are you a “naturist” or a “nudist”?

5 02 2009

What’s the difference between nudism and naturism?

Plenty of people have tackled this question, and I don’t expect to add any new knowledge to the discussion, and I don’t imagine I’ll change any minds on the subject. But here’s my opinion on the matter: they’re basically interchangeable, but nudist is more explicitly clear. From a practical perspective, a naturist is the same thing as a nudist. So why do I prefer the term nudism? In part because naturism can be confusing.

In web searches for the term naturist, I’ve come across people who subscribe to naturism as a system of spirituality or religious belief, akin to Neo-Druidism. Other people confuse naturist with naturalist, which describes a particular type of biologist. Still others, when presented with the word naturist, guess that it refers simply to people who enjoy spending time in natural settings, or maybe studying nature. This happened when I told a friend that I’d joined Minnesota Naturists. Her initial reaction led me to believe she knew what the term meant, in this case, and I went on to describe being comfortable with the nudity, but a bit anxious in a new social setting. When I mentioned the word naked, her jaw dropped and she said, “Seriously?!”

I know that the nude variety of naturism is premised in large part on connecting to nature at another level by removing the layer of clothes that separates our bodies from the natural world. And when weather permits us to enjoy nude recreation outdoors, this seems a very fitting term. But naturists often have indoor events, particularly during the winter, where they are nude but entirely removed from nature (barring a houseplant or a pet). These are, strictly speaking, nudist events, not naturist events. They often revolve around a hot tub, movies, games or some other indoor activity.

I prefer the term nudist because it is clear and confusion-free, but I recognize that naturist is becoming the more prominent term in many ways. I know the term naturist is not native to the United States, but it seems like its increasing use is partially an effort to make nudism more acceptable to puritanical American sensibilities. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it’s just my take on the issue. Over time, I expect that the term naturism will become widely enough used in this sense that it is truly synonymous with nudism (that’s the nature of language). In the meantime, I’m going to stick with nudist most of the time, but will adapt as the use of the term becomes more dominant. And in cases like that of my friend who hadn’t heard of the term naturist, I took one small step toward that dominance.




8 responses

5 02 2009

I use both terms but I prefer naturist. I perceive naturism as more of an overall lfestyle and philosophy of which nudism is a part but not essential.

Many of my ideas on nudism and naturism go back to the early days of the nudist and naturist movements in Europe back in the early 20th century.

I’ve heard it said that a naturist is a nudist motivated by an idea.. Maybe that’s the difference.

5 02 2009
local nudist

Thanks for the comment, Rick. You make a convincing argument. I like the definition of naturist as a nudist motivated by an idea. That makes me more inclined toward the term “naturist” actually.

5 02 2009
All Nudist

Excellent posting, you’ve said it well.

Got a kick out of the story about ‘naturist’ and your friend. When I first met Angie I mentioned that I was a naturist, softening the blow, as it were, and she replied that she likes nature too!

When I explained what it really meant, she spent some time soul-searching as to whether she wanted to have more to do with me.

We’ve been married for 2 1/2 years now and I can’t keep clothes on her!

We’re definately nudists, who love nature too. Together we write All Nudist and hare lovin’ it!

Keep up the good work!

7 02 2009

When i hear nudist, i think of Rodney Dangerfield sorta naked but wearing black street shoes with socks and a big straw hat, sipping a cocktail with an umbrella in it. “Nudist” is corny to most Americans and hurts our cause.
But a naturist would rather be outside than inside, totally nude in nature and as part of nature. “Naturist” would tap into the youthful Green Movement and get us some new young skin.

i’m a “shade” naturist, (i just made up the term) naked in our leafy wisconsin woods for hours but wearin shorts in the sun. i love my white irish skin too. am i a weird zebra or what?

7 02 2009
local nudist

I see your point. I’m not sure that the word “nudist” hurts our cause, but I get what you’re saying, and I think the discussion here is enough to push me to favoring “naturist.” I’ll still use them interchangeably on this site, but I think in external discussions, I’ll focus more on “naturist.”

I guess I have a tendency to dislike euphemisms, from a “daily life” perspective (even though I LOVE them from a linguistic point of view). I guess that makes me a bit of a zebra too! (See what I mean?)

7 02 2009
the “nudist”/”naturist” debate redux « local nudist

[…] debate redux My previous post initiated an interesting discussion on the differences between the two terms. The upshot is that, while I will continue to use the […]

7 02 2009

In my comment I said, “I’ve heard it said that a naturist is a nudist motivated by an idea.. Maybe that’s the difference.” I just discovered the misprint and it should have read “A naturist is a nudist motivated by an ideal.” My fingers don’t always hit the keys I want them to.

8 02 2009
local nudist

Rick – I think I still got your drift, but thanks for the clarification! I’m a word nerd, so I appreciate that type of thing more than others might do.

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