Nudism is the practice of nonsexual social nudity, usually in mixed-sex groups, often at specially defined locations, such as nude beaches or nudist clubs.
Nudism can be differentiated from the practice of spontaneous or private nude bathing ("skinny-dipping") in that it is an ongoing, self-conscious and systematic philosophy or lifestyle choice, rather than a spontaneous decision to disrobe.
Nudism arose in Germany at the turn of the twentieth century, and spread through Europe, the United States, and Australia.
The so-called "father of nudism" was the German Heinrich Pudor (real name Heinrich Scham), who coined the term Nacktkultur ("naked culture") and whose book Nackende Menschen (Naked man ) was probably the first book on nudism.
Richard Ungewitter (author of Die Nacktheit ) is more widely known as the founder of nudism, his reputation having survived Pudor's accusations of plagiarism.
Nudism flourished in Germany, France, England, elsewhere in Europe, and in the United States, but its advocates often had to fend off legal challenges or accusations of depravity.
While nudism had distinctive national flavors, and there was occasionally some rivalry (especially between the French and the Germans), there was also considerable communication, influence, and overlap between nudist cultures.
Nudism was known by many names: in Germany, as Nacktkultur, Freikörperkultur (free-body culture), or Lichtkultur (light culture); in France as nudisme, naturisme, or libre-culture (free culture), and in England as Gymnosophy or naturism.
Germanic nudism was a proletarian movement, mostly communitarian and ascetic in style.
By and large however, nudism was a movement endorsed and organized by educated people-physicians, scientists, lawyers, clergy, and, in France especially, occasionally by members of the aristocracy.
Nudism produced an extensive proselytizing literature.
Early nudism was a medical, philosophical, and political movement.
The contribution of nudism to the aesthetics of the race was regularly cited as one of its benefits.
Maurice Parmelee, for example, argued that nudism would contribute to a more "beautiful mankind" (p. 179).
The relation between nudism and eugenics was complex, and use of an aesthetic discourse is no simple marker of eugenic thought or of fascism.
Nudism was neither simply reactionary nor progressive.
For many writers, however, nudism was emphatically not a return to nature.
Scientists and physicians saw nudism not as a return to Eden (although this trope certainly occurred in nudist writing), but as a path forward to a shining new modernity in which science, rather than superstition, would lead the way.
Nudism was thus not (only) nostalgic but also saw itself as modern and rational.
Caleb Saleeby, for example, was a fervent advocate of nudism, heliotherapy, and eugenics (he was Chairman of the National Birthrate Commission and author of a number of books on eugenics).
Sexologist Havelock Ellis considered nudism to be an extension of the dress reform movement for women, and Maurice Parmelee saw it as a powerful adjunct to feminism.
Ennemond Boniface was a socialist nudist, who fervently believed that nudism was an alternative to bloody socialist revolution, and would bring about a new naturist era in which all would be equal under the sun (see sidebar).
For many, nudism was not just a therapeutic practice; it was a revolutionary plan for an egalitarian utopia.
There are a number of forms of contemporary organized nudism, each with a somewhat distinct culture: nude beaches, nudist resorts, nudist clubs, and swim-nights.
The utopian and political underpinning of early nudism has largely disappeared.
Nudism has remained a minor practice, and it has by and large mutated into a "lifestyle" chosen by individuals rather than either a medical practice or a program for social reform.
They believe that nudism teaches one to be comfortable with one's body, whatever it looks like.
Moral Bath of Bodily Unconsciousness': Female Nudism, Bodily Exposure and the Gaze."
On contemporary female nudists' accounts of the benefits of nudism.
Nudism in Modern Life: The New Gymnosophy.
An account of the benefits of nudism by a nudist physician, with an introduction by Havelock Ellis.
The word usage examples above have been gathered from various sources to reflect current and historial usage. They do not represent the opinions of YourDictionary.com.