Discover more from A Comfort of Naturists
That wasn't what we meant to happen.
Many people who know me personally might well know that I often bang on about unintended consequences. Usually, these rants are restricted to policy decisions made by government officials and the adverse effects on society that will no doubt emerge as a result. Over the last 5 years or so, our well-meaning government has legislated several changes with the best intentions, only to have the outcome disadvantage those it was trying to help.
In 2018, for example, here in New Zealand, property managers and rental agencies were banned from charging letting fees to place renters into properties. Usually, a renter would pay a few weeks’ rent as a fee to the property manager. This fee covered the cost associated with managing the rental property and administration costs.
The government decided that this fee was unfair to renters, and so banned the practice, claiming that the property managers should look to the property owners (landlords) to recoup their costs.
The unintended consequence was that landlords increased their rent to cover the costs. Renters, rather than paying a few weeks’ rent upfront, were now paying an increased rental for the duration of their tenancy. The government, in trying to help those in greater need, has actually made things worse for them. To rub salt into the wound, many people predicted that the policy would backfire and that rents would increase as a result of the changes. Our prime minister at the time, when asked about the likelihood of rents rising as a result of the policy, simply said that she hoped landlords wouldn’t increase rents.
A more recent example I saw reported the other day was that of Utah's Republican government passing a law in 2022 banning "pornographic or indecent" books from schools. A parent claimed that the Bible could be considered pornographic and violent by the same standards and the Davis School District has subsequently removed the Bible from the shelves in elementary and middle schools.
The other week I read Stéphane Deschênes article on Planet Nude about children and naturism and it occurred to me that the unintended consequence of trying to protect children may have done them much more harm.
There is no argument that children need to be kept safe from sexual abuse. The sad reality is that most abuse of children is perpetrated by family members or family friends. The organisation “Darkness to Light” focuses on ending child sexual abuse. Their research indicates that 90% of sexual abuse of children is carried out by family members (30%) or trusted family friends (60%).
One could argue that children are more likely to be abused by a member of their family, community or church than they are by a stranger.
Treating nudity as something to be ashamed of, allows predators to manipulate and coerce children into keeping secrets.
Teaching children that simple nudity is not sexual and that their bodies are nothing to be ashamed of should be the default position in building their body confidence and self-esteem. Treating nudity as sexual does nothing to protect or help them from threats of sexual abuse.
Teaching them to be aware of their bodies, to understand that we are all the same and that there is no shame in nudity, allows them to have confidence rather than shame, and perhaps the confidence to talk to an adult when someone is asking them to do something inappropriate.
Being overly sensitive about nudity around children is arguably having a profoundly negative effect on their development and their attitudes to body image.
Kids are increasingly seeing hyper-sexualised images in music videos, social media posts and even mainstream media. The airbrushed and manipulated images of people set unobtainable beauty standards for many of our children.
The aforementioned Planet Nude article references a recent survey by the Guardian in which:
Three out of four children as young as 12 dislike their bodies and are embarrassed by the way they look, increasing to eight in 10 young people aged 18 to 21.
There is a risk that we are creating a generation of people who are unaware of what a normal naked person looks like. By comparing themselves only to the images that social media promotes, and with no real-world reference, we are setting them up to be ashamed of their bodies.
What message does banning nudity from a changing room send to our children? Even in a room specifically designed for removing our clothes to change into or out of swimwear, nudity is to be avoided. The Australian Surf Club that recently banned nudity in their changing rooms said that the policy was to protect the children. Protect them from what? From accidentally glimpsing a naked person changing out of wet swimwear or showering? Sounds like an introductory lesson from a Body-Shaming 101 course.
I believe that shielding children from simple non-sexual nudity will have significant unintended consequences in generations to come. Already we are seeing cases of children as young as 14 seriously considering cosmetic surgery to try and cope with their lack of body confidence.
Societies’ pathological fear of harming our kids by letting them see normal bodies is likely to have negative consequences for generations to come. By trying to protect them from harm, we may be burdening them with a lifetime of anxiety and issues around body acceptance.
“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” - Milton Friedman
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.