Photo from Congress in Ireland in 2014 with nude and clothed participants

In March we enjoyed a very successful and well-managed meeting of EuNat – the European arm of the INF-FNI – in Bonn.  Some important discussions took place, including a very interesting conference on the main challenges to Naturism – and discussions took place about the events that European federations would support financially.

And the previous October, Luxembourg hosted a successful and productive World Congress when some important decisions about the future of the organisation were taken.

In relation to both of these events, the most-endorsed feedback I received from my home federation was not “congratulations on a successful meeting” but “why is everyone fully clothed at a naturist meeting?”

That was slightly frustrating, to be honest, because a lot of work went into preparing for the meeting and, as I have said, a lot of useful business was done.

And at one level, there’s a simple answer to the question: both these meetings were held in hotels which were open to the public, and nudity was not really practicable.  But that is by no means the end of the discussion.

The hotel where the EuNat was heldin 2022 in Belgrade allowed nudity, but somebody turned up the air conditioning and those of us who began the meeting naked were forced into our thick warm clothes before the morning was done.  The Congress in Slovenia in 2021 was on a partially naturist site, and the hotel gave us nude use of its swimming pool and probably would have tolerated nudity in the meeting room too.  The Congress in Portugal in 2018 was held at a hotel that allowed nudity in our meeting room – and they even provided beach towels to discourage us from straying into the public area to visit the toilet fully nude.

This has been a topic of discussion at past Congresses.  As long ago as 2004, agreement prevailed that congresses should only be held at locations when complete nakedness was possible.  And in 2012 a federation brought forward a motion to the effect that congress locations should be naturist-friendly.  But on neither occasion was a vote taken, so it cannot be said that there is a clear INF-FNI policy.

If you look at some of the photos that exist of previous Congresses, they are characterised by the fact that a significant proportion of the participants are naked, even in the meeting room.

We need to understand, of course, that not all member federations who might offer to host the Congress are in a position to use a club or a resort, and may have instead to rely on a commercial hotel, where nudity in meeting rooms is often not an option.  And nothing in these comments should be taken as being in any sense critical of those federations who have bravely taken on the role of hosts, sometimes at short notice.  To them we owe nothing but our sincere thanks.

So, how should we resolve the question of whether being nude at our meetings is the right thing to do?  As always, there are two sides to the argument.

On the one hand, you might argue that naturism is about more than simply being naked, and that being “obsessively” naked misses the point – one federation argued this in 2012.  Somebody holding this point of view might also argue that it is one thing being naked in the outdoors, when it is sunny, and quite another attending an indoor meeting in the nude.  Meetings tend to be serious affairs, not recreation or sport, and it’s neither necessary nor appropriate to be naked.

One the other hand, as an organisation representing naturism and looking to promote it worldwide, it looks odd that we are all dressed.  Why should that be, when we should be looking to normalise naturism and nudity?  We need to think about our “shop window”.  By being dressed, we are perhaps helping to defeat our own argument.  What’s more, we argue, as naturists, that social nudity promotes mutual respect, and that by being nude together we can create a safe and inclusive space where everyone is equal.

Part of this difference of opinion is cultural.  And, to be clear: nobody is suggesting that nakedness should be compulsory for participants.  It should be a matter of choice.

It will be clear from the very fact that I have written this that I tend to the view that we should be able to be naked at our meetings if we wish, and we have to think of the impression we are giving to the members of our federations if we are not seen to be giving effect to our own arguments about normalising nudity.

And the next Congress, due to be held in 2024 in Mexico, sounds as if it will be in a nude-friendly location.

I’ll be interested in any comments that might be offered in response to this blog post.  What’s your view?