Naturism: morality

So, if someone sees someone naked, or is seen naked, does something wrong happen? Some people, whether implicitly or explicitly, claim that something wrong does happen, and their claims are typically along the lines of ``it causes lust''.

Before addressing the main point here, let's tidy up a couple of side issues. One is that we are, at least in principle, not automatons, but have free will and variable moods and a variety of backgrounds, so to claim something is caused inside us is to deny our dignity as conscious beings, so let's at least change ``causes'' to ``could encourage''. And the other point is that wrongdoing comes from within (and is not placed there via your eyes; to claim it is is to deny your own responsibility), and seems to centre largely on using people as means to one's own happiness or security.

However, addressing the main point, there are two lust-related problems which some would claim are made worse by nudity: voyeurism and exhibitionism. However, I don't think that either of these is caused by nudity (although they might briefly be facilitated by it) and I don't think that either problem can be solved or even suppressed by prohibiting public nudity.... indeed, they might even be alleviated (after the first week or so) by permitting it more widely.

Both of these are, as I see them, at least partly attempts to find a substitute for being accepted or wanted by other people, and they are wrong (morally repugnant to honest considerate people) in one (or both) of two ways:

  1. They are ways of using people to achieve your own aims (whether they like it or not)
  2. They are ways of trying to convince yourself that the truth (in particular, about your level of social acceptability) is something other than what in fact it is

The critical difference that people probably have in mind here (between nudity and being clothed) is that the parts used in sexual intimacy can be seen, and this could gratify someone who is prepared to seek gratification unilaterally, which is invasive to the other person. Alternatively, what is made visible may be part that may be used to extract gratifying pseudo-intimacy, and this might be threatening rather than invasive..

It's noticeable that when people are behaving this way at a naturist event -- they are failing to interact socially with most people and are just looking at them, whereas pretty much everyone else is being basically sociable. This seems significantly different from the common ingratiating or ''buttonholing'' behaviour of those who want to use others to boost their self-esteem when clothed. -- could this be an interesting crossover from a Jungian pattern of understanding (central drive is for social acceptance) to a Freudian one (central drive is sexual)?

How it works in practice: factors and results

It may be interesting to look at how attitudes to people and attitudes to nudity correlate in various countries.

Country Society / Attitude to people Attitude to public nudity
Germany A generally modern country, with equality of the sexes well-established. Mixed nude swimming, sunbathing and sauna generally accepted without fuss.
Finland A modern and generally calm society with equality of the sexes well-established Nude sauna normal throughout the country
Denmark A relaxed and efficient country with a commonsense attitude to most things Nudity / topfreeness OK on all beaches
Britain A strange mixture of new and old, with strongly defined social groups Nudism regarded as a harmless eccentricity by many, and as offensive by a vociferous few
USA A stronghold of prejudice of various kinds, with people desparate to define their cultural groups as the only OK groups Nudity generally assumed to be connected entirely with sex
Various Islamic fundamentalist states Strongly traditionalist, with different expectations for men and for women. Women must keep completely covered.
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