Friday, May 20, 2011

Are Nudist Clubs & Resorts the Answer?

In post, "The Same Old Question", I mentioned that the evidence suggests that young adults reject old school nudism. In particular it seems they shy away from visiting traditional nudist landed clubs and resorts. Today I wanted to look at some suggestions that have been put forth for changing that.

Focus on the Clubs & Resorts

As Nikki Hoffman noted when she was interviewed for recent Wall Street Journal article on the decline of nudism & naturism, traditional nudist clubs & resorts simply aren't geared to attract the 18-35 demographic. I think it is hard to disagree with that since young adults seem to be staying away from traditional nudist venues in droves.

One suggestion frequently put forth in the interest of attracting more young adults to the clubs directly and nudism indirectly centers on changing the economic model. Most results charge annual membership fees as they always have. One club I have personal knowledge of allows a person only three visits before he or she must either purchase an annual membership or stop visiting. Tom Mulhall, who owns The Terra Cotta Inn resort with his wife Mary Clare, in a comment posted at Nudist Day, declared that landed clubs should stop charging annual membership dues and go to a charge per visit model.

Tom isn't the only one who believes that the high cost of annual memberships, which from personal experience run $300 or more per year, serves as a barrier to participation by young adults, many of whom simply can't afford them. The vast majority (90%) of the readers of this blog who participated in the most recent poll indicated that annual memberships should not be required but made an option. That way those who preferred to purchase them could but everyone would have the pay-as-you-go option of paying per visit.

It is true that younger adults, many of whom are just starting out in the workforce or only working part-time while attending college, likely find costly memberships unaffordable. At resorts where a person can visit only a few times without buying a membership, I agree that it could be a reason young adults might not visit. Yet it costs a good deal of money to operate clubs & resorts and seems reasonable to assume that those who sold fewer annual memberships would have to charge more in the way of per visit fees.

Day fees are already pretty pricey at many clubs in comparison to other recreational activities. Perhaps a change of economic models would then merely substitute one economic barrier for another. Yes, others have suggested offering discounted daily fees to young adults to counteract that, yet I am simply not convinced that the cost factor is really the reason why young adults don't find traditional nudist venues a major attraction. I tend to agree with Nikki Hoffman in that clubs & resorts simply don't offer what young adults are looking for.

Suggestions that have been put forth to attract younger adults that involve a change of focus on the part of club owners and managers to me make more sense than changing the way people pay for access. Some recommend that clubs establish specific areas devoted to young adults. I think it has to be accepted that many twenty to thirty year olds simply have no interest in hanging out nude with a group of people who are predominantly the age of their grandparents. As an alternative to segregation by age, another frequent suggestion is setting aside specific dates where the clubs are only open to those between the ages of 18-35. Some clubs already host annual weekends devoted to college age adults and have found success in attracting young adults for these events. Perhaps such events simply need to be offered on a more frequent basis.

Offering programs and activities aimed at young adults is another common suggestion. The traditional activities ─ potluck dinners, volleyball, themed dances, etc, simply aren't the kind of things younger adults find appealing. A little market research into the recreational likes and dislikes of the younger set might reveal things clubs could offer to enhance the appeal.

Certainly clubs could I think make some changes that might make the venues more appealing to the younger generation yet in my own opinion, the existing club model, even among clubs willing to incorporate major changes, simply is not the means by which nudism is going to attract younger adults in greater numbers. Rural-based clubs, often an hour or more from urban centers are I think the past not the future of nudism & naturism in this country.

Next time, we will take a look at some of the unconventional means used by some groups that have proven successful in attracting young adults to nudism.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Same Old Question

In the last week I have come across no less than a half dozen new articles predicting the end of nudism. Each focused on what now should be a familiar theme ─ the aging of nudists resulting from the inability of the nudist establishment to attract young adults to the lifestyle. Although the question, "What can be done to attract young adults to the nudist lifestyle?" has been discussed to the point that some may see broaching the topic again as beating the proverbial dead horse, this new round of articles prompted me to revisit the topic once again.

Young Adults Reject Old School Nudism

One article in particular noted that adults who are members of Generation Y and Generation X (the 18-43 age groups) simply have little interest in traditional nudist clubs and resorts. At least with regard to the nudist venues I visit regularly, the points of the article seem valid. Very rarely have I encountered men or women of the younger generations. As a member of the Baby Boomer generation in my mid-fifties, frequently I find myself among the youngest at the landed clubs I visit.

It is no secret that membership in major nudist organizations has been flat or declining over the past several decades. Both AANR and Naturist Society membership stopped growing years ago. Many people now in their twenties and thirties simply aren't interested in joining. Another article noted that even the operators of nudist cruises and upscale nudist resorts are now starting to feel the pinch of a declining nude recreation industry that can't simply be attributed to economic circumstances.

With nudists growing more grayed and wrinkly and many even dying off, is America in danger of running out of nudists? Nicky Hoffman, head of The Naturist Society believes it could happen. Quoted in the May 2, 2011 Wall Street Journal article, "Wearing Only a Smile, Nudists Seek Out the Young and the Naked," she stated, "The whole lifestyle will just disappear unless we attract a younger crowd." Also according to Ms. Hoffman, "The problem is most of these resorts aren't geared to young people. They've become like retirement homes; they've sort of calcified."

Defining the Problem by Examining the Question

“How can we attract more young adults to nudism & naturism?” When I consider this question, I think it all boils down to the word "attract" and what we mean by attracting them. Both AANR and The Naturist Society have attempted to reach out to young adults and have tried to find new ways to appeal to the younger generation. Both have asked their younger members to reach out to their peers. AANR has organized an entire program, Vita Nuda, aimed at the under 35 demographic. Yet the slick videos produced by Vita Nuda that I've seen on You Tube seem an attempt to market nudism in the same old ways using younger spokespeople.

The thing is, the two big American nudist organizations seem to be searching for a program or solution to bring young adults into the existing nudism structure and therein I think we find the problem. If the under 35 crowd doesn't find the existing structure greatly appealing, to borrow a campaign quip from Barack Obama, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." To gain any real attraction among young adults, there will have to be some fundamental changes to the existing nudism structure. I'm not suggesting that the more than 250 nudist clubs and resorts in the U.S. need to go away. I do think there are ways that the existing clubs and resorts can find to appeal to a younger generation. But I also think it is time that nudists accept that nudism isn't defined by clubs and resorts. No matter how trendy, grand, amenities-intensive, or whatever they may be, clubs and resorts are only incidental to the survival of nudism. Nudists are nudism and it's the lifestyle that is fundamentally important.


In the next post, I will share some suggestions that I as well as others propose for improving the attraction of existing clubs & resorts. In a third and final related post, some new, unconventional strategies that have shown success in attracting young adults will be examined.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Part 3: Nudism as a Cultural-Political Movement

A simple evaluation of the lifestyle against those discrete elements that define a cultural-political movement disqualifies nudism and naturism as such. Consider these examples:

While we have two national membership organizations, AANR and The Naturist Society neither body serves as cohesive leadership. Neither works to curry favor from among the country's political and economic power brokers, necessary to launch a movement.

Our community does little in the way of actively recruiting new participants either on a strategic or tactical level. Our national organizations focus on "educating" the masses and "promoting" nude recreation as a wholesome, healthy lifestyle but do little if anything in the way of getting the message out to the average non-nudist that forcing the lifting of the societal imposed restrictions on the responsible practice of nudism would positively impact on the civil liberties of all. That is I think an area where we all, from the national organizations to individual nudists fall woefully short.

In an environment where civil liberties for all are shrinking at an alarming rate, it seems to go virtually unnoticed. Our centralized governments grow larger, more powerful, and less responsive to calls for change and no one seems to care as the reality of an Orwellian society looms ominously on the horizon.

Recruiting those who share similar values and patriotic principles from among general society in support civil liberties, irrespective of their opinions on nudism is essential if nudism is ever to gain any traction toward becoming a more mainstream part of American culture.

All successful cultural-political movements of the past were able to do this. A great number of white Americans who were not personally impacted by racial segregation joined with black Americans in the cause of equal civil rights during the American Civil Rights movement. These individuals were made aware of fact that they too were stakeholders in the movement even if only indirectly affected by racial inequality and segregation.

Neither our national nudist organizations nor we as individuals do much in the way of removing barriers to participation for potential recruits to our cause. We haven't done enough to counter the stereotypes and stigma that so many in our society associate with our culture. Until and unless we do, we are going to find it tough going to recruit allies from among the members of general society or to develop support among those holding the reins of political and economic power. Who outside the culture of nudism wants to be saddled with the reputation of being aligned with nudists?

Finally, we lack even a collective identity among ourselves. The type of person attracted to nudism typically is typically an individualist, unafraid of bucking conventional thinking. Individualism is in my opinion a positive trait. On the other hand, many nudists carry the independent streak to the extreme, becoming in a real sense isolationists. They don't need an AANR or TNS membership card. They don't need to be part of club with what they consider ridiculously restrictive rules on things like body jewelry or open sexual behavior. They are convinced that they know what nudism is about and don't need the acceptance or opinions of others.

The problem with isolationist thinking is that it slowly but surely erodes the bedrock principles on which nudism was founded leaving us with a message that lacks fundamental coherence or continuity. Disagreement and fragmented thinking within the community prevents the articulation of any clear message to those on the outside.

The whole point of this is that there are lots of little details that we are all free as individuals to have different opinions and perspectives on, but individual opinions on minor, peripheral concerns shouldn't divide us on the larger issues. Such a state of affairs fragments our cohesion and continuity to the degree that nothing is accomplished in the cause of moving nudism forward.

In conclusion, nudism simply does not fit the criteria of a cultural or cultural-political movement. Principally, the lack of strong leadership, absence of unity, and the nonexistence of a common, long range vision are the reasons why. It doesn't mean that the lifestyle couldn't become a viable cultural-political movement but that can happen only if proponents of nudism find a way to address the missing necessary elements.

Is the goal of becoming a cultural-political movement something nudists & naturists collectively should aspire to? There would be some real advantages to pursuing such a goal. Therein lays perhaps the most favorable chance for gaining wider mainstream acceptance, a key ingredient towards expanding access to public lands for nude recreation and the decriminalization of public nudity.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Part 2: Nudism as a Cultural-Political Movement

Wisconsin 2011 Tax Day Tea Party Rally
Credit: | Wikimedia Commons

Defining a Cultural-Political Movement

Based on notes from a sociology class lecture, cultural or social movements can be defined as a type of group action focused on bringing about social change. Cultural movements are generally of long duration and attract many participants who share common goals for changing a specific societal construct.

The participants attracted to social movements often disagree on the specific tactics and strategies that should be used to affect the desired changes in a specific structure of society. As an example some may favor achieving change through peaceful demonstration while others advocate violent confrontation.

The means by which participants in a social movement choose for affecting the desired social change whether it be peaceful demonstration or violent confrontation is in part where the political enters into the equation. A purely cultural or social movement takes on the character of a political movement when there is a focus on the political process as an opportunity for social change. The present-day "Tea Party" I think serves as a useful example of a social, political movement.

Types of Cultural or Social Movements

Cultural and social-political movements can be categorized as reform movements or radical movements. Examples of reform movements include:
  • American labor union movement
  • Environmental movement
  • Tea Party movement
Examples of radical movements include:
  • American Civil Rights movement
  • South African Anti-Apartheid movement
  • Current Libyan revolt
One of the key parts of any social, political movement is what social theorists term the "mobilization process." Identification of an ongoing mobilization process is one good way of identifying a cultural-political movement. During this process movement leadership:
  • Attempts to build a power base among sympathetic political and economic elites
  • Recruits new participants for the movement from among the members of general society who share similar beliefs
  • Actively motivates group participants to action
  • Removes barriers to participation to aid the recruitment effort
  • Creates a collective identity among participants
Once we have defined what a cultural-political is, observed what it looks with the aid of examples, and identified the chief attributes we can easily use simple comparison to determine whether nudism & naturism meet the criteria as a cultural-political movement. Look for Part 3: Nudism as a Cultural-Political Movement on Friday to learn whether nudism fits the category.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Part 1: Nudism as a Cultural-Political Movement

Credit: Abernathy Family Photos | Wikimedia Commons
American Civil Rights Movement

While doing the research for my recent eBook I noticed something that I wanted to revisit after the book was published. I began writing this on Monday evening and before I knew it, the piece was nearing 1,800 words! So, out of compassion for my readers, I decided to break this discussion down into three, more easily digestible parts.

Usually I don't use Wikimedia articles as sources for the things I write, even when writing a blog post, but today I'm making an exception.

It isn't that I have the kind of disdain for Wikimedia that's common in academic circles. Quite the contrary I have read some excellent, scholarly Wikimedia articles where the quality of the research and references were impeccable by any standards. But since everyone from public school teachers to college professors to editors forbid the use of Wikimedia as a source, as a writer who writes sometimes for pay, I'm just not in the habit of citing from there myself.

The citation from Wikimedia that is pertinent to my topic today is, "Naturism or nudism is a cultural and political movement practicing, advocating and defending social nudity in private and in public." It is the opening sentence in the article, "Naturism" last modified on April 23, 2011. I chose to use it because even though I have read the exact sentence elsewhere in the past from a source that even the pickiest professor or editor would consider credible, I have been unable to find it again.

Whichever collaborator that supplied the sentence cited the 2002-2003 World Naturist Handbook, published by the International Naturist Federation as the source. If memory serves, I do believe that it was the International Naturist Federation website where I originally read it. But that isn't really material to the points of discussion today.

What I wanted to weigh in on was the question, "Is naturism and nudism a cultural and political movement?" While I completed fifteen semester hours of undergraduate Sociology courses that of course doesn't come close to qualifying me as an expert on the study of human social behavior. Yet human social behavior has always fascinated me and so I like to research it, read about it, and discuss it, especially when it comes to trying to define naturism and nudism within the framework of social behavior.

At various times, in various places I have seen naturism and nudism categorized in sociological terms as a lifestyle, a subculture, a deviant subculture, a counter-culture, a social movement and as a social, political movement. There is an argument I think for all of those classifications save cultural movement and cultural-political movement. And on Wednesday, I'll tell you why in Part 2: Nudism as a Cultural-Political Movement.


Book Notes

Just a short note on American Nudist Culture. It is now on sale at Amazon in the Kindle edition. I'm heartened that in just a few days since publication several copies have already been sold and even more people have viewed the sample available at Smashwords. Since this was the first forum in which I shared information on the book I assume that the kind readers of TEN are responsible for the early sales and I am very grateful for that. I am eager to hear your opinions on the book be they good, bad, or indifferent.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thinking About a Road Trip

At least here in my neck of the woods, it rained quite a bit on Thursday and has been overcast for the last three days. After getting a good start on my summer tan, without tan line of course, I haven't had a chance to get any sun lately. While my garden needed the rain and it was appreciated, the current cloudy conditions, according to the National Weather Service, won't be changing any time soon. This sure puts me in the mind for a road trip somewhere that is getting some sun.

The Possibilities

No firm plans yet but there are a couple of places that easily come to mind. For some time now I have been intending to make a trip to Desert Sun Resort in Palm Springs or to Cypress Cove in Florida. I've yet to visit both places and either would likely be a great trip with plenty of sunshine. But since I am in the midst of building a new house and have yet to get the roof on it, I think I'd feel guilty about taking more than a few days away at this particular time. Especially since I just returned from a lengthy vacation to Australia in February. So maybe instead I'll just take 3 or 4 days and head down to either Bluebonnet or Wildwood, two of my favorite Texas landed clubs. I'm in the mood to do some tent camping since the warm weather has arrived and both have excellent, shady sites available along with the amenity that I simply must have, free WiFi!

The Poll

I have been so appreciative of the good number of readers who have already voted in the new poll. I have something to share next week that relates to the poll which is why it occurred to me to post it. If you haven't voted yet, please do before the poll closes next week. I managed to successfully pass a couple of statistical course in college so I know these polls aren't truly scientific, but I think they are fun and at least give some insight into your opinions.