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Are landed clubs still relevant?
I was recently in discussion with a reader over the topic of naturist clubs and venues and how to include people that don’t have access to these in their area.
Part of my response was that I felt some landed clubs had passed their best before date and were too restrictive in their rules and attitudes.
Here in New Zealand, I have visited a few clubs, and I have found that none of them quite fit what I am looking for in a naturist experience. Sure, they have nice facilities and are a safe place to enjoy being naked in a social environment, but very few of them were welcoming to me when I tried to engage as a single male. In addition, membership often requires a commitment of time beyond that which I currently have available in my busy schedule.
Sometimes the internal politics of established clubs and the personalities involved result in closed and insular thinking, which tries to preserve the haven that they have created for their existing members, rather than welcoming new people to the group. And then in the same breath clubs will wonder why their memberships are dwindling and they are struggling to recruit new people.
I have heard from people involved in landed club management that many of the rules and barriers are in place to protect members from unwanted behaviour by people using nudist clubs as a pathway to voyeuristic sexual gratification or to maintain a more balanced mix of genders in the group.
Rather than exclude people for behaviour that they have not yet engaged in, how about including everyone and dealing with inappropriate behaviour when and if it occurs? This means promptly acting on issues as they occur rather than excluding people to avoid having difficult conversations.
As for the gender mix, it is widely acknowledged that many more men take part in social naturism than women do. Limiting membership numbers to maintain a gender balance, excludes participation for many genuine naturists and may create a sense of resentment towards the club.
I may be quite wrong but from my experience, the demographics of naturist clubs do not reflect the communities in which they are operating. Gender-diverse and disabled people are under-represented in the naturist settings that I have attended, and racial diversity appears to be missing from many. Naturists as a group pride themselves on their acceptance and inclusivity, but our clubs do not always reflect those values and ideals
The demands on the spare time of many people and young families mean that the club model does not always suit their lifestyle, and therefore they don’t consider membership to be of any real value. Offering day passes or access to non-members would help make naturism more accessible to many people who simply feel that they don’t have the time to commit to a full membership.
I can no longer claim to be a younger person but my work schedule has me travelling frequently which means that I do not have much time to give to clubs. I would get less value from the fees than if I had more time to spare. My naturism is largely practised at home and in the warmer months at local beaches, rivers and parks. I am lucky that there are plenty of locations and opportunities for me to enjoy naturism in my community without having to join a club. While I don’t belong to any landed club, I am part of several online groups and have connections with naturist friends, both local and around the world.
One of the online groups I belong to used to organise a monthly get-together at a local hot pool, which usually had up to 40 people turn up for a meal and a swim. This was until a change of ownership of the hot pool venue. The new owners were happy for the group to continue using the facility, but banned children from the event.
At that time, no children were attending, but I believe there was a young family who wanted to join in. There were no objections from the naturist group but the position of the venue on the matter created some heated discussion. Between the passionate arguments from the naturist group and the rights of the venue owners to run their business as they see fit, a compromise was not forthcoming.
Added to this mix was the rise of COVID and the lack of any other venue willing to host our group so the hot pool event has sadly not resumed. Despite this setback, the online group does organise other events where people can get together and enjoy each other's company in various settings.
In answer to the question posed in the title of this article, yes I believe that landed clubs are relevant and still have a strong role to play in promoting the naturist philosophy. Such clubs do have a valuable place in our communities, as they provide both a venue and a framework for many naturists to be part of a community that they might otherwise struggle to access.
But many landed clubs do themselves no favours by becoming too inward-looking and often excluding people who may well contribute to their ongoing relevance and future. For many people, online groups offer connections to like-minded naturists without the need to travel any distance or commit time to help maintain facilities.
Landed clubs, how about opening up and making it easier for day visitors, young families and people wanting to use the wonderful spaces you have created?
Yes, it may mean putting in place strategies for dealing with inappropriate behaviour from a small minority, or if you already have such procedures, you need to be willing to put these processes into practice. Surely clubs would benefit from greater numbers using the facilities and potentially attracting new contributing members.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.