From naked pub quizzes to nude yoga, meditation and fitness classes – all, naturally, online – social nudity has experienced an “exponential” growth under lockdown, according to the national naturism society.
British Naturism runs more than 100 virtual events each month, including a weekly naked pub quiz and GroovX Stix, an improvised drumming class that promises participants will “work up a sweat and beat out the stress” with no clothes on.
A popular class is Naked Kitchen with Pam, who has taught people all over the world how to make flapjacks and Victoria sponge. Open to paying members, as well as guests from international naturism federations, the only rule is that chefs must have their cameras on, so as to deter lurking perverts.
Late last year the Guardian reported on how, confined to home and freed from the perceived judgments of others, growing numbers of Britons felt less inhibited and more at liberty to embrace behaviours such as talking to themselves, singing more loudly in the shower or adopting fashion eccentricities.
Andrew Welch, a spokesman for British Naturism, said on Monday: “The whole social nudity movement is growing exponentially. We are building very fast with lots of new members, including people from overseas, who have been beating a path to our door.”
His organisation now has about 9,000 members, welcoming more than 1,000 newbies during the pandemic. Welch said: “We’re having lots and lots of new people coming to our activities. I just put the phone down to a resort of ours, a campsite in West Sussex, and they said they had a weekend with so many people that were doing it for the first time they lost count.”
Classes were attracting naturists from around the world, he said. “I was in the meditation session the other day, and there was a guy from Costa Rica.”
Last week British Naturism was instrumental in forcing one of Britain’s oldest Turkish baths to reconsider plans to ban naked bathing sessions. For decades, swimwear has been optional at Harrogate’s Turkish baths during its “ladies only and gentlemen only” sessions.
Chris Mason, who manages the baths on behalf of Harrogate district council, asked councillors to make swimwear compulsory in order to “promote inclusivity” and “ensure that the council will meet its obligations under the Equality Act”.
But British Naturism argued that by excluding naked bathers, the council was promoting exclusivity. Welch said: “How can this be inclusivity if you are excluding people?”
Nude bathing should be the norm, he said. “It’s a sauna bath. You wouldn’t get into a bath with your underwear on would you?”
People soon get used to nudity, Welch said. “It doesn’t cause the shock and awe people think it does. Nobody is running a mile because they might see a willy.”
British Naturism argued that as long as swimwear remained compulsory in the mixed sessions, no one was being discriminated against.
There had been a suggestion that if everyone was forced to wear a swimming costume it would address concerns for customers of “varying gender categories”. It would also make staffing easier because the baths would be able to use male or female employees for all sessions, Mason said in a report to the council last week.
Welch disagreed. “All that’s happening here really is prudery and wrongly directed as well. Show me an attendant at the swimming pool who’s going to be offended if they walk into a changing room and see somebody’s bits and bobs. They’re just not.”
At a council meeting last week, Harrogate’s cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, Stanley Lumley, opted to take more time to consider whether to stop naked bathing. “The decision regarding compulsory swimwear at the Turkish baths in Harrogate has been deferred. This matter will be given further consideration, and will include our wider equality obligations,” said a council spokesperson.