What About the Children? Gut Responses to Nudity

Family nudity

I am asking this question because almost all of the outrage being expressed against nudity, especially nudity in the home and in public, is prefaced with “My God! What if children see nude people? They’ll be scarred forever!” As a naturist and as a therapist, I obviously don’t believe that nudity in itself causes psychological scarring for children or for adults. We are all nude beneath our clothing and are born nude. We are the only species that covers up because of some sense of shame at our nakedness. But at the same time, I don’t want to let my opinions get in the way of truth, so I went out searching for answers.


Curiously, I didn’t find any scientific or psychological studies that confirmed that seeing nudity (oneself or others) was psychologically harmful in itself. Where there was harm, other factors were also present. However, I did find serious studies that basically stated that nudity was not the factor in the psychological scarring of children, studies such the one led by Paul Okami (cited below), Higgins and Hawkins (1984), and Dr. Conrad Manning. What was interesting in doing the research was the fact that few children in North America saw any adult nudity while children.

“Given the vehemence with which clinicians and child-rearing specialists often condemn childhood exposure to parental nudity, it is paradoxical that their dire predictions are not
supported by the (scant) empirical work that does exist.” [Okami, Olmstead, Abramson, Pendelton, Archives of Sexual Behavior. Volume: 27. Issue: 4, “Early childhood exposure to parental nudity.”

Another study by Lewis and Janda (1988) studied the literature and conducted a study of Seventy-seven males and 133 females to assess the relationship between exposure to nudity and adult well-being.

“The results suggest that childhood exposure to nudity and sleeping in the parental bed are not related to poor sexual adjustment. In fact, for boys, exposure to nudity in early childhood appears to be modestly related to greater comfort levels with regard to physical contact /affection.” [Lewis and Janda, Archives of Sexual Behavior Vol. 17, No. 4, 1988 “The Relationship Between Adult Sexual Adjustment and Childhood Experiences Regarding Exposure to Nudity]

Studies aside, society judges harshly. And as with all harsh responses, reality is not the issue, only the dark shadow hanging over and within a society and its constituents. Will children be scarred by the sight of nudity? If our collective shadow has its way, we will make sure that they do. Left to nature, never!

9 thoughts on “What About the Children? Gut Responses to Nudity

  1. Do these do- gooders who speak against children seeing adults naked wish to rob these children of the marvellous bond of family naturism at home and on holiday?
    Almost without exception the children of naturists that I have observed have been the most well mannered and well adjusted ones that I have come across. As a grandparent, naturist children are a delight.

    • In short, Helena, yes, they do wish to rob children of this experience. After all, in their fundamentalist world view, nudity is evil, something that only Satan would approve of … strange as it was God who thought a naked Adam and Eve were “good.”

  2. I agree with rglongpre. There is a saying: “God created nudists. Sinners created clothes.” When I was a small child my parents just could not keep clothes on me. The neighbors would bring me home wrapped in a towel because I was running nude through the neighborhood and they couldn’t find my clothes. Consequently, I was brought up taught that it was “wrong” to be nude. (Except for in the bathroom.) THAT is what scarred me. Being told that something so natural was wrong. As I grew up I thought that I was a mental case because I loved to be nude every chance I got. I knew I was going to hell. Thank God that I discovered the nudist community early!!! My point is that if I were not told that nudity was wrong when I was young I would not have been so traumatized for so many years. I personally think it is very healthy to raise children not to fear the natural, naked human body. What a beautiful creation it is.

  3. I grew up in a naturist family and I hated it every minute I still hate it. No there were no “other factors” other than it felt weird and unnatural to be so hung ho about it. This has scarred me to the point I can’t get past several things like even seeing naked people bothers me. So no they didn’t do the research. I might be willing to have tried it if growing up with it didn’t happen. I do swim naked when I can but it’s a private thing or amongst friends but always seems to have a sexual connotation to the body. It’s sad I have to think this way and be so freaked out by it all

    • I appreciate your words here, Katie. As a psychotherapist, I am intrigued by the unconscious background that lays beneath all of our “reactions” in life. Behind EVERY “reaction” there is a complex that has been activated. Nothing right or wrong about it. We all have instinctive gut reactions that appear, different things activating those reactions. From the sounds of it, nudity is still in your life privately.

  4. The anti nude influences in society around us, the critics and lust mongers, causing fear of being seen. That is what causes nudity to be feared. Fear of criticism, fear of being labeled something we aren’t, the unpleasant aspect of someone making lust driven comments when they aren’t appropriate. It’s the unpleasant associations, the association with inappropriate lust and sexual activity, not the nudity itself. If all that is eliminated, nude living becomes morally clean, beneficial and very comfortable as long as the temperature is good for it. I started out quite early with those unpleasant associations, and for many years was really frightened to be seen naked, very unreasonably so. But also grew to enjoy working and hiking naked in isolation, perhaps as backlash from the other side. In time I came to understand how the unnatural fright response came about and that I needed to get rid of it. And so started intentionally taking steps to retrain my mind on the subject. And I also came to understand that I would have been much better off if my parents had brought me up in a nude way, free from body shame and condemnation. A detrimental side effect that I’ve fought all my life would never had come up. I have come to realize that God did it right the first time when he made our first parents naturist gardeners. And that plan has never been improved on, only departed from to our own harm.
    I found the atmosphere at decent naturist resorts to be no different than a clothed facility, maybe a bit better. Everyone ignores the fact that we’re all void of fabric, It’s no big deal. If people started making lewd or suggestive comments I’d feel out of place and be gone. because that’s why nude life outside the facility is so unwelcome. Get used to being around nude people a lot in common life and the feelings of lust vanish. Which tells me we’d be in much better moral condition if somehow everyone were trained to see nudity as no big deal and it became common in society.

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