Breaking the Grip of Shame Among Christians by Promoting Body Respect.

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Shame, Children, and Abuse
Society reaps what it sows in the way it nurtures its children. . . . Through this chain of events, violence and abuse pass from generation to generation as well as from one society to the next. Our stark conclusion is that we see the need to do much more to ensure that child abuse does not happen in the first place, because once these key brain alterations occur, there may be no going back.

-- Martin H. Teicher, "Scars That Won't Heal: The neurobiology of child abuse," Scientific American, March 2002 

The sexual abuse of children is a horrendous problem it is estimated that 27 percent of girls and 16 percent of boys in the U.S. are sexually abused.(1.) due to how well child abuse remains hidden (because of shame) I believe those figures are low.  “Sexual abuse destroys peoples lives, “Sexual abuse survivors are at higher risk for mental health and social functioning problems resulting from feelings of powerlessness, guilt, shame, stigmatization and low self-esteem.”(2.)

Obviously finding a solution to child abuse is and must be a top priority.  Unfortunately I believe that the attitudes about the body and sex in this culture contribute to increasing the problem, not decreasing it. Due to attitudes expressed about the body and sexuality by parents and other adults, children are often too fearful of it getting worse if they tell, so they usually keep silent.  I know that's why I didn't tell anyone as a child.  I hope to show in this article a positive way to help decrease child sexual abuse as well as help increase children’s self-esteem.  Many people believe that the more children are shamed, the more vulnerable they are to sexual abuse, the less likely the are to report it if it does happen, and the more damaging the effects of it are.  As someone who was abused and grew up in a very shame based family, I am one of those people. 

Shaming Children

Children are not naturally ashamed of their bodies, they are taught shame. How? When children see that certain parts of the body are always covered, they are being taught shame. When children escape their clothes (especially at home) and are punished and/or told that it's wrong, bad, or even indecent to be naked, they are being taught shame.  When they are told that a penis is a “wee wee”, or a vagina is “down there”, they are being taught shame.  When certain questions make parents uncomfortable, children are being taught shame.  When children play with dolls that don’t have genitals, or read books about how wonderful the human body is: that don’t show genitals, they are being taught shame.  This is a few of many ways children are taught body shame.

Sadly, they fall prey to this conditioning all too soon.  Many children as young as five or six have been taught so much body shame that they won’t even change clothes openly in same-sex locker rooms, instead they change under towels or in a toilet stall. According to clinical psychologist Marilyn J. Sorensen, Ph.D. "Unlike guilt—which is the feeling of doing something wrong—shame is the feeling of being something wrong. When a person experiences shame, they feel 'there is something basically wrong with me.’”(3)  When children are taught that parts of their bodies are indecent and must always be covered they will feel that there is something wrong with them. 

According to the book “Sex and Morality”: “Following masturbation, the earliest taboo and sexual moral messages that we learn are about nudity–revealing the genitals. These norms and sexual attitudes seem to effect many people in their adult years. Sex therapists, psychologists and others in the helping professions frequently encounter patients or clients whose problems stem from the shame and discomfort they experience about their own bodies and about how their sex organs appear to others.” “We cant help but believe that such repeated messages about how the body must always be covered, even in front of parents and siblings, helps to create a negative body self-image and, consequently, lowered self-esteem.”(4)

Hopefully young children can be sheltered from the worst of human behavior, but to try and shelter them from something as basic to all of humanity as parts of our bodies, invites trouble. Especially since interest in the human body is natural and instinctive. If a child is made to feel ashamed of their own and other people’s bodies they will still be interested in the human body, but they may now feel that there is something wrong with them because of this interest.  When children don’t have the opportunity to fulfill this interest openly with their parents full knowledge and guidance they are almost guaranteed to do it secretly. 

Results of Shaming

Fulfilling this basic interest secretly obviously includes things like playing "doctor" but it also usually leads to pornography.  Most children have very easy access to pornography (especially on the Internet). In addition to the Internet 70 percent of all pornographic magazines end up in the hands of minors.  Born again Christian and former Playboy model Susie Krabacher cringes at the idea that maturing boys often get their first full glimpse of the female body from pornography. "How can the girls they know compete with that?" she asks. "They can't. Nobody can. Even the women in the magazines can't compete with themselves in perfect pose and perfect lighting and perfect touch-ups. Boys who view these magazines not only develop a sense that women are there merely to satisfy them, but their expectations of what a girl should look like is skewed. In a perfect world, young people would learn about sex from their parents and experience it first with their spouses."(5)

But its not a perfect world, most kids learn shame from their parents and our society, not healthy attitudes about the body or sex.  Most kids get their natural interest perverted first by shame, then by pornography. As Susie Krabacher indicated, the problem with pornography isn't as much what it shows, but HOW it shows it. Since pornography is also the most accessible way to see the naked human body in this (U. S.) society, it also reinforces the association of nudity with sex only.  I believe that this association is destructive because sexual attraction shouldn't be just about the body.  When nudity is taboo outside of sex, I believe sexual attraction becomes far more focused on the body and diminishes other important aspects of a potential mate.

Violence and murder are far more common in most homes (via TV, movies, and video/games) in this society than simple nakedness!  I heard recently that one father asked another father, how he could take his eleven year old son to a very violent and demonic horror movie.  The other father replied "Don't worry, I covered his eyes for the nude scenes"  This is insane, do we really want murder, violence, horror, and demonic images to be seen more, and thus be viewed as more acceptable than parts of the human body?!!  What kind of messages are we sending our children when we make casual nudity taboo and shameful while images if extreme violence and horror are common.  In the book “Shame: The Exposed Self” noted child psychologist Michael Lewis links the violence in our society to an out-of-control shame and rage spiral.(6)  When we live in a society that is more tolerant of image after image of violence than it is certain body parts doesn't it seem likely that there may be a link between violence and shame? 

A Positive Alternative

Is there an alternative? Can you help eliminate body shame in your children, help protect them from abuse, decrease their interest in porn, help raise their self-esteem, and give them healthy, positive, godly views of their bodies and sex?  Although not widely accepted in the U.S., many families and societies where non-sexual nudity is more common have proven that it is indeed possible. “When parents talk to and affirm the value of their children, young people are more likely to develop positive, healthy attitudes about themselves. This is also true when the subject is sex. Research shows that positive communication between parents and their children can help young people establish individual values and make healthy decisions.”(2.)

But wait!  Isn’t nudity harmful for children?  Isn’t that what the “experts” say?  Sadly yes, some “experts" such as Dear Abby, Dr. Spock, and others speak out against family nudity without any empirical evidence to back them up, just a dysfunctional, outdated Freudian theory.  Many people take what they say as fact, because they are supposed to be experts. Yet, when research is actually done, it contradicts their dire warnings. 

A look at cultures and families, which do NOT restrict nudity, to sex alone shows these “experts” warnings to be dangerously wrong.  Cultures that are accepting of nudity are so free of sexual neuroses that one wonders how different Freud’s theories would have been had his background and culture been different. Many primitive naked cultures have no concept of things like rape or child abuse; maybe we could learn something from such “primitives”.  Restricting nudity to sex usually results in more sexual immorality, addiction, and abuse NOT less! 

Religious Beliefs

Other warnings stem from false religious beliefs.  Sadly, many strongly held religious beliefs are in contradiction with scripture and God’s love, this is a good example.  Christian scripture says: "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." (Gen 1:31),  "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14),  "For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,” (1 Tim. 4:4) and much more that speaks to the goodness of God’s creation.  In addition it says: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.  (Isaiah 5:20),  "Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker"  (Isaiah 45:9) and “To those that are pure, all things are pure, but to those who are full of sin and do not believe, nothing is pure.  Both their minds and their consciences have been ruined.” (Titus 1:15).  Jesus clearly said: that evil thoughts such as sexual immorality come from inside the human heart, not from outside sources such as what someone sees (see Mark Chapter 7) Yet, most Christians are taught that ANY nudity is sinful even when their scripture does not say that.  Unfortunately such beliefs are very powerful, and hard to overcome, even when they are wrong, harmful, AND unscriptural. 

It’s a Matter of Context

While hammers can be used to break and destroy things, they are usually used more positively for building and construction.  Nudity and sex are no different; it depends on the context (how they are used) as to whether they are positive and constructive, or unhealthy and destructive.  In some cultures nudity is so commonly associated with swimming, sunbathing, relaxation, recreation, sports, and everyday life that people normally associate it with a great many things other then sex. (As is the case with many families in this culture as well.) This seems to be a far healthier context for nudity, as these cultures often also have lower percentages of sexual problems including sexual abuse, rape, and teen pregnancy.(7)

I wish I could say that children who are brought up to be comfortable with nudity and sexuality are never abused, but from everything I’ve read, heard, and seen, what I can say is that when sexual abuse does happen to such a child, the abuse is usually discovered quickly (sometimes immediately) and the harm is minimal compared to children who are taught shame.  I can say with even more certainty that for children who are taught shame the harm of sexual abuse can be compounded many times by that shame. 

A Positive Concept

Research conducted at the University of Northern Iowa found that nudist children had body self-concepts that were significantly more positive than those of non-nudist children and that the "nudity classification" of a family was one of the most significant factors associated with positive body self-concept. Furthermore, nudist children showed a significantly higher acceptance of their bodies a whole, rather than feeling ashamed of certain parts.(8)

A positive body/self-concept is extremely important in helping to make children more resistant to sexual abuse as well as just feeling good about themselves.  In a school “Body Safety” program a thirty-year police veteran said that child molesters have found that parents have taught their children that their bodies and sex are shameful and not to be talked about.  Children are taught this to such a degree that they are usually too embarrassed to tell anyone about being abused so most molesters don’t have to threaten the children to keep quite.  This detective emphasizes that the extreme body-shame most people have and teach their children is the biggest factor in allowing child molestation to continue to go unreported.(9)  I will add that this shame also makes children more vulnerable to abuse because they have interest in the body that has not been satisfied in healthy and positive ways.  

The following shows that comfort with nudity can be beneficial even to those who have been abused.  "This study examined the effect of a presentation about the holistic nature of body image and self-esteem, as held by those who practice social nudism, on the self-concept of abused women. A total of 126 subjects completed a two-part, pre-post survey to assess their body image, self-esteem, and overall self-concept. They were also given a series of questions designed to identify women with a history of conjugal abuse. There were four groups. Two groups were control groups separated as abused and non-abused women. The other two were experimental groups, also separated as abused and non-abused women. The experimental groups had significantly improved body image, self-esteem, and overall self-concept. This indicates that education about the unified nature of body image and self-esteem can be efficacious as a treatment alternative for body image, self-esteem, or overall self-concept.  Implications and further research possibilities are discussed."(10)

The book " The Naked Child, Growing Up Without Shame," by Dennis Craig Smith and psychologist Dr. William Sparks was the result of a five-year study on social nudity and it's effect on children. It concludes with the following: 

"This book and the five-year study it represents looked at the families who found a way to overcome the fear of exposing themselves, both physically and intellectually, to each other. We asked questions which today's society faces, and we sought answers among those who have personally reached solutions to our social dichotomy. The authors questioned many nudist boys, girls, men, and women in search of the secret that made them comfortable in circumstances that upset so many of us. What we learned was that viewing the unclothed human body, far from being destructive to the psyche, seems to be either benign and totally harmless, or to actually provide positive benefits to those individuals involved." 

"We look forward to seeing more research that will delve deeper into this discovery which, to say the least, is in opposition to all that the popular 'experts', unconcerned with facts, continue to tell us."(11)

What Are You Communicating? 

Open communication is essential to protect children from abuse. Here is a partial list from the Advocates for Youth web site(2) of what families need to do to raise sexually healthy children…

Help children feel good about their entire body. Caregivers should name all body parts accurately and convey that the body and its functions are natural and healthy.

Touch and comfort children often to help them understand love and how it can be shared. 

Meeting children’s needs also helps them develop trust.

Help children begin to understand the difference between public and private behaviors and that certain behaviors, such as picking one's nose or touching one's genitals, are private ones.

Teach about anatomical differences between males and females while maintaining that boys and girls are equally special.

Teach children that they can say no to unwanted touch, regardless of who is attempting to touch them, and that they have a right to be respected when they say no.

Describe bodily processes, such as pregnancy and birth, age appropriate terms.

Avoid shame and guilt about body parts and functions.

Encourage children to come to them or other trusted adults for information about sexuality.
 © 2001, Advocates for Youth

Comfort with nudity can be a vital aspect of that protection. What comfort with nudity does is communicate that every part of human body is good, decent, and acceptable. What shame regarding nudity communicates is that the body is bad, indecent, and not to be talked about. Body shame can also lead to obsession: making children even more interested in those hidden body parts and causing them to seek out information to satisfy their interest in secret and unhealthy ways.  That is human nature. 

I believe that one of the best things that could happen to protect women and children from sexual asult/abuse is to have physical education/swimming programs that are required, co-ed and nude from pre-school through university.  This would allow individuals to satisfy their interest in nudity in a non-sexual, controlled, and healthy atmosphere.  But that is not likely to happen any time soon.

In the book “Real Solutions for Abuse Proofing Your Child” Christian child psychologist Dr. Grace Ketterman talks about the great delight parents have when babies discover their ears, toes, hands etc. then she says “But what happens when baby discovers his or her genitalia?  I’ve seen parents slap a baby’s hands for exploring this area of the body.  This tells the child, “This part of you is bad.  Don’t touch.  Deny that you have sexual parts.”  This increases the possibility that your toddler will grow to explore his penis (or her clitoris) secretly and perhaps excessively or will try to repress normal, healthy sexuality.  Such children may be vulnerable to “exploring parties” with more overt kids.  Almost always they will be afraid to ask or talk about sexual matters with their forbidding parents.”(12) Such children are also likely to be far more vulnerable to sexual abuse AND not tell their parents about it.

Secret or Open, Which is Best?

Childhood exploration of bodies in secret (because of forbidding parental attitudes) is very common.  These secret activities can leave a child feeling dirty, guilty, shamed, and strongly associating nudity (their and others bodies) with those feelings.  This is the one area where I strongly disagree with Dr. Ketterman in her otherwise exceptional book.  When a mother came to her with concern about discovering her daughter and a neighbor boy playing naked, while she was glad the mother refrained from scolding the children, she said she should have a talk with them. In this talk the mother should explain that she understands why the children are curious, but that sometimes curiosity can get us in trouble.  That “some things are supposed to be private, including the body parts we cover, so even if a person asks if they can see those body parts, tell them no, and don’t let them show theirs, either.”(12) Yet, many other psychologists argue that the implicit message conveyed by a lack of nudity in the home is that the body is basically unacceptable or shameful – an attitude which may carry over into body shame and discomfort in adulthood.(13)

A very important message of Dr. Ketterman’s book is to not shame your children or communicate that any part of their body is bad, yet here she directly contradicts that by telling a mother to tell children that simple curiosity about their bodies can get them into trouble!  It would have been far better to tell the mother that this is a great opportunity to tell the children how wonderful their bodies are.  She could have also told the mother that it was unfortunate that she had to “discover” the children playing like this. It would be better to encourage the children to play naked where she can freely observe their play.  This would reinforce with the children that their bodies are good and acceptable, and help prevent such play from becoming “secretive” or getting out of hand with inappropriate touching. 

Most children who are allowed this kind of open, unashamed play have very little, if any, need to do this play secretly and usually spend very little time touching each others genitals. Remember, young children’s interest in the body is not yet directed by sexual hormones and they often find other things much more interesting. However, when nudity is explored secretly by kids the focus of their attention is often on the genitals simply because this is what they must always cover so, it is what they want to know about. 

Dr Ketterman did tell this mother that had she scolded or shamed the children, she could have dumped needless guilt on them with far-reaching damage.  I agree with this, but feel that is what is exactly what would be done if the mother followed her advice!  I absolutely agree with Dr. Ketterman that if a person (apart from a doctor) “asks” a child to see/touch his/her genitals that the child should say no and tell their parents about it.  That’s my point, if nudity is open, NOT secret, someone asking to see or touch them in secret should set off internal alarms in the child.  If someone wants this normal thing to be kept secret, they will likely feel there is something strange and wrong about it that mom and dad need to know about. However, when such openness is not allowed, children are more likely to be curious themselves and thus more vulnerable to those who seek to abuse them. THIS is how curiosity can get kids into trouble; by not having it satisfied in open, controlled, and healthy ways!!!

Kids Pick Up On How Parents Feel

If you want your child to come to you if someone does abuse them and/or you want to reduce the damage caused by abuse (if they are abused) your being comfortable with sexuality and nudity is of vital importance. As Dr. Ketterman rightly says if you in any way slam the door to communication about sex with your children you need an attitude adjustment.  If you act horrified, ashamed, and embarrassed regarding a child’s curiosity about the body, your child will NOT feel comfortable talking with you about these issues.  If a child has no confident with these issues when young they may have sexual problems as an adult.(12) 

Children of "primitive" tribes, surrounded by nudity of all forms, suffer no ill effects. Neither do children who grow up in other societies that are more open about nudity than our own.  Presumptions that exposure to nudity will lead to problems for children grow out of the preconceptions of our culture. 

K. Bacher: 205 Arguments and Observations in Support of Naturism, N Magazine, Oshkosh, WI, Vol 16.1

Paul Ableman writes: "It is interesting to speculate as to what kind of model of the human mind Sigmund Freud would have constructed if he had based it not on clothed Europeans but on, say, a study of the naked Nuer of the Sudan. Almost all the processes which he discerns as formative for the adult mind would have been lacking. Freud assumes that children will not normally see each other naked and that, if they do happen to, the result will be traumatic. This is not true of naked cultures. . .  Thus great provinces of Freud's mind-empire would simply be missing. There would be no Oedipus complex (or not much, anyway), no penis envy or castration complex, probably no clear-cut phases of sexual development. We are emerging rapidly from the era of Freudian gospel . . . and can now perceive the extent to which he himself was the victim of prevailing ideas and prejudices."(14)

In “Deceived by Shame Desired by God” Christian therapist Cynthia Spell Humbert says:  “Sexual abuse brings up a wealth of different emotions.  Many clients have explained that – to their dismay –they experienced physical pleasure.  Feeling terror and pleasure at the same time makes for an especially intense confusion, which often causes the victim to feel shame and self-blame.  God created our bodies to enjoy sexual arousal.  Arousal is normal.  The abuse of these feelings makes victims feel that their own body betrayed them.”(15)


As someone from a shame based background, I believe that it is absolutely essential for Parent’s to create an atmosphere of openness and comfortableness about sex and the body so that if their children are ever sexually abused, they are more likely to tell their parents. Comfort with nudity can be an important part of this.  At least that seems to be the experience of those who have grown up in families, which are open, accepting of, and comfortable with nudity.  Most any play with water or messy things allows great opportunities for playing nude.  It also makes much more since, as skin dries much faster and is far more comfortable than wet, cold, clingy clothing (such as bathing suits) and skin is also much easier to clean than clothes with most messy things like finger paints, dirt, or the makings of cookies or cakes.

Nudity is already far too sexualized in the media, children need something to offset that and show that nudity is not just about sex.  They need to see that nudity is good for many things,  like swimming, playing, sports, working, sleeping, watching TV, and much more.  With a good example of comfort set most children (and adults for that matter) quickly become comfortable with being nude themselves.  Remember, the context is important, for nudity to be beneficial for children (especially in the context of the culture we live in) it must not be sexualized. 

I believe that body-shame in addition to shutting off communication, can cause as much, or more, fear, guilt, pain, and scarring as abuse itself.  My hope is that you will work to prevent and/or decrease the harmful effects of sexual child abuse by making sexuality and nudity separate and comfortable for your family and teaching your children that the human body is created by God and as such is good, pure, decent, and acceptable. The best way is by example, the best time is now.  What is planted in our lives is what we will harvest, what attitudes about the body and sex do you want planted in your children's lives?

As a Person Thinks

The mind acts on its most dominant thought. If a person is taught that nudity is shameful, sexual indecent, impure, and obscene then that is how they will react to it. If a person is taught other ways of looking at and thinking about nudity (such as making it common for swimming, relaxing, play, sports, etc.) they will respond to it in those positive, healthy, non-shaming, ways.  Making nudity taboo and thereby defaulting it to shame, sex and pornography causes a great deal of harm to individuals and society!  It contributes to lower self-esteem and causes people to treat parts of themselves as indecent and shameful.  Only immoral actions or thoughts, how the body is abused and demonized, should be viewed as shameful, not the body itself! 

Hopefully someday this society will see the danger of body shame and reject it.  In such a society, casual everyday nudity would be common on TV, at local health and fitness clubs, swimming pools, athletic events, school physical education programs, and around peoples homes (without the need for privacy fences). But that day is not today.  A step toward that day can begin in your home by making nudity a common, accepted, healthy, everyday thing with your family.  However, that alone is not likely to be enough to provide the best value in combating the strong nudity = shame and nudity = sex messages so rampant in our culture. To more effectively combat these messages children (and adults) often need a larger frame of reference than nudity only around family. In families where nudity is kept private and the rule is that everyone stays dressed when any friends are over the children are far more likely to feel that there really must be something wrong with being nude (since it is being kept hidden from everyone else).  Most children raised in this way seem to soon develop the same body shame as all their friends.

Beyond Family

When non-sexual, shame-free, nudity is common outside the family as well children are in a much better position to see all of the body, and nakedness, as something normal, good, and acceptable.  This insulates them better against the shame-based messages they get about the body from society, and better equips them to develop healthy and wholesome attitudes toward the body.  Telling your children that you believe and want to teach them by example that the whole body is good, but that it has to be kept in the family because most people disagree and wouldn't understand may help a bit, but not much.  It may also surprise you if you are more open about your attitudes about nudity around others, how many do agree, they just don't talk about it.  Children raised in families who are open about nudity around others, WHILE respecting the fact that others may uncomfortable with it seem to be the least affected by body shame.  Being open about your attitude towards nudity around others shows your children that you really believe what you tell them about the body being good, kids pick up on that.  As with other things, when you keep you beliefs hidden, they pick up on that too.

Respecting the fact that others are uncomfortable with nudity, means letting others know of your family’s comfort with nudity BEFORE they come to your house.  If they are offended by nudity, they can decide not to come or you can decide that you and your family will stay dressed while these guests are visiting (to respect their belief) the important thing is that your children know that this guest knows you believe nudity is good, and that you are staying dressed to respect this persons (or their parents) beliefs, NOT because you're hiding yours.  In the case of anyone under the age of 18 it's extremely important to let parents know first, before their kid's come over.  Many parent's realize that other families have different lifestyles.  When parents with different lifestyles are upfront and respectful enough to let other parents know about it before their children visit, most parents will have no problems with their children visiting. 

A father shares this:

We have had dozens of kids visit with our children to swim naked in our pool and to play naked in our back yard and go to nude beach's without any problems.  Why?

1. We have studied nudity/naturism and its benefits; and, we can answer any question a parent might have in an authoritative and logical manner.

2. For those who are concerned on Biblical grounds, we can show Scripturally that it is not in any way contrary to Scripture.

3. We are totally open about our nudity.  We do not keep "our lifestyle" secret— which would breed mistrust.

4. We are fastidious about not allowing anything sexual or erotic to have any place in our practice of naturism.

5. We always ensure parents know that they may drop in unannounced at anytime, while their child is with us, to see what is going on.

6. Our confidence in the value of nudity for children is strong enough that it gives children's parents confidence that their kid(s) will benefit and not be harmed.  (We actually had one neighbor who had boys a little older than our children ask us if their boys could come over to skinny-dip so they could experience it even though they were too old to really be friends with our kids.)

7. We always talk personally with the parents and answer any questions they may have.

Over the years, we've had dozens of boys and girls accompany us in nude activities.  Not once have we had any problem with misunderstanding or accusations.  (Kids whose parents would NOT let them go with our kids sometimes made accusations; but the children who did go naked were so adamant that nothing untoward ever took place that nothing ever came of them.  It was totally obvious that the non-nude kids had no grounds on which to make their accusations.)


- Paul M. Bowman, BC - CAN 

Click Here for Paul's site on the need for social, psychological, scientific studies regarding nudity.

In one of his points Paul said: "We do not keep 'our lifestyle' secret” If parents find out that their kids where exposed to nudity and they had no prior knowledge of it there can be major problems.  Since nudity is not a part of some families life, and many people automatically associate nudity only with sex, that is understandable.  The respectful and wise thing to do is talk to other parents and get their permission before their kids visit your house.  Hopefully this article can help answer questions other parents may have, that is one reason it was written.  It can be a tool to help you be more open in a respectful way when you share it with other parents to help explain how your family feels about nudity.  There are several other articles on the site that could also be helpful, especially from a Christian perspective. 


It's also good to let other parents know that you have some guidelines about nudity that are strongly enforced.  Here are some ideas for guidelines that we hope will help.

1. Every person under the age of 18 who wants to come to our home must first have direct permission from their parents.  Before they can visit we must first talk with their parents to explain that nudity is common in our home and why.

2. Everyone was born with the perfect swimsuit, skin.  No other swimsuits or clothing is allowed in the pool or spa.  Nudity is completely optional elsewhere, except that since many people don't have healthy attitudes about nudity, no nudity is allowed where it could seen from the street or other houses.

3. Participation is completely private.  If a child wants to tell others that they went nude and it's all right with the child's parents, that's fine.  In order to respect others privacy, they may not, however tell anyone about any other people they may have seen nude.  It's up to each individual if, who, and when they tell others about their nudity.

4. Unless children from the same family first come with their parents, there is only one newcomer at a time.  Those going nude around others for the first time will easily become more comfortable quicker when the only other people around already feel that being nude is the best way to swim, play, work, and relax.

5. Nothing sexual, No showing off, calling attention to, or teasing others about any body related stuff.

For a printer friendly letter/consent form, which can be given to parents for both them and their children to sign, Click Here.  You can also copy and customize it to fit your situation.

Away From Home

Family oriented nudist clubs and nude beaches can be great places for people to become more comfortable with nudity and see that it can be normal, good, and wholesome, instead of bad and indecent.  I feel that most clubs are too far away from where people live to be part of their everyday life, but they can be great for some weekends and vacations.  Sadly, I also feel that while there are some good family oriented nudist clubs, the standards at many clubs have lowered in the last few years.  I recommend parents checking out a club or beach completely to ensure that child friendly standards and atmosphere are being maintained before taking children. 

If child friendly standards and atmosphere are being maintained a nudist club can be a wonderful place for kids.  If there is not a good club close to your area, visiting nudist clubs while traveling can be a good option.  Most clubs in the U.S. are AANR (American Association for Nude Recreation) affiliated visiting their web site at can help you locate any close to you or your travels.  Joining AANR directly or through a local club will help your family get into other clubs in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

I wish I could say there was some place children could be completely safe from sexual abuse, unfortunately I cannot.  We are striving to make Natura one of the safest places there is for children.  However, children have been abused at school, at church, at playgrounds, in scouts, in sports, and yes at nudist clubs too.  A child can be abused anywhere and unfortunately it happens most often at home.  But again the difference seems to be that when children who have been abused are comfortable with nudity, the child usually tells someone about it quickly and is not as deeply harmed by it as a child who is taught shame.  Many parents are very enthused about the benefits of nudist clubs for children here is a very small sampling of this from the book; The Naked Child, Growing Up Without Shame… (11)

A mother in FL said: “My daughter is two years old and the only child on our block who is not ‘ashamed’ or curious about another’s body.  Hers is a wholesome attitude toward her own body and others.” 

Parents in CA said: Our son was caught looking at some pornography, we spoke of our concern about this to a family counselor and he said: ‘You're making a mountain out of a mole-hill.  Every young boy has normal sex interest and the very fact that he is trying to get information this way shows that, as parents, you haven't provided him with sufficient information.  Now, if you were members of a nudist park this sort of prurient interest wouldn't even exist!’  We were astounded by this disclosure, but decided that if a man of his standing could recommend such an activity, we could visit at least once.  We had never imagined how natural it could feel; we were over any embarrassment in about five minutes, and it completely resolved our boys problem.  The capital 'S' was taken off sex, and it became an important part of life, but not the most important.” 

Again from CA: “Before we went to the (nudist) camp our daughter made social judgments solely on popularity and physical appeal.  Out there she learned to judge people by their personalities, and other human qualities.  In time she may have learned that in mainstream society, but the club has a good place for her to gain an education about people.” 

And a Father and Minister from TX: “Nudism offers an environment, as nothing else does, which is free from morbid curiosity, and one in which children can grow and mature with a healthy attitude toward body differences and functions.”

From an idealistic perspective, nudist clubs should not be “necessary” to promote a legacy of healthy body acceptance; but, until society becomes accepting of casual, everyday nudity they can be necessary and helpful for children.  Most young kids usually take to social nudity instantly, and with great delight.  On a first visit to a nudist club young kids are often undressed before mom and dad have even started! 

Removing Barriers

At home, beach, or club, social nudity helps people feel more comfortable with and accept their bodies regardless of age. Most nudists find being naked with others very freeing—it seems to release a lot of stress and pressure. Could this be because clothes create a social barrier and that people, at some level, have a need to be and interact with others free of this artificial barrier? Nudity removes the barrier and permits people to see what others really look like, forbidding nudity denies it. Going nude removes the false masks, facades, and images we create with our clothes and leaves us with only what God created. 

Social nudity allows us to relate with whole people, rather than the images their clothes create (such as rich, poor, doctor, police, priest, waitress, blue collar, white collar, etc.) Being nude is also more comfortable; it is functionally superior for many activities. Once you have been swimming or soaked in a hot spa without a swimsuit you will never want to wear one again!  Most importantly social nudity frees people from body shame. Social nudity gives people a chance to develop a healthier, more wholesome, simple acceptance of the human body. 

It doesn’t matter how many times you read this or other articles; like anything else, you won't become comfortable with social nudity, or benefit from it, until you do it. Your children can’t benefit from it until they experience it either!  Actions speak louder than words. Think about it. Imagine telling yourself, and your children, that all parts of the body are pure, wholesome, and acceptable, while never changing your actions to reflect that positive sentiment you would still always lock or close the bathroom and bedroom doors when washing or changing. You would still wear dysfunctional, articles of clothing for activities such as swimming.  If so, you and your children would never experience nudity in a wholesome, positive, non-sexual context so the only way left to experience or see nudity would still be in a sexual context.  Wouldn't the messages you projected for your children to see still equate nudity only with shame, sex and pornography?  So wouldn't your and their response to seeing nakedness stay pretty much the same?  Doesn't your family need the experience of shame-free, non-sexual social nudity to help counteract the nudity=shame and nudity=sex messages of the world? 

Theory is good but there's nothing like experience.  Help change you and your family's concept of nudity from unhealthy, negative, and narrow (shame, sex & pornography only) to healthy, positive, and broad (at the beach or pool, swimming, sunning, relaxing, playing, sports, working out, sleeping, house and yard work, camping, walking, hiking, etc., etc.). If you have taught your children shame, this is an opportunity to admit that you're human and you were wrong.  Talk with them and tell them that after research you have discovered that body shame can by very harmful and although you will not force it, you will encourage them to reject shame and be comfortable with nudity.  Start setting the example by getting comfortable with nudity yourself; hopefully you can also find a good nudist club like Natura(16) in your area and go as a family.  If enough families take this approach I believe that future generations will suffer far less from body shame and sexual abuse. 

Nate Dekan

Founder -

If this article has been helpful to you and your family, please share it with others.  It could help them as well.

Authors Note: I am not (yet at least) a sociologist or psychologist, I am someone that was abused by neighbors and grew up in a very shame based home. Those who oppose nudity because they believe it harms children are absolutely right to be concerned about children, but over and over again reality shows that it is body shame that harms children (and adults).  Rather than being harmful, I believe that non-sexual nudity can be absolutely essential in helping protect children from abuse.  Unfortunately it is a very controversial subject and very little research has been done on it. 

Everything that can be done to find the best way to protect children from sexual abuse needs to be done!  EVEN IF it means controversy by challenging strongly held preconceptions in researching the effects that non-sexual nudity has on children.  A few small studies have been done, but much more is needed.  Large studies and research is badly needed on this topic that can stand up the the most rigorous critique.  I urge any one in the research community reading this who cares about children to pursue this much needed research. 

To help professionals conducting such research or any one interested in founding it get in contact with one another Paul M. Bowman is working to help facilitate such connections.

You may contact Paul by email at:

Or by postal mail at:
Paul M. Bowman
P. O. Box 1978
Ferndale, WA 98248 (USA)

Please click here for more information or to contact him via his site.


1. Source: The National Resource Center on Child Sexual Abuse, "Fact Sheet on Child Sexual Abuse," Huntsville: NRCCSA, 1994

2. Source:

3. Source: Shame: The Quintessential Emotion: Holly VanScoy, Ph.D., Psych Central - Feb 2001

4. Source: Sex and Morality: Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Dr. Louis Lieberman, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, Orlando, FL, 1988

5. Source: Life After Playboy: Bob Liparulo, Christian Reader. September/October 2002, Vol. 40, No. 5, Page 52

6. Source: Shame: The Exposed Self: Michael Lewis, The Free Press - Simon and Schuster, 1995

7. Source

8. Source: Factors Associated With More Positive Body Self-Concepts in Preschool Children: Marilyn D. Story, Journal of Social Psychology – June 1979 

9. Source:  Fig Leaf Forum, Winnipeg MB, CANADA  for full text of letter from a father about this “Body Safety” program Click Here. 

10. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences & Engineering Vol 59(9-B), Mar 1999, 5104. Standard No: ISSN: 0419-4217 Abstract from a dissertation on treatment for body image and self-esteem with abused women, by Richard Eugene Pearl Sr. at Tennessee State University 

11. Source: The Naked Child, Growing Up Without Shame: Dennis Craig Smith with Dr. William Sparks, Elysium Growth Press, Los Angeles, CA – 1986 

12. Source: Real Solutions for Abuse Proofing Your Child: Dr. Grace Ketterman, Vine Books, Ann Arbor, MI - 2001

13. Source: Richard A. Gardner: Exposing Children to Parental Nudity, Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, June 1975 

14. Source: The Anatomy of Nakedness: Paul Ableman, Elysium Growth Press, Los Angeles, CA – 1982 

15. Source: Deceived by Shame Desired by God: Cynthia Spell Humbert, Navpress, Colorado Springs, CO, 2001

16. One note of caution: Please find out as much as you can about a club before taking children.  While many like Natura, are very family oriented, many clubs in the U.S. have very few children or any activities for them.  In places with few other children for playmates your kids could easily become bored.   ALSO, unfortunately not all so called “nudist” clubs (sadly even AANR affiliated ones) restrict nudity from being openly sexualized.  Thus not all are fit for families or in my opinion to call themselves “nudist”.

Copyright © 2002 Nate Dekan

This article may be freely copied and distributed unaltered. We recognize that many of these articles are long and computer screens are harder on peoples eyes than the printed page, also that it is often easier to effectively share a printed article than a web address, so you are most welcome to print this for your use, and to share.

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We also wish to thank Natura (a family naturist resort under development in Florida) and Naturist Christians for their continued support.  Click Here to go to Natura's web site or Here to go to the Naturist Christians web site.