Ah, sunny Florida. Culturally, it’s long been a haven for nudism—or, rather, naturism, the overall peaceful, environmentally oriented lifestyle of which the act of nudism is a part. Think of the distinction, to very much oversimplify, this way: “Nudism” is the act of actually being naked in public, whereas "naturism" incorporates social nudity into a wholesome, rather Edenic way of life involving physical fitness, healthy eating, and environmental stewardship. You might go to a nude beach as a one-off adventure, but that wouldn’t necessarily be a naturist act.
…Errr, okay, now that that sidebar is out of the way, we can get back to Florida. Naturists have long loved it, obviously, for the weather, and the fact that there are swaths of land out of the way of civilization where nobody cares what you do, really. (Take, for instance, Sunsport Gardens, which Fusion visited back in April for this story on young adult nudists. It’s buried way deep in rural Loxahatchee Gardens, which, because of its remote, dirt roads is also home to things like goat farms and raw food retreats).
The American Association for Nude Recreation—one of the world’s biggest membership/sanctioning-type bodies for naturist resorts—lists 23 resorts and smaller membership clubs within 250 miles of Miami alone. But here’s the rub—those are all either members-only social groups, or private resorts which require an entry fee (though they’re usually nominal). In the entire state of Florida, there’s only one official, publicly sanctioned nude beach as you’d imagine it: a place where you can show up and just stretch out on the sand, nude. It’s Haulover Beach, a few miles north of Miami Beach.
So one teenage nudist activist is lobbing for the state’s second nude beach, on the opposite, northern end, near Jacksonville Beach. Angela Anderson, age 19, has started a petition on Change.org to lobby Jacksonville Beach’s mayor, Charlie Latham, to designate one mile of the town’s 4.1 miles of beach as clothing-optional.
Anderson’s petition has gone viral-ish, drawing coverage from as far away as the U.K.'s Daily Mail. Of course titillation has played a part in all the link love, but, as Anderson and most other devoted naturists point out, social nudity is decidedly not sexually charged. She writes in her petition:
When you think of a nudist or naturist, what is it that first comes to mind? Many people assume that nudists are over-sexualized and vulgar. These negative stereotypes and judgments have been assimilated by America's cultural links to Puritan and Victorian moral codes, as they have connected nakedness and sexuality together. The question is, when dealing with nudity and sexuality, is one really the cause of the other? When one is naked, should it only be seen as sexual?
So far, Anderson’s petition has garnered about 1800 votes online, still about 700 short of the number she needs to move it forward for further local government consideration. Still, that’s not too dire a gap, for the internet—and she’s planning a promotional photo shoot this weekend to spread the word. Naturally, for now, that photo shoot will take place on private property.
In the meantime, you can keep up with all of Anderson’s body-positive, nudism activism and her efforts in Jacksonville Beach on a Facebook page she’s title the Nudement.
Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.