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Monday, 4 February 2013

Quest for the Younger Naturist


Despite the  younger generation's apparent lack of participation in naturism, it can't be said that the interest isn't there. The August 1994 Woodstock reunion, for example, bears testimony to a genuine willingness among the younger crowd to indulge in nude recreation. Media reports over the last few years indicate that students on college campuses across the nation have an urge to bare all; but if streaking and skinny-dipping have become part and parcel of the college scene, why aren't the practitioners taking the next step and joining established naturist groups?

The complaint of younger naturists is, of course, that when they do attend established social nude gatherings they find few similarly-aged participants. This can lead a younger person to wonder: "Is this naturism thing just for older people? Am I the only one my age who is interested in naturism?" this measure of doubt can undermine the enthusiasm that brings them to nude events.

The Missing Gen-Xers
By "younger naturists," I refer to the 18-30 crowd, otherwise known to the media as "Generation X." As a twenty-something naturist, I have had the feelings of doubt and discomfort described above. This is no slight toward "older" naturists; on the contrary, most established naturists go out of their way to be accommodating to the younger set. But often people in their twenties are not accustomed to socializing with people old enough to be their parents. To be a part of nude recreation, one must feel a part of nude recreation.

The number of people under 30 at regional naturist gatherings is generally quite small. N gets letters each year from disillusioned younger naturists who have attended a gathering and felt left out or out of place. but imagine what could be gained if suddenly 50, 60, or 100 18-to-30-year-olds showed up for a gathering, and had such a good time that naturist gatherings became a "must" for any younger person interested in nude recreation? Imagine these meetings being infused with new life, stemming from new ideas and people with the time, energy and youth to see them through.

The Need for Promotion
It's difficult to know how to appeal to people whose only idea of social nudism may be a titillating stereotype of people "prancing" and "cavorting" and having wild sex orgies around the "nudist colony." What's more, if organized naturism is kept secret, it will not be an option for a younger person. To this end, advertising and promotion of the ideals and benefits of naturism, including a clear message that it is a nonsexual thing, are essential.

It's probably too idealistic at this point to hope for naturist information to be posted on billboards or naturist commercials to be shown on prime time TV. But the younger crowd needs to know that they don't have to wait 25 years for an event like Woodstock to get naked among friends. There are ways of getting the word out without ruffling too many feathers.
In dealing with a younger audience, the term nude recreation may be more suitable than naturism. A small point, but one of powerful significance. Naturism, to the uninitiated, may imply (correctly or incorrectly) an alternate lifestyle--one that is, again, tied to that stereotype of the nudist colony. Most Gen-Xers aren't looking for a change in lifestyle; they just want to cut loose a bit when they have some free time.

A Question of Image
Naturism needs an updated image to appeal to a younger audience. Most readers have probably seen the standard naturist promotional video, featuring lots of families, children playing, and older couples lounging on the beach. Which of these aspects is going to appeal to a 21-year-old college student, a 25-year-old grad student, or a young engaged couple? Probably none.

So why not create a naturist promo video specifically tailored to this age group? If people see others their age enjoying themselves sans clothing, they might not feel like they are alone in their enjoyment of being nude. Just letting young people know that this is a valid recreation option may generate interest where there was none before.
With the smattering of student naturist groups, the clientele at some West Coast beaches (especially the ones near colleges), the goings on at Woodstock '94, and the strong European Gen-X support, thee is more than enough material for a full-length video targeting the 18-30 year old naturist. So, naturist video producers, there's a challenge for you. Break some new ground. How about a promo video that actually contributes to the growth of nude recreation?
But having a hip, cutting edge Gen-X naturist video must be coupled with a strong, effective marketing scheme. selling such a video through naturist magazines and mail order catalogs or at a naturist store may make a little money, but will defeat the real purpose of the video--attracting the 18-30-year-old people you'd like see become involved in naturism. to start with, the video could be offered to student naturist groups, who will show it in venues where it's more likely to reach the right audience.

But even before we get that far, first and foremost the video has to be affordable. A video that costs $59.95 isn't going to appeal to too many younger naturists, who are more than likely strapped for cash some if not most of the time.
Some universities sponsor environmental expos during the school year. A booth or exhibit at such a show might be the perfect way to introduce naturism--at least achieving visibility and credibility if nothing else. Simply presenting naturism in a positive light would go a long way toward not only dispelling erroneous rumors up front. Other exhibits during the year could focus on the importance of nude recreation to body acceptance (during a health and fitness week, for example), or the role of social nudity as a freedom of expression right (during a civil rights demonstration).

One Final Note
If there truly is a desire to increase the involvement and membership of the 18-30 age group, the national naturist and nudist organizations must start by letting their members and affiliated organizations know this is a national concern that must be kept on the agenda. Sad as it may sound, the very future of naturism depends on having a solid base of young, energetic supporters to carry the momentum of the older generation they will eventually replace.

The ideas I've outlined here are not exhaustive; there are many possibilities to explore, and if we younger naturists put our heads together, we could come up with quite a few. The foundation is already being laid, but a real push needs to be implemented, coordinated, and supported to make this effort successful. 

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