May 3, 2011

Vanishing nudism only kept alive by middle-aged and elderly

An earlier post has detailed the disappearance of exhibitionism among young people over the past 15 to 20 years, based on the prevalence of streaking, flashing boobs at a concert, and topless sunbathing.

Now the Wall Street Journal reports on the decline of nudism in America. They won't say when membership began falling, and in my googling I found out that the two main nudist organizations don't release statistics, and that when they do, they're frozen in place for a decade or more, making them completely unreliable. For example, the American Association for Nude Recreation said as early as 1996 that their membership had swelled to 50,000. That figure continues to be reported unchanged at least through 2006. Somewhere in the mid-late-2000s, they admitted internally that membership had fallen to around 40,000.

So, there is no data to piece together to find out when the decline began, not surprising since these advocacy groups want to make it look like nudism is just as popular as it ever was -- "people still tell me I look 38!" The other statistics they offer are not helpful either: these always say that just over 90% of their membership is over 30 -- great, but does that mean that 90% are over 50 as well? The WSJ article does say that nudism began flourishing in the 1960s and '70s, so based on every other pattern we've seen, it probably lasted through the '80s, with the '90s as a turning-down period, and no-longer-ignorable decline by the 2000s.

Fortunately the users of the ClothesFree Forum ran an age poll between 2006 and 2008, so I tallied their 87 responses (including if they gave their nudist spouse's age). These are shown below by lumping them into 5-year age blocks -- 15 to 19, 20 to 24, 25 to 29, etc.

The average age is 46 and the median is 49. Based on my googling before finding these data, where only impressions were given, I'd say the median is closer to the truth, as most people guessed that the typical nudist was about 50. The block with the most members is the 50-54 age group, who were born around the mid-1950s. Because they stand out so much more than the rest, they probably show when it was most popular among young people. Assuming that you get into it when you're about 20 (when the personality trait Openness to Experience peaks), that puts the peak popularity of nudism somewhere in the mid-'70s, right along with the golden age of streaking. Most of the other nudists are older Boomers and older Gen X-ers.

So just as we saw with other forms of exhibitionism, they were only popular among those who came of age during rising-crime times. Once violence rates began falling, causing the society to turn less promiscuous and thrill-seeking more broadly, the new ranks of young people didn't get turned on by them. As a result, the only people keeping those older ways alive are the ones who got into it back during its heyday. Unreplenished with younger members, this population grows grayer with every year.


  1. Guaranteed there's something else different about nudist colonies today. Not something that's there, but something that isn't there :(


  2. I've gone skinnydipping a few times in mixed m/f company of about ten people in my early twenties, circa 1990. Private house backyard pool, no parents.

    Younger people on another blog corroborated my suspicion that this isn't really done any more.

    Oh yeah, the girls all had rich and full but nicely trimmed bushes. :)

  3. Hi,
    I had the "pleasure" of speaking with Mr. Belkin for his story. I talked with him for over 30 minutes. My name is Tom Mulhall. I am the PR chair for the American Association for Nude recreation. My wife and I have also owned a nudist resort in sunny Palm Springs, California for 16 years called The Terra Cotta Inn so we know the nudist industry very well.

    Unfortunately, the reporter ignored what I told him and what the AANR office told him as he basically already knew what he was going to write. He wanted to leave the impression that younger people are not interested in nude recreation, and it is a dying industry instead of the thriving industry that it is in America.

    People forget that according to the 2008 census bureau (the latest age data) 76% of adult Americans are between 35-80 years of age. Only 16% of Americans are in their 20's. Nude recreation can not change demographics.

    They could have changed the story to be the "NFL seeks younger fans" as according to an Experian Research study 72% of NFL fans are over age 35. Again demographics can not be changed.

    I told him, AANR estimates about 20% of people that enjoy nude recreation are under age 35 which closely tracks the census data.

    The statement of no piercings is so untrue as the President of AANR has a nipple piercing.

    Also about pools closing early again is not true. Our pool and jacuzzi are open 24 hours a day for instance which I told the reporter.

    Nude recreation is thriving in America. And young people enjoy it just as much as baby boomers and older. Last year a CNBC survey showed 53% of Americans would like to try a naked vacation.

    Finally, This story has a "Been there", and "Done that" many times before feel. The oldest story about the so called "decline" of nudism online is Time Magazine on 7/19/71 predicting "The Decline of Nudism." Time wrote: "The old nudes have got to step aside or this place is going to die...It's youth, baby, that's where it's at."

    Click here for the link

    Luckily AANR has been contacted by many responsible journalists after this story has come out. Once they got the facts, they did not do a follow up as they all agreed that the WSJ reporter wanted to dig nude recreation a grave and he was damned if he'd let the facts get in the way.

    As an aside for what you wrote, most nudists start when they are in their late 30's or 40's as there kids start to get older. They too never thought about nude recreation in their 20's.

  4. Tom speaks the truth! Nudism is *not* on the decline. (& just to further prove the reporter wasn't the best- he also wrote that we, Young Naturists America (YNA) host dinner parties. We have never had a dinner party.) From our experience since we started YNA in 2010, there is no lack of young people. The only thing lacking was a way for them to connect. We've also had many people trying social nudism for the first time at our events.
    That is so funny about the Time Magazine article! I never saw that.


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