Why are people so afraid of nakedness?

Three Dancers | William H. Johnson | ca. 1940

I was reading this article about a yoga studio in NYC that offers nude, co-ed classes in an effort to help people overcome body insecurity.  Naturally, I’m in total support of this.  And then I read the comments.  It was like a swift kick in the gut.  People were actually using words like “yuck” and “ewww” and “disgusting” to describe their feelings about the class.  I am 99% sure my face screwed up something serious while reading these.  And so the question became not where is this class and how can I take it, but rather, why is everyone so afraid/nervous/freaked out/grossed out/intimidated by being naked?

I realize that we are so conditioned to believe that nakedness is only appropriate in our homes, specifically our bedrooms, and only with our significant other(s).  But why is that?  Why is nakedness some sort of “gift” only given to those we hope to receive an orgasm from?  Why does nudity almost always equal sex in our society?  How many of you primarily get naked when it is time to have sex (or shower)?  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that very few people have actually been naked with someone that they were not intimate with.

Now, I know some of you are going to tell me about the pressure from the media to be body-perfect with rock hard abs (which actually freak me out; I’m so cool with a subtle one-pack), have flawless skin, Nicki Minaj type booty (y’all stop getting them injections please, you can die from stuff like that), long hair, and so on and so forth.  But the vast majority of folks know the media is playing the hell out of us so why do we care?!

When I was in Barçelona last summer I went to a beach and it was NOTHING for everyone to be topless – from children to grandparents.  I mean nobody cared.  It was all the Americans who were staring and snickering and judging.  Do I think a naked yoga class is the answer to loving our bodies again? Not exclusively.  Do I think we need to take a critical look at how we view nakedness? Absolutely.  Do I think that nakedness is going to be the most liberating experience for every person on earth?  No.  But I do think it’s pretty toxic to use words like “yuck” and “ewww” to describe the bodies we live in, and then expect those same naked bodies to give us unspeakable pleasure.

You + nakedness = _____.  Court is now in session.


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15 thoughts on “Why are people so afraid of nakedness?

  1. I dont get the over sensitivity to nudity, I have no desire to be naked all day but I dont see it as vile or evil. Just more weird society ideals I dont get.

  2. MsA says:

    I spend a lot of time in the gym and have had this conversation many times over the years. Some women seem offended by other women who walk around in the locker room whether it is from the shower to the locker or sitting in the steam room or sauna naked but wearing a towel or a wrap. I have had women roll their eyes smack their little teeth at the sight of me walking around in the locker room naked or even just in my towel. How do you go to a place like that and expect not to see naked people. I enjoy being naked in my home to get out of the shower and just walk around and air dry. It is so relaxing! As for the naked yoga class I would love to attend a naked yoga class I will be looking for one nearby. Me + Nakedness= Confidence

    • YESSSSS! MsA thank you so much for that! It is mind-blowing that you would get such nastiness sent your way at the gym. But then again, the gym brings up a lot of insecurities for people. You just keep right on being CONFIDENT!

  3. SJ says:

    I think it would be nice if Americans treated this more like some other countries where it is not as big of a deal- as an artist I’ve had my share of life drawing classes, so I’m perhaps more desensitized to other people’s nudity in certain contexts.
    But as a transman I don’t think I could ever be comfortable being nude in the presence of others, especially with the potential for strangers, because there is just no way to NOT feel threatened and potentially at risk for assault or being treated as sub-human. Even if we managed to break down social barriers around nudity, there would still be a level of privilege around those who are comparatively cis-bodied.

    • SJ, thank you so much for allowing yourself to be vulnerable even in this space. And right now I am claiming that you WILL be über comfortable being nude with others in the future!

  4. Fabulous Nerd says:

    Naked + Me = Comfortable
    I spend a lot of time naked. I take dance classes and dancers are notorious for stripping down in order to get dressed for class. I also do this when I am getting dressed for yoga or most others workouts. The steam room and sauna are givens for nakedness (sitting on a towel, of course). However, the most pleasurable time for nakedness is in the summer, at home alone, I walk around barefoot or in short socks and nothing more. I love the feel of the heat on my skin and the occasional breeze. I also love having mirrors to view my naked body as I walk around–catching a glance of me as I walk from one room to the other. I don’t generally go outside naked because that is against social form, but I would have no problem at a nude beach!

    I think the nude yoga class would not an option because I am not sure I want to bend over and look into someone else’s ass crack–this is more about cleanliness than nudity.

  5. Thank you for putting such important, truthful, powerful words out into the universe! I don’t understand the disgust with nudity. I respect that people don’t personally wish to be nude in public but I don’t appreciate the constant demeaning of people’s bodies (especially when you turn around and want to use that body for your own sexual gratitude). I believe the body is an art, a masterpiece willed to be formed and transformed by the soul within the body. All our masterpieces look and feel different yet to inherently believe that one is better than other is exactly the type of body-shaming that perpetuates the practices you mentioned above (ie. butt injections). Nudity is powerful and beautiful and natural. We were born nude, what changed is that clothes and such were placed on us and we believed this to be the only way of interacting with the public and the world outside of sex. When no, that’s not true. Either way, we have our own comforts but to say that someone’s comfortability with nudity or attempt to become comfortable with their own body through nudity is disgusting or weird or inherently bad is just bullshit. That’s my opinion.

    • Thank YOU so much for appreciating the way my brain works when no one is listening! ;-) And I think you made a really powerful point about the perpetuation of body-shaming comments is what drives people to do crazy sh!t like injecting foreign substances into their butt! And I DO believe ALL bodies are masterpieces! BOOM!

  6. […] WHY ARE PEOPLE SO AFRAID OF NAKEDNESS? by Dr. Lashay Harvey […]

  7. Dee says:

    My best soul, body, mind rejuvenation happened several times at a women-only spa in Toronto – Body Blitz. I highly recommend it. It is a healing waters spa, clothing optional. Most women were naked and I welcomed the opportunity to strip down and be free. The beauty of the experience was the variety of bodies. Women’s bodies round, slight, jagged, post surgery, post birth, hairy and hairless, lived in and just new, in colors of brown, gold, black sand, rust, pearl and on and on and on. I felt a silent celebration among us as we took time to tend to our bodies re-forming the link to our souls and settling our minds. I was welcomed by subtle head nods, and held smiles between eyes. I was seen – in totality. I felt celebrated as being comfortable in my own skin and that I was supported in my self care.

    Nudity is, in my case, empowering, and I think finding those places to just be naked are important and it helps if it’s a place where your nudity is acknowledged and celebrated. And also in my case, celebrated and acknowledged by strangers.

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