Public Nudity Debate: Bare Me or Spare Me?

25 Sep 13
Public Nudity Debate: Bare Me or Spare Me?
Illustration by Wade Mickley.

Bare Me: Public Nudity Rocks!

Across the country, buds are blossoming, bees are buzzing, and everyone is enjoying blissful summer days spent enjoying the great outdoors. But too often, in our congested cities and technology-focused lives, it can be difficult to really get in touch with nature. For those looking for a great way to unplug from cell phones and email and reconnect with nature (and yourself) we have a solution: Bare it all!

Clothing-optional and clothes-free campgrounds and RV parks across the United States offer a way to escape the craziness of the city and return to nature, on many different levels. Think about the possibilities of a nude camping experience: If you are not wearing any clothes then you have nowhere to put your cell phone…a true vacation. Going for a skinny dip in the nearby streams is sure to leave you feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. And just imagine falling asleep—in the nude—listening to the sounds of nature as you gaze up at a star-studded sky.

The American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) is the largest and most respected organization of its kind. It is the authority on nude recreation and family social nudism, and has been since 1931. The popularity of public, recreational nudity has only grown since the organization’s inception. From “Dare Bare” 5Ks to nude volleyball tournaments to the seemingly limitless amount of nude bicycle races and rides, organized recreational nudity is enjoying a heyday. The possibilities are endless: try nude Frisbee golf, gardening, petanque, tennis, kayaking, bowling, and jazzercise!

Think nudism is un-American?  Think again. In one survey, we found that one in five Americans have skinny-dipped at one time or another. Benjamin Franklin himself was fond of taking daily “air baths” sitting nude for an hour or so while he read or wrote. Others known to have enjoyed skinny-dipping or other recreational nude activities include John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau. In popular culture, Helen Mirren, Drew Barrymore, Alanis Morissette, Elle McPherson, Alicia Silverstone, Woody Harrelson, Heidi Klum, and many others have indicated that they too enjoy shedding their clothes.

It is widely accepted that sunlight counteracts the effects of the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder. Studies indicate your body needs at least 20 minutes a day of sunshine to help prevent a vitamin D deficiency – one notable side effect of which is depression. Those who routinely enjoy the benefits of a daily exercise in the buff are on a steady course for healthy living.

Carolyn Hawkins is a member of the American Association for Nude Recreation.

Spare Me: Public Nudity Sucks! 

My mother used to tell me, “Don’t ever say anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear.” Which, of course, I took to mean don’t do anything of that nature either. And while none of us is perfect, I’d like to think Grandma would be pretty damn proud of the life I’ve lived thus far: one of steadfast dedication, unwavering morals, charitable selflessness, and walking around clothed. All the time.

Let’s be honest people: we’re not cavemen. Hell, cavemen didn’t even walk around naked. I think we can all agree that freedom is a great thing. But do we need to be so free that we look like a bunch of idiots with our junk hanging out? Humans are a naturally defenseless, vulnerable lot, and walking around naked only exacerbates the condition. Besides looking silly, think of all the hazards of an active nude lifestyle. Do you really want to expose your most sensitive areas to the blazing sun, piercing brambles, and jagged rocks that you are bound to encounter on the trail or at the beach?

Evolutionary misfortunes aside, society has rules. Rules that allow it to function in a (somewhat) operative manner. Public displays of nudity can be distracting, rude, and in some cases, downright illegal. Think about the rest of us, who don’t need to “let it all hang out,” who just want to live and work peacefully and walk down the street, hike the Art Loeb, or go to yoga class without being assaulted by the sight of your sex organs waving in the wind. You could be responsible for traumatizing legions of sheltered children who don’t need to see your hairy, wrinkled parts up close and personal. That’s scary enough between consenting adults.

Why don’t we bare it all? Blame it on “societal conditioning,” or call us uptight if you must, but maybe we just don’t need the attention. We get enough of it from the IRS, city utilities, and the bank. Questioning those authorities is all well and good. But you can go against the grain by biking to work or marching against Monsanto downtown – and you don’t need to do it naked.

So next time you and your attention-deprived significant other conjure up the idea for another nudie adventure, ask yourselves, “What is the deeper psychological motivation I feel here? Why do I have to resort to such an extreme act to receive the attention I crave? Is it really necessary to perturb and perhaps offend my fellow human beings?” Then make sure to take your eyes off his/her junk while you answer.

Keep your pants on and your grandmother from rolling over in her grave.

Evans Prater is a journalist and triathlete living in Asheville, N.C. He blogs at


  • If you don’t want to see me naked, don’t look.

    Bobby   29 Sep 13, 8:43 pm

  • The anti nudity article is troubling in that it is so downright ‘body phobic”. An abject fear of ones naked body, and the sight of other naked bodies is the absolutely dominant theme – purely emotional. Why would one who claims to live a ‘moral’ life refer to their gentitals as ‘junk’?? What will this person do when it becomes necessary to nurse a sick, aged, or maimed fellow human being if there is such abject fear of the naked body? It’s precisely the hiding and covering of the clothing compulsive society that causes this fear. Customary nudity dispels it.

    Steve Yna Upstate   26 Sep 13, 9:16 am

  • Excellent article. Thank you for publishing it. Your counterpoint writer is right. Society has rules that change all the time. And they have now changed because people enjoy being nude in nature. Back in the 1880’s if a woman showed her bare ankle, her “junk” was hanging out. In the 1920’s bare calves were immoral. Up until the 1930’s MEN were arrested for being “topless” on beaches until they protested. So Evans, next time you go shirtless on a beach in America it is because your forefather’s questioned authority.

    Nude recreation is the best way to relax. You meet the nicest people. Everyone should try it. Once you do, you’ll love the feeling of freedom.

    Tom Mulhall   25 Sep 13, 9:01 am

  • Whoever wrote the “Spare Me” section is seriously misinformed. Cavemen did, in fact, go naked, and for tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years. Humans have been going nude more often than not, actually. The misconception stems from the many museums and documentaries unwilling or unable to depict humans as they truly were. In fact, body acceptance (nudism) has been practiced the world over throughout history, including in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Celtric tribes, and in the Amazon. Clothing was invented as a necessity, but in ideal climates like the rain forest, people never developed the need. Another myth is that of our super sensitive private area. I have been nude in the outdoors many times, and never once did I feel that my genitals needed protecting. You have a much greater chance injuring just about any other part of the body, mostly the feet and back (from sunburn) and yet I would be surprised if this writer were to suggest that nobody outdoors should ever go barefoot. Anyone who insists on the necessity of clothing needs only to try going nude once in his/her life to discover just how misguided society is.

    Nick Alimonos   24 Sep 13, 10:22 pm

  • That a person refers to their genitals as “junk” really says it all. Social nudity, and nudity in nature reflect a healthy lifestyle and a healthy attitude. It’s notabout being attention starved, it’s about being comfortable in one’s own skin.

    Heather Avalon   24 Sep 13, 10:10 pm

  • There is a thing called the US Constitution. Bans on public nudity violate at least one amendment everywhere in the US (the 14th), except for West Virginia.

    Such bans could also violate three more amendments: the 9th, 10th and 13th amendments.

    jovan1984   24 Sep 13, 9:41 pm

  • Anyone who has enjoyed swimming in the nude will never want to wear a suit again. And yes, wearing swimming suits is like taking a shower with your clothes on. What’s the purpose? Any doctor will tell you that swimming suits are unsanitary and carry bacteria, even after washing. In Europe it is common to go nude on the beaches, so why not here? The USA is still living in the Victorian Era, it seems.

    Laurence Almand   24 Sep 13, 2:55 pm

  • Larry, thank you for that informed response. Anyone who has experienced social nudism is aware of how normal and beneficial it really is. Nudism is a healthy alternative to our clothing compulsive society here in the USA. As an example just ask yourself the question, what is the practical reason for wearing any type of clothing to swim in at the beach. That is akin to wearing a swim suit to take a shower.
    Anyone having the experience of being nude at a resort, spending the night and waking up nude to walk outside and enjoy the outdoors nude as nature intended knows how liberating, healthy, and relaxing that is.
    We fequent family nudist resorts. There you will find that children are natural naturists. Nudism provides a healthy begining to education about ones body in a safe environment without body shame. The resorts also perform background checks on all attendees, and share information about any possible trouble makers to promote safety. Nudism removes body shame and allows the healthy exposure to vitamin D that we all need. The relaxation enjoyed during nude recreation is unmatched by any clothed experience.
    There are no laws against nudity on remote federal lands, although some park rangers in certain locales may discourage nude use on federal lands in their specific jurishdictions.
    On some federal lands nudity is actually sanctioned such as in the Sandy Hook Beach on Fedral lands on the Northern New Jersey shore. The Federal Government has posted signs designating a large area of the beach with, “Beyond This Point You May Encounter Nude Sun Bathers”. This beach is typically visited by a few thousand nudists on warm sunny days. It is easily the most populated stretch of beach in New Jersey. The Federal Government also provides parking for these nude beach goers.
    In summary, please be calm if you see nude people outside. They are just enjoying nature as it was intended. This causes no harm to anyone. Try it if you have not and you might enjoy it.

    REBARE   23 Sep 13, 7:35 am

  • Nice article Devan…excellent point and counterpoint. Unfortunately your counterpoint writer, Mr. Prater, is writing from a strictly emotional standpoint and not from a perspective of being knowledgable or analytical about the subject. Had he actually done some research before making a patently emotional response, he would discover that there are significant personal and social benefits to social nudity. It appears he thinks that nudists simply stroll around in the general public showing off their “junk” and attracting attention to themselves in order to give themselves a need boost to their ego. That is FAR from the truth.

    Recent guests at one of our clothing optional bed and breakfasts were new to social nudity and were pleasantly surprised at how normal and natural they felt being nude with others. Prior to their arrival, they were nervous about who the other guests would be and how they would act…would they be “swingers” or overt partiers? What they found is that the other guests were just like their friends and family members at home…just naked! They commented about the robust an meaningful conversations they had with other guests and how everyone was supportive and understanding of their first social nudist experience. They left feeling as if they had experienced a meaningful change in their lives and learned to be more accepting of others who may lead a different life than they do…whether that be in their choice of social activities, religion or simply the race they were born in to. All this from the simple act of being nude with others.

    So, Mr. Prater, please do your homework and try not to be judgmental on topics you are not adequately educated about. Maybe a visit to your local nudist facility is just what you need!

    Larry Ford   22 Sep 13, 10:45 am

  • The article on outdoor nudity was informative and useful. Having experienced social nudity since the 1990s we and our friends know first hand how beneficial outdoor nudism really is.
    Many more people enjoy naturism than most people realize. They do not want to be tarred and feathered by those who pre-judge a practice they know little or nothing about. As a result most naturists and nudists keep silent about it.
    informative articles like your are positive examples of how our society can become more aware of how natural and normal clothing-free acivities really are.
    by ReBare

    ReBare   17 Sep 13, 6:36 pm

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