Why are we so afraid of nakedness?

An annoying thing happened to me yesterday in the swimming pool changing room.

Just as I was getting dry and dressed after my swim some schoolkids came into the changing rooms – I’m guessing they were about seven years old (Year 3).

But that wasn’t the annoying bit.

As soon as they saw me they sort of giggled and went to a different part of the changing room. In the end the whole class of boys got changed in the top third of the changing room – our changing room is split into three loosely divided sections, as I was in the middle section all the boys stayed in the top section nearest the entrance. Being young boys they chatted and giggled as they got changed.

But that wasn’t the annoying bit.

The annoying bit was when their teacher made a point of asking me if I would get changed in another changing room next week to leave the boys alone in this room.

I wouldn’t have minded if they needed the full room. I can kind of understand it if they didn’t have an adult to be with them. But neither of those situations existed. I suspect that they didn’t want the boys to be in the room with a [potentially] naked man, nor a man in the room with naked boys.

To take the first point – and this is the title of this post – but why are we so afraid of nakedness? Why are we creating a normality in our kids that other people’s nakedness is somehow weird?

I don’t expect us as a culture to become like that strange German guy we’ve all ‘met’ on skiing holidays that insists on walking around the sauna completely naked all the time. But equally we need to be a little more relaxed about bare flesh and even [heavens above] genitals. It’s only a human body and we’ve all got one. An up tight, prudish response to seeing it only leads to further self-repression and potentially longer term damage.

On the second point, so what is someone sees a naked boy. What harm does it do that boy? None at all if it’s innocent (which this of course was). But what if the man was somehow ‘interested’ in that sight, what damage then – you know what, still none. (This brilliant article by Harry Wallop in the Telegraph summarises it better than I could). There was an adult in the room, so nothing could have happened – and if I had been using that changing room for those reasons, swimming almost 4km before hand is one hell of a cover!

I think as a culture we over sexualise kids (clothes, magazines, celebrities etc) and at the same time completely under prepare them for the reality – that can’t be a good mix.

– – –

As an aside, I was in a newsagents the other day with my nine year-old son. When we came out we had the following conversation:

– “Dad, did you see those magazines with the picture of the woman wearing just a bra and knickers?”
– [Hmm, I wonder where this is going]. “Why?”
– “Well, I think they are really inappropriate.”
– [Ok, still not sure where this is going]. “Why do you think that?”
– “Well, what if a young girl saw it and thought that she should dress like that?”

I’m not sure I could love him more.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Why are we so afraid of nakedness?

  1. Patrick, good points well made. The obvious answer as to why you were asked to change in a different room was so that the teacher could (excuse the pun) cover his arse. No one ever got sacked for being overprotective of other peoples kids and a little knowledge of child protection is a dangerous thing in an over-zealous parent’s hands. Also the sensible, mature conversation that your post provokes is open to all sorts of mis-understandings.

    As for your son’s comments; sounds like his dad is doing something right 🙂

    Happy swimming.

    Danny

  2. Great post and totally with you. That’s a great boy you are raising there. If he knows you’ve written this maybe you could let him know that a woman with daughters read your blog and wrote that and if he doesn’t know just pass on my thoughts silently, as you say, love him more, and be justly proud of him.

  3. What a society we live in. A locker room is a perfectly appropriate place for people to be naked. In a YMCA locker room or other gym you are bound to have people of the same sex but different ages naked together. It’s a locker room for crying out loud!
    As you clearly stated nothing nefarious was going on, you were not gawking. More than likely those young boys were gawking at you.
    While I love beautiful women, it does seem inappropriate to have cleavage and maximum nakedness almost everywhere you look.
    There is a time and place for everything. Locker room = appropriate. Check out at the grocery store = not so much.

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