It’s a subject that has been broached in naturist magazines and websites on several occasions, and will no doubt continue to be debated well after many of us come to don our last-ever piece of clothing: a shroud. Where is the next generation of naturists going to come from?
In line with the demographics of most of the western world as a whole, naturists are getting older. It’s a sad and rather sobering fact. You only have to look at the overwhelming majority of photos and articles in the naturist media, or see what is happening to naturist club membership, to realise that we are in danger of becoming an endangered species.
I recall one letter to H&E naturist some time ago from a disgruntled reader who complained that all of the magazine’s contributors seemed to be ‘white, male, heterosexual and over fifty.’
Guilty as charged, m’lud, on all counts. And nothing I can really do about any of them! But at least I hope I am doing my bit to promote the many joys of naturism. Can the same be said for others?
Take naturist clubs for instance. Groucho Marx once famously remarked that he wouldn’t join any club that would have somebody like him as a member. There are times when you have to agree with him. Rules. Committees. Points of order. Petty politics. It’s only a wonder Alan Ayckbourn hasn’t written a play set in one.
Are they really sending out the right message to anybody in the under-50 age bracket? Let alone the under-25s.
As the generation who came of age in the sixties and seventies, it’s probably inevitable that many of us have few inhibitions about public nudity – we grew up with Hair, Oh Calcutta, Woodstock and John & Yoko. With the proliferation of nudity since then, in newspapers, magazines, advertising, TV, films and the stage, things should, if anything, have got better.
But we seem to have taken several steps backwards, at least as far as bringing on the next generation of people who are comfortable and relaxed about being naked themselves. It seems to be OK for others, but not for them. I don’t understand it. Being naked on the beach, in the garden or countryside, or in the swimming pool, sauna and hot tub, is a wonderful feeling. Where’s the pleasure if it’s only vicarious?
Does it stem from us? Are we sending out the wrong signals? Or do we simply find it difficult to steer children through those awkward adolescent years – on the basis that few will have had any problems being naked when they were small – into being naked and happy as adults?
Sadly, I know of several naturists (including some who run naturist holiday accommodation) whose grown-up children curl up with embarrassment at the thought of being naked in public with their parents, never mind their parents’ friends or customers.
Perhaps I was lucky. My parents weren’t ‘naturists’ by any stretch of the imagination, in that when I was growing up, I doubt whether they knew naturist beaches or holidays even existed, let alone would suggest that we actaully went on one. But they were perfectly comfortable being naked in situations where it was natural for us all to be so, such as the bedroom or the bathroom.
The mainstream media doesn’t help. The paranoia about paedophilia is ridiculous, and now almost endemic. Banning photos of babies and toddlers in the bath, paddling pool or on the beach – clothed or otherwise? Insane. Of course we have to have safeguards. Read the Daily Mail however and you’d think the UK had turned into a nation of kiddy-fiddlers. But is the problem really any worse than it used to be? Luxury, as the Monty Python sketch goes. In my day, we had Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.