Tara Imperatore, Associate Editor & Travel Editor of travel website JustLuxe.com uncovers some myths about naturism in the USA.
We’ve covered a wide variety of luxury travel over the years, but we have yet to explore another popular way to stay: in the nude. As someone who didn’t know much/anything about nudism or nudist resorts, I set out to dispel, or confirm, my own, and perhaps society’s, common perceptions about these places and the people that frequent them.
To assist in my quest for the naked truth, I approached representatives from three luxurious clothing optional resorts - Media and PR Director of Caliente Resorts, Deb Bowen; Owner of Desert Sun Resort, Elizabeth Young; and Niche Project Manager for Karisma Hotels & Resorts (Hidden Beach is the clothing optional property) Alejandro Perez, as well as Ray Aldag, a professor in the management and human resources department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has over 30 years of experience in teaching and conducting research in such subjects as decision making, organizational behaviour and culture, group decision processes, and motivation. Although he is not an expert in motivation for participating in nudism specifically, he does know a thing or two about the way people behave and learn.
So let’s take a look at some of these potential misconceptions and see how our insiders and experts fielded them.
Myth 1: nudity is mandatory everywhere on property at a nudist resort
What I imagine: An intense doubles tennis match naked; a couple enjoying a romantic candlelight dinner naked; a playful belly flop into the pool naked; sunbathers catching some rays in lounge chairs naked. I see any and every activity in the nude and assume that it’s required considering the premise of these resorts.
Reality: This rule varies a bit from resort to resort, and tends to lean more on the “optional” side. At Desert Sun, clothing isn’t required anywhere on the property, however nudity is a must at the pools, Jacuzzis and while on the pool decks. And no need to bring a swimsuit since those are banned too. Owner Elizabeth Young says, “Unlike some places, requiring nudity in and around the pool puts everyone on the same level and there is no judgment. Desert Sun Resort has found that this works well for first timers to feel comfortable. There is nothing worse than being at a clothing optional resort and you are the only one nude in the pool.”
But what about when guests are active, or when the sun goes down and the disco ball starts turning? At Caliente Club, guests are free to dress how they’d like for sports like tennis or volleyball and can be found wearing anything from lingerie to sheer dresses to casual shirts and shorts to the nightclub. “Just like all nightclubs, ours has a sexy vibe to it, and people dress to suit that vibe,” said Marketing Director Deb Bowen. “Caliente club is an adult club, and just like any other high-end nightclub, guests dress to impress. People may come to the club fully dressed, but may not leave the club completely dressed.”
While the term ‘clothing optional’ may have different definitions at different nudist resorts, there is one practice that seems to be standard across the board: all guests must sit on a towel when nude. I’m sure the maid staff and cleaning crew are appreciative of that.
Sidenote: Speaking of the staff's preferences, do they also participate in the nudist lifestyle? Maybe on their own time, but not while on the job. Our three resort reps all report that they do not work in the nude. Deb Bowen says, "Our employees, be them nudists or non-nudists, do not work naked. We have the same liquor laws and health department regulations as any other resort or club and have to adhere to the same guidelines."
Myth 2: guests are free to engage in sexual activity in the resort’s public areas
What I imagine: Considering everyone is indeed naked and most are couples, it seems safe to assume that they’ll just feel comfortable expressing their affection openly whenever and however they want.
Reality: It may seem hard to believe, what with all the naked people running around, but nudist resorts are not sexually-charged environments. Any type of overt sexual behaviour is actually a BIG no-no. At Caliente Club & Resorts, behaviour "never needing an apology" is what they deem appropriate. “There has always been a general misconception that wherever you go, no matter what, if people are around each other naked, they’ve got to be having sex. Well that just is not the case at all,” explains Caliente’s Deb Bowen.
Participating in the naturist lifestyle is about repose and real people escaping the confinement of their careers or everyday stresses. “I think that some people automatically assume nudity equals sex and that is not what a clothing optional resort is about,” says Elizabeth Young of Desert Sun. “It is a place that you would not be embarrassed to tell your neighbour that you went to because it is about relaxation.“ Resort staff ensure that visitors feel comfortable during their stay, with gawking or insults from other guests being taken very seriously. “Guests are very respectful and we enforce the fact that clients cannot be involved in sexual activities in the public areas of the hotel,” says Hidden Beach Resort’s Alejandro Perez. “This is a purely a naturist hotel, we do not operate as a swingers/lifestyle hotel.”
Myth 3: nudist resorts are only frequented by an older, retirement age demographic
What I imagine: My mind goes right to grandma and grandpa sitting around a Jacuzzi naked with like-minded and similar-age friends discussing the youth of America, social security benefits and the perks of retirement.
Reality: While this age group is infamous for being attracted to the nudist lifestyle, they’re certainly not the only ones baring it all these days. Guests do need to be at least 18 years of age to stay, but all three insiders say that people from all walks of life and all around the world choose a nudist getaway. Because of its vacation destination locale in Palm Springs, the common age range of guests at Desert Sun is 35-55. In some research done by Professor Aldag on participation in nudism, he is also able to confirm an excessive number of people in their 30s and 40s in the nudist population.
And while 38 is the average age at Hidden Beach in the Riviera Maya, Alejandro Perez informs that they are starting to see a trend in even younger clientele as of late. “For the younger ones, it’s something to do that sounds exciting and even a little daring.” Caliente’s Deb Bowen continues, “Empty-Nesters: They are looking to spice up their relationship. It’s fun, it’s exciting and makes them feel like teenagers again! Older folks: Bucket List! Plain and simple, something exciting, daring, different, unique, or something no one would ever believe.”
Myth 4: Nudist resorts are a great place for singles to come and meet other singles
What I imagine: The nightclub is packed, but across the bar a man sees a woman with two of the biggest…earrings he’s ever seen and he must go over and compliment her on them. “That is some gorgeous jewellery you’re wearing, do you come here often?” he asks. She giggles and they have a great conversation and dance the night away while Cupid shoots his arrows sans diaper.
Reality: While this might not be entirely untrue, most nudist resorts are geared toward romance and couples. Professor Aldag’s research states that 75%-80% of nudists are indeed married, with many being introduced to the lifestyle through their spouse. At Desert Sun, they attempt to keep the gender ratio even by making a limited number of rooms available for singles, as well as not allowing them to obtain memberships or day passes unless they are a part of a couple. Likewise, Hidden Beach accepts reservations from singles, but on a “case by case scenario.”
Their site also warns that prices differ from those for couples, probably depending on the season, dates selected, and room availability. Alejandro Perez affirms, “Each couple is always in their own world, not paying attention to what the couple next to them is doing.” So while there’s no telling where Cupid will show up, it’s not likely he’ll be bringing singles together at a nudist resort (or if he’ll be welcome at all without a date).
Myth 5: First-timers tend to feel extremely awkward walking around without clothing in front of a bunch of strangers
What I imagine: People sitting in the Jacuzzi until their whole body feels like one big wrinkly prune, too shy to exit and walk around freely. Some women wear sarongs and others stand or sit in awkward positions to cover up their flaws.
Reality: Not the case, the insiders claim. “After 15 minutes, you will forget you are nude,” says Elizabeth Young. Nudists have reported some reasons for participation including a ‘sense of freedom, honesty and openness’, a ‘basis for social collegiality’, and the ‘removal of social differences cued by the nature and quality of clothing’, Professor Aldag shared. And while some other reasons were ‘curiosity about how others look, and how their looks compare to one's own’ (that’s only natural, right?), and a ‘means to work through problems of self-concept’, for the most part nudists seem rather genial and lean more toward instilling a sense of community than slinging judgment.
Elizabeth continues, “You will find that most people are friendlier at a nudist resort. Today’s society is so self-conscience about what we do or don’t look like that it is refreshing to be at a place where you are accepted just as you are. Many guests find lifelong friends at nudist resorts. It is like being a member at the same club.” Speaking to newbies, Deb Bowen says, “RELAX! People generally all feel, within the first hour of visiting, ‘really, it’s no big deal!’”