The Vagenda

Why Britain Needs to Get Over its Absurd Aversion to Nakedness

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When I left the British Isles for Scandinavia I was expecting to get an education in sustainable development not body awareness, but I am so glad I did. 

 If you flick through our family album you quickly see a trend emerge; from birth to the age of three I spent most of my life naked. I refused to wear those hideous dungarees or matching short and t-shirt number. I wanted to be free and run around like nature intended. I posed at every opportunity in all my naked glory, head in hands, bare bottom out, stretched long in the bath tub with no care in the world. Fast-forward to the mid-1990s and I am wearing clothes – all the time! Madness! Why hide such a peachy bum and all that lovely baby fat? (although I suppose I couldn’t claim baby fat by the time I had reached 10 – blame all those funsize Mars bars…)

Now, I am sure this is the same for most of us. And in reality you shouldn’t be parading around the streets every day in the nude – I mean, come on, England gets chilly in December. But doesn’t it make you wonder why we are so keen on covering up our ‘decency’ yet flaunt our boobs on a night out? And in hiding all of our features, only to then maximise them up in the clothes we wear aren’t we just sexualising our bodies and removing ourselves from the innocence of being naked?

There are so many sex scandals in the papers these days I’ve lost count. And while heinous and unforgivable, have we not all played a part in the demise of respect for the naked body?

I was so happy to hear The Sun finally got rid of Page 3, and all this talk of banning top shelf titles is promising, but I still think there is much more to be done. And it starts with how the UK views nakedness. We quiver at the thought of someone else seeing us naked; so much so that many are too embarrassed to let their loved ones see their wobbly bits. It’s all part of the UK culture, which is inherently shy.

So when I left for university in August 2014 I never expected to have an education in body awareness. My Master’s brought me to Stockholm – the home of the cinnamon bun and communal changing rooms (if you ever encounter both together do let me know). Living in Sweden changed my relationship to nakedness forever.  

Swimming is my one true love – and it kept me sane during the long winter months. However, my first trip to the pool was quite eye opening. Everyone gets changed in one giant room so there is no hiding your scars, misshapen nipples or lady garden. I have to say that the first trip was very uncomfortable. I am predisposed to grab my private parts and shuffle into a corner in these types of situations. Why? I honestly don’t know. What I eventually realised though is that we have developed an anxiety about being naked and this has to change. Not only because you learn to appreciate all the wonderfully different body shapes out there, but you dampen the sexual connotations associated with nudity.

There are nearly 3.8 million naturists in the UK, but it’s fair to say that the majority of us spend of our time fully clothed, maybe even as much as half of our lives, if wearing a bikini doesn’t count. And there’s something really sad about that.

So I want to challenge you to ‘be more naked’ (#bemorenaked). What’s stopping you? It is really liberating to think you can walk along the beach with no clothes on and start to see your body in new ways.

I’ve never been completely happy with my body, but now I love it. I have rolls but to be honest I am never going to give up my double helping of pasta or all the baked goods. But because I now see my body as something powerful I want to look after it. So I’ve started treating it better. I am drinking less alcohol, walking more and flaunting it where it is currently appropriate. So I’m not advocating that you go to your local swimming bath this weekend and strip off in front of the receptionist proclaiming ‘be more naked’, but I do suggest you take a long hard look at your naked self.

And if you see a sign for a nudist beach this summer then consider taking the bumpy road to a new life. Our bodies are not fantasies, they are fantastic. They are real, and we need to see them more, as they are meant to be seen. If we did, then young girls would be exposed to what bodies actually look like rather than just the glossy, airbrushed versions.

And, if you know of any good spots to get naked then please let me know as I am new to the being naked movement. But I plan on making a start by joining Bristol’s naked bike ride in June. Why not do the same? Go on, be brave – it makes you feel more beautiful.

Thanks Sweden!

- SL

12 thoughts on “Why Britain Needs to Get Over its Absurd Aversion to Nakedness

  1. Totally agree with this, though i think the problem has multiple roots. One of which is our insistence on importing US values into our online censorship.

    Almost every major filtering package originates in the States, where, it is clear, there is a serious obsession with the idea that nudity = sexual. (Just think about Facebook’s long insistence on banning breastfeeding pics, while allowing “jokes” that include graphic images of violence against women.

    And the problem, as you say, is that by going along with that view, we are sexualiising the body amd MAKING it a danger zone, rather than the opposite: arguing that bodies are just bodies and that sex is n the eye of the beholder…


  2. Studland Beach next to Poole harbour is a national trust naturist beach with white sand and dunes. Get the bus from Bournemouth or Poole town centre which drops you by the path to the beach and takes you across the chain ferry for free :-) everything about the beach is awesome, I recommend x

  3. You are so right, Jane. In North America it is so much worse. A few weeks ago a family in a nearby town (I live in Canada) had the police called on them for the supposedly heinous crime of letting their very young children play naked out in their yard. And I’ve heard stories of families being told to dress their 3 month old babies who were wearing only nappies on very hot days at Disneyworld in Florida. Believe it it not, I actually found people more easy-going about nudity when I first moved to the UK! But this article is spot on, we could certainly do with adopting Scandinavia’s more relaxed attitude towards our natural state.

  4. I like the theory behind this but girls bodies are so sexualised now, there is no way they could be naked without being leered at and perved on in all honesty. I would also find it very difficult to know that there were lots of naked females around my boyfriend because let’s face it he’s a man and that would make it very easy to look at unfortunately.

  5. Great article!

    I have just come back from some swelteringly hot holidays in France, and the topic of the naked British female body was incidentally also a hot topic. Interestingly, this anxiety regarding the naked (especially female) body is even more palpable there-and my friends and I were commended and criticised for being so open with nudity (hardly felt like a revolutionary feminist tactic, more a survival technique after 4 hours sleep, 35 degrees and raging hangovers)

    I personally believe that till we stop sexualising the female body, and instead see it as the magnificent vessel for our brain, personality and identity, then we will never dissassociate our bodies with sexuality-when it is SO much more than that,

  6. I’ve avoided naturist events for fear of encountering someone I know but I do agree people need to Be More Naked, particularly as the weather’s getting warmer. It needs to be decriminalised at the very least. Legalise Nudity.

  7. Attitudes to nudity in the UK are very strange and have developed over a long period of time. In early Victorian times naked sea bathing was the accepted norm, but try it now, except on recognised nudist beaches and there will be howls of protest from people, referred to in the above article as being frightened of nudity. I’ve been a naturist/nudist for most of my life and there is a worrying trend amongst many long established naturist clubs to become 18+ membership only, as the result of the witch – hunt against paedophilia. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a supporter of paedophilia in any way, but the same unreasoning hysteria seems to have taken hold here as well. Parents not being allowed to take photos of their children on the beach or in a school environment for instance are manifestations of this censorious approach. There needs to be a lot of re-education, along the lines that nudity does not mean mom-stop orgies, but is actually a very pleasant way of life.

  8. Right on! Nudity doesn’t have to equal sexual – as both the many art classes I’ve life modelled for, and my poor boyfriend who had to endure my drunken naked dance to Liberty X’s ‘Just a Little Bit More’ last weekend, can confirm.

  9. I didn’t read all the posts, so forgive me repeating if this most obvious irony has been pointed out.
    The title of the article is slightly at odds with your decision to blur out the more sensitive parts….perhaps you secretly and perhaps a touch hypocritically (risking a internet backlash), share Britons absurd aversion to nudity?…or is it just the law that prevents you from showing it…..the same law perhaps that precludes me going to waitrose with nothing but a smile….although obviously I would choose a warm day.

    Or is it just ok to be suggesting we go naked in real life, but for decencies sake that we don’t publish any footage of our public show of our most attractive parts online because swinging free in public should be championed whilst risking showing the evidence somewhere that more than 10 people will see is just too darned edgy!

    I won’t be in Bristol for the naked bike ride, but look forward to seeing your pixilated privates on this site soon, and the no doubt vitriolic responses to my merely pointing out the obvious irony.

    You can click on the photo by the way of like me you wanted to see the natural form in ALL it glory.