History of Nudism v Naturism
I am pleased to see the membership growing, and the standard of the
newsletter getting better, along with production etc. I wish that I could offer
both my single and singular supports better than I do, but living so far away
from the Studland beach area makes only the thought of visiting possible. I
shall do it in person one day, but until then the Newsletter is having to
suffice; which brings me to my reason for writing.
I have been enjoying and noticing some of the opinions expressed by the
writers of the letters you choose to publish, but I am brought up short - as I am so many times - by
the critical definers for the terms nudist and naturist. To my mind, the word
naturist should never have been appropriated, but it was, and is loaded with so
many false definitions that I wonder if the people who accept the label have any
real reason left for why they do.
Let me try to explain some history. When naked culture began in Germany
during the early part of this century, one of its better names was Nacktekultur
- Naked Culture. Later it adopted the rather long and lumpy Freikörperkultur
- Free Body Culture, the name by which it is known to this day; but let us
remain in the past for a while. When naked culture was adopted by France, which
was a little while after its popular recognition in Germany, it was called nudisme
-nudism. By all accounts there were some very good groups, with members verging
up and down the social strata.
Inevitably, there were legal difficulties (none of which I dare go into very
deeply because the necessary literary material is not with me) which caused the
groups either to become select or to go underground, but not without the arrival
of naturisme -naturism. Naturisme was a sort of rip-off version of
nudisme: nudity was allowed by the clubs but only if an article of
clothing was worn. Initially, I believe that the extent or type of clothing was
not rigidly fixed, so there are accounts of some rather peculiar attires, but
the clubs gradually degenerated into places where partial undress was the norm.
In later times this was respectabilised into the (in)famous French le minimum,
a small piece of cloth worn over the genital area. I believe that le minimum
is not now so arbitrary as it once was, and may be dying out in some places; but
the rather bastard term naturiste has not, and has since been adapted
into naturist by the world at large, and especially by those nudists who seem to
have become embarrassed by the thought of ever being nude.
For my part, I would agree that nude or naked living could be thought of as
natural, but I cannot for one minute imagine that being natural has necessarily
anything to do with nudity. So I feel that this bickering over words should come
to a stop. It is easy to see that the defining of French naked culture was
marred, but not at all clear - if we come to question it - why the world chose,
and is still choosing, the term used by the French as a cover for embarrassment.
The early devotees of Nacktekultur and nudisme were very given
to healthy pursuits. Gymnastics, vegetarianism and non-smoking were very much
the main part of the day. Not all of the visitors may have carried on with the
disciplines once their stay was over, but when there, the orders to do so were
invariably rigid. I realise that we live in a society where laxness is almost
thought a virtue, but it sometimes seems to me that these early pioneering
people had something over the current variety. I will not attempt to develop
this into an argument, but noticing within your pages that there are nudists or
naturists volubly complaining that meetings are due to be held in non-smoking
places - well, I am not certain how civilised I should be in announcing a
reaction. Nudity has to be equated with health, so I would prefer all nudists to
know some parts of their history. If they do not, then I am not at all sure what
they are. One should, perhaps, try to imagine a British socialist who professed
no knowledge of workers' strikes.
Well, how about that? One thing about The Bare Essentials, you
could never call it boring. Paul's point is well made, though,
and thanks for the history lesson!
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