Posted: Sun, June 16, 2013 | By: Nudism
by K. Bacher
Extensively documented with quotes, references, supporting research, and resources for further study. Compiled by K. Bacher and donated to the public domain.
THE UNITED STATES LAGS FAR BEHIND most of the rest of Western Civilization in its negative attitude toward the human body. While most of Europe is comfortable with the concept of nude recreation on beaches and in vacation resorts, here in the U.S., conservative political action groups seek to criminalize even the most innocent exposure of the human body. Often these groups gain support by purporting to defend “family values” or “Christian morality.”
Although these groups are growing in political power, they represent only a small portion of the American population. And participation in nude recreation is also growing. More and more Americans are discovering the pleasures of skinny-dipping with their families in the local reservoir, or sunbathing in the buff at the local beach. Membership in nudist organizations is growing by leaps and bounds.
More than ever, Naturists need powerful arguments to defend their chosen lifestyle against those who cannot see beyond their own misconceptions and preconceived notions. We need evidence and testimony to encourage others to give Naturism a try. For several years, I found myself making claims like these:
“Actually, Mom, taking the kids to a nudist park is good for them.” “The ideals of Naturism are consistent with the goals of women’s rights.” “A lot of famous people don’t think skinnydipping’s such a bad thing.” “There’s nothing in the Bible that says it’s wrong to go nude.” “Naturism has some real psychological benefits.” “Not everyone in the world thinks nudity is so bad, you know.”
I knew that these statements were true, but when pressed, I could not back them up with concrete references. And so, this project was born. Here are all the arguments in support of Naturism, backed up by up-to- date scientific research and supported by the writings of leading thinkers in psychology, sociology, history, law, and philosophy. Here also you will find related musings on subjects including modesty, nudity in art, the history of fashion, women’s rights, the benefits of breast-feeding, and the psychology of clothing.
This compilation draws on sources including nudist and mainstream publications, scholarly research, and my own thought. Some arguments are stronger than others. Taken as a whole, I think they make a compelling case in favor of Naturism. They support a perspective that sees the human body as complete and good in and of itself, regardless of how—or whether—it is adorned. They support an honest, open, and accepting attitude toward the human body, a perspective that is physically, mentally, and spiritually healing, socially constructive, and thoroughly freeing.
This compilation is by no means complete or comprehensive. All ideas, suggestions, comments, corrections, additions, references, and insights are welcome! Many of these quotes and ideas are taken from other sources or excerpted from larger works. An extensive bibliography and endnotes are included at the end of the document, and I strongly encourage anyone who is interested to refer to the original sources for more information.
These ideas should be shared freely. Every mother concerned about “family values” should know about the extensive scientific research demonstrating the positive benefits of nudism for children. Every woman concerned about pornography should know how strongly the philosophy and practice of Naturism repudiates the objectification of women’s bodies. Every lawmaker concerned about honoring the original intent of our nation’s founders should know that many of them were unabashed skinnydippers. Christians concerned about upholding sexual morality should know that the earliest Church leaders accepted nudity as a natural part of life, and not in the least inconsistent with the teachings of Christ. The world-weary businessman in his urban office and three-piece suit should knowhow relaxing and therapeutic a weekend at a nudist park can be. The mother on the beach with sand in her swimming suit should know that there are places in the world where she may enjoy the feeling of sun and water on her body without attracting unwanted attention.
It is my hope that this document may help you to share this good news, and to speak articulately about the native goodness of the human body in its natural state.
Nudity is often more comfortable and practical than clothing.
1. There are times when clothing is physically uncomfortable. Nudity, on the other hand, is often much more comfortable.
2. For many activities, nudity is often far more practical than clothing.
Bernard Rudofsky writes: “The custom of wearing a bathing suit, a desperate attempt to recapture some of our lost innocence, represents a graphic expression of white man’s hypocrisy. For, obviously, the bathing suit is irrelevant to any activity in and under water. It neither keeps us dry or warm, nor is it an aid to swimming. If the purpose of bathing is to get wet, the bathing suit does not make us wetter. At best, it is a social dress, like the dinner jacket.” 1 Yet Americans spend $900,000,000 each year on bathing costumes.2
3. Clothing also restricts movement, and encumbers the athlete. Studies done by the West German Olympic swim team showed that even swimsuits slow down a swimmer.3
Naturism promotes mental health.
4. A nudist is not a body lacking something (that is, clothing). Rather, a clothed person is a whole and complete naked body, plus clothes.
5. Many psychologists say that clothing is an extension of ourselves. The clothes we wear are an expression of who we are.4 The Naturist’s comfort with casual nudity, therefore, represents an attitude which is comfortable with the self as it is in its most basic state, without modification or deceit.
6. Clothes-compulsiveness creates insecurity about one’s body. Studies show that nudism, on the other hand, promotes a positive body self-concept.5
These effects are especially significant for women. Studies by Daniel DeGoede in 1984 confirmed research done 16 years earlier,6 which established that “of all the groups measured (nudist males, non-nudist males, nudist females, and non-nudist females), the nudist females scored highest on body concept, and the non-nudist females scored lowest.” 7
7. Nudism promotes wholeness of body, rather than setting aside parts of the body as unwholesome and shameful. 8
8. Clothes-compulsiveness locks us into a constant battle between individuality and conformity of dress. Nudity frees us from this anxiety, by fostering a climate of comfortable individuality without pretense.
9. The practice of nudism is, for nudists, an immensely freeing experience. In freeing oneself to be nude in the presence of others, including members of the other sex, the nudist also gives up all the social baggage that goes along with the nudity taboo.
The North American Guide to Nude Recreation notes that “one reason why a nude lifestyle is so refreshing is that it delivers us temporarily from the game of clothes. It’s hard to imagine how much clothing contributes to the grip of daily tensions until we see what it’s like to socialize without them. Clothing locks us into a collective unreality that prescribes complex responses to social status, roles and expected behaviors. In shedding our daily ‘uniforms,’ we also shed a weighty burden of anxieties. For a while, at least, we don’t have to play the endless charade of projected images we call ‘daily life.’ . . . For once in your life you are part of a situation where age, occupation and social status don’t really count for much. You’ll find yourself relating more on the basis of who you really are instead of who your clothes say you are.” 9 This analysis is borne out by experience.
10. The sense of “freedom” that comes from the nudist experience is consistently rated by nudists as one of the main reasons they stay in it.10
11. Nudism, by freeing the body, helps free the mind and spirit. An irrational clothes-compulsiveness may inhibit psychological growth and health.
Dr. Robert Henley Woody writes, “fear of revealing one’s body is a defense. To keep clothing on at all times when it is unnecessary for social protocol or physical comfort is to armour oneself in a manner that will block new behaviors that could introduce more healthful and rewarding alternatives; and promote psychological growth.” 11
12. The nudist, literally, has nothing to hide. He or she therefore has less stress, a fact supported by research.12
In the words of Paul Ableman: “Removing your clothes symbolizes ‘taking off’ civilization and its cares. The nudist is stripped not only of garments but of the need to ‘dress a part,’ of form and display, of ceremony and all the constraints of a complex etiquette. . . . Further than this, the nudist symbolically takes off a great burden of responsibility. By taking off his clothes, he takes off the pressing issues of his day. For the time being, he is no longer committed to causes, opposed to this or that trend, in short a citizen. He becomes . . . a free being once more.” 13
13. Clothing hides the natural diversity of human body shapes and sizes. When people are never exposed to nudity, they grow up with misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations about the body based on biased or misinformed sources—for instance, from advertising or mass media.
As a result, breast augmentation has long been the leading form of cosmetic surgery in the U.S. In the 1980s, American women had more than 100,000 operations per year to alter their breasts.14 Helen Gurley Brown, past editor of Cosmopolitan, says, “I don’t think 80 percent of the women in this country have any idea what other women’s bosoms look like. They have this idealized idea of how other people’s bosoms are. . . . My God, isn’t it ridiculous to be an emancipated woman and not really know what a woman’s body looks like except your own?” 15 Paul Fussell notes, by contrast, that “a little time spent on Naturist beaches will persuade most women that their breasts and hips are not, as they may think when alone, appalled by their mirrors, ‘abnormal,’ but quite natural, ‘abnormal’ ones belonging entirely to the nonexistent creatures depicted in ideal painting and sculpture. The same with men: if you think nature has been unfair to you in the sexual anatomy sweepstakes, spend some time among the Naturists. You will learn that every man looks roughly the same—quite small, that is, and that heroic fixtures are not just extremely rare, they are deformities.” 16
14. Clothing hides and therefore creates mystery and ignorance about natural body processes, such as pregnancy, adolescence, and aging. Children (and even adults) who grow up in a nudist environment have far less anxiety about these natural processes than those who are never exposed to them.
Margaret Mead writes, “clothes separate us from our own bodies as well as from the bodies of others. The more society . . . muffles the human body in clothes . . . camouflages pregnancy . . . and hides breastfeeding, the more individual and bizarre will be the child’s attempts to understand, to piece together a very imperfect knowledge of the life-cycle of the two sexes and an understanding of the particular state of maturity of his or her body.” 17
Some observations on the nature of modesty.
15. Children are not born with any shame about nudity. They learn to be ashamed of their own nudity.
16. Shame, with respect to nudity, is relative to individual situations and customs, not absolute.
For example, an Arab woman, encountered in a state of undress, will cover her face, not her body; she bares her breasts without embarrassment, but believes the sight of the back of her head to be still more indecent than exposure of her face. (James Laver notes that “an Arab peasant woman caught in the fields without her veil will throw her skirt over her head, thereby exposing what, to the Western mind, is a much more embarrassing part of her anatomy.”) In early Palestine, women were obliged to keep their heads covered; for a woman, to be surprised outside the house without a head -covering was a sufficient reason for divorce. In pre -revolutionary China it was shameful for a woman to show her foot, and in Japan, the back of her neck. In 18th-century France, while deep décolletage was common, it was improper to expose the point of the shoulder. Herr Surén, writing in 1924, noted that Turkish women veiled their faces, Chinese women hid their feet, Arab women covered the backs of their heads, and Filipino women considered only the navel indecent.18
The relative nature of shame is acknowledged by Pope John Paul II. “There is a certain relativism in the definition of what is shameless,” he writes. “This relativism may be due to differences in the makeup of particular persons . . . or to different ‘world views.’ It may equally be due to differences in external conditions—in climate for instance . . . and also in prevailing customs, social habits, etc. . . . In this matter there is no exact similarity in the behavior of particular people, even if they live in the same age and the same society. . . . Dress is always a social question.” 19
17. The dominant idea that clothing is necessary for reasons of modesty is a cultural assumption. It is an assumption that is not shared by all cultures, nor by all members of our own culture.20
18. There is evidence that modesty is not related to nakedness at all, but is rather a response to appearing different from the rest of the social group—for instance, outside the accepted habits of clothing or adornment.21
For example, indigenous tribes naked except for ear and lip plugs feel immodest when the plugs are removed, not when their bodies are exposed.22 Likewise, a woman feels immodest if seen in her slip, even though it’s far less revealing than her bikini.23 This also explains why clothed visitors to nudist parks feel uncomfortable in their state of dress. Psychologist Emery S. Bogardus writes: “Nakedness is never shameful when it is unconscious, that is, when there is no consciousness of a difference between fact and the rule set by the mores.” In other words, for first-time visitors to a nudist park, there is no hint of embarrassment after an initial reticence, because it is not contrary to the moral norms.
19. Shame comes from being outside mores, not fromspecific actions or conditions. Because nudity is unremarkable in a nudist setting, nudists may even forget that they are nude—and often do.
20. Psychological studies have shown that modesty need not be related to one’s state of dress at all. For the nudist, modesty is not shed with one’s clothes; it merely takes a different form.24
Psychological studies by Martin Weinberg concluded that the basic difference between nudists and non- nudists lies in their differently-constructed definitions of the situation. It isn’t that nudists are immodest, for, like non-nudists, they have norms to regulate and control immorality, sexuality, and embarrassment. Nudists merely accept the human body as natural, rather than as a source of embarrassment.25
21. Many indigenous tribes go completely naked without shame, even today. It is only through extended contact with the “modern” world that they learn to be “modest.” 26
Paul Ableman writes: “The missionaries were usually disconcerted to find that the biblically recommended act of ‘clothing the naked’, far from producing an improvement in native morals, almost always resulted in a deterioration. What the missionaries were inadvertently doing was recreating the Garden of Eden situation. Naked, the primitive cultures had shown no prurient concern with the body. . . . the morality was normally geared to the naked state of the culture. The missionaries, with their cotton shorts and dresses, disrupted this. Naked people actually feel shame when they are first dressed. They develop an exaggerated awareness of the body. It is as if Adam and Eve’s ‘aprons’ generated the ‘knowledge of good and evil’ rather than being its consequence.” 27
Many Amazon rainforest people still live clothing-optional by choice, even given an alternative.28 The same is true of the aborigines of central Australia.29
22. Even in North America, nudity was commonplace among many indigenous tribes prior to the arrival of Europeans.
Lewis and Clark reported nearly-naked natives along the northern Pacific coast, for example,30 as did visitors to California.31 Father Louis Hennepin in 1698 reported of Milwaukee-area Illinois Indians, “They go stark naked in Summer-time, wearing only a kind of Shoes made of the Skins of [buffalo] Bulls.” He described several other North American tribes as also generally living without clothes.32 The natives of Florida wore only breechclouts and sashes of Spanish moss, which they removed while hunting or gardening.33 Columbus wrote of the Indians he encountered in the Caribbean in 1492, “They all go around as naked as their mothers bore them; and also the women.” 34 The Polynesian natives of Hawaii wore little clothing, and none at all at the shore or in the water, until the arrival of Christian missionaries with Captain Cook in 1776.35
23. For some indigenous tribes, nudity or near-nudity is an essential part of their culture.
Paul Ableman explains, “very few primitives are totally naked. They almost always have ornamentation or body-modification of some kind, which plays a central role in their culture. . . . Into this simple but successful culture comes the missionary, and obliterates the key signs beneath his cheap Western clothing. Among many primitives, tattooing, scarification and ornamentation convey highly elaborate information which may, in fact, be the central regulatory force in the society. The missionary thus, at one blow, annihilates a culture. It was probably no less traumatic for a primitive society to be suddenly clothed than it would be for ours to be suddenly stripped naked.” 36
24. Yet missionaries have consistently sought to impose their own concepts of “decency” on other cultures, ignoring the elaborate cultural traditions regarding dress already in place.
Bernard Rudofsky writes: “People [in other cultures] who traditionally do not have much use for clothes are not amused by the missionary zeal that prompts us to press our notions of decency upon them while being insensitive or opposed to theirs.” 37 Julian Robinson adds: “Eighteenth and nineteenth century missionaries and colonial administrators were blissfully blind to their own religious, cultural and sexual prejudices, and to the symbolism of their own tribal adornments—their tight-laced corsets, powdered wigs, constricting shoes and styles of outer garments totally unsuited to colonial life. These missionaries and administrators nevertheless took it upon themselves to expunge all those ‘pagan, barbaric and savage forms of body packaging’ which did not conform to their body covering standards. . . . Thus the social and symbolic significance of these traditional forms of body decoration which had evolved over countless generations were, in many cases, destroyed forever.” 38
Russell Nansen records that “Henry Morton Stanley, the rescuer of David Livingstone in the Belgian Congo. . . . from 1847 to 1877 . . . wandered across Africa suffering every hardship but when he went back to England he made a notable speech to the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. He explained to the audience how many natives there were in the Congo, and the fact that they lived naked. He told the audience that their duty as Christians was to convert these misguided naked savages to Christianity and to the wearing of clothes. And when this missionary work had progressed sufficiently to convince the natives of the need for wearing clothes on Sunday, that would mean three hundred and twenty million yards of Manchester cotton cloth yearly. Instantly the audience rose to its feet and cheered him.” 39
25. Most anthropologists consider modesty an unlikely reason for the development of clothes.
J.C. Flügel writes: “The great majority of scholars . . . have unhesitatingly regarded decoration as the motive that led, in the first place, to the adoption of clothing, and consider that the warmth- and modesty-preserving functions of dress, however important they might later on become, were only discovered once the wearing of clothes had become habitual for other reasons. . . . The anthropological evidence consists chiefly in the fact that among the most primitive races there exist unclothed but not undecorated peoples.” 40 Anthropologists agree nearly unanimously on this point.41
26. Many psychologists and anthropologists believe that modesty about exposure of the body may well be a result of wearing clothes, rather than its cause.42
27. It is interesting to note that it is only possible to be immodest once an accepted form of modesty has been established.43
28. Modesty with respect to nudity is a social phenomenon, not biologically instinctive. This is evidenced by the fact that nudity is venerated in art.44
Naturism promotes sexual health.
29. Nudity is not, by itself, erotic, and nudity in mixed groups is not inherently sexual. These are myths propagated by a clothes -obsessed society. Sexuality is a matter of intent rather than state of dress.
In our culture, a person who exposes their sexual parts for any reason is considered to be an exhibitionist. It is assumed that they stripped to attract attention and cause a sexual reaction in others. This is seen as a perversion. Hypocritically, if someone dresses specifically to arouse sexual interest, they are considered to have pride in their appearance. Even if they get great sexual gratification out of the attention others give, there is no suggestion of perversion or sexual fixation.
30. Nudists, as a group, are healthier sexually than the general population.
Nudists are, as a rule, far more comfortable with their bodies than the general public, and this contributes to a more relaxed and comfortable attitude toward sexuality in general.
31. Sexual satisfaction in married couples shows a correlation to their degree of comfort with nudity.45
32. Studies show significantly less incidence of casual premarital and extramarital sex, group sex, incest, and rape among nudists than among non-nudists.46
33. Studies have demonstrated that countries with fewer hangups about nudity have lower teen pregnancy and abortion rates.47
34. Clothes enhance sexual mystery and the potential for unhealthy sexual fantasies.
Photographer Jock Sturges says, “our arbitrary demarcations [between clothing and nudity, sexual and asexual] serve more to confound our collective sexual identity than to further our social progress. America sells everything with sex and then recoils when presented with the realities of natural process.” 48 C. Willet Cunnington writes: “We have to thank the Early Fathers for having, albeit unwillingly, established a mode of thinking from which men and women have developed an art which has supplied . . . so many novel means of exciting the sexual appetite. Prudery, it seems, provides mankind with endless aphrodisiacs, hence, no doubt, the reluctance to abandon it.” 49
35. Clothing focuses attention on sexuality, not away from it; and in fact often enhances immature forms of sexuality, rather than promoting healthy body acceptance.50
36. Complete nudity is antithetic to the elaborate semi-pornography of the fashion industry.
Julian Robinson observes, “modesty is so intertwined with sexual desire and the need for sexual display—fighting but at the same time re-kindling this desire—that a self-perpetuating process is inevitably set in motion. In fact modesty can never really attain its ultimate end except through its disappearance. Hiding under the cloak of modesty there are to be found many essential components of the sexual urge itself.” 51
37. Clothing often focuses attentio n on the genitals and sexual arousal, rather than away from them. 52
At various times in Western history different parts of female anatomy have been eroticized: bellies and thighs in the Renaissance; buttocks, breasts, and thighs by the late 1800s (and relatively diminutive waists and bellies). Underwear design has historically emphasized these erogenous body parts: corsets in the 1800s de- emphasized the midriff and emphasized the breasts—using materials including whalebone and steel; the crinoline in the mid 1800s emphasized the waist; and the bustle, appearing in 1868, emphasized the buttocks.53 Bathing suit design today focuses attention on the breasts and pubic region.
E.B. Hurlock writes: “When primitive peoples are unaccustomed to wearing clothing, putting it on for the first time does not decrease their immorality, as the ladies of missionary societies think it will. It has just the opposite effect. It draws attention to the body, especially for those parts of it which are covered for the first time.” 54 Rob Boyte notes wryly that “textile people, when they do strip in front of others, usually do it for passion, and find the bikini pattern tan-lines attractive. This is reminiscent of the scarification practiced by primitive societies, and shows how clothing patterns become a fetish of the body.” 55 Havelock Ellis writes: “If the conquest of sexual desire were the first and last consideration of life it would be more reasonable to prohibit clothing than to prohibit nakedness.” 56
38. The fashion industry depends on the sex appeal of clothing.
Peter Fryer writes: “The changes in women’s fashions are basically determined by the need to maintain men’s sexual interest, and therefore to transfer the primary zone of erotic display once a given part of the body has been saturated with attractive power to the point of satiation. . . . Each new fashion seeks to arouse interest in a new erogenous zone to replace the zone which, for the time being, is played out.” 57
39. Differences of clothing between the sexes focus attention on sex differences.58
Psychologist J.C. Flügel writes: “There seems to be (especially in modern life) no essential factor in the nature, habits, or functions of the two sexes that would necessitate a striking difference of costume—other than the desire to accentuate sex differences themselves; an accentuation that chiefly serves the end of more easily and frequently arousing sexual passion.” 59
40. Many psychologists believe that clothing may originally have developed, in part, as a means of focusing sexual attention.60
41. Partial clothing is more sexually stimulating (in often unhealthy ways) than full nudity.
Anne Hollander writes: “The more significant clothing is, the more meaning attaches to its absence and the more awareness is generated about any relation between the two states.” 61 Elizabeth B. Hurlock notes that “it is unquestionably a well-known fact that familiar things arouse no curiosity, while concealment lends enchantment and stimulates curiosity . . . a draped figure with just enough covering to suggest the outline, is far more alluring than a totally naked body.” 62 And Lee Baxandall observes, “the ‘almost’-nude beaches, where bikinis and thongs are paraded, are more sexually titillating than a clothes-optional resort or beach. What is natural is more fulfilling, though it may not fit the tantalize-and-deliver titillation of our consumer culture.” 63
42. Modesty—especially enforced modesty—only adds to sexual interest and desire.64
Reena Glazer writes: “Women’s breasts are sexually stimulating to (heterosexual) men, at least in part because they are publicly inaccessible; society further eroticizes the female breast by tagging it shameful to expose. . . . This element of the forbidden merely perpetuates the intense male reaction female exposure allegedly inspires.” 65
43. Topfree66 inequality (requiring women, but not men, to wear tops) produces an unhealthy obsession with breasts as sexual objects.
44. The identification of breasts as sexual objects in our culture has led to the discouragement of breast- feeding, the encouragement of unnecessary cosmetic surgery for breast augmentation, and avoidance of necessary breast examinations by women.
Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer write: “When a woman learns to treat her breasts as objects that enhance appearance, they belong not to the woman, but to her viewers. Thus, a woman becomes alienated from her own body.” 67
45. Naturism is the antithesis of pornography.68
Nudity is often confused with pornography in our society because the pornography industry has so successfully exploited it. In other words, nudity is often damned as exploitative precisely because its repression causes many to exploit it.
46. Pornography has been defined as an attempt to exert power over nature. In most cases in our culture, it manifests itself as an expression of sexual power by men over women.69 Naturism, by contrast, seeks to coexist with nature and with each other, and to accept each other and the natural world in our most natural states.
47. Non-acceptance and repression of nudity fuels pornography by teaching that any form and degree of nudity is inherently sexual and pornographic.
In the words of activist Melissa Farley, “pornography is the antithesis of freedom for women. . . . to treat the human body as anything less than normal and beautiful is to promote puritanism and pornography. If the human body is accepted by society as normal, the pornographers won’t be able to market it.” 70
48. Naturism is innocent, casual, non-exploitative, and non-commercial (and yet is often suppressed); as opposed to pornography, which is commercialized and sensationalized (and generally tolerated).
In some American communities it is illegal for a woman to publicly bare her breasts in order to feed an infant, but it is legal to display Penthouse on drug-store magazine racks.
49. Many psychologists believe that repression of a healthy sexuality leads to a greater capacity for, and tendency toward, violence.
Paul Ableman writes: “We have divorced ourselves from our instincts so conclusively that we are now menaced by their perverted expression. The blocked erotic instinct turns into destructiveness and, in our age, many thinkers have perceived that some of the most ghastly manifestations of human culture are fueled by recycled eroticism. Channelled into pure cerebration, the sexual instinct may generate nightmares impossible in the animal world. Animals are casually cruel and are usually, not always, indifferent to the pain of other animals. Animals kills for food or, rarely, for sport but they do not torture, gloat over pain or exterminate. We do. What’s more, we can tolerate our own ferocity. What we cannot tolerate is our own sexuality.” 71
Thus extreme violence is tolerated even on television, while the merest glimpse of sexual anatomy, however innocent, is enough to cause movie ratings to jump.
Naturism promotes physical health.
50. Clothing limits or defeats many of the natural purposes of skin: for example, repelling moisture, drying quickly, breathing, protecting without impeding performance, and especially sensing one’s environment.
C. W. Saleeby writes: “This admirable organ, the natural clothing of the body, which grows continually throughout life, which has at least four absolutely distinct sets of sensory nerves distributed to it, which is essential in the regulation of the temperature, which is waterproof from without inwards, but allows the excretory sweat to escape freely, which, when unbroken, is microbe-proof, and which can readily absorb sunlight—this most beautiful, versatile, and wonderful organ is, for the most part, smothered, blanched, and blinded in clothes and can only gradually be restored to the air and light which are its natural surroundings. Then, and only then, we learn what it is capable of.” 72
51. Exposure to the sun, without going overboard, promotes general health.
Research suggests that solar exposure triggers the body’s synthesis of Vitamin D, vital for (among other things) calcium absorption and a strong immune system. 73 Exposure to the sun is especially essential for the growth of strong bones in young children.
52. Recent research has suggested an inverse relationship between solar exposure and osteoporosis, colon cancer, breast cancer, and even the most deadly form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma.74
53. An obsessive sense of modesty about the body often correlates with a reluctance to share healthy forms of touch with others.
Research has increasingly linked touch-deprivation, especially during childhood and adolescence, to depression, violence, sexual inhibition, and other antisocial behaviors. Research has also shown that people who are physically cold toward adolescents produce hostile, aggressive, and often violent offspring. On the other hand, children brought up in families where the members touch each other are healthier, better able to withstand pain and infection, more sociable, and generally happier than families that don’t share touch.75 54. Tight clothing may cause health problems by restricting the natural flow of blood and lymphatic fluid.
Recent research by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer demonstrated that women who wear bras more than twelve hours per day, but not to bed, are 21 times more likely to get breast cancer than those who wear bras less than twelve hours per day. Those who wear bras even to bed are 125 times more likely to get breast cancer than those who don’t wear bras at all. Testicular cancer, similarly, has been linked to tight briefs. The theory is that tight clothing impedes the lymph system, which removes cancer-causing toxins from the body.76
55. Clothing can harbor disease-causing bacteria and yeast (especially underclothing and athletic clothing).
56. Medical research has linked clothing to an increased susceptibility to bites and stings by animals such as ticks and sea lice, which hide in or get trapped in clothing.77
57. Clothing fashions throughout history, especially for women, have often been damaging to physical and psychological health.78
For instance, the wearing of corsets led to numerous physical ailments in women in the late 19th century. Men and women both suffered through many ages of history under hot, burdensome layers of clothing in the name of fashion. Footwear has been especially notorious for resisting reason and comfort in the name of fashion.
58. The idea that clothing is necessary for support of the genitals or breasts is often unwarranted.
For example, research shows that the choice of wearing a bra or not has no bearing on the tendency of a woman’s breasts to “droop” as she ages.
Deborah Franklin writes: “Still, the myth that daily, lifelong bra wearing is crucial to preserving curves persists, along with other misguided notions about that fetching bit of binding left over from the days when a wasp waist defined the contours of a woman’s power.” Christine Haycock, of the New Jersey Medical School, says that while exercising without a bra may be uncomfortable for large-breasted women, “it’s not doing any lasting damage to chest muscles or breast tissue.” In fact, given the tendency of sports bras to squash breasts against the rib cage, her research concluded that “those who wore an A cup were frequently most comfortable with no bra at all.” 79 Complete nudity presents no difficulties for conditioned male athletes, either; and thus the athletes of ancient Athens had no trouble performing entirely in the nude.80
59. Clothing hides the natural beauty of the human body, as created by God.
In the words of Michelangelo: “What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot grasp the fact that the human foot is more noble than the shoe and human skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?”
60. Clothing makes people look older, and emphasizes rather than hides unflattering body characteristics.
Paul Fussell writes: “Nude, older people look younger, especially when very tan, and younger people look even younger. . . . In addition fat people look far less offensive naked than clothed. Clothes, you realize, have the effect of sausage casings, severely defining and advertising the shape of what they contain, pulling it all into an unnatural form which couldn’t fool anyone. . . . The beginning Naturist doesn’t take long to master the paradox that it is stockings that make varicose veins noticeable, belts that call attention to forty-eight-inch waists, brassieres that emphasize sagging breasts.” 81 61. Clothing harbors and encourages the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
Naturism is socially constructive.
62. Naturism is a socially constructive philosophy.
As defined by the International Naturist Federation, “Naturism is a way of life in harmony with nature characterized by the practice of communal nudity, with the intention of encouraging self-respect, respect for others and for the environment.” 82
63. Naturism, by philosophy, is tolerant of others and their differences. It expects only the same in return.
Naturism rejects obstreperous, provocative nudity—but because it is anti-social effrontery and disorderly conduct, not because it is nudity.
64. Nudity promotes social equality, feelings of unity with others, and more relaxed social interaction in general. As mentioned earlier, clothing locks us into a collective unreality that prescribes complex responses to social status, roles and expected behaviors.83 As the artificial barrier of clothing is done away with, social class and status disappear. People begin to relate to each other as they are, and not as they seem to be.
This is a phenomenon that is intimately familiar to the Finnish people.
L.M. Edelsward writes: “People can relax in the sauna in a way that is difficult to do in other contexts and with others than one’s family, for here the tensions associated with maintaining one’s social mask disappear. . . . Without their social masks, sauna bathers are able to meet others not in terms of their social personas, but in terms of their inner personalities. . . . Sweating together in the sauna, removed from the impinging demands of ordinary life, Finns can be the people they ‘really’ are, and can recreate their relationships with others as they ideally should be—open, equal, and trusting. . . . Sweating together in the sauna, stripped of all symbols of rank, wealth or prestige, all are equal; distance and respect become openness and sincerity.” 84
65. Naturists tend to be especially accepting of other people, just as they are. This is an attitude that is undoubtedly related to the fact that Naturists are generally more accepting of their own bodies, just as they are, than the general public.85
66. Socially and demographically, nudists are almost exactly like the rest of the population, except that they are tolerant of nudity. There are few other trends, social or psychological, positive or negative, that correlate to a statistically significant degree with nudists as a demographic group.86
67. Naturism rejects blind conformity to cultural mores and assumptions about the body, which see clothing as a constant necessity, in favor of a more reasoned, rational approach which recognizes the need for clothing to be dependent on context.
68. For Americans, non-acceptance and sexualization of their own nudity encourages a biased or racist attitude contrasting “clothed civilization” against the “naked savage.” 87
Rob Boyte asks, “Why is it permissible [in National Geographic] to show the penis and scrotum of an African Surma (Feb. 91) or a Brazilian Urueu-Wau Wau (Dec. 88) but not a Yugoslav Naturist in his natural setting? Why are photographs of breasts on Nuba (Feb. 51, Nov. 66), Zulu (Aug. 53), Dyak (May 56), Masai (Feb. 65), Yap Island (May 67, Oct. 86), Turkana (Feb. 69), Adama Islands (July 75), New Guinea (Aug. 82), Woodabe (Oct. 83), Ndebele (Feb. 69), and Surma (Feb. 91) women shown, yet not one white Canadian can be found to face the camera at Wreck Beach? Why are the breasts shown of Josephine Baker (July 89), a black native of East St. Louis, but the breasts of white native women of Miami Beach are not shown? The unanswered question implies but one conclusion: that the National Geographic has in fact a Eurocentric bias (racist) in portraying nudity.” 88
Jeremy Seabrook writes: “The absence of self-consciousness is not some natural ‘primitive’ impulse to acknowledge the universal truth that sex is the centre of their world. . . . The n akedness of tradition speaks of a social order in which sex, although not denied, has its place in the totality of living and growing things; it speaks of another ordering of the world, one that is a reproach to, and denial of, those nude westerners [vacationing on nude beaches far from home], although at the same time, is dismissed, marginalised, not taken seriously by them.” 89
Naturism is healthy for the family.
69. True nudists emphasize a decent, family atmosphere and morality. 70. Research shows that children who grow up in a nudist setting tend to be more self-confident, more self-accepting, and more sexually well-adjusted. They feel better about their bodies, and more comfortable with their sexuality.90
Research conducted at the University of Northern Iowa found that nudist children had body self-concepts that were significantly more positive than those of non-nudist children—and that the “nudity classification” of a family was one of the most significant factors associated with positive body self-concept. Furthermore, nudist children showed a significantly higher acceptance of their bodies as a whole, rather than feeling ashamed of certain parts.91 A study by psychologists Robin Lewis and Louis Janda at Old Damien University reported that “increased exposure to nudity in the family fosters an atmosphere of acceptance of sexuality and one’s body.” They concluded that children who had seen their parents nude were more comfortable with physical contact and affection, had higher self-esteem, and showed increased acceptance of and comfort with their bodies and their sexuality.92 Research by Marie-Louise Booth at the California School of Professional Psychology found that “individuals with less childhood exposure to parental nudity experienced significantly higher levels of adult sexual anxiety than did the group with more childhood exposure to parental nudity.” 93 Separate research by Diane Lee Wilson at The Wright Institute reached the same conclusion.94 Research by Lou Lieberman of the State University of New York at Albany, in the late 1960s, found that “those young people who had casually seen both of their parents nude in the home were far more likely to feel comfortable with their bodies and to also feel mo re satisfied with the size and shape of their genitalia and breasts.” 95
71. In general, “experts” such as Joyce Brothers and Dr. Spock speak out against family nudity without empirical evidence to back them up. When research is actually done, it contradicts their dire warnings.96
In several years of research at major national research libraries, I have yet to come across a scientific study which contradicts the premise that openness about nudity is healthy for children.
72. Most commentators say that it’s the context in which family nudity takes place, not the nudity itself, that determines whether it’s problematic. Children respond far more to parents’ attitudes toward nudity than to the nudity itself, and nudity is only a problem when it is treated as one.97
73. Many psychologists argue that the implicit message conveyed by a lack of nudity in the home is that the body is basically unacceptable or shameful—an attitude which may carry over into discomfort about nudity in the context of adult sexual relationships.98
74. Children of “primitive” tribes, surrounded by nudity of all forms, suffer no ill effects. Neither do children who grow up in other societies which are more open about nudity than our own.99 Presumptions that exposure to nudity will lead to problems for children grow out of the preconceptions of our culture.
Paul Ableman writes: “It is interesting to speculate as to what kind of model of the human mind Sigmund Freud would have constructed if he had based it not on clothed Europeans but on, say, a study of the naked Nuer of the Sudan. Almost all the processes which he discerns as formative for the adult mind would have been lacking. Freud assumes that children will not normally see each other naked and that, if they do happen to, the result will be traumatic. This is not true of naked cultures. . . . Thus great provinces of Freud’s mind-empire would simply be missing. There would be no Oedipus complex (or not much, anyway), no penis envy or castration complex, probably no clear-cut phases of sexual development. We are emerging rapidly from the era of Freudian gospel . . . and can now perceive the extent to which he himself was the victim of prevailing ideas and prejudices.” 100
75. Children who grow up in a nudist environment witness the natural body changes brought on by adolescence, pregnancy, and aging. They have far less anxiety about these natural processes than children who are never exposed to them except through layers of clothing.
76. Research has demonstrated that countries with fewer reservations about nudity (and sexuality in general) also have lower teen pregnancy and abortion rates.101
A 1985 study by the Guttmacher Institute found rates of pregnancy and abortion among teenage girls in America to be more than twice those of Canada, France, Sweden, England, and The Netherlands. The disparity couldn’t be explained by differences in sexual activity, race, welfare policies, or the availability of abortion, but only in cultural attitudes toward nudity and sexuality. The study found American youth to be particularly ignorant of biology and sexuality, partly due to a climate of moral disapproval for seeking such knowledge. It found that lower levels of unwanted pregnancy correlated with factors such as the amount of female nudity presented by public media and the extent of nudity on public beaches.102
77. Clothes-compulsion intimidates millions of mothers from breast-feeding their children, even though breast-feeding is healthier and often more convenient for both the child and the mother.103
In the U.S., barely half of all mothers breast-feed; only 20% do so for a full 6 months, and only 6% for the Surgeon General’s recommended 12 months.104 Breast-feeding is also declining in developing countries.105
Gabrielle Palmer writes: “In Victorian England, famous for its prudery, a respectable woman could feed openly in church, yet in contemporary industrialized society where women’s bodies and particularly breasts are used to sell newspapers, cars and peanuts, public breast-feeding provokes cries of protest from both men and women.” 106 Lisa Demauro notes that “our society is far more at home with the idea of sexy breasts than functio nal ones.” 107 “Millions of boys and girls have grown up never having seen a mother breast-feeding her baby,” adds Marsha Pearlman, the Florida Health Department coordinator for breast-feeding. “This is a sad commentary on our culture.” 108
Naturism is especially consistent with feminism and the struggle for women’s freedom.
78. The repression of healthy nudity, especially for females, has been one of the chief means of mind and destiny control by the patriarchy. Breaking this pattern shatters the invisible bonds of an inherited sex role.109
79. Limitations on women’s nudity, an acceptance of pornography, and demanding fashion requirements may, individually, seem like minor issues. Taken as a whole, however, they form a pattern of repressive male- oriented expectations.
Marilyn Frye explains: “Consider a birdcage. If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires. If your conception of what is before you is determined by this myopic focus, you could look at that one wire, up and down the length of it, and be unable to see why a bird would not just fly around the wire any time it wanted to go somewhere. . . . There is no physical property of any one wire, nothing that the closest scrutiny could rediscover, that will reveal how a bird could be inhibited or harmed by it except in the most accidental way. It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere; and then you will see it in a moment. It will require no great subtlety of mental powers. It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, no one of which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon.” 110
80. Topfree inequality (requiring women, but not men, to wear tops) is demeaning and discriminatory toward women, and reinforces patterns of male domination over women.111
In our culture, breasts may be exposed to sell drinks to men in bars, but women may not be topfree on a beach for their own comfort and pleasure. Reena Glazer writes: “The criminalization of women baring their breasts, therefore, indicates that society views women’s bodies as immoral and something to hide. There is something potentially criminal about every woman just by virtue of being female.” 112
Herald Price Fahringer writes, “men have the right to cover or expose their chests as they see fit—women do not. Men have the right to enjoy the sun, water, and wind without a top; women do not. Few men would be willing to give up this right. Then why shouldn’t women enjoy the same advantage? . . . Requiring women to cover their breasts in public is a highly visible expression of inequality between men and women that promotes an attitude that demeans women and damages their sense of equality. . . . For centuries, men have held the power to generate these misconceptions. The male view on the exposure of a woman’s breasts is crucially influenced by the need of men to define women. . . . This reaction stems from a masculine ideology that has . . . doomed generations of women to a secondary status.” 113
Raymond Grueneich writes: “So what is really at stake is whether women will be free to bare their own breasts in appropriate public places for their own personal purposes on these occasions in which they feel free to do so, or whether they will only be allowed to bare their breasts in public on an occasion that can be exploited commercially and that reinforces the idea that the sole function of the female breast is for the satisfaction of male fantasy. It is as though it is a crime for a woman to be undressed in public, unless she was undressed in the service of a corporation or a commercial entrepreneur.” 114
81. Laws banning exposure of female breasts do so in part because of the reaction such exposure would supposedly cause in men. Such laws are written entirely from the male point of view, and ignore the point of view of women, who may want to go topfree for their own comfort.
82. By refusing to accept the need to “protect” themselves from men by covering their bodies, women gain power, and shift the burden of responsible behavior to men, where it rightfully belongs.
Reena Glazer notes that “male power is perpetuated by regarding women as objects that men act and react to rather than as actors themselves. . . . their entire worth is derived from the reaction they can induce from men. In order to maintain the patriarchal system, men must determine when and where this arousal is allowed to take place. In this way, the (heterosexual) male myth of a woman’s breasts has been codified into law. Because women are the sexual objects and property of men, it follows that what might arouse men can only be displayed when men want to be aroused.” This emphasis on women as temptresses “shifts the burden of responsibility from men to women; because women provoke uncontrollable urges in males, society excuses male behavior and blames the victim for whatever happens. . . . To sanction the concept that men have uncontrollable urges implies that violence against women is inevitable.” 115
83. Patriarchal laws strip women of the right to control their own bodies, but there have always been “exceptions” to obscenity laws which permit the use of women’s bodies in consumer seduction. Thus female nudity is considered inappropriate on the beach, but is ubiquitous in advertising and pornography.
84. By enforcing arbitrary clothing requirements for women (requiring them to cover their tops), the government acts in loco parentis, in the role of a parent. This is demeaning to women. Like children, they aren’t conceded the ability or right to decide how to dress, much as they formerly weren’t allowed to vote, own property, or exercise other rights.116
85. The repression of healthy female nudity fuels pornography.
Herbert Muschamp observes: “To object to the nude figure in a general interest magazine while allowing it to remain in men’s skin magazines is one way of keeping women in their place.” 117
86. Pornography, in turn, limits women’s ability to participate in healthy nude recreation, and to be casually nude in other ways. Naturism breaks the power of pornography over women.
As mentioned earlier, in many places it is legal to display Penthouse on drug-store magazine racks, yet it is illegal for a woman to publicly bare her breasts to feed an infant.
Pornography seeks “freedom,” particularly “freedom of expression.” But an acceptance of pornography restricts women’s capacity to go topfree or nude for their own enjoyment. It limits the freedom to control their own bodies, and silences their own freedom of self-expression. Our pornographic culture has contributed to attitudes which often discourage women from even trying clothing-optional recreation, even though Naturism is in many ways the antithesis of pornography.
87. The fight for freedom should mean civil rights for women—not license for pornographers.
88. Clothing fashions and legal requirements have historically contributed to the repression of women.118
For example, in the mid-nineteenth century, a tiny waist was considered a sign of beauty, and, in order to achieve this standard, women bound themselves into corsets designed to constrict the stomach (and other internal organs) inward and upward, creating the appearance of a tiny middle. In addition, women wore up to fifteen layers of petticoats and crinolines under their floor-length skirts. In the latter half of the century the wire hoop and spring- like bustle were also added for the appearance of fullness. The weight of this assemblage came close to 20 pounds. We now know that many of the physical characteristics associated with the “frail sex” resulted from such restrictive clothing, including “bird-like” appetites, a tendency to fainting spells, and reduced physical activity. Thorstein Veblen has observed that “the corset is in economic theory substantially [an instrument of] mu tilation for the purpose of lowering the subject’s vitality and rendering her personally and obviously unfit for work.” A variety of respiratory and reproductive ailments (including frequent miscarriages) from which women once suffered have been directly linked to the unhealthy dictates of the “hourglass” fashion. Many of the associations of female frailty which have their roots in the nineteenth century remain with us today, though they are now unsubstantiated.119
Corsets and, in modern times, cosmetic breast surgery also damage the internal physiology of the breasts, often eliminating the capacity to breast-feed.120
89. Naturism defies relationships based on a balance of power, and is thus consistent with contemporary feminism, which seeks to break down power hierarchies.
Naturism is more natural than clothes-compulsiveness.
90. Naturism, as a celebration of the natural human body free of the artificiality of fashion, is highly compatible with the ideals of a natural, simple, and environmentally friendly lifestyle.121
91. As we work for the good of nature, we must also work for the good and the freedom of our bodies, especially as they may be integrated with the rest of nature.
As the Quebec Naturist Federation has observed, “Nature is not just the trees; it is also our bodies.” 122
92. The goals of Naturism and environmentalism are often parallel. Like environmentalism, Naturism usually seeks to preserve the natural character of landscapes, and opposes development and commercial exploitation. The greatest risk to most beaches is not nudity, but development—the takeover of pristine public areas by private resorts or hotels.
93. One feels much more a part of a natural setting in the nude than clothed.123
94. The nudist is far more sensually aware, because nudity enhances responsiveness and sensory experience.
95. Clothing cuts us off from the natural world, by inhibiting the skin’s ability to sense the environment. It in fact distracts from our ability to sense the natural environment, by artificially irritating the skin.
Paul Ableman writes, “if primitives lost their culture [through being clothed by missionaries], they also lost their environment. They lost the sun, the rain, the grass underfoot, the foliage which brushed their skin as they moved through forest or jungle, the water of lake, river or sea slipping past their bodies, above all the ceaseless communion with the wind. Anyone who has ever spent any time naked outdoors knows that the play of the elements over the body produces an ever-changing response that may reach almost erotic intensity. The skin becomes alive and responsive and a whole new spectrum of sensation is generated. Clothe the body and this rich communion is replaced by mere fortuitous, and often irritating, contact with inert fabric. It is a huge impoverishment and its measure can perhaps best be judged by the reluctance of the Indians of Tierra del Fuego, who live in a climate so harsh that Darwin observed snow melting on the naked breasts of women, to adopt protective clothing. They preferred dermal contact with the environment, hostile though it was, to the loss of sensation implied by wearing clothes.” 124 96. Clothes-compulsiveness is incompatible with the natural patterns of nature, as expressed by every other member of the animal kingdom. Humans are the only species to clothe themselves. 97. Some psychologists theorize that humans developed clothing, in part, to set themselves apart from animals.
Fred Ilfeld and Roger Lauer write: “Man’s major goal is superiority . . . and one way that he strives for it is through clothing. Not only do clothes protect and decorate, but they also give status to the wearer, not just with respect to peers but, more importantly, in relation to man’s place in nature. Clothes make a human being appear less like an animal and more like a god by concealing his sexual organs.” 125 Lawrence Langner adds: “Modern man is a puritan and not a pagan, and by his clothing has been able to overcome his feeling of shame in relation to his sex organs in public, in mixed company. He has done this by transforming his basic inferiority into a feeling of superiority, by relating himself to God in whose sexless image he claims to be made. But take all his clothes off, and it is plain to see that he is half-god, half-animal. He is playing two opposing roles which contradict one another, and the result is confusion.” 126
98. The physical barrier of clothing reinforces psychological barriers separating us from the natural world.
In our clothing-obsessed society, we have distanced ourselves so much from nature that the sight of our own natural state is often startling.
Allen Ginsberg writes: “Truth may always surprise a little, because we are creatures of habit, especially in our hypermechanized, hyperindustrialized, hypermilitarized society. Any presentation of nature tends to appear shocking.” 127
Other Highly-Recommended Articles:
Nudity Provides Health Benefits to Your Body and Brain (over 270,000 hits!)