The naked, healthy truth

Mans legs while removing his pants

Out & Healthy 

There are three different kinds of people: those who like to be naked, those who don’t like to be naked, and those who wish they could enjoy being naked but can’t bring themselves to do it. I’m not going to advocate that one of these is better than the others but I will try to shed some light on why we all fit into one of these categories. Aside from which one I fall into, I will try to remain objective, with an understanding that it may be best that we remain in any one of these camps as we try to sympathize with each other.

Here is a picture of someone in the first camp: walks completely at ease, naked, from the shower to the locker in the locker room at the gym; carries on a friendly conversation with you as you both dry off, totally exposed; bathes frequently at the nude beach; enjoys being nude around other unclothed people doing everyday things.

A portrait of the someone in the second camp might look like this: is only completely nude alone, in the shower, the bathroom, a locked stall, or in the bedroom when having sex; is not completely comfortable, even at these times; is always clothed, perhaps taking clothing into the shower at the gym to get into before leaving the stall to go back to the locker.

Finally, a person in the third camp could be this person: likes being in the locker room among nude people; puts a towel around the waist with the gym clothes on, takes off the clothes from under the towel, showers, puts the towel on, then back at the locker, puts on underwear while the towel is on and takes off the towel; goes to the nude beach frequently, but wears a swimsuit.

In an attempt to better understand the people in any of these camps, I met with therapist Ellen Gregory, owner of Thrive Counseling Center in Old Bridge, New Jersey. She encouraged me to consider someone’s childhood and the messages they might have gotten from family or friends. She indicated that we might learn shame from the behavior of those close to us at an early age or conversely, that we might grow up with a natural comfort with our bodies and sense no wickedness in nudity or a necessary association with sex.
Lea Lis, MD, known as The Shameless Psychiatrist, is a double board-certified adult and child psychiatrist who specializes in helping parents, children, and adolescents develop healthy, sex-positive attitudes and practices. Lis wrote in an article for Psychology Today, “Modeling comfort with and respect for your body can become a basis for a healthy body image as your child grows and experiences the changes of adolescence. Comfort with one’s naked body translates into healthy behaviors later in life. Even if you lack self-esteem, you do not necessarily need to pass that on.”

Howard C. Warren, an American psychologist, first chairman of the Princeton University Psychology department, and president of the American Psychological Association in 1913, wrote a lengthy article, “Social Nudism and the Body Taboo,” for Psychological Review in 1933. In the article, he describes a stay at a German nudist resort for the purpose of learning more about how people manage being naked around others. He found being nude at the resort surprisingly comfortable, much as the ancient Greeks would have. He points out that the word “gymnastics” literally means “unclothed exercising.” In pondering why the men didn’t seem to get aroused when talking to other nude people, he states, “I saw and heard nothing to suggest that social nudism induced the virile reflex–certainly not after the first shock at the novel situation was gone.”

It is my hope that no matter which camp we are in, we try to understand the actions and attitudes of those in other camps. And if we find ourselves in the third camp, a bit of soul searching might unlock the binds and allow us to enjoy activities that we secretly desire. The next time we find ourselves in the presence of someone who seems to be either very comfortable, or very uncomfortable with the idea of nudity, try not to judge, but understand that they might be right at home in their camp.