In today’s society sex and nudity are used to sell products and casual nakedness is frowned upon if not actually criminalised. (Incidentally nudity, per se, is not illegal in the UK.) This is harmful in many ways, body shame being amongst the least of them. So little wonder that naturism is perceived by society as being different, and even a thin cover for rampant sexuality.
Nudism is generally considered the act of being naked, while naturism is a lifestyle which may embrace more than just nudity. Actually I would define both a being lifestyles; it depends on one’s attitude. Both can be social or practised individually, although naturism is generally more social than individual (at least in my estimation) and often encompasses other environmentally aware beliefs. In what follows I’ve been lazy and tend to use the terms “nudism” and “naturism” fairly interchangeably.
I would define myself as a nudist; I am comfortable being nude, both privately and socially, but I’m not one for the wider naturist lifestyle if only from a lack of opportunity and a dislike of the regimentation so often expected by clubs and organisations. I like the ideas of naturism, but clubs etc. don’t work for me; so my nudism tends to be private. I would like that we could live in a world where nudity was accepted anywhere and at any time and we think nothing of practising social nudity with friends and family. Until then I wear clothes to cover other people’s embarrassment.
Nudism and naturism as lifestyles are all too often frowned upon by society; this is often as a result of fear and misunderstanding of what they’re about. Contrary to what many people think, naturism and nudism are definitely not sexual lifestyles; they are holistic, bringing about many physical, mental and societal benefits.
So here are a few of the Benefits of Nudity:
- Naturism as Therapy. According to naturists, one of the main benefits of naturism is that it provides an incredible feeling of relaxation. Being naked is more comfortable and removes the restrictions of clothing; it is very sensual (not sexual). This creates a feeling of well-being, which helps to invigorate the body. The feeling of the breeze or sun on your naked body, or of walking barefoot, is very invigorating, and enhances enjoyment of your surroundings. The feeling of euphoria that comes with being totally naked also helps alleviate mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression.
- Body Acceptance. People are under pressure to live up to the mythical ideal image, and use clothes as a way of hiding their feelings of inferiority. The fear of being naked is a defence mechanism which many people develop (or have imposed on them by parents) to protect themselves from feeling inferior due to their self-perceived imperfections. Naturism helps avoid this by enabling people to better understand that their self-perceived body imperfections are nothing more than part of the glorious diversity of human bodies. This helps people to accept their bodies, and respect those of the others; in turn this has been shown to promote healthier relationships and sexuality.
- Self-esteem & Maturity. Clothes are also used by society as an indicator of social status and focus attention on sexuality; partial clothing is considered very sexually stimulating. Naturism on the other hand, focuses attention on the acceptance of the body whatever its perceived imperfections. Shedding clothes makes people familiar with nakedness; it ceases to be something to be scared of. Moreover once people remove their clothes, everyone is equal and very little attention is paid to the social status. All this helps people who engage in naturism be more mature sexually and have enhanced self-esteem.
- Tolerance. Naturism advocates self-respect and respect for others, which helps promote tolerance in the society. Clothing promotes a patriarchal society where women are expected to dress according to certain requirements. Naturism advocates the acceptance of other people as equals and helps people to respect their bodies. This helps to eliminate male oriented expectations that are repressive to women and respect for all.
- Money and Time. Clothes are a huge expense in terms of money, time spent shopping and environmental damage. Wearing, and needing, fewer clothes is good for your bank balance, your time balance, and for the planet.
- Natural Body Processes. People are taught that they are not supposed to expose their bodies. This cultivates body shame, makes people view genitals as “dirty” rather than parts of the body that have important functions. In turn this generates mystery, ignorance and fear about the natural processes of the body, such as adolescence, pregnancy and ageing.
- Better Health. Clothing, make-up and the like hinder the basic functions of the skin, including the correct microbial balance. Body crevices become hot, sticky and humid which encourages the growth of (for example) fungal infections. Nudity allows air and sun to the skin, preventing the sticky conditions loved by many pathogens and hence helping maintaining a healthier body. Additionally, and importantly, exposure to sunlight boosts the production of vitamin D.
- Healthy sexuality. Many studies show that countries which support naturism have a lower rate of teenage pregnancy and abortion, because naturism promotes the understanding of sexuality and body image. While this will not remove common teenage curiosity with sex, it does help it be more appropriate because of an enhanced awareness of what sex and bodily functions are all about.
At the end of the day, give or take the odd scar or mole, we all know what’s under my, and your, t-shirt and jeans. So really, where is the problem?