When we think about possible ways to increase the prevention of child abuse and to create safe spaces for our offspring, at one point or another we will start looking in the direction of social nudity, also called nudism, naturism, or clothes freedom (among other terms). For your reading experience, we will stick with the most common term in the USA: Nudism.
It’s a logical way of thinking. Nudity stimulates our senses and triggers sexual behavior. Allowing children to run around without any clothes on among adults, many of whom are often strangers, can easily be considered as (pardon the harsh comparison) showcasing the merchandise to those with all the wrong intentions.
Nudity and sex
Logical, seen through the eyes of the non-nudist. In our modern society, nudity is very much linked to sex. Most people only undress for two reasons: showering or sex. Only the latter includes the presence of others. This is a dark cloud that has been hanging over nudist clubs and venues since the very beginning of this lifestyle: The assumption that people who spend time in the nude among each other must do so with sexual intentions. The majority of the outside world doesn’t really care about this, as long as we are talking about consenting adults. But nudism, advertised as a family-friendly lifestyle, has triggered quite a few alarms over the years.
Nudists see things from a different perspective. The lifestyle started in Germany in the early 20th century by a group of people who believed that vitamin D is very essential for a healthy life. Since vitamin D is absorbed by the body through sunlight, it was an obvious decision to expose as much skin to the sun as physically possible. Even today, lots of nudist clubs still have the word “sun” in their names.
Soon, more people started to join this new movement, for a variety of other reasons. Some found that it increased their body confidence, some enjoyed the comfort of not having to wear (or think about) clothes. For others, it was the equality aspect of this non-judging community or the goal to get as close to nature as possible, without being limited by artificial layers of textile.
The pillars of nudism
Nudism was built on two important pillars:
- Respect: For others, for oneself and for nature.
- Nudity with non-sexual intentions.
We could build our case about the safety of children in a social nude environment on this second pillar. If the nudity is non-sexual, just like clothes are, it shouldn’t make a difference whether the children and the adults wear clothes or not.
Of course, we understand that you are not convinced by just this and we are well aware that our theory does contain loopholes. Even if nudists are expected to consider nudity as non-sexual, how can we prove that all of them actually do? How can we prevent villains from hiding behind the name nudism to get access to real-life nudity? What would keep child molesters from seeing the nudist community as their ideal playground?
One answer to this last question can be found in the head of the child molester. To quote from the article Child Sexual Abuse and Power by Stephen J. Rossetti: “For the perpetrator, child sexual abuse is partly a sexually arousing act. However, underneath this sexual veneer, is an abuse of power”. According to the statistics, in the large majority of child abuse cases, the molester had power over the victim. Teachers, priests, family members, to name but a few.
Back to the nudist club. We aleady briefly mentioned that equality is important within nudism. Clothes help us to build an image of ourselves towards the outside world. By wearing certain clothes, we can appear to be rich or poor. Powerful or powerless. Without clothes, this image evaporates. More importantly, nudism is also based on embracing our vulnerabilities and respecting those of others. We all have body parts that we would like to be larger, smaller, rounder, flatter, or stronger. By respecting other people’s flaws and having our own flaws respected by others, we can embrace our vulnerability. If there’s one big enemy of power, it’s vulnerability. Someone who intends to intimidate children is not likely to expose him- or herself.
Long story short, if we would look at the number of cases of physical child abuse and where they happen, we want to take our children away from schools, churches, and (unfortunately) their own family. Nudist venues will appear at the very bottom of the list.
Voyeurism is a big pain-point
But there are dangers other than physical child abuse. Voyeurism is a big pain-point for nudists and the rise of the internet, modern technologies, and cameras the size of a pinhead have made things significantly worse. The big difficulty is that non-sexual nudity is not a physical state of the body, but a state of mind. The naked body that we, as nudists, consider normal and non-sexual may appear sexually attractive to many non-nudists.
Halfway through the previous century, several nudist magazines faced court cases for publishing images of nude men, women, and children. Among them were the US magazines Sunshine & Health and Sun Magazine. When the court decided that “the magazine there under consideration, published by a bona fide group devoted to the cult of nudism, and containing pictures of nudists in the nude, was not obscene”, this meant a big win for international nudism. What they didn’t realize, was that they had opened Pandora’s box.
They couldn’t have known. Back in the day, nudism was very hierarchical organized in the form of clubs, associations, federations, and the international federation. It was impossible to start anything nudist related without the approval of the organization, let alone start a magazine that wasn’t governed or approved by the nudist federation. Several decades later, the Internet suddenly made it possible for everyone to publish whatever they wanted. Although the different court cases specifically talked about nudity in a nudist publication, “nudism” isn’t a patented term. Today, many malicious websites can be found that throw in a handful of nudist quotes and then try to sell their visitors packages with photos and videos of nudist families.
For nudists, the difference between a genuine nudist website and a malicious one can be seen within the blink of an eye. Not only do the malicious sites mostly publish content including nude children and young women, but also the idea of buying nudist content sounds strange to us. For us, nudity is normal. Nudists see nude people on a regular basis. Many nudists have seen thousands of naked people in their lives. Why would they pay for images or videos of naked people? For us, this is like paying strangers to see their amateur vacation shots. Who would ever do that?
Nudists don’t pay for nudist pictures or videos. Unfortunately, many others do. Which makes “fake nudism” a lucrative business. How can you be sure that after a visit to the nude beach, pictures of your children won’t appear on those websites? Unfortunately, we can’t give you a 100% guarantee. Most people have two cameras on their smartphones and can add James Bond-like gadgets to their glasses or buttonholes.
Nudist communities and safeguarding
The reaction of the nudist community is to become even more aware of this problem. It’s often joked that nudists have a sixth sense when it comes to spotting misbehavior, but there’s definitely some truth in this. Nudists watch each other’s backs, and more importantly, each other’s children’s backs. If someone would show too much interest in your kids, you can be sure that you will be notified about this. And in case of a private venue, the staff will be notified as well. Staff members at nudist venues are often trained to recognize abnormal behavior and venues share information among each other about visitors that didn’t behave correctly.
If you make sure that you don’t let your children be nude when other people are around, you eliminate the risk completely, right? Let’s not get to that conclusion immediately. How about the cute photos you took of your toddler standing naked under the hose? Or in the bathtub? Or on that sheepskin next to the fireplace? Didn’t you share some of them on Facebook or Instagram? Of course, they can only be seen by your friends, you think. But once on the internet, it can go anywhere. Just to say that there will always be a risk, no matter how careful you are.
Adolescents in nudism
Another concern people have about children in a nudist environment is about the sexuality amongst each other. With teenagers entering puberty, especially, if we let them spend time together without clothes, visions of teenage pregnancy are not far away. Again, this is the point of view of the non-nudist. Nudist children have learned from the very beginning that nudity is normal and that the body in and of itself is non-sexual. An article about Sexual Behaviors in Children by AFP discusses the age-appropriate sexual behaviors in children. As of the age of two, it’s normal that children try to look at people when they are nude. Think about it, the age of two. Are we talking about emerging sexuality which then keeps quiet for another eight to ten years before evolving further? Or do we have to look in the direction of the forbidden fruit? Isn’t being told as a child that what’s in your pants should stay there much the same as being told that what’s on the top shelf of the closet is not for children’s eyes? Instead of preventing them from investigating things any further, you’re actually making things a lot more interesting.
By the time that nudist children reach the age when they become sexually active, nudity is, for them, the most normal thing in the world. Unlike other children, they have seen genitals and breasts in all shapes and sizes. Meaning that by the time they enter the confusing years of puberty, when everything starts to grow out of proportion, they have real-life role models while their non-nudist friends have to rely on what they’ve seen on TV and the Internet. To say it in another way, if you want to make sure that your children become confident about their bodies, let them see what the bodies of real people look like. If you want them to grow insecure, make sure that their only references are fashion and porn models. It’s really not rocket science.
Appearance doesn’t matter
What some people see as a disadvantage of raising children as nudists is that they become part of a minority. A child that’s different than the others is often the subject of bullying. There is, of course, some truth in this, but from that point of view, it’s impossible to win. Kids are bullied for a variety of reasons. Because they wear glasses, because of the color of their hair, because they are larger, smaller, thicker or thinner than the others. There’s no way you can prevent them from being bullied.
One thing that nudism teaches us is that appearance doesn’t matter. Something important for adults, but even more so for children. This insight doesn’t only give your children strong personalities, but also teaches them the importance of body acceptance and respecting other people. Not only will they stand stronger against bullies, but there’s also a much lower chance that they’ll become a bully themselves.
Whatever choices you make for your children, with the best intentions, there will always be dangers and pitfalls along the way. That’s how life works. The best you can do is not keep your children ignorant from what’s out there, but teach them about how people are. Negative and positive. And nudism does help with that.