It has been a while since I have looked at James Hollis’ book, Why Good People Do Bad Things, so it just felt right to bring the book out from the shelf where it has lain idle.
Why? Well perhaps it has to do with the fact that being nude, even in one’s own yard, is doing something bad when it comes to the modern world. If this wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t be hiding in the back yard while nude. If nudity wasn’t “bad” from a societal perspective, I wouldn’t worry about being seen. Yet, there is a need to worry in my part of the world. It only takes one phone call to the local law enforcement agency to have the weight of the society deal with me “bad” behaviour.
Of course other naturists/nudists wouldn’t view my nudity as me doing something bad – maybe for some, my choice of place and time for nudity would be viewed as a bit controversial or risky given the environmental and societal conditions surrounding my nudity.
Getting back to the book, I found something in it that bears repeating here, a quotation that fits what I am talking about.
As children, we learn to “read” the world around us to find what is acceptable, what is dangerous. Many learned that matters of sexual character were not permissible in their family or religion, and so associated their own natural impulses and desires as something evil, or at best furtive and contaminated. [p. 205]
Nudity, in spite of all the noise made by naturists and nudists to the contrary, is sexual. One’s skin is the body’s largest sex organ and allowing oneself to free the skin from the constriction of clothing elicits a sensual presence to oneself. Sexual does not mean that being nude implies that one is on the verge of copulating with another person (willingly or unwillingly on their part). Sexual does mean that one’s sexuality is not disguised or denied as though that sexuality – bare skin, exposed genitals (overt or implied) – was indeed something to be ashamed of.
Toddlers exhibit a “natural” way of being when they lose their clothing to run freely in their “birthday suits.” We teach these toddlers that it is unacceptable to be natural in this manner. We, as a society teach our children based our beliefs that come from religion, societal prejudices, law, and our personal world of unconscious complexes.
Hollis goes on to explain further.
The by-product of our necessary collusion with the realpolitik of childhood vulnerability is guilt, shame,inhibition, and most of all, self-alienation. We all, still today, reenact these collusions, suffer this shame, and retreat from our wholeness. [ibid]
And here we find the hidden roots of body shame. Because of the silence from others, the self comes to believe that he or she is wrong in being different, even bad. Stolen moments for nudity where one feels pure joy, soon turns to feeling guilty for standing outside the norm. After all, everyone else can’t be wrong, right?
I will be back. Until then, ask yourself a few hard questions and see just how much you want to avoid admitting that this also speaks about you and your experience.