This article is from the Naturism FAQ, by Dennis Kirkpatrick email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
Some people make distinctions between "naturists" and "nudists." To
some people the differences (whatever they perceive them to be) are
quite important, but many people use the terms interchangeably today.
When asked to use one or the other, I usually call myself a "naturist"
because I like the association of that word with "natural". (However,
in actuality I prefer neither term - I'd rather be known as "a regular
guy who likes to be nude.")
The rest of this section, contributed by Durand Stieger, goes into
more detail (more than I did, anyway) about the differences between
"naturists" and "nudists." Please note that I have not edited Durand's
words - any opinions expressed are his, although I agree with much of
what he has to say.
While nudism has long been defined in dictionaries, naturism has not.
Indeed, the word "naturist" is only recently beginning to be added. In
the USA today, the words nudism and naturism may be best defined by
the two principal organizations representing these "-ism's": the
American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) and The Naturist
Society (TNS). Both organizations believe in the essential
wholesomeness, naturalness, and healthfulness of social nudity. AANR
has, since its beginning as the American Sunbathing Association (ASA),
represented nudists on private property -- generally at its privately-
owned nudist campgrounds and resorts -- and expects its members to be
"clothed when practical, unclothed when possible." TNS has been the
primary champion of clothing-optional use of appropriate public lands.
And both organizations have some areas of overlap, both in activities
However, most of us wonder less about the "-ism's" and more about the
differences, if any, between nudist and naturist -- and, more
particularly: which should we consider ourself to be? Nudist and
naturist can perhaps best be defined by their stereotypes, both of
which relate to their typical environments. Of course, all nudists and
naturists have that common belief in the essential wholesomeness,
naturalness, and healthfulness of social nudity.
The stereotypical nudist prefers to enjoy social nudity at enclosed
private-property sites, safe from prying eyes or harassment from the
law. She enjoys use of the facilities and amenities which these
campgrounds and resorts provide. She prefers organizational structure
-- if not to participate in, then at least for the rules and
regulations afforded. And she enjoys the social structure and
activities which many private sites provide.
The stereotypical naturist prefers to commune with nature in the open
outdoors -- e.g., at a lake, stream, beach, or wilderness setting --
without the feeling of being enclosed behind tall fences. She needs
few, if any, facilities or amenities -- preferring, instead, an
undisturbed natural setting. She wants no organizational structure,
thank you, nor any list of rules or regulations imposed on her (beyond
basic beach etiquette, that is). And she needs no social structure or
activities; if there are some friends to visit with, that's fine, but
it's also fine to be alone or with just a companion or two. Further,
since the stereotypical naturist usually uses public lands for her
nude recreation, she realizes that these clothing-optional areas may
have clothed users as well.
Many of us nude recreators do not entirely match either above
stereotype; instead, we are somewhere along the continuum between
these two (and even extending somewhat beyond each). For example, if
half the time you prefer a naturist site on a beach or stream, while
the other half you prefer nudist activities at a resort with
amenities, then you are about halfway between these two on that
Before Lee Baxandall formed The Naturist Society, "naturist" was the
European equivalent to the American word "nudist" (as in the
International Naturist Federation, the international nudist
organization headquartered in Europe). Americans formerly known as
"free beachers," or just "skinny-dippers," overnight became
"naturists" -- when Lee then pulled the term out from under the
nudists and gave it new meaning in America. The former free beachers
readily adopted the new term, particularly as it emphasized the
aspects of "nature" and "natural" so dear to free beachers.
There are those of us who believe that the use of two different labels
for us, nudist and naturist, is divisive -- and that we are really all
pretty much the same, so we should treat the two terms as synonymous.
While they are entitled to their synonymous-view opinion, they should
not take umbrage when others wish to use the two terms separately --
in reference to organizational and/or philosophical denotations.
Perhaps when the day arrives that AANR and TNS are either no longer
needed or have identical objectives, then a common label will suit
Thus, each of us is free to choose whatever label for ourself that we
like best. Nudist, naturist, skinny-dipper, free beacher -- whatever
-- and we are free to use one label at one time and another at another
time, as our mood fancies. Some Naturists also see purpose to
considering Naturism as a belief, to be respected and afforded
protections, and these people (plus those of us who wish to show
respect for this view) use Naturist and Naturism in their capitalized
Almost every adult in America knows (or think they know) what "nudist"
means, while very few know what "naturist" means. However, it is far
better and more accurate for us to identify ourselves as naturists as
we influence the public toward tolerance of appropriate clothing-
optional areas on public lands.
It is also vital that we steadfastly maintain, to ourselves and the
public, that overt sexual activity has nothing whatever to do with
naturism or nudism. A common public myth is that social nudity
involves or promotes sexual activity. And we also know that some
individuals and businesses, with sexual agendas of their own, see us
as a nude, liberal-minded, meat-market hunting ground for their own
purposes. Indeed, some swingers and others with sexual agendas have
infiltrated into our organizations -- and some businesses, promoting
or allowing sexual activity, have masqueraded as nudist/naturist
businesses. These are cancers and must be removed; they are not us,
they hurt us, and they should never be considered part of us. We
cannot tolerate even a few.