Way too much privacy!

I recall a time when I played sports in school. There was a communal shower with no separations or stalls between shower heads. In college the showers had a column with four shower heads in either direction, so you are facing another teammate as you get clean after a sweaty practice or game.

Those times are long gone. Now there is way too much privacy. More recently I remember going to a church camp where there were private stalls for showers, a curtain to hide behind and another area as a buffer to change in with a second curtain AND a sign out front to show that it’s occupied. This includes several layers of protection from having any amount of flesh being seen by another person. The newest generations are obsessed with privacy. How is that working out for us as a society?

Chad W. Thompson spends the bulk of a chapter (chapter 3) in his book “That Famous Fig Leaf.” noting that:

The circumstances in which nudity can occur outside of a sexual context are becoming more and more elusive, as is indicated by the disposition of many adolescents and millennials towards communal showers. Yet bodies that are, at least partially, exposed for the purpose of sensual gratification are everywhere. We live in a culture whose inhabitants spend billions of dollars a year to see each other naked on Internet sites and in pornographic films, yet are often uncomfortable changing in front of each other in locker rooms or even being seen in a swimsuit on the beach. This is due to either bodily insecurity, or fear of being sexually objectified. Could it be that we have so profoundly fused the image of the exposed body with sexual gratification that there is no context left for it to be laid bare without evoking either shame or arousal?

Thompson’s work is well-researched as he quotes various other author’s books and articles of interest. This excerpt is especially enlightening: 

A 2009 article from The Oregonian, “Shower Together at School? No Way, Dude,” observed: It’s a rare student who showers after sports or gym classes these days. A quick dab of deodorant and a dousing of cologne or perfume, and it’s on to the next class . . . Communal showers—the awkward rite of passage into puberty—are a thing of the past. In fact, Oregon schools haven’t required showers for at least a decade. The same is true nationally.77 The New York Times, in a 1996 article “Students Still Sweat, They Just Don’t Shower,” wrote: Students across the United States have abandoned school showers, and their attitudes seem to be much the same whether they live in inner-city high-rises, on suburban cul-de-sacs or in far-flung little towns in cornfield country.78 The article goes on to quote student after student listing all the reasons they would never shower, or change clothes, in front of their same-gender classmates. “You don’t want to get made fun of,”79 stated one fifteen-year-old boy. “. . . you don’t feel very good about yourself,”80 said an overweight student who used to race to the locker rooms after class so that he’d be done showering before the other boys arrived. “You never know who’s looking at you,”81 said an eighteen-year-old female from Illinois. Quotes from these students’ teachers only further illustrate the fact that students are changing the way they change. “These guys don’t want to undress in front of each other,” said a high school teacher in suburban Chicago. “I just don’t get it. When I started in ’74, nobody even thought about things like this. The whole thing is just hard for me to accept.”82 An Illinois football coach said “These guys would play a two-and-a-half-hour game, and then they’d just want to go home, all muddy, so they could have their privacy. Used to be, when you get sweaty and stinky, you wanted to take a shower.”83 Also mentioned in the Times article is a boys’ tennis team that practices mornings before school at the community racquet club, just a few blocks from the high school. “But rather than shower at the club, many of the boys get picked up by their parents and driven back home to shower, and then return to school.”84 The article goes on to say: A generation ago, when most schools mandated showers, a teacher would typically monitor students and hand out towels, making sure that proper hygiene was observed. In schools with pools, students were sometimes required to swim naked, and teachers would conduct inspections for cleanliness that schools today would not dare allow, whether because of greater respect for children or greater fear of lawsuits.85 Mass contempt for public showers seems, to many, to be something which emerged only in recent history. Yet when the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to file a lawsuit in federal court over a mandatory shower policy in Pennsylvania, the lawyer who worked the case was overwhelmed by correspondence from adults who supported him. “People remembered their own humiliation. I myself remember moving from my little country school to the city school, and being mortified about having to take showers. But in those days, you did what the schools said, you did what the teachers said.”86 

And later he goes on to say:

According to the New York Times: Modesty among young people today seems, in some ways, out of step in a culture that sells and celebrates the uncovered body in advertisements, on television and in movies. But some health and physical education experts contend that many students withdraw precisely because of the overload of erotic images—so many perfectly toned bodies cannot help but leave ordinary mortals feeling a bit inadequate.89 In a more recent Times article, “Men’s Locker Room Designers Take Pity on Naked Millennials,” Choire Sicha reports on the emerging demand for nudity-free locker rooms. Sicha describes the fear which drives men to slide their underwear on under their towels: “Each day, thousands upon thousands of men in locker rooms nationwide struggle to put on their underwear while still covered chastely in shower towels, like horrible breathless arthropods molting into something tender-skinned. They writhe, still moist, into fresh clothes.”90 Bryan Dunkelberger of S3 Design, an architecture firm that designs locker rooms, told Sicha: In the last 20 years, maybe 25 years, there’s a huge cultural shift in people that ultimately affects gyms . . . Old-timers, guys that are 60-plus, have no problem with a gang shower and whatever. The Gen X-ers are a little bit more sensitive to what they’re spending and what they’re expecting. And the millennials, these are the special children. They expect all the amenities. They grew up in families that had Y.M.C.A. or country club memberships. They expect certain things. Privacy, they expect.91 Mark Joseph Stern, writing for Slate.com, commented on Sicha’s article, “While older men generally remain comfortable being undressed among others, younger ones insist on maximum privacy, pining for a way to strip, shower, and change clothes without even a flash of nudity.”92 Why is there such aversion to nudity among millennials? In the article “Nothing to See Here: A History of Showers in Sports,” ESPN sports writer David Fleming describes the sociological constructs that converge when clothes come off, most of which are far more pronounced today than in the age of the boomers: When stinky teammates strip down to their most vulnerable state, it conjures, for some, a range of emotions: their most awkward memories (middle school gym class), deepest insecurities (size), purest symbolism (baptism) and most ignorant defense mechanisms (homophobia).93

The normalization of nudity can do wonders for the fear and insecurity of so many. Yet, the opportunity for nudity in a non-erotic context is a rarity. What is also mind boggling and perhaps the subject of another article altogether is the rise and commonplace of sexting among the same people who would have trouble changing in public among their own sex. The sexting is often done without a face in the photos, so that the headless body can’t be traced back to the person. There is more confidence this way, but really it is a lack of confidence to not include ones face. A headless photo of the body — how much more dehumanizing can one be?

The naturist experience stands in stark contrast to all of this (do you see what I did there?). Their photos are evidence. Naturist photos are like anyone else’s vacation photos, except for the fact that they are naked. Some people ask why naturists take and share their photos? I would ask why non-naturists take and share their photos? They want others to share in the experience of where they were and what they were doing. Those who know them will live vicariously through their trip to Disney through the record of photo ops. For naturists, it’s the exact same. They took a trip, not to Disney, but to natural hot springs, for example, and maybe you should add it to your bucket list. Their smiles are always huge as naturists are often at peace and joyful about what they are doing. They aren’t ashamed of their bodies or having their heads attached to them. Doesn’t this sound like a more wholesome and healthy way of being? I think so.

In a world that is way too private, naturists in essence have not much need of it. I grew up with privacy at a premium. The ability to be so matter a fact now with nudity is a blessing in many ways. I’m no longer repressed under a body shame taboo. Nakedness isn’t mysterious, and the body isn’t a source of lust like I once thought it was. It just is a body, and more importantly it’s a somebody.

Just the other day, my wife and I went over to some naturist friend’s house for the day. As we arrived we were greeted by a naked man. After going inside, we were told we could also get comfortable if we wanted to. That’s what we did. We ate together, played games, and eventually took to the hot tub on the porch and had a wonderful time and great conversation. None of this had any sexual connotation or anything I would call indecent. Quite the contrary. It was a sweet time of fellowship. When it was time to head home, we changed back into our street clothes and left. No shame. No insecurity. Just comfortable and intimate (not in the sense that some would interpret intimacy). 

And that’s just the difference. Where some are not comfortable dressing in a locker room amongst those of their same gender, others are completely in their element hanging out (literally) in their own skin in mixed company. I’ve been on both sides of that spectrum. I know what both those feelings are like. I have no desire of going back to how I was before. I strongly believe that the uninhibited version of myself is the more sane, mentally and emotionally healthy, and well-rounded individual. One experience is fraught with anxiety and hang-ups; the other replete with ultimate relaxation and relational bliss. For me, it’s an obvious choice. You CAN have too much privacy. 


Source:

Chad W. Thompson, That famous fig leaf : uncovering the holiness of our bodies (Cascade Books, 2019), 28-32.

Quoted in Thompson:

77. Owen, “Shower Together,” para. 3.

78. Johnson, “Students Still Sweat,” para. 5.

79. Johnson, “Students Still Sweat,” para. 23. 

80. Johnson, “Students Still Sweat,” para. 25. 

81. Johnson, “Students Still Sweat,” para. 27. 

82. Johnson, “Students Still Sweat,” para. 9. 

83. Johnson, “Students Still Sweat,” para. 30. 

84. Johnson, “Students Still Sweat,” para. 28. 

85. Johnson, “Students Still Sweat,” para. 8. 

86. Johnson, “Students Still Sweat,” para. 14. 

89. Johnson, “Students Still Sweat,” para. 16–17. 

90. Sicha, “Men’s Locker Room,” para. 4. 

91. Sicha, “Men’s Locker Room,” para. 5. 

92. Stern, “If You Are Not Comfortable,” para. 1. 

93. Fleming, “Nothing to See,” para. 3.

Owen, Wendy. “Shower Together at School? No Way, Dude.” The Oregonian Extra (July 22, 2009). http://blog.oregonlive.com/oregonianextra/2009/07/shower_together_at_school_no_w.html.

Johnson, Dirk. “Students Still Sweat, They Just Don’t Shower.” The New York Times (April 22, 1996). http://www.nytimes.com/1996/04/22/us/students-still-sweat-they-just-don-t-shower.html.

Sicha, Choire. “Men’s Locker Room Designers Take Pity on Naked Millennials.” The New York Times (December 3, 2015). http://www.nytimes.com/2015 /12/04/fashion/mens-style/mens-locker-room-designers-take-pity-on-naked-millennials.html?hpw&rref=fashion&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0.

Stern, Mark Joseph. “If You Are Not Comfortable Being Naked Around Other People, You Are Not an Adult.” Outward. http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/12/03/locker_room_nudity_is_healthy_and_normal_fear_of_it_is_irrational.html.

Fleming, David. “Nothing to See Here: A History of Showers in Sports.” ESPN The Magazine (July 8, 2014). http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/11169006/nfl-showers-hostile-environment-michael-sam-espn-magazine.

From Fat & Prideful to Beautiful & Holy

Ever since I can remember, I’ve taken issue with my body. I’ve always compared myself to the “skinny” girls around me. I remember as early as 5th grade a particular girl in my class that for some reason I always compared myself to body-wise. “She’s so skinny. Gosh, I wish I could look like her.” I compared myself to her all through high school and beyond. Even now as a 30 something woman I would see her pictures on Facebook and think to myself, “Having kids didn’t ruin her body. If only I had more self-control not to eat the pizza or the scone.” 

I would avoid looking at myself in the mirror when I walked by it naked as I got out of the shower. I was disgusted by what I saw. Thick thighs, stretch marks, a belly that hangs, boobs that sag, so many dimples in places I thought there shouldn’t be dimples. 

My family has always told me I was beautiful. My husband has always been so kind to lovingly adore my body. He would tell me things like,

“You are the standard by which all beauty is measured”.

So sweet and romantic, but in my mind, total lies. There is no way he loves my body at 230 pounds. He’s just trying to make me feel better. The way I spoke to myself not only affected my own self-worth, but also the way I saw others. I was either terribly down on myself or I would put others down to make myself feel better.

My thinking has changed. I no longer look at myself in disgust. Now I see stretch marks and thank the Lord that my body grew life 4 times! I see my sagging boobs and thank Him for allowing me to feed my babies. I see my thick thighs and thank Him for good food and a strong body that I can use to continue on a journey to health. Last week I went to a public pool with my family. It was the first time I had been since I had changed my thinking. As I sat there enjoying the cool water on that very hot day something occurred to me. Not once had I looked at the skinny girl and wished I was her. Not once did I judge the heavier girl! Not once did I compare myself to anyone else at that pool! I was completely confident in who I was in my own skin. It must have shown too because my sisters commented on how good I looked. Confidence is attractive! I am beyond grateful for my renewed mind and heart concerning my body!!

I grew up in a Christian home. My family bounced between churches during my childhood. At one point my dad was even the pastor at a church. All my life I was taught “modesty.”

“Make sure you don’t show too much cleavage.”

“Make sure your shorts aren’t too short.”

I took pride in my “modesty” because “our bodies are temples”. I was protecting the boys and men around me from thinking lustful thoughts. There was no way they were going to lust after me anyway because I was “fat” and covered up. My parents taught us the way they thought best. That’s what they were taught after all. For generations parents have been teaching their girls to cover up and their boys to be good because “that’s what the Bible says.” I have been teaching my own 4 children the same. But is this really what Scripture teaches? Is this really what the Lord had in mind and desires of us? I believe the church is missing the mark and we are debilitating our kids in the process.

Let’s get real! No more masks! No more “we can’t talk about that!” No more tip toeing around what’s really going on!

The way the church approaches the body is doing way more harm than good! By the time our boys bounce their eyes, the image is already in their head. It doesn’t take staring at it for the lust to begin, because we are conditioning our boys that the sight of the opposite gender is going to automatically trigger a sexual response. Wearing modest clothing isn’t keeping our men and boys from lusting and wondering what’s underneath. I have talked to several men who said it didn’t matter what someone was or wasn’t wearing, the curiosity was still there. But when everyone is bare, nothing is remarkable. I’ve seen this first hand recently while visiting a nude beach. I saw many people being modest and none of them were wearing clothes. They were showing a mutual respect for not only bodies around them but also the person as a whole. More on that in a future post!

We girls can do all the right things, but if someone’s mind is in the gutter, we could still be lusted after. I have recently been introduced to a group of people who believe, like me, that we can do better. We need to start showing our children that they have been created in the image and likeness of the Most High God! That word means a picture. A physical and spiritual image of the Lord! No matter what we look like, our bodies are a gift from God and the pinnacle of His creation. If we can begin to put that into the minds and hearts of our children, I believe that we could begin to change the current course the world and the church is on. The current methods aren’t working! We give the boys a pass with phrases like, “Boys will be boys” and “every man’s battle.” We put blame and guilt on girls because their skirts are too short and their shirt is too low cut. It’s wrong, and it’s not fair to either group!

I will not lie down and surrender to the notion that my boys are sentenced to a lifetime of bouncing their eyes or installing barriers on their computers in order not to lust! That is bondage! We need renewed minds and hearts!

I refuse to lie down and surrender to the notion that my daughter will forever feel inferior and ugly because she’s comparing her body to the ones she sees in the magazines or on TV! That is bondage! We need renewed minds and hearts!

This is a work in progress for our family because this way of thinking is fairly new to us, but I will do everything in my power to help my children live in freedom as they reject bondage to the lies of Satan! I will not give up this fight! Satan will not win! IN THE NAME OF JESUS, NOT ON MY WATCH!