This article originally appeared on VICE France.
Pierre, 34, has been a naturist for over a decade. He had planned to spend his summer vacation in Cap d'Agde, a seaside destination near the border between France and Spain. Dubbed "the world's biggest naturist resort", Cap d'Agde is a nudist town-within-a-town, offering supermarkets, boutiques, hair salons and even a post office with a recommended undress code.
The resort recently reopened its doors to tourists after the French lockdown, strongly encouraging visitors to wear a face mask with their birthday suit. But Pierre simply couldn’t wrap his head around covering his face while the rest of his body is naked – so he cancelled his trip. To be clear, while wearing a mask is merely a government recommendation in most public places in France, it's obligatory in all shops, schools and on public transport as of publication. Transgressors risk a fine of 135 euros.
For most naturists, living in the buff has nothing to do with sex. According to International Naturist Federation, naturism is a lifestyle in “harmony with nature, characterised by the practice of communal nudity".
“Naturism gives us a feeling of freedom and equality with everyone, regardless of anyone’s social status,” said Mathieu, a 30-something from northwestern France who enjoys the lifestyle with his girlfriend Morgane. The couple believe wearing a face mask is in contradiction with this lifestyle and plan to ignore the government recommendations while vacationing at nudist beaches this summer. As far as they’re concerned, keeping distance from other sunbathers will be enough.
Arnault, a student introduced to naturism by his parents, had planned to go camping in Brittany for his first holiday with naturist friends. But the 20-year-old Parisian decided to cancel, dreading having to wear a mask while camping or at the beach. “I don’t see the point of naturism if I’m going to be forced to wear a mask,” he said, describing the idea as "stupid". Instead, he plans on cooling off in nudist pools this summer, which are more commonly used for swimming only and not sunbathing or hanging out.
Meanwhile, the French Naturist Federation hosted live streams and set at-home challenges for their members during lockdown, asking them to stage nature photoshoots in their living rooms or organising a competition for the best naked gardening pictures. The federation's president Viviane Tiar has stressed that members should comply with face masks rules both in her videos and on the organisation's website. “Just because we don’t wear clothes, doesn’t mean we can’t wear masks,” she said. “It’s not anti-nudist. It just means you respect the rules and want to help avoid a second wave of coronavirus.”
With many summer events cancelled, Tiar hopes nudist beaches will be able to stay open throughout the summer. “Not everyone is lucky enough to have a garden where they can go nude,” she said, urging members of the community to "stay conscious and focused”. Ultimately – for vacationers, homebound and beach nudists alike – 2020's restrictions might be a bit of a bummer. But the naked truth is: safety comes first.