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Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes

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Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
More and more young people are going nude in France. Photo: AFP
15:44 CEST+02:00
Why are more and more people, especially the young, opting to get naked in France? Hattie Ditton finds out more.
The term "naturist" may conjure up the image of jolly elderly hikers walking bare-bottomed clutching hiking sticks - but it might be time to update the stereotype.
 
Indeed, over the past three years, the phenomenon has begun to attract a younger audience according to the the FNN (French Federation of Naturism), seeing many more young families showing up to camps with their children. 
 
Nudism is become all the more common too, with the federation reporting an increase of 40 percent in memberships between 2014 and 2015 alone. 
 
In fact, the group estimates that in the past three years alone, the number of naturists in France has leaped from 1.5 million to 2 million. 
 
And perhaps contrary to popular belief, it's not all about the connection to sexuality. 
 
(Slightly older people are who are normally associated with naturism. Photo: AFP)

Nudity represents freedom

Jacques Freeman, the head of communication at APNEL (Association for the Promotion of Naturism in Liberty) believes that young people are gaining confidence in speaking out against authority on all levels and this is a reason for the increase in naturists.

“Nudity is synonymous with freedom," he told The Local. 

“We're currently at a time where there are many questions being asked about the future, work and problems surrounding integration into society are being challenged by young people."

He said that imposing people to wear clothes is considered by some to be a breach of their freedom.

His association seeks to eliminate the preconception that nudity equates to sexual exhibitionism.

Many females choose to become naturists in order to make a feminist statement, which is that their body is not something that exists in a sexualised way, for male scrutiny. In being naked they are empowered, he explained.  

Oriane Parent, a 25-year-old Paris student, became a naturist last year.
 
 
"I used to relate nudity to sexuality before, but not anymore," she told AFP. "Being nude is just about feeling good with other people equally, without the shackles of clothing. 
 
"A naked body is neutral," she said, adding that she enjoyed the fact that there were "no prying eyes".

Familial conviviality

Yves Leclerc, the vice-president of French Federation of Naturism, said that young French couples with children were particularly responsible for the new surge in interest.

"Young couples are attracted to naturist camping holidays because there is a far greater sense of family and conviviality in these spaces," he told The Local.

“The spirit of these campsites is far more about tranquility, security and conviviality," he said, adding that the camps were an excellent place for children to play and learn.

Many naturist holiday campsites are specifically family-orientated and provide a secure and communal environment as well as activities for naturist families, he explained.

Connecting with nature

Many nudists consider naturism a means of connecting with nature and respecting the environment.

Speaking with La Libération newspaper, Julie Leclerc from the FNN said that naturists often prefer to eat organic food, care for sustainable development, and push for the preservation of the planet. 

Being naked is the best means of being closer to nature and is considered a prime state for reflection, she added. 

Anne Sol, who runs the Fiscalou campsite in the Midi-Pyrénées in south western France, told The Local that this interest in healthy living is central to the beliefs of this new wave of naturists.

She added that the media played a large part in the influx of visits from younger people. 

People are becoming increasingly heath conscious and the media as well as businesses across France have seized this, she explained.  

"In the past few years, various super-food and healthy eating fads have been continuously publicised," she said.

The media - including The Local - didn't miss it when French tourist officials played their part in promoting nudism in France earlier this year. 

Indeed, in April a campaign from French tourist chiefs at Atout France went viral after it urged typically prudish Brits to come to France for its "naturist environments".
 
Its website has a whole section dedicated to "Feeling Free", complete with a guide to the best spots for getting your kit off and enjoying the sun.
 
"For the naturist, France offers the chance to enjoy a free lifestyle in any environment you wish," the website reads. 
 
"People are seeing a new side of France - everyone knows about the wine, the gastronomy, the winter skiing, the city breaks, but this is a bit more unusual," Anne Pedersen, the campaign's spokeswoman, told The Local at the time. 
 
 
"It's not often you hear a friend say 'I'm going to a nudist beach for my next holiday'. The whole idea is still a bit peculiar."
 
France now boasts a full 460 spaces totally dedicated to naturists, most of which are camps or colonies. There are also 73 naturist beaches, 35 bed and breakfasts, and 24 nudist swimming pools. 
 
But a word of warning - if you're planning to head to France for a naturist jaunt, be sure to read these golden rules first.
 
 
 
By Hattie Ditton

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