suffering from pressure at work, have said that being at a naturist resort is the best way of relieving stress they know of!

Many naturists engage in sports and other leisure activities, which obviously has a positive benefit, provided you don't overdo it!

And just think, you need never worry again about turning up at a Wine-and-Cheese in the same outfit as someone else!

IT CAN'T BE HEALTHY FOR CHILDREN THOUGH, SURELY.

On the contrary; children who grow up in a naturist environment usually have far fewer hang-ups than other kids. Once again, they are not being subjected to premature sexual situations. They grow up amongst other children and adults with an understanding that the body is not something to be hidden and ashamed of. They know the anatomy of the human body well so it is less of a 'taboo' to be explored at the first opportunity. There are fewer incidences of teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and criminal behavior amongst nudist children than other kids.

Children are born-nudists too. They only begin to realize they are naked and wonder whether they should be wearing clothes because adults tell them so and dress them in certain ways.

It's a sad fact of life that there are people who would harm or abuse children — naturists are not these people. Children are protected in the naturist community. They not only always have their parents near them but are around their peers and a group of adults who all view nudity in a natural, non-sexual and healthy way.

SO WHAT DO I NEED TO BECOME A NATURIST? AND WHERE WOULD I PUT MY SUNGLASSES!?

Absolutely nothing! Nudism has to be the only pastime for which the sole requirement is just what you were born with. For many people it isn't just a pastime — it's a way of life.

Of course, depending on what you're going to be doing, you might want to be prepared. If you're about to be exposing parts of your body that normally don't even see the light of day, never mind the direct sun, you'll want to apply a good sunscreen. If you're going to a nudist club or resort, you will probably want to make sure you have some comfortable footwear, towels, maybe a sun-lounge etc. You should also check out the catering facilities, as you might want to bring a picnic lunch. Basically, it's just the same as packing for a visit to the beach… you just forget to include your swimsuit.

As for the sunglasses, well, friends have told me that nipple rings are the perfect holders for their Ray-Bans. If you don't fancy body piercing, though, a small bag slung around your neck or carried with you is the perfect repository for your small change and other necessities.

THAT FIRST STEP'S GOTTA BE A BIGGIE! I'M SURE I WOULDN'T KNOW WHERE TO LOOK!

You'll naturally feel a little self-conscious at first. After all, we live in a society that criminalizes public displays of nudity (except, of course, on television, in films or in magazines) because it equates nudity with sex and sex is evil, right? . So it can take a little while to get used to being in a community where nudity is not only not taboo, but positively encouraged!

Remember, though, that people aren't going to be judging you. They may be naturally curious at the arrival of newcomers, just as you'd expect, but the likelihood is that the welcome will be warm and your nudity unnoticed.

You might think that your eyes will betray you and you'll be staring at people's dangly bits all the time, but you won't. In fact, at first you might be trying so hard not to look that you dare not move your head! In a very short time though, you'll adjust and begin to regard naked people as normal — just the as if they were dressed.

Naturist resorts are private places. You won't be subjected to any publicity, and people won't take photographs of you — unless you allow it. In fact, certain places only permit photography in designated areas and some don't permit it at all. Your membership in any naturist organization will be kept strictly confidential.

SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Most countries, with a few notable exceptions, have officially designated nude beaches. Public opinion is changing and the nudist lifestyle is increasingly being accepted as healthy and natural. Of course, there will always be those people for whom nudity is uncomfortable, even sinful, but people are entitled to their own (stupid) opinion. Naturists are not out to force everyone into their clothes-optional lifestyle - it is an individual decision. The benefits, however, are very genuine.

Still dressed? What are you waiting for?

This article was plagiarized, shamelessly, from an unpublished work © Steve Myers. Copyright © 1997 NetNude Inc.