9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN23 Sexuality

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Open Papers Building I, 1E10

Naturism and sexuality: Broadening our approach to sexual wellbeing

There are very few studies on naturism and fewer still on the relationship between naturism and sexuality. This original study aimed to investigate how people manage their sexuality when practicing naturism in the United Kingdom (UK).

Thirty-nine self-identified naturists from across the UK were interviewed in-depth using an oral history methodology. Interviews explored how people entered into naturism and traced their experiences of social nudity over time and place to the present. Interviews were conducted clothed and nude when requested and appropriate to enable cultural sensitivity. This resulted in some interesting methodological and fieldwork reflections.

From our research, sexuality, when practicing naturism, was found often to be suppressed through the use of rules, geographical isolation and thoughts and behaviour. Some participants found ways of exploring and enjoying their sexuality by keeping feelings hidden and/or seeking out more sympathetic naturist environments.

We conclude that naturist environments may offer a unique space in modern society in which to explore aspects of our sexuality that are currently pathologised, criminalised or commercialised. In contemporary society the only alternatives to private nudity are the virtual realities of commercial pornography with its emphasis on nudity as always sexual, commercial sexual environments such as swinging clubs which are often based on a prior knowledge of sexual interest and experience, or lap dancing clubs which play on the objectification and sexual exploitation of women and sustain sexism. Our research has important implications for sexual wellbeing and sexual health policy and promotion.