Nu comme le jour où je suis né

Month: July 2018

Navigating Gender – Not Just What the Naked Body Tells Us

It’s just a body, not the mind

Gender is an aspect of our individuality.”  These words from Thomas Moore got me thinking about gender and my own identity. When a person is nude, gender is an obviously physical thing as this image illustrates. But what gender are we as individuals? The obvious answers are either male or female, but as science and life teaches us, there isn’t always an obvious answer even on the basic physical level. When it comes to the psychological level it gets even more complicated. Identity is forged individual by individual and we still don’t have a full knowledge of how gender and identity are tied in with our physical bodies. The scientific and supposedly objective criteria of defining gender by one’s chromosomal configuration falls flat on its face when confronted by bodies appearing to be male or female, which contradict what the chromosomal structure would have us believe. Hormone therapy, surgery, and other strategies used by a considerable number of people to have their bodies reflect the gender that is buried within their individual psyches.

Perhaps, Thomas Moore has it right when he says that “Gender is a state of mind, a product of the imagination.” Of course, Moore is talking about how each of us self-identifies based on psychological rather than simply physiological factors. Our physical bodies are containers, not the sum total of who we are as human beings and individuals. We experience our bodies and develop relationships with these bodies we find ourselves in. Most often the inner self (the psychological self) and the outer self (the physiological self) are in accord and we are comfortable in male bodies with a solid masculine sense of identity, or females with a solid feminine sense of identity. But even that simplistic self-identity is charged with unnamed influences both within and without to cause confusion. We are each individuals with individual histories in unique settings and contexts and relationships.

I am a man and feel myself to be fully masculine, but . . . and it seems for each of us there is a niggling but somewhere in the background lurking . . . but what I experience as my masculinity isn’t what any other man experiences and understands. And, as I get older, I find myself, both physically and psychologically, mellowing in my grounded identity as a man and as masculine. The hard edges are being eroded allowing me to become a fuller person, richer.

Is Nudity Psychologically Harmful For Children?

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!

Even Christ Can’t Be Nude

Sometimes images betray unintended information about the human psyche. Benvenuto Cellini had his reasons for creating this image of Jesus Christ crucified almost five hundred years ago. He wasn’t the first of the last to show Christ nude. What is vital today, is that this image has so much to tell us about our human psyche and condition today. That is the power of what I can only say is a numinous image.

A numinous image is one that is more than a recording of a visual fact. If the image takes us deep within ourselves, or out beyond the realm of ordinary life where we can almost touch whatever it is that we call heaven or nirvana, then the image is numinous. Evoking a sense of mystery, holiness, awe, and even the presence of whatever it is that we struggle to name as the creative force of the universe, such images take us out of ourselves and into ourselves. And where it takes us, isn’t always about light. As often as an image takes us to the awe of creation and heaven, an image also makes evident the face of darkness, of fear, of anger, of hell.

As a naturist, a psychological naturist, this image speaks to me on a number of levels: the personal, the spiritual and even the collective level. Cellini has crafted in marble, man’s vulnerability. Even the Son of God is vulnerable. Seeing this vulnerability allows me to accept my own vulnerability with honour instead of shame. The path back home, back to from whence we came, like our entrance into this life, is a journey that can only be done naked and vulnerable. There is a need to give up – give up our beliefs, our religions, our anchors, all that ties us to where we are if we are to enter. No brand name article of clothing or footwear will serve as a passport to heaven. We must submit, naked and vulnerable.

In our modern world, an irrational fear grows more and more powerful. Mothers cover the eyes of their children at the first sign of nudity, especially male nudity. Any male caught exposed is branded a pervert and punished by the collective as a sexual offender.I mentioned a collective level response to this image, to this historically accurate portrayal of crucifixion by Romans two thousand years ago. In our modern world, we have such a dread of being naked and vulnerable and we have adopted a sense of shame for being naked and vulnerable. For Jesus to be Son of God, then we need to cover up his nakedness. For Jesus to be the Son of Man, we need to deny his sexuality. A visible penis is too threatening.

In our modern world we learn to hide ourselves from others, even from ourselves. We learn that our bodies are not to be trusted. We learn that our bodies are imperfect and need serious modifications through diet, exercise, and surgery. We unconsciously come to believe that God messed up big time and had nothing to be pleased about at the end of the seventh day of creation. So, we cover up our bodies and cover up the body of a crucified Christ.

I Got To Walk With Brian

A hike in the Eagle Hills with Brian

I just got news today that I never wanted to hear. My friend, Brian died yesterday. Brian was the president – the heart and soul – of the non-landed naturist group called Prairie Suns. My wife and I have taken part at various times over the years at events held at the acreage where Brian lived with his wife. And, there were other times such as in the scene above where it was just the two of us as friends with no organised event needed. As couples, we visited them and they visited us.

I talked with his wife Nancy this morning intending to visit their home again as I had earlier this spring. Before I could even bring up the reason for my call, she told me the sad news. I will learn more about “what next?” tomorrow. It felt strange to me as my wife and I had been talking about them during our morning countryside walk about an hour before I found out the news.

One thing that this type of news does, is to reinforce the idea that one shouldn’t postpone too many things for the future. There is no promise of tomorrow for any of us. So as a result, I am going to put myself out there more in ways that will allow me to be even more who I want to be. You will find out more about this in future posts.

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