The word naturism was used for the first time in 1778 by a French-speaking Belgian, Jean Baptiste Luc Planchon (1734-1781), and was advocated as a means of improving the 'l’hygiène de vie' (natural style of life) and health.

According to the international definition adopted by the XIV Congress of the International Naturist Federation (Agde, 1974), Naturism is:

"a lifestyle in harmony with nature, expressed through social nudity, and characterised by self-respect of people with different opinions and of the environment."
The International Naturist Federation explains:

"Each country has its own kind of naturism, and even each club has its own special character, for we too, human beings, have each our own character which is reflected in our surroundings."
The usage and definition of these terms varies geographically and historically. Though in the United States, naturism and nudism have very similar meanings, in Britain there is a clear distinction. Nudism is the act of being naked, while naturism is a lifestyle which at various times embraced nature, environment, respect for others, self-respect, crafts, healthy eating, vegetarianism, teetotalism, non-smoking, yoga, physical exercise and pacifism as well as nudity.

In naturist parlance, the word textilist is used to describe someone who is not a naturist, or the act of not being naturist. e.g.He stayed all week but was textilist all the time. It is also used as an adjective to describe a facility where naturism is not allowed e.g. "the textilist beach starts at the flag". Clothing optional and nude optional (US specific) describe a policy or a venue that allows or encourages nudity but tolerates the wearing of clothes. The opposite is clothing compulsory; that is, disallowing nudity, thus requiring the wearing of clothes. Clothes free/clothes-free and clothing free/clothing-free are used as adjectives to describe when naturism is permitted in an otherwise textilist environment.

The social nudity movement includes a large range of variants including "naturism", "nudism", "Freikörperkultur (FKK)", the "free beach movement" as well as generalized "public lands/public nudity" advocacy. There is a large amount of shared history and common themes, issues and philosophy, but differences between these separate movements remain contentious.

Types of naturism
Naturism is practised in many ways: Marc Alain Descamps, in his study written in French, classified the types as: individual nudism, nudism within family, nudism in the wild, social nudism. To that we can add the militant naturist, campaigning or extreme naturists.

Personal and family nudism
Nudism is often practiced in a person's home or garden, either personally or with members of the family.

A Canadian survey showed that 39% of all Canadians would or have walked around the house nude. And in British Columbia this is as high as 51%. Individual nudism can also include sleeping in the nude, but this is sometimes seen as a health benefit, due to the fact that, when naked in bed, it can be much easier to relax and fall asleep, resulting in longer and more restful sleep but it can also be for the reason of comfort.

Social nudism

Not in the swimming poolSocial nudism is nudism in a social context, either at ones home with friends or with acquaintances at a nudist event (e.g., a naked party) or facility, such as a naturist club, community, centre, resort or other facility. (The terms are loosely defined and there are some regional differences.) At naturist events or venues clothing is usually optional, except by swimming pools or sunbathing lawns where complete nudity is expected, weather permitting. This rule is sometimes a source of controversy among some naturists. Staff at a naturist facility are sometimes required to be clothed due to health and safety regulations.

Families enjoying the swimming at Monts de Bussy, Haute Vienne, France.Facilities for naturists are classified in various ways. A landed or members' naturist club is one that owns its own facilities, while non-landed (or travel) clubs meet at various locations, such as private residences, swimming pools, hot springs, landed clubs and resorts, and rented facilities. Landed clubs can be run by members on democratic lines or by one or more owners who make the rules. In either case, they can determine membership criteria and the obligations of members. This usually involves sharing work necessary to maintain or develop the site.

Some clubs have stricter entrance requirements than some traditional 'country clubs', including the requirement to supply references, a sponsoring member, a trial membership, committee approval and/or, criminal background checks. UK clubs are now required to have child protection policies in place, and designated child protection officers. Many clubs promote frequent social activities.

The international naturist organisations were mainly composed of representatives of landed clubs. A nudist colony is no longer a favored term, but it is used by naturists as a term of derision for landed clubs that have rigid non inclusive membership criteria, and in meta-data on naturist websites.

A holiday centre is a facility that specialises in providing apartments, chalets and camping pitches for visiting holidaymakers. The centre is run commercially, and visitors are not members and have no say in the management. Most holiday centres expect visitors to hold an INF card, that is be a member of their national organisation, but some have relaxed this restriction, relying on the carrying of a trade card. Holiday centres can be quite small, just a couple of hectares or large occupying over 300 hectares. In a large holiday centre there will be swimming pools, sports pitches, an entertainment program, kid's clubs, restaurants and supermarkets. Some holiday centre's allow regular visitors to purchase their own chalets, and generations of the same families will visit each year. Holiday centres are more relaxed about textilists than members clubs; total nudity is usual in the swimming pools and the beaches, while on the football pitches, or in the restaurants in the evening, it is rare.

A naturist resort is, to a European, an essentially urban development where naturism is the norm. Cap d'Agde in France, naturist village Charco del Palo on Lanzarote, Canary Islands, and Vera Playa in Spain are examples. Here there are apartment blocks, with privately-owned and rented apartments. For some residents this is their year-round home. One finds all the usual facilities of a small town. In the US usage, a naturist resort can mean a holiday centre.

Freikörperkultur (FKK) (see article in German) literally translated as free body culture is the name for the general movement in Germany. The abbreviation is widely recognised all over Europe and often found on informal signs indicating the direction to a remote naturist beach.

Nude beaches

Sign on the beach at Cap d'AgdeClothing is optional at nude beaches (or free beaches). Some beaches have been clothes free beyond living memory, and their status has been formalised by becoming official nude beaches, while others, though not official, have become unofficial nude beaches through toleration by local authorities.[19] In some European countries, such as Denmark and Norway,[1] all beaches are clothing optional, while in others like Germany there are naturist sunbathing areas in public parks, e.g., in Munich.

A feature of bathing on a nude beach is the anonymity it offers, where membership of a club is not required with detailed application processes, nor pre-booking of visits.

Though free beaches developed separately from national naturist bodies, these bodies are taking an interest and helping to protect them legally, and through the publication of guidelines of acceptable behaviour. In North America, the Free Beach Movement was the name of a group that was opposed to the direction of the official nudist organisation, the American Association for Nude Recreation, and set up the rival body The Naturist Society.

Nudism in the wild

Hiking in the AlpsSkinny dipping is swimming naked in a river, lake, swimming hole or other body of water. Ernest Thompson Seton describes skinny dipping as one of the first activities of his Woodcraft Indians, a forerunner of the Boy Scouts, in 1902. Swimming was done nude at the YMCA until the 1960s in single sex groups. In some English schools, Manchester Grammar School for example, nude swimming was compulsory until the 1970s. This was also the case for some US junior high schools. A Gallup poll in 2000 showed that 25% of all American adults had been skinny dipping at least once.

Nude snorkeling and nude diving
Canuding is the practice of nude canoeing or kayaking
Free hiking, naked hiking or naked rambling is the practice of hiking in the remote countryside as a social activity while nude. The French term is 'Randonnue'. It happens worldwide from mountain forests on Tenerife to densely populated areas like South East England.
Free riding is the practice of riding in the remote countryside while nude. The German term is 'Nacktreiten'. The term can also be used to refer to naked cycle riding.

Campaigning naturism
Vincent Bethell conducted the The Freedom to be Yourself campaign.
World Naked Bike Ride, mass clothing optional (but substantially naturist) bike rides protesting the oil economy and vulnerability of cyclists.
Steve Gough, UK walker who has walked from Lands End to John O'Groats naked.
Spencer Tunick mass nude photography.
Mark Storey is a member of the Naturist Action Committee a sister organisation to the US The Naturist Society. He co-founded the Body Freedom Collaborative in Seattle with Daniel Johnson, Washington state in the US, whose goal is to bring attention for the need for legal clothing-optional beaches through "guerilla pranksterism", among other approaches.

Naturism is a lifestyle in harmony with nature, expressed through social nudity, and characterised by self-respect of people with different opinions and of the environment.
At one end of the spectrum are the nudists who just enjoy a nude life style, and at the other are the naturists, who have deeply held beliefs and see communal nudity as just one of many important principles. The INF definition is a compromise that has held since 1974. In it you can see the elements: lifestyle, harmony with nature, social nudity, self respect, differing opinions, respect for the environment.

Naturism and equality
Many people say that being nude in groups makes them feel more accepted for their entire being — physical, intellectual and emotional. They say that they tend to be more accepted, in spite of differences in age, body shape, fitness, and health. Without clothing, one's social rank is generally obscured. They report feeling more united with humanity, with less regard to a person's wealth, position, nationality, race, and sex.

History of social nudity

Max Koch, Freilicht, 1897.Nudity in social contexts has been practised in various forms by many cultures at all time periods. Social nudity is most frequently encountered in the contexts of bathing, swimming and in saunas, whether in single-sex groups, within the family or with mixed-sex friends.

It is difficult to nominate exactly when naturism started as a movement. In 1903 Paul Zimmermann opened the first club, Freilichtpark, near Hamburg. By 1951, the national federations united to form the International Naturist Federation or INF. Some naturists preferred not to join clubs, and after 1945, pressure was put to designate beaches for naturist use. The two groups did not cooperate until 2000.

In the twenty-first century, with changing leisure patterns, commercial organisations began opening holiday resorts to attract naturists who expected a standard of comfort and amenity equal to, or exceeding, that found at textilist resorts.

Free beaches
Many people get their first exposure to the clothes free movement through an informal approach (e.g. a clothing optional beach, a friend's place in the woods, a party on the shore or skinny dipping).

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