Swedish Nudists

Swedish nudists: Exploring naturism and nudity in Sweden

Nudity in Sweden is something that is already infamous far and wide, though usually in the context of old X-rated movies from the 1960’s, commonly featuring milkmaids frolicking naked in the meadows. Let’s take a closer look at the real Swedish nudists!

Alternatively, it can be seen on Mediterranean beaches, where half-naked Swedes are packed like sardines, frantically squeezing every minute of sunlight out of the day for the ultimate tan.

There is much, much more, however, to the subject of nudism in Sweden, and the whole approach and attitude to the naked body, as practised by the Swedes.

In this article, we unravel the myths, and bare it all (pun absolutely intended), to guide you through the, sometimes, blush-inducing subjects of nudity, naturism and the naked Swedish truth.

The history of Swedish nudity

Nudity and naturism has a long tradition in Sweden and has not always been associated with those aforementioned milkmaids or bronzed tourists, but rather with hygiene, healthy living and a desire for an intense closeness to nature.

Would you be surprised to hear that the Vikings, for example, took hygiene very seriously? You would perhaps expect them to be averse to all things involving soap and water, but the truth is they could teach the stinky British Victorians a thing or two.

Back in Viking-days, Saturday was the day of the week set aside for personal hygiene. In fact, the Swedish word for Saturday, Lördag, takes its name from “lögar dag”, which means washday.

Now, compared to modern hygiene habits, bathing once a week may not sound very hygienic, but in those days that was quite an obsessive approach to cleanliness.

So, every Saturday in the Viking village, Olaf would down his axe, strip off his sheepskin mantle and, along with his family, trudge off for his weekly wash, beginning with, what else, a trip to the sauna.

The sauna was a necessity as it would prepare your skin for the, usually brutally cold, weekly wash, or bath, and thus more adequately wash away the blood of your adversaries.

A bath might then take place in a nearby brooke or lake, along with the rest of the clan, where being naked together was as natural as looting and pillaging to the Vikings.

After the bath, one didn’t simply skip off back to the looting and pillaging either, but rather other important elements of personal hygiene had to be taken care of.

The Vikings were quite a vain bunch as it turns out, and had entire rituals surrounding not only cleanliness, but also haircare, and, naturally, beard-care, as evidenced by artefacts such as special beard-combs having been found.

One can’t help wondering if they also practised some “man-scaping”.

Modern Swedes do bathe more often than the Vikings did, but this attitude of nudity being something natural, and not necessarily associated with sex and reproduction, has remained in the Swedish psyche for thousands of years.

True, Swedish nudity has not always been encouraged and accepted by all in society, and during some periods throughout history Swedes were positively prude — at least by today’s standards.

In the 18th and 19th centuries for example, Sweden in fact went through the same puritanism as much of the rest of the western world, and nudity then began to be seen as something private and quite naughty, though mainly among the upper classes.

Among the working class it was still common practice to bathe together as a family or, at the very least, take turns in the tin bath for the weekly wash. This was done in order of age and sex, with the eldest males going first, followed by women and children.

If you ever wondered where the expression “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” comes from, picture the state of that washtub by the time all family members had completed their ablutions, and the smallest children took their turn.

A baby disappearing in that grey sludge was not an impossibility.

Things quickly went back to normal after this brief period of puritanism however, and by the 1930’s nudity was yet again in vogue.

Thanks to the arrival of fashion for young people as something separate from the fashion of their elders, skirts got shorter, decolletages lower and men got to eye up much more than just the odd shapely ankle.

Think of the shocking appearance of the Flapper Girl with skirts well above the knee for example.

Swimsuits and beachwear also shrunk with each passing decade, until the 1980’s when such things had become almost optional.

In the 30’s the Swedes also caught on to the idea that an all-over tan was quite a sign of health and vitality. So, while you may not have seen much nudity on public beaches, privately in lakes and streams people all over Sweden were throwing caution and clothing to the wind seeing a rise in the number of Swedish nudists and naturists.

Strangely enough (or not), this trend emerged in France, where people decided that being naked and communing with nature was an excellent antidote to the rigours and deprivation experienced during the 1st World War.

People would gather on beaches and lakesides, where they would exercise, swim naked and flog themselves with birch-branches, all in a hale and hearty manner.

Those early naked swimmers were the forerunners of today’s modern Swedish nudists and naturists.

Swedish Nudists

Let’s talk about sex baby

Or rather, let’s not, at least not where nudity is concerned. Swedish nudity has, in general, very little to do with sex. Though perhaps it’s more accurate to say that nudity for sexual purposes is very much separated from nudity for other reasons.

In a sense, Swedish naturism and indeed nudism in Sweden in general, are part of the built-in desire of the average Swede to be healthy, clean and in touch with the beautiful nature that surrounds them.

That’s not to say that Swedes don’t enjoy getting naked and doing a bit of sexual frolicking as well, both indoors and out, but they just do not view nudity as an immediate signal to get down and dirty. Quite the opposite in fact.

When it comes to sexual arousal, that is something that has no place on a nudist beach in Sweden. In fact, most Swedish nudists and naturists would say that a woman (or man) in skimpy underwear is considerably more arousing than someone completely naked — particularly surrounded by nothing but other completely naked people.

Of course, many new naturists find that they do have to forcibly control their wandering minds on occasion, at least initially. But the freedom of being completely naked and feeling the sun all over your skin far outweighs any naughty thoughts that may appear.

In time, as the nudity becomes something natural, a mind shift occurs and one stops seeing naked bodies and starts seeing just people.

Bathing nude outdoors is also considered very healthy and Swedish nudity is generally a means to an end on that score. The sauna ritual, which we will cover further down the line, is very much proof of this philosophy.

Getting properly clean is something that is nearly impossible when decked in lycra and polyester, and for that reason, nudity in Sweden is also very much connected with cleanliness.

Picture taking a bath at home in your bathtub wearing shorts and a tank-top. Do you feel clean? Refreshed? Not so much! Well, Swedish nudists on nudist beaches view wearing swimwear there in pretty much the same way.

It’s unhygienic, uncomfortable and, boy, can those wet swimsuits chafe your most precious bits!

Swedish nudist or naturist — what’s your flavour?

Naturism as we know it today originated, as previously mentioned, in France (where else) in the late 1920’s as a sort of backlash on the horrors of the first World War. There was a general sense of wanting to be free and healthy, and what better way than to strip off and have your picnic au naturel.

One can make somewhat of a distinction between Swedish nudists and naturists however, by saying that while nudists very much belong to the comfort club and abhor the wearing of clothing unless strictly necessary, naturists are a more complex breed.

Naturists are those nature loving, tree hugging and earth grounding persons we mentioned previously. Nudity to Swedish naturists is a means to an end as they seek to get as close to nature as possible and, wearing clothing is, let’s face it, not natural. If it was, we’d have been born wearing Diesel jeans and Manolo Blahniks.

The Swedish naturist ethos also states that the goal of naturism is to promote good physical and mental health, increase self-esteem, as well as promote acceptance of, and respect for, others.

Naturally respect for the environment is also a big part of this and clean living in general is advocated by naturists, who tend to distance themselves from drugs, politics and religion.

Nudism, by contrast, focuses more on the freedom involved in not wearing clothes. Swedish nudists will do all kinds of things nude, both privately and socially. How about a nude, outdoors chess game for example, or a round of mini-golf in the altogether?

To a nudist, clothes are restrictive and uncomfortable, and most activities that are normally performed fully clothed can, to Swedish nudists, be enjoyed equally well, or better, absolutely naked.

Of course, there is a massive grey area here and it can be difficult to accurately pinpoint someone as either a nudist or a naturist. Swedish nudists can also be a naturist and vice versa.

In fact, both terms are somewhat outdated and “the new black” is actually the term “Clothes Free”. This came about in 2016 when it was discovered that search engines tended to present results associated with pornography when searching for nudism and naturism.

Those search results have since been corrected somewhat and now, if you are interested in finding a Swedish nudist beach for example, you can safely go ahead and search for that, without having to be assailed with pictures of fornicating couples.

It’s all in the family

Nudity in children has long been a normal thing in Sweden and it was always more common to see children without swimsuits than with on beaches and lakesides. Sadly, that has changed somewhat in modern times.

For children, nudity is a natural and preferred state. If you are a parent, how many times have you battled with your toddler to get them dressed for the outside world? Slippery as eels, no sooner have you wrangled them into one article of clothing, only for them to rip it off as soon as you reach for the next item.

In Swedish naturism there is a philosophy that shyness and body-shame are learned behaviours, due, in large part, to our obsession with covering ourselves in clothing.

Small children on the other hand, are quick to strip off so they can feel free and enjoy the sun and wind on their skin, but parents are often equally quick to quell such tendencies by insisting on clothes being worn.

This can cause children to feel that nudity is something shameful and that perhaps something is wrong with their own bodies. Swedish nudists instead allow their children the opportunity to get used to nudity and the multitude of body types that exist.

If children grow up among naturists from a very early age, they tend to take the naked body for granted. It also does away very early on with those questions that many parents find uncomfortable.

When children are exposed to naked bodies of every age, shape and size early on, they become more accepting of both their own and others bodies.

Naturally there may come a time when a child no longer wants to participate in the naturist family activities, and that is perfectly fine as acceptance of a major tenet of naturist philosophy. Nobody is forced to take part if they do not want to.

Having said that, there are rules and regulations that come with the naturist lifestyle.

Swedish Nudists

Where to get naked (and where not to)

As far as beaches for Swedish nudists go, there are special beaches dedicated completely to naturism. It is, however, completely legal to swim naked pretty much anywhere in Sweden. Well, perhaps not in the fountain in the city central square, but you get the idea.

Swedish naturists do tend to be very considerate though, and generally avoid public beaches. If you know Swedes at all, you will know that they do not like to cause a ruckus or offend anyone if they can help it, so with that in mind, Swedish nudists mainly stick to nudist beaches.

With regards to clothing etiquette on nudist beaches, each beach usually has its own options. On some beaches you can choose whether to be dressed or naked, but on others clothing is not an option.

Just as naturists respect public beaches, they expect the public to show the same respect in return by abiding by those rules. A good tip before you visit a nudist beach in Sweden is to Google the place to find out what gives before you turn up dressed for the wrong occasion.

One part of your body that may not be entirely comfortable being naked on a Swedish beach however, are your feet. While you can find many nice, sandy beaches in Sweden, there are also many pebble beaches, and, no matter how comfortable you are being naked, you may want to opt to wear flip-flops.

It’s not just outdoors you can be clothing-free in Sweden. Indoor pools are also available to naturists, though in some cases it may be a specific day of the week that is dedicated to nudism and the rest of the time swimwear is expected.

Of course, there are those hardcore winter bathers, both nudist such and otherwise, who like nothing better than to plunge into an ice cold lake after a stint in the sauna. If that’s not your particular cup of Joe however, those indoor pools are something of a blessing in the winter.

Now what about those Swedish saunas? Well, this is slightly trickier as sauna etiquette is very much a thing in Sweden. Briefly speaking, just do what the sign tells you! If the sauna is all nude, you will be informed.

Swedish people will tell you though, whether they are naturists or not, that wearing swimwear in the sauna is not healthy. This has nothing to do with etiquette, but plain common sense.

A wet swimsuit is bad enough for your nether region, but if you add sweltering temperatures to that you have an ideal environment for nasty bacteria to flourish, so off with that swimsuit! Your body will thank you later.

If you do feel a bit shy, or if it’s a mixed sauna (there are many that are same sex only as well), you may wear a towel on your lower half. Just don’t be surprised if the Swedes drop the towel once seated though.

In all, Sweden is a country known for being very clear with informational signs and upfront rules about behavioural codes, so as long as you pay attention you are not likely to go wrong. If you do, just blurt something out about being a foreigner and all will be forgiven.

Too shy, too shy?

What about that famed Swedish shyness? How does that gel with all that nakedness and nudity? If Swedish people are so shy, how come they are so ready and willing to strip off with total strangers?

Well, again we can hark back to that quest for unity with nature, as well as the equally important quest for acceptance and equality for all. What drives the Swedish nudist transcends any reticence related to social interaction.

The truth is that Swedish shyness, or reticence, is not really shyness at all. It’s simply a desire to never be any sort of trouble or cause of inconvenience. Therefore, it stands to reason that getting naked is not at all an issue, as long as you do it in the appropriate place and surroundings.

A Swedish nudist may hesitate to approach you because that is simply the way they are, but once you strike up a conversation they have no problem hanging out with you all day in the nude. It’s not the nudity that stops them making the first move, but rather that fear that they will somehow bother you.

The rules of Swedish nudism

The keyword in all naked interactions is respect. That holds true whether we are talking about a sexual encounter or a round of nude badminton on the beach.

Respect yourself and all those around you. Don’t ogle people when on a nudist beach – that is heavily frowned upon.

If you have visions of people with perfect bodies joining in impromptu orgies on the nudist beaches of Sweden you will be sorely mistaken.

The people who frequent nudist beaches in Sweden, or other venues designated for Swedish naturists, do so for all the reasons we mentioned earlier.

They are there because they enjoy being free from the restrictions of clothing, because they enjoy the great outdoors, and because they believe that naked we are all equal.

Swedish nudists believe is a liberating experience, designed to decrease your self-consciousness and increase your self-esteem.

Naked we are all the same. No one can see what your job is, whether you are poor or wealthy. Your material status is unimportant here.

What matters is that you are human, engaging in simple, human activities together with other humans.

If you have always wanted to experience Swedish naturism for yourself, do some research online, get in touch with established naturists and find whatever fits you.

Whether it’s a nudist beach, playing sports in the nude or going for a naked hike, Swedish naturism offers opportunities for anyone who is interested.

Just remember that this is all about respect. For yourself and everyone you encounter, as well as a respect for nature and the planet we all live on.

We are sure that once you take the plunge, you will not regret it. Unless the plunge you take is in that public fountain we mentioned. Then you might experience a whole other part of Swedish hospitality, far less pleasant than the naturist lifestyle.

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