Naturism is both a life style and a way of enjoying recreation in a natural, wholesome and safe environment. People often ask how and why modern naturism began, but of course nudity is mankind’s natural state. Nudity was once considered purity. Some cultures had royal virgins who wore clothing which exposed their breast in order to show their purity. Western European Cultures between the Renaissance and the 19th century, exposed breasts were more acceptable than today, bared legs, ankles or shoulders were considered more risqué. [Reference]
Prior to religions becoming prudish nudity was not taboo. Christians were baptized nude, no clothing, jewelry, or even bandages were permitted to touch water that had been consecrated. [Image] All foreign objects were removed, otherwise the water became impure by such objects. [Reference]
Past religious leaders outlawed nudity in order to control, often under false pretenses. Nudity has much to do with sexuality in the eyes leaders religious or otherwise, and the laws our leaders passed were to control behavior, disease, and births. Undesirable births can create problems, controlling sexuality/nudity was seen as preventing women and children from being without food, clothes and male leadership. Often these laws intrude into our personal lives, intruding our bedrooms, if someone “inadvertently” saw you having anal sex with your wife during the 18th century, you could be executed for a capitol offense. [Reference]
Many early civilizations never made use of clothing for anything but protection. [Reference] Small animal skins and pieces of expensive fabric also served as protection or to carry tools. Only the wealthy or powerful could afford and wear cloth, the poor often needed a years salary to buy one garment. Only when cloth became less expensive did common folk begin to wear it.
Laws about nudity did not come about until cloth was more common, some slaves were not allowed clothing. The poor who were unable to afford homes or clothing often labored nude in fields paying for housing by their labor taking a small percentage to barter. Working in the fields, on fishing boats or other dirty smelly jobs, working nude preserved the few garments they had. Nude bathing was done in streams and public baths along side neighbors and visitors to the towns. The rich bathed upstream, the poor bathed downstream often in streams that were less than clean.
Nudity was common place, and the Olympic athletes were nude. In Sparta, and a few other places both male and female athletes performed nude, however most places only male nudity was allowed during the games with a few exceptions. In places where only males athletes performed nude, the females performed nude in parades and celebrations prior athletic events.
The first Christian baptisms took place in streams and rivers large enough for the purpose. Those to be baptized would remove all clothing (shed the old life), be led into the water, and their entire body submerged three times. They were led still nude from the water, and escorted into the arms of those who would rap them in a clean clothing ( white robe if available) representing their new life. Christians in later times associated nudity with the ritual nudity of pagan religions. Nudity then considered following the way of Satan as the pagans did, though most pagan faiths don’t believe in Satan.
In seventeen and eighteen hundreds nude swimming and skinny-dipping was normal but not a wide spread activity. Swim suits were not invented until later in the Victorian Era. Skinny dipping in secluded swimming holes among friends or family was and is still normal in some areas of North America. On beaches prior to the Victorian Era men walked around fully nude for all to see. Women used special horse drawn wagons, the front half was a fully enclosed dressing room, last half had shielded sides and a roof with descending stairs. This allowed the women to exit and enter the water unseen. The women submerged themselves and the cart pulled away so a “lady” could enjoy the water and never expose her nude body.
During Queen Victoria’s reign, her moral codes changed everything, the nudity taboo advanced so far that no bare legs were to be seen, cloth sleeves were made to hide “bare” table legs. No part of the human body was allowed to be seen, no bare legs, no cleavage, or bare arms. Things were only slightly more relaxed in the United States of America, but her influence spread to across the ocean. Americans already had sexual taboos from Puritan influence, this plus Victorian nudity taboos helped the shape the society we have today.
Public nudity however was not dead, just more secret. Single sex groups still publicly socialized nude in steam houses and swimming pools, though were generally male oriented groups. Women were held to a higher and stricter morality and still are today. The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was one such group where males swam, showered, and were generally nude. Only after the YMCA began to admit females in the early 1960’s did swimming trunks become required pools in common areas. Some YMCA’s however continued the practice into the 1970’s, these YMCA’s remained exclusively male. Part of the pressure was because YMCA was seeing more gay oriented activity and increased operational cost. Between the pressures of these
two forces it was decided it was time to open the YMCA’s to females. Hence a song by the “Village People” called YMCA based upon gay activities there in the 1970’s.
Many high school swimming classes for boys had similar policies, citing the impracticality of providing and maintaining sanitary swimming gear and lint from the swimsuits was clogging swimming pools’ filtration systems. These practices were common and perceived as healthy and non sexual. Women’s sports including swimming were either scarce or non existent. Today, women’s sports still take a back seat to men’s sports are less funded and less popular among the general sports enthusiasts.
Though naturism has become a growth industry in the tourism market, some older clubs have closed, some because of the costs, some because the maintain older outdated rules and price structures. Many young people either do not want or can not afford traditional naturist resorts. They seek inexpensive and open minded venues to facilitate their naturist lifestyles and recreational activities. Traditional naturist clubs cater to families and couples only. Some clubs calling themselves naturist clubs are actually swingers clubs causing some the misconception of what naturism represents.
The Maryland Area Naturist Association (MARNA) is not one of those. We emphasize family oriented naturism for singles, couples and families. Our emphasis is mainly on single men and women, and we seek to introduce new people to naturism an opportunity for them to socialize. We offer a safe non-sexual environment for people of all ages. Although we are family oriented some of our venues do not allow children. This is not by choice the owners of some of the facilities do not allow us to invite children. At other events ages ranging from infants to centenarians attend our events. We have college students as well as lawyers, cab drivers, doctors, technicians and more in attendance. People of all races and religions attend without issue: Pagans, Christians, Jews, Hindus, others have all attended our swims
We are accepting of people new to naturism, therefore enforced nudity is not one of our practices. You may wear bathing suits during your introduction to naturism. However after a few visits we do expect progress, and hope you begin to be able to attend nude or at least partially nude. If our event occurs during medical or personal times full nudity where is not possible, we can and do make exceptions. Our objective is a safe and enjoyable environment with the freedom to march to different drummer. Be comfortable with who you are.