the Judeo-Christian-Moslem concept of body shame, most of the tropical and
temperate world was one big nudist camp. Greeks and Romans wore
clothing when necessary or for certain social functions, but bathing and
sports were openly enjoyed while naked. As exhibited by their
sculpture and ceramics, the Greeks revered youth and physical fitness.
To them the body was truly a work
of divinity to be admired in its entirety. The Olympics were an
offering of the best young athletes, unencumbered by restrictive and
concealing clothes. Gymnos, or naked, was how the athlete trained
all things must pass. With the crumbling of the ancient
civilizations and the emergence of a new religion which stressed the
sinfulness of sensuality, Europe entered the dark ages of body shame.
One such group of Christians were the Puritans, the 16th century
Protestants opposed to the religious intolerance of the Church of England.
In their exile to New England they became the anti-pleasure, moralizing,
Paulists we associate with Puritanism.
The Puritans were so fearful of exciting lust that they disdained bathing
because it promoted nudity. Many American Protestants who decry
public nudity, conveniently ignore the fact that Jesus was naked at his
in Europe, the Renaissance had reawakened the body-acceptance and art of
the ancients. Humanism and the celebration of the body were back,
and even the reluctant Church had to accept the idea that God created man
in his own image, and thought the work looked good.
As Europe progressed through the Renaissance, America remained entrenched
in a mindset of religiously dictated morality that would define its
mainstream culture for centuries. There were progressive thinkers,
such as Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau, who saw health benefit
in their daily naked walks, or "air baths," but they were the
the turn of the 20th century, mainland Europe was far more tolerant of
sensuality and body acceptance than the U.S. Works of art and
literature that were acceptable there were routinely banned in the U.S.,
such as the oil painting "September Morn" by French artist Paul
Chabas. This innocent nude bather was deemed obscene by Anthony
Comstock of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.
the U.S. was banning pictures of naked bathers, the first nudists were
stripping themselves of the Victorian era prudery and bathing naked in
Freilichtpark (free light park) in Lubeck, Germany (1903 - 1981).
Nacktkultur, the German nudism, stressed naked healthful living, which
and women can
socialize together nude without being lewd, the concept of nudism got
1933, the International Nudist Conference was formed, which would later
become the American Sunbathing Association, and by the mid 1930s there
were eighty-one nudist camps across America. Most nudist camps, to
some degree, still followed the philosophy of nudism as part of a healthy
regimen, and organized nudism was selective of who could be members of the
THE GENERATION GAP
Nudism, the ASA, and landed clubs became the establishment. The
rebellious youth of the 1960s weren't about to go behind the walls of a
nudist cloister. A new free light and free love culture, based on an
honest body acceptance, asked why we didn't do it in the road.
Acceptance of the nude body was only natural, and young people across
Europe and America experienced the freedom of being nude at the beach, in
the stream or wilderness, or on their back porch or sundeck. Often
called "The Free Beach Movement," in the seventies, it was a
philosophy of open nudism that would be called naturism.
they escaped our history of overbearing religious prudery, mainland
Europeans have enjoyed more personal freedoms than Americans. For
years most European tourist beaches have allowed topfree bathing for
women. Nude beaches are now common and popular throughout the
continent, including Eastern Europe.
Modern nudism began in Germany and France. France now has a nudist
resort city, Cap d'Agde, on the Mediterranean. Since the early
seventies, Denmark and the Netherlands have become quite accepting of
nudity in general, and there have been nudist activities on city streets
and parks of both countries. All but two of Denmark's beaches are
1980, the Naturist Society was formed in the U.S. to provide information
and support for the free beach and other naturist groups around the
country. The Naturist Action Committee monitors and assists in the
ongoing nationwide struggle to keep clothing optional beaches and
recreational areas from being closed by the narrow-minded fanatics who
still echo Comstock's 19th century prudery.
National opinion polls in 1983 and 1990 revealed that 72% of Americans
approve of designated clothing optional beaches. To date, over 30
million Americans have experienced mixed social nudity. With the
growing number of naturists here, and tourists from Europe, South Florida
now has an established clothing optional beach at Haulover.