by Mel Kanner
Number 2 in a series of articles examining the changes that I have observed to the practice of nudism over the years and our society’s view of nudity.
The first nudist camp I joined in the sixties was Swallows near San Diego (it is no longer a nudist camp). It was fairly luxurious for its time, as nudist camps go, with a swimming pool, a tennis court, a volleyball court and a snack bar, and lots of space for semi-permanent camping. Median age was about 35, I guess. Not a lot of attendance during the week, but a couple of hundred people on the weekend with lots of kids. There was always some sort of festival going on, with volleyball competition, swimming races, and a king and queen contest. Most of the members were married, with children. Almost no single women. And very few single men. Most clubs had a quota on single men. Some still do. And a few even now still allow only legally married couples.
The following year I moved to Seattle and joined Fraternity Snoqualmie. It was much smaller with a pond for swimming. There were even fewer singles. I had to be vetted before I was welcome. Membership was predominately married couples with children — people who had been born in the 1920’s and 30’s. Their children were the boomers, and ranged in age from infants to teens.
In those days, the norm in our society was marriage, with children. Women were expected to be married by their early 20’s. Men were expected to be married by their mid to late 20’s. The model was “Father Knows Best”. (Men worked outside the home, earning enough to support a family; women took care of the home.) Divorce was not common and was difficult to obtain. The pill was just being introduced, and other forms of birth control were difficult to get. Abortion was illegal, and almost unthinkable. The sexual revolution hadn’t yet arrived. It was not considered appropriate for an unmarried couple to share living quarters. People who were single past a certain age, or not producing children once they were married, were treated as if there was something wrong with them.
And there was no question that if you were a nudist married couple you would bring your children with you to camp.
The proponents of nudism also considered that nudism was good for children. The articles in the magazines talked about how children who grew up in nudist environments were more comfortable about body changes, were less curious about sexual differences; that there were fewer cases of teen pregnancy and fewer early marriages.
Even among the non-nudist population, some nudity was common practice: Norman Rockwell depicted young boys swimming nude at the “ole swimmin’ hole”. Showers in school, and in the military, were open and communal. Men swam nude at the “Y”. One of my high school PE classes was swimming. We swam nude. The girls, of course, had their own PE class.
And there was some acceptance of limited nudity of children in a mixed sex environment. For example, at public swimming beaches, children younger than age five often went nude. The swimsuits for pre-puberty girls usually didn’t include tops. A photograph of a two year old lying on a rug or sitting in a bathtub was not considered alarming.
How times have changed – in both the nudist and non-nudist environments. Women usually work outside the home. Divorce is common (50% of marriages end in divorce). Many couples choose to not have children. Marriage between gays is now the law in many states, and in most western countries. Couples living together without being married is common. Unmarried women are choosing to have children without the umbrella of marriage.
Our nudist camps have changed also to reflect these societal changes. Fraternity Snoqualmie no longer has a singles quota. Some clubs allow any two persons to join as a couple (same sex, brother/sister, mother/daughter, etc.). Having different surnames is not a problem. Being gay is usually not a barrier.
But there have been many attitude changes, in both the nudist and non-nudist environments, that seem to contradict the loosening of societal restrictions that have taken place. I will discuss these contradictions in next week’s installment.
(to be continued)