|Naked kicker (foosball), anyone?|
Americans are prudes – at least from the perspective of the Germans and the Europeans. I think my favorite example of this on the continental scale is the fact that American children are vigilantly shielded from exposed nipples and buttocks, sexual innuendo, and the like, but are free to (or implicitly allowed to) bathe themselves in blood, guts, and torture in films and games. Now, the last thing I want to do here is start a debate about guns and violence – it's like arguing with somebody over the existence of god. This article is all about the nudity, folks.
But so the point is, Americans view being naked as something fiercely private, while violence is and was historically a part of everyday (and public) life. I have a hunch that this contrast with Europe can be traced all the way back to America's prudish, Protestant roots, which were combined with an often lawless, vigilante-type justice as the U.S. expanded into an ever-westward-moving frontier with no discernable governmental structures. I've read many theories about Europe's relative lack of a culture of violence (a sort of counter-movement to the long history of wars, the fact that violence was exclusively the instrument of the nation rather than a part of individual volition, etc.); but I think the rise of FKK – in the sense of nudity being a completely normal thing, even in public – could perhaps be connected to Europe's secularization, which is often accompanied or replaced by a certain naturalism.
|Two East-Berliners enjoying a little naked time.|
A very quick aside: the birth of the FKK movement in Germany coincided with a nudism movement in the U.S., which never really blossomed into the mass movement seen in Germany.
So in 1954, GDR culture minister Johannes R. Becher declared: 'Schont den Augen der Nation!' (Spare the eyes of the nation!') as he closed down over 50 designated nude bathing spots throughout the country. Too many wrinkles, too much hair, too many body parts where they shouldn't necessarily be, too much...you get the idea. So FKK continued to gain popularity in the East after this declaration, to the point that it became one of the major defining aspects of East German culture. By the time the Wall came down, the Wessi (West German) was amused, and sometimes apalled, by the Ossi's (East German) penchant for not just sunbathing naked, but playing sports and hanging out in the nude. A 'Höschenkrieg' ('War of the Knickers') ensued on Baltic Sea beaches as the knicker-ful Wessis encountered the knicker-less Ossis. But why so popular in the East?? According to an article from NDR, some have blamed the lack of stylish bathing attire, some say Ossis were trying to carve out a bit of freedom in an otherwise oppressive regime. I'll let you decide, but I personally think that without the official ban in 1954, there is no mass movement.
|FKK-themed clothing: so itchy, you'll|
instantly want to disrobe. (Photo: Amazon.com)
Anyway, this 'Knicker War' has in fact had a strong and long-term detrimental effect on the FKK movement in general. The ranks today are dwindling and aging (check out this video in German – at your own risk – interviewing real live FKK-enthusiasts), and I think we can all see that the latter isn't doing any favors for the former. I mean, let's just say, purely hypothetically, that a 26-year-old American male were to arrive at an Austrian FKK beach in Austria's Salzkammergut for a little skinny dip, in hopes of curing his societally conditioned prudishness, only to find he is the sole swimmer/sunbather/reader/badminton player born after the Berlin Wall was built. Suffice it to say that even if said wrinkly nudists were the hippest, friendliest 55-plussers around, I still wouldn't have felt compelled to return, much less visit the official website and pay to membership fee.
|The Sternfahrt: an event for cycling awareness,|
or a perfect opportunity for an FKK demonstration?
In the end, I think FKK as a movement will more or less die out with the current generation, but the underlying perspective of Europeans toward sex and nudity remains worlds 'ahead' of the U.S. I at least like to think that I'm not nearly as prude as I was when I first set foot in Germany and had my first FKK experience.