Naturism, A Well Established German Custom

From the BBC News Magazine

By Stephen Evans

Citizens of the former West and East Germany share many well-established customs, including naturism. But does a relaxed attitude to naked bodies mask some division over the freedom of women?

Sex in Germany, I imagine, is much the same as sex everywhere else.

It was, as we know, invented in the 60s, probably in California, and since then the techniques involved are probably pretty universal.

But attitudes to sex and sexuality and nakedness are not. And in Germany, I have to tell you that I have been surprised.

Not least when I was in the changing room of the gym to which I go.

There I was, naked from the waist down – very naked – wrestling to get a T-shirt off my head, and the T-shirt was wrestling back.

When I finally pulled the thing off, there before me was a woman – a pretty woman – in her 20s pushing her broom at my feet.

This very real vision was the female cleaner in the male changing-room. Our eyes met. I blushed. She pushed on blithely, unconcerned.

Or when I went into the local sauna bath, which every neighbourhood has.

My German friends told me that nakedness was de rigueur, so into the cabin I went to find two young, naked women. They looked at me. I looked at the ceiling.

Germans – or at least Germans in the non-Catholic north of the country – say that the sight of the nude body is completely normal – natural, as they put it.

Why, they ask, would one wear a dirty, sweaty swimming costume? And, they say, being naked is nothing to do with sex. There is never a stir or a twitch of a sexual nature.

To which I say: hmmm.

My scepticism was shared, by the way, by both the Nazi and Communist regimes.

In East Germany, nude bathing became something of a sign of dissidence, contrary to the exhortation of the Culture Ministry to “protect the eyes of the nation”.

The Nazis welcomed what Hermann Goering referred to as the “healing power of sun and air” in making a strong nation, but he did disapprove of public nudity which he called a “cultural error” that threatened female modesty.

Both regimes lost the argument. And demographics did the rest. In the rubble after World War II, there were seven million more German women than men.

And in this atmosphere, an industry grew up which was very different from that in other
Western countries, one much more aimed at women.

Germany had a well-developed mail-order industry – and it had exactly the right woman to exploit it.

Beate Uhse had been a pilot in the Luftwaffe – as a woman she had not been allowed to fight but she did pilot planes to the front line.

After the war, as the daughter of a doctor, she was beset by friends who wanted to know how not to get pregnant.

My East German female friends tell me that the independence of women continued in the East of the country far more than in the West”

She started providing them with condoms and with advice on how she thought men could be kept happy. It became what is still one of Germany’s most successful businesses.

All this has been described by the historian Elizabeth Heineman, who told me that because the business was mail-order, women were not inhibited from buying.

Particularly in the catholic South, they would not go into a shop but they would order from a catalogue.

Elizabeth told me that German women emerged from the war particularly independent and strong because the absence of men was so stark, but in the west of the country traditional roles were gradually re-asserted.

Not so, though, in East Germany.

Simone Schmollack writes for the Tageszeitung and a magazine – a women’s magazine – called Die Magazin which was founded in 1929 and continued in East Germany throughout the years of Communism.

Tourists look through remaining section of Berlin Wall Do cultural differences remain 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell?

She told me that women in the East – and she was one – had genuine economic independence and that gave them a strength in their relations with men.

Now that the Wall is down, cultural frictions are emerging.

Here is the way she put it: “When Western men go out with Eastern women, they – the men – sometimes have problems.

“Eastern women are so cool, the Westerners think. So independent. So free with sex. But then they want them to be stay-at-home, too”.

So speaks an East German woman.

With such a mix of regimes and attitudes and cataclysmic shocks to relationships, there is confusion in the unified Germany over the roles of men and women.

Nowhere more so, I think, than when a sweaty, naked Brit strays into a gym or a sauna bath.

Photographs added by Martin.

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Is Social Nudity for Everyone?

Social nudity is not for everyone, but only because most people cannot imagine taking their clothes off in a group setting. Many believe social nudity is abnormal, immoral or perverted. Many automatically associate nudity with sex, therefore those who participate in social nudity must be sex addicts, exhibitionist and voyeurs. Of course nothing is further from the truth.

People have negative views about social nudity because they have been taught from an early age that the human body is shameful, that it’s wrong to expose your body to anyone other than your spouse, and some people are reluctant to do even that. They’ve been influenced by their parents, the media, religion and government. Except for the minority that have listened to their instincts, that recognize the human body is a wonderful creation that should be enjoyed and celebrated, most people have developed mindsets that will never allow them to see social nudity as a joyful, enlightening experience.

If you had grown up in a home where your parents had no reservations about walking around the house nude, you would have done the same thing. You would have grown up believing nudity is natural and that there are circumstances where there is no reason to wear clothes. When you noticed your father’s penis was bigger, you would have assumed yours would be too when you are older, just like the rest of the body. When you were old enough to be curious about pubic hair, your mother would have told you it’s part of being an adult. You would have grown up wondering why anyone would think the human body is shameful. You wouldn’t understand why anyone thinks there is something immoral about not wearing clothes.

So the fact is social nudity is indeed for everyone. The only reason so many disagree is because of what they were taught growing up. Children simply are not ashamed of their bodies; they are taught their bodies are shameful. It’s the same doctrine as religion. If you were born and raised in Israel, you will almost certainly believe in the Jewish faith; in the Middle East you will believe in the Muslim faith; in a Catholic household you will believe in the Catholic faith; that is if you believe in any religion at all. In a household that rejects nudity, you will grow up believing social nudity is immoral.

social nudity

Here a dad is spending time with his daughters. They’ve seen him and their mother nude since their earliest memory. Their nudity is incidental. They are likely a more closely bonded family because all the barriers between them have been removed.

social nudity

Perhaps, even if you have been raised to believe nudity is immoral, you have a secret desire to find out what social nudity is all about. Perhaps you’re wondering if you are brave enough to try it and are wondering how. The following essay tells us how one lady in California went about it.

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“There is a workshop at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. They have two areas where clothing is optional — the swimming pool and around the natural hot tubs. I think clothing is optional down on the edge of the ocean, as well.

I grew up in New England, home of the Puritans. Nudity was not something I saw growing up in my family or anywhere else, really. It was not something I was used to.

social nudity

But I believed that the body should not be an object of shame. I believed there was no reason in particular, other than social convention, that we should have to remain clothed for modesty’s sake. The notion of nudity being non-modest per se never made much sense to me. It’s just convention, and convention can be changed if you are in a group that holds to a different convention.

At Esalen, nudity is perfectly acceptable. But it isn’t required. What I found was that after spending a day in an intense workshop with people, that going to the hot tubs showed me yet another side of people.

When clothes came off, so did any remaining barriers between us. People became more open when their clothes were off. Somehow, they seemed more like themselves. They could say the things they wanted to. They seemed more honest. More friendly and loving. The conversations in the nude were more like conversations that some people seem to need drugs to have. It wasn’t so much that inhibitions were lessened, although they did seem to be, but that it was the kind on inhibitions — not about sex, but about being forthcoming and authentic. As I said, people seemed more like themselves.

I also found my judgments about bodies slipping away. Sure, I noticed the elderly woman was carrying a lot of weight, but it didn’t matter. We weren’t competing on looks. We weren’t competing at all. We were just sharing ourselves openly. It seemed to me that being naked had a lot to do with that. Without our clothes as our false fronts, we were simply ourselves. The symbolic lack of semblance turned into a real openness.

Being nude with other people is a process. At first, your mind will be running crazy. Can I really do this? What will people think? All those self-conscious thoughts.

But after a while, when you see everyone else is nude and no one else is hurting you for it, you start to relax. Then, in the hot water with the beautiful ocean and surrounded by authentic people, you start to really let go of your need to pretend. To act like your clothes are you. You start being able to be yourself.

I would give into the process as best you can, but also trust that these things will happen, whether you are ready for them or not. The nudity itself will almost require that you open up. It almost forces you to feel safe. This probably sounds a little ridiculous, but that was my experience, and the experience of others I spoke with.

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Social Nudity is a State of Mind

social nudity

A six-year-old girl is in the back yard with three neighborhood boys that have come over to play. They are all chasing after a ball. It’s a warm summer day. The boys have taken off their shirts. The little girl, thinking it’s a good idea, does the same. When her mother looks out the kitchen window, she gasps, rushes out, takes her daughter by the hand and scolds her as she drags the little girl into the house.

The boys look on, bewildered. They’ve obviously done something wrong, just don’t understand what. Listening to the mother’s rants, they realize their friend should not have taken her blouse off because she is a girl.

This  becomes the first episode of their childhood indoctrination about nudity and the human body. The little girl is traumatized and feels guilty, yet she doesn’t understand why the boys can take their shirts off and she can’t. The boys now know it was wrong for her take her blouse off, but they’re not sure why. The illogical nature of it doesn’t matter. She will grow up feeling shame over her body. In time, for these children and millions more like them, this experience will become part of their own moral compass.

social nudity

Though nudity in ancient Rome and Greece, and various European countries today, was and is considered incidental, most people, especially in the United States, can’t fathom why anyone would want to take their clothes off in a social or public setting. They attach all kinds deviant reasons to why anyone would do such a thing, that it must have something to do with voyeurism or exhibitionist, or social nudity must be the precursor to endless orgies. They’ve been indoctrinated since their early childhood. They’ve come to believe people should wear clothes under all circumstances, even swimming, which, when you think about it, doesn’t make any sense at all. They will not, even if they have a vague subconscious urge or a natural curiosity, allow themselves the freedom to explore life from a new perspective and enjoy their own bodies.

The reasons are many. Beyond our lifelong indoctrination, we’ve been conditioned by the media to believe our bodies are unappealing if we don’t look like runway models, Hollywood starlets or porn stars. We’re too fat, too thin, too old, too saggy or wrinkly. We have flaws. Our breasts are too small or too large or sag too much. Our bellies aren’t flat. Our penises are too small. Plus social nudity suggests sex, therefore nudist must be sexual deviants.

social nudity

Fact is social nudity is nothing more than a pure state of mind. People that get together and take their clothes off, that enjoy the freedom and exhilaration of being naked with others, that know how to appreciate others for who they are instead of what they look like, have shed all the cumbersome baggage most of us have accumulated over our lifetimes. No one cares if you are fat or thin, or hairy, or seventy years old. Being nude in a group setting equalizes everyone. No one has a perfect body. Breasts and butts, vulvas and penises, nipples and testicles are all simply part of the human body. Size, skin colors and physical configurations simply do not matter. And although these body parts play a role in distinguishing our gender, it doesn’t follow that exposing them equates with immanent sexual activity. After all, we’re all either men or women, human beings, not a bunch of heathens that have to cover ourselves to prevent uncontrolled or wanton copulation.

Here are some young men playing basketball nude. Notice how natural being nude seems to them, that the element of nudity seems to add a new dimension to the game.

NUDE BASKET BALL from Arnaud Kartal on Vimeo.

I mentioned natural curiosity. For you this might be a private or subconscious urge to know what it’s like to try a nude beach or dive into a swimming pool at a nudist resort; but outwardly you know you would never be that bold. I fully believe far more people think about these things than you believe. Consider Spencer Tunick’s work, how he gathers thousands of every day average people who have volunteered to take of their clothes for a mass photo shoot.

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Spencer Tunick – MARIACHI FILMS from Mariachi Films on Vimeo.

These adventurous souls are from every walk of life. They are of every nationality and every shape and size. Many of them are not involved in social nudity, nor have they ever taken off their clothes in a public setting. But they saw Spencer Tunick’s ad and ‘heard the call’, that inner voice telling them they wanted to enjoy their body, to share it with the thousands that wanted to do the same. In the above pictures, pick out the lawyers, the bankers, the store clerks, the housewives, the unemployed. You can’t. Everyone looks the same, socially that is. They are of one mind, celebrating being part of the brotherhood of man in a different way, an exhilarating, refreshing way. Most will walk away from this experience feeling different about themselves, feeling invigorated, feeling free of the unnecessary baggage they have lugged around their entire lives. Some of them will begin to think about new adventures, such as nude hiking.

Everyone wants to feel good about their body, to smile when they look in the mirror. But most people don’t. How can you when you are bombarded daily in the media about what you are supposed to look like: weight loss products that tell you you’re too fat, fashion ads with perfectly shaped models, makeup ads telling you that you can look like the girl in the picture if you use their products? Yes, it’s perfectly delightful to look at models and movie stars with gorgeous good looks, but in a nudist environment they are just one of everyone else, and they often look more like us without the air-brushing and makeup. So that cellulite on your butt, wrinkled or discolored skin, age, the size of your body parts (or lack thereof) doesn’t matter when you are naked among other naked people. They all have similar flaws. By getting involved in social nudity, instead of fretting over what your body looks like, you will be caught up in how good it feels to be naked, to be accepted for who you are, to be free of all the old baggage and preconceived notions. You will experience the wonderful feeling of being able to enjoy your body without worrying about being judged.

Naturism from Mark Blinch on Vimeo.

Many people believe nudist parks and resorts are sexually charged environments. Nothing is further from the truth. In fact nudist recreation parks, resorts and beaches Continue reading

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Bobble & Sway, Bounce and Jiggle


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Kids have a knack for finding adventure and fun things to do. It’s hard to imagine anything more fun, daring and refreshing than being one of the young people in this video.

We don’t have an over abundance of nude activities here in Texas, but we do have a naked 5K run that a couple of my friends told me about called the Annual Skinnydipper Sun Run 5K. Though I’ll be walking instead of running, I’ll be there nude enjoying the sun and fresh air in the company of some two hundred enlightened enthusiasts. If you happen to be in North Texas, check it out.

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