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I wrote the following article for Yahoo News in the summer of 2011. I'm reprinting it here since I held on to it's copyright and they paid me little for the piece, which they asked me to write in the first person. I decided I might as well republish it here since I still own it and it's not easy to find on Yahoo anymore.
Naturism: On the Decline but Still a Way of Life for Many
Keno Menechino, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Is the Naturist lifestyle dying? I've been a naturist for most of my life, and it seems to me and other naturists that naturism is on the decline. Naturists have been around from the very beginning of man's time on earth. If you believe in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, well, even they were both naturists at first, until Eve ate that apple, anyway.
Naturism started to gain in popularity around the beginning of the 20th century, when the first naturist resorts opened (called nudist colonies back then by non-nudists). By the mid-1960s, thanks in part to the many Baby Boomers who embraced naturism, the movement was going strong. But today are the younger generations rejecting the lifestyle? Is naturism on the downturn? It depends on who you speak to.
Many people to this day still don't know what a naturist is, yet the word has been used to describe social nudists since the late 1920s. I recall when I first heard the term used. I was 11 years old and I walked in on a conversation my parents were having on the subject and heard my dad say "Naturists will always be segregated by socially, that's why naturist resorts will always exist". So I asked "What's a naturist" and dad answered "Naturists and nudists are the same". I was naturist and didn't even know it, yet "naturist" sounded better to me than "nudist".
Naturists are of all ages, they consist of people of any group, and all races and religions; they are young and middle aged adults, seniors, couples, families with children, or single men and women. They are found around the entire world.
As it is, some people today think negative about naturism and feel it is immoral. Some incorrectly think it's all about sex, or exhibitionism, when it has nothing to do with either. It simply means going nude with other nudists and feeling at ease with it. Walking around your house alone in the nude is not a form of naturism. Although naturism can be practiced in one's private home with others, social nudism is what naturism is about. True naturists are not exhibitionists, most don't wish to be seen nude by people who are wearing cloths and who aren't naturists. Yet some naturists feel fine being around non-nudists at clothing optional beaches, although such places are not true naturist settings.
Swimming and naturism goes hand in hand. “Once you swim nude, there’s no going back”. I’ve heard countless naturists say this. Skinny dipping is perhaps the most common way a person will try social nudism for the first time. In a 2000 Gallup poll, people were asked if nude sunbathing should be allowed if it takes place at a beach that is accepted for nudity. 80% agreed, yet only 25% of them had ever gone skinny dipping in a mixed group of men and women. So although most people approved of nudism, most don’t engage in it.
Anybody can be a naturist, and many are children. Children who been raised as naturists from birth, find the lifestyle natural and normal. Four years ago I took my 6 year old grandson Cooper on a trip to New York to visit family. On one day of the visit, I had a business meeting in New York City, so Coop stayed on Long Island with my sister Pat, who took him to Jones Beach. Cooper, who lived with me in landlocked Colorado, regularly visited the naturist hot springs down the road from us, but he had never been to a beach before. Yet seeing an ocean for the first time wasn’t the first thing he noted to me that night when I got back to Long Island. “Grandpa, it was weird, we went to this beach where you can swim, and everybody there was wearing cloths, nobody was nude”. Yes, seeing all these people wearing bathing suits while swimming was something new and unusual to him.
So is naturism really on the decline? Well, all over the world memberships in naturist clubs are down. Young couples and young families are the key to the success of naturist organizations, but they are not visiting the resorts as they did in the past. Some claim the ageing population of members is the problem. Others say naturism isn't declining, it's just changing in shape and only organized naturism is on the decline. It does seem that the shift is moving from a 'nude lifestyle' towards 'nude recreation' and perhaps naturist organizations and clubs need to acknowledge this, or their decline might continue.
The best way to keep naturism alive for future generations is to not force it on anybody who doesn’t want to be around it. In cities where public nudity is allowed, such places hurt naturism because of those who parade around nude in front of non-naturists. Nudists do need to speak up and defend themselves against those who make false claims that they are unmoral perverts who are endangering their children. But it’s better to educate people about the lifestyle, than forcing others to be around it.
I guess my father was correct, naturist resorts will always be needed, since nudists will always be in the minority, but no, I don’t feel naturism will ever totally die out, either.