Am I a feral naturist?
Sitting in my inbox recently, was a message from John Lowe, the editor of the NZ Naturist Federation newsletter, Go-Natural. John and I have communicated a number of times on several issues, and I always enjoy our conversations.
John was responding to one of my blogs about Landed clubs and their relevance. In his note, talking about a perceived decline in club membership, John said:
“I have observed, over the years, both the slow, apparent decline in official numbers and the gentle rise in feral naturism."
I had not heard the term “feral naturism” before, and I found it interesting and also quite appealing.
The rebel in me likes the phrase, it’s a bit subversive, although upon reflection it does have brutal and animalistic overtones. The negative connotations of the word feral are greater than the name suggests. Perhaps the terms “Free-Range” or “Independent” are more in line with my attitudes and feelings around my role in the wider naturist community.
I don’t belong to a landed club. I would have to drive for an hour to make it to my nearest club, and closer to home we have naturist-friendly beaches and a privately owned naturist park, which welcomes day visitors and does not require membership. The distance that I need to travel to access a landed club and the time commitments of being a club member do not fit in with my busy lifestyle. I work full-time and travel a lot as part of my job. The spare time that I do have is precious to me. My partner and I are lucky to live on a property that has a small but private outdoor area that gets all-day sun. We can spend the day naked as much as we like, and are not overlooked by our neighbours. It is true that we do not have the numerous and frequent social connections that an organised naturist venue offer, but we do have a group of friends locally that we occasionally get together with and it appears that a monthly get-together for a meal and swim at a thermally heated pool might be back on the schedule after a 2-year hiatus.
I am an independent naturist, a free agent. I live in an environment that allows me to be naked as much as I want. I will happily pay a fee as a day visitor to a club, but at this stage of life, I don’t see much advantage in full club membership.
I accept that a portion of club fees go to support local Naturist Foundations and in turn the World Naturist Foundation, but for me, that is not reason enough to join a club that I would otherwise not use. I once tried to find out how a non-member could contribute to the NZ Naturist Federation, as I value the work that they do, however it seems that their organisation is funded only through club membership and does not have the capacity to receive funds from individual naturists. Addressing this anomaly may go some way to reducing the “us and them” perception that naturist organisations seem to easily adopt.
For many people, the act of enjoying normal and everyday activities clothes-free is more important than the need to interact with others in a naturist setting. Sure, most of us want connections with other people, it is a basic human need, but for a large number of busy people, online connections are an easy way to supplement those needs when we are pressed for time.
While online connections are not really an adequate substitution for real-life face-to-face friendships or even just acquaintances, they do give a sense of community and belonging to people who can feel isolated and alone due to their lifestyle choice.
It is interesting that as I write this blog, there are conflicting reports about the popularity of naturism. Some reports are suggesting that numbers are dwindling, while other reports suggest that numbers are growing, significantly, amongst younger people.
My hope is that recent world events, the consequences of lockdowns and working from home, combined with a higher awareness of the true costs to the environment of some clothing manufacturing methods in our highly consumerist world, may have caused some people to reflect. Perhaps considering naturism as something that they can do to contribute to a better world and save money, they may have discovered the added bonus of improved body confidence and well-being. This discovery is something that naturists have known all along.
I am a naturist, and while I am not a member of any landed clubs, some might call me a feral naturist.
I do not identify as a feral naturist, but I am an independent, free-range one.
There are more of us than you might think, and our voices count.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.