In 1979, a Bournemouth Township Councilor said (and The Observer reproduced her words in the “Quotes of the Week” section): “Naturists pollute the beach.” The indignation of this municipality had been provoked by the proposal that Brighton and other beaches in England officially create “naturist establishments”.
However, naked bathers in English sea waters would not be a novelty. An Evening Star contributor said: “Brighton councilors are simply resurrecting a custom that was common on our beaches throughout history, and repealing a side that is only a century old . ” Humans have bathed naked in the sea since the day they began to bathe.
But the polluting hordes that were so fearfully awaited in Brighton were not simply made up of people animated by the intention to bathe without committing the absurd act of dressing before bathing, but rather by ‘naturists’. What is it that distinguishes a “naturist” from a boy who takes off his shoes, takes off his pants, and goes naked into the sea? It is not easy to define the difference, but essentially the “naturist” is someone who has faith in the beneficial properties of nudity, benefits that can be physical and psychological., rather than someone who considers nudity to be comfortable, easy and fun, and who practices it intermittently, such as doukhobors, because nudity is part of a larger set of ideas. Although it is true that there are precursors, naturism is a phenomenon typical of the 20th century. It is a thriving and expanding movement that has already acquired some of the characteristics of a subculture.
Throughout the centuries there have always been those who have extolled the beneficial effects of nudity. Even in puritanical America (and puritanical it has been until very recently), men like Benjamin Franklin and Thoreau praised nudity and occasionally and in a purely domestic manner practiced it. But it was Senancour, in his work “ De l´Amour considéré dans les lois réelles et dans les social forms de l´union des deux sexes ”, published in 1805, who published the first manifesto of the naturist movement, in which he said:
“Imagine a country in which on certain collective festivals women enjoyed absolute freedom to go almost or totally naked. They would swim, dance, walk, and those who considered it appropriate would do so naked in the presence of men… Such nudity would require the pertinent institutions, strong and simple, and a great respect for the social pacts that have prevailed in all times ” .
If the scope of these claims were extended in a way that encompassed both sexes, and if a few observations were added about the positive value of nudity, this statement would be perfectly typical of a modern naturist.
In the 20th century, the naturist movement represents an ideal of health. And we should not be surprised by this, since the progenitors of naturism mentioned by almost all medical authorities.
Original publication 17 November, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 30th November 2020
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