Skinbook: Facebook for 21st Century Nudists, What's next???

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The rules for Skinbook are clear: No pornographic images or headless torso shots. Don't leave sleazy comments under people's photos. Boot out any "creeps and voyeurs," as site executives call them, who manage
to make it past the vetting process for new members. is a U.K.-based website that proudly touts itself as the Net's only genuine nudist social network. Skinbook capitalizes on users' familiarity with Facebook-style member profiles, messages,
forums and groups. Except that, unlike on Facebook, everyone's naked. (See pictures inside Facebook headquarters.)

"For younger people, nudism is free from politics or activism. It's purely recreational," explains Skinbook's 25-year-old co-founder Karl Maddocks. "For younger nudists, it's just about going off to the beach
and getting some beers out and just being yourself around like-minded
people," says Maddocks, who by day is a (fully-clothed) student of
politics and sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University. "The idea
of going to a walled-off nudist club or colony populated with single
elderly guys in sandals and socks, to me that's just too cultish and

To be sure, nudists have been around since Adam and Eve, but the Internet has made finding like-minded clothes shunners that much simpler. Bona fide nudist sites abound, including ones like, which states that it is geared specifically for
"Bible-believing Christian nudists and naturists." But what sets
Skinbook apart is its social functionality that appeals to a younger
demographic. Maddocks says the average age of Skinbook's roughly 9,000
members is between 35 and 40 years old (and falling), while the common
ages of nudist clubs and associations usually hover north of 55 or 60.
Skinbook also skews more female and more couples, while most nudist
outlets are dominated by single men. (See a photographic history of the bikini.)

"We try to keep up the quality of membership," says Maddocks. "We get about 200 sign-ups a day, but we only accept about 10% of applicants due to the poor or X-rated quality of most attempts to
join." (Comment on this story.)

Skinbook began by accident in 2008 after Maddocks bumped into some of his fellow Manchester students on a clothing-optional beach in Wales. "We couldn't communicate on MySpace and Facebook about nudism
since we were all kind of embarrassed. So we said, 'Let's start our own
forum and call it Skinbook.' The rest is history." (See the top 10 Facebook stories of 2009.)

Membership is free on Skinbook, which manages to turn a small profit thanks to a smattering of nudist-related ads on the site. Co-founder Jessica Kennedy, 24, monitors the site to keep it safe for female
Skinbookers. "Right from the start, any sexism or abusive behavior
towards women simply wasn't an option."

Those who don't pass muster will have to be content gazing at the Skinbook fan page on Facebook, which has more than 2,600 followers. (See the 50 best websites of 2009.)

According to the American Association for Nude Recreation, naturist travel is now a $440 million industry, up from $200 million in 1992. So it's no surprise that this summer Skinbook will expand out of the
virtual world for the first time and into the real one. In mid-July, an
estimated 800 Skinbookers will meet face to face (and cheek to cheek)
at the British seaside resort of Brighton for an organized retreat of
naked day spas, bare beach barbeques and clothed pub socializing.

Much like the people you're likely to encounter on a nude beach, Skinbook members aren't all tanned, taut and toned. "I think it's a bit of a counterculture movement against the body-beautiful thing at the
moment," Maddocks says of the renewed interest in nudism. "It's all
well and good to look nice, but there's just too much pressure on
everyone to be perfect. With guys, if you don't have a six-pack, then
you're an ugly loser. For girls, if you don't have fake boobs and a
nice butt, then you're a 'fat bitch.' It's pathetic. What we're saying
is, Just enjoy being yourself."

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