Non Sexual Nudity: A Tool for Body-Love

9thDec. × ’10

I gain weight in the winter. It seems natural, that bodies would retain and crave as we burn more calories, waiting for the bus with our breath in the air. But this post isn’t about weight and the holidays. It’s about yesterday. When I was running a bath.

In the tilted reflection of the medicine cabinet, I caught glimpse of my body. Collarbones, breasts—the extra weight on my hips. Too often when we are alone, in some non sexual context with our naked bodies, it’s uncomfortable, self attack lurking  in the reflection.

I went to body-love expert and guerrilla nudist, Naked Jen for some advice. Her philosophy is: “It is important to absolutely love your body because it is the only one that you have. Hating your own body doesn’t solve any problems for you and only does harm to yourself and your psyche. And I think the more we love ourselves, the more we can love other people.”


In the U.S. we rarely see naked bodies on TV or film unless it is in a sexual context. Equating nudity with sex seems particularly Victorian. The message being: it’s indecent to be nude any other time then during pro-creation.

When I self attack my naked body, I am viewing my body in a sexualized way–even if there is no sexual context. As women, this is what we are taught: our sexual attractiveness is most important. We measure how our bodies look compared to models, actresses, porn stars. Even though we are writers, teachers, social workers.

As children, we naturally bask in non sexual nudity, but somewhere we learn that it’s not okay. More than not okay–it’s embarrassing. This shows up in everything from corporal punishment to the dream-scape. Nudity is vulnerability. It takes re-learning what we knew as kids, and re-learning  non sexual nudity  forces you to be truly with yourself, in the moment.

“My best advice is take it slowly.  If you’re really wanting to do this, go it alone for a while.  Spend one minute.  One minute can be an eternity when you’re truly allowing yourself to be completely naked.  It’s a very vulnerable place to be. Honor all of your feelings.  Every one.  Know that they’re also completely normal and all of them are okay.  Fear, hatred, disgust, nausea, even wanting to crawl out of your own skin.”

So often, when I catch my naked body in the mirror, I suck in “problem areas” or quickly scan past them, rushing to avoid the inevitable attack. This is not what exploring non sexual nudity is about, but according to Jen this urge is normal. “When we are confronted with our own selves, in our own bodies, just as we are….our first response is very often to discount what we see.  But we all should love ourselves enough to love ourselves in our own bodies.  Right in our own skin.  Just as we are.  It is a journey to get there,  it takes tiny, tiny baby steps of real love. When you are naked and not hiding the bulges and flaws,  you eventually no longer even notice them.”

In the mirror with my bath running hot, something had changed this time. And there was so much more to it then my weight or whether or not I looked sexually attractive. There are other ways to see our bodies–as vessels that protect us, get us places, take care of us. Not my stomach and hips that are attractive or unattractive, but my stomach and hips that are strong, are loved.

Edmund X White–photos

Naked Jen has encouraged “lots of wonderful and amazing women and men to get naked, love and celebrate their own beautiful bodies and to ask the Universe for whatever it is that they need.” She’s a touching writer with a big beautiful heart and a blog worth checking out.

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11 Comments

  1. Posted 2010-12-9 at 08:59 | Permalink

    As someone who has NEVER felt comfortable in the buff, this gives me some real food for thought.

  2. Posted 2010-12-9 at 09:18 | Permalink

    Thanks Sally! One of the things I have been thinking is that for people not comfortable over-all, it makes sense to start with gaining comfort in non sexual nudity and once that is down it can spread to sexual nudity. That seems more likely to me than vice versa.

  3. Posted 2010-12-9 at 10:20 | Permalink

    Naked Jen is one of my most favorite people, both online and in real life. She has really inspired me to love my body for what it is, not for the sexual desire that it invokes in other people. It’s sad to me that so many people are uncomfortable with nudity because they equate it with pornography. I think the human body, especially the female body, has been so over-sexified in the media that some people honestly can’t look at a naked body without becoming aroused.

    I grew up in an extremely modest and conservative family. I was taught that nudity was dirty, or only for married grown-ups in the right circumstances. Then I took an art history class in high school, and saw so many amazing representations of the human body, it all it’s shapes and sizes. At first I was a little ashamed, but over time I realized that I had nothing to be ashamed of. I was appreciating humanity in its most basic form.

    Excellent post!

  4. Posted 2010-12-9 at 12:18 | Permalink

    I don’t know Naked Jen (yet), but I already love both her and you! (BTWay, Edmund X White takes lovely photos).

    Because men have evolved a strong appetite for the youth and beauty that connote a partner’s fertility, and because our Genes have no “off” switch, we women never feel youthful or beautiful enough. The only women I’ve ever met who reached peace about their looks are old women who feel like they *used to* look wonderful. I’ve rarely met one who embraced her physical being in the moment.

    My epiphany occurred after giving birth. I was driving somewhere, thinking about how fat, unattractive, etc. I was, when My Body spoke up:

    “Um, hellooooo? I have given you a loving husband, a precious child, a good career, and the ability to enjoy and serve in each and every capacity you want to be part of. I’ve given you a helluva lot more pleasure than pain (sex, anyone?). What more, exactly, is it that you expect me to do for you? Sheesh.”

    What an awakening. Now I try to remember to thank my corporeal self for all She gives me, instead of succumbing to evolutionary and social pressures that say we’re never good enough.

  5. Posted 2010-12-9 at 13:22 | Permalink

    Love this post, Rachel. It’s splendid.

    I’m sure you know that I did my own tastefully naked photoshoot this year, & I LOVED the results. But I’m considering doing it all over again because of the change in my hair. This post inspired me to stop talking about & just do it. :]

  6. Posted 2010-12-9 at 13:50 | Permalink

    @Duana: That’s not the case. I love my body, truly & unconditionally. I not only feel beautiful enough, I KNOW I’m beautiful– MORE than enough.

    We don’t have to perpetrate the idea that we, women or human beings, have to dislike our bodies, or that “nobody is truly satisfied with hir body”. That kind of attitude is self-defeating. I wrote an article in response to similar things I’d heard here: http://s.rvxn.org/2010/11/06/the-time-to-love-your-body-is-now/
    (I hope you don’t mind my linking, Rabbit!)

    @Rabbit: I’ve always loved sleeping naked, even when I was younger, and even when my eating was disordered. It’s weird! But so liberating. Much like shaving one’s head probably is as well.

    When we look at the mirror and see our bodies for what they are, we can realize… that is a part of our physical self. That is a part of US. And in order to truly cherish ourselves and be whole, we must love our bodies just the same as we love our smiles, laughter, intelligence, & wit.

  7. Posted 2010-12-9 at 14:20 | Permalink

    I’ve found that I’m much much more comfortable with my nakedness when no one else is around. When I lived alone, I’d hang out naked all day sometimes. But now that I’m married and know my husband looks at my naked body as a sexy thing, it’s harder to just be naked for no reason. That’s when the critique starts and I shame myself. He’s never given me any reason to think I’m less than beautiful, though. There’s also the thought that if I’m naked around him all the time that it’ll become less “special” – that somehow he’ll start to see me as less sexy and ignore my body as a sexy thing. Kind of a fear that it’s an on or off switch.

  8. NM
    Posted 2010-12-9 at 16:36 | Permalink

    I find this particularly interesting right now. I just moved this past weekend and the new bath/bedroom has TONS of mirrors. I am talking more than 20 feet of mirrors between the 3 closet door and the mirror over the sink. In the shower, in bed, wherever, I can see myself…and it makes me miserable. I had to hang a sheet over some just to be able to shower. My boyfriend says I just need to learn to accept myself, but it is never that easy is it?

  9. Posted 2010-12-9 at 18:53 | Permalink

    NM,

    It’s not easy but you’ve got my love and support in going through the steps!

    Ellie,

    lol @ “when I lived alone I’d hang out naked all day sometimes.” I do get what you mean about the naked-ness being less special or something in the relationship. It’s like I want my naked body to be something adored/worshiped/lusted after by my husband. But doesn’t that just say something, again, about how we are taught that our attractiveness is just *so* important and that our looks are what matter most?

    Sui,
    I am convinced that sleeping naked makes you warmer. Especially if there is boy-heat nearby. Boy-heat, the sustainable green choice for warming your bed.

    Ev’Yan,
    Yesssss! Would love to see you run with this idea and do another shoot/blog post

    Duana,
    Yes, exactly what I am saying. Our bodies do so much more besides give us sexual pleasure, are made for so much more than that. I want to learn to appreciate the multitude of other things my body can be besides hot.

    Nicole,
    I thought a lot about what you are talking about with this post. It seems true that most people do sexualize a naked body when they see one, regardless of the intention. When Edmund took these shots of me, it wasn’t sexual but I knew the viewer’s eye could make it sexual. To some extent this is normal, but it seems to have worsened. For instance, in the 90′s many places in the U.S. began refusing to develop film that contained non sexual nude shots of children and babies, in the bath or whatever. Which then does sexualize them.

  10. Posted 2010-12-10 at 17:40 | Permalink

    @Sui, I’m happy to make the acquaintance of an exception…but you are an exception! Enjoy your enjoyment!

  11. Posted 2011-01-2 at 13:19 | Permalink

    “The softest thing in the universe overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.” ~ Tao Te Ching

    “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do”. ~ Jalal ad-Din Rumi

    “Art is contemplation of the world in a state of grace.” ~ Hermann Hesse

    “Moralities, ethics, laws, customs, beliefs, doctrines – these are of trifling import. All that matters is that the miraculous become the norm.” ~ Henry Miller

    “There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; my philosophy is kindness.” ~ The Dalai Lama

    ______________

    Hi,

    I found your blog via a posting at Facebook. I commend your combination of being authentic to your vision as well as weaving in a caring spirit in addressing issues that some people need to have presented in a different, compassionate and yet real-life way.

    My project and site are not non-sensual yet the spirit is likewise gentle-spirited and “another way at looking at things differently” too.

    Kind regards and Happy New Year :o)

    Philip Steven Knight
    CompassionSensuality.Net
    http://www.compassionsensuality.net

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Lovely Links: 12/10/10 on 2010-12-10 at 15:20

    [...] pretty much never been comfortable naked, so Rabbit Write’s piece on non-sexual nudity as a tool for body love really hit [...]

  2. [...] Write opens our eyes this week to the idea of non-sexual nudity as route to body-love. An excerpt: As children, we naturally bask in non sexual nudity, but [...]