A Manifesto for nakedness
I am a strong believer in being naked. Naked swimming; naked dancing-around-your-house; take nudes (even just for yourself and your self-confidence); hell, cook your dinner naked.
We, as a society, have become so squeamish and embarrassed when it comes to nudity. So much so, that we’ve even established laws around it. It is not technically illegal to be naked in public, but it is illegal to be naked if said nakedness is intended to cause ‘distress, alarm, or outrage’. Hard to gauge though, huh? If a nip-slip on Instagram meets the ‘offensive’ grade then really, where’s the line? Even if people were a bit calmer about the sight of boobs, I’m not saying that we should wander around naked all the time—it would be way too chilly. All I’m asking is that we learn to appreciate our own nakedness and throw any embarrassments of normal imperfections out the window.
“Your nakedness is yours, and if it doesn’t quite fit in to society’s awkward and sexualised stencil, then who the hell cares?”
A few years ago, I went on holiday to Majorca with a group of friends. One evening, after a couple of frozen strawberry daiquiris, we decided to take a plunge. Midnight, the sea stretching out in front of us, we stripped off—underwear and all—and went skinny-dipping. It was nothing short of liberating. At first, it seemed like a bit of a rush; we were facing up to the taboo of public nudity. After a while, however, the weirdness of swimming naked came only from its intense normality. After all, what was normally separating our bodies from the icy water? A flimsy bikini, just strips of material, how much difference did it really make? After the initial thrill, I found myself far more focussed on the water, the waves, and the fresh feel of the midnight air than the fact that I was unclothed. Our bodies weren’t sexualised in that moment and it felt like the most natural thing in the world (erm, because it is).
Of course, we have the connotations between naked bodies and sex. I’m not arguing that this should be completely dispelled, but it is possible to have it both ways. You can choose when you want your body to be viewed in a sexual way; just as you can choose sometimes to appreciate it as the visceral flesh and bones that keep you alive. Censorship of the female body has given it the shock factor (unless of course, it is sexualised or expected—looking at you, advertising). We are only regularly exposed to certain ‘society approved’ body types.
This affects me as much as it does anyone. I moan that I’m not quite right. I fall in line with the multitude of brainwashed thoughts including ‘I’m too fat’. But we only think we are abnormal or not quite up to scratch because of the small select examples of nakedness we have available to us. If we embraced nudity more readily, if we didn’t do the awkward towel dance while getting changed at the beach; if we happily walked down to the kitchen of our shared houses to make some tasty naked coffee in the morning; didn’t gravitate to the corner of the room while getting dressed in front of our friends… then maybe nakedness wouldn’t be quite so sacred. Or quite so exclusive to the few examples that advertising campaigns choose to show us.
But we only think we are abnormal or not quite up to scratch because of the small select examples of nakedness we have available to us. Next time you tumble out of bed in the morning, bleary-eyed and messy-haired, just take a second before scrambling into your jeans. Look in the mirror at yourself and do not criticise, look for the good, not for the ‘room for improvement’. Have a little boogie, have a laugh at how weird bodies are (I mean boobs? What’s with them?). Leave your body be, just for a second, without hurling criticism at it. Appreciate your nakedness and your wonderfully paradoxical individuality and normality.
I found the below small paragraph on my laptop, I think it was from almost two years ago which made me hesitate over whether or not to include it. I wrote it after a particular era of dissatisfaction with the way I looked. But putting my nakedness into words felt good, and accepting your own niceness is so freeing—try it sometime:
‘I have become more confident of my own loveliness. I look at myself in the mirror and I twist my body this way and that. Suck in, bloat out, we are taught very much not to be content. My body is not a skinny body, it is not a muscle-y, toned, athletic body. But it’s soft and it’s gentle and it looks like it would be nice to draw. The curve of my back is smooth and pleasing and the outline of my body flows softly in and out and curves like small, unobtrusive waves in a calm ocean. It’s a bit pink and very freckly, especially my face and my shoulders. It is so soft yet so magically strong. It protects me, and it loves me, and I have no right to hate it in return for its servitude. Thank you pink soft curvy body, you have done me well and I promise to love you.’
So, try it as an exercise instead of self-hate and damaging diets; instead of dissatisfaction and broken self-esteem. Try and see your individual good. Your nakedness is yours, and if it doesn’t quite fit in to society’s awkward and sexualised stencil, then who the hell cares?