“When people think of a nudist, they typically think of a man who is sixty-five years old and overweight, with a ponytail,” says Angye Fox, 40, who describes herself as “a tall, attractive, busty blonde”—and a nudist who frequents clothing-optional resorts in her home state of Florida.
Or people believe that nude events no longer take place at all, says “Jordan,” 35, co-founder of Young Naturists America (YNA), a year-old New York-based organization that aims to draw young people into the movement. “We once got an email from a guy in Kentucky who was very frustrated because he felt he was the only nudist in the entire state,” recalls Jordan. As it turns out, he merely needed to be connected to like-minded individuals, which YNA facilitated through its social media network.
So even though the largest traditional nudist organizations—like the American Association for Nudist Recreation (AANR)—have long found it difficult to attract the under-35 crowd, their struggles might be attributable to ineffective marketing, as opposed to resistance to the idea of getting naked with friends, acquaintances and strangers.
Nudism in Decline?
“I actually believed that nudism was on the decline until I got involved with this,” begins Jordan. But he maintains that traditional nudist camps are hurting only because members are dying, and they don’t know how to replenish the pool, so to speak. “Young people could care less about pot luck lunches and things like that,” he elaborates, noting that YNA hosts naked parties indoors during the cold-weather months and organizes weekend getaways in the summer, with a 50-50 male-female ratio at most events.
“We gear our parties to the younger generation,” elaborates YNA co-founder Felicity, 23, who comes from a family of nudists and spent much of her childhood at Rock Lodge, a family-oriented nudist club in northern New Jersey. “We have music and body painting and an open bar. It’s basically like any other might out in Manhattan, except we don’t wear any clothes,” she says.
Another difference, though, is that party-goers don’t typically carry around cell phones, purses or wallets. “When people come in they take off their clothes and check their belongings. And we tell them to give a big tip to the bartenders at the beginning of the night so they don’t have to worry about money,” she explains, noting that she has recently been wearing a sequined fanny pack. (“I’m trying to start a new trend,” she says.)
According to Jordan it’s refreshing to judge people not by their social markings but by interacting with them. In fact, YNA makes a point of highlighting the fact that it doesn’t discriminate, and accepts everyone regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, tattoos and piercings, “as long as they are respectful at our events and on our platforms,” he stipulates. “For many individuals it’s a big life change,” he continues, “because there are some individuals with low self-esteem or body image issues. We see a lot of people who become very comfortable in their own skin and it changes their life.”
Land O’ Nakes
Meanwhile, down in Pasco County, Florida (arguably the nudist capital of the U.S.) there are currently seventeen clothing-optional resorts in operation, and nudism is definitely on the rise. Iit’s no accident that there are so many resorts in the Land O’ Lakes area. After all, Pasco is the only county in Florida that allows full nudity and alcohol.
But according to Fox, who spent three years working as a media spokeswoman for Caliente Resorts, at least some of the properties are catering to young people, and as a result, there’s a lot of eye candy on display. She says it’s also a lot of fun to vacation at an open-minded place where you never have to worry about a wardrobe malfunction. “The only thing that is a drawback is that there may be some jealousy because people may ogle your girl or guy,” she says.
Fox says the biggest challenge facing these resorts is getting young people to give the nudist experience a try, recalling how she was hesitant to go the first time. That’s why many properties are marketing themselves as clothing-optional, she says, “which allows people not to feel like they have to get naked as soon as they get in the door. They also have theme parties—like lingerie night, which women go crazy for because they can dress up—and music that appeals to young people,” she says.
However, the biggest contributor to the recent uptick in interest has no doubt been social media. “We know more about social networking and online presence than any of the major organizations do,” assesses Jordan. “A lot of people just want an outlet to communicate and want to meet people in their area, and we offer the tools to do that,” he says.
YNA’s expertise in social media has not only fostered growth, it appears to have intimidated some of the more traditional resorts. “The fact that YNA made a splash so quickly worried people that we were going to take away their business. But we want everybody to succeed,” relates Jordan. “One of the pillars of our group is that we always leave a person or place better off than when we first got there,” he continues, explaining that YNA has already started raising money for charitable causes, including a women’s shelter in Manhattan.
Still, there figures to remain a certain stigma to nudism, at least for the forseeable future. “Social nudism is one the rise but most people still don’t want to be called a nudist,” begins Fox. “Nor do they want resorts to be called ‘colonies.’ I don’t want to say it’s offensive, but colonies are for ants. The more proper term would be a nudist resort,” she concludes.
This isn’t to say nudists have any qualms about being seen at a resort. In fact, converts often find that it’s a challenge to return to the so-called textile world. “Once they start going,” says Fox, “they don’t ever want to do a vacation where they can’t be naked.”