Growing Up Without Shame

Dennis Smith & Dr William Sparks 


Helga Fleischhauer-Hardt, a psychiatrist and president of the school for parent education in Switzerland expressed strong feeling. She says that it is not seeing parents and other family members nude which causes sexual trauma and poor sexual adjustment. (p 24)

Dr George Serban, who is president of the International Society for Existential Psychiatry, once commented on the myths which surround the open physical environments that exist in our society. He said that those who think nudists are undersexed because of their failure to be sexually aroused by the sight of others' nakedness are as misguided as those who, for the same reason, maintain that nudists are over-sexed. The sexual content of the situation, he says, depends on factors other than nakedness. To the nudist or the open family, being without clothes is so much a part of their everyday lives that it is not a sexual cue at all. (p 26)

The deeper we go into our belief systems in our search for the reasons behind our sexual inhibitions, the more apparent become the influences from our medieval past. Our equating sex with sin, nudity with sex, and evil with our genitals and their functions, is easily recognisable as a product of superstition, the fear of demons, and, finally, the Biblical story of original sin. (p 29)

Prudery, it seems, provides mankind with endless aphrodisiacs; hence, no doubt, the reluctance to abandon it. (p 114)

... what we see in the media influences what we accept in our lives. (p 139)

"Look," he pointed at his children playing with some other naked youngsters, "if the rest of society was as comfortable with themselves and their bodies as these kids are, then psychologists would go out of business." (p 170)

"Well" said one woman defiantly, "you show me where it is harmful and I'll stop brining them here. I'll bet, though, that I'll have a whole lot easier time telling you why it?s more harmful for them not to come here. At least it sure is bad for them to think of their bodies as nasty and evil. Now that's harmful." (p 173)

"There's a feeling of freedom and togetherness here that we've never felt anywhere else." (p 175)

"I think everyone enjoys going naked at one time or another. They won't or can't admit it. But look at small children. They prefer it, and then we teach them it is wrong. I come here because being naked in the sun with others feels good." (p 176)

"I came here because of all the sexual stories I had heard, but it's not a sexual experience at all. I was surprised to find out that nudity alone is not sexually exciting. Bikinis can be, sweaters pantyhose and panties may be; but just being clothesless is not. It's disappointing to find that out but that's the truth." (p 177)

A. S. Neil of the famed Summerhill schools wrote: "Nakedness should never be discouraged ... the very fact the law does not permit exposure of certain sex organs is bound to give children a warped attitude toward the human body." (p 177)

"Every lunch hour, four or five of my sixth-grade buddies would meet by the volleyball court to watch the seventh- and eighth-grade girls play. We watched with excitement, and waited for the right careless movement or for an accommodating gust of wind to lift their dresses and give us a forbidden glance at the mystery of womanhood. More than any of the girls, we watched Diana. She seemed to be teasingly aware of how many times her full bouncing skirt would rise just enough to reveal the sight we craved. For one titillating brief glimpse of those wicked panties, we would wait for hours, and then swoon breathlessly in fulfilment.

"It seems ludicrous now to think back on all the hours spent in pursuit of a shutter-quick look at somebody's underwear. But it was a serious business in those times. We were consumed with an insatiable hunger, a passion that drove us day and night. It occupied our thoughts constantly. Our schoolwork, our chores, even our games were set aside when an opportunity arose for us to see those forbidden garments.

"One night, when I was thirteen, I knelt in the bushes outside my sixteen-year-old neighbour's house and peeked through a small slit in the curtains to watch her undress. The sight of her standing naked before me - my first look at the body of a woman is etched on my memory forever. But that is not all that remains from the experience. The guilt I felt for my aberrance has followed me into adulthood." (p 179)

The young man quoted didn't see his parents nude. He didn't know what a woman's body looked like until he was thirteen. But he was, by his own admission, absolutely obsessed with sex. He said that for most of his life he could think of nothing else. (p 180)

The experts warn about the terrible guilt and frustrations which will develop in a child exposed to nudity. We didn't find them in the people we interviewed. We found normal childhood problems of adjustment, but we also found a group of adults seemingly satisfied with themselves, and very willing to raise their children as they were raised, with nakedness as a part of their everyday lives. (p 180)

When we spoke to adults who grew up in a nudist environment, we were told that it was more stimulating for them to go to a regular beach, where everyone wore suits, however small, than to play volleyball or sun at nudist park where everyone wore nothing. They said the mystery was gone. p 181

Other girls who have grown up surrounded by human nudity tell us that nakedness is not important as long as it is not banned. (p 181)

Without previous studies on which to base their conclusions, the experts told us that children, especially during the years from nine to thirteen, should not be allowed to see their parents nude because it would be harmful to them. It seems clear to us now, that after five years of study, that this unfounded bias and conjecture has been very misleading. But, more than that, it has caused real harm to more than one generation of American children. (p 181)

We live in a time when the human anatomy is examined, extolled, studied and lectured about, and at the very same moment is also exploited, ridiculed, and excluded from social acceptance. We insult ourselves by calling our bodies obscene, pornographic, lewd, base, dirty, immoral, or evil, and in so doing deny the basic truth of our own existence. Our anatomy is us - and it is none of these terrible things. (p 182)

The authors questioned many nudist boys, girls, men and women in search of the secret that made them comfortable in circumstances that upset do many of us. What we learned was that the viewing of the unclothed human body, far from being destructive to the psyche, seems to be either benign and totally harmless or actually provide positive benefits to the individuals involved. (p 183)

Growing Up Without Shame - 1986