SentientFest takes place August 3-8, 2021 You can purchase tickets HERE

Nudist. Naturist. Or None of the Above?


We come together; we fall apart. We create new inroads; we get stale, and then we get revitalized. Leadership changes, feelings get hurt. In times of uncertainty, some bear down and cling to the original ideas while others tear down what wasn’t working and start a new framework. In this ever-changing world, we strive for something better. Sometimes we don’t see all the moving parts of what makes movements thrive. It is here that I want to thank everyone, every free beach, every Nudist camp, and all the organizations that have put such a fantastical effort into carrying this movement forward. Still, it doesn’t end here – it’s just the beginning of the next exciting phase!


Who am I, and why would I take this on?

My name is Brian Leonard, and I am the Ambassador of a Body Justice/Body Autonomy event called “SENTIENT Fest” (formerly the Northeast Naturist Festival). I live out as a queer, naked person that loves to camp in the nude with my family. Others have attempted to judge me and punish me for my naked activities – so I found it strange how much judgment there is within the naked movement and how this is a hindrance to getting back to that vibrant, activated, diverse and inclusive nature of the best movements.

I am a member of FCN: Federation of Canadian Naturists, TNS: The Naturist Society, NAC: the Naturist Action Committee and AANR: American Association of Nude Recreation. I have at least 100 other affiliations with other non-sanctioned groups, couples, and individuals who are actively eclipsing and expanding the tenets, perceptions, and experiences of the naked movement.

Our major organizations have found it worthy of arguing and judging about where naked culture gets to sunbathe?!?

I have news for them… It’s NOT just about the naked sunbathing naked wars ANYMORE – its SO DAMN MUCH MORE THAN THAT!

Expanding naked ethical culture and beyond is at the forefront of my intentions. I do not judge WHAT KIND OF ETHICAL NAKED you are – we leave that responsibility up to you.

If the first thing you do is attempt to judge a person by the concept if they are a Nudist or a Naturist – you’ve lost half the battle of expanding naked ethical culture. You’ve just lost an opportunity to meet them where they are at. Be welcoming, be a resource, be a supporter – you may only find that they are the future – not you! I continually work at rediscovering the initial joyous moments of discovering tremendous body freedom before the divisive concepts of Nudism and Naturism clouded my heart and my vision.

If you choose to hold your version of being naked above others because you think you know more of its history or just because you recycle and have more of an earthy connection than others – please lay your judgments down at our front door! If you think nudity represents open season and incessant cruising, you won’t be happy here.

It should be known that we are not without our own boundaries, as you will see below. As a festival director, Ambassador, and public FB group provider (Naked Diversity, Human Sexual, Cuddle Party Syracuse/Ithaca, Aging Disgracefully, PYRK Collective, F.E.A.R. Council of CNY, and more), I represent a moving target for haters and judgers! CONSENT plays a critical role at SENTIENT Fest as well as all social engagements. Judgments are natural, but we can also strive to apply much more compassion than exists today in the rather insular side of the Naturist Society movement! Nudists have a welcoming spirit and will openly tell you that their organization suffers from dysfunction. 

So I found myself in the sometimes difficult position of pushing beyond the harsh dictates of Nudists and the very vague, “wholesome values” of Naturists. I opted for less obsession about being naked and instead chose a route that opens the surrounding communities to come in as well as us going out and meeting them on their terms rather than looking for converts. As the more experienced of us come to realize – enjoying the benefits of ethically naked times is far from anyone’s first choice for rejuvenation and community – even if we could offer a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

My “mission” is NOT to engage in Naturist or Nudist Evangelism/Missionary work. I see myself as a resource or a beacon, not a dictator of forced values and judgments. People that enjoy ethical nudity don’t need to be “SAVED” or “GUIDED” by our major nudist/naturist organizations or converted. Newbies or interested parties aren’t hapless or directionless – they just discovered something so breathtakingly unique that they wonder why they never tried it sooner. AND…thats part of it – we all discovered it in our way, at our time, at our own pace.


After years of having incredible conversations with members of both major nude organizations as well as asking questions and reading available materials – I began to see how long-standing differences of opinions, judgments, divisiveness, and propaganda were perpetuated within the movement and may very well be the cause of faltering numbers, members who don’t vote and others who judge you for not being “their accepted or vetted version of naked.”

As I began to see the fractures in the broader naked movement and my own previously biased attitudes in a different light – I began to conceptualize a workshop and panel discussion called “Nudist? Naturist? Or None of the Above”. We featured key individuals from many facets of the movement. The goal? Is there a chance for unity and diversity? Is there a way to move beyond the divisions and rediscover the heart rather than the stuffy intellectual prejudices? I was so activated to OPEN the landscape to differences that I renamed my fully 100% public Facebook group to its updated title – “Naked Diversity”!

In nudity, as with politics, religion, and sports – there is unfortunate and underlying divisiveness. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Catholics verse Baptists, the Yankees fans verse the Mets fans, or the Republicans verse Democrats. Labels always work UNTIL they don’t. I don’t identify as a Democrat, which for many, automatically means that I am a Republican (couldn’t be farther from the truth). If I don’t like the Yankees or the Mets – it must tell that I don’t like baseball – nope. And since I don’t identify as a Naturist, then I must be a Nudist! Nope – I refuse to categorize myself based on everything I’ve learned over the last ten years of asking questions of those well connected with both organizations (many of those were in the inner circle of both TNS and AANR). 

I no longer use the terms Naturist or Nudist for all due purposes. I am proudly NONE OF THE ABOVE – and it is the most liberating thing a person could consider!

Parks and campgrounds that don’t carry the AANR seal of approval are considered swinger hangouts – how vane and almighty you are to judge us. Naturists assume that real naturism can not exist without FORCED non-clothing rules at their clubs/campgrounds. In this day and age of BODY AUTONOMY – there are those of us that seek embodied choices whether they have clothing or not. Naturists also tend to assume nefarious acts occur at non-Naturist private clubs and campgrounds (even though they strangely attend them).

In my own experience, the terms are divisive, threatening, and an impediment to rediscovering one’s original and evolving intentions concerning their nudity, regardless of whether it is public or private. The incredible freedom I received from NOT judging other people in the movement – especially the newbies (these people are lovely!) has been nothing short of monumental for me. I get to see how all the different and glorious contributions of people who bring such delight to my personal experience and their own! It is truly and totally OK – not to rush down the pre-ordained escalator of Nudist or Naturist. But first, like anything important – you have to trust yourself rather than have somebody else think for you. 

In naked culture, believe it or not – there are two gangs: Naturists and Nudists (its the Crips verse the Bloods except without clothing!) And just as any other established groups sharing the same landscape – they are engaged in their petty little battles. The organizations further break down into “The Naturist Society” (TNS) and the other being the American Association of Nudist Recreation (AANR). As impressive as their titles are – they are typically split down the middle on how to be nude, what to do while naked, and dictating “wholesome values” (which usually means private consensual sexuality or polyamory be eradicated at every step). The Naturist leaders call themselves “Nudists with more” (Morley Schloss and Stefan Deschane) – the “more” part usually means they recycle and enjoy a high level of connection with nature (something most Nudists do as well as many in the textile world also do). 

Naturists have taken it upon themselves (they were never asked to be the chosen arbiter of naked values) to create what they describe as the spectrum or a binary. Nudists on one side and Naturists on the other. They believe all people fall somewhere in the spectrum. They describe themselves as being comfortable labeling people as a helpful gauge. Unfortunately – their version comes off more like a ladder. Nudists at the bottom and Naturists on the top. The surface belief is that Nudists don’t care about the history of “the movement,” Nudists like to party and sometimes will engage in consensual private sex with other adults (apparently attraction or nudist relationships with a private sexual component are not supposed to happen?) Other unwholesome acts are sometimes called swinging, but more often than not, it is the ultimate ethical practice of “polyamory” that has many ESTABLISHED naked groups up in arms). On the other hand, naturists are likened to the scholars of the movement (or the fundamentalists). Their nudity is more profound and more well-read, but unfortunately, they even fall short of their own lofty Naturist Enlightenment! 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there! Historically, the Naturists like to sunbathe on public lands, primarily beaches (yet they love to attend private nudist camps to have their reunions & festivals rather than on public lands). Nudists, on the other hand, apparently love to sunbathe at private camps with large fences and walls – and have been observed to partake in such libertarian past times as smoking and drinking adult beverages behind their walled nature preserves – without the threat of uninformed and intimidating police forces. 

Empire Haven (where SENTIENT Fest is held) is private, but there are no walls, moats, or barbed wire fences on closer look. It butts directly up to state land, and a walk on the nature trail may bring one face to face with hunters during turkey season on their side of the state line! I’m not sure how the movement got to be relegated to sunbathing on public lands verse private lands, but it turns out that both organizations contribute in lesser-known areas. Read on for more information! 

Both organizations do their best to share the early history of the movement. They also seek to protect what little rights Nudists and Naturists have. They promise to monitor bills and laws that may unjustly curtail body rights. They try to protect public lands designated as naturist beaches and, on occasion, lose those battles. They both print an informative magazine, and they are both in desperate need of new members and volunteers as both are on the decline ( I wonder why?). If you identify with their objectives, they would desperately appreciate your support – preferably over your lifetime. They also offer referrals and resources for individuals or families struggling with navigating divorces or meddling parents or relatives threatening legal action where ethical nudity is not being respected. Founders and purveyors of both organizations cross over and share views to broaden what was a very limiting scope previously. 

So what does a person do that wants to try naked camping or sunbathing? FIRST – don’t be railroaded down a single path. Don’t allow your values to be compromised and never give up why rediscovering the heart of why you enjoy ethical nudity! Stand up for your version of what naked ethical culture means to you! Don’t resort to the petty and uninformed judgment of others – it hurts the movement with “holier than thou” sentiments! Find ways to contribute to the movement! Work on expanding your perspective to see the incredibly new and vibrant groups and individuals growing like wildfire!

***For SENTIENT Fest attendees: We prefer that you choose to honor our CONSENT FIRST approach in all your social dealings as well as our Code of Conduct/Ethics.

This is our way of giving everyone a sizable field of choices and expression while exhibiting boundaries. At the top of our list is creating the most straightforward lines possible to reduce abuse, trauma, and confusion. We prefer that you practice a high quality of self-regulation, refrain from excessive intoxication, honor our grounds, our seasonal camping community, and, most of all, honor each other. If you have any questions after reading our C.o.C., please contact me!

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