The folks in that picture look pretty comfortable wearing nothing at all, don’t they? They’re self-confident enough to pose for the camera without any embarrassment. How could they manage that? Perhaps two main reasons are that they like being naked and they’ve come to realize that nudity isn’t anything to be embarrassed about.
But there has to be at least one other factor. They don’t worry about how anyone else in society will judge them for not wearing clothes. Why? Because they understand that all the reasons naturist nudity is so controversial and considered very “abnormal” in our society are simply without merit, at least as applied to themselves. These meritless “reasons” are based on a variety of misconceptions. Anyone else who wants to enjoy naturism without shame or embarrassment should learn how to debunk the misconceptions they’re likely to hear.
The misconceptions are so numerous that hoping to list all of them is unrealistic. But it’s possible at least to make a good start. So let’s first enumerate many misunderstandings a naturist may encounter. And then we’ll briefly explain why the objections are wrong.
- There must be good reasons why so few people choose to go naked around others, even when it’s legally permissible.
- There are serious religious strictures – that must be obeyed – against nudity around anyone but one’s spouse.
- Nudity around people other than a spouse is inherently immoral, or likely to lead to immoral behavior.
- Certain parts of the body are meant to be “private”, and exposure of them in most circumstances is basically immoral, “indecent”, and/or “offensive”.
- People claiming to be interested in naturism and social nudity are actually more interested in sexuality and “swinging”.
- People who enjoy being naked around others are “exhibitionists”, “perverts”, or “deviants” who get illicit pleasure from showing off their “private” parts or causing offense.
- Anyone who lets others see them naked is probably unpredictable, psychologically unstable, sexually obsessed, or simply “abnormal”.
- Nudity is illegal if seen, even accidentally, by anyone not expecting it.
- Nudity is unsanitary.
- People who are openly naked are probably insensitive to the feelings of others.
- The naked bodies of most people just don’t look that good. So most others don’t want to see them and find them unpleasant or even “disgusting” to look at.
- Many people can’t help feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed by seeing others naked.
- People who unwillingly see others naked shouldn’t have to deal with the sexual emotions they can’t help feeling.
- Anyone who tolerates the nudity of others they live with might be accused of condoning improper or immoral behavior, or at least feel embarrassed to talk about it.
- Being around people who are naked might make others feel temptation or pressure into being naked against their better judgment.
- Seeing adult nudity is directly harmful to children, who could be “traumatized” by exposure to nudity.
- Having to explain the “private” body parts of men and women would make discussions of sexuality necessary when children are too young to understand.
- Seeing adult nudity may desensitize children to nudity and leave them vulnerable to sexual predators.
I’ll rephrase these misconceptions into a smaller number of questions that non-naturists often ask about naturism and nonsexual nudity in general. Each question deserves a much fuller discussion, but for now a few sentences in response to each one will serve as a place to start. Readers are encouraged to suggest their own responses (in the comments).
- Why do so few people seem to be open naturists or interested in social nudity?
The number of people who often or occasionally enjoy nonsexual nudity either privately or with others is probably much larger than it seems. However, the fact that this enjoyment is considered abnormal and contrary to the prevailing norm in most societies is almost certainly the main reason the apparent number seems to be small. Naturists usually aren’t ashamed about enjoying nudity. But, because of the prevailing social attitudes, there are various risks associated with being open about this preference. Potential risks include social ostracism, negative effects on one’s employment, and possible significant disapproval from family, relatives, and friends.
- Isn’t nudity illegal in pubic almost everywhere, possibly even in private homes?
Laws about nudity vary quite widely from country to country and place to place. There are many places where laws and customs against nudity are very harsh. However, many places in Western Europe and some of the Americas have laws that are considerably more tolerant of nudity than is generally supposed. This is especially true if naturists are careful not to cause deliberate offense to others. So naturists try to know the legal situation of nudity anywhere they might wish to enjoy it.
In most places, there are few if any laws against nudity in one’s own home. Some caution may be necessary regarding what neighbors or people walking past a home are able to see. The problem can be solved with good shades, blinds, or drapes for the windows. If naturists want to be naked outside on their property, they’ll try to stay out of sight from neighbors, or discuss the issue with them and try to reach an agreement that satisfies any concerns.
- Isn’t there a conflict between nudity and religion?
That, of course, depends on the teachings of specific religions. With most religions the fundamental scriptures hardly deal with nudity at all or only in passing. Religious teachings about the origins of the universe and the place of humans in the scheme of things – how people came to be and the nature of their ultimate fate – don’t involve nudity in any essential way.
Many people still expect religion to tell them what is or isn’t “moral”. But religions, mistakenly, often associate nudity with sexuality – which religions assume a duty to regulate. So they generally teach that most nudity is immoral or likely to lead to immoral behavior. Nevertheless, a number of “faith-based” organizations exist specifically for naturists who follow the religion. And even a recent Roman Catholic Pope (John Paul II) has stated that “Impurity of body only occurs when nudity plays a negative role with respect to the value of the person.” Naturists generally believe that clothes disguise the value of a person, while nudity affirms it without embarrassment or shame.
- Aren’t many active or potential naturists actually swingers, fetishists, exhibitionists, potential pedophiles, suffering psychological problems, or just looking for sexual gratification?
Naturism is strictly about nonsexual nudity, and naturists don’t tolerate open sexuality in their naturist activities. Swinging and other types of unconventional sexuality among consenting adults are entirely different from naturism, although some who engage in such things may also be naturists as long as they aren’t openly sexual in naturist events. Pedophiles and people with other dangerous psychological problems aren’t welcome anywhere.
- Aren’t certain parts of the body necessarily “private” and meant to be seen only by others that one is in a close relationship with?
It’s an arbitrary belief in many cultures that certain body parts should be “private”, but it has no basis in either religion or logic. The notion that clothes have to cover “private” parts, and nudity must be avoided, is typically passed along to young children from one generation to the next by the socialization process. Children may even be taught that others may be “shocked” or “offended” by seeing “private” parts. It is important, instead, to teach children that although nudity may be unsafe with certain people who might harm them, there are many more situations when nudity is both safe and sometimes even appropriate.
- Shouldn’t people almost always wear clothes because the naked bodies of most people are unattractive or even “offensive” to be seen?
This is another example of cultural conditioning that often begins to affect children about the time they enter elementary school – if not sooner. In this case, it’s partly the fault of the “beauty”, “fashion”, and “fitness” industries that want to persuade people to use the industry’s products in order to be considered good-looking and attractive to others. Many celebrities also promote their bodies as “ideal” in order to receive the attention they crave. Children and teenagers acquire their sense of what an “ideal” body should look like from what they see in the media.
- Isn’t it difficult to overcome discomfort and embarrassment about one’s naked body?
It isn’t actually that difficult, but it can be tricky and take a little time and effort. That’s because, like most people, anyone interested in naturism or already experimenting with it has been socialized with negative ideas about nudity. They’ve been conditioned to think bodies that aren’t “perfect” are unattractive and that certain parts shouldn’t be exposed at all. This conditioning causes discomfort and possible embarrassment about one’s own nudity and that of others. So a little time – but usually not a lot – may be needed to become comfortable and unembarrassed when naked around others who may or may not also be naked. However, that’s also true with other unfamiliar social experiences, such as public speaking, performing in front of an audience, or taking on a more responsible position at work.
If the people one lives with aren’t uncomfortable with seeing nudity, it should be easiest to begin by spending as much time naked as possible and convenient at home. But if that won’t work, starting out by being naked while hiking or camping alone is just as good. From that point, it’s not hard to become comfortable naked at clothing-optional beaches or in naturist groups where nudity is already “normal”. The idea is just to avoid thinking at all about the nudity and instead focus on enjoying being free of clothes whenever and wherever possible. That’s usually a lot easier than one might think. Naturists find that being naked feels perfectly “normal” as soon as others understand and accept one’s preference for wearing nothing.
- Nudity seems like it might not be very “sanitary”.
Nudity isn’t necessarily unsanitary at all. Naturists, in particular, are always advised to have a towel or some other accessory with them, like a sarong, that can be placed anywhere they intend to sit. They also tend to shower or bathe more frequently, simply because it’s convenient and easy while naked. Frequent showering or bathing also takes care of body odors that might incompletely be masked by clothing.
- Are naturists sensitive enough to the embarrassment or aversion to nudity that non-naturists may have if exposed to nudity?
Naturists try to be considerate of others who aren’t comfortable around nudity and usually will try to avoid situations where that’s possible. If they perceive that embarrassment to others seems possible, they’ll offer to cover up a little – without feeling undue embarrassment themselves. If naturists expect visitors at home who might not be aware of encountering anyone naked, they’ll either take steps to mention the possibility of nudity beforehand, or in some other way avoid being naked around anyone who might be upset about it.
Naturists try to avoid getting into arguments about nudity. But in response to nonconfrontational questions, they’re happy and not ashamed to explain why they enjoy nudity. They’re also sensitive to how some people will feel embarrassed even discussing nudity. Since this embarrassment is generally due to concerns about sexuality, it’s important to emphasize that naturists don’t enjoy nudity for sexual reasons. Instead, naturists prefer wearing nothing because it’s comfortable and shows they aren’t ashamed of their bodies. Naturists are usually amiable people who welcome the opportunity to talk with anyone who’s interested in hearing what’s so good about nudity.
- Isn’t exposure to adult nudity likely to be harmful to children?
A lot of people believe, with little reason, that seeing adult nudity could traumatize a child and even cause scarring for life. There’s no scientific evidence of that. In fact, the earlier a child sees adult nudity, the more likely it is that the child will consider it unremarkable and hardly even pay it much attention – especially if the child’s own propensity to be naked isn’t suppressed. Naturists would welcome more scientific studies of this issue. But qualified researchers are afraid to seek support for studying it because the subject is so controversial. However, the studies that have been done with naturist families have turned up little if any cause for concern.
- Aren’t children who’ve been raised in naturist families more vulnerable to exploitation by pedophiles?
Children raised in naturist families are if anything less vulnerable to pedophiles. That’s because their parents and caregivers can be honest and candid with their children about the danger from pedophiles and can teach them about the danger signs to watch out for. Naturist parents will always be sure people they trust are watching over their children if any strangers may be around. When families are naked together, children don’t learn misinformation about sexuality from their peers or even worse sources. Instead, they learn naturally about sexuality – at age-appropriate times – and how to deal with it in the healthiest way.
If you are aware of other misconceptions about naturist nudity, feel free to mention them in the comment section.