Martin Warrillow meets an inspiring ambassador for ‘new’ naturism.
Most readers of this magazine have, of course, known it for years; naturists are happier than so-called textiles. We’re happier, more in tune with nature, with a better, more sensible and relaxed attitude to our bodies and the human body generally.
Yet we’ve never been able to prove it, other than by encouraging people to try social nudity for themselves and see what happens. Well, now we can. For the first time, proper academic research has been done which appears to show that all these things are true. People have been interviewed under proper research conditions, academic tests have been applied to the data – and it all seems to be true.
The research has been done by Emma Stokes, a psychology student from Keele University; Emma, aged 29 and from Stoke-on-Trent, knew nothing about naturism until she joined a friend who was leading an aquarobics session at our Alton Towers weekend in 2010. Now, less than two years later, she has become such an ardent naturist that she has changed her field of academic research to look more closely at the subject – and, as readers may have seen, been the subject of recent features in the Daily Express and Love It! magazine.
“It all started when I went to AT in 2010,” explained Emma. “A friend who was leading an aquarobics session asked me to go along to give some moral support and I agreed. I kept my clothes on all weekend but I was fascinated and when I came away, I started looking for areas in which I could do proper research into naturism. No-one had ever done anything like this before.”
Emma quickly came up with three areas to look into – the positive effects of naturism on body image; measuring the happiness of naturists against the rest of the population and studying groups of naturists to find out why they had taken up social nudity.
She returned to the BN Alton Towers weekend in 2011 to carry out research among the members attending and as a result, was able to prove all the hypotheses about the benefits of social nudity.
“I could have fallen flat on my face and at first, the academic staff at Keele were very against it but my supervisor has been very supportive,” said Emma. “She did say that she wouldn’t have let a 19-year-old do it and there were some problems about the ethics of doing the interviews in those circumstances – I had to keep my clothes on, for instance!”
BN members at the weekend were also extremely supportive. “Everyone was really forthcoming and I had more people coming forward to be interviewed than I knew what to do with!” she added. The results of her research have had such an impact on Emma that she has shaken off her own previous body-image issues and become one of naturism’s most ardent public supporters – and finally decided to take the plunge herself at the end of last year’s AT weekend.
“Why wouldn’t I want to live as a naturist now that I know it’s so beneficial?” she asked. “Everyone is very respectful and looks you in the eye – no-one’s looking down at you. I’ve felt for years the pressure to look a certain way and now that I don’t, it’s lovely. If I had been raised as a naturist, I wouldn’t have had the body-image issues that I did. It’s the first time in my life that I have felt really happy with my body.
“If I have children, I will be raising them in the naturist lifestyle – I’m not having them having the same body-image issues as I did.
“I’ve realised the most important thing – your body doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to feel beautiful.” Now that Emma has become such a public supporter of naturism, she is determined to promote it among younger people and has some strong views on how BN and the movement generally can lower it's worryingly high age profile.
“Some clubs and swims and some naturists generally still don’t like people with piercings and tattoos,” she said, showing me the Japanese design on her stomach – one of four tattoos she wears.
“But to young people, these things are perfectly normal and they won’t give that up. Attitudes to things like that are going to have to change if naturism is going to bring in more young people.”
And she is also opposed to the ‘be naked all the time’ demands of some clubs. “I love being without clothes at the appropriate time but I also love being a girl and I love my clothes,” she said. “Saying to people, especially young people, that they can’t get dressed in the evenings can be very offputting. I think naturism could attract far more young single women if it was more relaxed about that.”
Emma’s visit to the Alton Towers weekend did more than allow her to finally experience the naturist lifestyle. She won the prize draw and is now off to Greece this summer for her first naturist holiday to celebrate her birthday.
“None of my friends want to come, though!” she said.