How We Identify

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Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, Edouard Manet, 1862-63

Nudist or Naturist, the Great Debate

For years, I abhored the terms nudist and naturist. I called myself a clothing-optionalist, at times, or spoke around my situation altogether. The reason was that these terms, particularly nudist, are used to ridicule adherents to the philosophy of nudism. When discussions pop up about nudism in media, they are relegated to “weird news” segments. Comedians can brutalize us, one of the few marginalized groups it’s still okay to pick on. So, for me, I had many negative connotations around the words and didn’t want to be defined by them.

As I grew into my self-identity after years of fighting it, I started to own the terms more and more. I’m shyer around people who’ve known me for a long time if I reveal this aspect of my life to them. For people newer in my circle, I’ve found it easier to use and embody the terms.

A nudist is one who enjoys being without clothes no matter the location and as such is an adherent to nudism. Almost by definition a nudist is a naturist, since naturists enjoy being nude in natural, outdoor surroundings. A naturist is not necessarily a nudist, since naturists might specify their venue for nakedness less broadly than a nudist.


The author, 2011

Nudism and naturism involve participation in non-sexual nakedness. While nudists and naturists are typically open-minded and unconcerned about people’s sex lives, and The Full Vermonty affirms all people’s preferences, the non-sexual aspect of nudism and naturism is an important distinction often paramount in our minds, because American society commonly conflates the exposed human body with sex. Thus, while sex can occur with nakedness, sexuality is very much linked to the mind and need not involve nakedness. Likewise, not all nakedness leads to sexual activity. If there is one thing we can hammer home, it is this distinction. Nudists the world over prove this daily, but the Puritanical biases fostered long ago are very difficult to quiet 400 years later.

Personally, I’ve chosen the term nudist, since my preference to be unclothed can be indoors or out. I embrace naturism spiritually, as well, feeling a deep connection to Mother Earth when nude outdoors. But ultimately, I fit the profile of a nudist. In your practice, you can determine which word works for your identity. This community often gets hung up on the words that define us, but there really is no wrong or better answer.