Young British Naturists (YBN) are a group of naturists between the ages of 16 and 30 living in the UK. About a year ago, when I came across YBN, I was fascinated with understanding the reason why these young people wanted to belong to a group exposing such human vulnerability. I wanted to know why they felt the need to be naked or be part of a group where this was not only acceptable but also encouraged.
Nudity is often associated with sex. However, I discovered that within naturism this could not be further from the truth. The human body becomes almost irrelevant; something with which they have become unaware of because nudity is part of their daily life.
Some members are outspoken about their naturist activities; for others it is a private act which they keep from friends, colleagues and family members. Some members have grown up within a naturist family; others have joined to improve their self-confidence and make new friends. The one uniting interest is that all members feel more comfortable naked then they do clothed.
Displaying ourselves naked, the same way we enter the world, prevents us from hiding behind any identity we choose to convey through clothing. It can bring an exciting sense of vulnerability and it is a test of bravery; a liberating and daring act. However, this vulnerability can also provide an opportunity to be accepted and form new relationships without judgment. As one YBN member explains, "I was drawn in by the great equalizing aspect of naturism. It is an interesting question how far people would retain their respective rank if they were divested of their clothes. When all other things are held equal, when nude, a rich person appears no different than a poor person, or a really fashionable person appears no different to someone who has to make do with the clothing they have. Thus, these classifications disappear and the playing field is leveled. In the naturist environment, I feel like I’m their equal - I’m not better than them, nor are they better than me, we are just human. By removing clothing I feel a barrier between people is gone and I’m more able to meet and to talk to others without the feeling that I or they have something to hide."
In order to fully understand my subjects and to gain their trust and respect, I felt it was essential for me to join them and be naked. By placing myself in a vulnerable situation, the connection with my subjects was one of mutual understanding and equality. I soon realized that naturism is more than being naked, it is a philosophy of life with physical, psychological, environmental, social and moral beliefs. Some would classify naturism as a religion.