With the approach of spring and warmer weather, I thought it was time to talk about a summery French tradition – that of the longstanding acceptance and practice of Naturism. In France, Social Nudity can be a seasonal family vacation theme or a simple way of life. The credo of naturists goes something like this – “Living in harmony with nature, characterized by the practice of group nudity with the intention of encouraging self-respect and respect for others and for the environment.” Leave it to the French to be famous and economically successful for both putting on clothes (Paris is, after all, the world’s fashion capital) and for taking them off.
France was certainly not the first country to “unveil” itself in this way but it was the first country to create holiday resorts with a naturist theme. The people who were responsible for this institutionalization of nudity in beautiful surroundings were Albert and Christine Lecoq. They were seasoned naturists and in 1944, founded their own club called “Club du Soleil” or “Sun Club”. They were very active in promoting naturism from 1944 – 1975. During that time, they started nudist magazines; founded the FFN (French Federation of Naturism) and then expanded this organization into the IFN (International Federation of Naturism) in the early 50’s. At the same time, they created the CHM (Center of Sun and Sea), the world’s first naturist holiday community in the village of Montalivet located in the Medoc region north of Bordeaux.
So what happens in the nude at a naturist village? Well, everything. At Montalivet, you
can bicycle (with a clean towel on the seat please); play tennis; play golf; buy your newspaper, baguette and lunchtime sausages; hang out at a bar; get your lottery ticket; dance the night away at the discotheque; gossip with your neighbors; buy that sunscreen at the pharmacy (you’ll need it); call your Mom and just about everything else you would do on a normal day. Oh, and you can also swim naked in the pool or the Mediterranean. The nudist community rules state that no clothing is allowed (weather permitting, of course). However, some people have not been obeying the rules recently which has caused some dissent on the part of stoic naturist advocates. These people, these rule-breakers, are called the “Textiles”, the ones who DO wear a bit of clothing for one reason or another. You see, simply being naked can get quite complicated.
Let’s say you and your wife and two young children did a naturist holiday every year. Everyone liked it – was used to it – and being naked together was just as natural as saying hello. Then, let’s say you got divorced and your second wife is not into nudism and she has two children who do not want to get naked in front of your children.
Also, your own children are now adolescent and are starting to rebel against imposed nudity. So, do you go on holiday to a nudist camp alone; without your wife and children? You must admit that this could get a bit messy on the family front.
How about another example where you are a twenty-something pretty young American student and your French boyfriend invites you to his parents’ bungalow for the Bastille Day July holiday? You’re all happy about meeting them for the first time, in fact, you actually stress out about your wardrobe.
But, when you arrive, you find Mama and Papa in their birthday suits waiting for you to take your clothes off so they can take a family selfie! Is that really the way you want to “Meet the Parents”? Would you post that selfie on facebook?
In spite of social complications, French Naturism is a booming industry with no signs of slowing down. France has more than 150 nude holiday resorts and miles of official nude beaches. This industry brings in about 250 million euros yearly and employs more than 3,000 people. However, according to statistics, 55% of naturists are not French – the honors go to the Dutch in first place; the Germans in second and the Spanish in third.
I know it’s popular, but I myself am still not sold on this version of Mother Nature’s French Holiday. However, if I were to head to Montalivet this summer, I must admit that packing my carry-on bag would be an absolute pleasure. And that’s the naked truth!