Nude Family Values


    JUST BEING NATURAL: Campers Steve Vickers,22, and Jesse Ferrier, 18, at Florida's Lake Como

    (3 of 3)

    But kids in the throes of puberty can see their developing bodies as horribly inelegant. At the camp, pubescent children covered themselves more often than older boys and girls — though even the pubescent children were nude most of the time. The campers were never required to be naked, but most nudist resorts mandate nudity in pool areas. That can be difficult for some kids. A 15-year-old girl from Texas who has been a nudist since age 3 says she only rarely felt awkward during puberty. But when she did, she didn't always want to be naked — even though her club requires nudity unless it's cold or you have a sunburn. "I found a loophole in the rule," she says proudly. "They won't stop us from wearing a towel. So I would just wrap that around myself." But should kids have to find loopholes to feel comfortable? "Yes, there's a coercion of sorts with the pool," admits Dean Hadley, 55, who owns the Cypress Cove resort. "But they have a choice of getting into the pool or not."

    There was little sexual behavior on display at the camp. A typical observation came from Gordon, the 16-year-old: "With girls on the outside, you get to know the clothes, not the person. If I am looking for a girlfriend, being a nudist is actually better"--better from a moral standpoint, he clarifies--"because I think [nudism] is less sexual than trying to get attention with certain outfits." Nudists as moralizers? There's more. The presence of so many kids at nudist resorts has resulted in a proliferation of rules governing naked behavior. Nudists may ignore the No. 1 precept of human interaction since Adam and Eve, but they have overlaid their world with other strictures. One cannot walk around clad only in underwear, which is considered titillating. At Cypress Cove, nude dancing is forbidden. Nudists are supposed to carry towels to cover seat cushions.

    On the last night of camp, the kids held a talent show called "Sunny & Bare." They sang a nudist rendition of a Garth Brooks classic--"I got sand in low places"--as well as a straight version of the G.O.P. standard God Bless the U.S.A. The next day there were tearful end-of-camp goodbyes. Most of the kids were returning to areas where they have few nudist friends, and most nonnudist pals wouldn't understand the lifestyle.

    I wondered how the kids would turn out. The 11-year-old camper who was so frank about her incipient puberty also said that a visitor to the Lake Como resort twice touched her leg in the pool. (Camp wasn't in session; the girl had been visiting a relative who lives at Lake Como full time.) The man was thrown out. Says the girl's mother: "Kids here are taught to talk about it. They immediately tell." But might the man have been emboldened because he saw the girl naked? As America's nudists continue to thrive, they will have to grapple with that question. They may have learned to see the naked body as mundane, but most people haven't.

    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    4. Next Page