The augmented N-scale

This is a somewhat revised version of a March 1999 article I wrote to suggest improvements to the N-scale, which measures the degree of one’s enthusiasm for naturism. The original article is here.

In the previous post here we considered the N-Scale, a tool for rating yourself and others on fondness for nudity. It’s a good start, but if you’re reading this, the chances are that you fall at the high end of the original scale. According to that scale, everyone’s bunched up together from a score of 5 to 7 (the highest).

It’s sort of hard to measure your “progress” when the range of scores is that narrow. In order to remedy that, I’ve come up with an augmented scale that renumbers the high end of the scale to include a few more milestones on the road to perfect nudity. The descriptions of higher levels have been reworded from the original. There’s no claim this is a definitive list. Every naturist is a little different from any other one. There can be differences at every level, and the steps towards more complete naturism may be taken in a slightly different order.
Continue reading “The augmented N-scale”

The N-scale

Here’s another old post, from February 1999, which is mostly from an ever older source. Almost no changes required. (The original post is here.)

Do you love to be naked? Of course you do. So does anyone in their right mind. But just how much do you love it? There’s a way to measure that, sort of. It’s called the “N Scale”, and it was devised by naturist Dick Williams several years ago. Here’s the original article, used by permission. (I’ll be offering some refinements and extensions.)
Continue reading “The N-scale”

Why Do Teenagers Turn away from Nudism?

Nick & Lins ask the question:

Why Do Teenagers Turn away from Nudism and Is that Such a Big Deal?

Toddlers are born naturists and not only literally (although they’re obviously delivered naked). In fact, they might well be the most genuine kind of naturist there is, they don’t even question their nudity. Most of them will question clothes though and if they see an opportunity to get rid of them they’ll often take advantage of that. Our memory doesn’t go that far back, but we would like to remember the day when being nude was not an option anymore. Yesterday it was completely normal to run around the garden naked, jump through the sprinklers on a hot summer day while everyone smiled and agreed with your joy. The next day this was not possible anymore…

They make some good points that address the question. I won’t summarize. Just read their article.

However, I think there’s one important factor that I’ve written about: There is a general fear of nudity, even among adults. However, it’s especially salient for teenagers. Younger children in nudist homes – and very young children in general – simply aren’t keenly aware that letting other people see oneself naked is a big taboo in our society, and many others as well. Kids in middle school, if not earlier, somewhat suddenly become aware of this fact: Nudity (except perhaps in the family or with very close friends) isn’t customary and it certainly is not “normal”.

I discuss that at some length in Additional thoughts on the fear of nudity

Simply put, the problem, as I explain, is that behavior that’s unexpected and not considered “customary” or “normal” puts one in a fraught, risky position with respect to society in general – but especially so with respect to one’s peer group. And for typical teens, the peer group is all important. This situation leads to a serious fear of nudity itself – just as much as fear of, say, putting one’s hand on a hot stove. Don’t do it, or you’ll get burned!

There’s some prescient psychological theory that helps explain why the peer group matters so much to teens.

The noted psychologist Erik Erikson had a theory of the development of an individual’s personality. (See especially his book Identity, Youth and Crisis) The theory posited 8 stages of development. He called the 4th stage that of “Fidelity, Identity vs. Role Confusion”. Basically, this is when an individual tries to figure out and define his/her “identity” – that is, what kind of a person one is in terms of social categories (e. g. religious, atheist, artistic, nurturing, studious, rebellious, etc.). This stage happens typically when one is an adolescent. Failure to figure out one’s identity results in an “identity crisis”, and this may remain a problem for quite a long time. The onset of this stage is a result of “hormones”, but also cognitive development, when the brain achieves a mature ability to recognize different “categories”.

When a young person is raised in a nudist family, the category of “nudist” is still not well understood until adolescence. A few such young people may be content with this identity, but most recognize that it’s shared by very few other people he/she is aware of. This makes it difficult for the young person to identify as a “nudist” – because it is simply not a very socially acceptable identity among peers. (Even a “gang member” has less trouble finding peers to identify with.) This is especially true in a society, like most in the modern world, where the whole idea of nudity is considered scary and dangerous. The net result in most cases is the children raised in nudist families are pretty likely to reject “nudist” as an identity during (and after) their adolescence.

People, whether or not raised as nudists, may somewhat later in life accept “nudist” as an identity when they develop sufficient self-confidence and independence from social attitudes to be less concerned about others’ opinions of the identity. They may even feel confident enough (like Nick & Lins) to espouse and defend a “nudist” identity.

From an entirely different perspective, the dissatisfaction of teens with naturism is just part of the problem of the dissatisfaction of young people with adult society in general.

Before the teen years, children tend to follow their parents’ guidance on what to be interested in. They generally go along with whatever the family as a whole is doing – whether its taking trips to the beach, visiting grandma and grandpa, or going to nudist resorts. But in the teen years, they develop interests of their own and their interests no longer have so much in common with their elders.

Young people, from the teen years on like different types of activities, music, movies, games, hobbies, etc. and these interests diverge considerably from those of their parents’ age and older. So it’s not that young people don’t want to be around older people. It’s just that the two age groups just enjoy rather different sorts of things. Unfortunately, the activities available at most nudist places are much more what the older group prefers than what the younger group does. The perceptive nudist resort should have staff whose main responsibility is providing activities to young people in the ages from teens up to but not including people with their first children.

Letter of Recommendation: Naturism

It’s rather interesting, and unusual, to see a positive article on naturism in the New York Times or similar mainstream publications. Usually, whatever else the spin, a writer treats the topic with at least a little condescension. You know, something along the lines of “Well, it wasn’t as difficult to do as I’d imagined, and I sort of enjoyed it, but it’s tough to think that intelligent people (like me) take this very seriously.” Not in this case, however.

Good quote:

My friends and I hardly followed the naturists’ chaste, no-judge code to the letter, but the more we visited, the closer we approached a sense of ease. The discipline of public nakedness rewarded our efforts in proportion to our degree of exertion, the euphoria of being in the moment a direct byproduct of battling the innate and unignorable weirdness of our collective situation. … On the beach, consumed with the task of pretending this was normal, I was able to attain what I assume is something like Zen. Naturism required so much effort that, somehow, it worked.

The author, Kelli María Korducki, concludes:

Nakedness doesn’t democratize social experience, as the naturists seem to suggest. Instead, it offers something better: a shared preoccupation. It’s so awkward to act blasé about being naked around other people — people who are also, themselves, naked — that there’s nothing left to do but submit en masse to the social and afferent novelty. Take in the warmth of the sun on your bare butt, skinny-dip unaccompanied by a sneaky sense of thrill, try not to stare at anyone’s penile jewelry. It’s easier said than done.

What does she mean by “It’s easier said than done”? I think it’s more than just admitting some discomfort with her own nakedness and that it’s not easy to resist staring at penises, areolas, and other body parts that are “normally” covered. At least, not easy before one learns how to enjoy sharing nudity with others without undue attention to the naked bits. Nudity, perhaps with some effort, can become normal, so just enjoy it. People new to naturism should realize there’s a “degree of exertion” required initially. The effort is required, to begin with, in order to overcome many years of social conditioning that shared nakedness is “abnormal”. And it’s worth the effort.

Here’s how the experienced naturist blogger (Fred) at This is my place comments on the article:

If one were not preoccupied with nudity to some extent, one would never take to the lifestyle. This is true of any special interest. …

If you felt a sneaky sense of thrill at skinny-dipping, then good for you. You are enjoying yourself. People who wear penile jewelry want to be looked at. Keep at the nudie lifestyle for a while and it becomes background noise. I’m still not blasé about it 40 years into social or even private nudity. Why would anyone ever want to become blasé about something they enjoyed? Novelty wears off but the satisfaction ought to remain.

The same as with penile jewelry can be said about nipple jewelry, which is perhaps more common. Many naturists used to find such things “shocking”. Some still do. Even though they don’t find full nudity at all shocking.

It’s not unfair to say that people who enjoy social nudity like being seen naked. That’s a prerequisite for the full enjoyment. Part of the pleasure is because they are proud of having overcome embarrassment from being naked. Do not assume this is the same as being an exhibitionist. It’s not. Exhibitionists want to attract attention to themselves. That doesn’t work when most others are naked too. Exhibitionists also aim to shock people. Naturists intend the exact opposite.

Additional thoughts on the fear of nudity

In reading this post on the topic, which I originally wrote almost 19 years ago, I was astonished to have left out what may be the most significant type of fear of nudity based on abstract feelings. (See the original article for “abstract” vs. “concrete” fears.)

What I neglected to write about is this: Fear of nudity, social nudity in particular, is likely in large part due to the fact that social nudity violates a cluster of norms and customs of the society in which one lives. It’s a factor not just in North America and Western Europe, but also in most “advanced” societies whose lifestyles are far removed from those of people who value clothing mainly for warmth, instead of for a variety of unrelated social considerations, such as religion.

Consider the word “norm”. Social behavior is considered to be within the “norm” if it’s behavior that is consistent with what “most” people in a given society consider “proper”. This is a numerical type of standard. Behavior by people in a minority that “deviates” from what most people in the majority find acceptable is “not normal”. It is “abnormal”, and that’s not considered a good thing. Such behavior is, at least, suspicious. (This applies to any sort of behavior, not just nudity. Another example is styles of dress that are regarded as “foreign” and not typical in a given society. Of course, nudity really is just another style of dress.)

But “norm” has a slightly different meaning too, roughly what is meant by “custom”. Customs in a particular society aren’t necessarily related to either numerical measures or morality-related issues. Examples of such customs include times of day that meals are eaten, types of food that’s served for specific occasions, activities engaged in on particular holidays, and types of clothing worn in specific places. Nevertheless, failure to observe the customs of a society is also “suspicious” and a cause for disapproval of the “uncustomary” behavior itself.

Regardless of the fine differences between “norm” and “custom”, nudity is almost always considered both “abnormal” and “uncustomary”, and is therefore a source of mistrust, disapproval – and even fear. (Except when nudity is “normal” for activities like bathing or (perhaps) sleeping.) A further sanction against uncustomary nudity is often to make it illegal.

So the question that must be asked is this: Exactly why is “abnormal” or “uncustomary” behavior – of which social nudity is just one example – a source of fear?

There are very good evolutionary psychological reasons that answer the “why” question. All human societies depend on cooperation among society members. Cooperation takes various forms. It may be working “cooperatively” with others in a group on activities that benefit the group. The activities could be as diverse as those of social clubs, businesses, and extended families. But there are often opportunities for individuals within a group to act in ways that benefit only themselves, while harming the group as a whole. For example, embezzlement of money or disclosure of information the group wants to keep secret. Lying or cheating in transactions between individuals in a society provide even more obvious examples.

If such harmful behavior is too common in a group, the group itself is at risk of failure. If cheating between individuals is too common, people cannot trust each other, and so they lose out on the benefits they might enjoy from honest trading and cooperation.

Societies and groups usually can function well enough if there are only a few cheaters. So there is always the possibility that any given member may be tempted to cheat. And consequently, honest people need to learn how to detect potential cheaters in order to avoid them.

How is that usually done? It’s done by monitoring whether other people observe group norms and customs. There are beneficial norms and customs, such as honestly cooperating with others and not cheating. Other norms and customs aren’t as consequential, but whether or not they’re respected may be used to judge how well the beneficial ones are respected.

The problem is that the “honesty”, or lack thereof, of other people is not easy to judge when the others are not well-known. Typically, judgments of honesty are done by considering a person’s “reputation”. If the person is known to have cheated previously in some way or other, the person is more likely to be distrusted. Unfortunately, the reputations of most people one has to deal with are often unknown, because little or nothing is known about the person himself or herself.

However, one type of information about an otherwise unknown person is behavior that can be observed directly. Most importantly, is anything known about the person’s behavior in violation of social norms or customs? If so, the person is more likely to be mistrusted and avoided.

Here’s a simple but very common example. People in management jobs at a company or in certain other kinds of jobs (e. g. salespeople) are expected to dress in a certain way: suit and tie for a man, “professional” clothing for a woman. Failure to dress in the “normal” or “customary” way is a source of immediate distrust. Why should a person be trusted who violates well-known social norms?

It’s a fact that people who are known to be “nudists” or to engage in social nudity are often distrusted or disrespected – precisely because nudity violates typical norms and customs. Such people are stigmatized as “nonconformists”.

Obviously, too, there are whole professions – such as teaching or any other kind of work with children – where being known to participate in social nudity can be used as an excuse for exclusion from the profession.

While it’s quite true that many people in a particular society do not have this negative attitude towards nudity, the negative attitude is still so widespread that anyone who has a favorable attitude towards nudity – and whose behavior is suspected of reflecting that attitude – must be cautious about letting that attitude be known. Or more to the point, people are more likely to think of nudity as something to be fearful of – because they know of the risk that others may disapprove. The existence of the risk is known – and the result is fear. We fear, rationally, what could cause us harm, especially if it’s difficult to estimate the risk – just as we fear spiders that could actually be harmless.

Here’s the reasoning in a nutshell: Social nudity violates a cultural norm. Therefore there’s a risk that others may see this violation as a reason for distrusting people who have positive attitudes towards nudity. Therefore it’s prudent to be fearful of holding positive attitudes towards nudity in order to reduce the risk.

The fear of nudity, part 2

From September 1997 to July 2000 (yes, that long ago) I published on the pages of this site a “Weekly Nudesletter” (which became increasingly sporadic). It contained mainly brief remarks on current news items. All that content is still online, if you care to see it. Occasionally, there were longer essays. In particular, there was a two-part essay on “the fear of nudity”. Most of this is still quite relevant, and I’ll refer to it in later posts. What follows here is the second part, which has been slightly edited. (Original page)

Some things we fear are concrete, while some are more abstract. In Part 1 we covered the concrete fears people often have when considering the possibility of trying social nudity. The list involves 16 concerns that people worry about as possible direct consequences of being naked with others. Some of these concerns are more likely to be actual problems than others, but at least they are fairly concrete. One can describe in specific terms what there is to be worried about, so it is possible to deal rationally with the concerns, to estimate their probability, and to formulate plans for dealing with them.

It’s obviously more difficult, and a different sort of problem, to deal with more abstract fears.

Before we get into that, let’s note that we didn’t deal at all with one category of fears of nudity — those which are felt by people who are not themselves interested in being naked with others, but merely in the position of confronting the idea of social nudity. Perhaps it’s because they have discovered that someone they know, a friend or relative, is interested in social nudity. Perhaps it’s because they have learned about some place such as a beach or club in their general area where social nudity occurs. Or perhaps it’s simply because the subject of social nudity has come to their attention somehow (in the news, in casual conversation, a flash of bare skin in a movie or on TV) — and they feel what seems like a sense of instinctive disgust at the idea.

However, the idea of nudity comes up, for some people it immediately arouses very distinct fears. Unfortunately, we all know people like that.

These fears, too, can be categorized as either concrete or abstract. Among the concrete fears are such things as the possibility of sexual assaults, other sorts of “deviant” behavior like drug use, or simply the imagined potency of nudity as a lure to attract an “undesirable” sort of person. In general, what we have here is a fear that people who violate one sort of social taboo — the sort involving nudity — may be more likely to violate other more important taboos as well.

There probably isn’t a lot we can say to calm such fears, because they are basically fears of the unknown. If a person does have such concerns, then usually no amount of talking will allay them. Direct experience that the imagined dangers are very exaggerated will help, but even failure to confirm the dangers doesn’t make fear of them go away completely. In any case, we aren’t going to get into this aspect now — because people who are afraid of being around others who like to be naked probably aren’t even reading this.

We’ll probably take up this topic at another time, because if you do like to be naked, the chances are you will have to deal with a variety of people who have such fears, and you naturally would like to be able to respond to them. Until we do get around to it, note that what we are going to say about fear of nudity in the abstract applies to everyone — those who are interested in social nudity as well as those who are opposed to it.

The reason is that abstract fears of nudity can be regarded as personality issues. Such fears engage our attention not only at a practical level, but at an emotional level as well. They influence how we act and how we think about ourselves and others. They are relevant to many aspects of our lives in addition to nudity — often much more relevant.

These abstract fears represent attitudes we hold about ourselves and about life in general. Since the effects of these attitudes are experienced in important parts of our lives quite unrelated to nudity, it is very much worth our while to examine them, even if we have no interest in going about without clothes. Understanding where these fearful attitudes come from and learning how to deal with them on a more mature, rational level than (say) a child’s fear of the dark or of spiders can present us with many opportunities for personal development and growth.

As you will quickly recognize, we can’t hope to offer advice in this small space on how to deal with these anxiety-producing issues. Libraries are full of books of philosophy and psychology and self-help which do that. The most we can do here is to name these issues and indicate (if it’s not immediately obvious) how they are related to the experience of nudity.

Sexuality

Obviously, what bothers more people than anything else about nudity is its connection with sexuality. This is understandable and can’t be ignored, since “nudity” in the legal sense is almost defined by lack of covering of the genitals. However, the connection is greatly reinforced by social conditioning, since in our society the main activity associated with nudity (apart from bathing or sleeping) is having (or fantasizing about having) sex. The association is a lot weaker for young children and people in cultures where nudity is more common in non-sexual contexts.

Young children usually have no problems with nudity, since they’ve been taught little or nothing about sex. Even after having some sex education that explains the genitals, they don’t grasp the full implications. Similarly, in cultures where nudity is more common so that genitals aren’t always hidden from others, the connection is weaker. However, we are profoundly shaped by our environment, so for teenagers and adults in our culture, the connection is strong. Nevertheless, learning to separate nudity from sexuality is quite possible. And then nudity can be enjoyed just for its own sake, entirely apart from its connection with sexuality.

Now, sexuality is the source of very powerful emotions. These emotions are both innate and (as a result of both positive and negative experiences throughout life) learned responses. It is the negative emotions, of course, that allows sexuality to give rise to fear. The specific details will vary somewhat from person to person. For some (especially women), there’s a legitimate concern over physical security, particularly if there have been instances of abuse as a child. For others the concern is due to emotional exploitation. There’s always the issue of performance anxiety and adequacy (see “Adequacy” below). And for many, the fear arises from doubts of our ability to control our urges in a situation that seems to invite temptation.

But whatever the sources of our sexual anxieties, it all comes back to the undeniable importance of sexuality as a part of life. It takes a good deal of experience and maturity to master sexuality, in both its positive and its negative guises. Being able to enjoy nudity as something separate from (though related to) sexuality is part of this mastery. It isn’t surprising that this is a source of fear before we gain this mastery.

Vulnerability and Adequacy

Clothing is armor. As armor, it’s more symbolic than practical, but it’s armor nevertheless. That is, we expect clothing to protect us against various threats originating in the external world. Some threats are simply physical — bugs, sunburn, excessive cold. But as many are psychological, and those are the kind that where lack of clothing engenders fear.

Clothing is armor because it is a shield against the judgment of others regarding parts of ourselves whose adequacy or acceptability we are uncertain of. Body parts that are too small or too large. Skin that is too pale or too wrinkled. Body shape that doesn’t fully conform to what we imagine is ideal by the standards of our society.

Obviously, clothing as armor actually works mostly for physical characteristics. (Though, by concealing some body language, it can protect some of our psyche as well.) Metaphorically, it is psychological armor as well. Our society puts too much emphasis on physical characteristics as indicators of our competency, worth, and value. But given that this connection is ingrained in us, lack of clothing connotes weakness and vulnerability. Fear is an obvious consequence.

What we need to learn is that physical characteristics matter only in limited realms – such as athletics, warfare, fashion modeling. Even for something like finding a mate, eventually we realize that there are far more important characteristics than the physical ones.

And so, whatever armor clothing can provide against threats to our feelings of competence and self-esteem, it has only a symbolic value as far as the majority of characteristics which really count are concerned. When we come to understand this, nudity ceases to leave us open to threats to our sense of worth. Hence fear of nudity becomes needless, and body acceptance becomes self-acceptance.

Self-disclosure

Surprising as it may seem, not everyone enjoys talking about themselves. There are various reasons. One may have scars or other physical disfigurations that aren’t apparent when clothed, and the underlying reasons may be unpleasant to discuss. Although nudity tends to promote a greater rapport between people, this can be threatening if it allows conversation to drift into areas one would prefer to avoid. Such areas exist for just about everyone, no matter how much self-confidence one has. Worries about our competency (or lack thereof — see above under “Adequacy”) probably have a lot to do with this. We don’t care to talk about our jobs, for instance, if we aren’t especially proud of our success. But it may have nothing to do with that. There may be parts of our lives we have no control over, such as death or illness in the family, that we simply don’t want to converse about.

In spite of the touted benefits of better rapport that nudity generally promotes, many people are simply not constituted to enjoy discussing personal and “private” details with near strangers, or even relatively good friends. That is partly what “shyness” is about. Nudity should not have to imply that unrestrained self-disclosure is required. It is enjoyable for itself, and doesn’t mean you have to tell everything about yourself to every naked person you meet. But it’s easy to understand how people can see physical nudity as a threat to their personal space and the buffers they think they need against the outside world. (See above under “Vulnerability”.)

Physical nakedness is a metaphor for psychological nakedness. It could well be the latter that we are more ill-prepared to handle. While this psychological nakedness, or “openness”, is often worth working for, it isn’t necessarily easy to achieve.

Mortality

Lurking behind all the fears we have regarding our physical bodies is the issue of mortality. The sags, bulges, and scars that accumulate through life remind us that it’s all going to end one of these days, and probably not painlessly. These physical tokens are not only considered unsightly — they easily cause us to think about something we want to ignore.

Clothing, of course, hides these stigmata (to an extent). Seemingly, a young person should not be too concerned with his/her nudity or that of age-mates in this regard. Yet, ironically, it is often the young who have the most anxiety about nudity. At least at present, it is people of middle age or older who gradually become more at ease with their bodies and therefore accepting of nudity. This isn’t so surprising. Young people are repelled by the age-related decline of human bodies which clothing covers. They don’t want to think about what’s in store for them.

Part of maturing gracefully is coming to terms with the inevitability of one’s eventual decline and demise. So, just as with other sorts of socially disparaged physical characteristics, those related to age gradually assume lesser importance. And in nudity there is increasingly less to fear.

The fear of nudity, part 1

From September 1997 to July 2000 (yes, that long ago) I published on the pages of this site a “Weekly Nudesletter” (which became increasingly sporadic). It contained mainly brief remarks on current news items. All that content is still online, if you care to see it. Occasionally, there were longer essays. In particular, there was a two-part essay on “the fear of nudity”. Most of this is still quite relevant, and I’ll refer to it in later posts. What follows here is the first part. (Original page)

There is no passion so contagious as that of fear.
Montaigne, Essays

We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.
Livy, Histories

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
H. P. Lovecraft

In time we hate that which we often fear.
Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavour after a worthy manner of life.
Bertrand Russell, “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish”

In our essay in the last issue on Nudity and Personal Growth, one of the key observations was that it is fear which very often holds us back from personal growth. Generally, this is fear of the unfamiliar and the unknown — because growing entails going someplace we haven’t been before. It might be our first date, our first time speaking in front of a large audience, our first time piloting an airplane alone. Or the first time we experience social nudity.

In the case of social nudity, we generally experience the fear as various of a number of particular concerns such as being laughed at or doing the wrong thing or being approached sexually. We’ll go into some of these concerns later, but ultimately what’s really involved is simply fear of the unknown.

Are all fears really just fear of the unknown? Probably not, except by a great stretch. Fear of pain or physical harm, for instance, probably isn’t in this category. However, often we anticipate pain or physical harm when facing unfamiliar circumstances. But let’s take a different example: fear of losing one’s job. (And this in general, not specifically because of involvement with social nudity.) Why does the prospect of losing a job cause us fear? Well, certainly there are a variety of unpleasant consequences: embarrassment, the effort required to find a new job, the thought of things we may have to do without if we can’t find a suitable new job quickly.

However, assuming we have normal skills and abilities, there are plenty of jobs available. So perhaps what really bothers us is that we may have to change in some way. We might have to move to another place in order to find a job we like. We will have to learn to deal with new people and new circumstances. We may even have to learn new skills or take up a new line of work from what we are accustomed to. All of these things are examples of the unfamiliar and the unknown.

To tackle these unknowns will require us to change — and to grow. That is certainly what contributes a lot to our fear. The situation in learning to deal with social nudity is much the same.

Men are even lazier than they are timorous, and what they fear most is the troubles with which any unconditional honesty and nudity would burden them.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Is not nakedness the indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your respectability, that is indecent. There come moods when these clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear, but are themselves indecent.
Walt Whitman, A Sun-bathed Nakedness

The best way to deal with fear is to stand up to it and confront it directly. We need to ask, regarding any of our fears, just how likely the “worst” possible outcome is, and in the event of such an outcome, how we can deal with it. The point is to look each fear in the eye, and to think about it calmly and rationally.

Usually what we will find is that the “worst” outcome is pretty unlikely, and the more likely outcomes are things we can deal with. And in case we are uncertain about our ability to deal with some outcomes, there is an opportunity for growth if we set about to acquire the skills needed to deal with the circumstances.

There are many things in life which could be pretty scary if one really thinks about them. Just consider all the things which could go wrong in something you do every day, such as commuting to work. The possibilities range from running out of gas, to getting a speeding ticket, to becoming involved in a bad accident. We’d never be able to function if we worried about all the possibilities every day. A much better approach is to learn to assess the risks realistically and to work at establishing the habits and skills which will reduce the risks whenever possible.

Let’s look at some of the commonest fears people have about trying social nudity. Many times the fears are exaggerated, in that the anticipated problems are much less likely than you might suppose. But this isn’t always the case, and we won’t insult your intelligence by saying that things will never go awry. After all, we’re dealing with some powerful social taboos here (at least in our culture), so some risks do exist. If you are completely averse to risk, social nudity probably isn’t for you.

However, when there are rewards to be had (as there certainly are with nudity), then an intelligent, growth-oriented approach to dealing with risks is to understand them better, and to become prepared to deal with them if necessary — before the problems arise.

As you read through the following list, try to put each item into one of three classes. The first class is for problems that are external to you (such as the possible reactions of your spouse or employer) and that also seem likely to arise. The second class is for problems that are mainly in your own mind (such as your opinion about the appearance of your naked body). The third class is for problems that – if you consider them carefully and maybe do some research – don’t really seem likely to arise. For example, the legal issues may not be as serious as your fear.

Unless something changes, you probably don’t need to worry much about problems in the third class. Problems in the first class will probably require you to think creatively and take some sort of action. For example, if you think your significant other will object to the idea of naturism, you might try to suggest a bargain where you offer something important you know he or she wants, in exchange for reconsidering his or her objections to naturism. Problems in the second class will require you to work on your own attitudes and fears. For example, if you’re concerned that naturism might conflict with your religious principles, search for information from naturists who share your religious beliefs and can explain how there’s no conflict.

Because there are so many nuances possible with most of these problems, this isn’t the place to pursue the details. Those may be good topics for further articles. However, if you’re impatient, there are many discussion on all of these topics already out there. You just need to search for them. Perhaps another good topic for another article here would be suggestions on where to search for pertinent information.

There is already a Part 2 on this topic, and it considers a few things aren’t dealt with here.

  1. My spouse or other members of my immediate family will object strongly.
    Unfortunately, this is one of the more likely problems, given how unhealthy our society’s attitudes are towards nudity. Most likely, you already know if this is going to be a problem. There is no single solution which works for everyone, since the things that cause others to object to nudity are so many and varied, though all are ultimately unfounded. If the problem can be solved at all, sincere and honest communication is the way to do it. Learn as much as you can about social nudity, at this Web site and many of the others around, so that you can explain exactly why social nudity is good and the fears of it are vastly exaggerated.

  2. Friends, relatives, or business associates will find out and react negatively.
    As far as people you don’t live with are concerned, it is not very likely they will find out you enjoy social nudity unless you tell them. Clubs, whether landed or not, are very respectful of members’ privacy. And beaches or other “public” places where nudity can be enjoyed are usually in distant and remote areas where you’re very unlikely to encounter anyone you know. There are people around who won’t change their minds if they are negative towards nudity. However, if you’re careful about it, you can generally figure out how others will react and whether they will at least be tolerant of your attitude towards nudity. This is called learning to tune into the points of view of others.

  3. Even if other people seem to accept or tolerate that I like to be naked, they will think I’m weird.
    The fundamental issue here is that it is not “weird” to enjoy nudity — atypical and not talked about in our society, but not “weird” or “deviant”, which are pejorative terms. It is quite possible, if you have this fear, that you yourself think there’s something a little deviant about enjoying nudity. You will then have this fear until you learn to think otherwise, that nudity is healthy and good. Really, what it comes back to is learning to be comfortable with yourself and your own preferences, to be able to march to your own drummer, despite all the peer pressure against it.

  4. People might think I’m hung-up on sex.
    The question is: are you or aren’t you? Remember, it’s OK to enjoy sex just as much as it is to enjoy nudity. (Our society is very ambivalent on this point, unfortunately.) But there is a time and a place for everything. You are “hung-up” on either one only if you feel an obsession about it at the wrong time or place. You need to be clear in your own mind that nudity and sex are only loosely related, and you need to be confident explaining to others that they are quite different experiences for you, though each is very worthwhile in its proper time and place.

  5. Enjoying social nudity could result in legal problems.
    Fortunately, this problem is non-existent with legitimate private clubs. The days when people got “busted” for social nudity on private property are, thankfully, long in the past. (Though there are ominous trends in some areas that might bring back past harassment.) It’s a different matter in “public” places, of course. But the risk depends drastically on where you are. As long as you stick to places which have a long-established tradition of nude use without official interference, you should be fine. Just be sure you know the current status before you strip off.

  6. Nudity in front of my children could raise legal problems.
    This is extremely unlikely in most locations, as long as you know the members of your immediate family are comfortable around nudity. There is no place in the country where nudity in front of your children is actually illegal, though there are many conservative communities where a lot of people think it is or should be. The best advice here is to know the attitudes in your community and keep a very low profile if necessary. Explain to your children that, though your family thinks nudity at home is no big deal, there are others who get upset over the idea, and that it isn’t something which should be discussed with others who might misunderstand. Unless you have previously conditioned your children to think there is anything improper about nudity, you shouldn’t have any concern that exposing them to your nudity should cause a problem. After all, millions of children have been raised in nudist/naturist/nude-friendly environments during the last 100 years (to say nothing of the rest of human history). If nudity really were harmful to kids, certainly this would be apparent in some nudist families. Yet there simply isn’t any evidence that this kind of upbringing has hurt them. Be prepared to point out this simple fact if you are challenged on the issue.

  7. I could lose my job if it became known I enjoyed social nudity.
    Again, this is quite unlikely, but it does depend on the attitudes of people who are in charge where you work. A few job categories, like teachers or daycare workers, may have special sensitivities. However, in most cases, your employer need never know, and almost certainly won’t do anything if he/she does. You’ll just have to judge the risk for your own circumstances. (But then, Paganism, with or without nudity, could also be hazardous to your teaching career in some places in the Bible Belt. See one of the stories in our News section, below.)

  8. As a man, I might have an erection when I’m around naked people, especially women.
    This is probably the most common fear men have about social nudity. For most men, it is a totally groundless fear, but for some guys, especially younger ones, it can happen. Nervousness over this issue is usually enough, by itself, to forestall it. The best advice is that as long as you aren’t thinking about sexual matters, you won’t get a sexual response. And even if you do, as long as you are careful not to be too obvious about the situation until it passes, other naturists will understand and neither laugh at nor think badly of you.

  9. It’s physically dangerous to frequent places where naked people gather.
    This one really is false. Of course, if you’re a woman, it’s not such a good idea to go anywhere alone that is remote and sparsely populated, unless you are confident of your means of self-defense. But other than that, private clubs and popular public areas where nude use is traditional are quite safe. Assaults, rapes, and similar crimes have been known to happen at such places, but the risk is no higher than comparable places where folks always wear clothes.

  10. As a woman, I’m afraid I’ll be bothered by men making sexual advances.
    We can’t say it never happens. It’s generally pretty rare at private clubs — and if it occurs, just ask for help from someone in club management. But at public beaches, well, certainly there are men who can be pests. There are many ways to deal with it. Always visit beaches with one or more friends of either gender — there’s safety in numbers (and it’s much more fun besides). Visit the beaches at busier times — most people there will not approve of anyone who gets too pushy and will take notice if someone steps out of line. Or best of all, develop your self-confidence to the point you have no trouble telling an inconsiderate male just where he should go. Some men, just as many women, may fear being exposed to or drawn into sexual activities they don’t want. The truth is, social nudity isn’t about groping and orgies. There’s nothing about it which will force you to endure that sort of thing against your will.

  11. Being naked around other people may violate, or tempt me to violate, my religious principles.
    There are a large number of religious people, even ministers and priests, who are active naturists. It is simply not the case that most religions are officially opposed to nudity, though there are certainly many religious leaders who misunderstand it. You’ll find thorough explanations at a number of Web sites dealing with religion and naturism. As to whether nudity might lead you into temptation… this is an area where you’ll need to examine your own conscience. If you think your motives aren’t compatible with your religious convictions, then you have something to work on.

  12. My body isn’t especially attractive. People will laugh at me or think I have the wrong size or shape in certain parts.
    Most people don’t have bodies which are especially attractive. You’ll learn this the first time you visit a nude beach or club. It may be that some folks make private judgments about the appearance of others, but it is considered very bad etiquette to let this show. Most people will not be judgmental, either openly or otherwise, and laughing at someone else’s appearance or making rude comments on it is considered extremely boorish. But the best advice, long-term, is for you to become comfortable with your own body and its appearance. You may choose to improve it, if feasible, or you may simply learn to be happy with yourself as you are.

  13. Since I’ve never been around naked people, I might unintentionally make some breach of nude social etiquette.
    This is quite possible. For instance, you do know you should always have a towel handy to sit on, don’t you? And it’s OK to look at parts of others’ bodies besides the face, as long as you don’t stare. Fortunately, there aren’t really that many rules of nude etiquette you need to know. Common sense is generally enough. Beyond that, a few minutes spent reading some of these etiquette links will tell you all you need to know.

  14. Since I have no experience being naked around others, I will feel embarrassed and awkward. People who are comfortable with nudity will know I’m new at it. I think I’ll appear foolish.
    Everyone has to have a first time, right? The “first time” is something that people who enjoy nudity tend to remember very well. They are therefore sensitive to the feelings of people who are new at it. However, you will probably be a lot less obvious than you suppose. Quite likely you recall dreams in which you were naked even though everyone else was clothed, and you think how awkward you felt, since you were very conspicuous. However, when many others are naked too, you aren’t conspicuous. Chances are most people won’t even notice if you’re new at it. Read some first-time stories to get a feeling for how easily this usually goes.

  15. I’m shy and/or not as socially adept as I’d like to be. I think people who are into social nudity are cliquish and may not readily welcome me into their group.
    This, too, is quite possible. It’s not an unrealistic fear. Private clubs are made up largely of people who have known each other for some time, and even most popular nude beaches have “regulars” who are close friends. It can be as difficult to gain entry to such groups in the clothing optional world as in any other circumstance. However, clubs vary quite widely in their degree of friendliness to outsiders, and while beaches tend to be more open, they also vary. You will at least have to go through a period of “testing the waters” to find a group you are comfortable with. This may be even more difficult if you are a “single male”. You may need to do a bit of work on your social skills (conversation, body language, sensitivity, general affability), in order to get along well. But this is certainly worthwhile — a true opportunity for growth.

  16. I might run into someone I know.
    That ought to be considered a good thing! The other person should be there for the same reason you are — to enjoy being naked. Very likely such an encounter would alter your relationship to the other person — for the better, since you have something unexpected in common. Certainly this is true at most private clubs. At public beaches, it’s true there are those who visit to see what going on without actually participating. While other people who like to be naked are very discreet about whom they discuss this with, it is conceivable you could run into someone who would enjoy causing you trouble. Only you know how vulnerable you might be to this sort of thing, perhaps based on your job or position in the community. If you think there is some real danger, perhaps you need to save social nudity for trips and vacations far from home.