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A Gentleman’s Guide to Nude Beaches

Yes, this includes erection protocol

All you want to do is let your reproductive organs feel the sun on their face. Is that too much to ask? Well, most of the time, yeah, it is. But if you’re determined to make this dream happen, there is hope for you: Rather than showing up at your nearest grocery store having “accidentally” forgotten your pants, book a trip to the closest nude beach, where such behavior is welcomed.

Before you go, though, it helps to know some of the basics for your inaugural naked excursion.

Where to lay bare?

In the U.S., most nude beaches are located on a hodge-podge of federal, state and county land, which is totally dependent on the intricacies of the laws (or lack thereof) of each area. Robert A. Morton — executive director of the Naturist Action Committee, an advocacy group that seeks to protect the rights of naturists through lobbying and even in court — explains that each nude beach is a product of the unique circumstances in that area. For example, naturists purposefully targeted Haulover Beach in Florida to try to carve out a clothing-optional environment. Because it was rundown and in a high-crime area, they offered to clean up the land and improve it so long as it was declared clothing optional. The county was happy to oblige them.

Typically, though, it’s the other way around: Nude beaches often face threats from the outside due to the whims/selective moral indignation of the officials or public in a given area. Morton cites the example of New York’s Fire Island, which once had a nude beach. But following Hurricane Sandy’s flattening of the surrounding dunes, bathers were told that, since they could now be seen, they could no longer bathe nude. Even once the dunes were restored, environmental ordinances were cited to prevent their return.

Now, a popular myth has it that, since there’s no federal law on nudity, nudity on federal land is okay. But Morton says this is something of a misconception, or at best, an oversimplification. “There may not be any federal law against nudity, but most of the local federal units, like, for example, land belonging to the National Parks, have what’s called ‘concurrent jurisdiction agreements,’ which means they can enforce the laws of the local state or county.” This means a park may cite a state’s indecent exposure law to prevent nudity in that park, which is why, for example, you can’t strip nude at the Lincoln Memorial and sit on old Abe’s face.

There are also “unofficial” nude beaches, where nudity isn’t technically legal, yet widely practiced without people getting in trouble for it. For those, Morton explains, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”

Honestly, considering the strain of puritanical outrage that simmers beneath the surface of American society, the fact nude beaches exist in this country at all is kind of a miracle. But if your goal is to find one, we’d suggest turning to the same resource that you turn to for all of life’s questions: Wikipedia. There, you’ll find an extensive list of places throughout North America where social nudity is permitted, including beaches, and for those in landlocked states, naturist camps.

What’s legal?

As Morton stated, laws for every state, county and town vary wildly. For example, did you know every beach in Maine is legally topless? While you probably don’t want to be bothered with researching the laws in each and every state, a good rule of thumb is, if you’re the only one with his penis out, you might be doing the wrong thing.

While public nudity can enjoy some pockets of legality in selected areas, the same doesn’t apply for public sex acts, which would certainly be enforced by any laws, regulations or concurrent jurisdiction agreements. Even the care-free naturists don’t condone it, as it runs contrary to their message of, “Nude isn’t lewd,” says Morton.

So, yes, you should refrain from trying to sneak a blowjob on the beach or anything like that.

Blogger Felicity Jones of Felicity’s Blog particularly likes to stress this point, saying, “Local officials, authorities or politicians who don’t like the idea of a nude beach will look for any excuse to shut it down, and that includes reports of criminal behavior. People don’t realize how easily a nude beach can be taken away. We’ve seen it happen many times, so please behave yourself.”

How naked is naked?

If you’re nervous to rip off your clothes the second you arrive, Jones assures us that it’s okay to be somewhat clothed, or get naked gradually. You can stop disrobing at wherever your comfort level is. “Obviously you can wear shoes on hot sand, as well as a hat, sunglasses and accessories,” she says. On the other hand, Jones points out that you don’t want to be that guy who’s “walking around fully dressed, gawking at all the naked people,” as it’s easy to tell the difference between someone who’s “trying to work up the courage to undress, versus a voyeur.”

What’s the deal with ogling?

Everyone’s naked, so it’s cool to look around you, right? Well… to a point, yes, but not to the extent that you’re creeping people out. “It’s important to make a distinction between looking and staring,” says Jamie, a male naturist who frequents New Jersey’s Gunnison Beach. “The former is okay, but the latter is usually not. At the nude beach, everyone’s unique shape, size, beauty and other differences all get to be noticed, appreciated and celebrated. However, long stares and ogling are a faux pas and usually interpreted as creepy behavior, because often times it is.”

How should I groom before going?

“For body hair, anything goes,” says Jones. So whether you prefer to be modern pornstar smooth or 1970s pornstar hairy, all of it’s cool. So long as you’re comfortable with it, no one else is going to care.

Is flirting cool?

Navigating the waters of the nude beach dating scene can be tricky. Reg Barlow, of Naturist Action Group, says that you should, “Never try to force a friendship when it’s clearly not wanted, especially if you’re male and the other person is female.”

In other words, the exact same rules as everywhere else.

While Jones says that it’s okay to flirt, you should be well aware that, “Women especially can feel particularly vulnerable while naked in a social setting,” so compliments can be really off-putting. In fact, because of that vulnerable situation, it’s even more important to get to know someone first before trying to make a move to, uh… see each other clothed, we guess?

How about pictures?

Not taking anyone else’s picture is one of the most important things to know about any nude beach. Alice, speaking on Haulover Beach’s information line, states that no kind of filming or photography are allowed at all on their beach. The same applies in Europe, advises Diana from the Naturism Girl blog.

How do I prevent sand from getting everywhere?

Diana stresses that you’ll want to have a towel handy at all times for sitting down on any surface, especially a public one. Jordan Blum, who has been attending nude beaches and naturist camps for several years, believes that it’s actually easier to deal with sand without any attire on, though, saying that he always finds more sand stuck in his swim trunks when he goes to a clothed beach, whereas at the nude beach you can quickly dip in the water.

Is the European nude beach scene different to the U.S.?

Naturist blogger Dan Carlson, who has frequented both American and European nude beaches, says that while European and American beaches aren’t too different, he prefers to bring his family to the European beaches because he’s less likely to see a lewd sex act there. Carlson says this is likely because, with so many nude beaches in Europe, each beach gains its own identity. He likens it to a town with several bars, where one might be for party-going college kids, while another might be the dive bar for older locals.

Now, if only one bar existed in this town, everyone who wanted a drink, regardless of demographic, would be crowding into the same place: This, he explains, is what happens on American nude beaches. Because there are so few of them, every kind of person who wants to be naked ends up going there, from the naturist families to the thrillseekers to the swingers. While he passes no judgement on them, Carlson does believe that sometimes these more extreme elements will scare off moderates who want to go to a nude beach, but aren’t into the bodypainting and other activities that go on there.

Most importantly, what should I do if I accidentally get an erection?

Carlson says that there’s no question he gets asked more, and the answer is relatively simple: Throw a towel over it. Most consider it impolite, or even creepy, to walk around with a raging hard-on — despite the plethora of naked people, this isn’t supposed to be a sexual environment, so it’s not welcome. If you can’t help it, just hide it with a towel, jump in the ocean or lay on your stomach, but don’t try to “act casual” when your little companion is acting anything but.