When you take off all of your clothes, how do you feel? Do you feel vulnerable or exposed? Do you worry about certain body parts not measuring up to some ideal standard? Do you feel embarrassed about your body in any way?
While feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and shame are common, they negatively affect your relationships, and potentially your self-esteem (how you feel about your own value or worth). They detract from your body image and make it more difficult to connect with others, especially a sexual partner.
Some men and women will remain clothed as much as possible to avoid any negative thoughts associated with their nude bodies. The solution to overcoming body image issues, however, may be to strip down more often rather than less.
In this blog post, I’ll describe a few of my own experiences in the nude, then offer the perspective of several lifestyle nudists who evidently have conquered any body image issues and enjoy a healthy perspective on sexuality in general.
I’ll start off by saying that my first experience being completely nude in public was in the desert of Black Rock City at last year’s Burning Man festival. If you know anything about Burning Man, this comes as no surprise. Even in this liberated environment of “radical self expression,” though, there were only a few women donning their full birthday suits. Many opted for a topless look, and an even greater number wore a pair of modest pasties (see photo at left) to cover their areola. I was a bit disappointed really – and a bit scared to “bare all” myself. Some of the thoughts that entered my head were:
- “Will someone take note of my imperfect body?”
- “Will men leer at my large breasts?”
- “Will revealing my bare pussy in public be an automatic invitation for sexual advances?”
- “Will women avoid talking to me, or judge me?”
- “Will I be able to hold a normal conversation with anyone?”
The moment I removed all my clothes I felt exposed, but a bit turned on at the same time. Perhaps I have a bit of an exhibitionist streak in me after all. My boyfriend Blake, whose preferred state is nude, declared that “this is the way nature intended!”
“Well, sure,” I thought, with my Christian upbringing surfacing, “before Eve ate that apple and humans learned to feel ashamed about our bodies.”
Why is it that we feel so much shame over something so – well, natural? Is it the reactions of other people that we’re worried about - or the insecurities that we have about our own bodies?
Nude in Nature
My second experience was in a more quiet setting at Harbin Hot Springs, a wonderful mountainside retreat in Northern California. There you can find the clothing-optional mineral springs and none of the festival-like atmosphere of Burning Man. There are more meditative pools than conversational ones, all coupled with strict rules of etiquette. There were older adults as well as children with their families bathing, sunning, and hiking. I spent the first evening there once again getting reacquainted with my cloth-less self while dipping in the warm, hot, and cold baths and trying not to feel awkward.
Initially, I observed how everyone else was handling this environment. It seemed that the older men and women were very comfortable, both in their own skin and while interacting with others. By contrast, some of the younger ladies with beautiful – dare I say, “hot” – bodies appeared the most uncomfortable, bringing me to the conclusion that confidence in this situation has little to do with your outward physical appearance. That helped me relax a bit and remember that, though imperfect – I will always be a vixen (post on this topic coming soon).
It turns out that after a few hours of “people watching” and feeling like everyone else is watching you back, it becomes much more relaxed. You pay less attention to someone’s genitals, breasts, and body, and more attention to the general aura someone exudes… and everyone else does the same. It’s as if removing all the clothing – and in many cases the makeup and accessories, too – actually strips away a level of superficiality. Your personality really becomes the star, because you have nothing to hide behind.
When I returned home to the “textile impaired” world (as one nudist calls it), I wanted to see if others have had similar experiences. I discovered an active community of nudists via Twitter user @hippie_hollow, representing a beautiful clothing-optional public park in Austin, Texas. They welcomed me into their member forum, where I gathered perspectives from about a dozen nudists with varying backgrounds and degrees of participation in the nudist lifestyle, specifically asking about their experiences with body image issues, as well as any effects of nudism on their sex lives.
Note: I have made some minor edits for spelling and grammar, not intended to change original meaning by the poster.
Hippie Hollow on Body Image Issues
As with my own experience, it appears that beginner nudists also feel a bit of discomfort at first, but quickly get over it.
jsmccr writes about an experience with his wife: “Our first ‘public’ nudity was at St. Martins along the Orient Beach strip on a vacation 4 years ago. We found a nice trail through a peninsula and I teased her by removing my shorts as she strolled topless alongside me. It only took a little more cajoling to convince her to completely bare herself to the people on the beach, but once she realized that no one was gawking at us, she relaxed and enjoyed an exhilarating swim in the ocean without a stitch of clothing.”
In this case, the wife’s discomfort was related to the perception by others. Once she dismissed this notion she truly enjoyed the experience.
Moon writes about the social / cultural barriers that are shed when you remove clothing from the equation: “Being completely naked we open ourselves to all our frailties, are more vulnerable, and start to know each other on a level playing field.” She further indicates that it’s important to have a supportive environment, like the one at Hippie Hollow: “In our acceptance of each others’ imperfections, we help each other improve our self-esteem… It is like a family at Hippie Hollow.”
travelmonkey333 has a healthy take on his smaller penis size: “i love visiting the park and shedding my clothes. [...] i feel as though my self esteem raises up every time i’m out there. i’m more comfortable with sex than i was when i was younger, i may be able to attribute that to nudism. the compliments i get for having, ‘a cute lil penis’ also is a thrill along with the giggles from ladies from time to time.”
User austex66, who has been visiting Hippie Hollow since 1999 with his wife, agrees that nudism has helped them both shed former body image issues, and simultaneously motivates them to lead a healthier, more active lifestyle: “In this environment, one quickly sees that any body issues (weight, size, body build, complexion) are in common with many other people. Concerns that might have once been viewed as personal defects or shortcomings are actually just common variations of the human form. In our case, that revelation resulted in a more positive acceptance of our own bodies, as well as motivation to move past the couch potato stage and actually exercise a little and eat/drink in moderation to improve our appearance.” – austex66
By contrast, an athletic user named DJ has always felt comfortable being naked: “I have been in hundreds of locker rooms throughout my life starting at a fairly young age, so any and all embarrassment most certainly would have been rendered out of me long ago.”
Many nudists commented on just how natural it is to be nude, including wacocouple: “It is more natural to be nude than clothed. We don’t even think about being naked and sometimes must be reminded to put some clothes on. Living in the city makes it difficult to be naked outside in our own yard, but typically we are naked from the time we come home in the evening and take a shower until we get dressed the next day to go to work. Mentally we are naked all day, physically part of the day we happen to be covered with clothing.”
zorro humorously commented, “i was pleasantly surprised to find out im always nude under my clothing!”
When asked about any potentially embarrassing situations – such as becoming visibly aroused while nude – austex66 had this to say: “My only body response which was troubling when we started was what might be termed the ‘shrinkage factor’ coming out of chilly water, but it is what it is, many if not most guys are similarly affected, and it becomes a non-issue.”
Several other male users commented that any visible turn-on (i.e. an erection) could be easily remedied with a towel if it’s inappropriate for the situation. For example, user pprice writes, “I was having a day dream, staring off into the wild blue completely unaware of my surroundings when all of a sudden started to get an erection. I was sitting in a poolside chair at a family-oriented nudist facility. It was not the time or the place for a boner. I covered with my towel and waited. It was not embarrassing but extremely awkward, fortunately nobody noticed. So I wouldn’t say erections are rare, but perhaps rarely noticed.”
To wrap up, I quote a user named Pete: “Nudists seem to be pretty well-balanced people. I don’t know if they have more self-esteem. There is certainly a lack of body-image problems.” It appears that whether you come into the nudist lifestyle with body image issues or without them, the circumstances will allow you to quickly forget these insecurities and enjoy the benefits of being nude.
Benefits of Nudism, According to Nudists
So what are the benefits of being nude frequently, and in public?
austex66 mentions that nudism provided he and his wife more self-confidence in that “we had overcome unnecessary baggage that had been part of our upbringing” and mentions how this has helped in dealing with frustrating situations, e.g. the workplace. In another post, he writes “Getting nude in public is always a bit exhilarating, providing a sense of freedom, as well as pride and a sense of satisfaction in overcoming one of the most prevalent ‘taboos’ (against social nudity) that has persisted from our Puritan heritage. Its not so much the nudity that is a confidence builder as it is the knowledge that you individually had the courage to bare all in a public environment, and then socially interact with others who might be either bare or clothed.”
djreef has a slightly different, more physical sense of freedom while nude: “For me the feeling is all about the freedom. I hate clothing, and wear as little as I can get away with. The binding, restricting, pulling, limiting nature of textiles has always been problematic for me.”
Moon believes that it’s easier for nudists to transcend the physical body, and establish deeper emotional connections that way: “I think nudists are able to more easily get past the physical and touch at a deeper level, emotionally and even more so spiritually. And it is at the spiritual level that we find our soul mate. And when we are able to touch and communicate and stimulate arousal at these deeper levels, yes I think we can find more fulfilling relationships, whether those relationships become intimate or not.”
BluePari also mentions being free, as well as sharing an intimate experience with her partner at Hippie Hollow, “Going somewhere to be nude is very free and stress relieving… it has improved our sexuality because we are not limiting ourselves and we are exploring together. Though we have seen each other nude, there is something very attractive about seeing the one you love out nude in nature.”
steveandsherry write to me about their heightened sexual energy, “Pearl, my thoughts are that everytime I have been at a nudist resort or hollow, my wife and I are extremely horny. Its the greatest feeling in the world. I wish we hadn’t waited to go to nudist resorts.”
Naturamigo writes about freedom in a legal/political sense, as well as body acceptance that nudism provides: “I serve the US, and by defending Freedom, I believe I deserve the right to enjoy some Freedom as well. I run; and running gives me peace yet running nude gives me Freedom. I have a heavyset body; meaning that I don’t look muscular at all. I learned to love my appearance the first time in Tallahassee, FL in a place called Tallahassee Naturally. It is secluded and only few people go there. This group accepted me as I was. Now every chance I get I go to Hippie Hollow and run…Then refresh and enjoy the sun and the view.”
Pete makes an interesting point that nudism is more economical! “I enjoy working outdoors nude. It just makes sense. It’s way more comfortable, and doesn’t soil any clothes. The laundry issue is expensive when you consider the water and energy consumed.” He does admit, though, that “there are circumstances where clothes are required for protection, like frying food!” Thanks for that, Pete…
I Have to Ask… “What About Sex?”
Some people think that all nudists are openly sexual. By contrast, the responses in the forum were tempered and revealed many well-balanced attitudes about sex.
Number51 writes, “I’m no more turned on being naked in a group setting than if I’m clothed in a group setting. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people do buy into this assumption, and that’s why we have the laws about nudity that we have.”
BluePari, who identifies as “young,” has a different take. She acknowledges that her experience of being nude can be sexually-charged at times, but that sex in public is not always appropriate. (Note: …or legal. “Lewd,” “obscene,” and “offensive” acts may be prosecuted in many states. Though I’m no expert on the law, engaging in sexual activity in public is quite a different story than simply being nude. Use your best judgement). “It would be a lie to say that sex isn’t tempting between us, especially if you enjoy voyeurism or kinky sex… as for being turned on by others there, it isn’t as likely because they are not participating in sexual acts or anything you would feel naughty watching. Public sex is hott but only in the right atmosphere around the right people.”
Pete believes in keeping sex private: “There are some nude resorts that promote and even encourage open sexuality, and others that expect “decorum” among the guests. [...] I think openly sexual behavior spoils the nudist experience. I know that may sound screwy, but when I am nude there is much more to the experience. Sure, there is a possible sexual component, but I’d rather leave it out since I consider that behavior private.”
hoosiermba writes about arousal, “Do I get turned on at Hippie Hollow? Sure. Do I get turned on at Dayton Beach, or some random bar, or the mall or whatever – sure. I just think that that a matter of human nature. Humans are programed to always be on the lookout for a suitable mate. I don’t think nudism has any causal relationship except there’s less left to the imagination!”
Some great concluding statements from user smoothstud, “Nudists are not ashamed of their bodies and, therefore, are far more likely to appreciate and understand their bodies. In turn, except for other health concerns, our sex lives are better because we understand that sexuality is part of being human, not something negative that must be somehow ignored or, worse, repressed. People, mostly the clothing-inhibited, so often cover up very soon after sex out of a sort of fear of being caught. Nudists, at least from my perspective, are far more likely to enjoy a sexual experience (given the time) and more likely to remain nude longer when finished. Also, whenever I find myself in the mood, circulation is unrestricted by tight clothing, thus leading over time to a much longer and healthier sex life.”
There is something disturbing about the shame many of us have regarding our own bodies, and the negative affect of that shame on our body image and self-esteem. It has been an eye-opening experience for me personally to discover nudism and the intense pleasure and freedom that comes when you shed your clothing, putting “all of the goods” out there for the world to see – whether you believe yourself to be physically attractive or not. I encourage you seek out a similar experience of your own and see what happens. For you, the next step may be to walk around your house naked once in a while, or to prolong putting on clothing after a good romp. The important thing is to push your comfort level (in the appropriate environment of course) and see what emotions come up, then reflect on how those emotions may be affecting you and your self esteem, sex life, and relationships in general.
If you liked this article, please visit the Hippie Hollow forums online – or the park in Austin, Texas in person – to continue discussion and get involved with a wonderful community of people. Thanks to everyone who contributed and hope to meet you all “in the flesh” one day.
CONTEST: Write an insightful comment on this article in the next 7 days. The best comment will WIN a copy of Real Sexy Squirting -OR- access to Pearl & Blake for a half hour conversation about anything you’d like to ask them! So put on your thinking caps and let us know what you thought of this article, your thoughts on nudism, or anything discussed above.