What I Learned Spending a Day at a Nudist Resort

Nudist Resort woman
Not the author. | Shutterstock
Not the author. | Shutterstock

So, I ran a naked 5K. Which, in and of itself, was an education. But after said 3.2-mile flop-fest, the good people of the Caliente Resort in Land O' Lakes, Florida (one of the greatest clothing-optional resorts in America) opened up their doors to me for an entire day. And, never having spent a full day wearing nothing but sunscreen, I thought it would be an interesting little trip outside of my comfort zone. It did not disappoint, and here are a dozen things I learned in my afternoon by the pool at a nudist resort.

Pubic hair is out

Not just on women, on men, too. Since every guy on the planet makes a point to look anywhere BUT down in a locker room, I wasn't aware that we men are also now going totally bare. Around the pool at Caliente, rarely was any dude rocking much more than a soul patch. This may only be true of nudists, but it was still alarming to see so many men completely shaved like the women.

Scrotum piercings, however, TOTALLY IN

I'm not even sure how these things are possible without trauma-center levels of blood loss, but I saw more dudes with rings, bars, and studs through their sacks than I saw men with clothes on. Every single one induced a wince of "Oh-God-that-must-have-hurt" discomfort. But nobody topped the guy with about 15 rings around his penis, who I can only assume thought it had the same effect that African tribeswomen achieve with neck rings. I didn't ask him if it was true.

Pool at Caliente Resort
Courtesy of Caliente Resorts

The difference in human bodies is staggering

Not that Big Dog... Little Dog didn't teach us all a valuable lesson about physical diversity, but with clothes on you really only see a small part of the huge spectrum of differences. Looking out over an entire pool deck of naked humans, I saw how every body truly is unique, from where people store fat to how big those stores become. You see how guts hang in different ways over waistlines, and how ass cracks are different lengths on different people. Add in breast shapes, nipple sizes, and an incredible range of private parts, and you see that while we may not all be special snowflakes, no two of us are ever alike.

And your body is totally fine

Though most guys won't admit it, we all take a look at Chris Pratt in Jurassic World and think, "Maybe I should lay off the Buffalo chicken fingers for a while." But standing in a group of people who are completely naked, you realize NOBODY has a perfect body. You see that we've all got little lumps and wrinkles and scars and jiggly parts, and you're OK with whatever little imperfections you were just pinching a few hours earlier.

Tattoos Miami

People are hiding insane tattoos

You know that guy in accounting who seems like his idea of "letting go" is ordering an EXTRA appetizer at Applebee's? He may well have a tattoo of the Army of Darkness over his entire back. The amount of hideable-area ink I saw was astounding, and few of the tattoos could be described as "subtle." Full dragon with flapping wings on a female chest? Check. Giant golden eagle on the pelvis? You know it. Tattooed-on Speedo so you look like a European tourist even when you're naked? I could not even make that last one up.

Being told you look younger isn't a compliment when you're naked

When you get to be about 27, there's a little thrill that comes with being asked for ID at the bar, and the bartender saying something incredibly flattering like, "You look about 17, so I had to ask." However when you're completely naked and an older woman says something along the lines of, "You must be, what, about a third my age?" you all of a sudden feel like a high school junior getting laughed out of a college party. Which, now that I think about it, often ended up with me naked too.

Naked people at a bar
Courtesy of Caliente Resorts

It's easier to be friendly when you're naked

Nudists are, by and large, some of the friendliest people I've ever met. Men and women started conversations with me, offered me beers, and generally seemed interested in what I was doing there. When you're that exposed everyone gives up on pretensions. "Well, we're all naked here," they think, "so we may as well just cut the bullshit." Nudity is a great equalizer. So a naked CEO can spend the afternoon with a naked fry cook, and it feels completely natural.

Swingers and fetishists overlap with nudists, but they're not the same thing

Some believe (wrongly) that nudist resorts are big swingers parties full of people with crazy piercings who all end up in some sort of "dungeon." And those who run clothing-optional resorts would tell you that's not true at all. But the truth lies somewhere in the middle. No, a nudist resort is not an orgy, and sexual contact is explicitly prohibited in public areas. But that’s not to say they aren't popular among swingers and fetishists too. Crazy afterparties do break out, but a great number are just there to hang out and drink some naked beers. And both are perfectly fine.

Caliente Resorts
Caliente Resorts Vacations

Nudity doesn't equal sex

One thing you hear a lot about Europe's attitude towards nudity is that they don't equate it with sex. A concept Americans -- aside from nudists -- don't seem to understand. But once you've spent time at a resort you realize there is absolutely nothing sexual about ordering a hamburger when you're naked. Nor is there anything arousing about sending emails with a bare ass. A naked day will teach you that you can interact, sans clothes, with people for a lot of things other than sex. And it reminds you that we are, in our essence, all still just animals.

Never underestimate the value of sunscreen

When you live in Florida like I do, you develop a tolerance to the sun. At least the parts of your body that see the sun do. But I forgot that nothing between my mid-thigh and waist had been exposed to the sun since I was 2 years old, and applied my usual SPF 15 to these newly exposed areas. It was not enough. About an hour in I began to feel a sensation I can only liken to having Tabasco sauce poured down your shorts, and I looked down to see my usually white groin area now a healthy shade of pink. Even after hastily throwing on my bathing suit and borrowing some SPF 45 from a highly entertained Caliente regular, my four-hour drive home was still especially uncomfortable.

Naked people in swimming pool
Get a load of that eye contact | Courtesy of Caliente Resorts

Eye contact is critically important

Whether we should or not, guys tend to have tractor-beam vision when it comes to breasts. And maybe, possibly, once in a while we tend to fixate on them instead of, ya know, actually listening. When you're talking to someone and completely naked, the last thing you want is them staring anywhere below your waist. So you get a sense of empathy for how women feel if we're looking down when they're trying to talk. Interestingly, you also don't tend to have the eye-contact problem when you are literally surrounded by naked breasts.

We naturally want to be clothed

It wasn't just because I was sunburned, but after a couple of hours I just felt the need to throw on some shorts. I also felt the need to see some other people with clothes on. Not that nudity is gross or really bothersome at all. It's just that trips out of your comfort zone, while educational, are still exactly that. And by the end of the day, I had a new appreciation for nudists, but definitely still prefer the clothed lifestyle.

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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer at Thrillist who has recovered nicely from his sunburn, thank you. Follow him on Instagram: @meltrez1.