Don’t Knock the Nudists

A candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives once criticized his opponent for accepting support from a lobbyist who represents the American Association for Nude Recreation.

Although the candidate claimed he was only trying to expose the “bare facts” about his opponent, his political salvo was clearly aimed at appealing to the electorate’s emotions instead of their reason.

But if the public would evaluate nudism with an open mind, they could find compelling evidence that it can be beneficial to the health of many people.

In her book Therapy, Nudity & Joy, sex therapist and researcher Aileen Goodson, Ph.D., shows that numerous sexual and emotional problems are rooted in attitudes of repression, fear, guilt, and shame concerning the human body.

She presents proof that social nudism, with its attitude of acceptance toward the body, can prevent the development of those types of problems and help people overcome at least some of the problems.

Goodson also provides evidence of other possible benefits of social nudism. These include relaxation, stress reduction, improved self-esteem, satiation of curiosities about the human body, reduction or elimination of interest in pornography, diminishment of a consuming interest in sex, the provision of a natural setting for teaching children healthy body attitudes, assistance in healing the emotional scars of sexual abuse, and development of a more wholesome attitude toward the opposite sex.

Additional health benefits of nudism are reported by Dr. John Money, a renowned author, sexologist, and professor of pediatrics, psychiatry, and behavioral science at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He has referred some patients to Elysium Fields, a nudist resort in southern California.

He says Elysium has proved to be “ideal for the referral of patients who have extreme difficulty in establishing social relationships; for those who have an impediment to self-acceptance and self-esteem; and for those who have excessive shyness and sensitivity regarding their body image. . . .”

Money also explains that Elysium offers “an ideal environment for families whose policy it is to bring up their children with a healthy regard for the body, and with a chance for normal, wholesome psychosexual development. It is my opinion that there should be branches of Elysium Fields, or similar institutions, throughout the country.”

Family nudity is likewise supported by John Ince, cofounder of the Art of Loving, a sexuality center in Vancouver, British Columbia. In his book The Politics of Lust, Ince reports: “Indeed family nudity has many benefits. In a study of children raised on communes where nudity is common, pediatric researchers concluded: ‘The only significant difference between their experience and that of most traditionally raised children was their frequent contact with and comfortableness with both adult and child nudity.'”

Ince further notes: “Other studies have found that children from nudist families consistently score higher than non-nudist children with respect to body acceptance and self-concept.”

In regard to nudity in general, Ince says there are “many advantages of occasional nudity. When the temperature allows, nudity is sensually stimulating. Our skin enjoys moderate exposure to the warm rays of the sun or a cooling breeze. Our bodies relish the freedom of movement unrestrained by clothes. Without belts or bras our circulation flows more easily; we can breathe deeper. Nudity also promotes a sense of full-body integrity.” Because of such benefits: “Nudity enhances many social recreational activities such as sunbathing, swimming, or relaxing in a hot-tub or sauna.”

Moreover, the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology in the 1960s, states: “I still think that nudism . . . is itself a kind of therapy.”

And he asserts that a spread of nudism would result in “less sexual exploration merely for the sake of curiosity. It seems to me also that such love as would emerge would be more on the social and emotional side than on the purely physical side.”

Dr. Elizabeth Schmid, a psychiatrist born and raised in Vienna, supports Maslow’s position by reporting that she has witnessed healing qualities of European social nudism.

The therapeutic qualities are undoubtedly a reason why nude beaches and spas have become common in Europe. Approximately 20 million Europeans – including some eight to ten million Germans – visit them each year.

In defense of nude artwork in the nineteenth century, the famous lawyer and orator Robert Ingersoll recited the following verse, which might also be relevant to nudism:

There are brave souls in every land
Who worship nature, grand and nude,
And who with swift indignant hand
Tear off the fig leaves of the prude.

Because many people have experienced improved health and increased happiness through social nudism, others should not be knocking it.

Rather, these benefits create a moral obligation – particularly in this “land of the free” – to respect the right of persons to engage in it if they so choose.