Writer: Brian Scott Hoffman
Title: Making Private Parts Public
Subtitle: American Nudism And The Politics of Nakedness, 1929-1963
Place of Publication: Ann Arbor, MI
Publisher: ProQuest, UMI Dissertation Publishing
Year of Publication: 2011
Price: USD 69.00 + postage
The nudist movement's struggle to make private parts public reveals the multiple and contradictory conceptions of the naked body in the modern United States. Beginning in 1929, nudists championed the therapeutic benefits of exposing the body to the sun and fresh air in gymnasiums, on beaches, and at secluded rustic camps. Over the next three decades, the movement attracted health enthusiasts, titillated men and women of all sexualities, and clashed with moral reformers intent on preserving the boundaries of decency in American Society. This dissertation argues that the nudist movement opened new spaces for sexual expression in American society and culture by making it difficult to distinguish the erotic from the therapeutic and the illicit from the respectable. Celebrating the mental, physical, and moral benefits of going naked while also tempting the public with its attractive magazines and films, nudists developed a sprawling network of clubs across the country and, by the late 1950s, after several drawn-out legal battles, the movement won the right to distribute its magazines through the mails and screen its films in almost any theater in the United States. A critical analysis of the leadership, organization, principles, and legal conflicts that defined nudism as a movement provides a lens to examine social and cultural assumptions about the body normally hidden from public view and historical interpretation. This dissertation contributes to historical studies of sexuality that have documented the emergence of a more open sexual culture in the United States by analyzing previously unrecognized cultural developments and movements.