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Naturally, George Davis
by George Davis
“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1762
Among a small circle of people, I am a well-known public urban nudist in San Francisco. I have, with the help of friends, worked to make San Francisco the most urban nudist accepting city in America and on par with much of urban Europe. For more details, go to http://www.wikipedia.org and search for “social nudity in San Francisco”. In 2011, I was appointed by the San Francisco Free University to teach a course, “The History of Free Body Culture Movements in Europe and America.” I also have been keeping track of the current status of urban nudism all over the globe.
The premise of urban nudism is that people do not have to travel to the “closet” destinations of special segregated nudist beaches or resorts to express their free and natural self. We all have a right to be nude and an equal right to wear clothes. Just like ancient Greece and Rome, society should be clothing optional. Prior to theocratic Christian influence, on nice days, people only wore comfortable clothing like togas to hierarchic functions like government and religious functions, but generally went nude at home, the public baths, parks, and athletic recreation. Going to the market or taking a walk was a clothing optional experience.
On a conceptual level, most people in Europe and America have little problem with urban nudism. Most Europeans and Americans at a minimum are very live-and-let-live in attitude.People with problems with urban nudity include:
1: Persons who are angry
2. Persons who are excessively authoritarian
3. Religious nut cases
4. People with unrealistic body image or shame issues.
These are the “squeaky wheels” that seek and all too frequently get political power. They stifle freedom of expression and promote censorship. These are not exactly “fun” people.
I find that I have a surplus of “not that easy” to find information on contemporary global urban nudism and the history of free body culture movements that I wish to make available to everyone. I recognize that although I like to think of myself as a cold-hearted intellectual, I have some bias. I also have some hearsay observations from conversations with people from all over the world that I am not in a position to verify. Please feel free to contact me with any corrections and additions to these essays. I will reedit these essays with your input. Also, consider these essays as open source material to use as you please.
2012 – Contemporary Global Public Nudity
Assuming you sleep in the nude (If you don’t, why not?), for most of us, the first takeaway of your freedom all over the world is a requirement to put on textiles to cover up genitals and breasts (females) before you can present yourself to other people. In a good percentage of cultures, this includes members of your own household.
Considering urban nudism is harmless and natural. Also, free thinking people have little problem with it. You would think that urban nudism would be fairly common in Europe, America, and maybe a few supposedly cutting edge cultures like Japan. Think again. The widespread contemporary practice and acceptance of public nudity is pathetically sub-minimal.
Let’s start with Germany where the modern Free Body Culture movements began. Nudity is pretty well accepted at parks, beaches, and hiking trails. If one started walking around nude on the streets of Berlin or Munich, one would likely be instructed by a police officer to leave the street and head to a park under threats of legal sanctions. However, there is supposed to be a man who goes all over Frankfurt nude 24/7 and claims to be allergic to clothes. Germany has the powerful Freikorperkultur (FKK) organization that lobbies for nude recreation. The FKK initials all over Europe indicate a nudist area is present or nearby. The FKK also runs a few brothel/saunas where consenting adults can meet nude in a pool/sauna area to engage in consenting safe sex activities in private rooms. The Netherlands and Scandinavia are pretty much a similar permissive situation to Germany. Finland and Russian former Finnish areas also have a long, long tradition of nude saunas and running outside nude.
France is kind of schizoid on the issue of urban nudism. France has the largest nudist city in the world, Cap d’Agde, which has up to 50,000 people in high season (August). There are nude restaurants, shops, banks, and cafes. A good percentage of nude visitors are from Germany, UK, and America. Interestingly, at Cap d’Agde, there is a big conflict between the puritan nudists, i.e. those that believe there is a firewall between sexuality and nudism and the libertines who are into wide open sexuality practices. Surprisingly, Paris does not tolerate urban nudism at all. Rather aggressively, Paris police shut down the Parisian World Naked Bike Ride in 2010 and would not allow the WNBR in 2011. In 2011, a male/female Danish couple went for a nude walk in Paris and were fined 1000 Euros. In terms of freedom of expression, France also outlawed all 200 French-Arab women who do so from wearing a veil. From a clothing optional perspective, as long the woman knows that she has a right to be nude and is not coerced, she should have every right to dress as a nun.
Until recently, Spain had no laws against public nudity. As of now, 2012, all of the beaches in Spain are clothing optional. Until last year, Barcelona was perhaps the most open of all European cities. Some credit this attitude with a long Catalan history of anarchism and art. Jacint Ribas has ridden his bicycle nude all over the city and the Catalan area. In 2004, the Barcelona City Council subsidized a brochure with the title, “Expressing Yourself in Nudity.” illustrated with photos of ordinary citizens naked on the street, in the subway and in the city’s parks. The brochure affirmed categorically that the law “does not contain any article for sanctions against public nudity.” On any particular day, it was rare to have more than a dozen public nudists in urban Barcelona. In 2011, the Barcelona City Council passed legislation empowering the police to stop people on the street who were naked or improperly dressed (including bikinis and standard beach wear) and to require them to cover themselves or face fines. Some people have said that law was a result of the Spanish economy going into a depression and the Barcelona Mayor and City Council moving to the political right to retain office and has nothing to do with public attitudes. Interestingly, Barcelona also recently passed legislation banning all 10 Arab women who might want to in Barcelona from wearing the veil.
The United Kingdom has moved from a level of American Puritanism to something comparable to a mainstream European level. A few years ago, pro-urban nudists placed nude, life-sized, anatomically correct statues on sidewalks all over downtown London, which forced Londoners to get used to the idea of urban nudism. In 2011, the London World Naked Bike Ride had about 2000 riders which, excluding Portland, Oregon’s 15,000 party-centric ride, was the largest in the world. London has a nudist dance club, Starkers. Vincent Bethel has walked around London nude for years. Nudists have performed at Trafalgar Square. A TV show was made about a London nudist office with video shot all over London and the Underground. Public nudity is still not common in London but it exists and there is a very activist group, the “Naturist Action Group” that is very aggressively working for nudist rights and recreational activities. The UK has its share of clothing optional beaches and nude resorts. There are a few UK rural areas and inner city areas where nudity is problematic to practice. There is a now internationally famous nudist, Stephen Gough, who has been locked up in Scotland for six years (mostly for repeated contempt of court charges for refusing to wear clothes) while attempting to walk accross the UK. In January 2013, Mr. Gough received a human rights award. In February 2013, Stephen Gough was released from prison, but faces more trials. Some nudists question his almost messianic zeal to get nudism accepted, but none question the truth of his quest.
Italy has several clothing optional beaches but no reported urban nudist movement. The Balkan countries also have many clothing optional beaches that, besides having a local following, are especially popular with German tourists who like the convenient location, beauty, and inexpensiveness of the region.
Poland and Russia has some clothing optional beaches and resorts and naturist organization. Russian nudists have come down to the Crimea resorts, now the Ukraine, for generations.
The Moslem world is not only exceptionally nudophobic/gymnophobic, but appears to be the most resistant to change. There are gymnophobic prohibitions in the Koran. The few exceptions are a nudist resort in Turkey that caters to Europeans and a few nudist Sufis that are into ecstatic experiences. In 2011 Egypt, Aliaa Almahdy, a blogger, posted an “arty” nude photo of herself and was condemned by both the conservative religious factions (expected) and the social democratic liberal (?) factions who don’t want to distance themselves from moderate(?) Egyptian Moslems. In December 2012, Aliaa Almahdy joined members of the Ukranian feminist group, FEMENS nude in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Stockholm to protest the start of theocratic Sharia (Law) in Egypt. Even culturally liberal Balinese Hindus who cater to many Australian, European and American tourists are under the Puritanical thumb of the Indonesian government. However, there are some clothing optional beaches and resorts in Bali.
Japan has many mixed gender clothing optional spas and resorts. Until recent post-World War II decades when private baths were installed in housing units, Japanese routinely went to mixed gender public baths. There are a few left, but they are no longer common. On the Internet, there are Japanese images of nude female bands playing concerts, a nude telephone booth stuffing record, the male masturbation (time) record, and a DVD of 500 couples having sex in one location.
Australia is the United Kingdom attitude with more clothing optional beaches and outback areas. There is some public nudity in the Sidney Gay Pride celebration. In December 2012 in New Zealand, an appellate court ruled that a jogger had a right to jog nude, but it was in a semi-rural area. Also, in New Zealand a serious challenge to the Welsh record of 413 skinny dippers was attempted in December 2012.
China will eventually move to whatever the world standard of urban nudism is or becomes. Some nudist resorts and areas have opened in recent years. In 2011, Ai Wei Wei, perhaps the most famous artist in the world posed nude with four nude women. The image was totally tame by European/American standards. The Chinese government threatened to charge him for pornography. This triggered dozens of different Chinese citizens to post nude photos of themselves. The pornography charge threatened a Victorian styled disconnect between the Chinese government and their modern evolving Chinese society.
India has a somewhat gymnophobic and censored mainstream cultural society. Goa, which has an international ambiance, has a few clothing optional beaches. Interestingly, India has tens of thousands of nude “sahdi” holy men (no women), who are nude for spiritual and ascetic reasons. Many get together for religious festivals. Some just live as beggars in small villages. Like China, the mainstream society of India should eventually move to the world standard of urban nudism. Maybe not. Bollywood movie censors still do not allow romantic couples to kiss on screen.
Other than nude resorts and clothing optional beaches, there is not much going on with urban nudism in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Carnival in Rio prides itself on the world’s smallest women’s bikini bottom, but that’s still not nudism.
Surprisingly, Mexico may have a larger mainstream nudist movement than the United States. This may be a result of the influence of modern Spanish urban nudist culture and a strong history of secularism and anti-clericalism. Several nudist beaches and resorts exist. Spencer Tunnicks’s largest nude photo shoot in the world was in the Zocolo (public square) in Mexico City with 19,000 fully nude participants. Many labor union members and indigenous peoples have protested their cause nude in the Zocolo. One of the four largest World Naked Bike Rides is in Mexico City.
Canada and the United States have a long history of many clothing optional beaches and resorts. Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, and Chicago have well attended World Naked Bike Rides. In 2011, New York City allowed nudity at the Occupy Wall Street event and is allowing nude body painting in Times Square in the evening. Before 2011, New York City was out of the urban nudist picture. In fact, the 2009 and 2010 NYC World Naked Bike Rides did not have any fully nude riders. Key West, Florida has a clothing optional bar and a Fantasy Fest painted body celebration. In terms of urban nudism, most of the happenings are in the West. Seattle besides the WNBR has a Solstice Parade with body painted nude cyclists. The Seattle region has several clothing optional public parks. Portland, Oregon has 15,000 participants in the party portion of their World Naked Bike Ride. There is a recent 2102 report of a couple of urban nudists who walk around Vancouver with no problems.
Northern California is in the avante garde of urban nudism. The only limitations to urban nudism in San Francisco are lewd (sexual) conduct, sitting on public furniture without a barrier, and dining in the public area of a restaurant. Even in SF, there are some other pragmatic limitations on going nude, like into ghetto neighborhoods with angry and drugged-up people on the street. The Burning Man art festival started at a clothing optional beach in San Francisco before it became too big and grew into a 50,000 person clothing optional city for one week in Nevada. Burning Man operates by creating extreme separate realities for attendees to experience. In fact, the so-called real world outside of Burning Man is called the “default world”. For many years, San Francisco has had many clothing optional events like the Bay-to-Breakers race (55,000 official + 30,000 unofficial participants), Gay Pride parade and festival (500,000), Folsom Street Fair (400,000), Pink Saturday Party (80,00), and Halloween. On a nice day, urban nudism is very common in the Castro District. Nudism has been accepted for generations in backpacking rural areas in Northern California. More than half of the Pacific coast line beachfront is clothing optional. On December 4, 2012, a nudity ban except for “permitted” special events, fairs, and festivals was passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (=’s City Council) on a 6 to 5 vote and will probably be approved by the mayor. There is a Federal Court challenge to the ordinane.
Nothing special is happening with urban nudism in Southern California. There is a large population of nudists in Palm Springs/Cathedral City, California, but whether there is a critical mass large enough to make real urban nudism happen is questionable.
One of the big growth fields in world tourism is the naked vacation aka nakation which is now a well over a billion dollar industry with nudist/clothing optional resorts, cruises, and events. In America, nakations are now more popular than golf or bike touring vacations. In fact, there are now nudist golf and bike touring options.
Considering urban nudism really shouldn’t be that big of a deal, it’s kind of amazing that it is really such a big deal.
History Of Free Body Culture Movements In Europe And America
by George Davis
(In 2011, I was selected by the San Francisco Free University, because of my urban nudism activism, to teach a course titled: History of Free Body Culture Movements in Europe and America. The class was going to be clothing optional and I was going to teach the course nude. The San Francisco Free University, possibly because of the “free” economics, seems to have ceased operating. However, I still prepared to teach the course and have uncovered enough material to deliver new information to most people.)
My name is George Davis. The Free University selected me to teach this course: History of Free Body Culture Movements in Europe and America because I had written the book, Naked Yoga and many articles on urban nudism. I also have been an activist, among others, to get public nudity recognized as a legal right in San Francisco. In the last 7 years, I have been cited 23 times and arrested 17 times on nudist related charges. Of all the arrests, I was tried zero times and convicted zero times. The police watchdog agency, Office of Citizens Complaints, found the police guilty of harassment 15 times. The police administration, or their risk management people, finally got the message. In the last two years, I have not been arrested and no other “orderly” nudist has been arrested in San Francisco.
San Francisco is a clothing optional city. You have a right to be nude. The only limitations on urban nudism are lewd (sexual) conduct, placing a barrier between your butt and public furniture, and remaining in the public area of a restaurant. For more details on San Francisco urban nudism, you can go to www.wikipedia.org and search for “social nudity in San Francisco”.
As you read in the description of this course, this class is clothing optional. As a matter of nudist etiquette, you should place a cloth or paper barrier between your butt and your seat.
The concentration of this course will be on more modern 20th and 21st Century movements.
Let’s start this class off with a list of people.
Question: What do the following people have in common?
Historic individuals: Alexander Graham Bell, John F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Jacqueline Onassis-Kennedy, Norman Rockwell, Lyndon Johnson, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Buddha (arguably, but probably), Jesus Christ (arguably, but probably), Alfred Hitchcock, John D. MacArthur, Robert A. Heinlein, Theodore Geisal (Dr. Seuss), George Orwell, John Lennon, Groucho Marx and the Marx Brothers, (Mr.) Fred Rogers, Rod Serling, Winston Churchill, Janet Joplin, Henry David Thoreau, John and John Quincy Adams, Isadora Duncan, Josephine Baker, Benjamin Franklin, Tallula Bankhead, Allen Ginsberg, George Bernard Shaw, Marilyn Monroe, (King) Edward and Wallace Simpson, Edna Vincent Millay
Contemporary individuals: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Angela Merkel, Ai WeiWei, Yoko Ono, Madonna, Britney Spears, Emma Thompson, Bruce Willis, Flea of “Red Hot Chili Peppers”, Sacha Baron Cohen, Nadia Comaneche, Alan Dershowitz, Goldie Hawn, Barry Manilow, Tom Hanks, Daryl Hanna, Kate Hudson, Sir Ian McKellon, Helen Mirren, Jerry Seinfeld, Jack Nicholson, Suzanne Summers, Bridget Bardot, Lady GaGa
Answer: They all practiced nudism.
Let’s move onto definitions of common urban nudist/free body culture terms:
Freikörperkultur (FKK) is the German movement whose name translates to Free Body Culture. It endorses a naturistic healthy approach to sports and community living. Behind that is the joy of the experience of nature or also of being nude itself, without direct relationship to sexuality. As a modern historical movement, FKK began in 1898 in Essen. The followers of this culture are called traditional naturists, FKK’er, or nudists. There has been an extensive removal of restrictions on public nudity in Germany since about the 1960s.
Nudism and naturism are the practice of going without clothes, generally for reasons of health or comfort. Nudism is a social practice in which the sexes interact freely but commonly without engaging in sexual activity. Formerly, naturism also involved nudity in association with an appreciation and transcendental union with the beauty and benefits of nature. Today, terms nudism and naturism are interchangeable.
Vestism and textilism are the philosophical beliefs that wearing clothes is necessary.
Gymnophobia is a fear ( phobia) of nudity. Gymnophobics experience anxiety from nudity, even if they realize their fear is irrational. They may worry about seeing others naked or being seen naked, or both. Their fear may stem from a general anxiety about sexuality, from a fear that they are physically inferior, or from a fear that their nakedness leaves them exposed and unprotected.
Clothing optional is an individual decision to wear clothing or not.
Nudism prior to the 20th Century
Prior to settled farming, animal husbandry, and loom technology, except for living in extremely cold climatic conditions where animal skins were worn; our hunter/gatherer ancestors went nude 24/7.
Even about 10,000 years ago, with the invention of the loom over Eurasia, some societies became textile and others remained clothing optional. Few ancient societies, if any, had female breast taboos. In fact, in America and Europe, open breastfeeding was common until the development of evaporated milk formulas in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Now, about 50% of women breastfeed their infants. In this course, we will not pay too much attention to the issue of top-free equality for women, because that’s just a subset of the concept of total body freedom for everyone.
China developed a big silk and textile trade and became the oldest continuous textilist culture in the world. Before the coming of monotheistic/theocratic religions, most of the rest of the world was more clothing optional or nudist in outlook. Most island cultures Hawaii, East Indies, Australia were nudist or nudist friendly. Some areas of pre-Mogul India were textilist and others were nudist friendly and quite libertine. In the pre-Columbian Americas, the Caribbean island natives and pre-literate non-pastoral tribes on the continents were nude. Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas did wear loin clothes which covered but did not conceal genitalia. (I have never understood the function of loin clothes or bathing suits.) Africa was generally nudist friendly. North Africa went whatever direction the dominant Mediterranean culture was going. Northern Europeans, Russians, people of the Steppes, generally went nude, except as protection against harsh weather.
Ancient Egyptians were very minimalists in clothing. Some periods of Egyptian history were more nudist friendly than others depending on who were Pharaoh’s court and religious advisers.
Greco-Roman Societies, which many consider the cultural foundation of the contemporary world, were textilist in public and religious life and clothing optional at home, public baths, and recreation. We conclusively know this from period writings, frescoes, mosaics, and especially from illustrated vases. Athletes competed in the nude, especially the ancient Olympics (776 BC to 393 AD). Some historians date the Fall of the Western Roman Empire at the year 393 AD when the Christian Emperor Theodosius cancelled the Olympic Games for being “too pagan”.
Vestism became more prevalent with the expansion of Christianity throughout the old Roman Empire and into Russia, and Northern Europe. Then came Christianity 2.0, otherwise known as Islam, which carved off a big chunk of the Old Roman Empire and eventually spread into Persia, India, and the East Indies. Islam had numerous passages in the Koran about body shame and modesty, which made Moslems very gymnophobic.
Prior to the Enlightenment Period (1650-1800 AD), Catholic and Reformation Europe was theocratic and sometimes rather Puritan in outlook. Other than a few nudist revivals like the Adamists, or pagan revivals like the Wicca, or some quaint local customs; there was not too much nudity.
The Age of Enlightenment sought to mobilize the power of reason, in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted science and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance and abuses in church and state.There was some nudism among the educated and upper classes, still nudism was still not widespread.
The first modern nudist movement were in Germany in the late nineteenth century. Nudists, along with the modern gay rights, vegetarian, animal protection, and natural healing movements began gathering adherents among the 85 million European Germans. In 1898 the first FKK club was founded in Essen. There were nude parks in Hamburg. By 1900, more and more Swedish baths arose in rooms in Berlin and on the North and Baltic seas. The German nudist movement started growing strong in 1906 with the publication of the three-volume Nachtkultur by Heinrich Pudor which established a link between nudism, vegetarianism, social reform, and racial hygiene (including antisemitism). A large part of the popularity of the German nudist movement (nachtkultur) were the successes in light and air therapy in curing German urban dwellers of ailments like tuberculosis and asthma.
The biggest growth of German nudist culture was after World War I during the Weimar Republic. A strong argument can be made that urban Germany, very especially Berlin, in the 1920′s was the most culturally progressive area/time in the world, maybe in all of world history. German literature entered a phase of great creativity with the works of Bertold Brecht, Kurt Weill, Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse, and Erich Maria Remarque. Arthur Koestler lived in Berlin during this period. Innovative street theater brought plays to the public, the cabaret scene and jazz band became very popular. In Berlin, the cabaret scene included sex cult clubs that catered to homosexuals, lesbians, transvestites, bisexuals, sadomasochists, fetishists of all sorts, pedophiles, female mud wrestlers, and other exotic entertainments. A new type of architecture taught at “Bauhaus” schools, and Art reflected the new ideas of the time. German cinema had worldwide respect rivaling Hollywood with films like Fritz Lang’s, Metropolis and Faust and F.W. Murnau’s vampire horror film, Noseferatu. Joseph Pilates developed his Pilates physical training/rehabilitation. In science, Albert Einstein, Max Planck and Heisenberg revolutionized atomic physics. Martin Heidegger wrote Being and Time, which many view as the most influential philosophy book of the 20th century. The new field of psychoanalysis was started by Sigmund Freud, and further explored by C.G.Jung, and Wilhelm Reich. In fine arts, German Expressionism and Dadaism were highly respected.
Nacktkultur became popular in northern Germany Resorts. Naturist areas were established at a rapid pace along the northern coast of Germany. By 1931, Berlin itself had 40 naturalists’ societies and clubs. A variety of periodicals on the nudism were also regularly published, in fact, the topic ranked just below sports for media coverage. Hans Suren wrote the book, Der Mensch und die Sonne(1924), which ran through 68 editions (250,000 copies) in its first year. There were numerous photos in the book and expressed the theme that nudism was a sign of health, strength and beauty. Suren became a Nazi in 1931 and made changes to accommodate Nazi ideology and the book remained in print until the end of World War II.
Adolf Koch and others opened nudist schools throughout Germany during this period stressing co-ed physical and mental training. By 1930, Koch’s schools had an enrollment of 60,000. Naked students participated in gymnastics, theatrical productions, group exercise, and outdoor activities. Koch had socialist leanings. He recruited proletarian men and women into nudism. He charged 5 percent of their income. If they were unemployed, the school carried them until they could find a job. Koch claimed that the total enrollment in all German nudists organizations was more than 3 million in 1930. In 1929, Koch’s Berlin school hosted the first International Congress on Nudity, with participants from 23 countries. The Nazis shut down Koch’s schools in 1933.
During the 1920′s there were hundreds of nude dance schools in Germany. Most of the attendees were female. Some schools trained for solo performances, others for group. They danced a wide range of styles. Besides more “artistic” dancing performances, erotic nude dancing was a mainstay for cabaret shows during the period.
There was never a unified German nudist movement in the 1920′s. The movement fragmented into a vast subculture with great individuality. Some in the movement advocated libertarian positions, others eugenic standards of health, fitness,and beauty, and others social democratization. To some nudism represented modernism, to others tribalism. To some nudism represented a puritanism, to others an eroticism. These are positions that have always existed and exist today. The only common belief is that nudity is comfortable and natural.
The end of of this intellectual “golden age” was the censorship and barbarism in the rise to power of the Nazi movement. Nazis banned ideas, burned books and caused the emigration of most of Germany’s leading intellectuals to America, England, and Switzerland.
Although a certain percentage of nudists were sympathetic to Nazism and vice-versa, a political decision for autocratic control, probably with military and church complicity, was made to ban nudist activities. Below is the famous Goring decree on the subject:
One of the greatest dangers for German culture and morality is the so-called nudity movement. Greatly as it is to be welcomed in the interest of the public health, that ever wider circles, especially of the metropolitan population, are striving to make the healing power of sun and air and water serviceable to their body, as greatly must the so-called nudity movement be disapproved of as a cultural error. Among women the nudity kills natural modesty; it takes from men their respect for women, and thereby destroys the prerequisite for any genuine culture. It is therefore expected of all police authorities that, in support of the spiritual powers developed through the national movement, they take all police measures to destroy the so-called nude culture. Herman Goring, 1933 Nazi edict
During the Nazi period, the edict was never too heavily enforced in rural and countryside areas. Himmler and the SS practice nudism in their mystical belief practices to create a new German Superman. During the later years of World War II, to lighten-up from wartime deprivations and harsh living, sanctions against nudism were somewhat lifted for the general public.
After World War II, the German nudist movements went into two directions, the West German and the East German models.
The German Democratic Republic (GDR)/East Germany (1949-1990) has the distinction of being the first country in the modern world where the principles of the Free Body Culture Movement were officially government sanctioned. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, a poll was made among East Germans about their support for Nude Culture. 71% supported it, 32% didn’t care either way, and 7% opposed it.
After World War II, many East Germans spent their vacations at the North Sea beaches. To protect themselves from the cold, they would build windbreak “forts”. For reasons of comfort and cold, slow drying bathing suits, many chose the nude beach option. During the early 1950’s, there were confrontations between the beach goers and the local police who were sent to suppress them. As we noted earlier in this lecture, during Weimar Germany, there were all kind of ideologies in the nudist movement: socialist, communist, anarchist, religious, health, fascist, puritan, and, as some East German officials held, bourgeois. The situation got so tense that East German border guards with machine guns patrolled the beaches to the derision of the nude beach goers. The government was finding that most of those they were harassing were good East German workers and intelligentsia, including many Communist Party members and government officials. Some of these government officials were bringing up the point that the East German government was supposed to be an improvement to Hitler and the Nazi party which suppressed nudism.
During the later 1950’s, nude beach going became more popular and clothing optional sections were permitted. There were some sensational press exposures of the Cameroon parties where party-goers would dance ecstatically to African rhythms. However, most German nudists were more sedate, non-erotic, and family oriented. Several remote beach and lake areas were eventually made available to nudists. By the 1960’s, the nude beaches became so popular that there ceased to be a distinction and all beaches became shared and clothing optional. By the 1970’s nude bathing was so common that a popular TV show watched by 50% of East German households sent its naked reporter-in-chief to a nudist beach to answer a reader’s inquiry about how first-timers should behave. A poll of young workers showed that 81% had swum in the nude and a poll of students showed 87% had swum nude. In turn, nudist home-life became very common.
Speculation that part of the cultural changes was a need to make the East German lifestyle after building the Berlin Wall more desirable than the West German. The GDR could not do it by providing money for consumer goods and freedom to travel. Besides the official sanctioning of nudism, in 1972, the GDR liberalized the abortion laws, made the birth control pill freely available, accepted homosexuality, and abolished the distinction between illegitimate and legitimate children.
This all took place in the context of a very Stalinist state. With 500,000 Russian troops with nuclear weapons on their soil, the East Germans had no choice but Stalinism and joining the Warsaw Pact. The all-pervasive East German STASI (secret police) employed thousands of bureaucrats, agents, and informers to keep track of everyone. Non-state organizations were illegal, including the FKK and other nudist organizations. One period joke was: “What do you call a gathering of two or more East German Citizens? An illegal meeting. Or a nudist beach.” Still non-conformity and freedom of expression was not tolerated. A youth adopting a Western rock-n-roll hairstyle or clothing likely risked being kicked out of school or work or enjoying an extended period in the army or being sent to a the Stalinist equivalent of a “boot camp”.
After the 1990 integration with West Germany, two changes took place in East Germany. West German capital bought and privatized many of the North Sea and other resort properties. West Germany also introduced a greater supply and saturation of pornography and commercial sexual imagery into the society which some East German women say caused them to opt out of nudist culture because of the sexual objectification.
Post-war West Germany didn’t rule by edicts. They had to deal with a more transparent society. So, the squeaky wheel of textilists attitudes got recognition. So, although the FKK movement was widely popular, beaches and resorts tended to be segregated instead of clothing optional. Still, relative to most of Europe and America, West Germany was relatively accepting to nudism. In the 1960′s Schoenfeld Meadow in Englischer Garten Munich the largest European urban park became clothing optional and most other large parks and beaches.
After the Russian Revolution, the new USSR practiced new cultural freedoms. In 1917, Allexandra Kollontai, a close friend of Lenin, became the People’s Commissar for Social Welfare. Allexandra was noted for her feminist equality positions on free love, access to abortion, and family planning. Marriage and divorce became a matter of registration and non-registration at the local governmental records facility. Homosexuality was decriminalized. Many people were practicing “free love” and there were free love leagues. In 1922, there was a “down with shame” nudist march with several hundred participants in Petrograd (later Leningrad) to dispel earlier “bourgeois” morality. Lenin, himself, was a little stand-offish and intellectual in outlook on these cultural changes. By the 1930′s, Stalin had reversed all of these reforms and movements.
At the turn of the 20th Century, much of the US and Canada in the cities and small towns were more Victorian than England. A lot of the rural areas remained more “natural”, especially in areas like Appalachia and “hillbilly” country with very early incestuous marriages/relationships, nude swimming holes, and relaxed lifestyles. In the 19th century, Christian missionaries clothed the nude Hawaiian natives. The Hawaiian lament was, “When the missionaries firsts came, we had the land and they had the Bibles. Now, we have the Bibles and they have the land.” As late as 1874, native Hawaiians were surfing nude.
In 1927, The New Gymnosophy by Dr. Maurice Parmlee was first published and in 1930 the nudist Rock Ridge Lodge Club was opened in Stockholm, New Jersey. Through the years, many other nudist clubs opened in America.
One of my favorite stories of nudism was the men’s top-free movement because it illustrates how easy it is to change a cultural perspective. Due to Victorian influence men had to wear swimwear tops and were expected to wear undershirts with their regular wardrobe. Europe had largely moved toward men’s bare chest acceptance. In early 1934, the popular Academy Award winning movie, “It happened One Night” directed and produced by Frank Capra was released. In a, for the time, sexually tense scene, mega-star Clark Gable takes off his shirt and he is bare chested. T-shirt sale in America collapsed. That summer, on a Long Island Beach, a dozen men were cited for being bare chested. A judge immediately dismissed the charges. Thus, the ending of the bare chest taboo in America.
Until the 1960′s, America had more publishing censorship than Europe and nudist resort magazines were not allowed distribution until 1958. About the same time as the more sexual and socially impactful “Playboy” magazine and philosophy.
For a brief period of American liberalism in the late-1960′s and early 1970′s, American culture and sexual attitudes rivaled Europe. Nude beaches became common, especially on the Pacific West Coast. Due to the “pill”, sexuality became common and widespread. Also, films of the era, like Easy Rider, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, The Graduate, MASH, Animal House, reflected that trend. In 1968, John Lennon and Yoko Ono release the record album, Two Virgins, with a nude cover. Many people of that historical period thought that with all the sexuality, urban nudism would be a natural follow through.
In the 1980′s a cultural and economic reaction took place in America. It was kind of slow and I, myself, didn’t recognize the trend until the “push-up bra” was marketed and being worn by old girl friends who used to wear bra-less peasant blouses. To some degree, at least the promiscuous sexuality party had to slow down, if it wasn’t AIDS, some other opportunistic bug like Hepatitis C was sure to come along. Along with the decline of sexuality was a decline of interest in nudism. As an aside, since we are touching the issues of sexuality, I am amazed at the number of sexually active people that I meet that are unaware of the UNESCO and other modern progressive sex educator guidelines for practicing sexuality. Basically, these teachings hold that masturbation should be encouraged from an early age, perhaps with training of proper breathing techniques and the use of peripheral toys and lubes to enhance the pleasure. Hugging, nudism, and cuddling should be more socially prevalent and acceptable. From there, partners can work on massage and mutual masturbation. From that point onward from a fully informed adult consenting perspective, partners could decide if they want to exchange body fluids, use condoms, or birth control. This type of social sexuality would severely decrease sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. This is the type of thinking that got Jocelyn Elders fired as United States Surgeon General, is scorned by many religions, and made to appear ridiculous by some that hold masturbation is only for losers that can’t get a date and perform top/bottom sex roles. But, back to nudism, which may or may not have to do with sex.
My inspiration for nudist activism was a fellow, Andrew Martinez aka “The Naked Guy”, who attended UC Berkeley in 1992. Andrew walked around Berkeley totally nude and attended classes only carrying a backpack and wearing sandals. Andrew organized some nude-ins on campus and worked with the Bay Area nudist street theater group, the X-Plicit Players. Some in the Free Body Culture movement believe that Andrew was a poor representative. Apparently, Andrew had some mental stability issues. According to some people who knew him, at times, he could be very sweet, calm, and articulate. At other times, he could turn into anger. As a consequence of Andrew’s activism, UC Berkeley banned public nudity in December 1992 and the City of Berkeley passed a $100 citation offense municipal nudity ordinance in 1993. Critics hold that Andrew set back urban nudism in Berkeley. I agree with the critical observation that several nudists appearing and speaking at the Berkeley City Council meeting was strategically perhaps a little over the top and alienated whatever moderate nudist legislative support that existed. But, the ordinance was likely to pass anyways. If it wasn’t for Andrew, there would not have been urban nudism in Berkeley. To me and other nudist activists, Andrew is our hero. He proved that urban nudism is a viable concept. On the whole, the people of Berkeley were fine with the urban nudism. If urban nudists don’t assert their rights, they don’t have or deserve any.
A more recent development in cities in America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, and Latin America is the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR). As of 2012, there have been no Asian (WNBR) rides. The original (WNBR) idea is credited to Conrad Schmidt who developed the concept in 2003 while participating in San Francisco’s Critical Mass bicycle rides. The first World Naked Bike Rides were in 2004. In 2012, over 80 cities are committed to ride. The dress code is “bare as you dare”. The purposes of the rides are to demonstrate against oil dependency and the car culture, to normalize nudism, to show the vulnerability of bicyclists, and to have a good time. In a few cities, riders because of police constraints, only wear swimwear and in others, most riders are nude. The larger rides are about 2000 in London, 800 in Mexico City, 800 in Chicago, 500 in Portland, Ore (the environmental ride, but 15,000 in the evening party ride).
I find many people who read my written works think that urban nudism is OK, but ask about about the presence of children. There have been many psychological studies demonstrating that children who are around nudity have better, more realistic body consciousness, are mentally healthier, and have fewer sexual problems (like teenage pregnancies). For five years, I have had and continue to have a standing offer of $1000 to anyone that can write an intelligent 500 word essay telling: “What Harm Would Befall a Child who Sees a Nude Adult?” To date, I have received zero essays. Does that mean that the essay cannot be written? Submit your essay to www.urbannudism.com.