Naturists Campaigning for Naturism

Is Naturism really just for the ‘old’?

What prompted this question was an article written by journalist Douglas Belkin, and originally published in The Wall Street Journal. I know; it’s like the Financial Times publishing a long article about British naturism by… oh picking a name at random, Stephanie Flanders. Anyway, the WSJ article told its readers how the memberships for The Naturist Society (TNS) and AANR had either flat-lined or declined steadily over the years, and what they were doing to correct the situation.

Of course, this is not a new problem and it is not confined to the US. Mark Storey looked at the issue for N Magazine and found declining memberships around the world. British naturism hasn’t been immune either. As I understand it, the latest membership figures for BN continue to show a slow, steady decline year-on-year. This is for individual memberships of course; the number of clubs is more-or-less static.

From the US perspective, Nicky Hoffman of The Naturist Society made perhaps the most telling remark. ‘The problem is, most… resorts aren’t geared [towards] young people. They’ve become like retirement homes; they’ve sort of calcified.’ What Ms Hoffman meant by this is that many of the resort (or clubs in the UK) have remained static offering nothing to entertain the more energetic beyond Miniten or volleyball. In the end, such places become somewhere for the very old and the very young as grandparents look after their children’s children during the school holidays. Meanwhile, those between are either too busy with their careers or prefer to be with people of their own age. Belkin wrote of a young man (22) who visited a resort for the first time in 2010 and said he enjoyed being naked until he spotted someone he knew from work and roughly his father’s age. He then spent the rest of the day avoiding him. ‘It’s not that I have anything against old people,’ explained the young man. ‘I just don’t really want to hang out with them at the pool.’

Well! There’s nothing like plain speaking I guess. Being someone born more than 50-years ago and likely to be a contemporary of that young man’s father, I guess I’m now officially old!

The answer that TNS and AANR have hit on is to let the ‘younger’ members tell people of their own age what naturism is like. The young have also done something for themselves using methods, like the different forms of social media.  For example, Young Nudists and Naturists of America – again according to Belkin’s article – held a ‘naked dinner party in a loft in New York’s financial district to recruit members.’ Having naked dinner parties are not new of course, or original, but it is where they were holding it that mattered and the people it was likely to attract. Can you imagine something similar being done in the City of London?

One Facebook site that readers might remember is Skinbook, which at one time boasted a membership reaching into five figures, but was then closed down by the original owner, for reasons not all that clear. A new Skinbook has emerged, with the same goals, but it is just a shadow of what it was, although it is still comparatively new. Another young naturist doing his bit for the cause is Andre Lawson-Walters with his website, iNaked.

So, it seems the young have plenty of ideas, could it be that the older generation isn’t listening? If not then I find that rather ironic, as people in their 60s and 70s now, were the first “teenagers” and rebellion against what went before is in their blood. Some might consider the actions of teddy boys and rockabillies to be the beginning of the end as far as society goes. Then again, others may think it was a big mistake getting down from the trees in Africa! The point is we were all young once, finding our way in a world that seemed not to be made for us. If naturism is to advance at all, then we need to encourage the younger generations to come forward and, in time, take control. But first, we must listen. Now, what would YBN suggest to help British Naturism, if asked?

Michael Farrar

I cannot let this moment pass without a few words of appreciation for Michael Farrar. If you’re not familiar with the name, he was chairman of British Naturism until last June, when his resignation was announced, a year earlier than planned, and after many years of voluntary service to BN. We may not have agreed with his actions, however he did them believing them to be right, and that is the best any of us can do. So, thank you Michael, for all your hard work.


3 Responses to Is Naturism really just for the ‘old’?

  • I must say that, though I am officially ‘old’ myself, on my occasional visits to ‘official’ naturist events and places they are indeed dominated by the elderly and the very young; the in-between generation is generally noticeably lacking. I am sure that this is because for them anything associated with the ‘old’ is basically ‘uncool’. Not sure if offering extra activities would make a difference. Probably the way forward is as you say for youngsters themselves to organise things for themselves – things like music festivals, sports events, etc. I recently attended the World Naked Bike Ride in London, which was a really excellent and exhilarating event, and though there were many older people there, there were also large numbers of every generation from teens upwards – the same goes for this event in other parts of the world. Something ‘radical’ and ‘cool’ like this, which is about environmental issues and not too staid and controlled appeals to the younger generation, I believe. I think in fact these kind of events are a promising development for the future, not least in making informal public nudity more generally accepted.

    • It’s great to get a comment to the blog, there are times when I wonder if I’m blogging into dead space? Anyhow, to business. Absolutely Iahgbr, it is that kind of thinking that probably laid behind the decisions made by TNS and AANR. Maybe the public events cannot be about naturism by itself to attract the 20-somethings and 30-somethings, but essentially about something else they care about, the environment for instance. The WNBR – which I attended btw but didn’t ride – is about how our living environment is swamped with cars! Nudity is there to show how vulnerable cyclists are when surrounded by cars and lorries. But as I say, it is no good the older generation putting on events they might like, it would be far better for them to organise their own events, which might then attract non-naturists of their own generation and they will see that just because you’re naked, the S-word doesn’t need to be mentioned. The thing is, we in NAG are aware that changing perceptions is a very long haul, it cannot be done over night, and these events for the middle generations should be just a part of any strategy.
      Good to hear from you. Do come again.

  • Firstly I would like to endorse the words of thanks to Michael Farrar. I too rarely agreed with his views, but who am I? There is no right or wrong in the world of opinions, only different directions. He did his best like all before him and any problems cannot have been even mostly his fault in such a short span of time.

    So…. is naturism just another form of retirement home. Wel, yes, actually, but not all from a negative standpoint. Kevin Porter very interestingly told me yesterday at Naturist Heaven that, although he has always espoused nudism, he had only done so socially for the past few years. Of course he wished he had done it earlier and feels that that applies across the board.

    So, have we always been this way? Would we have all loved to have “done the rounds” in our 20s and 30s, only for priorities to stand in the way, like security, a career, a family, a home, multifarious ancillary responsibilities, ego issues and what with strikes last Tuesday, Arsenal in the Cup and the state of the economy etc etc etc?

    I think Kevin has a point and the obvious conclusion is that many naturists take up the lifestyle late because default of all the above leaves a vast hole in their lives to fill.

    Another prime mover in the dearth of the teen and tweenie element in nudism is probably our obsessive society. Those age groups these days are pied-Pipered into a virtual reality world where you are your brand, or nothing. There are no Lacoste boobs, no Nike skin, so naturism is antipathetic to the younger generations’ lifestyles. The Naturist Foundation has the right idea, allowing dressed teens among kids (who you can’t keep the clothes on) and older nudists (who are past caring) in a rather odd dressed crab sandwich called “clothes optional”.

    But it is my understanding that too many clubs are far to strict on enforcing nudity; hence no younger members.

    Another own-goal is the blanket discouragement of the “single male” as is he were some lascivious pseudo-rapist. Damn, I am a single male and the chance for me to do something untoward would be a miracle of biblical proportion.

    The point here is the result of this “ban” and I am not sure if the clubs are being illogical or simply deviously clever. Like it or not, men and women ARE equal but they are NOT the same, and thank the Good Lord for that! I would hate to think the highlight of an evening out would be to chat up Duncan, John or Reg, LOL!

    The background here is cultural usage. The parameters are; most older naturists are married; most younger nudists are single. Therefore, singles tend to be the younger element. Since I awoke into this firmament, it has been clear to me that, traditionally, the male leads socially and the female follows, like it or not. So….. if the single male is banned from “leading” then consequently there will be no “single female” to follow.

    Ergo, the “retirement home” status quo is protected from disturbance by those noisy youngsters.

    Misunderstanding or deliberate?

    It does seem to me that the young brigade need to break away from the old school. Hearteningly this trend was all too apparent at Naturist Heaven yesterday, when the Alexs, Daryls, Mollies of the world provided a new source of energy that can only bode well for our future. Andrew released himself from the CCBN shackles to say all the right things; the Channel4 camera crew we both unobtrusive and positive. The keywords were tolerance and copmpromise. There has always been a “nude-or-nothing” caucus among the BN elders, which is not conducive to the naturist principles of tolerance and all-acceptance. Here it was clothes-optional, which is surely the democratic way, in the literal sense of democracy.

    The new drive is focusing now through the universities, where it will be met with newly-liberated, educated, inquiring minds. It has always been a tradition, even in my university days, that young social events and activities were started by students and others then followed.

    The country will also be scoured for minor Abbey House Gardens’s, an interest of all generations, but infinitely more young-person-friendly that the cyclopic club circuit.

    Also a catalogue of venues for non-lascivious (non-Jamie) discos is being investigated, with positive naturism-sensitive management planned.

    The missing persons? The dinosaur societies, the nudist clubs! They and the BN old school will be left to their self-locking devices. They have a very important, indispensible role to play…. but not in the new world.

    And all of this will not be naked, it will, as I said above, be clothing-optional, a complete break with traditional BN prejudices. That allows naturists and their non-nudist friends to share our wonderful lifestyle together. Who knows; naturism may in time cease to exist as a word as we become gradually homogenised. the one of our main visual barries,the “-ism” of being naked, will be removed.

    So, yes, naturism as we know it is an old person’s retreat. But….. soon it will be naturism as it is forgotten. The new wave is rolling on to our shores.

    Hugz, Will

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