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Caution: Contains Nudity and Sex

Please note: This post contains a couple of passing references to my own personal sexuality. Not a ton, and not in any great detail; but family members and others who don’t want to read about that stuff might decide to skip this one. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

I want to talk about nudity.

I want to talk about sex.

And I want to talk about how the two get confused and conflated.

Hot_tub
Some years ago, I read a letter to Dear Abby from a concerned mother. She had recently discovered that her children — her full-grown, adult, married children — were having hot tub parties with other adults… parties at which these adults sat together in hot tubs without their clothing.

She was appalled. She was deeply concerned about where this was heading. And Dear Abby fanned the flames of this concern into near-panic. She essentially said (I’ll have to paraphrase here, since I can’t find the original column), “Your children are headed for trouble. This can lead to no good.”

Danger
Ms. Abby obviously believed, either that these naked hot tub parties would inevitably lead to swinging and infidelity and other disasters, or that they already had done so. It wasn’t quite clear which. But the equation in her mind was very clear indeed: Being naked around other naked people either implies an already existing sexual relationship, or will inevitably lead to one.

An equation that not only pissed me off, but completely baffled me.

So. Now I have a confession to make.

I regularly attend parties and gatherings at which there is naked hot tubbing… with people I have never in my life had sex with, and probably never will.

And it’s really no big deal.

Occasionally, at some of these parties, people attend who haven’t attended before. And when hot tub time rolls around, some of them will oh- so- casually stroll out to the deck, to oh- so- casually engage in conversation with the naked people. They try to be polite and not obvious about their gawking, but it’s still clear that gawking is what they’re doing. And those of us who are hot-tub veterans are a bit puzzled by this. My own reaction is fairly typical: “Woo hoo. Middle-aged naked people, sitting in a tub of water. And this is interesting because… ?”

So this is the thing I have noticed:

Among people who are comfortable with sex, and knowledgeable about it, and fairly experienced with it, nudity is just not that big a deal.

And it’s just not that sexual a deal.

Among people who are comfortable with sex, the mere fact of nudity isn’t automatically erotic, and doesn’t automatically get associated with sexuality and sexual excitement. The context of the nudity is what matters. A naked person sprawled enticingly on a bed (or some other piece of furniture) in your favorite position? You betcha. A naked person getting spanked, or getting buttfucked, or getting their toes licked, or doing whatever your own personal erotic hot buttons might be? Damn straight.

Rubber_duck
But a naked person in a hot tub playing with a rubber duck and singing about boar hunting? Probably not so much. (Unless that happens to be your personal erotic hot button. In which case, more power to you.) In my experience, people who are more comfortable with sex are able to look at naked people, and even be naked themselves in the presence of naked people, without being driven into an uncontrollable sexual frenzy. Or indeed, a sexual frenzy of any kind.

Dr. Marty Klein was just writing about this on his Sexual Intelligence blog. He talks about a visit to a topless beach in Europe. He talks about his initial surprise and entertainment at the naked breasts all around him. And he talks about how, “after roughly three minutes, none were as entertaining as the conversation with Marina and Roberto about the 16th-century competition between the Hapsburg and Venetian Empires.”

Marty’s point was that the repression of nudity contributes to the repression of sex: that being comfortable and familiar with nudity helps create a relaxed attitude about sexuality. And it’s a point I’d agree with. But I think the reverse is true as well. Being comfortable and familiar with sex helps create a relaxed attitude about nudity.

And it helps create a distinction between the two.

Playboyfeb73
There’s a part of me that misses how easily excited I used to be. There’s a part of me that misses getting wildly turned on by the naked women in the Playboys I swiped from my
dad, or by any image of nudity that I acquired or stumbled upon. And there’s a part of me that worries that my desire for pretty darned explicit, pretty darned kinky porn is a sign that I’m getting jaded. (A topic for another day.)

But another, larger, more grown-up part of me welcomes this separation between nudity and sexual excitement. The more grown-up part of me understands that bodies have lots of functions, of which sex is only one. The more grown-up part of me understands that other people’s bodies exist for their own pleasure and their own purposes, not necessarily for mine. The more grown-up part of me understands that being comfortable with my body doesn’t just mean being comfortable with my sexuality — it means being comfortable with my body when I’m not feeling sexual.

And that part of me is completely baffled by the hysterical moral guardians who run panicked and screaming through the streets at the sight of a naked breast or butt on television. I’m completely baffled by the idea that the sight of a naked breast or butt will lead to the corruption of our youth and the moral decay of our society. Partly because I don’t think sex equals corruption and moral decay… but also because I don’t think nudity equals sex.

And I can’t help thinking what dirty minds these people must have… to have sex automatically be the first thing that leaps to mind, at the mere sight of a naked body part that happens to be more commonly covered.

Comments

  1. chris says

    hmm, yeah Ive been going to the briten bush hot springs, where the standerd policy is nudity at the tubs is ok, since I was 12 or so, and have much the same thoughts on nudity and sex, and buety, (and ugly ness at the same time that i think looking at preaty naked people isnt that big of a deal neather is looking at people not so clasicly pretty, seeing naked old people will not rot your eyes.) ALso tenagers never go nude, too much self consensiness i think. (I did onece because i had missplased my swimtrunks and wet denium is not good, but IM the only one i’ve seen).

  2. Jim H says

    Flashback a few years ago to the “infamous” super bowl “wardrobe malfunction:”
    Why is it that everyone was so scandalized by Janet Jackson’s nipple, and there was almost no public condemnation of the violence inherent in Justin Timberlake’s action, ripping off a piece of her clothing?

  3. says

    We are very casual about nudity in my home. It is very rare for all of us to be fully dressed. When the doorbell rings unexpectedly, there is always a mad dash to acquire clothes to answer it.
    While the kids understand the concept of “private parts” and that only they get to touch their own, there is absolutely nothing sexual about “nakey time” in our house.
    And after watching my wife breastfeed for close to 6 years now, boobies don’t do that much for me anymore. Kinda sad.
    My biggest issue with hanging around non-sexually naked with other adults is due to the fact that I can’t always control what, um, the little cyberlizard does, if you get my drift. Somewhat embarrassing to be discussing the inner workings of the democratic process, let’s say, and find myself making a rather obvious “point” ;-)

  4. Kagehi says

    Actually. What I remember about the whole Janet Jackson BS was a small number of people trying to download the clip, a few thousand moralist idiots sending in letters, and the vast majority of “everyone” I ran across asking, “What the hell is the big deal?”
    Nudists figured this one out a long time ago. They call us “textiles” and shake their heads at the idiotic idea that clothing someone can “prevent” bad behavior, instead of exaggerate it, and are more than happy to point out the, by comparison, near total lack of rapes and sexual assaults, as well as the 2-3 year greater gap between teens developing sexual interests and actually engaging in any, over the entire rest of the population of the US. Yet.. The mere hint, a few years back, that these people where opening teen camps for nudists in “some” states, caused such an absurd panic in Texas, that they had to immediately write up a law, and put it on the ballot that year, banning the formation of any such camp in the state of Texas, “To protect the moral integrity of their children from these ‘sex camps’.” To which the nudist groups replied, “Why the hell would we want to live in Texas, let alone open a camp there, given how insane you people are?”
    I think, much like the whole same sex marriage thing, if you could get the idiots on the far right to shut the hell up and stop lying for five minutes, you would find most of the people in the country actually either honestly wanting to know the real facts, or just going, “Huh? This is a problem?”
    Its always the same bunch of 5,000-10,000 letter writing idiots sending in protests of things they don’t like, and pushing TV producers and the FCC to screw the rest of us. And, as has been pointed out, time and again, **technically** the FCC has outlived its original mandate by probably 20 years, that being roughly the point where TV stations became widely available, but newspapers started to be reduced to 1-2 per city, instead of 10+, and therefor, by their own mandate, it become the “news papers” people “couldn’t change the channel to avoid”, not the damn TV stations.

  5. Marley Fitz says

    Oh Greta……I love to agree with you. I usually do. In fact, I think this is the FIRST time I will disagree.
    Your write, “And I can’t help thinking what dirty minds these people must have… to have sex automatically be the first thing that leaps to mind, etc..”
    If you’re just talking about nude beaches here….who cares? Or, the “sight of a naked breast or butt on television”….big deal. These displays of nudity should be considered natural. Yes, we should relax about this.
    But, nudity in a hot tub? Someone is being less than honest here and I suspect it could be the couple in the Dear Abbey column. Hosting “parties” with other couples, during which they get naked and relax in the hot tub?
    Yeah, right. I’ve been to plenty of parties in my 49 years and the ones where we ended up in a hot tub with others were all about the “potential” for sexual activity.
    (Then there are the parties I attend where I purchase jewelry and candles. These don’t involve hot tubs.)
    Again, you write, “In my experience, people who are more comfortable with sex are able to look at naked people, and even be naked themselves in the presence of naked people, without being driven into an uncontrollable sexual frenzy.”
    I am totally comfortable with sex and hope I never live to see the day when the sight of a naked man (or woman) IN A HOT TUB w/ other adults “at a party” does not drive me into a sexual frenzy. Because, that’s what it’s suppose to do.
    (And, I hope I NEVER have to attend another candle or jewelry party.)
    I wish Dear Abbey’s response would have been “Mind your own business, Mom. These are grown children we’re talking about. They don’t live under your roof so they don’t have to follow your rules.”

  6. Kagehi says

    Marley.. If you go to a lot of parties that are “specifically” for that purpose, then yeah, you will end up thinking in those terms every time you see a hot tub. That is kind of the fracking point. All the stupid rules people come up with about what is “appropriate” or not have the effect of “creating” stimulus from that wouldn’t otherwise cause them.
    Now, we had one night a few years back with like 6 cop cars, and 3 sheriff vehicles out front, and naked female cops running across the front lawn, due to having a hot tub that could have 35 people in it (we got it from a resort that was closing down). As far as I know, no one was “looking for sex” there, if they where, it wasn’t their “only” reason, and frankly, if it had been, if would have gotten more than a few law enforcement people fired. So.. Try going to a party some time that “isn’t” a sex party, maybe your attitude would change about the matter. lol

  7. Marley Fitz says

    Kagehi,
    Hot tub for 35. That’s not a hot tub, that’s a pool. And, I have one of those (heated, but only usuable in summer, due to living in Chgo). And, no, playing in our pool not related to sex.
    And, you wrote, “as far as I know, no one was looking for sex”. Maybe there were things you DIDN’T know. I just don’t believe it. Cops behaving badly……there’s NO WAY this did not have a sexual undercurrent.

  8. Kagehi says

    Pools don’t generally have a) air jets, b) seating all around the outside edge, and c) a depth of no more than about 3-4 feet from one end to the other. Though, I suppose, technically, someone might get picky about the definition.
    But, still, I stand by my point. Your experience is *entirely* one sided on the issue of hot tubs, so its inherently biased.

  9. says

    I’m sorry, Marley, but I’m with Kahegi on this one. I’ve done social hot-tubbing many, many times in my life, with a wide assortment of social circles, and it’s never been a thinly- veiled prelude to sex, or an attempt to drive the participants into a sexual frenzy.
    I’m not saying that never happens. In fact, I’m quite sure that, in the history of hot tubs, they have been used as ice-breakers for orgies and whatnot. I’m just saying that that’s not automatically inherent to the hot tub experience.
    And Zipi — yes, you may well have read this before. It’s a reprint from a post I did a couple of months ago on the Blowfish Blog.

  10. Elin says

    This discussion reminds me of the “working out is hot” column you did a couple of months back. Now a gym contains a bunch of sometimes very scantily clad, gneerally very well-built people being physical and getting all sweaty and breathing heavily and occasionally moaning.
    And yet, if you go to a gym and gawk at every scantily clad, heavy-breathing person you see, and behave in a way that makes it obvious you’re looking for sex, it’s considered rude, even obnoxious. I certainly appreciate the beauty that surrounds me at the gym, and depending on the time of the month it may make me mildly to extra-horny, but no one argues that going to the gym is going to turn you into a nymphomaniac.
    In my experience, whether or not naked hot-tubbing is automatically sexual or not tends to hinge on how much alcohol (and other substances) is involved.

  11. Elin says

    This discussion reminds me of the “working out is hot” column you did a couple of months back. Now a gym contains a bunch of sometimes very scantily clad, gneerally very well-built people being physical and getting all sweaty and breathing heavily and occasionally moaning.
    And yet, if you go to a gym and gawk at every scantily clad, heavy-breathing person you see, and behave in a way that makes it obvious you’re looking for sex, it’s considered rude, even obnoxious. I certainly appreciate the beauty that surrounds me at the gym, and depending on the time of the month it may make me mildly to extra-horny, but no one argues that going to the gym is going to turn you into a nymphomaniac.
    In my experience, whether or not naked hot-tubbing is automatically sexual or not tends to hinge on how much alcohol (and other substances) is involved.

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