Naturism—or nudism as it's sometimes called in the United States—is consistent with trends seen throughout history. Even though skinny-dipping in remote areas has been a tradition in the U.S., at the beginning of the 20th century men and women were forced to wear uncomfortable bathing suits that covered the entire body. Until the 1930s, men were subject to arrest if found in public without a top.
Times changed, and bathing suits for women grew smaller and smaller. The bikini seemed the final stage in swimsuit freedom. Then, in Europe,
women did what the men had done decades before; they took their tops off. At first shocking, it is now a very common sight at all family beaches on the continent. Although beachwear has evolved throughout the decades,
skinny-dipping has always been around, ever since the first kids took off their clothes for a dip at the old swimming hole. Now skinny-dippers are asking for access to public beaches. Naturist—or clothing-optional—beaches are
gaining popularity throughout the world.
Naturists in the past 20 years have acknowledged their responsibility in helping to maintain the cleanliness and family-atmosphere of the clothing-optional areas across America. They often develop support groups that work with local officials in hosting beach clean-ups and in informing visitors of appropriate beach etiquette. These clothing-optional areas are some of the cleanest and safest public recreation sites anywhere.
[Little Beach interviews]
Civic leaders have many options in providing for requests for clothing-optional recreational sites. More often than not, there is no state,
county, or city law limiting their freedom from doing so. Still, officials will have reasonable questions and concerns, and can depend on naturists to help sort out the answers.
Sometimes posting such signs is more than community leaders are willing to do. Sometimes adopting a policy of ignoring simple nudity and
enforcing sensible rules against lewd behavior is all that it takes to keep most everyone happy.
"A lot of people are concerned about sunbathing and what effect it has had on the City of Miami Beach and its tourism. It has not effected tourism in the negative way. In fact, a lot of the Europeans and South Americans who have come to Miami Beach have come basically because they have received word that we are a very tolerant city, of course with certain restraints. And we have not had any crimes associated with sunbathing, or topfree nudity, or any of that sort, so we are very proud of what we have in our city."
[Presentation by Bill Lone, Sunny Isles Beach Resort Association (1996):]
"The positive benefits of the clothing-optional beach in Haulover Park have been, primarily, one, a dramatic reduction in crime. Since 1992, it's a plus factor as reported by Metro-Dade County that we have not had one reported incident, which is credited to the protocols that our guests follow, as well as to their self-policing. Number two, the economic impact. Although we do not have formal economic benchmarks or barometers, we have been informed by Metro-Dade County that the parking revenues for the facilities that have been availed, in 1992 represented $272,000, and in 1995 grew to $670,000. And thirdly, we find that the guests that we experience who emanate from Europe, primarily Germany, Russia, England, and our visitors from Canada, do not in any way tax our community, but bring it an economic plus benefit."
A key to the success of any clothing-optional site is the naturist commitment to maintaining a family-friendly environment. Children are an integral part of any healthy social community, and no more so than in naturist groups.
[Mother with family interview]
Dr. Paul Okami, Professor of Psychology at UCLA, recently surveyed all academic studies on the effects of nudity on children. He concluded that
there is no reliable evidence that mere nudity has a negative effect on children. Moreover, he concluded that the studies indicate casual nudity in the home might actually be of benefit to younger boys.
[Lloyd Olson interview]
Naturism is becoming as established in the Untied States as it is in Europe. The 2000 Roper Poll shows this in unbiased terms. Local naturists wish to be seen for who they are: part of the local community and deserving of the same considerations accorded everyone else. Naturists have a choice as to where they will relax and spend their money. Naturist parks and beaches with appropriate signage can be an economic boon for local communities and a valuable public resource for those citizens yearning for a more natural experience.
Naturism: it offers a place for everyone under the sun.