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Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Eden Regained is my favorite book on nudism. For its size it covers a lot. Admittedly some parts of it are dated, but some parts of me are dated, too. The cost of the few available copies of this book is prohibitive, and yet its contents I feel are important, so I have typed the book here for your enjoyment and consideration. If I've made any typos, please scroll to the bottom of this page to find my email address and let me know, and I'll correct them immediately. ~ Dale Lund
A CHALLENGE TO MODERN PRUDERY
Eden ended when clothes began.
-- Henry Strong Huntington
To my good friends, M. and E.
Because I have for a long time wanted to tell them about our mysterious trips to the mountains. They know us too well to think evil of us, yet are puzzled.
As there seemed no easy way to tell them about it, and no book seemed to be available for the purpose which quite satisfied me in its approach, I have taken this method of informing them, and incidentally myself, by taking thought, about a very much taboo subject.
A partial and hurried answer would have left a wrong impression, as there are so many aspects of the subject, and so many false ideas current about it; I felt it had to be all or nothing.
I wanted to clarify my own mind on some points and writing things out is my favorite method of doing that, whatever the matter may be. And, also, I have hoped to produce something which might be of use to others besides these two friends.
For, having found something good, I like to share what I have found with others, so far as they are in a position to receive what I have to say in the right spirit, as is done in the religious fellowship to which M. and E. and my wife and I belong.
Being well aware that the practice these notes deal with is in violation of some of the deepest mores of our nation's culture, we, my wife and I, approached the subject with a sense of responsibility, and it was only after careful thought and research that we decided its importance justified our nonconformity. -- H.W.
Nudists...have opened up the Garden of Eden and brought it back to the world. Yes, I mean that. The nudists have actually done that very thing. Men and women...again are clean and unashamed.
-- Carl Easton Williams
Man was made in his Creator's image. That is what we are being told from all the pulpits of the land. But then, fanatical "do-gooders" tell us that this image is obscene, ugly and sinful and, therefore must be hidden from sight, especially in the presence of the opposite sex. Evidently, somebody is wrong here, and since even the most aggressive apostle of virtue would not dare to accuse his Creator of having bungled His masterpiece, the conclusion is obvious.
Yet they go on thundering away against the unclothed flesh! Their purpose is laudable, but their means to accomplish it are futile, as the ever-increasing cases of sex offenses and juvenile delinquencies among non-nudists mournfully prove. One may, therefore, wonder why they should regard with baleful eyes, the efforts of those who have found a remedy to alleviate the situation, by exposing God's own image again, and have already proven this remedy to be successful. Since there has never been a recorded case of delinquency among nudist children of nudist parents, it would be a logical premise that while nudism may not be the perfect cure for the nation's juvenile problems, at least there is certainly no element in social nudism which will cause delinquency.
Then there are the cynics who attack, or sneer at, the idea from a "worldly" point of view: "Men and women naked together -- what can you expect? What would this world be coming to?" In all fairness, this category cannot be blamed for its stand if we consider the conditioning they have been subjected to through the centuries-old teachings and preachings of sincere but misguided would-be world redeemers in whose school they have come to consider nudity and lust as synonymous.
But both, the redeemers as well as the "men of the world," ignore two basic truths, or rather, are unaware of their presence, namely: that in the human male there dwells, unconscious to him but no doubt a part of his mental make-up since his beginnings in the caves, a gentle respect for the female of his species, and that while it might seem that sexual instincts would be necessarily aroused in the presence of unclad persons of both sexes, it simply does not occur, an axiom which has been repeatedly established through the experience of uncounted thousands of first-time nudists. The mental mechanism which produces such responses is automatically aware of the fact that the time and place conditions are not those suited to sexual activity. (Meant in this connection are, of course, healthy and normal specimens -- the only kind ever admitted to nudist parks.) It is this respect and this mental mechanism, thoughtfully provided by nature, which, in our sophisticated age, had made the reconquest of Eden, in what is called "social nudism," possible. Without them, no nudist gathering could endure as long as a single weekend.
What at our modest beginning in 1929, with three couples, I naturally could have only surmised, has since become undisputed reality. The several thousand (out of many more thousands!) practicing American nudists I have met in numerous parks all over the country, men, women, teenagers and, last but not least, flocks of hilarious children, are real indeed and there to stay. In observing them at work or play or in repose, it is impossible to escape the realization that they have found contentment and happiness in their regained Eden and with their clothes they have dropped the fetters which centuries of muddle-headed moralizing had clamped upon mankind. It hardly could have been otherwise, because they have returned to the origin, the state in which they were born.
The present volume illustrates the process by which this new way of living has been carried into effect, and deals aptly with the "how" and "why" of the profits to be derived from nudism on both the physical and the mental level. Ever since the first book on this subject in the English language, Among the Nudists by Francis and Mason Merrill, appeared on the American market in 1931, a considerable number of other excellent books on nudism have been written in this country, but of all these, the present volume has the advantage of its author's ability to contemplate life from the high summit of a rich old age combined with some twenty-five years experience as a practicing nudist.
And so it will no doubt enhance the progress of the New Way of Living. Needless to say, this progress has not been without obstacles. There have been, in the early days, a score or so of raids on us, and I myself have gone to court twice. And there have been profound pros and cons before the legislative committees of a number of states. But whether learned judges or public-minded legislators, they all have been willing to listen. And so, nudism has in the end won, and Eden been regained.
Of Man's first disobedience...
Brought death into the world, and all our woe
With loss of Eden
-- Milton, Paradise Lost
INTRODUCTORY AND PERSONAL--SUMMER
My wife and I are lying on beach towels near the edge of a large swimming pool in a wooded park-land at about 2,500 feet elevation in one of the National Forests. The Southern California sun is blazing down on us, but a refreshing breeze makes it unnecessary to seek the shade of the nearby sycamores and live oaks.
We have been swimming in the crystal clear water, and are now, without having dried ourselves, taking our tanning. Our bodies are already a rich brown from many earlier sunbaths, so we need fear no sunburn. We feel free to enjoy to the full the sensuous luxury of the life-giving rays.
Around us are many others, mostly married couples and children, some sunbathing as we are, some diving and swimming. Our ears are bombarded with the noise of many people having a good time, the high-pitched voices of children, splashing in the water, prevailing.
At the deep end, farthest from us, two boys and a girl, teenagers, are trying out different kinds of dives amid much laughter and shouting.
Occasionally we converse with our neighbors, most of whom we know from earlier visits. On our left are two young men we have not seen before; we learn they are life guards from a nearby ocean beach. On our right a young woman is telling her neighbor she has been staying here for two weeks with her husband and two children and what a lovely time they have had. Then they begin to discuss what it was that made them enjoy it so much, and to describe how much better they feel than when they came.
As the afternoon gets cooler someone cries "Volleyball," and many of the bathers move toward the court which is a few hundred feet away. Some go to the tennis court and others to the badminton court. The older ones, to whom we belong, go for a short walk up the slopes of a little mountain, or play ping-pong or croquet, or just visit with friends, until it is time for the evening meal. Those staying over night retire to their cabins or tents, or go to the community house for their supper.
My wife and I, having rented a cabin, are going there for our meal. Later in the evening, warmly clothed because of the chill wind we shall walk down to the community hall to chat with others or play anagrams or canasta.
With the writing of these notes in mind I have been paying particular attention to the type of person to be seen and met here. Beyond the fact that they are well behaved and happy, it is hard to make a generalization, so different are the types, ages, occupations, likes and dislikes. In every respect but one they are conventional, -- a typical crowd that might be scooped at random from any city in California. Both political parties are there, as well as Catholics, Protestants, and Jews and the unorthodox, such as might be found in any mountain resort. Yet every one of them is, all the time, violating the most deeply seated convention of all civilized peoples, to wit: the rule that requires the wearing of some garment even when swimming, sunbathing or when it is too warm for comfort.
It sometimes puzzles me, even after an experience of such gatherings as this over a period of more than twenty years, how so many people, otherwise conforming to the behavior of their neighbors, take so readily to this way of living during their hours of leisure and vacationing.
In our case it came by easy stages. I was a portrait photographer by profession, and photography became my hobby as well as my way of earning a living. As a hobby the art side was what interested me most. I enjoyed making pictures solely for their beauty,-- exhibiting them at salons and conventions. So it was inevitable, as with others who had sought expression in pictorial art, that my mind should turn to the idea of the nude. With the help of the curator of a local art gallery I soon found models and began to experiment with that most difficult branch of photography.
This was about twenty-five years ago. We had found a spot on one of California's loveliest rivers, so remote and well hidden, we felt impelled to swim and sunbathe without suits. We at once noticed how much more enjoyable the sun, air and water seemed. Soon after that we invited one of the models to accompany us. The girl was so enthusiastic about this "new" practice we invited several other friends and their friends until, after a while we had parties with us on our picnics, of over twenty men and women. It was interesting and significant to see how thin the veneer of convention was, -- how natural and proper it seemed to them to lie in the sun, swim in the river or sit and stroll around chatting with their fellow picnickers as naked as they were born.
Since then we have visited or joined some half-dozen privately owned parks or clubs reserved for those who wish to practice "nudism." We have always found there the same kind of clean-minded, happy and healthy people, otherwise indistinguishable from other normal, thoughtful, middle-class citizens, mostly married couples with their children.
FACTS AND REASONS
I sometimes find it easier to write on a subject if I am addressing a specific person or body of persons rather than the world in general. It is for that reason I reproduce here the substance of two documents, at the risk of a small amount of repetition.
The first is a letter written to a young man who had asked me a question as we lay sunning ourselves at the side of a swimming pool in a nudist park. We were interrupted before I got far in my reply, and I did not see him again, hence the letter: --
I am the man who sat next to you at the swimming pool some weeks ago, of whom you asked, "What is the philosophy behind nudism?"
I will now state what I consider to be the general principles, -- what I suppose would be called the philosophy, -- of this movement or practice; the things that, perhaps without their knowing why, induce people to travel long distances so that they can have a very short stay in such camps as this, and that will cause them to go on doing that for many years. It is now over twenty years that my wife and I have been doing this.
To begin at the beginning, we were all born naked. Although I am not one of those who think nature cannot be improved upon, I do think it is no improvement on nature to swelter in sticky garments when one would be much more comfortable without them; or to suffer the discomfort of wet trunks when they are not necessary for any purpose except concealment.
The first principle of nudism (I do not like this word but no one seems to be able to suggest a better one), is that the body is decent and wholesome, and that concealment, in so far as it is for the sake of hiding only, is unwholesome and psychologically objectionable. We who practice nudism wear clothes in outside society, not for concealment, but to avoid giving offense.
Dr. Belle Mooney, in her book How Shall I Tell My Child? expresses this principle when she urges parents to bring their children up to be accustomed to seeing the naked bodies of their brothers and sisters and those of both their parents. "Getting themselves into the right attitude means releasing themselves from all the old taboos. It means lifting the body entirely from the old idea that it is a shameful thing, that nakedness is indecent..." Dr. Mooney goes on to say concealment of the body trains the child into shame for its own nakedness, and that implants in his mind the sense of guilt that makes a barrier to confidence. Referring to parents she writes: "By releasing themselves from the shame attitude and by realizing themselves that the body is decent, that sex is wholesome and as virtuous as digestion and respiration, they are relieved at once and forever of their long list of trouble and doubts and fears and indecisions." (If you have children or contemplate over having any, you should get this book.)
The next principle is harder to express. Walter Pitkin drew attention to it in 1937 when he said, "The nature of man makes him react against any unnatural commands. As he discards the alien" (things which other people have made him do, have, think or wear) "he grows less tense. As he relaxes he feels better. He is himself again...psychologically and physiologically...It is easy to be yourself when naked. But the mental effect of being naked surpasses the physical. When fully dressed you have put on more than raiment...You are a pattern animal...clothes are the very heart and soul of convention...duties and manners which do not come natural check spontaneous impulses...life becomes mere manners, which are the lowest form of life."
Pitkin said he thought the reason nudism flourished in pre-Hitler Germany was that Germans had been so regulated and "forced into a mold" designed by their rulers. Nudism was a reaction against too much regulation and restraint.
In my own experience in the camps I have been aware of this feeling of relaxation and of something I would describe as release or freedom-after-restraint.
Release from what? From the need to hide behind a garment, with all others around one hiding also. Probably this is only part of the explanation for there is no doubt that this freedom brings with it a feeling of naturalness, sincerity and even dignity. For hiding is not dignified if there is no need for it, or when it is due to fear. It even has an element of silliness, like many other things which are purely conventional; as, for instance, using a fork when a spoon would be much more convenient.
To be afraid to be nude in the presence of others who are also nude, because of shyness of the opposite sex, or for fear it might arouse disorderly thoughts, is not sensible, especially when one has been assured by others who have tried it that those feared feelings and thoughts do not arise. The fact that those others are all doing the same thing helps the novice a lot.
My next principle is the hardest of all, for those who are without experience, to grasp. This is the psychological fact that nudism helps the attainment of an orderly control of sex feelings, partly by satisfying the urge to look on the opposite sex, and partly because it is often an esthetic experience.
In this connection we should recall what Havelock Ellis, generally regarded as one of the greatest authorities on the psychology of sex, wrote: that the clothed body can be much more provocative than the nude one, -- that nudity has a sedative effect on the feelings of a man; -- and, I would add, a somewhat satisfying effect, just as any esthetic experience can satisfy.
A man who does not thrill to the sight of the nude body of a normally developed woman is not a whole man, he is only part of a man, or else he is sick or abnormal. To the healthy mind a lovely body, like a lovely face, is an esthetic delight. It induces a similar reaction to that of beautiful music. If it causes disorderly impulses it is because the mind is already disorderly. I repeat: it is not the nudity of the body but the sickness of the observer's mind that causes the wrong thoughts and impulses.
Another reason for the practice of nudism is the benefit to health from the exposure of the whole body to the sun, air and water. By making all outdoor activities more enjoyable such activities are encouraged. A doctor I corresponded with said that those parts which are usually covered by bathing suits are benefited at least as much as any other part, or perhaps more, by sun exposure.
A discovery that nudists soon make is the sensuous delight of having the sun and air play directly on the whole body. It must be experienced to be believed. Likewise the low of water over the body, unhindered by trunks or suit, adds to the pleasure of swimming. Drag a wet bathing suit through the water when it is not on the body and you will discover how much resistance it offers to the water.
Chapters could be written on each of the principles which together form the philosophy of nudism, and more could be written on aspects not touched on in this letter, but enough has been said, I hope, to show that it is not a silly fad, and that it is not prompted by an unclean state of mind.
The overall principle behind the practice is usually part of a philosophy of life dominated by a love of nature, a belief in the dignity and worthwhileness of human life, and a belief in frankness and simplicity.
You will see I have used your question like a trigger, to clarify my own mind on the subject; as when H.G. Wells wrote that when he wanted to know more about a subject he wrote a book about it.
FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN
For many years before the word "nudism" was heard in this country my wife and I went nude during the operations of bathing and rising and retiring in the presence of our small daughter and son who were also nude. We did this because we thought it would be good for them to be introduced thus naturally to the sight of the bodies of each other and of their parents, gradually as they grew and as a matter of course. Thus, we felt, no unwholesome curiosity could ever arise in either of them, and there could never be any shock of discovery. Any questions they asked we answered to the best of our knowledge and their ability to understand. We never lied to them nor told them fantasies about the body and its functions. This habit continued until they left home as adults. The results amply confirmed our theories.
We have now learned that the custom of telling fantastic stories about birth, however pretty, -- hush-hushing all reference to certain parts and treating those parts as something obscene, is morally wrong and a serious mistake psychologically.
Now, many years later, we are finding our ideas confirmed by leading physicians and psychologists. One of the most outspoken is Belle S. Mooney, M.D. In How Shall I Tell My Child? she advocates home nudity as we practiced it nearly fifty years ago, and points out that the atmosphere of secrecy and shame with regard to the body has a bad effect on the mind of a child. She thinks "the body should be lifted entirely from the old idea that it is a shameful thing," and suggests that the family should enjoy the bath together with the same "happy abandon as birds," for the sake of the children as well as for our own. The book is written for the purpose of helping parents tell their children about sex, and this family nudity is a preliminary to the cultivation of confidence toward that end. She tells how to answer truthfully nearly every conceivable question the child may ask. It should be read by all parents before they have children, if possible. It helps to solve difficult and delicate problems naturally and honestly and without embarrassment. Valeria Hopkins Parker, M.D., wrote an introduction to the book highly recommending it.
I wish to make it clear that Dr. Mooney does not refer to social nudism as I have reported about it in these pages, although it is difficult to imagine how she could be opposed to it. Another well-known lady physician, Dr. Mabel Allen King, however, while advocating home nudity for the sake of the children, explicitly favors "full family acceptance of nudist ideals and the nudist way of living" as offering "pure, unadulterated benefit" to all children and adolescents.
Incidentally, Dr. King gives us an explanation of why we do not hear more from practicing physicians on this subject. She says they are often deterred from giving frank answers about nudism to inquirers through fear of social, economic, and professional consequences.
Now, turning to the opinions of psychologists, we find one of the best known of all the students of the subject, Havelock Ellis, frankly in favor of nudism both for children and adults, but especially for children. He was so much in favor of social nudism from the point of view of health, morals, and esthetics, that he wrote an introduction to Maurice Parmelee's book, Nudism in Modern Life. Dr. Ellis also referred to nudism favorably in his book The Psychology of Sex, and pointed out that modesty was not inconsistent with nudity.
No one could visit a nudist camp without being struck by the joy the children get out of it. When newly introduced they take to it like a duck to water. Our own grandchildren and another child we knew whose parents had told him nothing about it before hand, made no comment on being told they might remove their clothes, and showed no surprise at what they saw around them.
Parents often tell us the health of their children has improved, sometimes immensely, where there has been some physical backwardness. They frolic in the sun and water by the hour, supremely happy. It is a very effective way to encourage them to learn to swim at an early age. The sight of their beautifully formed and active little bodies is a constant esthetic delight.
At a State Fair in Sacramento a few years ago there was an exhibit of three little pigs. No. 1 was strong, active and large. The label said it has been fed a well-balanced, ample diet and allowed plenty of sunshine. No. 2 was a little smaller. It had had plenty to eat, but with certain elements reduced. It had also had plenty of sunshine. No. 3 was much smaller and so weak it could not raise its hind-quarters off the ground, but dragged them with its front legs. It had had a full, well-balanced diet, but had been deprived of sunshine. I don't think it is necessary to draw the moral!
There is not the slightest doubt in my mind, as a result of direct observation and comparison, that children of nudist parents benefit psychologically and physically as well as morally from their visits to camp.
In the course of a recent newspaper account of an interview with some ladies about nudism, one of them was quoted as saying: "It wouldn't matter so much for us older people perhaps, but just think of the awful effect on the minds of little children!" This would not be worth quoting if it had not been made evident on other occasions that many people do not know, -- although I would have thought it must be self-evident to any intelligent person, -- that those unwholesome thoughts and impulses, which she feared, could not normally arise until after puberty, and then only in those whose minds had been besmeared and spoiled by artificially induced, unwholesome curiosity, a result of the secrecy, concealment and wrong attitude toward the body and some of its functions, and especially those parts connected directly or indirectly with sex.
The innocent shamelessness of little children normally continues until its opposite is induced by the precepts and behavior of their elders. (Havelock Ellis, quoting Freud, referring to a "pregenital phase," says: "not until puberty does the polarity of sexuality coincide with male and female.")
While sunbathing near the pool at our favorite nudist camp I noticed nearby one of our friends, the mother of two boys, the younger only a few weeks old. Her slender, almost youthful form was evenly and deeply tanned, the breasts firm and moderate in size, while the clean lines of her body showed no signs of her recent confinement. I turned to her and said, "I have heard that some doctors don't favor sunbathing for expectant mothers. They claim the assimilation of calcium it causes hardens the foetus and makes the birth harder. Did you have a bad time?" She laughed, "Far from it," she said, "everything went off perfectly."
I looked at the baby, lying asleep and uncovered in his buggy, his head shaded by the hood. Compared with hers his plump little body seemed almost pale. Reading my thoughts she said, "He really is quite a bit tanned, compared with what he was a while ago."
Lucky baby! Lucky children! To be here , free in the sun and air and water and all that makes for health of mind and body.
WHY SO MANY "KNOW" SO MUCH THAT IS NOT SO
One difficulty in the discussion of nudism is that there is no well-informed opposition, because, in the very nature of the case, all except those who practice it are, of necessity, excluded from the camps. The law forbids the exposure of oneself nude to any that might be offended thereby. So nudists are forced to go to places where they are out of sight from any place outside, and to remain behind locked gates and "no trespassing" signs, and to eject trespassers.
The obvious result is that all statements made about nudists by anyone except their own members, if not based on what the members of the camps tell them, must be based solely on imagination, which, in its turn, is based on the state of mind of the one who does the imagining, and has no objective reality.
What their minds sometimes tell them came out with shocking crudity in the hearing regarding the Bill to Prohibit Nudism referred to elsewhere in these pages. They did not seem to realize, these "witnesses" and speakers on behalf of the bill, what their statements revealed about themselves to anyone who had a smattering of psychology. They could only say what they thought would take place. So we found that nudity and sex irregularities were bound together in the minds of some people, -- especially members of certain churches, -- so firmly that they offered their testimony before this committee as if it were an observed fact instead of pure guesswork.
This brings us to another closely connected question: Why are we so secretive about our practice? The answer has already been given by implication. It is because so much is "known" which is not true about us. To let a person know one is a member of one of these camps and not to be able to get an opportunity to tell him the truth about them, while there is so much misinformation about, would be to court ostracism, or even the loss of one's job or profession. As has already been pointed out, the wearing of clothing in our western world is one of the most rigidly observed of all our social conventions, while with some it is even associated with religion.
A well-known author and sociologist, a Ph.D. who had written one of the best books on nudism, was opposed by powerful interests when suggested for a government position because he had written that book. The smut hounds and the gutter press found it out and exploited it, and he did not get the position. Yet this author had been accorded high praise by highly respected reviewers and such men as H.A. Overstreet, Sinclair Lewis and Harry Elmer Barnes.
As a result of twenty years of first-hand experience, I would say there is less thought of sex, in its primary aspect and as covered by the word "sexuality" or the slang word "sexiness" in the nudist camps than in any other section of the community. It is not generally understood how clothing, especially women's clothing, emphasizes the difference between the sexes, and by emphasizing them, of course, draws attention to them.
By a mental process these differences between the sexes cause a sort of transfer in the mind so that they become symbols of the sex differences themselves, with the added teasing effect of a hidden mystery.
When nothing is hidden all that sort of thing is gone. It is impossible to put into words the cleansing effect on the mind and feelings when men, women and children mingle socially without clothes that label them "males," or the draperies that label them "females," but just as their natural selves, without mystery, without suggestiveness. Although only experience can demonstrate the truth of some of the foregoing statements, there are some misconceptions which can be disposed of more easily. A few will be dealt with before we go further.
We do not advocate living without clothes all the time and everywhere as one dictionary definition of the word "nudist" would lead one to suppose. We only ask for ourselves and those who think and feel as we do about the human body, that we should be free to discard clothing when it makes us more comfortable and more healthy, provided we do not offend by exposing ourselves to the eyes of those who do not feel as we do, and that we should be free to do this without interference from local authorities.
The nudists do not advocate or practice any lowering of the standard of sexual morality. In fact there is no doubt in my mind that the standard actually observed in the regularly organized camps is much higher than the standard in the outside community. Part of the explanation of this has already been suggested. More will be dealt with later.
Nudism is not, as it is sometimes called even by its advocates, a cult. That is to say there are not any beliefs or ideologies, rites or ceremonies or sacred symbols associated with the practice, as suggested by the word cult. Our only bond is respect for the human body and a refusal to regard mixed nudity as obscene.
The term "nudist colony" is misleading. We do not live in colonies or separate communities, except in recreation and leisure time. We live among the rest of the people as good citizens; your next door neighbor whom you have known and liked for years may be a nudist, -- you would never know it.
ORGANIZATION AND CUSTOMS
Having told what we do and why we have to be esoteric about it, and some of our philosophy, I feel something needs to be said about our clubs, camps and organizations; how they are organized and what regulations and rules and conventions are observed in our gatherings, so that our ideal of a sound mind in a sound body can be realized most surely and pleasantly.
For our own peace of mind and to obey the law we must be behind locked gates, on private property fenced or otherwise protected from sightseers or other interlopers.
To insure that all members and visitors be in sincere sympathy with our ideals and will be congenial to our members there has to be some kind of screening before anyone is admitted to the park or other place of meeting. This is done in various ways, one being introduction by a member in good standing who sponsors the candidate, who is then admitted on probation. Some camps require a questionnaire to be filled out and/or an interview with an individual or committee to test his knowledge of the purpose and standards of the organization, and his reasons for wishing to join. There is no religious, educational or political test, nor any test of opinions, except ones that insure that the candidate has a clean mind with regard to the human body, and that he does not regard nudity in and of itself (per se) as obscene or immoral, and, of course, it is important to insure that he is not a snooper or a pervert.
Married couples are the unit of membership. Bachelors of either sex are admitted unless there is a marked preponderance of either sex. Unless a bachelor is already well-known to a member there would be more careful screening than in the case of married couples.
All sunbathing camps I have visited have a strict rule against the use or possession of alcoholic beverages while in their park. There is no objection to smoking except for the necessary fire prevention rules.
Entrance to the parks is gained by secret methods or combination locks which are known only to members, or by calling by telephone from the gate or by other signal.
The telling of smutty stories, bad language or any behavior revealing an attitude toward the body or sex inconsistent with our ideals would result in a request to resign, or even immediate ejection.
Most of the larger camps, like the one referred to in my opening chapter, have several classes of membership: those who own cabins, cottages, house trailers or tents, with annual membership; those with annual membership, but no residence on the premises; and those who pay smaller annual dues, but also pay ground fees each time they attend. Also there may be cabins which may be rented over night, or for vacations. There are also what might be called roving clubs who have no park or grounds of their own, but who have arrangements with several other clubs who have such facilities, to admit their members on certain days of the month on payment of daily dues. The roving clubs also have as one of their main purposes the sharing of rides to and from camp among members who live on or near the route, thus cutting down costs and enabling persons who do not own or drive an auto to enjoy these outings. Hence they are sometimes called Transportation Clubs. Dues are per couple and include minor children.
Many clubs or camps (I use the terms interchangeably) have community halls and/or mess halls where visiting members can prepare and have their meals, and where they can meet socially or for games and dancing. When dancing, clothes are always worn.
Membership costs are usually very moderate, much below those of a country club or mountain camp, to which they correspond most nearly in clothed society.
The clubs have their own small amount of conventionality, which, fortunately, does not add to the expenses, as do those in country clubs. All members are introduced to each other and thereafter known by their first names only. They are at liberty, of course, to exchange last names if they wish. Either way they are all on their honor not to reveal to outsiders the names of fellow members without explicit permission in each case. Shoes and hats are often worn, -- are not considered clothing. Women do not as a rule decorate themselves with jewelry or other ornaments, neither do the men, for that matter. I have not been able to explore the psychology of this custom. It may simply be due to the frequency of shower baths and swimming. Or, more probably, it is a form of modesty. Whatever the explanation, it seems to have been arrived at by general consent and without discussion.
Arguing politics or religion is frowned upon and is sometimes ruled out. The purpose is, obviously, to preserve a peaceful atmosphere. No cameras are allowed, except under special circumstances and then only by permission of the camp director in each case.
Some camps allow women who are considering application for membership to visit the camp once wearing swim suits. Otherwise no clothed visitors are allowed at any time. The first visit women nearly always voluntarily disrobe after a short while. To be clothed among a number of naked people is found to be almost as embarrassing as to be naked among a number of clothed people.
There are well over 100 nudist clubs, camps, parks or resorts spread over at least 35 of the states in this country that are recognized by the national organization called the American Sunbathing Association, Inc. (P.O. Box 38ER, Mays Landing, N.J.) There are also several in Canada and others in process of formation.
There are five regional subdivisions of the ASA, Eastern, Midwest, Western, Northwest and Canadian. This system unifies the clubs for mutual protection, and strengthens them against illegal interference by local authorities and busy-bodies of the Anthony Comstock type. It also facilitates cooperation in other ways, such as bringing isolated individuals into touch with one another, and also in setting up standards of conduct and organization.
Throughout the world, there are about forty magazines devoted to the movement. There is one international magazine published in Europe and issued in several different languages as well as in English. These figures are those of 1955 and probably err on the side of understatement, as there is a constantly increasing array of nudist literature and also some types of mimeographed bulletins put out by regional organizations and by local clubs, which are well written and edited. American Sunbather, the Official Journal of the American Sunbathing Association, is the most popular bona fide nudist publication in this country.
In addition to organized groups there are innumerable groups such as my wife and I used to gather around us on the banks of the American River near Auburn in California. We were trespassing, but with the tacit consent of the owner of the property. Then also there are among the wealthier people, whose grounds are large enough to give them privacy, some who have their nudism among their personal friends.
The movement does no advertising or other publicity outside its own membership and magazines. There is no propaganda or proselytizing in the ordinary sense of the words. While inquiries are welcomed and information freely offered when sought, it is always emphasized that membership in a group is a privilege for which a certain character and mental attitude and moral standards are required.
The purpose of any written or printed material, such as the present work, is to inform outsiders of the true character of the movement, for protection of those who belong to it; that is, to counteract the gross, blundering and inexcusable ignorance which prompted such attacks on it as the Dills bill in the California legislature a few years ago. It was the excellent organization of our membership, skillfully assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union, that defeated that bill while still in committee.
All we ask or plan for is to be left alone in our little Edens, to enjoy the sun and air and water in our natal garb according to our natural impulses as they would have been if they had not been inhibited by convention; and free from interference from smut-hounds and evil-minded persons with the distortions of religion which they inherited from the dark ages.
I have several times been asked why we don't wear trunks. "Just the smallest type of trunks for both sexes would remove most of the objections many people have to complete nudity." Would it? I once asked a girl, who was not a nudist, if she was obliged to appear in mixed company by some circumstance, such as a fire, and had only one small piece of material to use for covering, would she use it to cover her breasts or the region where the trunks were worn. She said, without hesitation: "the breasts." (This may not represent the feelings of most women, and it may have an explanation connected with the temperature sense, for I have several times noticed that when it begins to get a bit chilly the men first put on trunks, and later cover the upper part; whereas the women first put on something like a shirt or bodice, then later a skirt or slacks.)
However, those who ask this question and suggest our wearing trunks ignore one of the main reasons for our practice. Although several doctors whom I know or know of, have expressed the opinion that those parts usually concealed by the skimpiest bathing outfit need the sunshine, if anything, more than other parts, nevertheless I feel that the question of trunks or no trunks is not decided by these physiological considerations mainly. There are two other aspects of the question: comfort and psychology. Both of these have been discussed here in other chapters, so I will only briefly summarize what I consider the most important point: It has been abundantly proven by the experience of nudists and by well-known psychologists and physicians of a scientific turn of mind, that a normal, healthy and ethical attitude toward sex is fostered and brought about by a complete lack of concealment, secrecy or shame.
An invariable rule among nudists requires that a shower should be taken before entering the swimming pool, (not necessarily with soap).
There is no objection to clothing being worn for comfort, as for instance when it is chilly, or when doing hard work of some kind for protection of the limbs. But the presence of a clothed person, not known to be a fellow member, would at once cause embarrassment. In the community house, of an evening, it often happens some are clothed and some are not, because some feel the cold sooner than others.
While bathing with soap is no longer a private function, some bodily functions are as privately and properly concealed as ever, and plenty of segregated conveniences are provided.
The swimming pools are usually supplied with filtered, flowing water, fresh from mountain springs.
Smokers are warned to keep to certain clearly designated areas where receptacles are provided for ashes, etc.
Such is the ignorance on the outside of the moral standards of the camps, that some members have to be very careful, for if their membership were known in the community in which they live and work, they would be in danger of losing their livelihood or social standing or both. All camps and clubs provide excellent protection against this risk. Last names and home addresses are not mentioned. They are given to the manager on joining and are held by him in confidence. It is therefore, not customary to question a fellow member on such matters. When mutual confidence has been established between the individuals such information may be exchanged.
First names only being used it becomes necessary to distinguish those with very usual names from each other. If a nickname is not used the many Johns are designated by adding their wife's name as "John of John and Mary"; or Big John or Red John, just as in other organizations.
THE DEVOLUTION OF THE BATHING SUIT OR THE EVOLUTION OF NUDISM
This chapter might also be called "from prudery to purity."
I have heard on reliable authority that there are orders of nuns who wear a long cotton garment while taking a bath in case they should chance to see certain parts of their bodies. A friend of mine who had traveled in Mexico says she was shown a basement room in a Roman Catholic convent where the nuns took their baths in total darkness so that they might not see their own nakedness.
When I was a boy, around the eighteen-nineties, the law in England and in this country required that both sexes should be completely covered from the neck to below the knees when bathing within sight of the opposite sex, and that women in addition should wear skirts to below the knees; while in the state of California even men were obliged to have a little skirt about five inches long above the pants section of their suits. (This regulation was in force when I came to this state in 1912.) Even so, in most places, the sexes were required to occupy separate sections of the bathing place and were not allowed to come within a certain number of yards of each other's section while in the water.
In the early years of the century Maud Allen and Isadora Duncan danced bare-legged in loose, Grecian garments, and there was a great outcry, mostly from clergymen and church ladies, and a serious attempt was made to forbid their performances, or to compel them to wear tights. In some parts of the United States the objectors succeeded in stopping them, while in England, where I first saw them dance, there was an outcry from the prudes but no legal action.
An incident, however, which occurred in London, seems to me to reveal the inherent hypocrisy of prudery. There was an interview in a newspaper with a Bishop of the Church of England who had attended the show at the Coliseum, (in the interests of decency, of course). He said he had been in a front seat but had not been able to determine whether or not the dancer had worn any garment under the flowing robe. He called on Miss Duncan to say: If she did not wear that garment the show was indecent, and should be prohibited. The lady refused to answer, saying it was an artistic production, and should be judged on what the audience saw and that it would be undignified for her to go into details of her wardrobe. I am glad to say the Right Reverend Lord Bishop was well ridiculed in the London press, and the show went on unchanged.
When the lady who has been my wife for over fifty years rode a bicycle in London in the eighteen-nineties she wore "bloomers," -- a voluminous, bifurcated garment, -- and she had the experience of being shouted at and taunted by cabbies and low-class onlookers for being indecent, presumably because she revealed what all had agreed to pretend was a secret which all women ought to keep from all males, namely that the mechanism which her feet supported was divided into two parts, to wit, legs; though the word "legs" as applied to a female human being was regarded as quite vulgar, almost obscene. The right word, pronounced in a lower tone, and if possible with a blush, was "limbs."
Gradually, -- very slowly, all this has changed. As each fraction of an inch was snipped from the bottom or top or midriff of the bathing suits of women, the Watch and Ward ladies and their psychological kindred have howled and raged that our country was going to the dogs and that promiscuity was just around the corner, -- that the end of all modesty and decency was at hand.
In spite of their unselfish devotion to the cause of shame and prudery the trend in bathing suits goes on steadily in the direction of shrinkage until not another fraction of an inch can be removed without, -- no, it must not be breathed. Here, dear reader, you must complete the sentence yourself, but not aloud, for that little bit of final devolution is already complete here in California and elsewhere, among the nudists, who are just a little ahead of the general trend in adopting our natal costume for sunbathing and other recreation.
Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships, after a style purely his own, nor can he get off by hammering marble instead. We are sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones.
-- Henry David Thoreau
OUR NATAL COSTUME
1. Its Effect of the Body
Once while strolling back to our cabin at the end of a perfect day in our little Eden, we came across a small group seated under an oak tree. There were several who had only recently become members; all were wearing the costume provided by nature at birth. Having been invited to join them we seated ourselves. One of the girls was saying that she and her little family had been spending her husband's vacation at the camp and had been having such a wonderful time they had decided to stay a few days longer.
The husband then asked, "Say, can anyone tell me why this sort of thing makes one feel so 'good'?"
I had been asking myself very much the same question, so I listened carefully. Several had suggestions to make, but admitted they still didn't understand just what it was that gave them such a sense of well-being. All agreed it had something to do with the absence of clothing, yet they were puzzled.
So, being one of those who likes to dig up facts and figure things out, I appointed myself a fact-finding committee-of-one to look into the matter.
The question seemed naturally to divide itself into two parts: the physical and the psychological, with the social aspect closely associated with the psychological. These acted and reacted upon each other, but should be considered separately.
Taking first the physical aspect: -- Our costume is a bare skin which covers the whole body. It is elastic and fits perfectly to the shape. When first adopted as a vacation costume it is a pale buff color which has been called, for some reason not explained, "white"; or, when it is on a woman's shoulders at a social function, it has been said to be like alabaster. (This information I have taken from my novel reading; I have never seen shoulders like that in real life.)
After an hour or so of exposure to the summer sunlight the buff changes to a fiery red and causes discomfort and pain a few hours later. This redness does not appear soon enough to warn the sunbather, however, that there may be severe burns which may even require medical treatment. But if the sunning is taken carefully, a very short time at first, then a few minutes longer each day, the bare skin takes on first, a delicate pink tinge which gradually changes to a warm tan, darkening with each new exposure until it reaches that person's limit. This differs with each individual. The final deep tan is quite beautiful and blends perfectly with natural objects, like foliage, soil, sky, and water. (There are very few persons who cannot tan but who can get badly sunburned. They must use great caution.)
This natal costume, the books on physiology tell us, has in it many thousands of minute openings called pores. When one is hot or exercising freely the pores act as a kind of safety valve, they open up and literally let off steam which may condense into drops of moisture called sweat (or perspiration, if you wish to be polite). When this moisture evaporates without obstruction, -- naturally, -- it cools, -- prevents the overheating, -- of the body. This mechanism is part of the agency by which the body maintains its constant internal temperature of around 98.6 Fahr. In the case of cold the pores close up tight and at first form what are called "goose pimples," or "goose flesh," which inhibit the loss of heat, and also, by exercising certain minute muscles, cause shivering and induce warmth. If garments absorb perspiration and become wet, then, in the presence of a draft or cold wind, a chill may result.
I had an interesting illustration of the coordination of skin functions when in a Turkish bath in London. After getting into a profuse perspiration in the moderately hot rooms where the temperatures were 110 and 160º, respectively, the attendant allowed me to enter the hottest room. The walls and floor were padded with several thick layers of felt, because to come in contact with stone or metal would have caused severe burns, and I had to wear thick straw sandals. The thermometer near the wall registered over 230º, that is 18º above the boiling point of water at sea level. I remained there several minutes; the limit allowed me was five minutes. The only place I felt discomfort was at the entrance to the nostrils, where the hot air caused a stinging sensation; I had to breathe in slowly, and constant blinking was necessary to keep the eyes moist, but no perspiration was visible on the body; it was converted into invisible vapor as fast as it was formed, thus cooling the skin. When I went back to the 110º room I instantly became wet all over, and felt none the worse. Needless to say, I was nude all the time.
Another of the bare skin's functions is to aid the kidneys as a waste eliminator, that is to say perspiration purifies the blood. I suspect that is one reason why one seems to have added power in athletics or climbing when one is nude.
A third function of the skin is as a supplement to the heart in regulating the distribution of the blood. Dr. Haven Emerson, author of How to Live, says a healthy skin can hold two thirds of the blood of the body, and by expanding and contracting its small blood vessels, works with the heart, relieving it.
A fourth function of the bare skin is one which almost ceases when it is not bare. It is the capturing of the rays of the sun which do not penetrate clothing but are of immense importance in human health, helping to prevent tuberculosis, for instance, as well as being connected with the assimilation of calcium and the prevention of rickets. As explained to me by a physician, the tanned skin filters out the harmful rays which cause sunburn, but allows the rays which are beneficial to pass through freely. There is a exception to this rule when pulmonary tuberculosis has already developed; in that case the ultra-violet rays are said to be liable to cause hemorrhage, and should be avoided.
There is yet another function of the skin, -- a fifth, which is connected with the sense of touch. In the skin are millions of minute nerve endings which send messages to the brain. Some of these are carried below the level of consciousness, and serve other functions already mentioned. But others are more direct. Let's watch a couple who have been members for some time, arriving in their auto on a hot day. They will probably follow a pattern something like this: They step out of the auto and, removing their clothes, throw them onto the back seat. Then they gently pass their hands over the fronts of their bodies, as if savoring the multitude of delicate sensations which come when their skin is freed from the choking effect of clothes. Their next move will usually be to the swimming pool, where after greeting friends and taking a shower they plunge into the pool and glide through the water, the touch and temperature senses thrilled once more, -- millions of tiny nerves shouting for joy. The difference between the feel of the water, -- the slip stream, -- with and without a swim suit is greater than can be imagined by one who has never known it. Next, after another brief shower, they spread their beach towel and lie in the sun, often not even drying their skin, for in a few minutes, there being no suit, they will dry anyway. Later they will often play one of the ball games and another variation of skin pleasure is felt as the free movement of the air refreshes every part of the body, especially those usually covered by perspiration-damp trunks.
One then understands why the Germans call nudism "free-body-culture" -- (Freikorperkultur).
OUR NATAL COSTUME
2. Its Effect on the Mind
When in an earlier chapter I attempted to answer my friend's question, --why does this kind of thing make one feel so "good"? -- I dealt mainly with the physical effects of the mode of life in nudist camps. This is important but covers less than half of the subject. For one thing, all the purely physical effects could be obtained by segregated groups of men and women. But what makes it the very beneficial, wholesome and enjoyable practice it is, is that nudism, by definition, is the social mingling of men and women in their natal costume. It is mainly by reason of this fact that the effects on the mind come about, -- it is that which makes nudism the educative and mentally therapeutic agent that it is, and that makes it socially attractive.
Here, as earlier, the one-man-committee must continue to search for facts. But this aspect has not been explored by scientists to anything like the extent that the physical aspect has been. Although I shall be able to quote from some very much respected authorities, let me at this point state what I have found by first hand observation and experience.
The thing which makes the practice difficult to adopt is that it is not customary. Custom and costume are intimately related, both being derived from the same Latin word. Absence of costume is unthinkable to the conservative, custom ruled mind. When the absence of clothing is seen to be customary, as it is when among nudists, and when it is clearly appropriate to the temperature and activities going on, it goes a long way toward making it easier to follow the locally prevailing custom.
This was demonstrated for me once in the early days of the movement. I was looking for a newly formed group, following directions carefully along a trail which zig-zagged among the hills. Suddenly, on rounding a bend I came on a large group of naked people sitting in a circle. I was recognized by the man who had invited me and I advanced to where he was in the midst of the group. Did I feel embarrassed! I was the only person in sight who had any clothes on. Imagine yourself the only person without clothes in a crowd of people and you will know what I felt.
To the liberal, less conventional mind, however, to break away from custom and conventionality occasionally is refreshing and gives one a sense of freedom.
Now let's see what happens when, for the first time one abandons the rigid custom of a lifetime, -- one of the most inflexible rules of our civilization, and walks out naked into the open air, in full sight of a number of people of both sexes in a nudist gathering. A few weeks ago even harboring such an idea would have given one a sense of guilt; to dream such an event would have been a nightmare. Yet here one is actually doing it. Why is it that, instead of fainting or ducking behind the nearest object to hide, one finds oneself calmly standing erect, and, -- unbelievable! -- actually walking toward the others? Without blushing or stammering one responds quite normally and politely when introduced to those nicely behaved people. What was all the mental and emotional turmoil about?
First, one has discovered the difference between imagination and reality; second, one feels assurance because "everyone (in sight) is doing it." This little Eden is a new world apart; here one is quite conventional. It is as it was according to the old Hebrew legend, before the "fall" when all were "naked and unashamed."
All of us in the camps except the small children, have gone through something like this. In a gradual crescendo it dawns upon us, -- we are free. Free from something which held us a few minutes ago and which we did not know was holding us. All our lives since childhood we have dragged around with us the taboos of our well-meaning ancestors, and this was one taboo we had never questioned. Now we see it as senseless as that of the savage tribesman who must hide his face from his mother-in-law, or of the Muslim woman who must hide the lower part of her face from all except her husband. We had been taught that certain parts of us must never be seen by any of the opposite sex or dire results would follow. To expose them or to look at the forbidden parts of the other sex, even in a picture, would be an obscene act. It would involve if such habits became common, "the end of civilization," the end of the family, -- it would lead to promiscuity, and so on ad nauseum.
Because of this taboo most of us have worn garments to bed even in hot weather, only removing everything for medical examination and for the draft into the armed forces, and then only because we had no option; and it "made us feel like cattle" (to quote a remark made in my presence by a draftee). Even in the shower room or bath tub most of us have felt immoral unless the door was locked.
We seem to have felt and acted as if we were carrying around, safely hidden, and, we hoped, under control, a foul and disgusting devil which only behaved well and safely because it was well hidden by others as by ourselves.
In a few moments all this was changed. We could never feel like that again, or harbor those notions. As we stepped out naked and responded to those introductions, and saw all those people having a good time, this THING which had burdened our imagination for so long had slipped away, -- it had proven to be a figment of that imagination. It had no objective existence. It was a quality of the human mind implanted there by early training and inherited from the Dark Ages.
I have found that some men think that if they were nude in the presence of a young and attractive naked woman they would be so sexually stimulated that there might be certain physical reaction (phallic tumescence) which would be visible to others and embarrassing to all present. In practice I have never seen or heard of this happening. On one occasion, at a nudist gathering near a large river I saw a young man who was on his first visit to a meeting of this kind. He was nude but was hanging back from the others. I thought probably he was shy, so I went to him to encourage him to join in the gathering. Then he told me his problem was the one I have above described, not the thing itself but the fear of it.
After thinking a moment I said, "Do as I say and you can be sure nothing like that will happen. See that girl coming along the bank. When she gets here I will introduce you to her. She is a good swimmer and diver, and so are you, so you will have something in common. If anything like what you fear should begin to manifest itself, just casually move into the water."
As the girl came up I said, "Jeanne, you ought to meet Jack here. He is interested in swimming and diving and I believe you are too."
Jeanne extended her hand and said, "Why, hello Jack! Isn't this a lovely place for swimming, and from that high rock the diving's fine."
As I left them they were chatting, walking along the bank, about their favorite sport in the most matter of fact way.
Sometime later I saw them poised together on the highest point of the rock ready for diving; a scene that might have been immortalized by Praxiteles.
The cleansing effect on the mind of frank nakedness has been noticed by many others who have studies the subject. The great authority on the psychology of sex, Havelock Ellis, wrote: "At no stage of culture does modesty involve the use of garments," and then he gives it as his opinion that clothing, especially partial clothing, can be more provocative than nudity. This is confirmed by the English writer and artist, John Brophy, in Body and Soul where he expresses the same view and Brophy quotes Montaigne as saying that "nakedness allays rather than stimulates desire."
This point, which is hard to present to a non-nudist is illustrated by a comparison between two incidents: At our camp we are picnicking, sitting around on the ground on canvas. A young woman is talking animatedly with her neighbor. The subject of their talk has nothing to do with nudism, she is as unselfconscious as could be. In the position in which she happens to be her whole external anatomy is visible. Yet those parts usually covered by bathing suits do not draw the slightest attention of anyone present, no more than ears, elbows or feet. They are not beautiful in the sense that the whole figure or face can be beautiful. They have no emotional or visual appeal.
Now compare with the following taking place in a crowded city: One sits in a streetcar and a young woman enters and sits opposite. Her skirt is short, so that as she bends it rises above the knee. To be more comfortable she crosses her legs and shows quite a bit of her thigh and some bare skin above the hose. Then she becomes conscious of this and tugs at her skirt, lowering it a fraction of an inch. There are few men who will not notice this and stare a little longer than they would if it were not the upper part of the leg of a young woman that was before them. The principle behind this is daily played up in illustrated newspapers, photo-magazines and in what are called cheese cake periodicals, obviously for its erotic value.
In the second incident above, the girl is not revealing as much as she would at a beach in a very "modest" bathing suit that would not draw a second glance. Yet the girl in the street car has far more erotic effect than the nudist picnicker.
It all goes to show that decency, modesty, pruriency and purity are all in the mind, not in the human body.
OUR NATAL COSTUME
3. Its Relation to Naturism
In spite of the modern notion that it is naive to believe in a return to nature, I think it is quite possible that we have swung to the opposite extreme, and have become too sophisticated and withdrawn from the primary influences that shaped our evolution over millions of years, -- air, water, sunshine; the woods, hills, seashore and rivers, untouched by modern engineering and industrialism. The city apartment dweller seeks his vacation, as a rule, away from all that city life involves. He longs to go fishing, hunting, hiking or sailing. He may think he wants to exercise his skill in catching and killing things, but back of that I feel sure it is the urge to "get away from it all" into the places where fish and game are found. The family goes for a picnic, driving a long way to have a meal without the conveniences found at home, to the national parks or the ocean beach, where they are in touch with "unspoiled" nature. I feel this is the secret of the great appeal Thoreau's Walden has had ever since it was first published.
I was speaking the other day to a motion picture director whom I met on a beach near where I live. He was bare to the waist and wearing old pants, and was collecting driftwood for his beach fire, although his home was on the cliff just above where we stood. He told me he had refused a large increase in salary because he wanted to live in that southern California village, rather than in New York or Hollywood. He had undoubtedly felt the operation of the principle I am trying to define.
When we lived in London, England, many years ago, it took us a long time to get to the country, the beautiful Surrey Hills or Epping Forest, before the days of automobiles; yet nearly every weekend when the weather permitted we got on our bicycles, my wife and I, with our two small children in a trailer hitched to my machine, and pedaled our way to the open spaces and woods.
All these instances, to my mind, show that the naturist feelings in us are hidden hungers, that they express a need which, when fulfilled, makes us feel better in mind and body. Children feel it even more than we do. See how they enjoy the ocean beach, the swimming hole, the woods, the tree-house and the Boy Scout excursions.
I think it was Bertrand Russell who related that he saw a slum child taken into the country for the first time. When the child got out of the car he ran a few paces, got down on his knees and pressed his face into the grass.
It seems likely that modern nudism is an expression, extended to its logical conclusion, of that hunger for closeness to nature, because it makes one feel that one is a part of nature oneself, for, as Walter Pitkin put it, "clothes are the very soul of convention."
The following notes were made during a week's real naturist vacation spent at one of the camps, while my wife, for part of the time was visiting friends:
Except in the early morning and late evening I have put on clothes only once this week; that was when I drove down to the nearest store to get supplies. It has been a week of peace, relaxation and healthy exercise, together with a deep sense of satisfaction in the close-to-nature life. It is perhaps a harking back to some race memory or instinct, to a time when our remote ancestors roamed the woods by the borders of rivers and plains. When we strip off our clothes we remove the symbols of sophistication and civilization and of class distinctions, as well as of prudery and pretense.
I am not the kind of naturist who would abolish civilization and return to the primitive for good, but I am sure that if all of us were to live as I have lived this week for short periods occasionally, -- play and relax and "let the world go by," there would be fewer nervous breakdowns and cases of gastritis, psychosis and divorce.
The sun and the breeze on the uncovered skin, the odor of the soil and the leaves, seem to nourish something that food does not satisfy. The noises in the woods do not disturb as the city clangor does. The sound of the wind in the trees, the rustling of the lizards in the dry leaves, the voices of the birds, the splashing and gurgling of the waterfall in the creek down in the canyon, the funny talk of the semi-wild turkeys, have taken the place of the squawking of auto horns, the wailing of sirens, the jangle of street cars, the drooling of crooners and the racket of jazz bands which have come through our windows in the city.
First thing on rising, -- in my natural costume, which is nothing at all, I go outside and collect and cut a little fire wood for the small sheet-iron stove. Having lit the fire I fetch water in a bucket from a standpipe a few hundred yards away.
After breakfast I have usually played a few sets of badminton. This is a good game for combining a sun and air bath with plenty of perspiration. It gives the best kind of exercise to the limbs and torso with the zest of competition. For my partner I had a man in his late sixties and for opponents a young married couple who are also spending their annual vacation here. They are quite athletic, so I am usually on the losing side.
After the game and a short rest we stroll over to the swimming pool, which is on high ground overlooking the valley and mountains. Then comes a shower bath (without soap, so as not to disturb the skin's mechanism for benefiting from the ultra-violet radiation) and then a swim, followed by a sunbath, lying full length on a blanket or towel, while we chat and are joined by several other vacationers. Then back to the cabin for lunch with an immense appetite, which I do not allow myself to satisfy, as I am "out" to take off fifteen pounds.
I have found a spot near the cabin, which is on a knoll that slopes down in three sides, the middle slope trending down toward the valley and the ocean in the distance. Here is shade from many trees, and however hot it may be elsewhere there is always a cool breeze. Here I study and read and write. On several occasions in the early afternoon I have looked up to see the girl who is one of the opposing team at badminton coming down the path from the main camp with my mail, which she and her husband have fetched from the village. It is a beautiful picture, -- the deeply tanned skin and lovely curved form against the straight, dun-colored tree trunks and the green of the foliage. Maybe she will tell me there will be another game, or perhaps, if enough are there, some volleyball.
When the sun goes down, tired from playing, swimming and hiking, I come back to the cabin for my lonely supper. I usually put on some clothes at this time as it gets quite cool; unless I am doing heavy work, like digging the trench for a water pipe leading to our cabin, for then it seems less tiring to have nothing on, however cold it is.
I have discovered an unexpected thing about this close-to-nature life, at any rate as to its effect on myself, -- I seem to like the plainest kind of fare, such as nuts, dates and raisins, rycrisp and salads, rather than full, cooked meals. This principle seems to extend even further. When in town I miss the radio, newspaper and movies if I don't get them regularly. Here I have not given them a thought. I seem to be satisfied in mind and body in every way except one. As time goes on I miss the presence of my wife more and more. She has made me happy for over twenty-five years.
Then on Saturday the little Ford arrived bringing my wife and three friends, a middle-aged lady and two girls in their early twenties, and our grandson, aged seven, all nudists of course. They arrived in time to get supper, so I am at last relieved from meal getting, and that is a welcome relief in spite of the simple fare I have been having. What they are preparing will not be so plain, but I shall try to put up with it!
The young ladies wanted to go swimming right away, and I, being useless around the cabin, go with them, and we all have a merry time at the pool together with the rest of the weekend crowd and their children. Our grandson soon chums up with some other little boys. It has always interested me to see how naturally children take to this kind of life. The first time we brought our grandchildren to this place they did not seem to notice the nudity at all, but removed their clothes as a matter of course when told to do so, without comment.
Here is a funny little incident showing how seriously some children take the behavior patterns of those around them: Near the pool is a shower for bathers to use before swimming. The children have been told never to enter the pool without first rinsing themselves under the shower. Someone has found a large toad and there is a chorus from the children, "Put him in the pool!" Then the smallest girl piped up, "Don't forget to give him a shower first."
Now that this vacation of one short week comes to an end it leaves me refreshed in mind and body and looking forward to a longer stay when my wife can be here all the time.
To my surprise and satisfaction I find I have lost seven pounds, -- by the most pleasurable way to lose weight I can imagine.
PURITY AND PRUDERY--
MODESTY AND OBSCENITY
These subjects are so often talked about by critics of nudism that I have decided to devote a whole chapter to them.
Nearly all the persons of the present generation and many generations earlier, have had instilled into their minds, from an early age, that exposure of the body in the presence of the opposite sex is morally wrong.
Now we challenge that idea. We point out that it has no foundation in fact or experience; that socially and ethically it is a mistake; that at the proper time and under the right and suitable conditions dispensing with clothing contributes to the physical, mental and social well-being and is morally right.
Ask yourself please, you who read this, just why you think the naked body is obscene, -- why hiding certain areas is a moral obligation.
I think you will find, if you are perfectly frank with yourself, that you have always taken it for granted, never even questioned it. If you have pictured a violation of this rule in your mind you have felt a little guilty. The behavior and teaching of your parents and others are responsible for that.
If you try to rationalize your feelings you will probably say mixed nudity would lower the restraint between the sexes, excite disorderly impulses and lead to immorality. Your are probably just as much aware as I am that the conventional, moral standard, which is faithfulness in marriage and celibacy outside of marriage, is very often broken in our present perpetually clothed society; so, all you can reasonably mean, if you think that way, is that nudism, if it became popular, would make things worse. You do not, of course, ask yourself why so much clothing does not prevent the present and past tendency to promiscuity, do you?
However, the experiment has been tried by nudists, and they have found over a period of more than twenty years in this country and still longer in Europe and other parts of the world, that the absence of clothing does not lead to a degeneration of morals. On the other hand they have found that a decent and respectful restraint is if anything stronger, that the mind is not so obsessed with thoughts of sex as in clothed society. That is the opinion of every person of nudist experience I have ever spoken to. There are psychological reasons why this might be expected, some of which I have already mentioned. Others will appear later.
Some will say that their religion instructs that nudism is sinful. Again I suggest you ask yourself: where in or among the authorities upon which you lean for your beliefs, be it scripture or church, is any statement against our practice? I could quote several pointing our way, although I do not lean on authority myself. Take, for instance, the story of the Garden of Eden. In the ideal state, before the Fall, in a sinless condition, does it not indicate that Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed? There is not a hint in the story that nakedness caused the Fall; but their sin caused them to be aware of it, and they made aprons of leaves on their own initiative, they were not told to do so. Sin and clothing are thus associated as cause and effect, not nudity and sin.
People of most Christian and Jewish types of religion seem to find no difficulties with nudism on religious grounds. The director of one of the largest and most successful camps told me that several Protestant sects are represented in his organization and that about twenty percent of his members are Catholics. Surely that which has been shown to have a wholesome effect on the bodily health and on the mind cannot be sinful.
When the early pioneers in nudism first started they were unconsciously using the methods of modern science and philosophy, the method of observation and experiment. When a scientific psychologist like Dr. Havelock Ellis says it is good, he means he has satisfied his scientific mind that tests have shown that it is good, he is not just reporting his own preconceived ideas. When Dr. Mabel A. King says, "It has been proven over and over again that full family acceptance of the nudist ideals and the nudist way of living does offer benefit to all the children..." she does not mean that is merely how she feels, she has found it so in actual practice.
The first experiments in social nudism were made in Europe about 1905, and in this country around 1929. My wife and I had small social picnic parties for natural sunbathing and swimming in the early 1930's and we joined an organized camp in 1934. The practice has therefore been tested and justified by ourselves by actual experience of over twenty years. That more is not known outside of nudist circles is not the fault of nudists, as has been explained in an earlier chapter. When I made a speech before the State Legislature committee which, when written out numbered over fifteen hundred words, the sole comment in the press was that I admitted that poison oak was an objection to nudism, also that putting on clothes again was unpleasant.
One thing not generally realized is that there is no permanent or definite standard of decency or its opposite. The standards change from time to time and according to location. What was shockingly indecent and even criminal when I was a boy is now proper nearly everywhere in the western world. Moreover the changes which have occurred are uniformly in one direction, that is, towards less concealment of the body, and more freedom of speech about it and its functions.
In other countries, certainly not less moral than our own, nudity under appropriate circumstances was proper and conventional not so long ago. An elderly gentleman, born in Denmark, told me that when he was a boy in the old country, swimming parties of adults of mixed sexes always went nude, and I have been told the same was true of Sweden and Tsarist Russia.
The point I am attempting to make is that decency and modesty, if real things, cannot change like that in fifty years, or from place to place. The change has been in the minds of the people. There was a lot of truth in the old motto "Honi soit qui mal y pense," which is usually translated, "Evil be to him who evil thinks," and the cap often fits the Watch and Ward type of mind and the Anthony Comstocks of the post office censorship type. Modesty and decency or the reverse do not inhere in the body, but in thought and behavior. Costume or lack of it is merely a matter of custom, fashion or convention.
When I was a boy, living in an English seaside town in the eighteen-nineties, a woman when bathing in public had to wear a suit covering her from the base of the neck to below the knees, with a skirt to the knees over dark pants and dark stockings. Even so she had to change in a bathing machine, -- a kind of cabin on wheels, -- which was towed by a horse out to a depth of about three feet. There she could "modestly" slip into the water, before anyone could tell whether or not she had legs. Men bathing in the same way from a separate section of the beach were not allowed to approach within a certain number of yards of the women's area. In fact, everything possible was done to emphasize and remind one of sex, to make a mystery of it, and to convey the idea that the body which possessed it was potent for evil, if seen.
Even in this voluminous bathing outfit a woman who walked into town would have been arrested for indecency. Now, in southern California in the nineteen-fifties in the beach town where we live, girls in brief, form-fitting suits or brief trunks and briefer brassieres, with bare thighs, and men in skimpy trunks, walk around in the shopping district without protest from anyone. I feel sure no one's morals are less moral as a result, although it must be admitted the girls' costumes are more provocative than nudity, as some psychologists have pointed out. What I ask is: Why should this year be the stopping point in this progress of the suit towards nothing? -- Also, how what was a misdemeanor in 1895 can be all right now? The human bodies have not changed, only our mental attitude toward them is different.
Would anyone, I wonder, contend that those bathing ensembles of the last century had prevented or tended to reduce immorality or disorderly thinking? Well known facts seem to contradict such an idea. Experiences among primitive races who habitually go nude indicate that they are more modest and more moral in their sex behavior than those who wear something. One observer of native Africans says their morality is in inverse ratio to the amount they wear. Nudist experience has confirmed this in this country and in Europe.
In Physical Culture magazine some years ago, there was an article by Julian Strange, the novelist. He was a nudist but expressed strong disapproval of some people in France, where he was visiting, who called themselves naturists who went around in what Strange called "suggestive garb" such as underwear trunks and open-work chemises. "Their garments," he wrote, "would be less objectionable if they revealed either less or more; as they are they are erotic in a manner that the complete nakedness of the nudists is not." Later he talked with a typical "man of the world," who had paid one visit to a nudist camp, and came away disgusted. He said the girls hid nothing and had nothing to hide. Even in a bathing suit, he said, they still had some mystery, but without anything on they were only human beings and had no charm. That obviously meant they did not arouse in him the erotic feelings he had been looking for and had been getting from costumed women.
Justice Miller of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (1940) quoted as "perhaps the most useful definition of 'obscene,'" the following: "The present critical point in the compromise between candor and shame at which the community may have arrived here and now." Then the Justice went on, "It cannot be assumed that nudity is obscene per se and under all circumstances...and from the teachings of psychology and sociology, we know that the contrary view is held by social scientists." He then quoted Havelock Ellis: "Nakedness is always chaster in its effects than partial clothing. As a well-known artist, Du Maurier (in Trilby) has remarked (still quoting from Justice Miller) it is a 'fact well-known to all painters and sculptors who have used the nude model...that nothing is so chaste as nudity. Venus herself, as she drops her garments and steps on the model's throne, leaves behind her on the floor every weapon in her armory by which she can pierce the grosser passions of men.'"
The artist model's function as an aid to esthetic expression begins when she is nude. The strip-teaser's erotic performance ends as soon as she drops her last garment, for she then immediately runs off stage. From the apposition of these two patterns we may read an excellent lesson on the difference between nakedness and lewdness.
THE HUMAN FORM DIVINE
Reviewing a book by an English artist in the London, Eng. Daily Mail, a reviewer wrote: "For four hundred years the ancient world, and for roughly the same length of time in modern history the nude has been the principal subject for art." Then he quotes John Brophy, the author of the book under review, himself a painter, as saying the Greeks of the classic period "learned to interpret the human body, usually a young and athletic body, as a subject for art self-sufficient in its own beauty and dignity."
It is well-known that many painters have chosen the nude to express their esthetic emotions while poets have sung of "the human form divine," that term having come from as far back as Homer's Odyssey (via Alexander Pope, 18th century, and William Blake, 19th century); while poets from the Song of Songs in the Old Testament to Walt Whitman and William Sheppard Sparks in our own day have glorified the body of man in verse.
The term, human form divine, might also be said to come from the Old Testament story of the creation, where it tells that "God created man in His own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Whether this be taken as a divinely inspired document, or, as many scholars now consider it, as an ancient people's attempt to explain in the form of legend, their early beginnings, it tells unmistakably the high regard in which the form of man was held in those early days.
Can that which has been an inspiration to sculptors, painters, poets and writers, so that it has been associated in their minds with divinity, be regarded as the evil thing the puritans and prudes would have us believe it is? Does not Walt Whitman's phrase, "If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred," have the ring of truth in it, in contrast to the view that condemns it forever to be hidden from the light of day as something indecent and provocative of evil?
When I was a boy my family lived a short walk from the Crystal Palace in London, England. Here all the main corridors and halls and most of the paths in the surrounding park were furnished all along both sides with full-size reproductions of Greek and Roman statues, and with a few modern ones. As we had season tickets we went there several times every month, and my eyes became accustomed quite early to the sight of the idealized human form, male, female, and juvenile. Whether that had something to do with my subsequent interest in nudism I cannot know, but I am sure it must have had the effect of rendering me more resistant to the puritan idea of the evil nature of man and his body which was current at that time, even more than it is now.
The calm and lovely serenity of the Greek statue does not seem to be consistent with the view which regards the body as obscene.
The Spartans were nudists and it is said that the sculptors used to watch the athletic exercises and games being carried on by men and women who played together nude. Strength and skill was not their sole aim, but the development of bodily beauty also. No wonder the sculptors were inspired to create the loveliness that we still enjoy to this day.
The erotic aspect of the body is transcended almost to the point of extinction in the artist's studio by the esthetic aspect. In the playing fields and gymnasia of Greece the erotic was lost in the competitive spirit as well as the esthetic. In the nudist camps of today the erotic is submerged in the social, health and play elements, with the esthetic very often added.
...free this flesh of ours from its paintings and its roughings, from the rags and tatters of the thousand and one hypocrisies that cover us; stand us once more nude before the sun, that sun which every morning, eternally young, rises to bestow its light upon the human family, with a caress for the body and for soul, distaining to penetrate those dark profundities where only mold can grow, and where all the false virtues and sick voluptuousness of this century of ours lie fermenting.
-- Paolo Mantegazza
Nature was naked, and I was also...Sweet, sane, still Nakedness in Nature! -- ah if poor, sick, prurient humanity in cities might not know you once more! Is not nakedness then indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your respectability, that is indecent. There come moods when these clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear, but are themselves indecent...
-- Walt Whitman
FORWARD TO PART II
by the author
In the first part of this volume I have attempted to set forth what have seemed to me to be the essential facts and reasonings which have led many thousands in this and other countries to abandon "the body taboo" as a pernicious superstition and to adopt the practice of the limited form of naturism which has come to be called nudism. Some will be convinced by this time that it is a good thing; certain misapprehensions they have had will have been disposed of, and, if they do not wish to adopt the practice themselves, they will at least cease to oppose it or to interfere with its practice by others.
There will also be those who will not be convinced. The conditioning they have had throughout the whole of their lives will be so strong that it will ride roughshod over any reasons. The superstition of the obscenity of the body having become strongly embedded in their minds as a law of man and of God, they will actively oppose nudism wherever it is practiced, and will bring their children up to regard it as wicked or at best as immoral. I have known a woman who was so convinced that my interest and participation in nudism was utterly depraved and licentious that she refused even to look at a magazine containing an article about it I asked her to read. She knew all about it already out of her own inner consciousness. To closed minds like that I have nothing to say, -- they belong to another epoch, -- to the Dark Ages.
There will remain, I hope, a third group of readers who will be inclined to accept a more respectful attitude towards what is, after all, the climax of the evolutionary process and the home of the mind of man, namely, the human body. These will be seeking personal experience for themselves.
For that type of mind and for my fellow nudists, I am adding a section which goes into some of the aspects more fully, or more deeply, and which deals with related matter outside the straight line of exposition found in Part I. If this involves dealing with some subjects not usually discussed in popular literature I venture to hope that what has gone before will cause it to be accepted in the spirit in which it is presented, -- as a sincere effort to break down a taboo which has been described as the "most damnable superstition the world has ever known."
A TRUE STORY
The writer can vouch for the truth of the following narrative in every essential detail. The names of the characters have been changed.
On a warm day in early summer about half a century ago, a young man and a maid were walking along a beach close to the water's edge. They were about two miles to the west of a little seaside town near the mouth of the river Thames, in southeast England.
The boy was tall and a little on the thin side. His eyes were grey-blue and his manner a little over serious. The blue serge suit and white color labeled him a city dweller.
The girl was of medium height with abundant dark brown hair, rich complexion with well-marked brows and dark brown eyes to match. To the boy she was the loveliest thing in the world. To all who saw her she was pretty above average. The top of her head just reached his shoulder. Quietly and tastefully dressed her clothes showed her to be also from the city.
As those who escape briefly from the noise, ugliness and high tempo of the city are apt to do, they reveled in the scene before them. The sky was clear, except for a few white clouds near the horizon. As far as the eye could see there was calm water. The tide was low and ripples edged with white extended a long way out, perhaps more than half-a-mile. North, east and west there was flat marshy country, very sparsely populated, with one or two farm houses in the distance and not a human being in sight.
For miles in both directions along the edge of the water was untrodden sandy beach, or as they would have called it, using the English term, sands, backed by a mile or two of saltings or marshy land interspersed with stretches of water. But for the splashing of the tiny waves and the cries of the curlews and a few other sea birds there was no sound. All was peace. It was a fit setting, they felt, for a love as clean and pure as theirs, a love that was to last, growing deeper and stronger until this day, more than fifty years after the incident we are relating.
After walking several miles they sat on the warm sand, and as lovers will, talked of themselves, their hopes and plans. And as such do not always do, they talked of philosophy and religion and things like that.
As the drowsy afternoon wore on, and the heat increased, their talk gradually ceased and all was still. After a while the girl said:
"What a perfect day for a dip in the sea!"
"Yes, just perfect," said the boy, "but one would have to wade out about a quarter of a mile to have the water up to one's elbows. And--we did not bring our bathing suits. -- Who would have thought when we left London it would be as warm as this, -- and there are no dressing rooms or places to hide, even if we had brought our suits."
"No. Well, don't let us spoil this lovely day with regrets. I feel sleepy, I think I'll take a nap. We've walked a long way and it's so warm." Making a pillow of her coat she was soon asleep. Shifting so as to shade her face from the sun, John sat and thought.
The girl's form lay gently outlined by her light summer dress. The rise and fall of her chest gave it life as she slept. How wonderfully sweet it was to think she was to take him as her life-long mate.
It became hotter as the afternoon advanced and he regretted more and more they had not brought their bathing things. It had been too cool to think of it in the city. He had taken off his coat some time ago and now the urge to take more off became stronger. Why could they not - - - ? But what was he thinking? He had been brought up to look upon disrobing as something to be practiced only in the bathroom, or where one was quite sure no one of the opposite sex could see one. Yet here he was actually contemplating the idea that he and his fiancee might go bathing together like that.
In spite of himself his mind leapt on. He was frank with himself. His moral code with regard to sex had always been strict and he had never violated it, nor had he ever come near doing so. Yet he acknowledged to himself that he had a strong desire toward this girl he so greatly loved, and he could not believe that feeling was wrong or that it had anything of evil in it. It would be wrong to give away to that desire before they were married, of that he was sure; for this, we must remind the reader, was the Victorian England of the nineteenth century. He would not have dreamed of trying to break down his sweetheart's moral code, which was, if possible, stronger than his own.
Yet, the "biological urge" was there and it irked him as he let his thoughts wander. He admitted to himself, and was not ashamed of it, that the thought of wooing her to the union of their bodies which would make their sex life complete, made him long to be married; yet only marriage could give him that right.
These feeling came to him in the form of a tension and the idea of bathing together naked had made it stronger. He knew that every healthy, normal man had these feelings and that society and the churches either attributed them to "original sin," or that they pretended such feelings did not exist in right minded people. He knew also that many young men of his class occasionally violated the moral code.
Now he felt that there was one thing that would partly satisfy him. There was a wish to see his girl's body unclothed. He had never seen a nude woman, but had always been given to understand, from what he had read and heard, that such a sight would intensify sexual desire. Now, for the first time, he found himself doubting that. He made up his mind to submit the idea to Anne. He trusted his sweetheart's judgment in matters of right and wrong and whatever happened he felt sure he would never so far lose control of himself as to do her harm.
When Anne awakened he waited a little while and then said: "Look, as far as one can see in every direction there are no places where people could be and we not see them, and there is no one in sight."
"Yes," she said, after looking around, "isn't it strange that there should be such a lonely spot only forty miles from London?"
"Well, yes," he said, "but I was not thinking of that. I was thinking that if we went swimming no one could see us, -- I mean..."
"Oh! But John, -- surely you don't mean..."
"Look, dearest, what harm would be done if we just undressed and went wading, or swimming too, if we could get far enough out into the deeper water?"
"Do you really think that would be right? And you know I can't swim."
"Then you will have your first swimming lesson. The water is so calm, it would be easy, -- and -- so -- lovely, --"
"Oh, John dear, it would be lovely." Then after a pause, "Let's."
"All right! Here goes."
His heart beat a little faster perhaps. Maybe, -- he wondered, -- hers did too. Outwardly she was quite calm and matter-of-fact, as they took off their clothes and laid them in a neat pile on the sand. Then, hand in hand, they walked into the rippling waves.
Now, after the years they had been acquainted and the months they had been engaged, they saw each other for the first time, without shyness and without shame. And they knew that it was right and good.
As they walked out toward the deeper water, John felt that a crisis had come in his life. His own nakedness, the first time in the open air and sunshine, gave him a feeling of relief and relaxation greater than he had expected.
The sight of his dear one's lovely form gleaming in the sunshine against the blue-green of the sea, came to him with a feeling of benediction, as different from lust as light is from dark. Then he saw her joyful smile as she was aware of his fond gaze and as she realized it was her lovely self that drew it.
Not a hint of increased tension did he feel. Instead he found that part of his mind relaxed too. It was partly satisfied so that it could wait; it did not irk him any more.
When they reached the deeper water Anne had her swimming lesson. After thus playing in the water for a time they waded back and had their first all-over sunbath on the warm sand. Then they walked and ran along the shore feeling like children again as they picked up shells and bright pieces of seaweed.
So these two young things reveled in the sea, and air and sunshine, and in each other's youth and love. In the realm of unspoiled nature they knew that they belonged, just as they were, -- just as they had come into the world, -- unclothed.
When the sun sank low they were not sorry to don their clothes because there was a chill in the air, and they made their way to the train which would take them back to the city. Their spirits were light and gay for they felt that some burden, alien and unclean, had that day been lifted from their souls.
After they had gone along in silence for a while, busy with their thoughts, John said:
"Now we know, once for all, that the bare body is not an unclean thing, provoking lustful thoughts and feelings. That idea was born of something wrong in people's minds due to wrong teaching and the universal hiding of the body. I remember now that some writers have said that the sight of nudity in the right circumstances would have a sedative effect on one's feelings; I should never have been sure that it was so if I had not experienced it."
"Yes, John, I was thinking very much the same. Only your old scientific mind puts it better. If when we are married we should be blessed with children, let's bring the boys and girls up to be used to the sight of each other's bodies and of ours too."
They did. And now in the U.S.A. they still enjoy the nudist way of life in the sunshine, air and water, on their weekends and vacations.
OUR FAVORITE CAMPS
As my aim in writing these pages is to give a picture of what social nudism actually is, how and where it is practiced, and what are its pleasures and benefits, I feel it will help to supply a description of one of the oldest and most successful camps in California, where my wife and I have spent many happy hours with benefit to our minds and bodies, and have formed lasting friendships. This is not to imply that there are not other camps as good, it is just that we know this and the other organization described here better than any others.
We climb to an elevation of more than two and a half thousand feet, along a good, high gear, winding road and amid rugged mountain scenery characteristic of southern California, where the Yucca (which always reminds me of a huge lily-o-the-valley) is conspicuous in the late spring; the wild buckwheat, the canterbury bells, and sunflowers are most conspicuous among the ones I can name, while there are many more I cannot came. The trees are mostly live-oak and sycamore, while scrub-oak, sumac and grease-wood abound among the many kinds of shrubs in what is called "the brush."
At the highest point we reach a plateau and watch for a gate which is identified by means of information supplied to all authorized to enter. Here we open the gate by a secret method and proceed for perhaps half a mile along a dirt track to another gate, to be opened by a different secret formula. On the fence here are warnings that beyond this point is private property, no trespassing allowed, and information is given for getting attention of the management in case one does not succeed in opening the gate. All this multiplication of obstacles is for protection from snoopers and strangers, and gives up a pleasant sense of security. Because it is near a national forest there are notices warning against smoking and camp fires.
Beyond the second gate we still have a few hundred yards of dirt track before we come to a bridge over a usually dry creek. In this area there are a few cabins and tents, and just before crossing the bridge we see two substantial adobe structures, one a residence, and the other a dance hall, where every Saturday night in the dry season, the members and visitors who like dancing -- all conventionally dressed, country style, and, as to the women, prettied up, -- have a good time into the small hours of the morning.
After crossing the bridge we are faced with a notice board requesting us to register before proceeding, and there is usually a person in charge to see that one does it and to request identification when in doubt. This is one more precaution contributing to our security.
Here we shall usually see some unclothed men and women and children pursuing their various interests, besides the unclothed entrance guard, for here is the center of things. On the left is a large mess hall, furnished with tables, benches and a well-provided kitchen with two large stoves, sink, table and drawers and numerous shelves for members who do not own cabins, to keep their groceries, etc. Also there is a large icebox for general use, as well as table implements, crockery and cooking utensils. Here members and visitors can prepare their meals and have them, at the same time using this period for social meeting and getting acquainted.
On the walls are posted camp notices, clippings from papers and cartoons. Everywhere is the utmost good humor. Though the kitchen is sometimes rather crowded, and sometimes rather hot, I have never seen or heard evidence of irritation. The men often share in the cookery operations, especially at breakfast time. In the evening some will be clothed and some not, as tastes differ as to what is comfortable temperature for nudity The very essence of nudism is freedom, not only from unnecessary clothing but from purely purposeless conventional behavior.
The mess hall is often used after supper for games, such as chess, checkers, anagrams, and cards.
On the opposite side of the clearing there is the director's garage, tool house , workshop, and office.
Proceeding in the same general direction through the clearing we see a well-wooded area. On the right is the bed of the dry creek, -- dry, that is, in late spring and summer. Crossing this by a foot bridge we find several nice looking one-room cabins which can be rented. They are furnished with table, bed and lamp, but not bedclothes, though extra blankets can be borrowed, as the nights at this altitude are sometimes much colder than people expect.
Here also is a rustic tree-house made famous in a motion picture some years ago. Passing the cabins one comes to the swimming pool and the social-sunbathing center on warm days. Here also is a shower-bath and drinking fountain. Carpets and rugs afford comfortable places for stretching out in the sun, and neighboring trees give shade when one has had all one wants of the unscreened sun rays. This is the location of the incident related in chapter one, part one. For cooler weather there is a solarium well screened from the wind, so that even in winter we can enjoy the sun's warmth and maintain our tan throughout the year. We find here also the full advantage of the absence of the bathing suit, for a slightly cool breeze which would be unbearable for long in a wet swim suit, is easily tolerated and even enjoyed in the quickly drying bare skin.
Around the pool are roundabouts, swings and other devices for children, but most of the youngsters seem to prefer the shallow end of the tank. There are many receptacles for cigarette stubs and warnings against dropping them elsewhere. The few rules here require women, and, says the humor loving director, men with long hair, to wear caps. All bathers are required to shower before entering the water, and only human beings are allowed in the pool, while rubber dolphins, tires, and rafts are excluded, much to the added comfort of swimmers. The water is passed through two huge filters before entering the tank.
If we had continued along the other side of the creek we would have come to the badminton court on the left. Then there is an area among the tall trees where those who wish to camp or picnic can park their cars and pitch their tents near any of the tables and benches. Nearby too is the ever-popular volleyball court where the younger men and women work off their surplus energy and acquire a wonderful agility which this writer enjoys watching, though his own days for that sort of thing are over.
Continuing in the same general direction along an auto drive which now goes uphill, we find some privately owned cabins and another area of rented cabins, then more privately owned ones, some large enough to be called houses. Dotted here and there are house-trailers.
If we raise our eyes to the hill on the right soon after leaving the bridge we see huge boulders and rocks, some as large as cabins, strewn over the landscape. Among these are some of the most interesting and picturesque privately owned cottages and cabins of the members.
If it were not for the absence of stores, post office and police station one might fancy oneself in a beautifully situated village. Yet between weekends most of these dwellings are unoccupied except during the vacation season.
For those who like to take their sun-and-air baths while hiking and climbing there are two trails which lead to points from which they can see all over the camp and surrounding mountains. One of these leads to the "sail rock" in less than ten minutes of leisurely walking from the mess hall. It goes up among the large boulders seen to the right as we proceed through the camp. Another trail leaves the auto drive above mentioned, to the left, and rises steeply to the top of a little mountain. This is called "the trail to the cross." It takes a good deal longer and is best taken before the sun gets too high unless one is in very good shape and used to climbing. Nevertheless, nudists over seventy have enjoyed this trail.
It is on such a hike as this that the full benefit of one's birthday suit is realized. As the breeze strikes the freely perspiring body it is cooled and refreshed in a way so different from the wind blowing on wet garments that there is no comparison. The absence of clothing seems to add power to the muscles, to increase the capacity of the lungs, to steady the heart, and deduct pounds from one's weight. And, as an unlooked for bonus, it is a delightful sensation.
At the summit we find a large white cross, a tin box with a book for one's name to be written in, and a bench where we can sit and enjoy the view over the mountains and valleys. And all this is within the privately owned camp boundaries.
The camp described above is privately owned by an individual. Another type of organization is the roving or itinerant club mentioned elsewhere. This has a home camp which it leases from the owner for certain weekends in each month, while its members visit other camps in the general district under special arrangements negotiated between the organizations concerned. The one I shall describe has a large number of members, and it recruits more by having dinners at a restaurant in the city, to which couples interested in the subject and wanting to know more about it or already seeking membership, are invited to attend. Of course all are fully clothed at these dinner meetings. The members of the club thus have an opportunity to get acquainted with the visitors, just as the visitors get to know the club members, and to learn more about the movement and the type of person who belongs to it. If invited and wishing to join they become probationers and are invited to the home camp. After a certain number of weeks, if judged acceptable by the members, they are voted upon and accepted, or (a very rare thing) rejected. The dues of this club are low, but when visiting the home grounds or other clubs the members are required to pay ground fees, which vary somewhat. This well-managed organization is bringing a large number of new members into the movement.
The home grounds of the roving club are beautifully situated in a hilly district near the desert. There are two large Quonset huts, one for meals and social gatherings, the other for sleeping; a swimming pool and volleyball court; and, provided by nature, a wonderful lot of rugged hiking trails, over which one of the members freely offers his service as guide. Granite boulders as large as houses form one of the many interesting features of the landscape. From some points in the trails the panorama over the mountains and desert is breath-taking. To those interested in nature and wild life, flowers and small animals are abundant.
In other states there are many camps with quite different natural features, some of those on the east coast and in Florida having natural boating and swimming facilities. But I have decided to write here, as far as possible, of what I have had direct experience. Judging from meetings with travelers from other states it is evident that all are run on very much the same general lines, as to customs and standards of conduct, and nearly all are linked together by a national organization.
There is not a doubt in my mind, however, that California cannot be beaten as a climate for nudism, as it can be enjoyed all the year around, with few disappointing days.
ARTIFICE AND EROTICISM
I have been met by opponents to the thesis of this book with the accusation that the main attraction of our camps is erotic. We may, they say, be honestly fooling ourselves when we say it is not so. To some extent this charge has been met, by implication, in the foregoing pages, and it did not seem desirable to interrupt my exposition by going into the subject more fully in the earlier chapters.
Nudity, in the minds of most people who are not nudists or artists, certainly has erotic significance, and it is only natural to impute to others a feeling that one has oneself.
It is necessary at this point to clear up some ideas which are fuzzy in most people's minds. This muddled thinking is probably the result of the subject having been banished from discussion in polite society. Eroticism is, by definition, that which stimulates to sexual desire, and, in its place it is a very necessary and proper thing. Without it the human race would soon become extinct. If the having of children by married couples is a good thing then eroticism is a good thing. This is too self-evident to be argued. The prudes are either hypocrites or ignorant beyond belief if they argue otherwise. The important words are "in its place."
If keeping it in its place involves some self-control, that does not make it bad. Human ethics and Christian morals and all civilization is built on self-control; without it there could be no social life as we know it.
Again, the concept "sex" implies vastly more than eroticism. The word connotes some of the most sacred and beneficent relationships in life. Nearly all family and social relations and activities are rendered brighter, happier and more worthwhile if they include both sexes. Most art, most literature and all life would be sterile and dull without both sexes. Even in the marriage relation, though satisfactory physical relations are necessary, by far the larger part of the enjoyment of life together by married partners who are deeply in love is in the close daily companionship and the realization of the complementary qualities of the masculine and feminine natures. It is these secondary aspects of sex that make their lives happy together. The prude and the debauchee both are equally out of balance in their exaggeration of the place of primary sex in life.
An unwholesome mind will always see the erotic if there is the smallest excuse, even on the most inappropriate occasions, especially in clothed society. I once knew a man who always turned the most innocent remark into a smutty joke by adding or changing a word if it were at all possible. His mind was never free from it. For him the distinction I am trying to make clear did not exist. He could not have found admission to a sunbathing camp, but if by some mistake he had been admitted his jokes would have been met with frozen silence.
What has all this to do with social nudism? And what bearing does it have on the charge that we are unconsciously attracted by an erotic element? It is this:
To the nudist, in his frank freedom, in the social atmosphere of health-seeking, relaxation and play, the sight of one another's bare bodies becomes as familiar as the sight of unveiled faces. Where there is no concealment there can be no suggestiveness or curiosity or teasing effect. In the balance between the several aspects of sex the erotic takes its normal and very private and personal place and is completely separated from and subordinated to the other qualities of men and women as social beings.
It seems never to have occurred to the opponents of nudism that the differences between the sexes are much greater when people are clothed than when they are naked. Consider a smart woman's hair-do or hat, her pinched in waistline exaggerating the bust and hips, her flaring skirt, her transparent stockings and high heels, her necklace and other jewelry, her painted lips and nails, her mascara-treated eyelashes and facial make-up, her plunging neckline again emphasizing the bust. Can you tell me candidly what all these differences are for, if not to emphasize her sex, and stimulate interest in her body? The human mind is so made that it soon accepts symbols in the place of the things symbolized, so that these differences soon become symbols of the very things that clothes cover or half reveal, with the added teasing effect of mystery. In essence they are erotic.
When both sexes are unclothed their undecorated human bodies are much more alike. All the hocus-pocus of the beautician and couturiere is swept away. With the playing down of the sex differences there comes a more comradely attitude between men and women. This is readily noticeable in such games as volleyball or badminton, or when hiking. The normal attraction between them remains intact, but it is based on what is real and not on what is stimulated by artifice. For that reason there is less eroticism in a nudist camp than on Main Street or Broadway, or at a smart dinner.
Do we lose the esthetic element when we abandon clothing? I would answer that with another question: Does the painter or sculptor choose a fashionably clothed man or a dressed up and made-up woman when he wishes to depict supreme beauty? (See also chapter XI.)
A TRAGI-COMEDY OF NUDITY
A True Story
When a few of the campers were seated one evening around the table in the mess hall after supper one of the party, an elderly man, recalling a game they had played the previous evening, called "F.B.I.," said he had a problem to place before them to see how long it took them to solve it.
This man said he had once stood absolutely naked in one of the main shopping streets of a medium size California city. There were many people around, including police, but there was no protest, and he was not arrested or charged with any offense against the law. What was the explanation? Why was he there in that condition?
The rules of the game allowed any questions to be asked that could be answered by yes or no. It took them about twenty minutes to get the answer.
The narrator vouched for the literal truth of this story of what happened to him one night about twenty years ago. My reason for reproducing it here is because it shows how serious an extreme case of prudery might be in its practical results.
The man had been staying in an old-fashioned hotel and had been taking a bath, the bathroom being at the end of a corridor at the rear of the hotel. While he lay relaxing in the warm water he discovered that the hotel was on fire. The crackling of the flames, and their light which could be seen shining under the door, made him aware of this. There was no window except in the ceiling. On opening the door to escape, the flames entered and almost filled the room and drove him back. He plunged into the tub knowing he could not burn while wet, but saw little hope. Then he saw some possible hope in the fact that he had an unlimited supply of water. Turning on both faucets he started splashing the water, with his towel held as a basin, at the doorjambs and passage outside. After working for about half-an-hour he saw that the flames were smaller although the smoke was still bad, and he had to stop at intervals to breathe by placing his head under the old-fashioned tub where the air was cooler. When he noticed the floor getting unbearably hot he made up his mind it was time to make a dash for the outside, so he wrapped a wet towel around him and ran, following what he thought was the course of the corridor. But he overshot the point where he had to turn and fell down two flights of stairs into the basement, and into the hands of two firemen coming up the stairs with a hose. The towel had disappeared somewhere on the way down. The firemen carried him outside calling, "Here's a man," to two policemen who were near. They led him out onto the sidewalk where he stood shuddering with shock. He was badly burned, bruised, and scratched by the stairs, but able to stand.
The police asked the crowd if someone could get something to cover him with. After about five minutes a man brought a pair of pants and an old sack.
By this time the "ambulance" had arrived in the shape of a model T touring car with a huge siren in front. In spite of his plight, the victim could not help joking about this with the policemen as it dashed through the crowded street with its siren shrieking, fit to wake the dead; and the way the traffic parted in front of it was not surprising, but very fortunate.
Arriving at the emergency hospital the police helped the patient out and into the hospital reception room, and left him, saying they had to get back to the fire in case there were others to be brought in, and explaining that a nurse would be there right away.
By this time the first shock was wearing off and the real pain beginning to manifest itself. Still shaking from head to foot, the man dropped off the pants and sack, for the thought of them in contact with his raw spots was horrible. Then the nurse appeared, looked at him for a moment and let out a scream and ran out of the room. A few moments later, from outside the door she said, "The doctor will be here in a few minutes," and was heard no more. Well, in rather more that a few minutes the doctor came, an opiate injected, and a good recovery well on the way.
But what of the "nurse"? The man felt sure it was not his burned and bleeding body that drove her out, but his nudity. This incident shows how the body taboo, a pure superstition, can influence behavior and might have serious consequences.
NUDISM AND THE LAW
It seems that the higher the court or law-making body is, the less antagonistic it is toward nudism. The California legislature has been kinder to us than a few of the counties, while the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by a majority gave the most enlightened and interesting judgment I have yet seen in a matter involving the principles of nudism, though it did not refer directly to the practice. It referred to the admissibility of a book, Nudism in Modern Life, by Maurice Parmelee, to this country, after it had been refused entrance by the authorities, and a libel against it had been filed by the U.S. Attorney, who applied for permission to confiscate and destroy all copies of it as obscene. A lower court had upheld the U.S. Attorney. The importers or publishers of the book appealed and won its admissibility from the higher court. The judgment of the majority was written by Associate Justice Miller in May, 1940. As it covers more than ten pages of small print I shall quote or review here only a few of the parts having a bearing on the practice of nudism and the alleged obscenity of the human body. (This very interesting document is obtainable from the United States Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C. for $1.00.)
It must be explained that the objection to the book was not because of the text, but to certain of the photographic illustrations. These were declared by the lower court to be obscene, supposedly because they showed several front views, nude, full length, unretouched, but very small, only 1 1/2 inches high.
Justice Miller, who wrote the majority opinion, found there was no exact definition of obscenity and then said: "Probably the fundamental reason why the word is not susceptible of exact definition is that such intangible moral concepts as it purports to connote, vary in meaning from one period to another...An age accustomed to the elaborate bathing costumes of forty years ago might have considered obscene the present day beach costume of halters and trunks. But it is also true" (here surely is a bit of nudist insight) "that the present age might regard those of 1900 as even more obscene."
In judging the book itself the Justice said the expert opinion of psychologists and sociologists would seem helpful if not necessary. "It cannot be assumed that nudity is obscene per se and under all circumstances...from the teachings of psychology and sociology we know that the contrary view is held by social scientists." There is then a page in very small type of quotes from Schroeder and Havelock Ellis, and Sumner, to the general effect that there is nothing more chaste than nudity, and from Burton in the "Anatomy of Melancholy" where he deals with "the allurements of love," and concludes "the greatest provocations of lust are from our apparel."
From Sumner, Folkways (1906) is quoted in footnote many instances of races who go naked and yet are modest and moral.
The Justice referred to nudity in art, and to illustrations in the Encyclopedia Britannica, of full front views of male and female pictured together in physical contact.
Concerning the author of the book, Dr. Maurice Parmelee, Justice Miller said he had been known for many years as a well qualified writer in the field of sociology.
Here is another bit of insight by the Justice: "In fact, it is only because social scientists are still working under conditions of enforced self-deception, similar to those which prevailed in the early days of the medical profession, that the propriety of the present book is questioned. Until phenomena such as those discussed in Nudism in Modern Life" (namely social nudism) "can be studied on a realistic basis, it is reasonable to expect as great professional inadequacy in the solution of social problems as was true of attempts to solve problems affecting the health of the physical body prior to the present day development of medical science."
Five years later the members of the camps sprang into activity when news came from Sacramento that a bill had been introduced in the Assembly to prohibit nudism in California. This was in 1945, about twelve years after many successful camps had been established. Now the defense organization was to be tested.
Support poured in from all over the country, defense funds were raised, letter writing campaigns to responsible authorities organized, so that the governor and all legislators on the committee dealing with the bill were well informed. Several legislators were brought over to our side, at least to the extent of opposing the bill in committee. The present writer had long interviews with one of them who was also a lawyer, and he was most helpful.
When the time came for the committee hearing on the bill, there were so many of the public trying to get in, the chairman had the meeting transferred to the Assembly Chamber. When the chairman suggested that all those who were nudists should rise, over fifty were counted. One could tell instantly that the committee was surprised, not so much at the numbers as at the type of person. What they had expected would be difficult to say. They obviously had not expected the quite normal, dignified and respectable crowd that stood before them.
The introducer of the bill made a miserable fiasco of the attack on the nudists; he read letters alleging things against them, but refused to divulge the names of the writers, and it soon became evident that he had been supplied with information by some other party who had badly misinformed him. In fact he half admitted as much later in the proceedings and I almost felt sorry for him. The nudists were accused of holding Nazi Bund meetings at their camp, of being anti-Semitic and of using gasoline illegally (this was when it was rationed), and, in a vague way, of general immorality, without one bit of evidence being presented that would have been even listened to in a court.
Then came the turn of the nudists. An attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union, not himself a practicing nudist, defended them, and himself a Jew, dealt effectively with the anti-Semitic accusation, making a monkey out of the accuser. Then the present writer spoke for about ten minutes giving an account of his actual experience, which happened to be in the camp that was the subject of most of the false accusations. Finally, Albert Dekker, the motion picture actor from Hollywood, himself a member of the committee, said the charges in the speech introducing the bill were "unadulterated fabrication," that accusations which had been mentioned in a newspaper that Hitler established camps as sex centers to encourage population, he knew to be false, because he was in Germany when the camps were running, which was before Hitler came to power, and that they had been established to enable undernourished German people to rebuild their health following the first world war, and that they were morally above reproach, -- that instead of being established by Hitler they had been closed by him. (The truth of this is confirmed by some German friends of the present writer.)
Things were going so badly for the anti-nudists that a motion was made to table the bill, which was equivalent to throwing it out. This was carried by seven to two with two refraining from voting.
I have given this much of the proceedings to show the kind of opposition our opponents bring forward. Both in the legislature and in the press they depend on "unadulterated fabrication" as Mr. Dekker called it. In other words they depend on their unwholesome imaginations which tell them what they think would happen if...and offer that as evidence. There have been other cases where the same tactics have been used.
After this failure in the legislature several counties passed ordinances prohibiting our practice in almost identical terms with the bill defeated in the Assembly; but far from stopping the progress of the movement, the excellent advertising it had seems to have stimulated the formation of more camps, and at this time of writing there are more camps and clubs in California running in full cooperation with the law than in other states and undoubtedly with many more individual members. In one county, the only one I know about, the ordinance was passed without the knowledge of those it attacked, and without calling witnesses, in a decidedly undemocratic manner. It has been stated that if funds were available for the amount of litigation that would be necessary, the ordinances could be shown to interfere, when the nudism was being practiced on private fenced-in and hidden property, with the constitutional rights of the individual. The present law with reference to nudity is as follows:
Every person who willfully and lewdly: (1) Exposes his person or the private parts thereof in any public place or in any place where there are present other persons to be offended or annoyed thereby; or (2) Procures, counsels or assists any person to so expose himself or take part in any model artist exhibition of himself to public view of any number of persons as is offensive to decency or is adapted (sic) to excite to vicious or lewd thoughts or acts; is guilty of a misdemeanor.
The reasons why this cannot be used to prosecute nudists is that lewdness must be proven, and that fellow nudists cannot be regarded as persons to be annoyed. As to the excitation of lewd and vicious thoughts, our opponents would have to gang warily indeed, if an attempt were made to find out where they were excited!
PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE NUDE
Having been a professional portrait photographer during most of my working life before I retired, I feel I should add a few notes on the place of photography in the camps and on the general subject of pictures of the nude.
Most of the camps I have known rule out photography altogether, the notice "NO CAMERAS" being prominent as one enters. Any violation of this rule would probably be followed by a request to leave the camp.
The rule is a good one and serves the purpose of giving members a sense of security and privacy which the general presence of cameras around would destroy. But if the person who wants a particular picture of his own party seeks permission of the camp director before bringing the camera to camp and makes exact arrangements as to when and where and who, I think such permission could be obtained. The permission of every person in a picture would have to be obtained too, of course.
Some camps appoint an official photographer to take pictures for the magazines when and if such publicity is desired, and then only, of course, of the subjects whose consent had been obtained. I have made many pictures for one of the magazines and have never had the least difficulty in getting permission and cooperation. This was ten or more years ago, but, judging by the number of pictures appearing in magazines I have seen recently I should say that condition seems to continue.
In any case my advice is, if you go to a camp, don't use a camera until you have found out about the camp's rules on the matter; and do not allow any photo of people whose faces show to be published unless you have written release from each subject, or if a minor, from his parent.
My interest in photography of the nude was, however, usually esthetic rather than journalistic, and some of the most successful pictures were made in remote spots in the country or in my studio. My highest award came from a picture made in the studio.
If an amateur has ambitions to make nude studies he should realize it is one of the most difficult branches of photography, and should prepare himself by mastering the technique, not be spending a great deal of money on his equipment, but a great deal of time in studying how to reproduce on the photographic paper what he sees and feels about the subject before the camera. The delicate shades and values which appear so lovely to his eye have a curious way of not appearing in the negative and print in the hands of the average amateur. Some awkwardness in the composition, -- or relation of the subject and background, so easily overlooked on the focusing screen or finder, stands out like a sore thumb in the finished picture.
The making of a nude picture of salon quality is a game of patience and perseverance -- it can be, but seldom is, the result of a lucky shot. There are such a great number of variables: the light, its direction and intensity, and relative values, the background and surroundings and their influence on the composition, and above all the model. You will quickly discover that bodies are like faces in one respect, they have expression and show moods. Men are harder to work with than girls, -- and believe it or not, they are more self-conscious and seem less able to catch the wishes and feelings of the photographer. So I will assume the model is a girl, as she will be in most cases. Her mood is important. If she is tired or bored it will quickly show in the lines of the figure. To succeed she must enjoy posing, but the expression must be impersonal, -- the ideal is the serenity of the Greek statue, but not listlessness. She must be accustomed to nudity so that she does not feel shy or strange. One writer who purported to give advice on this type of photography, advised that the model should keep herself covered as long as possible and disrobe only just before the picture was taken and cover herself as soon as allowable. I think that advice must have been given for the benefit of "Mrs. Grundy," for I cannot think of anything more likely to produce an effect of strain and self-consciousness.
As to the technical side of it, I cannot in this place even begin to give instructions, except to say that the materials and techniques suitable for the highest grade of portrait will be best for the nude.
As far as the average amateur snapshot of nudist activity or groups or single figures is concerned I would say: remember the tendency of the highlights, -- light places, -- to block up, that is become so dense on the negative that they appear not like flesh but like white marble without modeling, especially if in sunshine. So it is usually necessary to work for "soft" results, that is, avoid harsh shadows and contrasts by avoiding too prolonged development of the film. Shadows should be luminous but not so light as to flatten or rival the highlights.
If you are working for artistic effects rather than just snaps, there are a few principles and rules which will save a lot of disappointment.
In posing a figure in the nude, a full front or full back view is seldom successful. A three-quarter view is usually better.
Observe persons when they are not thinking about posing; they seldom stand straight, evenly balanced on both feet. Yet how many pictures one sees of their doing just that. They should drop one hip a little, or bend one knee, or turn the shoulders slightly. Unless they have had some experience as models they are seldom able to look natural or behave naturally. The most "natural" poses are often the most carefully posed. If they are new at it the photographer must instruct them. If taken unawares, which is hardly likely to happen, where permission has been granted, they will not be stiff and un-natural, but they are liable to assume awkward and inartistic positions; or if the subject is a group it may lack unity unless arranged by the camera man to avoid a scattered and disjointed appearance.
In the numerous pictures I have supplied to magazines of nudes, hardly any of them have had to be retouched to avoid trouble with the very prudish post office officials. A little care taken in watching the placing of limbs will avoid that difficulty without detracting from the naturalness of the picture.
Avoid spotty backgrounds such as sunlit bushes usually out of focus because of distance. Watch your backgrounds carefully for jarring notes. Subjects looking at the camera are seldom successful.
A tanned skin photographs better than a "white" one. The tan color retains the modeling better in a strong light. I have always used panchromatic film of portrait grade.
I have never found models hard to get, even before I was a practicing nudist myself. Of course I was always careful whom I asked but I was hardly ever refused, and in the few cases of refusal I met with, not one was offended or annoyed or insulted by my asking. In fact, they seemed to be flattered. I am referring here to purely art studies. Singles and groups in a nudist camp are a different matter. Most of the members would object because they would not wish to be known as members of such a group. That is quite a different matter. I hope the time is not far off when such secrecy will not be necessary.
In the little city of Laguna Beach in California there is an art festival annually where "living pictures" are displayed on the stage. There are usually several pictures which include nude or nearly nude living subjects, such as the Venus de Milo. Photographic reproductions of these are displayed in stores and in newspapers. The living models, I understand, are usually local citizens. Thus are small advances made toward tolerance of the unclothed body. Nevertheless the average photographer who has no artistic standing must be careful how he displays pictures of nude models. If he photographs a young person under eighteen years of age without written permission of his or her parents in less than conventional garments he may get into serious trouble.
As mentioned elsewhere, the U.S. Post Office is prudish and has sometimes prosecuted persons, especially editors, who have mailed pictures, or magazines containing pictures of nudes. Some editors have been put to great expense defending these actions. If one court decision has gone against it the Post Office will bring another, in what looks like an attempt to wear out the offender, for the costs are heavy even if an editor wins every case.
If one has to mail a picture of a nude, one should send it "first class," even if there is no writing in the package.
If one is handing in or sending films for developing or printing, some of which have nudes appearing in them, one has to ascertain first if the processor is willing to accept such pictures for processing. One laboratory to which rolls had been mailed destroyed them on discovering they contained nudes, instead of returning them to the sender, presumably in fear of the Post Office. Another, also nationally operating, will process them and return them if they are not pornographic. So, until a less prudish age dawns, it's necessary to be careful to whom one entrusts ones films.
By far the best way is to learn to develop and print them oneself. No commercial concern can give the individual care and treatment this type of photography deserves; and learning to overcome the difficulties involved and to produce the well-balanced picture which preserves the beauty the eye sees in the scene photographed needs more than average care and knowledge of photography.
Just as membership in a nudist club or camp serves an important part in normalizing one's attitude towards the body, so, photographs of the right kind can do so too. I asked an editor once why he published so many nude pictures, -- wouldn't articles without illustrations save a lot of trouble with the authorities? His reply was that pictures which familiarized people with the sight of the bare body served a good purpose and helped to some extent to bring about a better attitude of mind, as well as serving as a kind of stepping stone to nudism itself.
So the nudist photographer, whether amateur or professional is in a position of responsibility, whether he makes artistic studies or snaps of transient interest. In either case he should try to interpret and depict the spirit of reverence for beauty and clean, wholesome recreation which constitute the spirit of social nudism.
THE FUTURE OF THE MOVEMENT
Several years ago we were spending a few days in one of those summer cottage retreats not unusual in California, for away in the hill country, (not a nudist camp). We were staying with some friends whose cottage was in a beautiful spot on the banks of a fast flowing river where huge boulders caused it to cascade to lower levels, and here and there had scooped out swimming holes. Our hosts were not nudists, nor were their son and daughter, both in their early twenties. Also as guests were a young couple who were nudists.
After the evening meal it was suggested we go swimming as it was a warm moonlight night. Our host and hostess for some reason did not come. We and the four young people all put on our swim suits and went a few hundred yards down stream to the best swimming hole, bordered by a sandy beach. Here someone said, "It's dark, why don't we take off our swim suits?" The word "dark" was a bit of an exaggeration for the moon at that altitude was quite bright, but the remark served its purpose and I was a little surprised when our two young non-nudist hosts both dropped off their suits without comment, as did the rest of us, and the swimming party went merrily on.
The next day the same party all went swimming at the same spot before lunch, and no suits were worn by any of them; still there was no comment. Of course other cottage owners might have come along, for it was a public place, but the general feeling was that no one would have cared much, everything was so obviously right in that lovely place.
This was ten or more years ago. That sort of thing is probably more usual now than it was then. After the hearing on the anti-nudist bill, referred to in another chapter, I got into conversation with some of the assembly men on the floor, and one of them told me he had a private park where he went nude whenever he felt like it. When a person takes part in such gatherings the inherent rightness of it is so obvious one cannot ever go back to the old idea of the impropriety of mixed nudism. In other words, in actual practice, as contrasted with thinking about it, there is absolutely no connection between the unclothed body and improper or immoral ideas about it.
The same applies to my experience in using nude models in photography. Thoughts and feelings which the smut hounds and prudes suggest simply do not begin to manifest themselves. They do not have to be resisted, they simply are not there. Those things come from an entirely different series of actions and circumstances which I need not enumerate, for a little thought will recall to you what I mean.
The first time I took a model, a girl who was half Polynesian and half French, into a beautiful bit of country of woods and streams, and she, having divested herself of her few garments, ran forward as if enjoying the air and sunshine, I remember saying, "Now you seem really to belong to this virgin country as a part of it; you seem to be part of nature; your clothes were out of tune with the rest." I was not a nudist then, and I had to swelter in the heat, with my heavy camera and tripod, with my clothes on. I envied her, and perhaps the seeds of nudism were sown in me then, for it was very soon after that time that I joined a camp.
That I think is how nudism will grow: by people accidentally almost, discovering for themselves, that the old prudish taboo has no foundation in fact, as the three instances here described have shown.
At present not only do all orthodoxies frown on the practice, but they have put a taboo on all favorable mention of it in the press, while books on the subject are never openly displayed in book stores or reviewed in magazines. All knowledge and thought on the subject is banished from the orthodox world, except for an occasional jocular and scornful reference which usually refers to nudists as "cavorting," which my dictionary tells me means to "prance about as a horse." As we know they lack experience, this must mean the writers think they would prance like a horse if they were nude. They would be quite disappointed, for, in an experience of twenty years or more I have never seen it happen. When the press taboo is broken, as it must be sooner or later, nudism will spread more rapidly.
The membership in camps seems to be increasing fairly rapidly considering the care necessarily used to screen applicants for admission, and new camps are springing up every now and then. This will probably continue at an accelerating pace as the organizations become more business-like and efficient, and more people have the courage to talk about it.
An interesting speculation is: will the camps be no longer necessary, when one can go down to any beach and sunbathe and swim nude? With the new bathing suits of both sexes getting smaller one naturally wonders when they will disappear altogether. With the neck-line getting lower and lower in women's suits the dropping of the halter would seem to be a small matter.
We must always remember what many Americans do not know, that the United States is one of the most prudish countries in the world. Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, and Russians have told us that, apart from fashionable resorts, mixed swimming parties in their countries usually go nude. In England nudism has never been interfered with by the law authorities as it has been here, and there has been no attempt to legislate against it. All they require is that they keep out of sight of the general public. I heard recently that there was a movement there to allow the practice on certain beaches, while a limited form of nudism, that is for men only, was introduced at one of the most popular resorts by allocating a certain stretch of beach to them.
In the face of facts which are becoming well known about the benefits of all-over sunbathing, and medical books advocating family nudism for the sake of children, and tales of travelers telling of the damage to health of mother hubbards on Polynesians, etc., and the number of nudist camps that are flourishing without the scandals so common outside the camps, there must soon come at least an amount of tolerance which will render it unnecessary to maintain secrecy about membership in the camps as we do now.
I have been asked: why make such a fuss about it? The obvious reply is, "we don't," otherwise such books as this would not be necessary; the public would be better informed about it than it is. As one of the speakers said at the hearing in Sacramento: all the publicity has come from our opponents by bringing up such stupid bills and spreading lying reports about us in the press. They took the initiative in publicity, not we. All we ask is to be left alone, and the taboo removed, and the truth told, instead of silly jokes and fantastic libels.
A SUPERSTITION AND ITS RESULTS
"Going away again! You do make a lot of trips." That is the kind of remark we are used to hearing as our friends see us starting out. And they are frankly puzzled because we never say where we have been or what we have done. Do they, I wonder, think we visit an asylum where we have a relative, or perhaps a penitentiary where we visit an inmate?
Now that I have come to the end of what we do, and why, we shall have something to show these nice people when this book is published, and can say: "Here is the story of what we do and where we go. You will see it is something we could not tell you in a few words without being misunderstood."
Yet I must admit there is one point which remained a mystery to me until I had nearly finished my project, and that was: Why is this one topic so different from every other one in certain respects? What is the exact point about it that causes us and many other law-abiding, thoughtful, moral and religious people, to find ourselves up against this problem? And why do so many people feel so violently on the subject when opposed to us?
There is a wide tolerance of some types of thought, associated with religions and sects some of which may seem to others to be pernicious, yet none have to be secretive about their beliefs. The religious organization which was responsible for the Spanish Inquisition and the torturing and burning of many thousands of innocent people for thinking differently from that religious body's teaches still has a large following; and the deviation from that organization which was responsible for outrages against those charged with the imaginary crimes of witchcraft and sorcery in this country and in Europe still has many adherents who are not ostracized.
Yet nudists, who have never had victims burned or broken alive upon the wheel for imaginary crimes, but on the other hand have contributed to the health and well-being of thousands, are condemned by most people as utterly reprehensible.
When we wake up in the morning in the cabin we have rented at our camp, and step outside naked to see if it is cool enough to make putting on clothes desirable, we greet any neighbors who are already around, and it seems so natural and normal, it is difficult to believe that if we did that at our home in town we should arouse violent indignation. Children would be yanked away from windows and the police would be called by telephone in a great hurry, and we should soon find ourselves in jail. And rightly so, for we believe in citizens obeying the law.
These two situations, the real one and the fictional one, point up sharply the problem I wish to discuss. If no harm, but only good, results from our way of life in camp, then the law making the unveiling of the body a crime is based on superstition. In the foregoing and following pages I have demonstrated the good of nudism from every point of view, physical, mental, moral and esthetic as well as practical. Yet there seems to be one point I have left obscure, -- that is the explanation of how this astonishing situation arose, -- why in this age of freedom of thought, education and enlightenment, important parts of this body of ours should be regarded as so corrupt and corrupting that they must be constantly hidden as long as we live, even at the expense of our health and well-being.
A superstition, according to the dictionary, is a belief entertained regardless of reason or knowledge, -- a blindly accepted belief. It can be a terrible thing as I have pointed out with regard to heresy hunts and the belief in witchcraft; or it can be ridiculous and comparatively harmless, as is the belief that the number 13 is "unlucky." When a superstition is made a part of a rule for living it is almost certain to be harmful.
A former editor of Physical Culture magazine, Carl Easton Williams, wrote a significant article, "What is a normal sex attitude?" opening with these words: "There is one big part of life in respect to which the entire civilized world with relatively few exceptions, is neurotic." That big part, he said, is sex. That neurotic attitude has come to be known as the obscenity complex. Mr. Williams points out that the secrecy and concealment to which we are all trained from early childhood has bred curiosity and an exaggerated interest in certain parts.
This then seems to be how the superstition that I have referred to above has arisen. We have been so conditioned to this view of the body that we have come to feel that the evil nature which we attribute to sex is associated with nudity because we define nudity in our minds as the uncovering of those parts which are connected with the sex function. We have found , from early childhood that if those parts are covered or hidden, we are not regarded as naked.
Conversely, when we become accustomed to the sight of nudity, as we do in our camps, we find it much harder to maintain the unwholesome and neurotic attitude toward sex which Mr. Williams has pointed out. In a nudist camp SEX becomes sex. It takes its normal and natural place in our feelings and thoughts, -- its right and proper and orderly place, in contrast to the immoral, exaggerated and disorderly place it often has in conventional society. This statement is not guesswork, but the result of observation and experience of thousands of people over a period of more than two decades in this country and much longer in other countries.
Let's consider for a moment what those regions of the body represent which are the subject of all this neurosis.
First, they are all related to the bringing into the world of new life. Significantly the process of bringing in that new life is called procreation, a wonderful word, for it means the act of being an agent of creation.
Second, this new life is a human child, universally loved and welcomed in our western civilization, ultimately to become a new man or woman, without which the human race would become extinct in one generation.
Third, apart from procreation, the hormones which control those parts are responsible for all those secondary masculine and feminine characteristics which give zest and purpose to domestic and social life. They are the foundation of those words sacred to all the western world, mother, father, brother, sister, home, husband, wife, sweetheart, family.
If it is not clear what I mean by a normal attitude toward sex, maybe it will help to point out some of the results of an abnormal attitude. The difference between that and the nudist attitude will at once stand out.
Consider for instance some of the things which could not take place, or would not be tolerated in any nudist camp, or which are completely out of tune with the spirit of a nudist camp, but which are seen, heard and felt in any American town: the number of "cheesecake" and "men's" magazines; the "strip-tease" and burlesque shows; the motion picture musicales which are mainly exhibitions of female semi-nudity purposely made provocative and suggestive; the risque conversations and smutty jokes so common when men get together; the covers of paper bound books, hundreds of them, depicting young women in semi-nudity and suggestive situations with aggressive men in the offing; the names of cosmetics and perfumes with suggestive illustrations on their labels and titles such as "aphrodesia," and phrases such as "a skin you love to touch," even advertisements of garments said to be "alluring"; and so on ad nauseum.
Once when I was a member of a business association my local group went on a picnic. This was my first, last and only experience of a business picnic meeting. Arrived at the woodland retreat where the meal was to be, almost everyone, men and women, started trying to be funny. At least fifty percent succeeded only in being silly and most of those were vulgar. The majority of the jokes had a smutty flavor. Even the games were planned so as to give opportunity for risque situations and wisecracks of a sexy nature. That such things were general among business people's social affairs I would not assert, but that they are frequent seems evident judging from this I have since heard and read. Such vulgarity would be unthinkable in any nudist group I have ever known. There is plenty of clean fun, but I have never known it to become vulgar. There's a reason. I have dealt with the psychological explanation of this elsewhere in this book. (See chapters XIX and VIII.)
So far I have dealt with an unwholesome and exaggerated preoccupation with sex, and have not even mentioned the prostitution and promiscuity to which all this provocation tends to lead, which goes on underground in every city in clothed society. For the second time I ask: If clothes are so important to morals why do they not prevent all this immorality and neurosis in this most clothed and prudish of all great peoples? (I say "great peooples" because Margaret Mead tells about a small, savage tribe in New Guinea which is even more prudish than we (Male and Female, 1953).
So let's turn once more to the habits and standards of nudism, which are refreshing in contrast.
On page 10 of the "opinion" referred to elsewhere, Justice Miller, of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., quotes, apparently with approval, Maurice Parmelee as saying in the preface to his book, Nudism in Modern Life, "The illustrations depict better than words can describe the natural and normal life, and the beautiful and healthful methods and activities of a gymnosophic" (Parmelee's word for nudist) "society."
"In fact," Justice Miller goes on, "it is only because social scientists are still working under conditions of enforced self deception, similar to those which prevailed in the early days of the medical profession, that the propriety of the present book is questioned." I feel sure that Justice Miller must have referred to the restrictions which the church and the law used to put on medical research through laws against such things as dissection of human bodies and the church's insistence that the physician Galen's teachings were not to be questioned, due to superstitions quite comparable to those which are the cause of the fight against nudism today. The laws against witchcraft and such things as experimental research on the body, interfered with all scientific development, medicine being only one of the worst sufferers. This lack of progress, when the church was dictating to scientists what should be the limits of their research, had the most disastrous effects on human welfare.
While the obscenity superstition prevails, together with and partly as a result of such dogmas as the innate depravity of mankind -- that we are all "born in sin," sociology will be as backward as medicine was when the church dominated Italy and much of Europe in the Middle Ages and great men like Leonardo da Vinci sought the truth and were muzzled, and men of keep insight and courage like Michael Servetus were burned at the stake.
In the face of organized observation and experiment, freed from interference by the dead hand of tradition and a travesty of religion based on credulity and authority, such superstitions as the obscenity of the body must take their place in limbo, together with astrology, alchemy, phrenology and witchcraft.
In the actual presence of others swimming, sunbathing and going about their business of having a good time without clothes, the ignorance and stupidity of those who, knowing nothing themselves from actual experience, claim that we are doing something wrong, something unethical, immoral and against true religious principles and precepts, is so evident it becomes ridiculous.
Of one thing I am assured and that is if you once have the courage to put to the test the way of life I have described, you will find yourself experiencing what might almost be described as a new birth. Your whole outlook on life will be different. It will be cleaner, fresher, more wholesome; like escaping from the murky atmosphere of a crowded city to the purer air of a mountain top. You will have found out for yourself that there is, after all, nothing to be afraid of. Your whole body is one of the natural and inescapable facts of life, and when it is recognized as such it falls into its natural place. You are no longer mastered by it. You are its master!
My purpose in writing these lines has been to make you feel differently as well as to think differently about the body. You may then join in a nudist picnic or visit a camp with full assurance that after a short while, perhaps before the end of the first half-hour, you will look on an unclothed body with much the same kind of feeling as you have up until now looked upon a face or other parts you are used to seeing. There will be a short period of slight shock, perhaps, and heightened special interest in the opposite sex, but you will be surprised how quickly that falls back to normal and the sense of release to which I have referred arrives. Then an indifferent body will affect you as an ordinary face does, and a harmoniously formed body will delight you in just the way a beautiful face has always done hitherto.
You will quickly discover for yourself the truth of many things I have said, which you may have been inclined to doubt.
The Country Club of the future, for that is what our camps may become, will be a place of relaxation, rest and renewal, through satisfaction of that hidden hunger for closeness to nature which we all have when young and which conventional life only suppresses in us, but does not get rid of.
If you have been a "man of the world," with the usual meaning of one who is disillusioned about moral standards of conduct between men and women, you may be disappointed. On the other hand it may give you a vision of something better than you ever dreamed of. It depends on how far the conventional attitude toward sex has undermined your youthful faith in nature and in the good, the true and the beautiful.
A GATHERING OF THE CLANS
Somewhere in the foregoing pages I have written that nudists seek no publicity; all that they have had has been forced upon them. That is no longer strictly true. The following will explain that statement.
At the recent annual convention of the American Sunbathing Association in California things happened that brought the movement or practice known as nudism into a new status. The leading newspapers gave full and in most cases friendly coverage to the event.
It was no longer treated as a fad adopted by semi-imbeciles, but as something serious with which one might argue but not condemn. The law was completely on the side of the nudists, the county's law enforcement officers giving them efficient protection against disturbance from snoopers and trespassers. At one time they were kept quite busy.
The attendance was remarkable, considering the distances some had to come: 533 adults and about 200 children, representing 56 clubs and societies. I met members who had come clear across the continent. These few days of meetings, games and sociability with those who felt as they did about the benefits of the practice and the enjoyable recreation to be derived, did much to strengthen and enlighten all who attended.
For this one occasion in the year -- this year more than ever before -- many kinds of publicity were deliberately promoted. All the leading press associations were invited to send reporters, also the newspapers, radio newsreels and TV. They came and interviewed the leaders and wandered around freely observing and making notes. They were all required to go nude and it was interesting to see how quickly they adjusted themselves to it. One of them, a young lady, brought her husband who helped her in the interviews. It was evident when their reports were published these actual experiences of being nudists themselves for a time did more than many arguments would have done to knock a lot of silly ideas out of their heads. In fact, judging from what I saw and heard I think some permanent converts were made that day. One of them with whom the present writer had a long talk seemed to have a thorough understanding of our principles, and when invited to peruse some of the pages of the manuscript of this book seemed much impressed and suggested some ideas of his own which were quite constructive. It was evident they were having a good time, but I was a little worried about their pale skins. I do hope they did not suffer very badly from sunburn.
The publicity had one effect which was anticipated but not to the extent that it happened. There were numerous efforts to break in by unauthorized persons, for of course no one was to be admitted without invitation or membership papers. A few got beyond the outer gate, but not for long. the sheriffs did a fine job in protecting our privacy.
Much interest centered around the volleyball court where hotly contested matches were being fought out between rival teams from different camps. Swimming contests for youngsters and diving exhibitions drew enthusiastic audiences.
One of the most interesting and significant events, I thought, was the fashion show. When I first heard about this being on the program I felt uneasy. Surely this would be a little vulgar, or at best silly. Here could come, from neutral observers, charges of exhibitionism and voyeurism, or, at least , immodesty. But the event itself changed my mind.
The articles shown varied all the way from sandals to caps, hats and sunshades. Between these extremes were beach towels, wraps for chilly periods, substitutes for pockets and ingenious carry-alls in hats or hair. The models were quite lovely, -- several were professionals; yet all knew how to act so that the effect was impersonal and so that the attention of the audience was directed mainly to the article being displayed. Throughout this event there was not a hint or trace of vulgarity or sexuality, although they were naked much of the time and were being gazed at by hundreds of people. Of course the gimmick was that the audience was naked too. I am sure the representatives of the news agencies learned a lot from this event of the underlying principles which make nudism the wholesome thing it is; their coverage in a variety of news media was a definite step forward in the public relations of the camps.
The California semi-desert August weather was a great ally; the need for nudity was never more obvious. The thermometer must have registered well over 90 degrees much of the time. A dip in the pool was welcome, with no wet suit to bother one on coming out, and no need to try oneself -- the sun soon saw to that; then a seat in the shade to continue getting acquainted with one's fellow Americans. That was the life!
The place where the convention was held was one of the most developed camps in California. As with many of them, it was hard to find unless one had precise directions. As it was rather smaller than others I had attended, the numbers of visitors present made it seem decidedly crowded.
One of the less usual features of this camp was a trailer-court, duly licensed by the county, also a properly equipped restaurant, and even a slot machine for soft drinks, serviced by the regular driver at intervals. There were also some well-built dormitories, a good swimming pool, and the usual courts for games.
Writing a book about something may create an impression that one thinks it more important than it is. It seems interesting, then, to inquire what place nudism takes in the lives of its adherents. And how important is it?
It cannot be a fad when people continue for several decades with a sense of enjoyment and benefit as the present writer and his wife and some of their friends have done. It is no fad when it causes hundreds of people to rally around in defense with personal cooperation and funds when legislation to outlaw the practice is threatened.
The proportion of one's time which is devoted to it is a small matter. Few go to camp every weekend, but supposing they did spend part of every Saturday and Sunday there they would probably not be nude more than about 14 hours each week, or about 60 hours out of the 720 in a 30-day month, or about 8 1/2% of the time. This would be only in the case of a great enthusiast, then only in the warm season and only in fine weather. Most of us are not lucky enough to get more than a third of that time at camp, say 3% of our time, unless we spend our annual vacation there.
Some have assumed, misled perhaps by the rather unsatisfactory word "nudism" that we advocate the abolition of clothing. Very little thought will show how absurd this would be. There are very few places if any in the world where some covering is not needed early and late in the day. Even in nudist camps people engaged in some activities such as some kinds of carpentering or handling rocks or using certain tools usually wear jeans and gloves, while I have several times seen nudist woman wearing aprons when cooking.
You see, we are not fanatics. The principle is: we do not wear anything for concealment, except when there are non-nudists within sight or when the law requires it. We wear clothes whenever it is more comfortable or safer to do so.
What part does it take in our thoughts and feelings? Here there would be many differing reports, so I can only speak for myself. Behind my urge to go to camp or out into the wild, remote places to strip and bask in the sun and revel in the air and water, and meet others like minded, with no artificial marks of social status, trade, profession, class or sex, is a deep-seated feeling, -- a love of simplicity, an urge toward a simpler life, a love of unspoiled nature which would include the all too few human beings whose forms have not been spoiled by civilized living, -- by clothes and shoes, over-eating and too hard work and too much sitting. Such are found in a nudist camp mostly among the young and very young, among the children around the pool and the young men and women in the playing courts. The games are often an esthetic treat to watch for those such as my wife and I who are too old to take part, except when they are as gentle as croquet or horseshoes.
Besides simplicity there is a wholesome sense of freedom hard to describe but very real, freedom from suggestiveness and artificiality, so well symbolized by clothes. And just as clothes symbolize convention and conformity, so nakedness symbolizes freedom from those restricting ideas, -- is a vacation from them.
If our practice is neither fanaticism nor a fad neither is it a creed nor an ideology nor a cult. It is a way of life for our leisure hours. It involves a new and wholesome attitude toward an important part of life. Thus it has a bearing on one's religion as a help to the good life, and a philosophical aspect because it is based on scientifically tested and established facts and laws. Above all, it offers a fine way of having a good time with lots of exercise untrammeled by prudery and its close affinity, pruriency.
"When I cast off my clothes, I cast off my cares."
-- Horace Walpole (Former Prime Minister of England)