Recently I started to member my first swim classes at the Naval Base In Washington DC. As I thought more about it, I remembered having to swim nude. At the time we were told that the lint from the swimsuits were tough on the filter system. That is why girls had to wear swim caps. Men did not have long hair then, especially on a military base. I started wondering when things changed. I spoke with others about this and they too remember nude swimming as late as high school in the mid 1970’s. During a recent trip to Budapest the public baths were clothing optional during male only or female only times. As far back as the Romans the baths were public and nude. When did we determine that the body has to be hidden?
It seems to me that this was the first time I saw a nude man and realized that as boys aged the bodies’ changed. All the bodies were different and with age they changed. Therefor when mine started to change I was not as insecure and “freaked” by the experience. I truly believe this Victorian sense of modesty is partially responsible for the explosion of porn. Once we tell kids that the body is shameful and has to be hidden, the first instinct is to peak and see what and why. If families were more upfront about sex and the body the curiosity level would not be as desperate.
Clearly the body has not changed so we as a society have changed. Personally I hate wearing a swimsuit in the pool and don’t unless there are people around who would be clearly uncomfortable. If, as it appears, it changed in the 1960-70’s I am trying to understand why. That was the height of the sexual liberation movement. The body was celebrated! Why did the powers that be determine we need to be clothed?
The best answer I could come up with is a combination of causes. First the “Woman’s Liberation Movement” demanded gender equality and therefore separate swim times for men and women fell away for total co-ed swim facilities. Second I think, was the use by Richard Nixon of the “silent majority” myth. Nixon argued that the vast majority of the Americans wanted a return to the “high moral” standards of America past. The years of Joe McCarthy and “One Nation Under God”.
The strange thing about people who long for the “good ol’ days”, is that their vision of those days is seldom correct or complete. They long for a Norman Rockwell vision of the past. The present, and especially the future are too full of the unknown for their comfort level. As a result they try to impose an unlivable myth on the population at large. This is why so many conservative religious and republicans with repressed feelings and urges and found to be living hypocritical existences.
Another reason is that as America became more obese, people want more reasons to hide their body. Even body image is less of a problem for cultures that embrace the body openly and honestly. We recently went to Budapest where many of the public baths are still clothing optional. This despite the fact that many of the people bathing were not particularly attractive to me.
The other problem with repressing the body and sexuality is that it is ungodly! God, however you might define it, has created a body that is capable of so many fantastic feeling from just touch alone. One should not ignore it. Our body has evolved over the ages to be built for stimulation. To ignore it, to not explore it, would be to ignore gods work.
Studies have shown that people with low self esteem suffer Floating hostility, irritability out in the open, always on the verge of exploding even for unimportant things; an attitude characteristic of somebody who feels bad about everything, who is disappointed or unsatisfied with everything. One way to help is to take the stress of a “shameful body” off kids as they mature. We need to stop all forms of sexual repression and deal with the body and sexuality honestly and openly. Much like the Europeans. They have lower rape and incest rates that are a direct result of an attitude that sees the body in a more complete way. They also have lower violent crime rates due in part to a more securer self image in all people. I think much of that is due to their ability to accept their body for what it is and is not. We need to teach that the body is good in all its’ forms and not evil.