Making nudism more youthful

The old guard needs to do much more if their naturism clubs are to survive them

As nudists, naturists or whatever label we care to apply, at least in the U.S.A. there is a shortage of young people in nudism. Some resorts seem to have tapped into the youth market while others are slowly ossifying and as soon as the current membership becomes too old to be active, they will vanish.

At the same time, the COVID pandemic has resulted in an explosion of nudism in Europe. Particularly the U.K. and France. Two million nudists in France (the highest concentration of any country) and 30% of them are Millennials. British Naturism showed a 300% increase in memberships.

For the sake of this post, I’ll identify “young” nudists as being those between 18 and 34. It’s often called Gen Y, or the Millennials. What can we say about that generation?

According to the Pew Research Center and the Brookings Institue:

  • They are 30% of all adults today.

  • 70% are in favor of same-sex marriage.

  • 68% favor cannabis legalization.

  • 43% non-caucasian

  • Have a very low marriage rate. Most will marry late and probably a quarter will never marry.

  • 35% are unaffiliated with any religion. Much higher than with any previous generation. Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical Protestant take big hits while religions other than Christians make noticeable gains but remain at only 8%.

  • Republicans have lost this generation. There’s a big surge in independent voters. The Democrats have about half of it, but only if you include voters who “lean” that way.

  • The largest self-identified ideological group is “middle of the road” at 44%. Conservatives are a small minority. Liberal-leaning comes in second at 28%

  • They are now the largest living generation. They passed the boomers in 2015.

  • They are the most educated generation.

  • At the same time, they are more likely to be in poverty and/or deep debt. The economic boom of the 1980s and ‘90s passed them by.

Millennials are homebodies. 70% indicate that they’d rather stay in than go out on a weekend. When asked what they do for entertainment, watching television, playing games and reading top the list. They are glued to their smartphones. It is a low-energy and low-expense generation. Think about what that means for trying to attract them to nudism.

Not everyone in Gen Y is a couch potato nor are couch potatoes permanently strapped into their couches. If you were a resort or a national organization, how would you sell to a Millennial? Standard marketing strategies are probably beyond the budget. Guerrilla marketing techniques are probably more appropriate.

You do not attract young people by selling ideas that more staid and conservative people enjoy. Young people like contemporary music, not classics or oldies. They stay up late. They don’t politely sit around tables at dinner parties, they get out on the floor and dance and get loud when they party. Beer may flow.

Suggestions:

  • With Millennials, everything happens online, preferably on a mobile device. You need to go thru Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or wherever.

  • Word-of-mouth is the best promotion. Today that would include “word-of-keyboard.”

  • Hold events that young people would enjoy. A live rock band, not a Bocchi ball tournament, for example. If in doubt, ask some actual young people what they like.

  • Pick youthful people with sparkling personalities and speaking skills to send out as representatives and ambassadors. (What? You don’t have any young people willing? Find some starving actors and give them a free membership along with their pay.)

  • Make it easy and accessible. Make it affordable. Keep it lighthearted.

  • Create an environment where young women can feel safe. But accept that a majority will probably be male.

  • Naturism might be a better descriptor than nudism. Millennials are very environmentally conscious.

  • Bare as you dare might be a good way to start out newbies. If you have nudity requirements, don't be anal about enforcing them.

  • Don’t be afraid to pitch nudity as an act of individualism and rebellion. Social nudity is revolutionary.

  • Some communities have more interest than others. National organizations, in particular, need to actively promote there.

  • Reach out to discriminated groups. LGBTQ+ for example. Then the "establishment" nudists may howl that those groups are sexual and being a nudist is not. Ignore them and do it anyhow. We are all "people of the closet" together. Another group is the feminists of the "free the nipple" movement. And it would be incredibly cool if we did outreach to the disabled community.

  • Colleges and universities are the most concentrated collections of young people. College students are often looking for something different and are usually open-minded and free of encumbrances. If I were to mine for prospective young nudists, that’s where I’d look first. If there is a nude beach near a campus, use it.

  • Interface with other organizations that might have members sympathetic to naturist ideas even if the organization is not naturist itself. Use your imagination.

  • Stop being so damned passive in waiting for prospects to come to you. Actively sell yourself.

Back when I was young, Cal State Northridge had an official nudist club on campus, Au Naturel. They got to reserve the pool. They got a share of student funding. All it took was a single willing faculty adviser. The club went away when the adviser left, but I bet they all stayed sympathetic to nudism.

Imagine if you could make your resort or club a spring break destination.

I also belonged to Mensa. There was a Young Mensa special interest group. From that grew a Young Mensa nudist group. We got a really cheap rate at a local club at the time. Have you pitched to them?

Don't stop there. The WNBR started as a protest movement against oil dependence. Nudists joined in large numbers later. Now body positivity is one of the principal ideas advanced. If you think of nudity as being political and even revolutionary, you can expand your horizons.

British Naturism has a campaign they call Just One Person. Representatives go out to speak to the community about what naturism is all about. Target a community rich with the age range you are interested in and get in touch with them.

I would not worry about trying to create lifetime nudists out of anyone. Many people may come, but few will make a lifestyle out of it. Hobby nudists are fine. Even if someone only becomes more accepting of other people's nudity without adopting the lifestyle themselves, you've won.

Too many of our clubs have neither the resources nor the desire to change with the times. I fear that a lot of nudist clubs are going to close shop and they won’t be replaced any time soon. I don’t see a way around that. That’s life in the food chain. Those clubs that actively pursue an agenda that young people will enjoy are likely to thrive for decades.