phaidra

A Discourse on Semi-Public Nudity

So I was at a public pool recently.

In the ladies' changeroom after my swim, I people-watched as I generally do - or more to the point in observing changeroom etiquette with some respectfulness, I people-listened.

Two contrasting families emerged, two women with female children of around the same age. One woman had two kids about the height of my hips (not so good with age-to-height ratios with kids, so it's your job to estimate) and another woman had a slightly older girl.

Mother #1 was attempting to keep her girls under the hairdryers while she changed. One of her girls, the younger one presumably from the height difference, kept playing with her towel and leaving herself uncovered. There were no men in the changeroom at all - not even small boys. Her mother scolded her repeatedly, requesting hotly that she keep her towel around her even if she was dry, it was called "modesty." She was also trying to keep the towel (one of only two she had with her) off the floor so she could use it later.

Mother #2 was changing in good humor with her girl. They were both naked, unashamed, minding their own business, dressing carefully. The girl stood on top of the bench so her towel wouldn't get wet. Things went very smoothly for them.

Such different people, such different parenting styles. Ever since entering a serious relationship, watching parenting styles has become a more serious hobby. If it looks like someone is doing something very right or very wrong, I try to sit up and take notice in case this information becomes useful later.

The thing is, I've seen this particular scene a hundred times in changerooms, and being one of the in-betweens - someone who tries to cover up somewhat but doesn't really make that big a deal of modesty - I am puzzled at the opposing attitudes and wonder which is better and which is worse. I lean towards the acceptibility of single-gender public nudity being better, and I always have.

Having drawn nudes in art school, I have had prolonged exposure to examining the human body. It made it a bit hard for me sometimes on account of the eating disorder, but it was worth looking. We had one lady who was about my size come in and pose for us. She had grace and poise and was, most definitely, beautiful. It was difficult to reconcile my observations of her with my observations of self, but that experience certainly had a positive effect on the battle.

I guess that makes me question the Western cultural lack of publicly acceptable nudity. Now, many of you will cry out at this point that I am wrong about this, that nudity is publicly acceptable in nearly all places at all times here and it's gross. But there's a fine line between sexual nudity and general public nudity, and though sexualized nudity is rampant, nudity as a means of allowing young people to grow in the understanding of normal human sizes, shapes, and appearance is scarce indeed. I have always thought that swimming changerooms were one of the places I found when I was young that I most learned to accept that human beings are a varied lot, and most of their beauty or ugliness came from the inside.

EDIT: I am only arguing for the public acceptance of same-gender nudity. I still think that general nudity is perhaps too hard to avoid sexualizing.

What do you think, is it more important to teach children modesty or self-acceptance? And can a person use a same-sex changeroom experience for both? I would especially be interested in anyone's point of view who has lived in or been to Europe, where the attitude to public nudity is much more relaxed.

  • Current Mood: satisfied thoughtful about the body
It's pretty funny how age-specific feelings about nudity can be. I can remember going to summer camp and being totally fine with changing in cabin when I was eight, up until somewhere around preteen, at which point everyone became scared of nudity and tried to rig up towels, change in their sleeping bags, or change in the bathroom. I guess it's the whole bodies-maturing thing that wigs everyone out at that point.

I don't make a big fuss about nudity nowadays. I just warn everyone, "Don't look, I'm naked over here" and trust that people are going to be polite and avert their eyes. Of course, I would never change or be even semi-naked in a co-ed situation.
Depending on the situation, I don't even bother with the warning. Oh karate. :P

I've also changed in co-ed situations, though I do try and go behind a tree or a wall or something. Depending on who I'm with, it's way less of a big deal than a lot of people think, and in a situation where it does come down to that, it's because NOT changing in the co-ed situation would really just be a pain in the arse. Mind you, that's not complete nudity - that's change shirt then change pants then continue on my merry way.