Insights into sexuality, nudity, and childhood

What’s bad about sexuality? No, really. Let’s think this through. Two consenting adults having sex, with all the graphic detail. Well? Is someone being hurt? Not really, sex is actually pleasurable to all participants. Is someone being forced into something against their will? No, we did say consenting adults. Is someone destroying something that doesn’t belong to them? Well, that could be debated as some people like sex to be more lively than others, but all things being equal, no.

OK, now that we have established that there’s nothing wrong with having sex, let’s look at exactly when things go wrong.

Rape.

I would suggest that rape is not sex. In its essence, rape is a satisfaction of the most base instinct for procreation. People who succumb to rape – that is, who force others to have sex with them – are unable to suppress this instinct, for whatever reason. According to some sources, at least one third of males report that they can imagine themselves committing rape in certain circumstances.

Nature is amoral. Through evolution, the instinct to procreate has developed without regard to what we would consider good and moral, or bad and immoral. The only relevant thing was whether a certain gene will be passed on to the next generation, or not – the “how” was never the question, until we developed a sense of morality.

There is a catch with regard to rape, however. According to an analysis of 20 studies, over 50% of women have fantasies of being raped and about 17% have them frequently. These numbers are based on women self-reporting of having rape fantasies, so it is not unlikely the percentage is much higher, since many people would be ashamed to admit to having fantasies of being raped. I didn’t find the statistics for men, perhaps because nobody cares about what men want. I personally have had such fantasies and – if the rapist was clean and didn’t reek and wasn’t violent beyond what was necessary to restrain me, they just might be a rapist of my fantasies.

In fact, I have thought on occasion that perhaps being a nudist is me subconsciously inviting a rapist by making it really easy for them to get what they wanted. And I do admit, it is always another man in such fantasies, even though I am bisexual;
somehow I feel that if I were to be raped by a woman, I would remain flaccid – this is not exactly a very appealing scenario to me (and funny enough, I do like it when a woman takes initiative in bed). Other men I talked to about this (not many, though) have admitted that they would not mind being raped – heterosexuals would love to be raped by women, whereas a gay person I talked to about this would have liked to be raped by another man.

Despite that, how exactly these fantasies play out in our minds as opposed to how actual rapes play out in real life is a matter of some discussion, I’m sure. Were any of us who have had fantasies of being raped actually raped, it is quite possible we would have considered ourselves naive as to the actual nature of rape. While I did find that some rape survivors do – after the fact – continue to have rape fantasies, and even play them out with their intimate partner in the bedroom (as part of their process of healing and taking control), I didn’t find whether these fantasies continued to come with the desire to be raped again for real.

Because of this it is safer to assume that nobody wants to really be raped. Fantasies are one thing, but rapists aren’t interested in our fantasies. They are interested in violently asserting themselves on others and in their victims keeping their mouths shut – even by killing them if they think it necessary. Then there’s also the problem of STD, which I’m sure nobody is taking into account when fantasizing about their ideal rapist, as well as – for women – the danger of becoming pregnant as a result of rape.

On the other hand, as a result of such fantasies, it might be interesting to see what we are – I assume mostly subconsciously – doing in order to raise the likelihood of our fantasies becoming true. Like I said, I have considered that perhaps being a nudist is me inviting a rapist to me. I have, in fact, been approached twice on nudist beaches by other men – one, much older than myself, offered to “buy me a drink”; the other, about my age, invited me to his place. I suppose I was lucky that they didn’t force themselves on me as I was leaving. Some people use clothing to accentuate some of their features; women mostly use jewelry, makeup, and clothing that reveals some, but hides others (leaving it open to imagination of spectators about what might be hidden). All that doesn’t make it the victim’s fault if they are eventually attacked, but they will be left to deal with the fact that they have been acting in a way that will have ultimately invited the tragedy that happened to them.

It’s different in cases of pedophilia. While pedophiles (like – I assume – those who rape adults) can make a good assessment of their potential targets without ever interacting with them based merely on how these children act and bear themselves, it is by no means the intent of the child – conscious or subconscious – to invite a rapist, a pedophile, to them. Children will bear themselves in accordance to the situation at home. If they are poorly treated, or their parents are always fighting or separated, they will be slouching, shy, and withdrawn. To a pedophile this is enough to know that this child is a good potential target – such a child is unlikely to speak to their friends or parents about what happened.

From my own childhood I know this to be the case. My mother always found a way to blame me for any bad thing that happened to me. I got beaten up by a bully? “You provoked the bully. Go to your room and think about what you did!” I got yelled at? “You did X and Y, so you deserved it!”

Did that make me shy and withdrawn? You bet it did. When you’re being attacked or hurt by others and then blamed – by your own parents – that it was your fault, you are taught two things. First, “I have nobody to confide in” – everyone is an enemy, even people who act as friends, even people who claim to protect you. Second, “It’s my fault”. No matter what happens to you, you invited it. Search your soul and you will find what exactly it was. And it could be anything. So you are better off not involving yourself in any social interactions. You don’t dare do it, because you believe nobody will back you up in case of trouble – just like when you were a child, the people who ought to have backed you up didn’t.

I was primed for an attack by anyone, actually. I suppose the one thing I have to be thankful for was that we didn’t live around any pedophiles, but for the number of times I was slapped or otherwise hurt by various adults, we might as well have been. What can I say – I was a very provocative child, except that most people thought of me as calm and quiet (they either refused or failed to see that I was actually shy and withdrawn).

If I was attacked by a pedophile and then told not to speak to anyone, I would have obeyed. The reason? It was my fault. My mother kept telling me so and my father always backed her up, no matter what. I didn’t need another timeout, or facing the corner – on my feet, or my knees – of the room we happened to find ourselves in at the moment of my mother’s realization of my supposed transgression, to think about how it was my fault, so I might as well be quiet about it. I can’t say whether the thinking is the same for all children who end up as victims of pedophilia, but I suppose it is enough that they feel that their home and their family is no safe haven, no place where they could go and talk about their problems, or concerns, serious or otherwise.

By failing to provide such an environment at home, it is really the parents’ fault when their children are continually abused by others. This doesn’t remove responsibility from the attacker, but it does shift some responsibility to parents who have utterly failed to create a trust bond with their own offspring. So when you hear parents of children who were so abused lamenting and throwing accusations, you are actually hearing people who are refusing to take that responsibility because they want to continue being horrible parents (or rather, they don’t want to become good ones – and will the state please do something, for children’s sake, to protect them from that responsibility).

There are, of course, other aspects of sexuality that are almost intrinsically bad. (That is, they are considered bad cross-culturally at every point in history. This is also true of ancient times when, as some would say, pedophilia was normal. The fact is, however, that it was never normal for adults to have sex with pre-pubescent children, but some adults did flirt and have sex with people we would now consider of illegal age (16-18-year-old) back then.) I did not intend for this text to be exhaustive so for this reason, and for the sake of relative brevity, I will not cover them here.

It is, I think, somewhat dishonest of many nudists to say that their lifestyle has nothing to do with sex or sexuality. After all, the parts of the body they use for sex are clearly visible and these parts do send out certain signals. The penis, for example, can be only partially erect and will appear bigger than when it is completely flaccid, even if it might look flaccid. I’m sure many people will find it surprising, however, that even an erect penis is not a sign that its owner wants to have sex that very minute (or any time in the near future). I sort of knew this all the time, but it really hit me when I became the father of first one, then two boys. Both of them had regular erections before their first birthday and I’m fairly certain they weren’t thinking about having sex.

Erections happen for several reasons besides sex. Boys who are going through puberty and some teens will definitely testify to that as the penis at that age seems to have a mind of its own. It goes up when it feels like it and stays that way for as long as it likes. Other than that, a penis will become erect occasionally when the urge to pee is great. And everyone knows about erections in the morning – they even have a name! The purpose of these non-sexual erections is to keep the tissues in the penis from dying – since blood is what makes the penis erect and blood also carries with it the various nutrients and tissue building blocks, when these are delivered to tissues in the penis, the penis goes erect. Since during teenage years the penis is also undergoing change (growing in size), the body might decide to fortify it at the most inconvenient of times.

Male nudists will generally cover their erections with a towel or a piece of clothing, but failing that, the only way for others to know whether a certain person’s erection is sex-related or not is by observing their behavior. The other side of the coin, however, is the nature of the response of others to a man’s erection. There is no doubt that certain individuals will assess the size and shape of the penis and will take that information into account when making a choice about their partner. I do believe that this information alone might be enough motivation for them to make the first move. But whether it is an erect penis or a flaccid one, it doesn’t matter. People make such choices regardless – and if the information about the size of the penis is unavailable because it is hidden by clothes, then some other information will be taken into account.

The blue color of my eyes is what would have made girls fall into my lap had I not been as shy as I was. I’m sure blue-eyed “players” regularly use their eye color as a way to seduce women – at least those that show appreciation for it. Some women will assess a man by the clothes he wears – the more stylish the better, while others will consider that they prefer a more vagabond look on a man. A man’s body shape, musculature, shape of their face (I’ve read that a wide jaw is what makes women fall over each other)… all of these are factors in choosing a mate. When men look at women, it’s their breasts, their figure, the way they dress (I’ve seen many of my friends absolutely put off by the way a woman was dressed, even though she was otherwise very beautiful and in great shape)…

I believe the idea to cover ourselves up in order to hide these signals is related to the fact that humans – although not biologically conditioned to be so – mate for life. It is quite ironic then that we have come to take the material that we cover ourselves with also as a sexual signal. I often hear how some women dress themselves provocatively. I often hear how women like “uniformed” men. It would seem that Muslims have it right when they cover women with burkas so that they all look the same and thus send no visible sexual signals. Of course, the price they pay for that is that women have become so unavailable that many Muslims are sex-deprived and so their men often seek sexual gratification with other men (they don’t call Saudi Arabia a homosexual Mecca for no reason). Not that there’s anything wrong with homosexuality, but when people do it out of despair then it’s a problem.

So we wear clothing to hide our sexual signals and then we use clothing (and makeup and jewelry) as a sexual signal. Too much of too non-revealing clothing and people end up desperate and willing to risk diseases and even death penalty for sexual gratification of any kind. These are the reasons I doubt that the reason for clothing to become so popular is to be found in our sexuality. If anything it is the reason that would make us want to take it all off since by hiding our bodies we are actually hyper-sexualizing them. An experiment was conducted that took non-nudist couples and asked individuals to body paint a stranger. They had to paint their bodies so as to paint each area of their body according to how uncomfortable they felt when touching that part. Green was for no discomfort at all; yellow for some discomfort; red for parts they thought they shouldn’t be touching at all (no-go zones).

After having spent several days naked around each other, one woman painted her partner (in the experiment) all green. This proved that the shame of our bodies is all learned and can be unlearned. One could argue that this was because they got used to each other, but I would disagree. I used to have my body hair waxed. Naturally, this required a lot of touching and since I also waxed my genital area, there was touching in that area too. Sure, it was a bit awkward at first, but eventually I got used to it. The woman doing the waxing, however, got a little too used to it for my liking. She was becoming way too personal on the grounds that she’d seen and touched my “private parts”. While I was perfectly fine with her touching me all over, I wasn’t fine about her advances. I expected professionalism from her and instead she was getting (too) personal. I found that uncomfortable and I stopped calling for my regular waxing. Many people who participate in nudist events find it to be the case that they can abandon their preconceptions and relax beyond what they initially thought was possible for them – they would keep clothes that hide what they consider their most “intimate” parts, but after they’ve seen their full of naked people, they are quite comfortable to remove even those pieces of textile.

I believe it wasn’t anything to do with sexuality that made us stay clothed. The invention of clothing actually coincided with an ice age. People invented it in order to keep warm. For quite a long time it had this one purpose. Eventually another purpose emerged – a display of status. I suppose it was with the dawn of Christianity – but also the advancement of technology, because it’s technology of mass production what makes things cheap even when there’s a massive market – that people started associating nudity with poverty, i.e. inability to provide for clothing. Since people are quite mean when it comes to such things – particularly children who I know used to tease children in poorer families of my grandmother’s generation about not wearing shoes (the richer families used to work abroad and buy cheap shoes produced in factories) – I suspect they started shaming people who wore no clothing. Clothing symbolized status, or class, and richer clothing meant higher class, and higher class usually produced more snobbish children. The same is to an extent true today, at least in my country. Eventually clothing got equated with “decency” and nudity slowly came to be punishable and even criminalized.

When we shame our children into wearing clothes then, are we really protecting them from some phantom sexual predator, or are we really hyper-sexualizing their perception of their bodies? Moreover, if we are willing to shame them into or force them to wear clothes, what else are we willing to force them into? And when we do so, are we not really just chipping away at our bond with them? So instead of “protecting” them we are causing in them the exact state of mind that can get them into trouble, as lack of bond means lack of trust, and lack of trust means they don’t come us for our help or advice with dealing with the problems they may not yet be equipped to deal with.

By doing so with our children, we are perpetuating the myths surrounding the human body; we are contributing to the overall population’s poor body image; we are making it possible for large companies to base their marketing on human bodies disfigured in Photoshop because nobody really knows what a normal human body really looks like (and this is a problem bigger than it sounds, because there are women, for example, who don’t know what a healthy vagina is supposed to look like, thus carrying with them a disease long enough for it to do irreversible damage – and I imagine the same is true for some men and their genitals); we are making sure our children never confide in us about anything that might relate to their “private parts” out of shame or fear or both.

So don’t do it. Don’t force your insecurities upon your children. Let your children instead teach you the opposite.

The most powerful argument for wearing clothes I’ve heard so far came from a Horizon documentary named “What’s the Problem with Nudity?” (That same documentary featured the body-painting experiment described above.)

Over thousands of generations, we’ve learned that showing off a naked body sends out sexual signals that threaten the security of mating pairs. And we’ve chosen to agree that that is a bad thing. Shame is the ideal emotion to enforce that code of conduct. Because it feels unpleasant, we avoid it at all costs.

Dan Fessler in “Horizon: What’s the Problem with Nudity?”

I can expand here on his claim that “we’ve chosen to agree that that is a bad thing.” That is, threatening the security of mating pairs – that is, couples with children, i.e. families – is a bad thing. For children, a stable environment is crucial for their early development. That means they require one or two caregivers in their early childhood – and sudden changes are counterproductive. In other words, they would do well without their biological parents, as long as the setup was stable and did not involve too many caregivers (one or two is optimal). The family unit is the ideal environment for children to prosper in.

But why should nudity threaten the security families? Like I said, a naked body sends out sexual signals whether we like it or not (we are, after all, without fur, and we stand upright, which makes our reproductive organs clearly visible when we are naked). So the fear is that one or the other partner will pick up these signals from a third person and abandon their family, thus destabilizing the family, and harming young children in their most vulnerable years.

However, since infidelities and divorces still happen even with our clothes on, I have a hard time believing that we have properly dealt with the culprit when we donned clothes. The problem, in my view, is not our sensory data that are picking up information about the shape, size, and smell of other people’s body parts. The problem, I believe, are shallow, and weak bonds between couples (mating pairs). Our culture still practices marriage, which is no more than a pretend bond between couples. The bond of marriage, of course, is as real as the couple in question makes it, but to anyone who doesn’t take it seriously it is insubstantial. People are coming to realize that, and the media will regularly – and quite happily – report on the shortest marriages ever made, as well as the most expensive divorces.

So, in order to protect mating pairs, humanity has summoned supernatural forces to bless them with marriage, we have put on clothes, and learned to be ashamed of our bodies.

Unsurprisingly, none of it is working.

At least, it is not going to work for much longer. I believe we are coming close to a time where we will need to review these traditions. Having been denied the obvious sexual signals our naked bodies send out, people have come to develop other means to send them. Makeup is one way. Clothing – ironically – is also one. Body posture is quite difficult, if not impossible to hide, but it too is a sexual signal – a good, upright, relaxed posture is a sign of high confidence, and status. Body language, as well as spoken language can be sexual signals (or don’t tell me you’ve never heard “players” using NLP on their targets).

With all that in mind, we might as well remove all our clothes for all the sexual signaling we’ve supposedly hidden with it. In addition to not performing their function, we burden our environment with it, waste resources on it – both natural, and human – and we pollute the world and waste our own time just to keep the blasted stuff clean and orderly.

Recent research also suggests that nudity can strengthen the bond between married couples, which should be a death blow to clothing which was supposedly designed to protect it. Perhaps it was, except because of the shame of our bodies that we have developed, this tradition is going to take a long time to die. Even considering myself – I could not picture myself walking naked around my relatives. My children and wife yes, but my family of origin and my extended family – not in a million years. The bond between us is too badly damaged and while I would like to have it repaired I find it not worth the one-sided effort I would have to invest.

It seems we have gone full circle in regard to clothing. It was made to protect the family and it has turned into one of the things that wedges it apart. It stresses the parents who have additional, non-trivial chores because of it; it stresses the children because their parents are stressed and nervous about family members appearing naked before other family members, and because they would rather not wear clothing occasionally.

And then they break their mutual bond (or never build it up) and then children end up victims – or bullies, brutes, attackers, rapists…

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