Friday, February 11, 2011

Open Forum Friday: Nudity & the Home

A recent posting in the always-provocative Mr. Gloryholejunkie’s blog got me thinking over the weekend about nudity around the house. And it got me thinking, as Mr. Gloryholejunkie’s posts often do, about my own stance on the subject.

I’ve mentioned several times that my parents were proud liberals, politically, and pretty progressive sexually. My dad proved to be a pretty cool cat when faced with irrefutable evidence of my teenaged whoring, and a decade ago was the prime force in getting his mainstream protestant church officially to become one of those rebel congregations that dared to welcome gays and lesbians into its pews. My mother, when she was alive, was enormously popular with my college friends because of her frank advice about contraception. The day I walked into a female friend’s dorm room and found my mother there, surrounded by a gaggle of sophomore women, with a cervical cap in one hand and a contraceptive sponge in the other, is one that’s going to be difficult to erase from my memory.

Together my parents were kind of an unstoppable homespun Masters and Johnson who developed a Sunday school curriculum examining sexuality and the Bible. I remember sitting in the corner, wishing myself invisible, while they relentlessly examined everything from ancient circumcision rites to masturbation to homosexuality to prostitution. This was for a high school Sunday school class, mind you. Apparently no one in the church knew what was going on until toward the end of the year, when a minor scandal arose because my parents had refused to adopt a stance of The Bible says DON’T DO IT on all the good stuff. But by then, the class was almost over.

When it came to nudity, my parents’ approach reflected the sexual liberation of the late nineteen-sixties and early nineteen-seventies. Nudity around the house was pretty standard. It certainly wasn’t enforced, as in the nudist camp fantasies many men seem to have. It wasn’t really discussed as a lifestyle choice, or even recognized as one. It was simply casual and commonplace. If my parents had to change from around-the-house clothing into their work duds and I was talking to them in their bedroom, for example, they wouldn’t shoo me away. My mom frequently would take her early evening bath and then stroll around the house in the buff, cigarette in hand, as she tidied up or looked for where she’d left her murder mystery.

My dad would putter around naked after he’d gotten up in the mornings, moving from bedroom to his morning pee in the bathroom, down to the kitchen, where I’d find him munching on toast with his legs crossed and his balls dangling. My mother once scandalized some fourth-grade friends of mine by nonchalantly strolling through the living room wearing nothing but a skimpy yellow bikini bottom, a pair of Jackie O. sunglasses, and an open book pressed against her naked bosom, on her way to a topless sunbathing session on the patio. And the first time my spouse accompanied me for a visit home, twenty years ago, my father sat on the edge of the guest bed wearing nothing but a fishing cap talking endlessly about his recent appointment to a museum board.

They were innocents, really. Both my parents tended to assume that everyone else saw nudity as they did—simply as nudity and nothing more. They found no erotic context to it, no threat of sexualizing the home. Just something that, if it happened, simply was what it was, with no hidden meaning or intention.

I naturally went through a period of extreme modesty in my early adolescence, particularly in that awful stage in which boys experience spontaneous erections that won’t quit, at the slightest puff of wind. (You know, that awful stage that lasts from roughly eleven until the mid-forties.) But something of their philosophy stuck, because I tend to be of the same mindset as they were. If I’m nude around the house—and I often am—it’s simply because I took my clothes off for a shower, or have just risen from bed (I’ve slept nude all my life), and haven’t bothered to put anything on yet. In front of my loved ones I’ll walk upstairs and down in the buff, not really thinking about it. My household always used the hot tub in the nude. On hot days, inside the house with the fans on high, finding me or anyone else topless or bottomless or the combination of the two isn’t really that uncommon. For me, I’m more often bottomless than topless. I simply tend to get cold, otherwise.

Either way, it’s just nudity.

Nudity was fairly common when I was a kid at the YMCA, where I learned to swim. The sexes were strictly segregated using the swimming facilities in the nineteen-seventies, when I first was dragged there for lessons, everyone from the wrinkly old men to the youngest boys took their clothes off in the locker room and didn’t put anything back on until they left. (Was there anything else in the YMCA other than the pool? I certainly don’t remember anything.) We’d slap our feet across the wet tiles of the locker and shower rooms, down the half-circular stairs to the pool area, and splash around in the water like happy nude little otters. It was giggle-worthy and weird the first couple of times, but after that, none of us gave it a thought. A decade later when I was the instructor of some of the boys’ swimming classes, it was the same—though I heard the local Y changed their policies a year or two after I moved from Virginia.

A couple of months ago, in a group of men roughly the same age as I, I mentioned the nude swimming and was met with cries of incredulity. None of the other men had ever heard of such a thing. And if they had, it was weird. Worse than weird. It was depraved, and perverted.

And that’s when it occurred to me how far our culture has swung in the last two or three decades. We can’t separate nudity from sex, not even in the most innocent of contexts. A simple tale of swimming without trunks becomes, in these times, fraught with implications about who might have been looking at what, or thinking dirty thoughts, or planning terrible, nasty deeds. The mental associations I have with the concept of nudity are fairly sunny and innocent, but in these days people regard them as rimmed with dark shadows where lurk the perverted, with their even darker motivations.

So I ask my readers: issues of self-image aside, what were your experiences with nudity growing up? Did you see your parents nude often, or was it something so unimaginable that my tale of bohemian innocence seems utterly foreign to your sensibilities? Did it influence you as an adult? I’m curious to hear your responses.


  1. We swam naked at my Y (in Georgia) in the '70's as well. I can't imagine that going on there today. And I only found out when I went back there as a horndog in my 30's (a decade ago) what else was (and still was) going on with the older crowd at that same Y.

  2. What you're describing is a temporary phase in our worldwide attitude about our bodies. Now that the Internet allows anyone, anywhere, at any age, to see grown-up pee-pees and hoo-hoos, and the quaint concept of "privacy" is rapidly going away, human society can finally move past bodily shame.
    The reason why all-male naked swimming has gone away is because we can't lie about sexuality any more - Guys KNOW, now, with no hope of pretense, that they are sexualized by other men. A kind of panic set in, where our culture adopted an extreme taboo about intimacy between men.
    Here's a good example: I was at the beach in San Diego last summer, and a young man with a ROCKING body was wearing some skimpy red speedos. He had the ideal build for it, and the women were clustered around him like crazy. This young cutie (from Australia, it turned out) finally left the beach in anger because he was being verbally harassed by about a dozen young men in those ludicrously baggy and long "boardie" shorts. They were offended that he was daring to defy the local taboo on looking "faggy".
    This attitude is pathological, but temporary. Sooner or later, younger generations will scorn their parents' hangups and just let themselves be. We'll all be better-off for it, all beaches will be clothing-optional, and the pendulum will never be able to swing back, due to the Internet's influence. There are no more fig-leaves to hide behind.

  3. Nudity was very strange in my house. My Mother was definitely a "Go, away, I'm getting naked and in the shower" kind of woman, while my Dad, as soon as he got out of the shower would walk around the house without a stitch on sometimes coming to my room or my sister's room to check on us or tell us goodnight with only his hand draped over his genitals. And of course my sister and I were always clothed.

    I remember one time that my sister had a girl friend over and they were working on a puzzle on a cardtable that was positioned in front of the downstairs bathroom and I was watching TV - I was probably 8,9, 10 - and I turned so I could continue watching TV while pissing into the toilet. The ensuing laughter did not help my own image of myself.

    I remember another time that my Dad had gotten a tick on his stomach, and he was sitting naked on my parents' bed, and I came in. I really didn't think anything of it. But just bent over, my face inches from his crotch. But I was looking at the tick, and I just blurted out, "Isn't it just the cutest little thing?!" I meant the tick, but he turned several shades of red, and my Mom laughed and laughed.

    But overall, we weren't a very nudity-positive family. It hasn't been until I started living on my own that I've enjoyed nudity without sex. Most of the time now - like you - I'm at least bottomless - except for socks. And skinny-dipping is always the best way to swim.

  4. Until I moved to NYC at age 22, I was SUPER self-conscious. I came out at a young age, 14, and having grown up in suburban NY State the nearest gay bar was a good 45 minutes away by car. Once you got there you were surrounded by your basic cookie cutter twinks. While I do enjoy the sexy boys, personally I've always been more of a bear. My self-image at the time was defined by the fact that I was the only guy (gay or str8) I knew my age who was so hairy and thick. It really fucked with my head... to the point where I didn't go swimming for almost 10 years, cause I was embarrassed about taking my shirt off in front of others.

    When I moved to NYC, it was like a light switch was flipped, and I realized that there's someone out there for EVERYBODY... That if you're big and fat and hairy, and you like short skinny cross-eyed guys with a lisp, there's a decent chance that person is out there waiting to meet your hairy fat ass! Once I embraced that realization, the gloves (and the clothes) were off. I joined a gay nudist group, and haven't looked back since. Now I'm not a card carrying member of any one organized group anymore, but if you stop by my place unannounced, chances are you'll be greeted at the door by my naked fat hairy ass. (much to the chagrin of many a non-english speaking delivery guys...LOL)

    I wans't raised naked, but nudity wasn't something that was taboo in my family. Both my parents are off-the-boat Italian, and my Dad was always the chubby hairy guy at the beach wearing a bikini... now that guy is me. LOL

  5. Rural Canada in the 70's, nudity was the jurisdiction of the pot-smokers and anti-establishment types. In family life, even nursing mothers were kept carefully hidden - Western Canada in particular was one of the last bastions of Victorian sensibilities. No wonder I hid myself away until my 20's. My favourite media moment of the time was a well-known conservative Christian leader standing in the surf condemning the nudists at Wreck Beach in Vancouver - it was such a remote spot that she had to get there by boat or over forest trail, and was soundly ignored for her trouble. Vancouver's Pride Parade, by contrast, has men and women making their assets known to the entire world ( thousands and thousands of spectators at least) effortlessly and without so much as a raised eyebrow. The worm has turned. We're unworried about nudity at our house, but teenage children have cut down the incidence big time. Maybe later.

  6. Although I never saw my mother in the nude, I frequently spied to catch my father buck-naked as he walked from the bathroom to his bedroom in the evenings. Since my father was only 18 when I was born, he was in great shape when I was in my pre-adolescent years and had a marvelous butt.

    I had the same experience of swimming nude at the Y constantly. The only exceptions were a couple of times per year when parents and family members would be allowed to sit in the balcony to watch. At those times we were warned to bring swim suits. Invariably someone would not get the word and come bouncing into the pool room bare, much to the delight of little sisters.

    I attended an all-male college in North Carolina and was delighted to find out that nude swimming was de rigeur there as well. Many of us got to know our faculty members intimately, both in the pool and later at their homes. :)

  7. I still get shy about getting naked with a guy if i am into him romantically.

  8. I was brought up with 2sisters and there was absolutely no nudity in our house.I was the shy type and when I went to high school, the boys' swim class was nude which I found totally mortifying,and it was the first time I had ever seen another nude boy !! I never got over my extreme embarassment! Fast forward 20 years ! I met a very sexy man, an army captain,married with 2 kids, captain of the army swim team who seduced me one summer by inviting me to go camping to a secluded lake where he liked to sunbathe nude or as he put it "black snaking".I was intrigued andI had seen him nude in a skinny dipping episode.He was hung like a horse>Ihad never seen such a monster as he had between his legs!We got to the lake and on the way over to an island in his outboard he said "take off your clothes" which I did,sitting in the prow giving him a view he obviously enjoyed as his hardon grew to giant proportions.I had developed into a hot youngstud with a sexy bubble butt but never realized that I would have interested another hot stud like him !When we reached the island we were both nude and remained naked all weekend. needless to say we enjoyed each others' bodies! We didn't see another person that weekend and one of my favourite memories was riding around the lake,me sitting on the prow as he told me to, bare assed cheeks spread wide as he steered at the back enjoying the view,rock hard. To this day I get off as an exhibitionist!! We got together several times for more hot sessions and then he was posted to another part of Canada.I continue to be a dedicated Exhibitionist!!!

  9. I'm "always-provocative".

    And here, I was trying so hard to be dirty.

  10. There seemed to be nudity in the house only when all the men were home -- me, my dad and my two way older brothers. I remember slipping away to nude beaches on the back of my dad's motorcycle in the late 70's and staying there all day. Those days seemed to happen whenever he could make them happen. My oldest bro would be naked when I had sleepovers at his house with the porn proudly displayed in the bathroom. My older brother, who seemed to always have to make bathroom stops, lol, often invited me over to hang out with him in junior high/high school - there were never any clothes.

    Summer camp in the 70's/early 80's was the same. A YMCA camp where the counselors and boy campers would hang around in the showers/bathrooms/cabins naked -- esp. on changeover weekend when only a few of us were there.

    I remember as a counselor -- maybe ten years later - being told we should shower last yet we always had shower duty while the boys were in there.

    I miss those days of being a nude boy and now it seems that it all hasn't just been taken away but nudity is now being banished - even showing a bulge, by accident, seems to be a "sin."

    Yes, for me, once I discovered what cocks were for - nudity was erotic and a turn on - it still is. I seek, in my ideal fantasy world, a dad with sons or a male family - where I can again be naked with all generations without some fucking cunt looking at men or judging men for being perverted.

    But hey, I am a pervert...and so it goes.

  11. Growing up we were always covered. When I went to college and was exposed to other men of the same age and several would walk around naked and that is where I learned to be naked and comfortable with it. I also enjoy going to the nude beaches, etc. now.

  12. Small town, northern Minnesota, 70s, hockey was the preeminent sport. Kids got on skates at 2 or 3. With long winters, though, swimming was an organic complement, both competitive and synchronized. It was also a significant portion of PE.

    For the guys, nude was the only option while swimming during PE. Being the shortest and one of the last to develop in 7th-9th grades, it might have been a negative for me, but the opposite was true.

    I was a lousy ice skater and pretty awful throwing, catching, or hitting any sort of ball, but I could swim. For once, being small and looking younger than my peers didn't matter as much. Nudity seemed to defuse tension, serving to level the playing field.

    That's been my experience as an adult, too. Hanging out in gay clothing-optional spaces has been most fun when it's a mix of body types, and people are relaxed. Again, it's a leveling effect... not so much sexual, because there might be de facto play spaces, but anyone who is being hypersexual or overly full of themselves tends to be marginalized.

    (On a SoCal beach once, I found it comical that the one guy walking around proudly with a full, drippy erection was the least sexy sight. Nobody reacted directly when he stopped periodically to jerk it frantically, except to increase the buffer around him.)

    When I hear about adolescent guys who have never showered at school, or only when covered up, I suspect something has been lost. It's as if their dick has been empowered to ruin people if bared, or doing so would mess them up somehow. As much as I love dick, a dick is just a dick, and baring it need not be that different from revealing an elbow, a foot, or a knee.

  13. The concept of nudity around my house growing up was simply inconceivable. My mother always made sure that she would go into a separate room, close all the doors tight, and be totally "put together" before she would emerge again. My father would occasionally walk around the house wearing his t-shirt and boxers, but somehow I was taught (I assume by my mother's behavior regarding herself and her reactions to my father) that what he was doing was embarrassing and in "poor taste."

    It wasn't until I was in college that I saw a guy truly comfortable with his nudity. I attended a very conservative Christian college and lived in an all-male dorm which women were forbidden to enter (ever!). Even so, most guys walked around fully clothed (or at least mainly so). But there was one guy who invariable spent every minute indoors totally nude. He had an incredibly beautiful body (of the body-builder type) and perhaps the smallest dick I've ever seen. And he was absolutely and completely comfortable with himself. Nobody else knew quite how to react to him, so (as far as I know) his nudity was basically ignored.....though I may be wrong about that, because he transferred away from the school after only a year or so.

    Meanwhile, the public trend I see is hysterically in the direction of decreased nudity. Men's rooms, for example, have gone from totally wide-open urinal trenches - to individual urinals - to urinals with small partitions between them - to urinal with full-panel "walls" between them - to a lot of (younger) men ignoring the urinals completely and walking into stalls where they shut the door behind them and proceed to piss all over the toilet seats.

  14. This attitude towards nudity is typically US, deep anchored in fundamental puritanism. Situation is different in Europe, where it is much more accepted, even if the '70s and '80s were freer in this respect. But still, from the north and the Baltic Sea, down on the Atlantic and on the whole northern Med, you will find hundreds of clothing-optional beaches where you have to be heavily making out before being frowned upon...
    And even if we do have our prudes, we don't have hysterical anti-sex fundamentalists!

  15. Anonymous #1,

    Thanks for confirming that the nude swimming policy wasn't restricted solely to my Y. The stuff going on with the older crowd wasn't necessarily restricted to the older crowd when I was going there--and it was still going on when I was older myself. I always looked at the shower room activities as my reward for having a good swim.

  16. Anonymous #2,

    I would reeeeeally like to think it's a temporary phase, but I see the panic and hysteria in a different way; I think the fact that anyone can see anything on the internet at any time has led people to assume that any kind of nudity is sexual in nature and therefore worthy of shrieks and fear. We've reached a point in our society in which people can't make casual conversation with each other, or with each other's children, without assuming that some kind of devious sexual manipulation is going on.

    Perhaps in the future we'll realize how paranoid and suspicious we've been and the tension will ease. At the moment, though, it's ridiculous.

  17. Writer,

    That tick story is priceless. Seriously.

    Skinny-dipping is also the best way to hot tub.

  18. Buck,

    I always admire guys who temperamentally are nudists; I think their attitudes toward the human body are healthiest and usually the most on target. Such a lot of us waste our time worrying about whether we're good enough to undress in front of anyone else. It's just undressing, for the love of god!

    Send me those bikini pics, m'kay?

  19. Anonymous #3,

    Toronto's Pride Parade also has a contingent of marchers who let it all hang out. It's liberating to see, especially as most of the men aren't magazine-cover ready. Just ordinary guys, marching nude. In a sunlight that would burn me to a crisp.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I love the image of the reporter on the beach, being roundly ignored.

  20. Rahinpa,

    Our Y never had a spectator day like that. I remember later on, when I was a swimming instructor myself, they had gone co-ed on some days of the week. For a while they had to hire guys to stand at the top of the stairwell to make sure that no heedless little boys (or grown men) went scampering down into the pool area without their trunks, on those days.

  21. Mtlpussyboy,

    But not casually, or around the house? Bringing someone into the equation whose favor you want to keep often changes things.

  22. Anonymous #4,

    It seems that for those of us of a certain age (youthful as we are!), the nude swimming seems to have been one of those shared experiences that might have been scary at first, but eventually ended up liberating. It was one of those rites of passage as a kid that all the boys went through, like it or not. We have too few of those left these days.

  23. Mr. GHJ,

    Here I am, trying to be complimentary when I should've just flat-out said you're boner-inducing.

  24. Joey,

    I've known many families in which the male members were fine with being nude around each other, but kept it as something they did as a boys-only activity. Compartmentalizing it that way seems to make it slightly naughtier and even more forbidden than the kind of boring nudity with which I grew up.

  25. Vers RAW,

    So when're we hitting one of those nude beaches together?

  26. Bose,

    You and I are in total agreement. It seems as if we've oversexualized the penis to the point that the slightest sight of one is going to permanently scar the psyches of our youth. It's about context. A limp penis is just a limp penis, whether it's on the hairy dad showering in the YMCA gym or a classical sculpture. It's only sexual when it's hard and dripping and pointed at you.

    And even the sight of a hard or semi-hard penis isn't and shouldn't be that traumatizing. All us guys get them.

  27. Jonking,

    It is amazing how public spaces have changed to accommodate changing concerns about nudity. The showers with which I grew up were out in the open. Big nozzles hanging in a big tiled room. At today's gyms there are private stalls, but there are also fewer showers, longer waits, and much less clean facilities because of all the nooks and crannies that have to be washed off (and aren't).

    And as much as I disliked the troughs in public restrooms--usually it was the smell that got me--I'd prefer those to the spaced-out, partitioned, busy urinals in today's restroom. You used to be able to fit 6-8 guys at a trough, or 5-6 guys at old-fashioned urinals, though now the space is occupied by two discreetly-spaced urinals. Which means I stand hopping up and down in line waiting for people to finish.

  28. Hocine,

    Europe has always been more progressive sexually. It's a shame that North America has a century to catch up with.

  29. had 3 brothers all very close in age and mostly raised by our single dad. never thought it strange to be naked from earliest memory getting bathed, showering, any bathroom activity. dad was right in there too, how else would he have taken care of himself and all of us. now, with my own 14 year old son, it is the same. i have always felt comfortable naked, he grew up to be comfortable. he has seen my brother (his uncles) and cousins naked a lot. as for that uncomfortable adolescent stage, no one cares who popped a hard on at whatever time. just normal. seems like we did have to tell some of the boys to take it easy at school in the gym. not everyone is so open.

    And, i just heard a older guy at the YMCA say something about naked swimming there in the 60s or 70s or something. i was surprised. wish it still could happen.

  30. Anonymous,

    It all depends on what you grow up with, right? Some things that seem alien to one person are going to be normal to the next.

    There is something freeing about swimming nude. Plus you get to avoid the clammy feeling of trunks out of the cold water.

  31. Growing up, my home was very modest. I never saw my mother any more unclothed than a one-piece bathing suit complete with that modesty-panel skirt-thing (of the early 1960s). My dad was never naked around me, but that was something I decided to do something about. (I guess I would've been post-toddler but pre-school at the time.)

    Their bathroom had a linen closet with a louvered door. I discovered that I could hide in the closet and sneak peeks of Dad getting in and out of the shower—"nekkid"! I was fascinated with his huge-to-me-at-the-time uncut penis. (Like most baby-boomer baby boys, I'd been automatically circumcised.) I wanted a closer view. I devised a plan.

    The next time I hid out in the linen closet, I took an old wind-up alarm clock with me. I crouched in the bottom of the closet and just as Daddy was undressed and about to step into the shower, I set off the alarm. He opened the closet door with a "What-the-hell?!" and there it was right at eye level. Man!

    He was not pleased—probably more surprised than pissed-off, but I was ordered from the bathroom with a stern "Get the hell out of here!" And so I did. Mission accomplished.

    (This sort of makes me sound like a little perv, huh...?)

  32. Not much nudity around our house! Although us boys did get to shower with dad a couple times: in a 4x4 shower with him and 2 boys at a time! So, I got to see him up close with no sneaking. He was pretty comfortable about it, but that was a 'guy thing'.
    I've noticed the same changes in men's public bathroom configuration, too. Part of the hysterical side of society. I, too, hope for a more reasoned and sensible view of nudity for all, but think it will take a while.
    As for in-grained prudery, I simply blame those Europeans for sending their religious, prudish cultists over to the Colonies for all of our problems! :-P That left the sensible people there and us with a long row to hoe!