Zoos are bad, right? All those caged-up creatures that can’t run free. The lion that paces the same track along the edge of the moat, day in and day out. The rhino that doesn’t have room to roam, the chimpanzee bored out of her skull. Ah, but zoos – legitimate zoos, anyway – educate the public, ensure continued populations of certain endangered species, and even play a role in reintroducing some species back into the wild.
What do zoos have to do with naturism? We humans are “naked apes” after all, to quote the title of zoologist Desmond Morris’s groundbreaking book. But also, I see a parallel between zoos and nudist parks. If a zoo wants to be legitimate, it needs to be affiliated with AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums), which means it has to meet certain criteria. The AZA assures the public that its zoos don’t mistreat or harm animals, that the animals are safely sourced, and that the zoo administration and staff follow their professional and ethical guidelines. In my analogy to nudism, the equivalent here in the US is AANR (American Association for Nude Recreation), which is an umbrella organization for nudist parks and related businesses. AANR does not demand the kind of stringent adherence that an organization like AZA does; nonetheless, affiliation with AANR does serve as an imprimatur for consumers, signifying that the nudist park in question adheres to general nudist guidelines.
But what about organizations for animals and humans in non-enclosed spaces? It’s a contrast between the AZA and, for example, the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). The WWF, although it might focus on certain key species of “charismatic megafauna” like pandas or jaguars, works to save entire habitats from destruction. The equivalent for naturism in the United States is TNSF (The Naturist Society Foundation), which advocates for nude use of public, freely accessible spaces such as beaches and national forests.
AZA and WWF recognize their need to work together to protect species such as elephants, and to ensure their future as a species both in the wild and in captive breeding programs. In the same way, TNSF and AANR work together to educate the general public and to ensure that people who want to experience nature in a natural state have a variety of venues to choose from. But just as a zoo charges admission, so does a naturist park – it’s a matter of upkeep, of course, and that’s perfectly understandable. Unfortunately, the naturist park entrance fee can and does have the result of keeping a lot of folks, especially underprivileged populations, away from the simple and healthy joy of being naked outdoors whether alone or among like-minded people.
Advantages and disadvantages of a complex issue… two sides of the same coin. And, yet, there is a third-way solution to enjoying naturism, especially but not exclusively in the cold months: the naturist space that is afforded to you through books, films, and other art. Unleash your imagination, let it roam, and you can enter into a world of social nudism whether historical, contemporary, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or many other options of naturist fiction. Is there a cost? You can find some material that’s free to read, and also more elaborate material for a modest price.
Click here for a list of titles by the writers who maintain this site, and here for a more expansive and very thorough list of naturist titles by genre. For a fun and free tale about college students getting naked at a zoo, you can read here the story “Anatomy to Zoology,” which features characters from my novel Co-ed Naked Philosophy.