One of the best descriptions of naturism is contained in the book Naturism: A New Dimension in Living, by W.S. Douglas, 2000, (Federation of Canadian Naturists: http://www.fcn.org).
“This unaffected association in the nude with others of both sexes and all ages creates an atmosphere in which status-seeking, contrived images and artificial assets are neither compatible nor worth the effort to maintain. There is a surprising honesty in the fact that, most of all, naturism reveals the true personality of the individual.
Much of this was critically observed some sixty years ago by a distinguished psychologist Howard C. Warren of Princeton University (USA). As part of his study on the body taboo, he spent some days in a German naturist resort, then wrote an essay entitled ‘Social Nudism and the Body Taboo’.
Among numerous other observations and conclusions, Warren wrote: ‘My observations, and the wider experience of others, lead to the conclusion that social nudism does not in any way foster eroticism – that it tends, if anything, to produce a saner sex outlook and more natural relations between men and women even during the years of early sexual maturity.
The most striking phenomenon in the life at a nudist park is that this (body) taboo disappears almost at once and without any detrimental effect to one’s world view or morals. One quickly realizes that the human body is not indecent. This conclusion may not be not be consciously formulated – in most cases it is not. But its implicit acceptance is shown in every act and phase of behaviour.
When the entire group is unclothed, the sight of the naked body ceases to arouse curiosity. Nudity is accepted as a natural condition. Since there is nothing to focus the attention on any specific part, one has merely the impression of the body as a whole and sex differentiate no longer possess special significance”.
Warren ends his study with these words: ‘Two conclusions of considerable psychological importance were satisfactorily established: (1) Since the traditional body taboo can be readily, almost immediately, broken without detrimental results, it is not a fundamental human trait; (2) Social nudity is not in itself indecent, only a widespread and persistent social convention has made it so.’
These observations and the conclusions drawn from them, while readily agreed upon by any naturist, are still quite contrary to the public view of the naturist lifestyle. And it is this contrariness that is the main stumbling block to public acceptance of social nudism.” (pp. 18-19)
In her fascinating book Therapy, Nudity & Joy, 1991, psychologist Aileen Goodson, PhD, (Elysium Growth Press, Los Angeles) – a text I used in my 2nd year Sociology of Deviance class at Lakehead University in the 1990s – concluded that “The history of clothing reflects the extreme fluctuations in ethics and values from one era to another, and from one country to another, by the liberal and conservative dress codes – casual body cover up versus complete cover-up, or cover up with sexual emphasis. A recurring theme in this (her) book suggests that the extent of free thought in a culture can be judged by its attitude toward nudity, sex, and sex education.” (p. 349) She supports “self-help” movements that build self-esteem and feeling good about yourself. Naturism is one of those movements. That explains her ongoing interest in the efficacy of nude psychotherapy in bolstering positive body image and treating other psychosocial issues.
In his review of three articles in Body & Society, Volume 3, Number 1, March 1997, Bryan S. Turner observes: “I suggest that one productive line of thought would be to argue that the contemporary problem of the body in society is a legacy of the Judeo-Christian discourse on the body as flesh and that in a secular and consumerist society the potency of Christian images of the body is undermined but not entirely overthrown. This partial triumph of the secular over the sacred body raises important questions about what we might call ‘the ethics of embodiment’ in postmodernity .” (p. 104) It is these “ethics of embodiment” that the naturist movement is attempting to extricate from the cellars of negative religious influence.
Dennis Craig Smith and Dr. William Sparks conducted empirical research about the effects of group nudity on children. They concluded:
“We live in a time when the human anatomy is examined, extolled, studied, and lectured about, and at the very same moment is also exploited, ridiculed, and excluded from social acceptance. We insult ourselves by calling our bodies obscene, pronographic, lewd, base, dirty, immoral, or evil, and in so doing deny the basic truth of our own existence. Our anatomy is us – and it is none of those terrible things….This book, and the five-year study it represents, looked at the families who found a way to overcome the fear of exposing themselves, both physically and intellectually, to each other. We asked questions which today’s society faces, and we sought answers among those who have personally reached solutions to our social dichotomy. We questioned many nudist boys, girls, men, and women in search of the secret that made them comfortable in circumstances that upset many of us. What we learned was that the viewing of the unclothed human body, far from being destructive to the psyche, seems to be either benign and totally harmless or to actually provide positive benefits to the individuals involved.” (Growing Up Without Shame, 1986. Elysium Press, Los Angeles: pp. 182-183)
Finally, as reported in their early but seminal research, Nudist Society, 1991, sociologist William E. Hartman, PhD, and Marilyn Fithian made consistent observations many other authors have corroborated, namely, 1. body shame and shock disappear quickly upon contact with a nudist/naturist group; 2. norms of embarrassment and self-consciousness disappear; 3. the body is no longer a ‘curiosity’; 4. social nudity is not productive of eroticism, sexual excitement, flirtations, ribaldry, body rejection. (pp. 408-409)
There are no known studies that implicate naturism in body non-acceptance; quite the reverse seems to apply. Social change surrounding body taboos takes time, and those individuals who ‘pioneer’ towards body acceptance within the home or society at large, should be recognized and remembered. There are now about 33 million self-revealed naturists around the globe, and over 100 resorts. Who knows how many people practice casual nudity in the home or in remote environments?
See the following British example of casual nudity and body acceptance: