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Think of the children!
One of the responses that naturists get when they are advocating or even just trying to explain to non-naturists about the naturist philosophy, is the question “What about the children?”.
As any parent of young children will attest, young kids like running around naked. Infants don't care. We haven’t taught them body shame yet, that lesson is perhaps some time away. I argue that we should leave that lesson out of the curriculum altogether and shouldn’t teach them to be ashamed of their bodies at all. It appears that society, the mainstream media and the advertisers that need body shame to sell us products to improve our confidence, are going to fight me on that issue.
Research commissioned by the British Board of Film Classification indicates that children are exposed to pornography from an early age, in some cases as young as seven or eight. While the research states that over 60% of young children (11-13) who had seen pornography indicated that they had stumbled onto it unintentionally, our youngsters are seeing content that does little to help develop healthy attitudes to sexual behaviour.
Children are exposed to pornography earlier than we might wish to admit. They are seeing nudity and sexual activity either by accident or by seeking it out, so arming them with the healthier attitudes to body image and respect for others that the naturist philosophy promotes, would seem to be a responsible step in combatting the known harms of exposing developing minds to pornography.
If they are seeing nudity in pornography anyway, stopping them from seeing nudity in a non-sexual and alternative way would appear to limit giving them balanced information, reinforcing the harmful examples that they are exposed to.
I recently listened to, and would recommend, an excellent podcast from the Naturist Living Show, in which professor and academic Mark Storey was interviewed about children and naturism. It is the first of two podcasts, the second of which is yet to be broadcast at the time I am writing this.
In summary, there have been a few academic studies on children and nudity, although many of these studies are getting older. The studies that have been carried out, along with anecdotal evidence suggest that broadly speaking, naturism is not harmful to children. It may actually be beneficial.
While the evidence suggests that most abuse of children happens in private, by people known to the child, there appears to be a raw emotional and often shocked response against children being exposed to non-sexual nudity.
Of course, there is always a risk of harm to young children, but in denying children a healthy and open discussion about nudity, their bodies and issues of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, we are in effect, arming those who wish to take sexual advantage of young children. If children are encouraged to speak freely, ask questions and have conversations about their bodies, then there are fewer chances that shame and fear can be used against them by unscrupulous adults looking to manipulate and take advantage.
By calling out natural behaviour as dirty or wrong and hiding behind a curtain of misguided social or moral pretence we are teaching our children that these things should not be discussed, and are giving predators an effective tool to help keep their victims ashamed and quiet, often until it is too late.
The abuse of children often requires the predator to have time, space and privacy. Naturist parks and environments are full of people who look out for each other, so opportunities for any abuse are greatly reduced. The paranoia about the risks of children being abused in such environments seems to be disproportionate to the actual instances of child abuse.
Do we ask “what about the children?” when we expose them to the increasing number of hyper-sexualised music videos?
Do we ask “what about the children?” when they are exposed to the overtly sexualised content of Instagram and TikTok?
Do we ask “what about the children?” When we allow them unsupervised access to the internet, remembering that over 60% of 11 to 13-year-olds have viewed pornography online?
Despite the perception of the church as upholding good family values, given the recorded number of child abuse incidents by the church, perhaps we should be asking “what about the children!” Whenever anyone mentions taking their kids to the Lord’s house.
Is it possible that demonstrating to young people the fact that nudity does not equal sex, might help balance their attitudes to be more healthy and respectful?
Perhaps naturism or the practice of going about the day doing ordinary things, but without clothes, is thinking of the children. If it helps to build healthy attitudes around respect, acceptance, consent and body confidence, then isn’t that something that all parents want for their children?
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.