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From the BBC News Magazine
By Stephen Evans
Citizens of the former West and East Germany share many well-established customs, including naturism. But does a relaxed attitude to naked bodies mask some division over the freedom of women?
Sex in Germany, I imagine, is much the same as sex everywhere else.
It was, as we know, invented in the 60s, probably in California, and since then the techniques involved are probably pretty universal.
But attitudes to sex and sexuality and nakedness are not. And in Germany, I have to tell you that I have been surprised.
Not least when I was in the changing room of the gym to which I go.
There I was, naked from the waist down – very naked – wrestling to get a T-shirt off my head, and the T-shirt was wrestling back.
When I finally pulled the thing off, there before me was a woman – a pretty woman – in her 20s pushing her broom at my feet.
This very real vision was the female cleaner in the male changing-room. Our eyes met. I blushed. She pushed on blithely, unconcerned.
Or when I went into the local sauna bath, which every neighbourhood has.
Germans – or at least Germans in the non-Catholic north of the country – say that the sight of the nude body is completely normal – natural, as they put it.
To which I say: hmmm.
My scepticism was shared, by the way, by both the Nazi and Communist regimes.
In East Germany, nude bathing became something of a sign of dissidence, contrary to the exhortation of the Culture Ministry to “protect the eyes of the nation”.
The Nazis welcomed what Hermann Goering referred to as the “healing power of sun and air” in making a strong nation, but he did disapprove of public nudity which he called a “cultural error” that threatened female modesty.
And in this atmosphere, an industry grew up which was very different from that in other
Western countries, one much more aimed at women.
Germany had a well-developed mail-order industry – and it had exactly the right woman to exploit it.
Beate Uhse had been a pilot in the Luftwaffe – as a woman she had not been allowed to fight but she did pilot planes to the front line.
My East German female friends tell me that the independence of women continued in the East of the country far more than in the West”
She started providing them with condoms and with advice on how she thought men could be kept happy. It became what is still one of Germany’s most successful businesses.
All this has been described by the historian Elizabeth Heineman, who told me that because the business was mail-order, women were not inhibited from buying.
Particularly in the catholic South, they would not go into a shop but they would order from a catalogue.
Elizabeth told me that German women emerged from the war particularly independent and strong because the absence of men was so stark, but in the west of the country traditional roles were gradually re-asserted.
Not so, though, in East Germany.
Simone Schmollack writes for the Tageszeitung and a magazine – a women’s magazine – called Die Magazin which was founded in 1929 and continued in East Germany throughout the years of Communism.
Tourists look through remaining section of Berlin Wall Do cultural differences remain 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell?
She told me that women in the East – and she was one – had genuine economic independence and that gave them a strength in their relations with men.
Now that the Wall is down, cultural frictions are emerging.
Here is the way she put it: “When Western men go out with Eastern women, they – the men – sometimes have problems.
“Eastern women are so cool, the Westerners think. So independent. So free with sex. But then they want them to be stay-at-home, too”.
So speaks an East German woman.
With such a mix of regimes and attitudes and cataclysmic shocks to relationships, there is confusion in the unified Germany over the roles of men and women.
Nowhere more so, I think, than when a sweaty, naked Brit strays into a gym or a sauna bath.
Photographs added by Martin.Pin It
Social nudity is not for everyone, but only because most people cannot imagine taking their clothes off in a group setting. Many believe social nudity is abnormal, immoral or perverted. Many automatically associate nudity with sex, therefore those who participate in social nudity must be sex addicts, exhibitionist and voyeurs. Of course nothing is further from the truth.
People have negative views about social nudity because they have been taught from an early age that the human body is shameful, that it’s wrong to expose your body to anyone other than your spouse, and some people are reluctant to do even that. They’ve been influenced by their parents, the media, religion and government. Except for the minority that have listened to their instincts, that recognize the human body is a wonderful creation that should be enjoyed and celebrated, most people have developed mindsets that will never allow them to see social nudity as a joyful, enlightening experience.
If you had grown up in a home where your parents had no reservations about walking around the house nude, you would have done the same thing. You would have grown up believing nudity is natural and that there are circumstances where there is no reason to wear clothes. When you noticed your father’s penis was bigger, you would have assumed yours would be too when you are older, just like the rest of the body. When you were old enough to be curious about pubic hair, your mother would have told you it’s part of being an adult. You would have grown up wondering why anyone would think the human body is shameful. You wouldn’t understand why anyone thinks there is something immoral about not wearing clothes.
So the fact is social nudity is indeed for everyone. The only reason so many disagree is because of what they were taught growing up. Children simply are not ashamed of their bodies; they are taught their bodies are shameful. It’s the same doctrine as religion. If you were born and raised in Israel, you will almost certainly believe in the Jewish faith; in the Middle East you will believe in the Muslim faith; in a Catholic household you will believe in the Catholic faith; that is if you believe in any religion at all. In a household that rejects nudity, you will grow up believing social nudity is immoral.
Here a dad is spending time with his daughters. They’ve seen him and their mother nude since their earliest memory. Their nudity is incidental. They are likely a more closely bonded family because all the barriers between them have been removed.
Perhaps, even if you have been raised to believe nudity is immoral, you have a secret desire to find out what social nudity is all about. Perhaps you’re wondering if you are brave enough to try it and are wondering how. The following essay tells us how one lady in California went about it.
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“There is a workshop at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. They have two areas where clothing is optional — the swimming pool and around the natural hot tubs. I think clothing is optional down on the edge of the ocean, as well.
I grew up in New England, home of the Puritans. Nudity was not something I saw growing up in my family or anywhere else, really. It was not something I was used to.
But I believed that the body should not be an object of shame. I believed there was no reason in particular, other than social convention, that we should have to remain clothed for modesty’s sake. The notion of nudity being non-modest per se never made much sense to me. It’s just convention, and convention can be changed if you are in a group that holds to a different convention.
At Esalen, nudity is perfectly acceptable. But it isn’t required. What I found was that after spending a day in an intense workshop with people, that going to the hot tubs showed me yet another side of people.
When clothes came off, so did any remaining barriers between us. People became more open when their clothes were off. Somehow, they seemed more like themselves. They could say the things they wanted to. They seemed more honest. More friendly and loving. The conversations in the nude were more like conversations that some people seem to need drugs to have. It wasn’t so much that inhibitions were lessened, although they did seem to be, but that it was the kind on inhibitions — not about sex, but about being forthcoming and authentic. As I said, people seemed more like themselves.
I also found my judgments about bodies slipping away. Sure, I noticed the elderly woman was carrying a lot of weight, but it didn’t matter. We weren’t competing on looks. We weren’t competing at all. We were just sharing ourselves openly. It seemed to me that being naked had a lot to do with that. Without our clothes as our false fronts, we were simply ourselves. The symbolic lack of semblance turned into a real openness.
Being nude with other people is a process. At first, your mind will be running crazy. Can I really do this? What will people think? All those self-conscious thoughts.
But after a while, when you see everyone else is nude and no one else is hurting you for it, you start to relax. Then, in the hot water with the beautiful ocean and surrounded by authentic people, you start to really let go of your need to pretend. To act like your clothes are you. You start being able to be yourself.
I would give into the process as best you can, but also trust that these things will happen, whether you are ready for them or not. The nudity itself will almost require that you open up. It almost forces you to feel safe. This probably sounds a little ridiculous, but that was my experience, and the experience of others I spoke with.Pin It
Most of us will do a double-take when we glimpse a shapely ass from the corner of our eye. But do we give much thought to what those fleshy cheeks are hiding? Assholes . . . the one physical feature men and women have in common, the one feature that belies gender more than any other body part, the one feature that is rarely seen, even in nudists parks. Perhaps this is why anuses lend mystery to those shapely buns and make them so appealing. Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones that have gotten past the social taboos and have discovered the joys and pleasures your anus can give you.
Lay a mirror on the floor. Squat over it and check out your anus’s personality. Darker down there, isn’t it, you may see shades of red or pink or brown. Give it a little attention. Maybe a caress with your finger. Stroke it or let your finger slip in just a bit. Now you know how your lover will feel when you do that to him or her. Just use your imagination and open a new door next time the two of you are in bed.
A six-year-old girl is in the back yard with three neighborhood boys that have come over to play. They are all chasing after a ball. It’s a warm summer day. The boys have taken off their shirts. The little girl, thinking it’s a good idea, does the same. When her mother looks out the kitchen window, she gasps, rushes out, takes her daughter by the hand and scolds her as she drags the little girl into the house.
The boys look on, bewildered. They’ve obviously done something wrong, just don’t understand what. Listening to the mother’s rants, they realize their friend should not have taken her blouse off because she is a girl.
This becomes the first episode of their childhood indoctrination about nudity and the human body. The little girl is traumatized and feels guilty, yet she doesn’t understand why the boys can take their shirts off and she can’t. The boys now know it was wrong for her take her blouse off, but they’re not sure why. The illogical nature of it doesn’t matter. She will grow up feeling shame over her body. In time, for these children and millions more like them, this experience will become part of their own moral compass.
Though nudity in ancient Rome and Greece, and various European countries today, was and is considered incidental, most people, especially in the United States, can’t fathom why anyone would want to take their clothes off in a social or public setting. They attach all kinds deviant reasons to why anyone would do such a thing, that it must have something to do with voyeurism or exhibitionist, or social nudity must be the precursor to endless orgies. They’ve been indoctrinated since their early childhood. They’ve come to believe people should wear clothes under all circumstances, even swimming, which, when you think about it, doesn’t make any sense at all. They will not, even if they have a vague subconscious urge or a natural curiosity, allow themselves the freedom to explore life from a new perspective and enjoy their own bodies.
The reasons are many. Beyond our lifelong indoctrination, we’ve been conditioned by the media to believe our bodies are unappealing if we don’t look like runway models, Hollywood starlets or porn stars. We’re too fat, too thin, too old, too saggy or wrinkly. We have flaws. Our breasts are too small or too large or sag too much. Our bellies aren’t flat. Our penises are too small. Plus social nudity suggests sex, therefore nudist must be sexual deviants.
Fact is social nudity is nothing more than a pure state of mind. People that get together and take their clothes off, that enjoy the freedom and exhilaration of being naked with others, that know how to appreciate others for who they are instead of what they look like, have shed all the cumbersome baggage most of us have accumulated over our lifetimes. No one cares if you are fat or thin, or hairy, or seventy years old. Being nude in a group setting equalizes everyone. No one has a perfect body. Breasts and butts, vulvas and penises, nipples and testicles are all simply part of the human body. Size, skin colors and physical configurations simply do not matter. And although these body parts play a role in distinguishing our gender, it doesn’t follow that exposing them equates with immanent sexual activity. After all, we’re all either men or women, human beings, not a bunch of heathens that have to cover ourselves to prevent uncontrolled or wanton copulation.
I mentioned natural curiosity. For you this might be a private or subconscious urge to know what it’s like to try a nude beach or dive into a swimming pool at a nudist resort; but outwardly you know you would never be that bold. I fully believe far more people think about these things than you believe. Consider Spencer Tunick’s work, how he gathers thousands of every day average people who have volunteered to take of their clothes for a mass photo shoot.
These adventurous souls are from every walk of life. They are of every nationality and every shape and size. Many of them are not involved in social nudity, nor have they ever taken off their clothes in a public setting. But they saw Spencer Tunick’s ad and ‘heard the call’, that inner voice telling them they wanted to enjoy their body, to share it with the thousands that wanted to do the same. In the above pictures, pick out the lawyers, the bankers, the store clerks, the housewives, the unemployed. You can’t. Everyone looks the same, socially that is. They are of one mind, celebrating being part of the brotherhood of man in a different way, an exhilarating, refreshing way. Most will walk away from this experience feeling different about themselves, feeling invigorated, feeling free of the unnecessary baggage they have lugged around their entire lives. Some of them will begin to think about new adventures, such as nude hiking.
Everyone wants to feel good about their body, to smile when they look in the mirror. But most people don’t. How can you when you are bombarded daily in the media about what you are supposed to look like: weight loss products that tell you you’re too fat, fashion ads with perfectly shaped models, makeup ads telling you that you can look like the girl in the picture if you use their products? Yes, it’s perfectly delightful to look at models and movie stars with gorgeous good looks, but in a nudist environment they are just one of everyone else, and they often look more like us without the air-brushing and makeup. So that cellulite on your butt, wrinkled or discolored skin, age, the size of your body parts (or lack thereof) doesn’t matter when you are naked among other naked people. They all have similar flaws. By getting involved in social nudity, instead of fretting over what your body looks like, you will be caught up in how good it feels to be naked, to be accepted for who you are, to be free of all the old baggage and preconceived notions. You will experience the wonderful feeling of being able to enjoy your body without worrying about being judged.
Many people believe nudist parks and resorts are sexually charged environments. Nothing is further from the truth. In fact nudist recreation parks, resorts and beaches Continue readingPin It
From Young Naturists America
By Melissa Starr
My friend, Hadassah, has elbows. I’ve always assumed this but only a short time ago did I see her elbows for the first time to prove that she does have them. It’s funny that we’ve known each other for 14 years yet it was only recently that I saw her elbows. Why did this happen? Hadassah is of the Orthodox Jewish faith, which dictates that her whole body, including elbows and knees, must be covered. I guess she joined a more moderate branch of Judaism recently, as her elbows can now be seen. This is a huge change for her- and for me, as I look at her elbows for the first time.
For Hadassah, exposing her elbows was a breach of modesty, as seen by her faith. Her religious beliefs had more emphasis on which body parts are acceptable to see and show, perhaps, than most people’s beliefs, but how different are they from modern culture, really? While most people in the USA would agree that having people see your elbows is fine (and you may get some funny faces if you suggest otherwise!), how many people have that same good part/ bad part response when talking about… a woman’s pubic mound/ labia majora? Or a penis? Or a woman’s breast?
These body parts are the parts that are so sacred/ private/ obscene/ bad that they have many, many names. A penis could be a dick and may have a name, the labia majora may be called a crotch, and a woman’s breast might be called a boob. Even the grouping of the parts has a name: our private parts or, as some kids say, our privates. Of course, we all know numerous other names for all these parts and many parents teach their children to call them some off-the-wall names. And don’t even get me started on what we call the urine or feces that come out of these parts! All of this begs the question of why certain body parts have numerous names and are “forbidden” while other parts only have one name and get no attention. Think of the poor Continue readingPin It
Have you gotten a little thicker around the middle, maybe a lot thicker? Are your hips too wide or is your butt too big? Do you have a few wrinkles here and there? Are your breasts too small, or are they large and sagging? Is your pubic area too hairy or are your labia protruding? Well, since you are very much like most women, you are a perfect candidate for nude socializing.
Or maybe you have always taken care of yourself. You walk, jog and exercise. You always watch calories and eat the right foods. If you are young, you now and then turn heads. If you are older, you may have a few stretch marks, or a scar from your cesarean incision, or you may have a few a few wrinkles or varicose veins. You still look pretty good for your age, but no one ever sees just how beautiful you are, nor do you see them.
You grew up in a home where everyone always wore clothes. Since then you have lived in a society that has subtly and overtly convinced you the human body is shameful and must never be exposed, not so much as a nipple and certainly not the private parts between your legs. It’s time to think all of this through. It’s time to let go of all those inhibitions and get out of your clothes.
I was fortunate enough to come across this piece on social nudity that was written by a woman. I don’t think she would mind if I share it with you.
By Heather F.
How do you feel about your body? If you’re like the overwhelming majority of people in American society, then you probably would use some of the following statements to describe yourself: I’m too fat, too skinny, too big, too small, not muscular enough. The bottom line is you’re not happy with how you look.
Unfortunately, these statements about our bodies are all too often commonly held views in not only the overwhelming majority of American society, but increasingly in other societies where a diversity of body types, shapes and sizes are often celebrated. These views stem partly from a steady diet of images on TV and in the magazines that we read where bodies are always in “perfect shape.” We are told and made to believe that this is what we have to look like in order to be accepted, to be beautiful or handsome. While many of us acknowledge that we could never achieve this model of “perfection” we still act as if we can attain perfection, if only we’d try harder. Sadly, we have as a society become so paranoid and obsessive about our looks and our bodies that we don’t know whether to hide it or show it off, to be proud of it or to be ashamed of it. So just what are the factors that affect our acceptance of our bodies, what is body acceptance, and why is it so important, and how is body acceptance linked to naturism.
When I first met my husband, George, back in 1998, it would be more than accurate to say that I struggled with the way I looked. The first three lines of this page would describe me perfectly back then. I struggled with acceptance of my body and by extension myself for multiple reasons. First and foremost I saw all these women and girls around me on TV and in the magazines I read and looked at that looked like models. 5’8” to 5’11”, 110 to 115 pounds, large breasts, small hips and waist, and a tight little butt; everyone around me, the other girls at school, the characters in the programs I watched on TV, and even society as a whole held – and still holds – these images up as what I had to look like to be beautiful, to get a guy, to be one of the popular girls.
Then there was the teasing, the snide comments and remarks about my appearance and my body by my family and some of my so-called friends. Combine these things together and it’s no wonder I was struggling with body acceptance, or that females in general have such problems with body acceptance.
However, these problems are not just limited to females; males struggle with this too. Many males (writing with my husband’s help here for the male’s view) feel that they have to be muscular, thin, and without an inch of Continue readingPin It
The notion that all men prefer large breasts has finally been put to rest. Many men find smaller breasts to be extraordinarily feminine and quite beautiful. It seems, for women anyway, the focus has moved further south, down between her legs that is.
The porn industry and countless websites have created an image of the perfect vagina, one that consists of a nondescript public mound divided by an alluring crevice; not that these women aren’t exquisite, but no more so that those who have a few three dimensional features down there.
While some men are worried their penises are too small, some women are worried their labia are too large, or too dark, or too one thing or another. Most guys would think this seems like a silly thing to worry about, given how tantalizing that particular female body part looks in these images. Without her clothes, women with protruding labia have a physical personality that you would think other women would be envious of. They have genitals a man can lose himself in.
Thing is, we’re human. Humans often come with, among other misguided ideas, preconceived notions. Somehow we’ve been schooled on what a flawless human body should look like and few of us believe the body we live in falls into that category.
Ten to one says your partner is glad you have a few “flaws” to offset what they see as their own. So for a number of reasons, this is one of my favorite subjects to feature on Enlightened Male, the least of which not being the simple fact these women, or partial images of women, are nice to look at. But my primary reason to focus on protruding labia is for women to think twice before selling themselves short, and twice more before going forward with something as dramatic, risky and unnecessary as labiaplasty.
For more on this subject see Labiaplasty (What do “normal” labia look like?)