A beginner’s guide to the naturist movement

Where you can get naked in Toronto this summer and why you should consider trying it

The sun is out and you’ve already started peeling back the layers to enjoy the warmth, but how comfortable are you in your bare skin? Can you enjoy every curve and crevice your body has earned over the years? And are you willing to relax and indulge in your nudity?

If you’re already uncomfortable, it’s even more important to consider it.

Stripping down and revelling in your own nudity — on your own or in public — can prove to be a challenging task, as most of the messages you receive with regard to your body are rather disparaging. You’re taught that you have problem areas that you should use clothes to conceal or downplay. You’re told that you should make regular adjustments to conform to the latest (Eurocentric) trends. And you’re indoctrinated with the belief that the way you dress ought to be indicative of your personality, success, confidence and status.

But what if you were to strip away the adornments and spend some time in your natural state?

The result, according to research and naturists themselves, would be an improvement in body image and overall confidence.

“We use clothing as a shield to project a certain image. We believe so strongly in the power of what we wear that we are never fully comfortable with our true self,” explains Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park owner and host of The Naturist Living Show podcast, Stéphane Deschênes.

“When nude, we are forced to accept who we really are. And we eventually realize that there is no ideal. With that new self-confidence, we present our authentic selves and accept others more easily for who they are.”

When you cover up in response to body insecurity, you exacerbate the problem because you avoid confronting it. So if you want to really love your body, consider getting naked with one of the many options in the GTA.

A naturist park like Bare Oaks, located just north of Toronto in East Gwillimbury, may be the best place to start for first-timers. The park’s policies and underlying philosophy mandate respect and safety. Sexual activity and advances are strictly forbidden. Staring and unauthorized photography are disallowed. Harassment of any kind is immediately addressed, and members ensure a welcoming, safe environment. And though it’s a distinctly non-sexual experience, as you spend more time naked, you’ll likely find that your sex life improves, as people with a better body image have more frequent and satisfying sex.

Bare Oaks attracts both naturists and nudists. The former tends to refer to a life philosophy that emphasizes respect for self, others and nature. Being nude is an important component of this philosophy along with minimizing the impact on the environment. Nudists may practise nudism more recreationally but not embrace naturism as a life philosophy.

Downtown residents Miguel and Claudia explain that they were shy at first but decided to visit a nudist park eight years ago out of curiosity.

“The people were regular folks leading normal lives and with various types of bodies,” explains Miguel. “We found that being in the nude placed us all on the same level and that being naked in front of others made us feel very comfortable and proud of our bodies. We worried less about the labels and clothes that everyone had on and paid more attention to the people themselves and the environment we were in.”

If you prefer to stay closer to home, consider connecting with naturist groups like the GTA Skinnydippers, who arrange nude swims at both indoor and outdoor facilities, or the Toronto Area Naturist Sports and Swims (TANS) group, which co-ordinates nude volleyball matches and more. The World Naked Bike Ride takes place in Toronto on June 9, starting at Coronation Park with socializing and body painting.

Multiple private enterprises like saunas, bathhouses and spas also allow nudity, and though nudity is not inherently sexual, several clubs combine clothing-optional environments with erotic events and entertainment. The pool at Oasis Aqualounge, for example, is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., and some people report that visiting after dark can help to ease them into the experience.

You can also explore clothing-optional spaces on your own by visiting Hanlan’s Point or the unofficial areas of Beechgrove beach (East Point Park) and the west end of the beach in the Scarborough Bluffs. If you’re not comfortable stripping down at first, that’s OK. Just be sure to be respectful of those in the buff. Don’t stare, gawk, make comments or take photos.

Even spending a few minutes naked in the privacy of your home is a good start to achieving some of the goals of the naturist philosophy: acceptance of self, respect for others and living a more natural life.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO