Skinny dipping, also spelled skinny-dipping, is swimming naked, i.e. without any swimsuit. Skin(ny) diving is both used as a synonym and for free diving.
The term skinny dip, first recorded in English in the 1950s, includes the somewhat archaic word skinny, known since 1573, meaning "having to do with skin", as it exposed the naked hide; in World War II skinny was also used for the 'naked' truth.
The term is commonly used with a neutral tone to describe swimming in unheated water, but is also used when referring to going naked in hot tubs and hot springs.
It has a more mischievous connotation when describing swimming excursions (often under cover of darkness) in swimming pools or at beaches where one would be expected to wear swimsuits. In this sense, skinny dipping in mixed company (i.e. both males and females) has an element of sexual rebelliousness to it, though sexual activity does not necessarily take place.
In the UK skinny-dipping is often known as 'wild swimming' though this can also refer to simply swimming in nature.
In ancient times skinny dipping was the only method of swimming. Swimming suits had not been invented.
Benjamin Franklin, an avid swimmer, possessed a copy of the Art of Swimming by Melchisédech Thévenot, which featured illustrations of nude swimmers. Among other notable Americans, Presidents John Quincy Adams and Theodore Roosevelt are perhaps the best-known skinny-dippers. Quotations from the diary of Rev. Robert Francis Kilvert, an English skinny-dipper, in Cec Cinder's The Nudist Idea, show the transition in the England of the 1870s from an acceptance of nude bathing to the mandatory use of bathing suits.
Skinny dipping was once very common in the U.S., especially for young boys and girls swimming in a secluded pond, swimming hole, or section of a river. Swimsuits were originally uncommon in these settings, as they were made out of materials such as wool that required extra care to deal with and were of limited practical benefit.
Although modern swimwear is more practical, skinny dipping remains a fairly common activity in rural areas, where an unwanted audience of outsiders is rather unlikely; yet it may be forbidden even there by law. Today, many swimmers in the U.S. limit their skinny dipping to private locations due to concerns about being nude in public.
Before the YMCA began to admit females in the early 1960s, swimming trunks were not even allowed in the pools, and high school swimming classes for boys sometimes had similar policies, citing the impracticality of providing and maintaining sanitary swimming gear and clogging swimming pools' filtration systems with lint fibers from the swimsuits. These practices were common because of the perception that there was nothing wrong or sexual about seeing members of the same gender in the nude, especially in these indoor contexts among equals in 'birthday suit uniform'.
In the United States, various counties and municipalities may enact their own dress codes, and many have. There is no federal law against nudity. Nude beaches, such as Baker Beach in San Francisco, operate within federal park lands in California. However, under a provision called concurrent jurisdiction, federal park rangers may enforce state and local laws, or invite local authorities to do so.
Skinny dipping in modern culture
is not a visual medium, forms of nudity are easily accepted here.
- In classical Dutch language works of the Flemish authors Felix Timmermans and Ernest Claes, both also made into motion pictures which include the explicit scenes, title characters practice it in different ways: the adult Pallieter, who has recovered from a potentially lethal sickness, takes skinny dive in the river is symbolical for shedding his old stuffy city life in favor of hedonistic life in the country; the mischievous schoolboy nicknamed De Witte van Sichem, a farmhand's son, is caught by his mother skinny diving with classmates - at the adult's approach Witte hides himself, not because of his nudity, but because he was supposed to be at work; she recognizes and takes away his clothes, forcing him to return home covered only by leaves, expecting a good hiding.
- The Great Brain series of books by J. D. Fitzgerald, set in the 1800s, frequently includes chapters set at the old swimming hole.
- In the Soup children's series books by Robert Newton Peck, boys Soup and Rob sometimes go skinny-dipping. A chapter from the second book, Soup And Me where their clothes are stolen by bully Janice Ryker, leaving the boys stranded and forced to "borrow" dresses from a church rummage sale, was adapted into an episode of the ABC Weekend Special starring Shane Sinutko and Christian Berrigan.
- The Plague by Albert Camus features two of the lead characters, Rieux and Tarrou, swimming naked into the mediterranean from Oran beach.
- Skinny-Dipping at Monster Lake (Aladdin Fiction) is a children's book by Bill Wallace that tells the story of a group of boys trying to learn the secret behind the mystery of the glowing eyes they see in the lake.
- In Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom, Huck and Joe go skinny-dipping on their desert island hideaway.
- In Larry McMurtry's The Last Picture Show Jacy falls in with a crowd that frequently skinny dips and she has to at least once to fully be accepted by them.
- Several other popular books use, essentially, Skinny-dipping as or in the title.
- Most literature on Naturism uses the phrase "skinny-dipping" to set a relaxed tone, as in the YMCA photo.
- The R.E.M. song Nightswimming refers to skinny dipping (specifically at night).
- Alternative rock band 311 took its name from the "indecent exposure" code for the State of Nebraska, after former guitarist Jim Watson and bassist Aaron "P-Nut" Wills were caught skinny dipping.
- Skinny dipping can refer to swimming offshore from nude beaches.
- Skinny-dipping (Au Pairs, The) (2005) ISBN 1-4169-0382-8 For Grade 9 and up. Culturally, cutting edge.
Skinny dipping was a common subject of Old Masters and Romantic oil paintings, usually bucolic or in a mythological or historical setting. In later days it became rarer, but more likely to depict straight-forward contemporary scenes.
- The English painter Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929) is mainly known for various depictions of boys and young men who swim, dive and lounge, usually naked, on a boat or on the beach, sometimes in a traditional 'alibi' context, but after 1890 often just naturalistic, usually sexually innocent scenes with local youths in the Cornish fishing port of Falmouth where he settled in 1885.
- Norman Rockwell's painting No Swimming that adorned the cover of the June 4, 1921 edition of the Saturday Evening Post with boys in various states of undress escaping from the local authorities.
As for film, since a skinny dive is considered more innocent than nudity in an explicitly sexual context, skinny dipping scenes are unlikely to cause a scandal and stand a better chance of surviving the censor/ rating authorities' scrutiny.
- Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938) Even though there was a swimming hole scene shot from a distance, promotional stills were taken of Tommy Kelly in the nude.
- Child Bride (1938) gained notoriety for a lengthy scene involving a 12-year-old girl swimming naked while a leering older man observes.
- Oklahoma! (1955 film) Early in the film, Laurey is discretely seen skinny dipping in a watering hole as Ado Annie and Ali Hakim arrive.
- Tom Brown's School Days (1951) Group of British School children going swimming in this less famous adaptation.
- The Fool Killer (1965) Anthony Perkins and 12 year old Edward Albert take a break from the road to swim.
- Pollyanna (1969) Opening shot of classic Disney movie is of a group of "starkers" swimming under a railroad track.
- Easy Rider (1969) Emphasizes anarchic hippie style.
- The Last Picture Show (1971) set in Archer City, Texas contains an indoor naked pool use tradition including an 'initiation' consisting in divesting in full view.
- Walkabout (1971) emphasis on communing with Nature.
- Tom Sawyer (1973) Musical version even sings about "Tom and Huck swimming in the nude."
- In the very beginning of Jaws (1975), the character Chrissie Watkins goes skinny dipping in the ocean, and then gets eaten by the shark, becoming its first victim. Though the film was rated PG, her breasts and nipples were shown as she took off her shirt heading toward the water. Then, the camera gets a close-up on her exposed top underwater during the scene when the shark was coming up to her.
- In It's My Party (1996 film), a scene with naked young men taking a high dive and quickly getting out of the pool to dive again sets the image of the good old days of a wealthy gay couple.
- Bilitis (1977) Group of 6-7 teenage girls skinny dipping in a lake.
- Hair (1979 musical) Emphasizes anarchic hippie style.
- The Blue Lagoon (1980) Emmeline and Richard Lestrange (played by Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins) are shown skinny dipping in the sea together while growing up on a tropical island.
- Friday The 13th (1980) Horror film series became famous for skinny dippers who were stalked and killed by undead maniac Jason Voorhees and his mother.
- On Golden Pond (1981) Family skinny dipping intended to demonstrate open-minded nature of parents.
- For Your Eyes Only (1981) At the end of the film, Bond and Melina go skinny dipping.
- Gallipoli (1981) shows Commonwealth troops skinny dipped near a Mediterranean front.
- Paradise (1982) shows Phoebe Cates and Willie Aames shown skinny dipping in a desert oasis.
- Summer Lovers (1982) A young American couple visits the nude beaches on the Greek island of Santorini.
- National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Christie Brinkley skinny dipped in a motel swimming pool with Chevy Chase, who was later joined by Beverly D'Angelo.
- In the Dukes of Hazzard television show, Bo and Luke Duke go dipping.
- Ronia the Robber's Daughter (Sweden/Norway 1984). Ronia and her friend Birk (both 11) played and ran naked at a lake in the forest.
- Porky's Revenge (1985) The boys' basketball team was tricked into thinking that they were going to have an orgy with the cheerleaders. Before they jumped into the pool the boys stripped down to their boxers and the girls to their swimsuits. Then the girls tricked the boys into taking off their boxers while the girls threw a different swimsuit that came from a bag that they passed around so they could keep their suits on. When the boys approached the girls, the girls raced to the deep end and made the boys get out without their suits, and the girls filmed them.
- Children of a Lesser God (1986) Sarah Norman (Marlee Matlin) took a skinny dip in the deaf school's swimming pool.
- A Room with a View (1986, Academy Award winner) The Reverend Beebe remarks young Freddy Honeychurch is extraordinarily direct when in one sentence presenting himself and extending an invitation for a swim to his new neighbours' slightly older son George Emerson, but when the two invite him, he cheerfully accepts - after splashing and frolicking in and around the pool in the woods, they are surprised by Freddie's mother, his sister and her fiancé.
- Doc Hollywood (1991) In an apparent dream scene, actress Julie Warner is shown undressing and slipping into a river in the buff. Then Michael J. Fox is shown waking from the dream, stumbling outside nursing a hangover, which seems to disappear when Warner bursts starkers from the water, and he sees the conclusion of his dream. Fox offers her a cover, but she is unconcerned with her nakedness, aware that he's the new town doctor. After redressing, she sarcastically tells him, "You can blink now."
- At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991) Few of the cast didn't get naked at one point during this film of missionaries in South America - Daryl Hannah, Kathy Bates and Tom Berenger included.
- The Man in the Moon (1991) There is a scene in which Dani Trant (Reese Witherspoon) is seen behind foliage, removing her clothes, and then running and jumping in the swimming hole on a neighbor's land. She is soon surprised by Court Foster, Jason London, the new neighbor when jumps in the swimming hole with and chases her off.
- Return to the Blue Lagoon (1991) Lilli Hargrave and Richard Lestrange (played by Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause) are shown skinny dipping in the sea together while falling in love on a tropical island.
- Radio Inside (1994) Matthew stripped naked before attempting suicide by swimming into the open sea.
- Threesome (1994) shy Eddy needs some encouragement from his two college roommates to strip down and follow them into a lake - afterwards they are surprised by a class of school kids.
- Exit to Eden (1994) Lisa Emerson (Dana Delany) and Diana (Stephanie Niznik) are shown skinny dipping in the swimming pool at a sexual fantasy resort.
- Camilla (1994) Jessica Tandy took a dip.
- Now and Then (1995) Teenagers Roberta Martin and Tina Tercell (Christina Ricci and Thora Birch) stole the clothes of skinny dipping brothers, including Devon Sawa.
- Dante's Peak (1997) a skinny-dipping couple were surprised by volcanic heat and boiled alive.
- Gattaca (1997) Brothers Vincent Freemon(Ethan Hawke) & Anton Freemon(Loren Dean)skinny dip in the ocean, competing to see who can swim the farthest.
- Lawn Dogs (1997), Trent stopped his truck on a high bridge, forcing passing traffic to witness him stripping completely and diving off starkers.
- Wilde (1997, life of the witty playwright Oscar) several men jumped off an English seaside resort pier in various attire, from full bathing suits to stark naked.
- Shadrach (1998) A family from the 1930s took a swim together at the old mill pond.
- The Parent Trap (1998) One of the girls has to go skinny-dipping, nothing much is shown except maybe a silhouette.
- Mulan (1998) Mulan (Ping), Ling, Yao and Chien-Po are skinny-dipping in the pond at the Moo-Shung Camp.
- Cruel Intentions (1999), main character Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) arranged to meet Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon) while he's skinny dipping indoors, who wore a one piece swimsuit while swimming with him.
- In the anime series Inuyasha (2000) Skinny dipping is a frequent task for the character Kagome.
- Y tu mamá también (2001) two upper-class Mexican best friends frolicked and jumped in the pool together naked.
- In an episode of the anime series Naruto the character Hinata Hyuga is seen dancing naked on the water, while the main protagonist Naruto Uzumaki watches, not knowing who it is.
- In the television series Kyle XY, the character Josh Trager goes skinny-dipping with a girl in a jacuzzi, only to be subsequently caught.
- Open Season (2006) Bob and Bobbie go skinny-dipping. The skinny-dipping segment is expanded in the short film Boog and Elliot's Midnight Bun Run.
- Wild Hogs (2007) John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy got caught skinny dipping in a roadside pond by a picnicking family.
- Hippie Hippie Shake (2008) Sienna Miller goes skinny dipping with co-stars. Her private parts had to be 'digitally enhanced,' however, because her personal grooming style did not reflect the historical time period of the film.
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