Many people experience the common dream about going about their daily routine such as school or work only to realize they have been going about their day while totally naked. This realization is usually followed by embarrassment, mortification and feelings of vulnerability.
The Ottawa Naturists/Naturistes de l’Outaouais (ON/NO) however, celebrate nudity and the human body. In fact, for the members of ON/NO nudity is synonymous with freedom and a way of life that promotes relaxation and self-acceptance.
“The usual feeling of people is that it is comfortable, it is relaxed. I think that is the best part. You are not hiding behind your fancy leather jacket,” says Ted Thompson, the president of ON/NO, at a general meeting Feb. 18.
According to Howie, a relatively new ON/NO member, the fact that clothing does not restrict you provides a sense of freedom.
“You’d be surprised by how quickly you become comfortable. In fact, you almost feel uncomfortable if you are clothed,” Howie says.
A $30 membership and additional event fees give the members of ON/NO plenty of opportunities to enjoy the freedom of going full frontal at various events. The club holds bi-weekly swimming events, bowling parties, house parties, a midsummer BBQ and group visits to naturist clubs and resorts in Ontario and Quebec.
“We’ve organized trips to the Caribbean. Turns it into a naturist resort for a few weeks,” Thompson says with a wink.
ON/NO is a family-focused, non-landed, not-for-profit, naturist club that was formed in 1993. It currently has almost 200 adult members, and with 60 people attending their most recent swim, ON/NO’s attendance has increased by 20 per cent in the past year. The group has attracted a wide variety of people. To date, its youngest member was two weeks old and the oldest member was 92.
Despite the increase in attendance, naturist clubs like ON/NO are still fighting to change the common misconceptions about nudist clubs.
“The number one misconception is that this has all got to do with sex and orgies. The number one response from naturists is that nude is not lewd,” Thompson says.
According to the Federation of Canadian Naturists (FCN), nudist events are not sexually charged, in fact they are often quite the opposite, completely lacking sexuality. This may come as a surprise to most; however, the FCN website argues that the link between nudity and sexuality is an arbitrary one influenced by the media.
Howard, who sits on ON/NO’s board of governors, says there is the idea that anything nude must be immoral, with some people thinking, “Oh those terrible naked people.”
According to him, this idea is false and based on misconceptions. The actual lack of sexuality at nudist events allows women and men to enjoy nudity equally. To further ensure equal enjoyment by all members, ON/NO maintains a balanced ratio of men to women, and requires members who are new to naturism to undergo a preliminary screening.
For naturists, being nude is about enjoying the body and embracing the natural state of being. One might then wonder if naturists are nude for the sake of nudity, why join a club. The answer is simple.
“The ones who join the club tend to be people who like meeting people and they also like the opportunity to be able to go swimming in the middle of winter. I think it is generally the idea of being able to meet people of a like mind,” Thompson says.
This like-mindedness is about viewing nudity as natural rather than taboo.
“There are a lot of naturists around who don’t like to be weird and consider themselves to be quite normal and they like to meet other people who think the same way, to sort of counter the negative effects of people who do have a negative attitude toward it all,” he says.
The like-mindedness is also about being one with nature.
“It’s the casual and the one with nature sort of feeling. You are closer to nature you can feel nature. The strange thing is when you don’t wear clothes as much, your body’s thermostat works a lot better,” Thompson says.
For members such as Howie, being au naturel acts as a social lubricant.
“Amazingly enough I find it far easier to meet people and socialize at these events than other events,” Howie says.
Aside from giving one the joy of feeling the breeze and enjoying like-minded company, naturism also results in greater body acceptance. After all, it takes a certain level of comfort to be able to plunge into a swimming pool in the nude with a group of people you are just starting to get to know.
The FCN’s website says most people feel less self-conscious on a nude beach and encourages practicing body acceptance. The FCN says naturists refute the concept of the perfect body, saying it is a myth. The members of ON/NO share the same view.
“It is not a beauty contest. If it was a beauty contest I would be the first one to throw that out. It is about being natural and comfortable with your body,” Howard says.
Currently, ON/NO is actively recruiting more members and are interested in increasing youth participation.
“As young people are growing up they get to an age where they suddenly become very body conscious and they stop coming with their parents,” Thompson says. “It has to wait until after they have become adults and they usually come back to it in their early to mid-20s.”
Bert, a member of ON/NO, says the club definitely needs to get young people interested by providing nude events that young people would be interested in doing.
“We don’t have to get drunk to get naked,” he says.
Some experts of the dream world seems to agree with the naturist belief that nudity is freedom. Experiencing a dream where you are in your birthday suit and proud to be so, symbolizes unrestricted freedom and self-acceptance.
Perhaps the naturists are on to something.