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Nudism and naturism

Nudism in the home, health aspects,
in public, nudism on TV, toplessness

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Nudity Within the Home

Dr. Benjamin Spock, Dr. Joyce Brothers, and some other leading psychologists and pediatricians believe that nudity in the family can be damaging to children. This is certainly true if the parents feel awkward; the children will readily pick up feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment from their parents. On the other hand, other professionals take the opposite view. The president of the Swiss  School for Parent Education is Dr. Marilyn Fithian, a sex therapist and psychiatrist. In her book "Show Me" she says:

"A child who has never been allowed to see his parents and brothers and sisters naked sees nudity as something shocking. Children will only have a sense of their bodies as something 'good' if they receive much tenderness and devotion from their parents from birth. In order to enjoy sex fully, it is necessary to enjoy one's own body naturally."

Dr. Lee Salk has said:

"Being natural and matter-of-fact about nudity prevents your children from developing an attitude of shame or disgust about the human body. If parents are very secretive about their bodies and go to great lengths to prevent their children from ever seeing a buttock or breast, children will wonder what is so unusual, and even alarming, about human nudity."

Dr. Lloyd de Mause, Director of the New York Center for Psychoanalytic Training, said:

"There is no evidence supporting claims that exposure to nudity produces a higher number of psycho sexual problems in either children or adults who were raised in such an environment."

The difference of opinion among mental health experts about the advantages and disadvantages of naturism will probably continue for the foreseeable future. What is needed are longitudinal studies which compare the sexual deviancy, social deviancy, sexual adjustment, and general mental health of adults who were raised in naturist and textile homes. We have been unable to locate such studies. If any readers know of any, we would appreciate learning of them.

In late 2000, the local government in the Simi Valley, CA area passed an ordinance that could forbid nudity in an individual's back yard, even if the person is shielded from view by neighbors and the rest of the public. 

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Health Aspects to Nudism

bullet In 1997, The US Health Service carried an article about sea lice in Florida beaches. These lice are microscopic jellyfish which have become trapped in swimsuits. While struggling to get free, they often sting the person. A severe rash can result. They are the larval form of "Linuche unquiculata", popularly known as a thimble jellyfish. 1

One Journal commented on the article:

"We don't know whether it is obedience to social mores or a commercial link to fashion industry that has prevented the authors from suggesting an important preventive strategy for seabather's eruption in an otherwise excellent article. In the interest of good public health research and practice, we feel compelled to note that abandoning swimming garments altogether, usually referred to as "nude bathing" or "skinny dipping" might go a long way to reducing the occurrence of this disease."

The 1997 story was carried in a wide variety of local newspapers including Florida Today (JAN-17), The Miami Herald (JAN-17), The Orlando Sentinel (JAN-17), and the Sun-Sentinel (JAN-16).

Large concentrations of lice appear from March to August each year on Florida's Atlantic Ocean coast. One source estimated that 10,000 people were affected in 1992. 2 A sample of 1433 people who swam near the apparent center of the outbreaks found that one out of every four were bitten. The solutions are obvious: swimming nude or staying out of the ocean.

bullet Nude sunbathing obviously exposes more body surface area to sunlight and insects. A naturist needs to take care that the additional surfaces are well protected with sun screen and insect repellent.

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Nudity on Television:

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been enforcing a relatively new obscenity and indecency regulation, 47 CFR 73.3999 which controls television content between 6 AM and 10 PM when children are most liable to be watching. To be banned, material must meet both objective and subjective standards:

"...material must describe or depict sexual or excretory organs or activities.  Once the Commission determines that the material aired falls within that definition, we must then evaluate whether the broadcast is patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium...The full context in which the material appeared must be considered in determining whether material is patently offensive." 3

On 2000-JAN-11 the FCC issued a ruling which dismissed a complaint by an individual, T.B. Nort,h about a broadcast by WPBN and WTOM in Michigan on 1997-APR-30. He was distressed at a scene in the movie Schildler's List which showed full frontal nudity. This is a movie about the Nazi Holocaust. He stated in his submission that it:

"cannot be disputed with any amount of intelligence...[that] there is nothing in human existence, short of death, severe injury, or legal obscenity that is more disturbing to the mind or emotions that [sic] the uninvited sight of adult frontal nudity."  

The FCC disagreed with his assertion. They also upheld an earlier ruling by the Mass Media Bureau (MMB) that the material was acceptable. The FCC described the MMB as ruling:

"that material which may be patently offensive in one context may not be so if presented under other circumstances. The staff concluded that although this airing of Schindler's List did contain incidental frontal nudity, the material broadcast depicted a historical view of World War II and wartime atrocities which, viewed in that context, was not presented in a pandering, titillating or vulgar manner or in any way that would be considered patently offensive and, therefore, actionably indecent." 3

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United States: The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that all citizens will be treated equally under the law. A case might be made that any law which allows men to go topless while requiring women to cover up is unconstitutional. However, to our knowledge, no such ruling by the Supreme Court has ever been made.

In the United States, the right to go topless is thus currently determined by state or local laws. Some of these specifically criminalize exposure of the female breast or nipple or areola. Other statutes refer generally to exposure of genitals, "private parts", "the body" etc., and may allow women to bare their breasts. One source listed the following states as permitting topless clothing: Hawaii, Maine, Ohio, New York and Texas. 4 The accuracy of this list is unknown. However, the ultimate decision whether to cite or arrest is left up to the police officer. He/she might decide that a generic bylaw or state law banning disorderliness or "creating a disturbance" or "lewd and lascivious behavior" might apply to a topless woman. There are no guarantees of safety unless you are at a naturist facility or are on your own property and not visible from any location beyond your property.

Canada: In 1991, a University of Guelph co-ed, Gwen Jacob, walked topless in the streets of Guelph, ON, on a very hot summer day. She was arrested and convicted of indecent exposure. But her conviction was overturned in 1995-DEC by the Ontario Appeal Court. The court ruled that "There was nothing degrading or dehumanizing in what the appellant did." That theoretically makes toplessness legal for women as it is for men anywhere in the Province of Ontario.

But some municipalities do not appear ready to accept this ruling. On April Fool's Day, 1997 the city council of Cambridge, ON passed a bylaw requiring any female over the age of 5 to wear a top that "covers the female breasts". This bylaw appears to criminalize the wearing of most bikinis, which usually only cover part of the breasts. Fatima Pereira Henson, 34, complained: "We've got potholes in the streets that need to be filled, and they're dabbling in an issue that's not in the municipal jurisdiction." She decided that city council was discriminating against women. So she went for a swim in the municipal pool without a top. Lifeguards asked her to put on a top, but made what is probably a serious legal error: they did not ask the same thing of a man who was also in the pool. She refused and was arrested for trespassing at the public facility. Her lawyer recited a basic legal principle that one law or regulation cannot be used to prohibit what another law allows, and the Appeals Court has already decided that women cannot be prohibited from being topless in non-sexual situations in public.

In the summer of 1996, there were four "topless situations" in Toronto, ON. In the true Canadian tradition of compromise, the police settled the incidents by asking the women to wear a top, to leave or at least to wear a top next time.

A public opinion poll in 1997-JUN by the Angus Reid Group showed that 17% slightly disapproved and 48% strongly objected to women going topless in public. Forty five percent of men and 21% of women said that it is all right. Thirty eight percent of those 18 to 34 years of age approved; 20% of those 55 years or older did. (margin of error: 3.2%)

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  1. An article "SEA LICE or Seabathers Eruption" is at: 
  2. "Public Health Reports: Journal of the U.S. Public Health Service," Vol. 112, 1997-JAN/FEB, Page 59-62.
  3. "Memorandum opinion and order," Adopted 2000-JAN-11, Federal Communications Commission.
  4. "Women are legally allowed to be topless," Funny Junk, at:

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Copyright © 1996 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-MAR-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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