Google+ Authentic Parenting: Shameful Nudity

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Shameful Nudity

My daughter is a naked child. She’ll much rather run around the way she was created than in a fancy dress. She tends to spend most of her time naked, in the house, outside the house and when we go out.
Since we’re living in rather ‘untamed’ parts of the world (I’m saying this with an ironic wink, this is not how I see it), this is not much of an issue. Many children here in Congo are naked or barely dressed, and one can even catch adults bathing in the river for anyone to see. It’s just a part of life, nakedness, as much as eating or drinking - and we also do that in public, even in the Western world (shame on us!).
So aside from the occasional comment because our daughter is white and we whites are supposed to be dressed, her nakedness does not cause us a lot of trouble, so we leave her be.

Upon our returning to Belgium for the holidays, it has however often been a source of frustration. How is one to explain to a small child that while it’s perfectly ok to be undressed all the time at home, here, the rules are different? Now she’s almost 3,5, she gets the rules and knows that in Europe, she should dress - at least when she goes out of the house.

It is strange though, that even within this country, when we go to the city, the rules change. All of a sudden, this innocent little naked child creates shock and upheaval. It’s like the more ‘civilized’ people are, the more they become savage.
There is nothing more natural than a naked body, no matter the age or shape or size. So what is the big deal here?
Shamefulness is only in our minds and - as I gave you a taste above - is highly dependent on culture. A great many cultures will look upon our western style of dressing with dismay, there was a time when an ankle was unspeakable.

Nakedness and the tolerance thereof - is not about sexuality. There are a great many cultures where parts we see as inherently sexual are just as commonly shown as legs or arms in the Western World. Our attitude towards the exposed human body is nothing more than culture.

What is covered and undisclosed becomes the object of fantasy, of lust, it is pushed to the marginal brims of our mind. The unspeakable, the unimaginable. It is a gateway into perversion, shamefulness, guilt doubt and sin. SOmething we can clearly see in the nature/sexuality mixup when it comes to breastfeeding.
This has lead to huge disproportions in Western Society, where starlets are being sexualized in glossy ads the size of houses, where (a highly distorted version of) sexuality has been banned to the curtained parts of the DVD-rental shop. Where adolescent men’s only view of the female body come from cosmetically and digitally enhanced movie stars and playboy type magazines.

This is a grim reality for the true human form, and for the cultivation of natural sexuality in our young people (and ourselves for that matter).
Instead of shaming the naked child, we should celebrate her for the beauty and naturally of her body. Instead of less naked we should have more of it, but less of the conceal-reveal kind we see in magazines and advertisements.
The world might just be a better place if we could all be naked, unashamed, the way we were made.



  1. I wish our little ones could be au natural, but living in a city neighborhood, I am worried about safety--I even freak out when I see him in front of a window naked (he's 4). The reality is that when I look up our address on the sex offender registry, you can't go more than a block without finding offenders living there (and it's never clear for what they are on there). And we are not in a horrible area either...if you are picturing us in some awful place where tons of offenders gravitate. But this isn't really the point of your blog today, I suppose I'm just venting because I wish my littles could be free and naked, living in an area like you. Totally agree we are prudish and messed up here in western society, and it is the root of many many societal problems.

  2. I agree! I wish we could live in a place where nakedness was the norm and not some shameful sin. The other day (well more like 2-3 months ago..) I was walkikng in this path with sister. It was late afternoon and quite dark. My toddler daughter (one and a bit!)was only wearing a t-shirt, and might I add - it was a bit big on her, showing a bit of her butt and that's it. Sister went off about how ALL HER VAGINA IS OUT showing and aren't I ashamed. And I'm thinking - omg, she is just a year old. What's the matter with people?!? Why should a one year old not be able to be naked in public!?
    [though I myself am very much ashamed of my own body, I am a nudist at heart :-)]

  3. It does make a difference of where you are staying! Unfortunately!
    Would have loved if it could have been different!

  4. There is a difficulty in Europe about how the body is perceived. What is true for a baby or a small child, is true to about an older child or an adult. The naked body becomes sexual when engaged in sexual intercourse.

    The weather has to be taken into account, too : inside, the children can be naked if they want to, but outside it is too cold for that.

    Personally, I have not experienced negativity towards naked toddlers in my surroundings (my home, at my friends' or at my parents'). When at the beach or at the swimming pool (indoor or outdoor), there is always a bunch of naked children and no one seems bothered. Maybe I was lucky !

  5. @Murielle: my husband's grandmother is really good at saying the most nasty things when my daughter is running around naked within the safety of my in-laws house (like: that's really ugly etc).
    Logically on the beach and at the pool, you would find a greater tolerance. However, I have had negative remarks and dirty looks at a beach resort.
    The worst was when my daughter once started to take off her clothes at the mall


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