Resetting My Brain with Naked Men

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I’ve been purging a bit for the past year or so, getting a lot of junk out of my life that doesn’t need to be there. Christians do this all the time, but most of the time, we think of it in terms of sin; we purge our lives of sin and bad habits that lead us to sin. But I’ve been cleaning out stuff that I didn’t think was sin and, even now, I wouldn’t say is necessarily wrong. It just has to go.

I argue with God about much of it, and I say, “God, this is totally fine! Why do you want me to get rid of it? What harm is it doing?” And then he looks at me and says my name with that tone in his voice, and I know I’ve already lost.

I started looking at porn when I was about thirteen so that I could learn what sex was and what men looked like naked — what I would look like one day. I tumbled through that dark abyss for ten years before finding any serious levels of freedom. After coming out of it, I wanted to reset my mind.

I wanted to stop seeing men as sexual objects or idols and start seeing them as my brothers.

So, what did I do?

The Lord led me to join the YMCA where I had loads of healthy, in-person experiences changing in the locker rooms and taking showers with other guys. Even though I hardly ever talked to anyone there, it was affirming for me to be naked with other naked men and for it not to be a problem, for it truly to be normal.

I was a normal man there.

But I wanted more. And after I moved out of the city and then out of the country, I had fewer opportunities to be naked with other men, or to be with other men much at all as time continued to pass and circumstances changed.

I found I could get my fix by looking at naked men online.

I justified this by believing that I was only interested in non-erotic imagery. And that was mostly true. I love art, and I don’t consider pornography of any sort to be artistic. I really did want to see nonsexual images of nudity.

I truly wanted to reset my mind to stop viewing all nudity as erotic.

I wanted to expose myself to as much non-erotic nude art as it took to change the way I thought of other men and of myself. I wanted to appreciate the beauty of men without sexualizing them, and I figured that would come with practice and exposure.

So, I exposed myself to those images as much as I could. I believed my motives were pure. I collected a ton of pictures of naked men on Pinterest, I joined groups on Facebook and other social media sites that were aimed at appreciating the nude male body, as well as ones that focused more on male friendships, camaraderie, and intimacy.

Some of it helped. Some of it was genuine and true and good, at least for the time. But I found myself never being satisfied, and in fact, longing for something more than just what I saw.

Nudity is good. It can strengthen bonds and break down barriers between people, and I can’t deny the positive impact that overcoming the fear of nudity by God’s gracious supervision has had on my life.

But looking at something we want but don’t have or can’t get can open a door in our hearts to envy, and that envy leads to resentment and anger.

“God, you took me to the YMCA!” I cried. “You made it okay for me to see naked men! I’m not gay and I know this and I don’t want to do anything sexual with a man! Why then won’t you give me the kind of intimacy with men that I long for? Why are you withholding this good thing from me?”

I held onto these questions that went unanswered for so long as I grew more and more resentful toward the Lord.

Finally, the Lord did show me the truth.

The problem with my looking at pictures of naked men and obsessing over male intimacy and friendship was not that I was sexualizing anything or lusting as we consider that word to mean these days. The problem was idolatry.

The problem was that I was not happy with God’s way for me, and I wanted to try to fix the situation myself. The problem was that I was taking my emptiness, my longing, my desperation to men — nameless, unknown, beautiful, muscular, bold, shirtless, and naked men — to be filled. And I was never satisfied.

The more I wanted, the more resentful I became toward God for not fulfilling me.

Looking at naked men is fine. Being naked with other men is fine. Valuing friendship, intimacy, and camaraderie is great.

But envy is wrong. Idolatry brings death. Being angry at God all the time for not doing what we want him to do when we want him to do it is no way to live.

So, I’ve been purging my life of these images and these social media groups. They’re not necessarily wrong or bad, I’d say, but I can’t deal with them right now in a healthy way. They have to go.

And that’s not to say that I can’t be naked with other men. I live in Japan and I enjoy going to the public bathhouses here from time to time and hanging out naked with a dozen or so other naked guys. There’s no problem for me there. But sitting at a computer screen and ogling men’s butts and reading about other guys’ great friendships and how much they love each other as brothers does me no good.

I enjoy it (who doesn’t like to see a nice butt?), but the Lord knows what’s best for me. I may argue with him sometimes, but I really have to trust that he has my best interests in mind when he tells me to stop looking at certain pictures or to delete my membership to certain groups. Sometimes I join new groups in the hope that this one or that one will be different and I can stay in it, and sometimes that is the case, depending on the kind of group that it is.

But usually, as has been the case lately, God has led me to give them up.

So, onward purging ho.

Have you ever felt God leading you to purge something or someone from your life? Have you ever tried to look at naked men to “redeem” any lustful views of men?

* Photo courtesy felipegeek, Creative Commons.

  • Paul Kinney

    Great post Kevin. I can so relate. The Y I was healing for me in the same way. I also was convicted last fall about what an idol I had made out of community and connection realizing how much energy I spent chasing the two.
    Stay strong my friend.

    • Kevin Frye

      Thanks, Paul. We need to be careful to not love the tool of healing more than the Healer. It’s such an easy hill to slide down.

  • Eddie

    “The problem was idolatry.” Exodus 20:4-5… “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. Deuteronomy 4:24… “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” He is also a loving God and doesn’t want anything to hinder your relationship with Him.

  • Jim Roberts

    Another very deep post Kevin! You hit upon significant themes. Motivation. Envy/Jealousy. Idolatry. Oh, and nudity.

    For me it is my prayer that God stops the PURGE in my life. Broken/failed relationships follow me. God seems to “want me” where I am. I would much rather have some “creation” in my life than more disconnection. I admit I am envious – even jealous at times – of men who have close/loving relationships with their wives/families/friend. It’s been difficult for me to hear their testimonies – I feel like God is “rubbing in my face” what I can never have. Maybe I see these guys/couples as idols???

    All I can do it seems is be the “servant leader” for my family (the provider) – but abandon “all hope” for real intimacy. I’m just too messed up really for that – a message from my youth. Being “naked” and vulnerable is where I get in trouble. And God seems to be quite LOUD (speaking through my wife) about how disappointing I am as a husband/father.

    Some tell me it all starts with my relationship with God – that I have to “fix” that before I have any hope of building others. Maybe. I do have my anger/resentment issues for sure. I rarely feel God’s love for me – I seem to be “outside” of it.

    Being in this “place” I am obviously discouraged. Depressed at times, lonely at most. Whiny to my friends often (which I have decided is way too excessive). Feeling despair. And of course going through my “addiction cycles”, my attempts at “relationship/intimacy fix” in chat rooms. Getting more and more tempted to actually MEET guys again (after 30 years)- celibacy is not something I have any confidence I can “pull off.” I’m sure God wants me to “purge” all that – but I sure don’t see an “out” beyond just suffering and loneliness. Where is the creation? Is it just all about loss??

    • Kevin Frye

      Dude, I feel your pain. Really. I’ve wrestled with feeling like a failure as a husband/father, being alone and isolated with no hope of finding connection with others, feeling outside of God’s love, and feeling like all this is what God wanted for me — misery, failure, isolation, and despair. I can’t give you any magic words here that will fix everything for you, but I can say that we humans easily believe lies based on our circumstances, our feelings, and what other people say. I’ve had to shut out a lot of voices and talk to God bluntly about everything I’ve felt and thought, even if doing so seemed heretical. I’d rather be honest with God and be called a heretic than to hide everything from God and pretend like I’m okay when I’m really as far from God as any man can be.

      I’ve found that God is not what I felt like he was. His personality is much different from the vibes I get from people about him. My circumstances do not dictate God’s nature. There is always hope, but if I’m bitter toward God, that means I am holding onto pain and sin and not allowing God to be my total Lord. In that case, I truly have no hope of being fulfilled.

  • Malcolm

    I have struggled with much of the same thing — trying to tell myself that looking at pictures of nonsexual male nudity is ok, but God telling me otherwise. However, I have found locker room type nudity to be somewhat healing. Most of the naked guys that you see in the locker room really aren’t that good looking. They too have rolls of fat and small-to-average sized penises. And that is affirming in a way. You see that you really aren’t different from other guys. You realize that you look just as good or better naked than most of them. They are also real people with personalities and problems. A male body in a picture, however, is not a person, but a collection of body parts — abs, pecs, penis. Looking at these images just creates feelings of inferiority and envy. While it doesn’t seem like it necessarily should be wrong, I think that it isn’t good. Also, I have to ask myself if it isn’t lustful, then why do I want to see more male nudity? Haven’t I seen enough already? What is the point in seeing more? I think the answer is that it is lustful (for me) even if I try to tell myself that it is “nonsexual”.

    • Kevin Frye

      You hit the nail on the head, Malcolm.

      I think guys really do enjoy and value being naked together. Unfortunately, in Western cultures and societies, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for men to share nudity with each other, and they’re usually shamed for expressing any interest in it. But they want to experience it or at least see it, so they turn to images and fantasies to replace the real thing. I wonder if having the real thing more would create less interest in images and fantasies.

      • mike

        Kevin, don’t you find it curious that in “Western cultures and societies” there are fewer opportunities for shared nudity? Have you wondered about what may be the real reason? I know that some say it’s due to the gay stigma and there may be some truth in that. But even before the word “gay” meant what it does today Western society was even more staid with even more conservative dress. Nudity was common amongst the Romans of antiquity and the Greeks likewise. But in Jewish society it wasn’t common and likewise in the Christian era not. I’m thinking it was the Judeo-Christian influence originating with the Genesis account where like for Adam nudity was shameful. Why shameful? Something changed. I’m thinking we now have fallen eyes and it may not do us good to watch nudity.

        • Kevin Frye

          Even in conservative Christian circles in the last thousand years of history, where men and women had to cover up from chin to toe when together and in public, when they were alone with their gender mates, those restrictions were usually set aside. Godly, faithful men have bathed and swum nude together without the presence of women without there being a problem. Women, too, have been able to bathe and change clothes together without men around. I agree that our eyes have been tainted by sin, but I think that affects how we see the opposite sex. Adam and Eve covered up when they saw that they were naked with each other. There’s no evidence in the Bible that I know of that condemns same-sex nudity.

          • mike

            Precisely, in Genesis innocence was lost and nakedness became sexual and associated with lust.
            For the heterosexual male then seeing female nudity equals lustful thoughts but seeing male nudity is usually repulsive regarding sexual thoughts and so male nudity to the heterosexual male like Adam would be neutral and likely innocent I think. But it wasn’t for Ham or his brothers to see their father’s nakedness.
            But for the SSA’d male I contend that male nudity is sexual as female nudity is to the OSA’d male. For that reason it isn’t innocent and a SSA’d male might want to ask why do I want to see a nude male? Am I trying to make myself ‘normal’ like the heterosexual male who has no qualms sitting in a sauna nude with other nude men? But can I make myself normal? If I spend enough time with nude males maybe I’ll become like them? Or, like for the heterosexual male who has lost his innocence with female nudity have I lost my innocence with male nudity this side of heaven because of my lower nature brokenness in this area? And is it safer for me to avoid male nudity because of my SSA and I’ll therefore be safer that way? I guess I asking what is the benefit of shared male nudity for the SSA’d? Is it a drive to repair something that is now not repairable? Hopefully you’re ok with all these questions?

          • Kevin Frye

            First, that’s not what the book of Genesis says. In Genesis 2:25, it says that Adam and Eve were both naked and they felt no shame. Shame and lust are two different things. Then, in Genesis 3:7, after Adam and Eve sin, it says their eyes were opened and they saw that they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. I think this implies that, before the fall, they felt no shame for their nakedness, but afterward, they immediately felt shame. Still, no mention of lust or sexuality there.

            Second, the account of Noah’s sons seeing him drunk and naked, passed out in his tent is a vague story and there is no way to definitely say that there was anything lustful or sexual going on there.

            Third, opposite-sex nudity is not intrinsically and universally sexual. If it were, all nudity in art for all history should be counted as erotic, even though it’s clearly not. All people groups around the world who live in societies where the people wear little or not clothing would be having one huge orgy all the time. We as humans, regardless of which sex we’re attracted to, don’t have to see any human body as innately erotic.

            Fourth, you ask some very good questions and I’m absolutely okay with them. Keep asking! I plan to write about shared male nudity in the near future, so I hope you’ll stay tuned for that.

            I think we get into a lot of trouble when we view homosexual attractions as equal to and the opposite of heterosexual attractions. Homosexuality is not the opposite equal of heterosexuality. It is a perversion of the norm. It is a counterfeit orientation; a method of fulfilling oneself by one’s own means, to fill every gap and deficit in one’s soul by inappropriate, sexualized relationships with one’s gender-mates. Heterosexual people also use sexuality and inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex to fulfill themselves, and this is equally wrong. But, while there is a normal, healthy, and God-condoned heterosexual orientation, there is no such homosexual orientation. God did not make it.

            So, when we take a problem that exists in heterosexuality, such as lust toward the object of lust (in this case, the opposite sex), and apply it to homosexuality, what we’re saying is that homosexuality is like heterosexuality and also has a normal, healthy side to it. The way to overcome lust for the heterosexual is not really the same thing that must be done for the homosexual. I could go on and on about this, but it would take some time, and I might as well just write a blog post about it one day. You get the idea for now, so I hope this helps answer some of your questions….. or furthers more interesting discussion!

          • mike

            Kevin, thanks for the reply. I’m trying to understand your keen interest in nudity.
            Has nudity exposure worked for you? Perhaps some, but it has done you harm. As you say you were/are trying to repair something, but it has not completed. Will more nudity exposure do it? In psychiatry we use desensitization to deal with for example anxiety issues. If one fears driving then slowly increasing driving distances and more difficult routes does work to reduce anxiety. Mostly but not completely. Neurotic pathology in adulthood is mostly fixed and treatment is mostly supportive versus curative.
            But does desensitization work for identity issues? Reparative therapy for homosexual dysphoria using whatever method mostly does not, and even does harm as it has for you as you tried to repair yourself with nudity exposure: a form of desensitization.
            The Genesis verse speaks of “shame”. If being naked was good before the fall why after shameful? Even a blind man knows when he is naked, but children have no problem with nakedness yet adults do. Is it because nakedness for adults links the nude parts with sexual thoughts which can lead to shameful lust or envy and so it’s best to cover up!
            Notably Adam dealt with his shameful nudity by covering up and God affirmed that with better permanent clothes that He made for them. Why God’s clothes for this? To deal with the shame of nudity? Consequently Kevin, I see nudity today as not a return to innocence but rebellion against moral reality. And I agree with John Piper “God ordains clothes to witness to the glory we have lost, and it is added rebellion to throw them off.”
            The story of Ham is not to be dismissed for Ham’s sin had grave consequences. Ham was severely punished for seeing his father’s nakedness. It infected his progeny! Ham didn’t see just a naked father (which seems harmless enough) but something sexual. Perhaps his father’s boner! Remember Ham’s descendants were the Canaanites whose sexual sins were shocking and were a result of Ham’s sexual sin which gets passed down generations. The Canaanites were wiped out by God’s judgement visited upon them by Israel because of their many sexual sins.
            The drive to wholeness is good, but the personal method may not be. Utilizing nudity for that purpose I see as not useful and even harmful. If not, nudity would have been celebrated in the New Testament. But it is not to be found there except among the pagans.

          • Sam I Am

            Mike, I’m not claiming to speak for Kevin but want to share from my research, experiences, and understanding. I’ve concluded that men are not made to be (physically) modest; the recent trend in male modesty is a result of the feminization of what it means to be a man. Does this mean that men should run around naked all of the time? No. However, there is most definitely a male bonding experience from being naked around other men.

            I am in my 40s and have been working in ministry with college students my entire professional life. About 50% of the guys in my small groups back when I first graduated college had sexual identity issues. Not all were SSA; there are sexual identity issues on the heterosexual side also. Fast forward to 10 years later and about 70-80% of them had sexual identity issues. Now, another 10 years later, it’s in the 90%-ile. Paralleling that statistic is the percentage of males who are overly modest and refuse to let anyone see them naked.

            Talk with a guy in his 80s about modesty; they simply don’t understand the current 20-somethings who go to great lengths to not be seen naked in the locker rooms. When they were young, guys skinny-dipped together, showered together, didn’t rush to cover up, etc. The guy who refused to get naked is the guy who was chided and made fun of. Then in the 1960s, moms began to complain to the school systems about their sons having to swim naked while the girls were allowed swimsuits. They also complained about the the communal showers in the boy’s / men’s locker room, while the girl’s / women’s locker room had stall showers. Moms felt their sons should be modest just like their daughters. There is much documentation about this; much of it is written from the modern male’s perspective of shame. Unfortunately, women were left to make decisions about raising their boys and the dads were not as vocal during the 1960s and 70s. The few dad’s who were vocal on the subject were in favor of their son’s continuing to swim naked and shower communally; they recognized the importance of it in developing their boys into men. When I was a kid in the 70s/80s, I was more than modest; I refused to let anyone see me in my underwear. I remember my father, who would still in his 40s/50s frequently skinny dip with his friends in our pool, being very frustrated with this but my mom defended me. My friends were split down the middle – half modest, the other half not. I remember going to play at one of my friend’s homes and he / his brothers were all running around naked; my mom took me home. Our coaches were perplexed that half of the guys on the athletic teams either showered in their underwear or refused to shower after a game (made for a smelly bus-ride home). Talk with a high-school guy now and they will tell you that no one showers in communal showers. They see another guy who will get naked in the locker room as being gay.

            Modern day young men are now into body shaming just like women have been for years. Why? because their only exposure to naked men is either porn or what they see in movies. When I was a kid, men went shirtless frequently; not the case anymore except at the pool. I recently counselled a guy who won’t even let his wife see him naked. What brought us to this point? Mom’s deciding that their boys should be treated like their daughters; the feminization of what it means to be a man.

            Now, earlier I paralleled the modesty trend with the trend of broken men. I am not saying that lack of male nudity is the cause of these sexual identity issues, but I do think it is a contributing factor because I believe that element of male bonding to be important. And I fully believe the lack of male nudity (bonding) is a direct cause of male body shaming. When I first started in ministry, I rarely had to address what it means to be a man; now, I spend about 25% of our time on what it means to be a Godly, sexual man. This includes frank discussions about our bodies, comparing, etc. I repeatedly receive communication from former students thanking me for teaching them what it means to be a Godly, sexual man and for showing them that they are normal.

          • mike

            Thanks Sam for your detailed response to my musing :).
            No disclaimer necessary for me. I’m a physician, nude bodies are just bodies to be examined: no stumbling here. But your disclaimer for others defeats what you are trying to say that we need more nudity but nudity, for many, causes them to lust/stumble or to envy :(. So, it’s a catch 22!

            Your teaching of men is to be celebrated. How I wish other ministers would spend the time to do what these men failed to learn back in adolescence.

            If nudity has positive elements in adolescence I contend trying to repair that deficit now as adult men with nudity is not what they need.

            Why did God make humans naked? Strange that since animals were clothed. God had a reason. After the fall now nudity still today has the elements of shame and fear. These weren’t caused by nudity prohibitions. Shame because we are now vulnerable. Nakedness is shameful because it is a metaphor that now if you look at me as I expose to you who I really am I fear you will not like me and worse will reject me. You won’t like my broken evil parts nor will you like my tiny penis!

            God’s clothing was mercy and symbolizes Christ’s robe of righteousness so that we are now clothed in holiness instead of animal skins. It makes no sense to become naked now for Christians. God has clothed us. “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

          • Kevin Frye

            I really don’t want to continue this conversation here. I feel much of this discussion warrants its own set of blog posts. Still, I want to leave this link here for you to check out. I don’t agree 100% with everything that’s on it, but it does explain a lot about my beliefs regarding nudity and lust. I hope you read everything on the site and be sure to watch the videos, too.

            My Chains Are Gone:

          • mike

            Thanks Kev. Now I have some perspective.
            That website is unnecessarily cryptic and difficult to follow (unlike YOB), but in essence their prescription to cure porn addiction is:
            1. Look for and uncover the lie or lies that keep you bound to your sin.
            2. Learn the truth of God that had formerly been supplanted by the lies.
            3. Begin to live as if the truth is true instead of living as if the lie were true.
            Their truth is that nakedness is good. Their lie is that viewing the nude body is sexual and lustful. And their path to freedom is to rewire our brains to think differently and instead delight in naked bodies and not believe the lie that nakedness is sexual. And masturbation is useful as long as it is pure!
            But this is human effort like trying to reset your brain about SSA. We can’t do it.
            For me, this represents a form of humanistic cognitive therapy.
            Cognitive therapy although attractive because it’s simple and easy to understand doesn’t work for disorders of the heart because the heart is beyond cure according to God and because the mind lacks the power to consistently do what is required by cognitive therapy.
            That’s why Jesus had to come to save us from our failed efforts to live the truth.
            Instead, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” The walk is a yoke, with Jesus in it with us, and Jesus empowering us to put to death fleshly lust and live without porn thus renewing our minds FROM OUR NEW HEARTS that God gives us.

    • Barry Smith

      Malcolm–I agree that locker room nudity can be healing. It has definitely been healing for me to be around other guys, as you say, who do not have tanned, chiseled bodies and just an average size penis. I’ve been naked around a lot of my friends in that setting and it in some way affirms my masculinity and brings healing to me. I happen to enjoy being naked. I also agree with you that as much as I want to justify looking at pictures of nonsexual male nudity it is not good.

  • Brian

    I’ve found mutual nudity with other guys to be helpful because you begin to realize that penises are just regular body parts that aren’t that much different than yours. Online viewing doesn’t help as it doesn’t feel very “real” if you will.

    One thing I totally relate to is reading online stories of men talking about their great bromance relationships and how much they love their bros. On one hand it gives me hope that I’ll find such a thing but on the other hand it makes me seethe with envy and often sends me into a masturbation frenzy to suppress the feelings of envy and loneliness.

    • mike

      Brian, I’m skeptical that being naked with other men is helpful.
      Before the fall in Genesis it was normal, but after the fall something changed. What was once good now brought shame and quickly Adam covered up with his fig leaves. And so, being naked now post-fall is not good because our eyes see differently now!
      All men’s eyes have changed now since after the fall. Either we are in love with our bodies and love seeing it in the mirror which leads to pride and the intense drive to be obsessed with the gym to keep it that way. Or we detest our bodies and when we look at our ideal body in the change room things change to envy as Kevin posts and then things go bad for us.
      I’m naked in the shower but quickly cover up. God has told me naked only in the shower and when having sex with my wife. That will keep me safe.

      • Brian

        There’s absolutely nothing wrong with shared nudity. I consider it showing no shame about God’s design and what he’s given you. It only becomes sexual if you make it sexual.

        Nudity among men used to be common in the past. Skinny dipping was mandatory at the YMCA and some schools. And men showering together in gang showers was extremely common until recent years when it became specialized due to the presence of the gay rights movement.

        I truly believe it’s essential for male bonding as it symbolically shows that you have nothing to hide from each other and you affirm each other that you’re men when you realize you have the same equipment.

        • mike

          That shared nudity is neutral is a view held by many. And I accept that many find it useful. It’s true if one feels one’s penis is small and is reassured by seeing a naked man with a smaller one than it’s helpful I guess. But how many times does one need to see another man’s genitals to be reassured? If once isn’t enough why will 100 times?
          This is what reparative therapy has tried to say and do. It works for some but not for many and some are even harmed by reparative therapists using desensitization methods to build up identity.
          I don’t believe I can repair myself that only Jesus living in me makes me whole. And then only if I go there with Jesus to hear his voice, share intimately my struggles, and avail myself to His power in me doing this each moment of the day.
          But Brian if shared nudity is neutral and even beneficial for you then I cheer you on brother :).

  • mike

    God is always prodding me about my idols many :(. My fav. is a glance changing into a gaze at a good looking man culminating in a fantasy of wanting oh so craving to be that good looking guy’s friend! Sounds innocent but it is not…
    I’ve come to believe why God hates my idols. It hurts Him to watch how my idols injure me and when I’m in one I lose by becoming defenseless from the enemy.
    When I’m into my idol I crave to have my little corner of life apart from God’s Presence. The idol is a means of effecting the separation between God and that part of life I wish to call completely my own. Pushing God away I’m all alone with my favorite toy. What I must understand is that toy isn’t as innocent as I think because behind every idol is something dark hiding there knowing that I’m exposed and bam I’m instantly into its grip and start believing things about myself that hurt me. My mind is flooded with “you’re not a good man”, “who would want to be your friend”, and soon I’m in pain, and you know where that leads…

    • Kevin Frye

      Right on, Mike. Our command to not have idols is as much for God’s glorification as it is for our good. Since when has an idol ever done anyone any good?

  • Kevin, yet another post that I love and am so glad you wrote! And I completely understand and relate. I mentioned in another recent comment that a few weeks ago, I went to the first time ever to a nude resort. It was a great healing experience for me(much like the locker room for you). Afterwards, I had a very powerful encounter with the Lord where He revealed idolatry to me as well(not pertaining to this experience but past mindsets instead). I realized that, like what you said, I would so strongly cling to the idea that if I just had a friend to be naked with all the time or if I could have THIS experience, or get things THIS way then I would experience breakthrough. That may very well be true. But I found that I wanted things MY way and only in CERTAIN ways. I was trusting MY wisdom only. I quickly began repenting for all of these specifics and told God that I wanted to trust HIS wisdom, whatever that might look like in any given moment. Instead of me seeking out what I thought would help, I would first seek Him, talk to Him about what’s going on, and ask Him what I need. This then helps to put God first instead of an idol of male nakedness, camaraderie, or connection.
    I think this shift helps allow things to be organic and me to remain unoffended or clingy towards other men. Because I believe that only HE can really fill that need where all this is coming from. However, I also believe that He will use others to help in the process. There has to be balance and I must keep it all in dialogue with Him. Doing so, keeps Him the center instead of the created. This also keeps my friendships pressure-free. So thankyou!

    • Kevin Frye

      You’re welcome! I think you have a good head on your shoulders about all this. I’m glad God is guiding you so carefully and you’re sticking with him. Blessings!

    • Josh

      Wow man, thank you for this comment. This spoke right to me, just yesterday God was talking to me about idols. How I look to fill the inadequacy with so many things. Male connection, intimacy, approval. These are all just idols that I put my faith, hope in, to fix the longing I feel inside. But, God told me that these things will not take the place of the heart healing that I can find in him.

      Thank you again. It’s so encouraging to see that other people are at the same place.

  • Alan Gingery

    I can’t say that looking at naked men (artistic photos, classical art, sexual advertising or out-in-out pornography) was ever to redeem my sexualized feelings about men.

    When I am with real men in a locker room or at the sauna and our nudity is natural, I don’t think about nudity in any sexual way at all. It is what you describe in your YMCA experiences.

    But taking a 2nd look at male nudity on any of the above mentioned media, is connected in my mind with sexualizing men from my past history. I felt unmale and disconnected from my own gender. So there was a lot of envy involved in my gazing at men who seemed virile, confident, connected. And yes, at one point that was connected to fantasy. Not now.

    But I think being with real men in real relationships is great with or without their clothes. Looking at images of nude men, for me just reminds me of my past and unhealthy ways of relating to men.

    • Kevin Frye

      You make an excellent point: being with real men in real relationship is great with or without their clothes. Among men, nudity should have little bearing on how we perceive each other. Making nudity a bigger issue than it is, whether by shaming and condemning it, or idolizing and depending on it, is not healthy.

  • Bruce Hecht

    This is really good article and comments. I’m of the opinion that male nudity among men was always normal and natural for many generations because it wasn’t generally a sexualized thing like it is in this generation of body shaming. I understand about male nudity exposure leading to fantasy and idolotry but for healthy males and ssa males that are sin free and healthy emotionally normal encounters should be just that, a normal male nudity confrontation weather locker room or any similar situation. I have dilemma of experiancing severe phobia of being naked with other males, it is something I need to be free of but am having difficult time explaining to brothers in Christ that they would understand that I need their help and participation to engage and overcome it thru confrontation as I cannot attempt to go thru desensitizing experiance of locker room group shower without support and encouragement to be with me to overcome it.

    • Kevin Frye

      Yeah, I understand the anxiety you’re facing. I’ve had plenty of that myself. If you don’t mind my asking, how are you with being naked when you’re alone?

      You might be surprised — there are some Christian guys out there who would be willing to help you overcome this fear if they understood your reasoning for wanting to get naked. Talking about getting naked together is not a common topic of conversation among men, especially Christian men, but that doesn’t mean all Christian men are totally closed off to the idea. Ask around and see what comes of it. 🙂

      • Bruce Hecht

        Thanks, it’s not a uncommon phobia to have and I appreciate your commenting your experiance. The phobia I have is like a PTSD fear phobia from childhood trauma and because of it I feel insecure and so do not even go to gyms which is all the more reason to want to overcome what is usually a common anxiety. Most Christian brothers I’ve discussed this with don’t quite understand the full extent of the phobia so I guess it’s not really understood my need for having other Christians with me to confront phobia. Some ssa Christian brothers suggest I should not pursue or make anything out of wanting to overcome and confront phobia because it could trigger my own ssa but reality is I’m not triggered or tempted that way because its just a normal fullfillment of male affirmation acceptance. Being naked alone is not a problem but is not something I go out of my way for to pursue.

        • Eddie

          You’re right Bruce, the phobia (gymnophobia not dishabiliophobia, it sounds like) is not uncommon. I can certainly sympathize with you. From my own experience I could tell you horror stories of my own where I feared being naked myself in the locker rooms at high school and the showers in college all because I was afraid guys would take malicious advantage of me or judge me in my naked vulnerable state. One of my college roommates even exhibited signs on weekend getaways as he refused to openly shower with other guys around without the protection of a shower curtain. I’m not a shrink, but my best advice to work towards a solution is to gradually face your fears. That’s how I overcame mine. Peace and lover, brother.

        • Brian

          Hey Bruce, I can totally relate to your anxiety. I used to go to a YMCA summer day camp thing in my younger years and that old YMCA had gang showers and totally open locker rooms so anyone could see you change naked. I was terrified and could not understand why the other boys were getting naked in front of each other. I would always change in the toilet stalls. I didn’t have to deal with this anxiety in middle and high school years because they had done away with making people shower after gym class even though there were large unused gang showers there from yester year. I have come to face my fears in time. I’ve showered at my gym, and I’ve even gone to nudist resorts. Once you get past the initial shock of it (“oh my god, I feel so much air around my goods! And people can see!”) it becomes no big deal.

          • Eddie

            “I would always change in the toilet stalls.” Yup! That was the strategy I took during my self-conscious years in elementary and middle school. I did manage to outgrow my dishabiliophobia by high school gym class.

  • Bryon

    Ugh, the idea of me being naked is not appealing to me, but when I do have to be at the gym, I hold a towel in front of me. Now as I’m losing weight and my skin is starting to hang, I think about how I’ll look with all of my weight off and all of the skin hanging down from my body. I have decided not to be ashamed and work through that, not avoiding the gym or swimming pools. I swim in a public pool now and I don’t feel too self-conscious, but I know that will change. I think it comes from never seeing my dad naked, and the idea my whole extended family and parents had about privacy and how sacred our own nude bodies are. I really felt a fear and shame about being naked as far back as I can remember. I’m slowly working on that though.

    Thanks for your honesty though. I found a few of those groups you mention on Facebook and I have mixed feelings about their worth to me and if they trigger me. I remember seeing a friend of a friend comment and their profile pic was of them doing a side hug without a shirt. I looked at their pictures and they were full of similar pictures with a lot of guys, They looked so happy together and not afraid of affection that way. That was the first time I was jealous of other men that had that kind of rapport and confidence. I seriously don’t know any men personally who are that comfortable with their masculinity.

  • My story is almost identical. YMCA locker rooms, Russian and Korean bath houses… I’ve felt like one of the guys in these places and that’s been super helpful for me. But on the internet, I can’t have a relationship with an image. Even on a men’s social network I used to be a part of, I generally didn’t find that helpful. What I need is face-to-face time with my bros, and although I think there was a time when that social network and those images were, briefly, helpful, I was called away from them.

    Ultimately, more important than my opinion is what I hear the voice of God saying to me, and he tells me to drop the images. Fortunately he also sometimes tells me to go to the jimjilbang. (-:

    • mistaken identity

      That’s cool! When I sing that hymn, “I will go Lord, where you lead me,” I have never imagined a bathhouse. Now I might.

  • Robert Mitchell

    I just ran across this post and find it very interesting. I agree that being naked with other men can be healing and helpful. I am privileged to get with some married Christian men every June in Florida. We meet up on a Thursday at a cabin and stay until Sunday. The dress code is clothing optional the whole weekend and most of the men are naked the whole time. It is a pure bonding, non-sexual time where we can be open and honest with each other. Many encouraging conversations are held and one guy in particular uses it as a healing time. He was obese as a child and has body issues. He is still somewhat obese but just being allowed to be ‘one of the guys’ with no comments about his weight is so encouraging for him. The nudity allows us to just be us – there is a pool and hot tub and we are able to enjoy that outside. The cabin is completely private so we have the freedom to walk naked all the time. We have nothing to hide and so the weekend is a good healing and bonding experience for all of us. The only sad part is that our time is so short. We keep in contact during the year, but it is always a highlight of our year to reconnect in ways many men would consider abnormal. For us, it is completely normal and we wish we could do it more.

  • Aaron

    Love the honesty in this article as well as the openness in the comments!

    I’ve always struggled with public nudity coming from a family that was very “prudish” in our nakedness. No one ever even walked around in underwear, despite the fact that there are 8 of us including my parents. I started to wonder later in life if maybe a more open and layed back attitude towards our bodies would have led to less sexualization of men. So many men I’ve known never thought twice about being nude with other guys. I still struggle going to places like that because of how much I sexualized the areas in youth. I can get by just fine in a locker room but it’s still a bit triggering for me…which is a shameful thing to deal with.

    In my pursuit of friendships with other men I am trying to overcome this but it seems to always crop up at some point. Sexualizing straight friends a little, but I try my best not to dwell on it. I keep pressing into male friendships hoping this diminished. Anyone seen that diminish with healthy male friends and exposure?

    • Kevin Frye

      Hey, Aaron! Thanks for the comment! It seems a lot of guys have grown up in similar, prudish households and, rather than sheltering and protecting them from temptation, it’s had the reverse effect, leading them to seek out what was always hidden or held away from them with greater vigor. You’re definitely not the only one there.

      As for your question, yes, a lot of my SSA and wrongful sexualization of stuff diminishes whenever I am socially fulfilled with other guys in a proper and pure context. This is also very common. So much so, in fact, that I’d venture to say the homosexual orientation doesn’t even exist, but is rather simply a natural need for camaraderie trying to get met by sexual means.

      • Aaron

        I hope to see that same result, Kevin. I have noticed that most straight men have a deep need for other men too. It was surprising to me as I assumed it was my SSA that was making me feel that. Thanks for your thoughts!