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On Being Naked Across The Years

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I first experienced being naked in public in my twenties, when I went to the Greek island of Ios with a girlfriend. We took a day trip to a naked beach on the other side of the island, reached only by a boat that left in the morning and came back in the evening.

I’ll never forget lying on the pure white sand, my naked body exposed to all and it feeling very daring and radical. As I recall, there were just a few others on the beach, including a group of Italians I befriended (and later ended up visiting) and a Dutchman with whom I had a brief liaison.

While I lay there half asleep he had dropped water on my feet, introducing himself by saying, “It’s raining.” Looking up I saw a gorgeous, tanned man crouched down in front of me. The rest then followed the typical 18-30 holiday trajectory – boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy disappears never to be heard from again.

It was another twenty years before I took my clothes off in public again, this time at a sauna club in Kentish Town. I’d gone there with a boyfriend on his birthday as something fun to do and indeed it was, moving around from sauna to steam room then jacuzzi, wearing nothing more than a towel wrapped around my waist as we travelled from room to room. Feeling the steam soaking into my skin without a swimsuit sticking to it was divine. Following that first time, I went back often on my own, liking the attention I received from men, as much as being divested of my clothes for a few short hours.

After that, I became more interested in naturism in general so in 2005, when I was invited to the largest naturist village in the world, Cap D’Agde, by a group of very liberally-minded friends, I jumped at the opportunity.

Situated in the Languedoc region of France, not too far from picturesque Carcassonne and Montpellier, Cap D’Agde is a walled town, created in the 1970s. Although nowhere near as beautiful as the neighbouring towns, it does have the advantage of being the only place in the world where nudity is mandatory. The town holds up to 25,000 naturists in the high season who stay in one of the many campsites, hotels or apartments in the village. I was in my mid-40s, up for fun, adventure and generally bungee jumping my way through life. But all that aside, what I remember most – was just how wonderful it felt to be naked twenty-four hours a day.

I’d spent the vast majority of my life covered up and embarrassed about my body, having been overweight throughout my teens and twenties. It took having two kids and a succession of personal trainers with whom I exchanged PR skills for weekly workouts to get myself into shape. Still, it’s one thing to feel confident about one’s body and another to wander around the supermarket with one’s breasts exposed (and, yes, the frozen section is really cold).

Since first going to Cap D’Agde, I’ve been back four times, usually taking friends with me. Most have been naturist virgins. Mike was one. A big, tall Yorkshireman, I don’t think he truly believed that he was going to be walking around starkers until we entered the village and he spotted the street signs proclaiming that clothes weren’t allowed! It took him about 30 seconds to get used to being naked in public and once that short initial shock had passed, he was in his element. On leaving the village, he said it was the most fun on holiday he had ever had.

Being naked in a town full of naked people or in any other naturist place is fascinating. We may all be human but every one of us has our own distinctive shape. There is no such thing as perfection. While there will always be lithe young women and muscular men to admire – for the most part, everyone has lumps and bumps. What unites us all in these types of naturist venues is an acceptance of our naked selves and a pleasure in going through our daily life without having to worry about what we’re going to wear. Packing for a week away with just a carry-on. No problem!

Then there’s the fun in doing all the everyday activities ‘butt’ naked. Shopping for clothes, for instance, which seems counterintuitive but is actually hilarious as it consists of putting items on. Eating breakfast while sitting on a sun deck that overlooks other people also having their croissant while naked is a treat. Sex on a beach is, well, sexy – although one needs to watch out for the sand ending up in intimate areas. And there’s no better place for watching the world go by than at an outdoor, naturist cafe.

Aside from getting an all over tan, there are other positive benefits of holidaying naked. If you’ve grown up surrounded by images of beautiful people as most of us have, then it can be hard to accept one’s body for what it is, with all its blemishes, cellulite and loose bits of skin. In Cap D’Agde, where the average age is somewhere around the mid-40s and above, one comes to view bodies as fascinating rather than judging them on their individual parts.

Above all, being naked is actually good for your health. ‘Spending time in the nude is a great way to get in touch with your body,’ says Dr. Jenn Mann, relationship expert. ‘Being in the nude reduces shame. You can work on self-acceptance and that can be very healing.’

If you’d like to find out more about naturism and places within the UK and abroad check out British Naturism’s website.

A Feminist Arrives in Nakedland

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I casually mentioned to people that I was going to Cap d’Agde this September. Most of my friends didn’t know where that was or what it was and I would just tell them it was “the south of France on the Mediterranean.” But those that did know were surprised that I was going to a nudist town where you could be naked 24/7, even in the supermarket.

You see, I’m a native New Yorker and an old-school feminist in my 50s. Though I write and publish erotica (currently working on the novella Two Dukes are Better than One), most of my friends and colleagues are completely unaware that I’m a nudist. And somehow they think it does not go hand in hand with being a feminist.

I would have thought that too – when I was much younger.

I came to nudism in mid-life in a round about way. As a literary agent, I found myself representing the memoirs and fiction of porn stars, all of whom spent large parts of their days naked in public. When the editor of the science fiction imprint at one of New York’s large publishing houses invited me to a naked dinner party in a Manhattan restaurant, I asked every female friend I had if they would accompany me, and not a single one said ‘yes’. So I asked the mother of one of my son’s classmates, who was also recently divorced, and we bonded over this bizarre opportunity to expose ourselves.

I was very nervous about going naked in public, even though it was in fact being seated in a restaurant. I told the host that it was possible that I would walk in, disrobe, and immediately run out. He told me I would feel completely conformable in a matter of minutes. I didn’t believe him. Then he asked me if I was an “at home” nudist, meaning someone who took her clothes off as soon as she got home, and the answer was ‘yes’. I often write naked. I live on the 18th floor overlooking the Hudson, so no one can see me.

It turned out that I really liked being naked within this group.

I realized that I was completely unused to seeing the naked human body over about age 25 (unless I was looking in the mirror or was with a lover). As a culture, we just don’t see naked men’s and women’s bodies as we age.

Most of the members of this naked dinner group were over 40, so I was on the younger side. They were also mostly male.

I liked that.

I liked that this was an opportunity to ogle the naked male body in a casual setting, while drinking wine and discussing books or politics. And I liked the fact that they were seeing me in all of my real-life, un-airbrushed, middle-aged voluptuousness.

I also liked being able to see the bodies of the other women, some as old as 70, so I knew what I had to look forward to. I was truly amazed at how beautiful we all were.

Being naked together – meant we knew nothing about each other before we spoke. It made us all surprisingly equal, and, as a feminist, that was empowering for me.

I found myself gravitating to the nudist communities in New York. I visited the Light House Beach on Long Island (no longer there after Hurricane Sandy) where there were cook-outs and all day-long parties. And the naturist beach at Sandy Hook in New Jersey, where it was actually legal to drink on the beach (I brought chilled white wine).

The nudist dinner group disbanded, but I was lucky enough to date a fellow nudist who took me on a nude cruise to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Honduras and the Cayman Islands. In addition to lounging on beautiful Caribbean beaches naked, we also had the opportunity to eat our meals naked. It was a carefree delight and I genuinely resented getting dressed when the trip was over.

So with all that background information, it should be no surprise that when the opportunity to stay in the naturist town presented itself, I jumped at the chance, because in addition to being a nudist, I am also a Francophile. So this was a trip to be naked on the beach and eat fabulous French food while drinking amazingly good and cheap French wine. What’s not to love?

We flew over from London on Ryanair, a discount air carrier that made the trip extremely affordable. I was going with the original mother of my son’s classmate (now a decade of nude meals and beaches later), and an author who I had befriended in the naked saunas of New York City’s Spa Castle, a giant Korean water retreat in Queens, where segregated same-sex nudity is practiced in relaxing heated pools. We rented a flat for four nights, and were in France by mid-afternoon.

Packing for this trip was a breeze. Only sun tan lotion and sarongs, and some clothing to wear at night while we shopped in the many stores that offered everything from Wonder Woman-like art armor to G-strings and thigh high boots.

It was mid-September, so it was an off-season, and there were no families with school-age children. This nudist town is actually a vacation retreat for European nudist families. I was thankful to avoid the possible run in with naked kids.

To our great good fortune, the weather was still warm, and the ocean was calm and warm enough to swim in. We ate delicious French meals in a restaurant overlooking the sea – croque monsieur, seafood salads, and steak frites. All naked.

And then we shopped in the locale grocery stores for pate, olives, meats and cheeses, stark raving naked. At first it seemed extraordinary. By the end of the week, it felt like I had been doing it my entire life.

Now there is a part of Cap d’Agde that is adults only. It’s a section of the beach where naked people express their ‘love’ for each other, and themselves, openly. You can just stroll by and see what’s going on. No one bats an eye.

Also some of the apartment complexes have adult-friendly nightlife and shopping offering sexy clothing and sex toys. There’s always an interesting parade of women (the men NEVER dress up) in equally interesting but awkward clothing that you can tell was recently purchased.

Everyone is completely free to express themselves in a way that is just nonexistent anywhere else.

I’ll be going back to Cap d’Agde. It’s a place where I fit in, in all my nakedness, because everyone just lets it hang loose.

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