A nude beach (aka clothing-optional beach, free beach or European-style beach) is a beach where the users generally wear no clothing, while a topfree beach or topless beach is one where upper body clothing is not required for women or men, although a swimming costume covering the genitals is required for both men and women. It is one of the most common and traditional forms of public nudity.
People visit nude beaches for many reasons, including because they enjoy being nude or partially nude, because they enjoy looking at people who are nude, because of curiosity, because of personal philosophy, or simply because they believe that there is no reason to wear clothing (see naturism and nudism). Sunbathing with little or no clothing allows a more even sun tan, eliminating tan lines.
Nude beaches are variously known as "FKK" (from the German "Freikörperkultur"), "clothing optional" (C.O.) or "free" beaches; they are also described as being "au naturel". (Even though this is not good French for "of nature". The word "naturale" doesn't exist in the French language and "au naturel" is used only for food cooked without preparation. In French, nude beaches are called nudist beaches "plages nudistes" or, better, naturist beaches "plages naturistes".) In UK English the term 'topless beach', or 'nudist beach' is most common.
Most existing nude beaches have been used as such for many years and thus have become "traditionally nude". Many are "unmanaged" beach areas that have been adopted by the local users in an effort to maintain the beach's "quality". Others' right to existence has been recognized as such by one or another legislative body—municipal, regional or national, and are termed "official" (although not necessarily legitimate).
One can distinguish between different types of beaches:
+ Those where nudity is illegal and/or not tolerated. Nudity may result in requests to coverup, uncomfortable glares, a fine or arrest.
+ Those that are unofficially tolerated by the "authorities"
+ "Official" nude beaches
Nudity is compulsory unless the weather is bad, etc.
Clothing is optional (e.g. nudity is permitted but not required)
The clothes free areas tend to be segregated or isolated physically from the non-nude areas. In other instances people maintain a comfortable space between people dressing differently. Signage is often used to inform beach visitors about what to encounter and/or to segregate different areas on the beach. This accommodates people who are not comfortable with nudity (see gymnophobia). This also accommodates beach users who do not like to be watched too much, especially by dressed people.
In the United States, the number of traditional nude beaches has declined somewhat over past decade due to the influx of abusive users, the aging of the nudist community, and the efforts on the part of religious groups, usually Christian fundamentalists, to close them down. However, the number of official nude beaches has, in fact, increased during this period. Most of this increase can be attributed to the ongoing stewardship of local nudist organizations and the establishment of working relationships with—or lobbying of—local municipalities and law enforcement agencies. In fact, clothing-free attractions are increasingly being recognised as being a good source of tourist income.
The users of nude beaches are sometimes the target of enforcement relating to legislation banning public nudity, often because of broad language included in laws or bills intended to target sexually oriented businesses. Clothes free organizations such as the Naturist Action Committee have lobbied against such bills.
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