Last weekend, British Naturism hosted a 60s-themed event, and Naturists from all over the country flocked to the Suncliff Hotel in Bournemouth. Steph Silom attended the event and discovered that Naturism may be the answer to the age old problem of how we can improve our body confidence.
The Suncliff Hotel is no stranger to hosting private weekend functions – but this occasion was a tad different. Between the 24th and 26th of January, the hotel was filled with visitors who were either relaxing, drinking, dancing to live music, or socialising, but with a twist: the visitors were Naturists and everyone was naked.
In a world dominated by social media, many of us are used to seeing men and women with perfect bodies on our screens every day of every week, and it’s no secret that this can have a negative effect on our own body image. However, people all around the world are using Naturism as their way to feel more comfortable in their own skin.
Naturism is the practice of going without clothes, and is defined as “a philosophical belief in a natural, naked lifestyle, characterised by respect for oneself, for others, and for the natural environment”. Contrary to what some people may think, Naturism is not even remotely sexual; the Naturist community is made up of normal, sociable people who do everything that you see everywhere else – the only difference is the dress code.
They could be your aunty and uncle, someone in your social circle, that person you smiled at on your way to work this morning, or the clerk at your local post office. Background, age, shape, race and job are all irrelevant. Naturism does not discriminate – and that’s the point.
British Naturism (BN) is the internationally recognised UK Naturist organisation; they run events all across the UK, liaise with (and challenge) authorities, and help to overcome misunderstanding and prejudice whilst giving Naturists a safe space and point of contact for information and advice.
BN works to challenge unreasonable expectations for how the human body should look and to promote non-sexual nudity as a way to support healthy body confidence. BN celebrated their 50th birthday in 2014, and are the UK member of the International Naturist Federation (INF).
Mark Walsh, events organiser for BN, emphasised that Naturism is a form of escapism, and that “the whole thing is built on respect.”
Mark continued: “We are who we are. It’s just people who are naked and having a good time – everyone else is trying to make it through the most depressing month of the year, and we’re in here partying. The gender balance is really good, and because it’s not a sexual environment, it’s a really good way for people to feel comfortable and push their own boundaries.
“Personally, I have never lacked or had an issue with my own body confidence, but the most important part [of Naturism] for me is that it reinforces that there is no normal standard – we are all made different, and that’s who you are.
” You don’t need to suddenly turn up to a hotel in Bournemouth to say ‘I’m a Naturist’. It starts at home, just by shedding your clothes, existing and just being comfortable in your own skin. As soon as you’re comfortable in your own skin, it really doesn’t matter where you’re comfortable in your own skin.”
According to a 2007 British Naturism Briefing Paper, 1.2 million people in the UK describe themselves as being a Naturist; this is roughly the same as the Church of England membership, but it could in fact be double this, as many Naturists keep the fact to themselves due to fear of prejudice and misunderstanding.
In 2016, BN published a statement on Naturist Beliefs; the statement is the result of over 150 postings to the British Naturism Members Forum. It states: “As naturists we have been confident in the value of our lifestyle for a very long time and there has been a general agreement about why. Naturists believe that nudity is an enjoyable, natural and moral state which brings benefits to themselves and to society at large.”
“Becoming a naturist has made me much more aware of how others see themselves and how much they consider looks as part of their value to others,” explained Pam Fraser, Youth Ambassador for BN. “For a lot of younger people, the social media influence that exists nowadays is so high on how people see themselves. Letting people come to these events and have an opportunity to just be their natural selves is so important; they feel that they can just be.”
“Everyone is from all walks of life yet there’s no comparison; you get that in your work life, your uni life, even within your family life, but it just doesn’t happen in these environments.”
In case you hadn't heard, I went to a Naturism convention last weekend. Read about it here, and find out what I learned about how Naturism can improve body confidence.https://t.co/Dltnt62pLV pic.twitter.com/2wPvzXh0j3
— Stephanie Silom (@ssilomjourno) January 27, 2020
Naturism gives people the opportunity to see a huge variety of healthy body types in a safe, respectful, asexual environment. Millions of people have been converted to the Naturist lifestyle after discovering the joys of feeling fresh air on their bare skin, feeling more relaxed and less self-conscious as a result.
Naturism opens people’s eyes to the reality and beauty of the human body; our body confidence and the extent to which we base our self-worth on our bodies improves massively once we learn that almost no-one has a ‘perfect’ body.
Love your body, and it will love you back.
See BN’s 2020 calendar here.