My Complicated Relationship with Nudity

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My only friend in elementary school had a neighborhood friend named Jeffrey. As he and I sat at the table talking about who knows what, he piped up with a story.

“One time,” he said, “the three of us were playing truth or dare. We dared Jeffrey’s little brother to strip naked and run around the basement, and he actually did it.”

Hold the phone, I thought. He did what?! His little brother willingly got naked in front of them with penis in full view and ran around?

I wish I could’ve been there and seen it happen. I wanted to be part of it. Later on, I’d bring up this story with my friend and ask him to tell it again in more detail.

This story of nudity became an obsession with me. But why?

I had a complicated relationship with nudity growing up. During summers in preschool, we often went “swimming,” which was really just running around the playground as the counselors sprayed us with the water hose. We had to be in swimsuits, however. I remember getting naked with the other boys while changing — no second thoughts about doing it.

When I got to my elementary school years, this attitude changed. At YMCA camps, I was horrified to see the other boys getting naked in full view of each other while changing to go swimming. Why were they doing this?!

To avoid this shamefulness, I always changed in the toilet stalls and dreaded any time pool day came up.

One day, I simply refused to leave the toilet stall because I didn’t want to see the other boys mindlessly getting naked in front of each other or have them see me naked. I stood in that stall forever — only to find that my summer camp had left the pool building without me! I ran across the lawn to the next building and burst into tears as the counselors panicked over how they could have left me behind.

The shame was overwhelming.

Sometimes I think my attitude about nudity changed because of the shows and movies I watched at the time. They often portrayed nudity as something extremely disgusting (especially if someone was naked in front of the same sex), or as something really hilarious to be mocked.

I remember Alfalfa running around in his tighty-whities in Little Rascals. I remember Tommy Pickles ditching his diaper and running around naked in front of the other babies and convincing them to do the same in Rugrats. I remember Ed, Edd, and Eddy losing their speedos and comically covering themselves up lest any of the other kids see them naked.

The message I got from these shows and movies was that if anyone ever saw you naked in your most vulnerable state, you would be mocked.

Yet for some reason, I couldn’t link why nudity was shamed in society while the boys got freely naked and horse-played in the locker room. Talk about mixed messages! With the onset of puberty, the concept of seeing other males naked and being naked with them became eroticized.

A lot of my fantasies, while sexual to me, were not inherently sexual in their content. I liked the idea of simply getting naked with the other boys and going skinny-dipping, for instance. Or doing a naked dare just for laughs, like my friend and his neighbor did.

I suppose, in a sense, I was longing for innocent camaraderie and horseplay with other boys. To my subconscious mind, however, such fantasies were not so innocent anymore.

Like Tom wrote in his blog, I’ve never much desired sexual intercourse with men. Throughout my life, however, my erotic thoughts and desires have centered almost entirely on nudity. Only with fast internet service have I found a whole new world of pornography, and the crazy world of nudism opened to me.

To be continued . . .

Welcome our newest blogging brother, Eugene! And for discussion below: what was your relationship with nudity growing up? Was nudity normalized or eroticized after puberty? Have you ever wanted to experience platonic nudity with other guys?

* Photo courtesy wondermonkey2kCreative Commons.

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  • Kevin Frye

    Hey Eugene! Welcome! You and I seem to have had similar conflicting ideas about nudity growing up. Most of my erotic fantasies were not actually sexual in nature, but became sexual to me. God has been working on desexualizing them for years now, though, and a lot of progress has been made. Onward!

    • IntegrAlone

      I totally agree with what you are saying. I’ve thought this for a while.

    • Eugene Heffron

      Thanks Kevin! Your story sounds pretty similar to mine. I hope to make as much progress as you.

  • Eddie

    Hi Eugene. Welcome aboard the USS YOB ⛴. When I was way younger, nudity wasn’t a big deal until I got older. Like you I was embarrassed to get even undressed in the restroom and opted for the toilet stall. When I got high school, this phobia diminished yet I could not shower after gym class as I would feel too vulnerable. Surprisingly, a good portion of OSA guys felt the same way. Or at least that what I assumed. Maybe they didn’t want to get naked in front of me or everyone for that matter. The football team was another story. I took maybe 3 separate showers during the whole season with at least one other teammate at it was embarrasing each time. My penis got aroused and we all just had to ignore that elephant in the room. Maintain eye contact above the waist and such. It was just my own anxiety going in overdrive. Nudity was normalized it seems when I got to college. All the guys in the dorm got naked in gang showers. I really had to learn to relax myself and not be aroused by my circumstances. I came to realize my anxiety was all in my head. Yet I was mindful if someone was going to take advantage of me like jokingly steal my clothes and such. I got more “nudity” stories we can share later. To answer your last question, I have experienced platonic nudity with other guys like showers and skinny dipping. It was never sexual, but a gratifying brotherly or male bonding experience. And I hope to experience it again — platonically.

    • Eugene Heffron

      That’s great you got to experience that! Men showering with each other is very much a taboo now days but the only people who it seems to be acceptable for are people on sports teams. I do know that a lot of OSA guys are very insecure about being seen naked by other guys.

      • Eddie

        Quite right you are. As to OSA guys feeling insecure, there seems to be an unspoken rule among men that after college shared male nudity is practically avoided at all costs. As one of my OSA friends put it, he avoided the company gym to avoid seeing some of his fellow co-workers being nude in the locker room. The idea of having those images in his head was distressing to him. Furthermore, one’s post college physique may not be in its best shape so shared nudity is discouraged based on “aesthetics.” The sports team correlation is quite true as it seems to be a team bonding experience as I’m told. Keep sharing brother, more to discuss and hash over.

  • mike

    Welcome Eugene :). While many have become disheartened about SGA healing as a result of the failure of ‘Exodus’, I for one hold up HOPE which never fails to lift me up. Jesus came to “make all things new” and regarding nudity obsession even there Jesus heals.
    Looking forward to hearing your story and Jesus in it. Our story only makes sense when it is explained by His greater story of making all things new and the Greek word ‘sozo’ is His promise.

    • mike

      Oh, for me nudity now is not an issue at least most of the time. The battleground is (and always has been) in my mind and Jesus calls me to renew my thinking — only thinking pure thoughts about what it means to have ‘sozo’. In the public showers I remember that my body is the dwelling Place of the Trinity. That’s awesome for me to think that — for it is the Truth! Though my body is aging, becoming flabby, and not like the young guys there, my mind knows I don’t have to compare and play second fiddle to any body there. No. One Day, very soon, I’ll have a dazzling white one as Revelation promises! All is well always as I think on those things, but it has taken me a long time to grow up like that. For years it was like you describe: an obsession and not a holy one…

    • Eugene Heffron

      Thanks for the welcome! My story is going to get a little more crazier as things go on. lol

      • Eddie

        Please keep sharing brother. Your delivery is honest, open and straightforward. Look forward to hearing more from your perspective.

        • Eugene Heffron

          Thank you very much! I have several more installments in this series lined up and ready to go.

  • naturgesetz

    As a boy, I came to believe that being naked was somehow wrong, unless it was somehow required. Thus, I had no problem showering in front of other boys after high school gym class, but it was something I didn’t prolong. And I was more interested in chests than penises. In fact, shirtlessness meant more to me than nudity. I wanted to be shirtless, but believed that my mother disapproved, and therefore it was wrong. So that’s what became eroticized. But if shirtlessness was wrong, unnecessary nudity was also wrong.

    At one point, I heard a monk insist during a class that simple nudity was not sinful or dirty. Later, I indulged my semi-sexual desire to be shirtless in situations where it was appropriate, such as boating — although it felt daring. In my sixties, living alone for the first time, I began to be naked for extended periods, and within the past five or six years I have become acquainted with another guy who enjoys non-sexual nudity, and he has visited me on several occasions and we have been naked in each other’s presence as we have prepared and eaten meals, watched TV, and just hung around the house.

    I guess I’d say that nudity is normalized for me. What I regret is that there are so few occasions to be naked with others because society doesn’t accept it.

    • Eugene Heffron

      That’s great that it has become so normalized for you! I looked for healthy nudity in so many places but like you said, modern society doesn’t accept it. Because of the lack of it, it forced me to look in a lot of unhealthy areas for it which you’ll read about later.

      • Kevin Frye

        It leaves us to wonder if the lack of nonsexual nudity is actually what fuels the immoral sexualization of nudity and, conversely, if more exposure to nonsexual nudity, although taboo and risky and frowned upon and possibly inducing of lust, is actually the best thing for warding off unnecessary sexualization of nudity and one’s own gender.

        • Charlie

          You may wonder, but I’m convinced. The only thing that has ever helped me recover from an addiction or bad habit is to replace it with a healthy alternative. I’ve replaced smoking, junk food, excessive alcohol, and hookups. Porn is the last battle for me, but the availability of nudity in a healthy context is a major obstacle. I’ve already experienced the de-sexualization of men in so many ways I doubt exposure to nudity is any different.

  • ohne Name

    I can relate to this quite well. As a boy, in the locker room before and after swimming lessons I also tried to hide the most private parts of my body (for example by using a towel). I envy men who can be naked around other guys without feeling any shame or sexual arousal.

    It’s the same when it comes to peeing next to a another man. When I was 19, I tried to pee at a urinal, I believe, it was for the first time
    in my life. Then another man came in and and peed, too. Immediately, a „valve“ in me closed automatically 😉 The well-known paruresis phenomenon.

    Now, more than 10 years later, I’m thinking about getting over this issue. A few weeks ago, I decided to use a urinal at a restroom.
    Luckily, the urinals had effective separation walls. When I came in, nobody else was in there. Then, a few seconds later, another man came in and this time, the „valve“ didn’t close. After that experience, I was happy and felt like a real man.

    Maybe, one of the next steps could be doing this at my workplace. I haven’t dared it there so far because the separation wall between the two urinals is not very effective. Furthermore, I know the people there and I feel inferior to many of them anyway. With people I don’t know, it’s easier. I can’t understand how you can pee without shame, standing next to your boss who can look at your penis if he wants…

    When I see other men (especially men I’m attracted to) who are able to pee in such situations or be naked around men without shame and without sexual arousal, I feel a strange mixture of, on the one hand, huge envy of them, shame about myself and, on the other hand, outrage and pain about social norms that „claim“ that men should be able to do these things.

    I’m not sure about how much exposition to such situations is good for men like us. It can fuel sexual fantasies and lead into temptations. But I think, it might also help to overcome the feeling of being disconnected and the deep-rooted shame that I often feel so painfully in my life. The shame of being inferior, of not really belonging to the other guys, of not being interesting for them. Maybe, if this shame could
    be reduced, naked men, penises etc. might loose some of their mysterious fascination?

  • mike

    Thanks IntegrAlone. It is the discipline of Galatians 2:20. A way of thinking and being that Paul achieved that brought him healing. I’m curious about your post name. Hopefully, you’ll feel free soon to tell us about it and your own journey :).

  • Steven Michael

    I don’t even go around shirtless unless I’m changing or swimming, so being naked around other people is definitely rare. When I was maybe 6 or so my friend was in my room and changed his underwear right in front of me. I was shocked.

    When I was in 8th grade and had to shower in gym class, it was a much smaller deal than I feared. We were all naked together. In high school the showers were no longer mandatory, so no one used them. In college, some people at the gym would be naked, but most people (aside from some elderly gentlemen) weren’t, so I didn’t like to be either.

    But like you and others have mentioned, nudity doesn’t really mean sexuality to me. I think I worry about it because my mind wants to equate them, but a naked guy at a gym is not a big temptation for me because the local is not sexual.

  • ohne Name

    As a boy, in the locker room before and after swimming lessons I also hid the most private parts of my body. I envy men who can be naked around other guys without feeling any shame or sexual arousal. It’s similar when it comes to peeing next to another man at a urinal, especially if you know the other person (for example your boss).
    When I see other men (especially men I’m attracted to) who are able to pee in such situations or be naked around men (gym shower, sauna…) without any shame, I feel a strange mixture of, on the one hand, huge envy of them, shame about myself and, on the other hand, outrage and pain about social norms that “claim” that men should be able to do these things and feel normal about it.

    I’m not sure about how much exposition to such situations is good for men like us. It can fuel sexual fantasies and lead into temptation. But I think, it might also help to overcome the feeling of being disconnected and the deep-rooted shame that I often feel so painfully in my life. The shame of being inferior, of not really belonging to the other guys, of not being interesting for them. Maybe, if this shame could be reduced, naked men, penises etc. might loose some of their mysterious fascination?

    • mistaken identity

      Over the last 2 or 3 years I have forced myself to shower at the gym regularly, and now to walk into the shower room naked. I had a conversation last week with a stranger in the showers about mother’s day, and it was one example of that mysterious fascination being reduced. I just enjoyed what he was saying about his family and I didn’t think twice that there was a naked guy next to my with a bigger dick than mine. When I was younger, I could not pee if another man was next to me at a urinal. I would have to walk out after a few awkward minutes of trying and then return after the room was empty.

    • mike

      You wonder if exposure to nude men might solve it. It’s like asking a straight guy if frequenting the ladies’ shower would eventually rid him of his boner! Not. We don’t have the agency to heal ourselves. We need power brother. We need to come to understand that our God is not far off somewhere running the Galaxy but is here in us to empower us to know who we are. We are much more — much more than small penises etc. Much more!

    • Eugene Heffron

      So true, I didn’t start using urinals until I was 19. It definitely made me feel more masculine when I got over the fear. In my experience, exposition into nudity situations can sometimes be both good and bad. Yes it can sometimes feed lusts but there have been situations where I’ve been naked with close friends. In those situations I went out of my way to not sexualize those scenarios.

  • caleb seager

    I’m almost 18 now, but until I turned 16, I absolutely refused to take a group shower at the rec center. Soon after I turned 16, I saw some college aged guys having multiple types of sex in the shower at the Rec. I was disgusted about that for a while, but privately it seemed exciting and secretly I was kinda jealous. A couple months after that, I started having my showers at the rec naked. At first it was still awkward, but eventually it got to the point where I enjoyed being naked with other guys and even tried to get attention from others in the shower at the time. At the time I was behaving this way, it never even crossed my mind that my behavior would be recognized as gay, and I never thought of myself as gay. but looking back, this may have been one of the catalysts that started to stir up my unexplored feelings

    • Eugene Heffron

      Well, that’s one way to get into exploring it. lol Did you feel like it was healing for you or was it just making you feel like you were acting out?

      • caleb seager

        I’m not even sure. At that time, I didn’t even know what I was looking for. I just wanted attention from guys. I thought that would make me feel better. But just like drugs, the more you have, the larger amount you want the next time you look for it

        • Eugene Heffron

          I can relate to that. Sometimes I’ve had an urge for guys to see me but not so much that they’ll have sexual attention towards me. Its like I want them to see me and acknowledge that I have a penis and everything below the belt that makes me masculine and a man.

    • Welcome to our community, Caleb! How awesome for you to find us; thanks for diving in and sharing so vulnerably. Hope you continue to share! You are not alone.

  • Sonny boy

    You guys talk too much about nudity and boners etc. At some point that discussion becomes unhealthy, and I think it is past that point. Nudity wouldn’t​ be a big deal if you didn’t keep making it a big deal.

    • Eugene is our newest blogger and has only blogged about this issue once. Even so, I think you’ll find our nudity/boners-to-not post ratio is still pretty low. Compared against the rest of Christianity, we’re skyrocketing on this topic, I realize.

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  • Pastor Coats

    The exotic becomes erotic. I grew up in the days when swimming “in the bare” was required for boys and men. I can remember only one swim meet where we had to wear suits to the fury of a few of my team mates who feared for their times. Being that all boys had to shower after PE from junior high through high school, being naked around each other was expected like our dads grew up and their dads before them. Thus, male nakedness was not exotic to us. That is why we older men are not ashamed of our sagging, wrinkling bodies. Yet, younger, more fit men fear being seen in the bare.

    Also, since female nudity was nearly never seen when I was growing up, and it was very difficult to get girly magazines (when every store owner knows your dad), the unclothed female form was exotic to us and thus became erotic. I’ll never forget the night of our honeymoon, the moment I got to see and touch my first nude female. The most wonderful moment we both still remember together. I’ve so enjoyed in deep thankfulness to God who made my very own ‘her’ ever so erotic to me, even after all these decades together. God knows how deep I wish all men could have what I have and thrill at growing old with their own wife.

    And God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make one who is perfectly able to help and reliever him.” (Genesis 2:18).