Article: O’natural (A Naturism 101)

Great news for Parisians: The very first naked restaurant in Paris recently had its private opening and is now officially open to the public as Paris’ first naked restaurant.

Yup – naked – completely starkers.

The restaurant, called O’natural,  has the capacity to seat about 40 and I can only assume that they have a brilliant cleaning service in between the dining experience. (The typical table spritz and swipe that you see in regular restaurants just isn’t going to cut it here).

There’s also a vegan option.

Is This Really A Thing?

Some of you might be reading this with absolute dread. The idea of baring all in a public setting is, after all, a rather taboo topic. But the restaurant was very well received with its private launch for the Paris Naturist Society and, if the popularity of the recent naked London pop-up, Bunyadi is anything to go by (in which 4,000 people reserved tickets in advance), O’natural has a lot of success to look forward to.

The restaurant has a particular appeal to the aforementioned naturists among us, of which there are about 3.7 million in the UK alone (more people than there are Church of England members, as a fun aside).

But who are naturists? What are they all about? And is there really any clear benefit to baring all at a buffet? Let’s answer a few of those questions.

What Is Naturism?

Naturism is described as:

A way of life in harmony with nature characterised by the practice of communal nudity with the intention of encouraging self-respect, respect for others and for the environment.

Quite fittingly, this description was created in 1974 by International Naturist Federation based in Agde, France.

In keeping with this definition, most naturists practice communal nudity, in which they will attend private events naked. These events are usually run by a nudist club, in order to identify the correct likeminded community for the get-together.

After all, when you think about it a naturist meeting is like any other meeting: You want to make sure that you’re going to an event planned by people who share in your hobby and values. For me, this means that I’ll often attend local vegan society events, adult conferences (such as Eroticon, or Woodhull), and the gym. For others, it means identifying and going to a nudist group.

In Britain that would be British Naturism, founded in 1964 and I feel like they have a perfect slogan for Naturism on their site:

The thought of nudity is scarier than nudity itself.

Why Practice Naturism?

At this point it’s pretty fair to ask why people would make a recreational activity out of getting together and being naked, at which point I urge you to look at the definition of nudism again. By its definition, nudism is so much more than just being naked: It is, at its core, a powerful social and political movement, concerned with dismantling restrictive notions of social acceptability, challenging negative body image, and actively engaging with body politics via tangible, physical attendance in communal events.

Naturism promotes the idea that there is absolutely nothing wrong with embracing our naked bodies in settings that allow for nudity, without fear of embarrassment, ridicule, or arbitrary legal ramifications. Many naturist movements also fight to make nudity and the acceptance of public nudity visible, in their efforts to counter the notion that we should feel shame about our bodies when nude.

There are also many different health benefits to naturism.

A lot of us aren’t getting enough Vitamin D (especially in the UK, where it’s practically impossible in the winter without supplementation). Naturism helps counterbalance this in sunnier times by allowing more skin exposure to the sun (just don’t skimp on the sunscreen, you’ll need to be more thorough with it).

You could also argue that there’s a psychological aspect to nudity that is well worth acknowledging. Bra-wearers will often speak of the liberation of that moment when they get home and can ‘free’ their puppies (yes, I call breasts puppies sometimes. That’s a thing), and taking off shoes or socks after a hard day has a similar effect.

There is a mental undressing that comes with removing clothes, in addition to a physical one. Naturism takes this premise and considers it in grander terms of a social undressing of all the expectations that typically come from public or social get-togethers. It allows you to enjoy yourself in activities where you might otherwise allow yourself less physical or emotional comfort due to the physical and mental layers that you wear. It’s like a good dose of communal therapy.

I’m Sold, But I’m Also Scared

Great.

No, but seriously, I feel you.

There is a huge amount of stigma associated with public nudity, and an even greater one on our body and appearance. Most of us are our worst critics and, chances are, there’s a least one part of our naked bodies that we’re not happy with (which is, when you think about it, and incredibly sad thought).

But that’s kind of the point of going to a naturist event.

By trying naturism you are taking that fear, that judgement of yourself, and laying it bare, quite literally.

You’re taking something that absolutely terrified you, and challenging yourself to overcome it. And, when you do finally strip yourself down and remove your clothes, you’re taking an active step in liberating yourself from those feelings.

How friggin’ amazing does that sound? Scary, yes, but all of the greatest accomplishments in our lives – all of those moments with most proud of – usually come from having overcome some kind of obstacle or rising to a challenge. The initial decision to try naturism is no different.

Actually, scratch that – it’s different in one way.

By choosing to go naked at a naturist event you are facing your fears at an event that is completely accepting and supportive of your efforts (as opposed to many of those scary life challenges, that don’t typically have the ideal conditions). Everyone who has attended will have been where you’ve been and they all share common values of self-respect, and respect for others.

Naturism is the physical act of liberation in its purest sense, and the community spirit that comes with it is pretty damned amazing.

Plus I hear the food is pretty good.

Getting Involved

If you’ve read this and you’re interested in naturism then I encourage you to find your national naturist organisation and use this official means in order to find local events near you. Naturism isn’t inherently sexual in nature, so  you won’t have to worry about getting involved in anything you don’t want to, and children are welcome at many events.

And good luck! I confess, I’ve yet to try or attend a naturist event myself, but maybe I should. I have some pretty huge hang-ups about my body, after all, (my booty in particular) and naturism does seem like the ideal way to face one’s fears. Buuut that’s a story for another article.