Hoffman, Brian S. “Naked: A Cultural History of American Nudism”, NYU Press, 2015.
The American Nudist Movement
According to Brian S. Hoffman, the Nudist movement in American began 1929 when a small group of men and women at a New York City gymnasium threw off their clothes. Even though many Americans had been swimming and sunbathing naked for years, there had not been an organized movement and now they were ready to build a movement “around the idea that exposing the body corrected the ills of modern society and produced profound benefits for the body as well as the mind.” The new nudist movement was met with hostility and skepticism but they endured and enlisted the support of health enthusiasts, homemakers, sex radicals, and even ministers. At the same time they redefined what could be seen, experienced, and consumed in America of the twentieth century.
Hoffman presents us with a vibrant and detailed account of the nudist movement as it is and was within the larger cultural and societal context of this country. He begins with looking at nudity in a culture where the concept of shame and conflicting moral values play a part in the lives of the citizens of which many have conflicting views about the human body.
He looks at the anxieties about gender, race, sexuality, and age and how these influence our ideas about the naked body as he looks at the debates about “distinguishing deviant sexualities from morally acceptable display, the legal processes that helped bring about the dramatic changes in sexuality in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the explosion in eroticism that has increasingly defined the modern American consumer economy.” Hoffman has drawn much of his information from many varied nudist materials, films, and magazines and his book shows the social, cultural, and moral assumptions about nakedness and the body that is “normally” hidden from view and behind closed doors.
Not only does the book make a contribution to the history of nudism but also to the history of sexuality of the United States. Up until now the sexual movement within nudism has gone unstudied as well as have the legal and political responses to it. Hoffman focuses on the “rurality” of U.S. nudism thereby causing us to think about the “urban-centered biases” that are features in the studies of the history of sexuality. He sees the nudist movement as a legitimate American movement that is ideological as well as political.