I am not a naturist in real life: any longer! I am not a regular naturist even in Second Life, I prefer the social interaction and shopping for clothes when I play, which isn’t a very regular occurrence. But I have been a naturist in the past in both of my lives, the real and the virtual.
Let me explain. I grew up in the DDR, the Democratic German republic, or East Germany as you might know it better, in the late 1960s and 1970s. Of course we were behind the invisible wall that divided us from western Europe, and the real wall that divided us from West Germany, the Federal German Republic as it was known then.
What you think you know about East Germany is probably mostly true, including the bit about East Germans embracing the naturist lifestyle. Of course we did. I maybe wasn’t aware of the full reasons as to why we were all so readily naked at the beach back then. Now, I know it is because it represented a little bit of freedom from what was a very structured and observed life. With the authorities watching all of us, and the Stasi spying on many of us, maybe even me, the FKK beach, the Freikoerperkultur beach, the nudist beach, was a freedom.
I grew a few kilometres outside the town of Wismar, not so far from the West German border, right on the coast of the Ostsee, the Baltic Sea, and summers were often spent at the beach perhaps just like people in West Germany, in England or in America.
I don’t remember that we ever wore swimming costumes at the beach. I don’t remember owning one. We simply went to the beach and everyone got naked to swim and enjoy the sun. I would meet schoolfriends there, male and female, and it seemed normal to see them naked. Or to see the butcher naked, or the woman who worked in the bakery, or my parents. All was normal. At home, at bath time, my brother and I would be bathed together. I cannot remember thinking that he looked so different to me that he had a penis and I did not, that I had a vagina and he did not.
There were four of us children. I have an older brother, two years older, and a sister one year younger and brother three years younger. When I was maybe ten years old all four of us would walk or bicycle to the beach and spend all day there, every day, in summer. At weekends our parents would accompany us.
I didn’t think I was naturist because I had no framework to say ‘this is strange compared to others in the world’. It was how things were. But I do remember starting to feel a little bit shy and embarrassed for one summer when my breasts began to grow, pubic hair appeared and I began to menstruate. For that time I was not so free with my naked body. My female school friends would have been the same. By the following summer the feels of shame or embarrassment at a changing body had gone, we were all back to being naked, every day in summer.
At home, too, all the year, nudity was normal in circumstances where nudity might be expected, either in the bathroom or between the bathroom and bedroom. There was no shame involved, and no shame even during the period of body change. As a young woman, rather than a girl, the act of being naked on the beach became a little more ‘cool’ with us maybe segregating by sex to spend time with a bunch of girl friends and the boys did the same. When ten years old I would have climbed naked onto the shoulders of my brother and he would throw me off and into the sea in our games. Following puberty? No. And in turn my younger brother would climb onto my shoulders and sit naked and I would do the same with him, throw him off into the sea. Games until puberty.
When the time came to choose a boyfriend I ended up with a guy in my brother’s class. Before we started dating we had long been aware of each other’s naked bodies. When the time came to make love for the first time we stripped without fear or embarrassment, already familiar with how the other one looked unclothed. It made the subsequent act of lovemaking much less difficult, I think, than for many others. My first time of sex was nice, I think, not awkward. This is a benefit of that naturist upbringing.
I moved away to Berlin, to university, and the naturism was no more. Of course I was quite accepting of the naked body. I slept nude on hot summer nights, I wandered my student apartment naked if it was warm. I was there at the Wall when people began to knock it down. It felt like such a release. Maybe it is appropriate or not to say that my boyfriend and I stood crying and laughing as it fell and my memory tells me I had an orgasm. My boyfriend and I went home and made love many times with a wildness I had not had in sex before or since.
Once free to travel, I travelled. Sometimes a naturist beach would be close and I would happily swim and sunbathe naked but I didn’t seek it out. I didn’t feel necessarily drawn to being naked. In fact, I bought my first bikini to wear on a beach because it looked sexy.
I have never married or had children. My partner and I now split our time between a home in Berlin and an apartment in Croatia. I sunbathe topless but rarely am I fully nude in public situations. I am not ashamed of my body, but it is a case of us not having much opportunity to be naked on beaches. We sauna together once a week and of course there is nudity there, of both sexes, but I don’t think of this as naturism.
East German naturists, 1989
(Received text translated via Google translate by Ella: Monika photos by Diane Toxx)