Getting Naked

“For some, the idea of being seen nude – and seeing others nude – is filled with psychological tension.”

– the Naturist Society

This is a quote cited in a recent Ask Amy column in the paper, in part as her response to a guy who is a naturist. Seems his wife isn’t willing to participate with him at nudist retreats and he asked Amy’s advice on how to change her mind. This got me to doing some research, thinking about the whole nudist thing, and my experiences growing up.

The ancient Greek gymnasium (from whence our word “gym”, originally meant “school for naked exercise for men”) and Roman baths aside, beginning in the US in the mid-1800’s and through when I was growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, casual nudity among men and boys wasn’t an issue, it was expected and accepted, encouraged and institutionally mandated. Starting out with the ocassional shower with dad until I was about 6 or 7, to the changing room at our members-only swim club where showers were required prior to entering the pool area, to the Boy Scouts where on campouts we were required to bathe naked en masse in a creek daily and routinely skinny-dipped in ponds, to swimming at the YMCA where bathing suits for men and boys (ages nine and up) were forbidden, to the daily gym classes in Jr and Sr High where showers were non-partitioned communal and mandatory, and to college and the Service (again, communal showers), male nudity was pervasive in my formative years and – to me and those I grew up with – no big deal. In fact, if a boy was too shy to strip off, he was ridiculed unmercifully by everyone, including coaches, until he gave in and got over it.

I suppose all of this was some kind of male bonding thing, or a rite of passage into the “Community of Men.”

Around 1980, mothers – apparently not upset about their sons’ exposure to public nudity –  united in defence against the far fewer instances that involved their daughters in some public school swimming classes, and mandated nudity ended for all, even in the all-male YMCA pools.

Today, anyone who would try to reinstitute such policies and practices would be accused as a pervert or child molester.

But back to the naturist thing. We’re told it isn’t about prurient voyerism or eroticism, it’s simply about the freedom of not having to wear clothes. Since most nudist retreats are family oriented – parents with children – maybe not having to do alot of laundry while on vacation has something to do with it. I don’t know, but that is a plus factor in favor. 

And back to the Ask Amy letter. The guy doesn’t like wearing clothes and his wife wouldn’t be caught without them. All Amy could say to him was, “There is a line between encouragement and coercion. Don’t cross it [if you want her to join you].”

Now I don’t like clothes myself, they make me hot in the summer, and any kind of pants I find “grabby” and uncomfortable (I find wearing my kilt at Highland games and RenFaires sooo liberating), and if I thought I could get away with it (read: wife) I’d go au naturel around the house and in the backyard all the time, when warm enough. 

Hmmm, wife is gone for the day. I wonder how warm it’s getting outside…

– Bill



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