Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Cultural Shift in Nudism

One of the early pioneers of the American Nudist Movement, Maurice Parmelee, in his 1927 book, “Nudism in Modern Life,” advocated nudism as a means of producing a “much more beautiful mankind.” Parmelee wrote that nudists “have every incentive to avoid deformations of the body, and to strive by means of a healthy and natural life for a well developed form, because deformities and malformations are all too apparent in a state of nudity.” What Parmelee was speaking of was nudist culture as a form of social peer pressure to motivate people to strive towards the attainment of the fittest and most attractive body possible to look good when naked in the company of other nudists.

At first blush Parmelee’s concept certainly seems foreign and counter to the principle of body image acceptance embraced by modern nudists. Yet as noted in Ellen E. Woodall’s Journal of Popular Culture article, the American Nudist Movement: From Cooperative to Capital, the Song Remains the Same,” the American Association for Nude Recreation’s body image acceptance pronouncement published in 2001, represented a major shift in social nudist culture. The pronouncement read, “Nudists respect each other’s individuality. Our own self esteem is enhanced by our ability to accept ourselves as we really are. We find it easy to accept others regardless of physical size, shape, or body condition.” In other words AANR became an advocate for the acceptance of any body, regardless of health, weight, fitness or attractiveness.

Today body image acceptance and the associated benefits of improved self esteem and freedom from pressure to live up to the stereotypical, unrealistic “perfect” body types promoted by media, is one of the most highly touted advantages of becoming a part of nudism. It provides a rather welcome respite for those like me who are not physically active enough and that carry a little too much weight around the mid-section.

In the Summer 2009 issue of N, the Naturist Society publication, I read an article by David Chizm, “How to Look (and Feel) Good Naked.” To be honest, I felt a little irritated reading Chizm’s exhortation that nudists need to do a better job at achieving fitness to look better while nude because clubs full of aging, overweight and out of shape nudists likely contributed much to the difficulty of attracting younger members! My knee jerk reaction was that the whole idea flew in the face of the long standing nudist principle of body acceptance. I have since re-read the article a number of times, which is quite good I might add, and now find my opinion has changed.

Body image acceptance is a valuable and positive principle in nudism. I do not believe that anyone should be made to feel rejected or that their worth as a person is based on physical appearance. Indeed due to disabilities, diseases, disfiguring surgeries or other health reasons, many people have little power to change the appearance of their bodies regardless of how much time they might spend exercising or giving attention to healthful eating. Yet in time I did find myself in agreement with Chizum’s observation that body acceptance should not be used by people like me as an excuse for eating poorly and not exercising. He was not suggesting that anyone needed to live up to some perfect ideal but that we should merely strive to live healthier and should make the attempt to live up to our own individual physical potential. That idea is one that is pretty difficult to disagree with.


  1. Right on. While we don't need to be perfect, we should not use body acceptance as an excuse to neglect our bodies. This is the result of nudism changing from a health movement to a leisure industry. We need to advocate a happy medium between a cult of perfection and a cult of neglect. And while I don't agree that young people need to see perfect bodies in order to get involved in nudism (their bodies are imperfect too), it wouldn't hurt to show them that nudism is about more than riding around in golf carts and sleeping next to the pool.


  2. One of the best exercises, I am told, and one that uses lots of calories, is good posture. We can practice good posture no matter what shape we are in. It is something we can do all day, not just for a short exercise time, and good posture is important to proper body function whether we are young or old.

    For me, an important part of good posture is body awareness, both to adapt a good posture (sitting straight or walking) and to change it to another posture (half reclining or standing) when I start to tire. Posture is important no matter what we are doing.

    Clothing really degrades body awareness and hides bad posture. OTOH, I find continual reminders to suck in my gut, the best ab exercise there is, when nude. If people only do good posture because it looks good, it is still just as healthy, and it is still better done nude, so why not look good nude this way.