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Women & Naturism

Ever since the early days of naturism, women have played an active role in the movement. However, if the membership records of most naturist organizations are any indication, women are less inclined to consider the naturist lifestyle than men.

Although there are likely many individual reasons for this trend, there appear to be some common underlying factors behind it. To begin with, a prevailing belief that nudity in any form equates to sex makes many women question the motivation behind the naturist lifestyle. A woman in such circumstances would understandably feel apprehensive about being naked in mixed company, with the leering stares of men or risk of harassment from those who would objectify them. For women who have had the misfortune of being sexually harassed, abused or assaulted, the prospect of being in this type of situation would seem especially troubling.

Women can also feel pressured by messages of unrealistic body standards that persist in our present-day culture. For many, doubts over whether they are thin enough, youthful enough or attractive enough or how they will measure up against other women can undermine their self-esteem and discourage them from considering naturism for themselves. Considering the social pressures that women endure, it's no surprise that the idea of being nude with others can seem intimidating.


Copyright Vince Hemingson, hemingsonphotography.com

Understandably, it may be challenging for some women to overcome a lifetime of mixed social messages. Yet for those who can manage to shed the many cultural myths and expectations imposed on them and mindfully set aside their doubts, experiencing naturism can be profoundly liberating and empowering. In fact, for women who can break through these obstacles, naturism can offer them as many benefits as men, if not even more.

When taking the first steps toward naturism, it's helpful for women to know that they are not alone if they feel nervous, at least at first. For those who have been raised outside of naturist culture, it can be difficult for anyone, male or female, to imagine how well people can function in a naturist setting or even thrive in one.

"I've always had body image issues, and the idea of taking off my clothes and being in public was quite terrifying. I just felt really exposed. I didn't feel that I would be able to relax." said Tracey, who recalled her feelings before visiting a naturist club for the first time.

While it may be common for women to feel initially nervous to try naturism, what is just as prevalent is how quickly these feelings dissipate when they “take the plunge” and experience it for themselves. These women are often pleasantly surprised to learn that this lifestyle is not about sex or physical appearance. Since genuine naturism is founded on principles of acceptance and respect, they often feel surprised at just how quickly they feel at ease.

  

Copyright Vince Hemingson, hemingsonphotography.com

"You would think that everyone would be really judgmental... but it's actually the opposite, that after a while, all that falls away. I got comfortable a lot more quickly than I thought I would." Added Tracey.

For Stephanie, who experienced naturism for the first time while in her 20's, she was also pleasantly surprised at just how quickly she felt comfortable.

"Once I did it, there was about a 30 second adjustment period, and then that was it."

For many women, overcoming the social stigma surrounding naturism is ultimately as psychologically freeing as it is in the physical sense. Sophie expressed this sentiment as she discussed naturism from a female perspective.

"For a lot of women, so much time and effort are wrapped up in achieving a degree of attractiveness that the world considers necessary... you can shed that, and it's more significant for women than men. Women can get away from it entirely when they take their clothes off."

For those women who have experienced abuse, naturism can be especially beneficial and, as suggested by one study, therapeutic. In 1997, Richard Eugene Pearl published a study "Treatment issues for abused women: An investigation of the efficacy of a unified treatment for body image and self-esteem with abused women". In this study, he surveyed 126 women. He categorized them according to their past histories of spousal abuse in comparison to their levels of body image, self-esteem, and overall self-concept. His findings conveyed "that education about the unified nature of body image and self-esteem can be efficacious as a treatment alternative."


Copyright Vince Hemingson, hemingsonphotography.com


Regardless of each woman's personal history, their experiences as naturists tend to parallel each other in terms of the acceptance, respect, and support they receive. At the same time, how they connect with this way of life and identify with its benefits can be as unique as the women themselves, as the following quotes convey.

"I was always self-conscious of my body in my teenage years and early 20's, and once we started coming here, I've never been more confident in my own skin." – Emily

"Being both a woman and a naturist, I often think of the values that I have gained through being a naturist... As a mother, I can give my daughter values and a better understanding of her body." – Anne

"To be naked is to be your authentic self." – Caron

"I wasn't sure how the sight of so many naked men would affect me as a sexual assault survivor. Coming to a nudist park like this with such a history was a huge step for me to be taking... There was just something about being nude in nature that was relaxing and natural... It wasn't long before I felt it was a safe, relaxing place; a place I wanted to be." – Roberta

"The biggest freedom for me is that there is no question; your body is as it is. You just get to be, which is beautiful." – Stephanie

"Once everyone is comfortable in their nakedness, it's real freedom... and there's a kind of beauty in that... it's a great equalizer." – Tracey

"It's also very life-affirming because you see all these people from different ages, different walks of life... it's very positive." – Sandy


Additional Reading:

When you are ready to give naturism a try, find some helpful advice and tips by reading: TAKING THE PLUNGE: PREPARING FOR YOUR FIRST NATURIST EXPERIENCE

Thoughts from a long time naturist woman: Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal

Body Acceptance Poem



Copyright Vince Hemingson, hemingsonphotography.com

Reference

Richard Eugene Pearl, "Treatment issues for abused women: An investigation of the efficacy of a unified treatment for body image and self-esteem with abused women" (1997). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI9907859.

Acknowledgement

Special thanks to Vince Hemingson of Hemingson Photography for his generous donation of images for this page.


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