Are we a minority group?
Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth. (Mahatma Gandhi)
In an earlier blog, I did a bit of digging into how many naturists there are. It is not as simple as you might think, as many people are unwilling to admit it publicly, and many people might not consider themselves a naturist, even though they might be naked some of the time.
I did get some numbers from the American Association for Nude Recreation, British Naturism and The New Zealand Naturist Foundation about their membership, but there will be many naturists who are not members of these groups, so affiliated club membership will underrepresent the actual number by some margin.
In a 2011 survey commissioned by BN, nearly 6% of those surveyed identified as naturists. A remarkable increase in the 2% result from 2001 and significantly more than affiliated club membership would suggest. In 2022 BN commissioned a follow-up survey from research company IPSOS and the result was a staggering 14% (6,750,000 people) identified as naturists or nudists. A contact at BN told me that their current membership was around 9,100, so it would appear that there are many more naturists who are not members of naturist clubs.
Some surveys suggest that up to 40% of the population regularly sleeps naked, although other surveys put the number closer to 15%. Whatever the true number, do these naked sleepers count as nudists?
One of the difficulties is that naturism is more of a philosophy than a state of being and is not absolute. I am still a naturist while I am fully dressed, and non-naturists are still not naturists when they are naked.
Naturists wear clothes. We wear clothes when it is cold, to go to work, to go shopping or for any one of many valid reasons. We wear clothes to protect others from embarrassment.
My naturism does not threaten your right to wear whatever you like whenever you like.
While naturist club membership might suggest that naturists are an insignificant minority, the IPSOS survey suggests that there are far more of us out there than you might imagine.
Realising that we are more numerous than we had previously perceived, maybe we need to be more vocal and proud of our lifestyle amongst colleagues, friends and family.
In order to be counted and to have their voices heard naturists should stand up and be proud to identify as such. Hiding our lifestyle behind a veil of secrecy weakens the philosophy and keeps it as a minority fringe group, often not to be taken seriously.
Being proud of the lifestyle is not the same as walking naked through your streets. Just admitting you enjoy naturism is often all it takes to open up the conversation.
I was recently sitting in a cafe tapping away on the keyboard when a woman at the table next to me commented that I looked deep in thought. I said that I was trying to think of the right wording to use in the blog I was writing. She asked me what the blog was about, to which I replied, Naturism, society’s reaction to it and difficulty accepting it.
While she mentioned that she could never go naked in public herself, she did ask if I had been to the local beach, well known to be frequented by naturists. I had been there but not on this trip. Her response to my topic of writing was not shock or disgust, but rather indifference.
My openness in mentioning the topic of naturism was driven by my belief that as naturists we owe it to ourselves and other naturists to help demystify the philosophy. I was able to raise the topic in a non-confrontational and inoffensive way. I have come to terms with my lifestyle choice, and while I am not about to announce it to all and sundry as I walk into a cafe or bar, I will not shy away from the topic if I am asked about it.
The indifference displayed by the woman in the cafe is something that fills me with hope. Hope that someday most of society will consider naturism with indifference rather than outrage or offence. Naturists still have a long way to go before we enjoy the level of acceptance of other minority groups.
It would be nice to live in a world where my naturism is not seen as weird or offensive, but rather part of the tapestry of beliefs or lifestyles that make up the colourful and diverse world that we live in. Perhaps one day, people will regard nudists with the same level of nonchalance that we give to vegetarians.
Never be afraid to stand with the minority when the minority is right, for the minority which is right will one day be the majority. (William Jennings Bryan)
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.
To answer the question in your headline, yes, naturists are a minority group when it comes to civil rights. Collectively, naturists' rights to be nude are limited, and will remain so to greater and lesser degrees around the world. And the day will never come when people will have the right to walk naked down Main St. along with textile folks in the vast majority of cities around the world.
I think naturism has gained some respect in the past decade or two, but on a limited basis. Many people can relate to the freedom of being nude on a beach. But not so many to walking down Main St. naked.
So, the idealists yearning for absolute freedom in naturism are a minority in society, and they do face discrimination, perhaps more than they know (especially older men).
Which is why we write about it, I guess. Rebels with a cause, yes?
A dear friend of mine will not come out of the bedroom without makeup, much less without clothes. She asked why nudity was so important to me. I said that it wasnt necessarily the nudity, but she wasnt buying it.
We were out on my sailboat and had just finished a swim. Me nude, her covered. I asked if she ever skinnydipped. She replied, "of course!" That apparently got her mind going, because over the next several minutes she would reflect back on her skinnydipping experiences with increasing enthusiasm.
She will never identify as a nudist, but I will probably coax her out of her swimsuit next time. Well, "coax" may not be the right word here. We will remain dear friends regardless of what either of us wear, even it that is nothing.