Naked & natural
Local nudists discuss their lifestyle
Published Thursday, October 4, 2007.
Caitlin Price / Culture Senior Writer
From the The Post of Athens, Ohio:
Those looking to embark on a free-spirited lifestyle should start by simply taking off their clothes.
Dating back to the hippie era of the 1960s, nudism tends to be thought of in a negative light. Americans often associate nudism with sex and think of nudist “colonies” as places for sexual activity. But practicing nudists — or naturists, as some prefer to be called — prefer this all-natural lifestyle for more spiritual and social reasons, not for nudity’s sexual stigma.
The idea that nudism is a sexual activity exists mainly in the “public imagination,” said Zen Nudist, a local nudist who prefers to remain anonymous. Nudity can be sexual, he said, but in the case of nudism, people just happen to be naked in front of one another.
Zen Nudist became a nudist before he knew what nudism really was. He always enjoyed hiking, and around age 14 or 15, he realized that hiking alone during the summer was really hot and humid. “It just made more sense to take off my clothes,” he said.
He “got hooked” on hiking in the nude, and it seemed logical to do so if no one was nearby, he said. But it wasn’t until around age 28 that he realized he was an actual nudist.
“When I realized, ‘Gosh, I get naked every chance I get,’ it’s inaccurate not to call myself a nudist,” Zen Nudist said.He continues to practice nudism today as often as possible because losing clothes makes people forget about social prejudices. With all things equal, it’s a more comfortable lifestyle, he added.
Body image and health
People practice nudism for many other reasons, too. Zen Nudist said that mainstream media and Hollywood have skewed the public’s view of an ideal body image. Instead of reinforcing positive body images, people are exposed to unrealistic, ideal bodies.
“Some people might think of nudists as insane, but … I think the Hollywood view is insane,” he said.
Nudism also can be mentally and physically healthy.
“I think there’s something about social nudism that throws your brain for a loop because it’s so out of your experience, and it really makes your wheels turn,” Zen Nudist said.
A simple getaway
Barney and Linda Chapman became interested in nudism about 20 years ago. Barney saw an article in a magazine about Cypress Cove Nudist Resort & Spa in Kissimmee, Fla., and he booked a three-day stop there on the couple’s trip to the Florida Keys. Barney and Linda, of Logan, enjoyed the stay and decided to make nudism a part of their lifestyle.
Several nudist resorts are within a reasonable driving distance from Athens. Barney and Linda opened Bare Valley Family Nudist Camp in Logan, about 40 minutes from Athens, in the early 1990s.
Bare Valley — which, Linda stresses, is a family-oriented, true nudist facility that does not advocate sexual activity — is a 60-acre resort surrounded by Wayne National Forest. It’s open from the first weekend in April until the last full weekend in September. Anywhere from 12 to 25 nudists visit Bare Valley on a given weekend, Barney and Linda said, but sometimes Bare Valley hosts 50 to 100 guests.
Tucked away in Hocking Hills is another nudist resort, the Summit Lodge Resort, in Rockbridge. Barney said about eight to 10 different resorts exist in Ohio for nudists to visit.
Zen Nudist said nudist resorts generally have “a very safe atmosphere.” People tend to be friendly. Some might think that attendees are swingers, pedophiles or homosexuals, but many resorts are pure nudist resorts and filter visitors more than nude beaches.
Some resorts try to attract these swinger crowds, and Zen Nudist suggests learning which resorts are better for which purposes by accessing nudist Web sites and discussion boards.
Nudist resorts allow people to be individuals. Losing clothing sheds a person of his or her social identity because shoes and clothes are a status symbol, whereas communication is based on the individual, Linda said.
“Once you come here and people take (their) clothes off, all you have is your personality,” Barney said.