Recreational and social nudism has been a part of the public sphere for a while now, and heading into the new decade, more individuals are dipping their toe into the waters of nudist life and activities.
Some millennials have began embracing nudism out of pure curiosity, and to become members of a group that has been spreading body positivity for straight, gay, trans and non-binary folks alike.
Inclusion has always been a part of the naturist experience. It has been a core tenet of these groups since their inception, and the friendliness you’ll come to find from these people creates a welcoming, non-critical environment that appeals to the young and old. Steve*, co-founder of the Chicagoland Fun Club puts it this way: “It’s an extremely accepting environment, it’s a great place for you to be yourself. When there are no clothes, there are no judgements or predispositions… It’s a great melting pot of all different types of people you can imagine,” Steve said. With the mindset that no one is perfect, people within the nudist lifestyle acknowledge that and embrace their differences.
Steve’s wife Katie, who helped found the club, said the rise of younger people adopting the lifestyle isn’t surprising to her. “I think we have more younger people because millennials tend to be more accepting of people and their differences. I think there is a lot more hang-up from older generations, where it takes time and age for you stop caring as much,” Katie said.
Both agree that there has been a definite increase from people under 30 as opposed to the original demographic being comprised of mostly free-spirited couples in their 50s and 60s, experimenting in their more advanced ages. Katie said the progressive ideas of natural beauty that has been spearheaded by this current generation has allowed “millennials to accept that sooner than most had before,” Katie said. The ideals of such as group are ingrained in the spirit of many young adults, as well as in the Chicago area.
However, Nicky Hoffman, managing editor of the Naturist Society, disagreed with naturist organizations gaining younger members. “Young people right now aren’t joiners, and I don’t know if they want a leadership role. I’ve been around here for 33 years, and it’s always been cyclical,” said Hoffman, commenting this sort of niche will always be predominately one generation.
“I hate to think that young people don’t want to go to places where older people are because there’s value in older people too. I hope that would turn around, but it seems like now the younger people would rather be at places where they could be with just young people,” Hoffman said, acknowledging the Naturist Society does not intentionally seek out younger generations. “It’s always been this way,’ Hoffman said.
But the age differences may not deter younger people from getting involved. Katie said it all starts with giving it a chance or just “ripping the bandaid off.” Information about all sorts of different clubs and events can be found online and members participate in common everyday activities such as, swimming in pools, lounging on beaches and having picnics to group events like bowling.
Since not everyone is as accepting of the culture, events are held in secure sanctioned locations away from public view – usually in rented clubhouses with locked doors and covered windows. “We fly under the radar, we keep our nudity to ourselves because we do understand while you might be fine with it, your neighbor or brother might not be,” Steve said.
Yet, some still misconstrue nudism, “It’s not a sexual act,” said Steve. That may have something to do with the fact that there are still no sanctioned nude areas, like lake shores in the Midwest, but many clubs have a screening process in place to ensure no one dangerous is allowed to join. If someone is becoming inappropriate or asking to hook up, they will tell that person sternly to stop, and make them leave if necessary. “We’re not a dating site. We screen everybody, some people get screened a little bit harder,” Steve said. However, he states there has never been a problem, claiming they stop any potential issues from occurring before they get a chance to start. Re-emphasizing the comfortable atmosphere of their events.
While there is still some uncertainty regarding the generational gap playing a such significant role for some, the times are continually changing for nudist communities. In many ways, naturists have been ahead of the curve when it comes to bringing about a less body-oriented culture, that only now in the past few years has become a hot button issue for so many.
*To protect Steve and Katie’s identities in the public sphere, the editorial board is allowing them to be identified by just their first names. For privacy matters, the Chicago Fun Club does not give out the names of members who attend events.