Why Clothes? A Socio-sexual Perspective of a Proudly Sex-positive Nudist

Now that I have shared something of a personal perspective on the interplay between nudity and sensuality, I would like to tackle another, more specific matter that lies more toward the intellectual “core” of the same topic: the broad question of why human beings ever opted to wear clothing in the first place, and how the answer affects nudism, in terms of socio-sexual relationships. To the initial question--why we wear clothing--there are answers that on the surface do appear quite evident. The first and most obvious is that of simple, functional concern: the environment. To be able to live in the diversity of locations to which we’ve spread across the globe, protection against the elements is a necessity in some cases. The second, less obvious answer to the question, is that some sort of oddly-compounded, out-of-control cultural imperative led to the commonplace situation in which clothing is required in almost all situations, even when it is functionally superfluous.

Regarding that second point, the perspective of traditional nudism goes something like this: it is entirely unnatural and antithetical to human nature to be required to wear clothing when it is functionally unnecessary to do so. Traditional nudists conclude that the requirement to wear clothing has been thrust upon us as a means or symbol of over-arching control and dominance. And, thus, the conclusion continues, the only “correct” and natural way to live is to refuse clothing and embrace universal nudity except when completely impractical. I may be over-simplifying things a bit, for the sake of making a point. In a nutshell, however, that is the gist of the argument offered by many mainstream nudists--at least among many that I have encountered, myself. And it is this argument that often gets cited when some try to claim that someone is not a “true” nudist unless they make every conceivable effort to be naked whenever possible. I, myself, agree with parts of this line of thinking, but not for all the same reasons that are advanced by traditional nudists, and I reach slightly different conclusions, based on a similar line of thinking.

My educational background is in anthropology & evolutionary biology, and it is from that basis which I build my own theories. To my mind, human behavior--and its consequences--only makes sense when viewed from the perspective of biology and evolution. Looking at human behavior without that fundamental insight, to me, is a lot like trying to explain planetary orbits without reference to Newtonian mechanics. Drawing conclusions on the basis of observations that seemingly descend no deeper than reactions to social norms or political ideas is not objective and prone to missing the real truth of the matter. I don’t claim to have “hard” data for my own observations, and nor am I attempting to present a thoroughly scientific, evidence-based argument, here. I just want to add what I hope to be a somewhat unique set of perspectives, and spark the fires of discussion, by offering an insight from the level of biology and evolution.

I’ll begin by pointing-out that primates in general, and humans in particular, exhibit social interactions that--compared to most other species--are, in fact, highly sexualized in nature. Sexuality and sexual partnerships play an enormous role (some would say the only truly important role) in the structure of many primate societies. Paleolithic evidence routinely indicates that early human societies placed highly amplified emphasis on sexual behavior and that sexuality was a key factor in social organization and survival modes. Our closest extant evolutionary relatives--chimpanzees--exhibit a nearly obsessive fixation on sexual behavior, with many individual chimps being observed mating several times per day and with multiple partners. Chimpanzee social structure is, also, very complex and deeply connected to sexual relationships and individual sexuality. Furthermore, chimpanzees exhibit a colorful diversity in their sexual behaviors, including homosexual and bisexual relationships, exhibitionism and voyeurism, masturbation, and even sexual fetishes.

The next key point regarding mammal species, and primates in particular, is that individual members are sexually-identified rather profoundly and almost exclusively by the visually-apparent differences between males and females. Mammals identify their sexual roles, and relate to their sexuality, almost solely upon the basis of the way an individual looks to the eye. In birds, for example, males generally exhibit colorful or flamboyant feather patterns (peacocks being the extreme example). In human beings, the visual differences between males and females are bound-up entirely in the very shape of our bodies and features. Unlike most other species, the very form of a female human body is (generally speaking) quite wildly different from that of males. Human female breasts, and the human male penis, for particularly notable examples, are almost comically exaggerated in size when compared to other mammals and even other primates. The human male penis is (functionally speaking) superfluously large by a factor of many times over, in relationship to body mass. No other species comes even remotely close to matching the human ratio in that particular category. Why would that be? One of the only reasons that makes evolutionary sense is that the visual component of human sexuality became so important that evolution has selected for humans that can quickly--by visual cue only--identify gender and trigger their libido. I.e., large penises make it abundantly, visually apparent who is who, and present an unmistakable cue to the libido.

To take this line of biological reasoning one step further, the fact that body form is the primary identifying sexual cue among humans represents a tantalizing clue in theories explaining why humans (quite uniquely) have almost no hair on their bodies. Why did we humans, in other words, contrary in many respects to other functional needs and the evolutionary direction of other primates, lose nearly all of our body hair? Many anthropologists believe that the answer may be fairly simple: we lost our hair so that the sexual display of our bodies would be more obvious and profound. It is easier to notice the exaggerated differences between male and female, and the unique features of each, in other words, if those differences and features are not covered-up by too much hair. Again, the visual component of our sexuality is so vitally important to us, as human beings, that hairless (nude) bodies have been selected by the very mechanisms of evolution.

No matter how you interpret these factors and theories, one thing is undeniable: we are very strongly oriented by our visual sensation, and that sensation is very much tied to our sexuality. Test after test illustrates that our libidos are initially activated almost entirely by what we see, not by what we hear or smell, or by seasonal timing and other environmental factors, as in the vast majority of other species on Earth. Nudity, therefore, plays an undeniable role in human sexuality. Our appetites for sex (or, at least, our appetites to experience sensuality) are influenced by the visual appearance of the extraordinary differences between male and female bodies. There may be outlying academic objections to the ways in which I have drawn that direct correlation, but I think that there is undeniable merit to the general argument I’m making. And so I'll proceed from there with the socio-sexual consequences.

What does it all mean to us, now, in other words, in a modern societal context? If we reverse the clock--say--50,000 to 100,000 years, to a point at which human social structures were much less complex, we might find some interesting clues. 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, nakedness was almost certainly the norm for most of humanity. Humans as a whole were far more confined to specific climates; environmental or functional concerns did not yet dictate the general utility of clothing. Additionally, those human societies were most certainly as sexually prolific as modern chimpanzees. The two factors are correlated: general nudity among early humans is connected to their profligate sexuality. Nakedness presented a constant signal to all sexually mature adults that anytime was the right time to mate.

With virtually no controls or prohibitions regarding the activation of the human libidio, people were likely engaging in sex whenever, wherever, and with whomever they chose. As social evolution progressed, however, and humans began to rely more upon complex social order and technology, for survival and the development of culture, the prevalence of rampant sexual activity began to work against those goals. The functions of a complex society (the basis of which is the family) demand that there are some limitations placed upon the where, when, and with whom regarding sexual relationships. It is inconvenient, in other words, to have people copulating on the boardroom table in the middle of a meeting, and to have no ideas at all regarding which children belong to which parents. That just doesn’t work in the context of social order if what we wish to create is a culture in which we have the leisure time available for other pleasurable pursuits such as art, conversation, and scientific discovery.

And this, I think, is where the requirement to wear clothing has its ultimate roots. If our libidio is cued by the striking visual representation of our nude bodies and revealed sexual features, then it makes sense to refine and control that phenomenon by enforcing rules regarding the times and places we may opt to be totally nude. And at other times, varying types or degrees of clothing indicate to what degree sexuality is appropriate--sometimes it is somewhat appropriate, other times it is not appropriate at all. The further evolution of our species into our particular ecological niche (technology and culture) simply demanded that we occasionally put on clothing as a way to re-structure the social rules regarding sexuality.

All of which, to my mind, at least on the surface, makes complete sense. I, for one, appreciate complex social structure and the positive benefits of culture and technology. I would not want to eschew those benefits and revert to some theoretical, idealized notion of a “primal” state. Humanity is what it is as a product of evolutionary imperative and--for better or worse--clothing is an obvious component of that imperative. And that is why, even as a nudist, I have absolutely no problem at all with the idea that there are times and places where I most certainly ought to be dressed. I don’t think that clothing, nor the rules that require it are--in and of themselves--somehow “wrong” or oppressive. Those aspects of our societies are simple facts of life that need not be taken to task or questioned on their fundamental merits. As with all aspects of culture and technology, the debate is not over the thing itself but, rather, how it is implemented and used. One doesn't say that a hammer is "good" or "bad," but the way in which the hammer is used may be one or the other, certainly.

The problem with clothing arises as with so many other aspects of our complex societies: things do tend to spin out of control and go “haywire” (that’s a technical term, by-the-way) with the complexity of our rules and restraints. We tend to collectively forget about their original context and intent. People build-up monumentally disproportionate anxieties over them. Rules that otherwise make complete sense become tools by which those in authority can browbeat and manipulate disproportionately large groups of people to the detriment of society as a whole. We accept this manipulation through the development of artificial constructs such as religion and political ideology--both of which are intended to trigger feelings of shamefulness and regret. And the cycle feeds back upon itself, to the point at which, eventually, the rules and restrictions no longer have any valid meaning and must be modified or removed outright, to be replaced by something more sophisticated.

And here is where, I think, the role of modern nudism comes distinctly into play. It is also why I adamantly believe that the natural sexuality of social nudity should be not only accepted but thoroughly embraced. In modern American society, for example, we have a situation in which there are virtually no significant opportunities for people as a whole to be totally nude with one another in simple, casual, outdoor settings that are not somehow contrived for the purpose. We have token places & times set aside for the inconsequential minority of us that call ourselves “nudists” and demand that we be allowed the simple right of taking off our clothes with one-another, while enjoying the outdoors. But in a mainstream sense, we may as well say that there are essentially no clearly and broadly defined options at all for experiencing nudity as a means of social, and broadly socially-acceptable recreation. And that is not healthy--for society or the individual--for a large variety of reasons.

The evolutionary-dictated desire to be totally naked in one-another's presence is there, in all of us. It is laying perhaps dormant or unacknowledged by most people, but it is there regardless and undeniably tied into our sexuality. To continually repress that desire results--probably (I’m no psychologist)--to all sorts of emotional and mental harm. It is probably responsible in large measure for the out-of-control sexual violence and sexism that is witnessed in most human societies. It is quite obvious enough, I think, that the strong, pent-up desire to be nude is present. Why else would we see the “retrograde” evolution of things like “barely there” bikinis, extremely revealing evening attire, nearly-nude costuming, etc. Clearly, people desire the opportunity to be nude with one-another, or, barring that possibility, as bare as legally possible. The rules that dictate our state of dress have become so onerous and unwieldy that our collective psyche has literally pushed us into a corner wherein our innermost, natural desires are fundamentally in conflict with the rules of society and with the confusing addition of religiously-based guilt and shame.

As an example, think for a moment about what is going-on when a woman attends a "topless" beach where the rules of behavior allow her to bare her breasts but require that she keep the pelvic area covered-up, as usual. She opts to wear the briefest of brief "thong" style bikini bottom, barely meeting the legally minimum standard of hiding her genitals from view. What is going-on inside this poor woman's head? She is confronted with a situation in which she is given the go-ahead to be almost totally nude in public, but a bizarre confluence of legalism and contrived moral constraint dictate that she should be guilty about the pride she might otherwise experience if free to bare the specific part of her body that makes-up such an important part of who she actually is. The message sent is terribly confusing: a twisted combination of socially-acceptable sexual representation, on the one hand, and repression and shame on the other hand.

To me, nudism presents a very simple means by which we may untangle this seemingly hopeless pattern of criss-crossing contradictions. The plain fact that humans desire the opportunity to be nude together is more than ample reason to make nudity a pervasive option in most recreational settings--the beach and other recreational waterways, public parks, the wilderness, and other designated locations and times. At the same time, however, I would also state that it should be equally important for us, as individuals, to radically relax our attitudes regarding the very reasons we enjoy being nude with one-another so much. What I hope to have illustrated, here, is that human sexuality is deeply and fundamentally connected to nudity, and that there is absolutely nothing whatsoever--in and of itself--wrong with or harmful about that notion. I believe that it is as unhealthy to hold onto inhibitions around our sexuality as it is to hold onto those that make us so afraid and ashamed of our bodies in the first place. Sexuality is an enormous part of who we are, and we should feel entitled to own that aspect of ourselves and enjoy it for what it is--without shame, guilt, or undue repression.

This doesn’t have to mean that we immediately run to the other end of the spectrum and go “all in” with the concept, pushing ourselves back 50,000 to 100,000 years, to the point where nudism is presented as an opportunity for free-for-all, rampant, lewd sexual encounters. What I, personally, am proposing here is absolutely nothing of the sort. I believe that many, probably most of the rules we have in place regarding the public/private boundary for sexual behavior are sound. I merely wish to open-up our attitudes about feeling guiltless over our desires to experience sexuality, incorporate the joys of sexuality with the experience of being naked, and enjoy healthy, active sex lives.

Happily so, we have evolved past that point of our chimpanzee relatives, and have more satisfactory ways of being in touch with our sexuality than merely having sex constantly. Our sexuality is much more subtle than that, and it is why most of us feel an instinctual revulsion to uninvited sexual advances, pronounced sexual deviance & invasiveness, and profligate sexual activity in general. Gratuitous sexuality, so far as sophisticated individuals are concerned, does not sit well with us. And that’s what makes nudism so special, to my mind: it is the combination of engaging with our innate desires while simultaneously applying a natural and heartfelt restraint that makes it so enjoyable. The suggestion of sexuality and erotica exists without the need to blatantly advertise it or even fully engage with it. There is a deeper level of feeling to be experienced by keeping certain rules in place; by maintaining decorum and personal space.

Again, thanks for reading, and I do hope to hear from all of you again, especially those that wish to disagree and make counterpoints. Message me privately if you'd like.

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64 thoughts on “Why Clothes? A Socio-sexual Perspective of a Proudly Sex-positive Nudist”

  1. But surely trying to “to exclude sexuality from nudity” is from the viewpoint of a non-naturist who thinks of nude as a sexual state. We all think about sex. Naturists don’t regard nude as a sexual state. For them “nude is the new clothed” as it were. That doesn’t mean they necessarily think about sex any less, it just means they don’t think about it any more either.

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  2. A very interesting reference to colonialism in your comment Shane: and it is indeed a feature of colonialism that subjugation and enslaving of indigenous populations was justified at home on the basis that they were ‘naked savages’ and therefore little better than animals; this in the context of a victorian society which became so prudish that even an undressed table leg was considered indecent and sexual. And so we see that the rejection of nudity as savage and uncivilised in our society became a politically and morally essential pillar in the financial exploitation of foreign countries.
    I am sure there is a whole book to be written about that.

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  3. Very thought provoking article Joanne- thank you. Can’t say I am in agreement though. Born-naked’s thought occurred to me too – even today there are many examples of communities which live without clothes where there is strong social order, fidelity, marriage and little or no overt or inappropriate sexual behaviour – both in modern nudist communities as well as the remote jungle tribes of Borneo and elsewhere. The idea that we need clothes in order to prevent us being sexually profligate simply doesn’t hold water. Indeed some such communities which live naked use body painting and ceremonial clothing to sexualise and eroticise their bodies for ceremonies and celebrations, because they see naked as their normal ‘non-sexual’ state, much as in western society we use makeup and fashion to dress up for a party. This leads me to the conclusion that nude is only considered sexual in mainstream western society because clothed is considered the normal state. Human sexuality has evolved beyond that of chimpanzees because of our complex cerebral evolution, not our use of clothing. We are indeed sexual beings but we all understand that there is a time and place for sexual behaviour, and it is not everywhere and always. This is why naturists will tell you that naturism is not sexual. It is not because they do not have any sexual feelings, or because they seek to deny them or are ashamed of them; it is just that they reject society’s view that naked is the human sexual state and claim it back as their natural state. As a new social naturist I experienced this fundamental truth very quickly when I almost immediately stopped seeing naked people as “naked people”, and just saw people as “whole people”. So I totally agree with you that sexuality is part of who we are, and to be experienced without shame, but at the same time reject that human sexuality is deeply and fundamentally connected to nudity.

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  4. I would highly recommend reading Sex at Dawn http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0084EI164/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?qid=1422871083&sr=8-2&keywords=sex+at+dawn&dpPl=1&dpID=51unPZ0Xj0L&ref=plSrch&pi=AC_SY200_QL40

    Not only does the book strongly support Joanne's thoughts, but elaborates with significant well researched depth.
    I can easily imagine some being quite confronted by some of the what the material implies. I've only gotten about 1/4 through the book so far, but that is sufficient to raise one's eyebrow with a reflective sigh.

    In many ways the book's contents leads one to reflect how terribly awry society has arguably gone. I can easily imagine some people reading the book and thinking, "thank goodness for religion and Christian morality."
    I can imagine others reading the book and thinking, "if only we could return to more traditional lifestyles."

    At an absolute minimum I would hope that most reading the book would come to understand the utter mess we find ourselves in with contradictory standards, confused moral norms and the like.

    What truly saddens me the most is what the "civilised" colonists did to indigenous communities the world over.
    History is littered with one social atrocity after another. Here we are in the 21st century no better off.

    It's not so much that any group of people choose to live in a particular way, it's more that they are personally convinced everyone else should live as they do. The conflict and suffering this causes is immeasurable. It's often born of utter ignorance, and enforced with arrogance. Such is the world unfortunately. If only we could live and let live.

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    • A very interesting reference to colonialism in your comment, and it is indeed a feature of colonialism that subjugation and enslaving of indigenous populations was justified at home on the basis that they were ‘naked savages’ and therefore little better than animals; this in the context of a victorian society which became so prudish that even an undressed table leg was considered indecent and sexual. And so we see that the rejection of nudity as savage and uncivilised in our society became a politically and morally essential pillar in the financial exploitation of foreign countries.

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  5. So many thoughts because of a piece of cloth 😉

    Now, if we cycling naked, or when we walk naked with friends, then we have no sexual thoughts and we do not want any sexual thoughts – only just, we enjoy and feel our wonderful world with all your senses … and that is really wonderful 🙂

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    • It's fair to say what's right for one is not for another.
      Just because something is right for one, that doesn't automatically mean it's right for another.
      Just because something isn't right for one, that shouldn't be grounds to prohibit it for all others.

      The world certainly doesn't operate that way, but there'd be far more accord if everyone abided by these principles.

      Walk and cycle in peace and harmony 🙂

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      • … prohibit? – what and why prohibit?
        Freedom is life and life means diversity – with all the resulting consequences.

        Surely we are all agree that there is not only one truth. Rather, there is NO truth – everyone's opinion is important – not only in political elections 😉 …

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  6. I'm inclined to think it's not such much that nakedness led to more relaxed attitudes toward sex, it simply went hand in hand with it.

    On the whole I sense that our ancestors were far more in touch with nature and the elements than we are now.
    I grew up with a strong rural influence. As such a bit of dirt, and even cow shit for that matter, did you no harm.
    Look at today's urban environment by comparison. 99.9% dirt free.

    When you lose touch with nature, you lose touch with the natural order of things. I'm sure that ancient ancestors would have observed the behaviour of every other species on earth and followed suit because they saw it was completely normal.

    I suspect if you dig deep there will be a correlation between urban development and the establishment of clothing, dogmatic religions and a disconnect with the natural order of things.

    Even today city folk will "yeeewwww" while rural folk will exclaim "what the hell is wrong with you?" observing exactly the same thing.

    If you look at the current state of the environment and world affairs you can see where all this has led us. You don't need to be a tree hugger so to speak, but mindfulness is of paramount importance. Connect with the natural order and some semblance of balance can return.

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    • I agree, hand in hand as there were less socio/political constructs determined to control the masses, what they wear or how they behaved.

      Urban development, dogmatic religions, and I could imagine politics being involved. Some important ruler of the past, who happened to have a relative in who was a cloth merchant perhaps, making a decree that all must wear clothes in public in order to secure his kin's wealth. Corporate lobbyists! Just a thought.

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        • I've always been keenly aware of my desire to live clothes free and as a child I loved that tale for the fact it mentions someone walking proudly without clothes. I would have wanted, instead of him realizing he was suckered by salesmen and his vanity and becoming embarrassed, that he would have decreed nothing wrong with the natural body and everyone should stop wearing clothes from those shysters.

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  7. Another thought provoking article but I can't agree with the notion that lack of clothing amongst our ancestors would have created a free for all sexual frenzy. In my current experience, total nudity on a daily basis actually reduces the sexualization of body parts. Those same parts are more often used for excreting waste than for pleasure. When that is witnessed daily and normally as it would in close communal settings as our ancestors lived, the mere sight would not necessarily induce lustful thoughts. It is our own human sexuality and desire for connection that makes us want to join in sexual gratification. And sometimes a physical need for orgasm just to keep things working properly. It's a good thing our genitals happen to be within arms length. I would also think that they would have their social taboos and rules as well.
    It seems that the forced covering of those parts, with the knowledge that the reason is "because they are naughty", has us constantly fantasizing about what we are forbidden and so created more focus on sexualization of everything.
    I thought I read a paragraph about the "high frequency and emphasis on sexual behaviors" of our ancestors, but no longer see it. As regards to that I wonder how it compares to the high frequency and emphasis that I see all around today. And quite frankly through out written history. I'm sure if future civilizations find the many dildos, porn collections, writings celebrating or demonizing sexual behavior that we produce, they will surely see it as a proof that hiding our bodies behind clothing was cause for such emphasis and unhealthy focus on a simple act of connection. They, having evolved and given up clothing would be somewhat perplexed looking back at our behavior.

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    • So agree. My primary experience, living in and growing-up in California, is the beach. I love everything about the beach and honestly cannot recall the last time I visited one at which I wasn't totally naked. I just couldn't do it. I wouldn't be able to stand not being nude, and I can't comprehend how other people deal with it. It seems comically unnatural to me, at this point, to go to a place that's sunny and warm, and the entire point is to relax and unwind, and yet there is this idiotic insistence upon maintaining a moronic, token barrier for the sake of "morality." It's just wrong.

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      • Like you, I can't possibly go swimming if I have to wear a suit. It just feels so foreign, and being dressed, even a little at the beach? Why go? I had a very interesting experience this summer with nakedness. I have been a photographer all my life and earned my income from it for 20 years. This year I began to make my photographs naked, that is, I was naked and my subjects, mostly plants and flowers and the like were what they were. I was stunned at the 'closeness' I felt for my subjects and the creative interaction between us as a result of nakedness. My perceived vulnerability allowed my subjects to somehow stand taller and prouder. It was neat. Obviously all in my head.

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          • Skin is a huge sensing organ, so I'd say it is actually perceived. Also nudity, especially in non-nudist settings, tends to heighten your awareness of your surroundings as you're always on the lookout for textiles who might object.

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        • You stated: "This year I began to make my photographs naked, that is, I was naked and my subjects, mostly plants and flowers and the like were what they were. I was stunned at the 'closeness' I felt for my subjects and the creative interaction between us as a result of nakedness." This shedding of the "encumbrances" (ie: textiles) and letting your natural/spiritual power flow without the trappings of clothes is a belief that some Wiccan's, like myself, believe in. Your closeness to your subjects is one way of experiencing this inter-connectedness we have with nature.

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  8. Very interesting read, and I must agree with your concluding end piece that I think the majority of us accept modern social behaviour regardless of whether we are clothed or not, the latter being preferential, and conform to general rules of engagement regarding sexual behaviour

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  9. Joanne,

    I too enjoyed another excellent piece you wrote.
    However, I don't agree with:

    "With virtually no controls or prohibitions regarding the activation of the human libidio, people were likely engaging in sex whenever, wherever, and with whomever they chose. As social evolution progressed, however, and humans began to rely more upon complex social order and technology, for survival and the development of culture, the prevalence of rampant sexual activity began to work against those goals."

    The Human population increase through the ages was rather small and did not suggest a "rampant sexual activity" at all. According to a wiki search (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population) , there were an estimated 3 million people 35,000 BCE and only 15 million people 23,000 years later. The population really started to sky rocket when we began to wear clothes..

    So, no, nudity did not then and does not now invite brainless 24/7 orgies as the oppressors like to suggest.

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    • Except that the low rate of population growth you cite is more than explained by the extremely high proportions of infant mortality, other forms of early death (average age at death hovering around 40), and vastly foreshortened periods of female fecundity that were seen in the period in question. The mere frequency of sexual relations is not enough to explain a particular rate of demographic expansion or contraction. There are far more complex factors, always, and the paleolithic evidence does point to a high frequency and emphasis on sexual behavior in those early cultures.

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      • May I ask how we know about infant mortality rate? Did we find many prehistoric infant remnants? I didn't factor these arguments in of course, and these do explain why the population didn't explode if sexual encounters were so frequent as you said.

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        • There are a few factors that are a clue. One of the main ones is that paleolithic remains tend to show that females were bearing children in very quick succession–a dead giveaway for high infant mortality. Also, simply because of the environmental conditions that we know about, and what we know about infant survival, we can infer it. Infant remains are rarely as well preserved but those that we do see in the fossil record do, indeed, indicate the high rate as well. Not a perfect science, but it's the best we have. More importantly is that we know females in that period had a much more compressed period of fecundity, due to generally poor health and nutrition, compared to the modern era.

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    • "The population really started to sky rocket when we began to wear clothes.." Do you think this is related to environmental issues – that is, clothing offered more protection for primitive humans thus reducing the risk of exposure to the elements, insects, disease. Therefore the population exploded because life expectancy increased with better environmental protection? Very interesting discussion

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  10. I applaud your wonderful blog. It is comforting to read an article written by someone with an educated background in the topic.
    We all have opinions and rightly so, but you are able to present a kind of photo or map of human development that one can follow yet see other possibilities.

    *Richard Jannaway asked the question that I had been thinking was the only curve ball in your writing.
    Go S F Giants.

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  11. Another terrific peice whilst I agree with most of what you say I do have a few queries. There are tribes in areas such as the Amazon which have ahd little or interaction with the 'developed' world. They live virtually naked and yet have sophisticated family structures. For them the lack of clothing does not seem to greatly affect their sexual behaviour.

    A second question is around clothing which is specifically designed to enhance sexual visual stimulus. How does this fit with the theory?

    This isn't a criticism, just trying to clarify my understanding of a great insight.

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    • Very interesting indeed, and a question that I think doesn't contradict at all with what I'm implying. I think it's possible indeed that certain types of clothing *could* for some people enhance the experience of sensuality as gained by the visual sense. Why not? Why couldn't we develop in a way that, culturally, we learn ways to exaggerate or emphasize the body's features in such a way that some people find those exaggerations to be in some ways "better" than what lies beneath. Or, alternatively, the baiting of anticipation–as in the suggestiveness presented by somewhat but not entirely revealing clothing–may be part of the answer. I'm not arguing good or bad on the matter, just trying to provide my take on it.

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  12. Excellent, excellent points, all. There are just about as many theories about why we lost our body hair as there are anthropologists, LOL. It's a mystery and, in the end, probably has to do with a confluence of factors that made it superfluous. The sexual argument is worth highlighting, to me, because it's fairly simple and straightforward. The argument that you mention is a decent one too, but there are so many possible ways to counter it by pointing out that there are other ways we could have managed to survive without running down our hunted quarry. And it doesn't serve to completely explain the near total loss of hair. But anyway I do appreciate you pointing it out because it serves to illustrate for people that the question is probably way more complex than that which I presented.

    I agree with you: without an acceptance of our sexuality, I don't think that the practice of nudism can be all that it ought to be. We are missing so much of the whole point by trying so hard to keep the "lid on" any implication of sexual connection. It's a drum that I have been beating for a long time now: feelings of sexual liberation and joy don't have to equate to horrible behavior. And particularly for younger people, as you point out, if they are led to believe that nudism presents an environment within which they have to cloister and repress their natural sexual energy, how many new enthusiasts will we attract?

    Thanks for your very thoughtful and spot on analysis.

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    • "near total loss of hair"? Only on my head honey, I can get pretty fuzzy when I let it all go. And I've seen a man or two who were ape like in their hirsute.
      Maybe a wider view. There is a wide band in evolutionary trait throughout the population. Since there is, I would suggest a possible adaptation to specific geographic locations as having bearing in the loss of hair in certain genetic/racial/ancestral lines.

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  13. Here are my additional thoughts upon second reading.
    I'm no anthropologist nor am I well read in the subject but have some interest in the topic. An interesting observation I read a very long time ago was that humans lost their hair as an evolutionary move to out run their prey. With the ability to sweat through our skin and therefore not overheat, we could outlast much bigger animals. It was the large amounts of protein in our diets that helped with brain development.

    If you visit almost any museum that exhibits ancient art and artefacts there is little question about the importance sex and sexuality played in those societies. Figures with near ridiculous exaggeration of breasts, vulva and penis are quite prolific.

    There is also evidence in ancient cultures, religion and festivals such as Easter that sex was an important element.

    It is perhaps only in the last 1600-1700 years that Judo-Christian religion has had a big enough influence to globally curtail sexual attitudes and behaviours.

    From the articles you've written I'm starting to rapidly form the idea that sexuality has been hijacked just as thoroughly as nakedness has been. The two are almost certainly intertwined whether people want to acknowledge that or not. Nudists are at absolute pains to stress how nudity is non-sexual. Certainly the objectives might be, but I think there is little doubt in anybody's mind we are sexual beings. Were that not the case, sexuality wouldn't be so prolific throughout society, nor would we be so absolutely fixated on it. How many movies are there about coming of age? How many focus on sexual interactions in relationships?

    In my own mind for a very long time I've always thought that so long as people are confused and uncertain about sexual attitudes, nudity doesn't stand a chance.
    If you try to exclude sexuality from nudity, you're creating just as artificial, if not even more artificial situation than already exists.

    "You can be naked, but don't think about sex or sexual arousal"
    For young people in particular that's a tall age. For people of any age it's asking them to deny a fundamental aspect of their humanity and I think that creates as difficult a situation as the existing one.

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  14. This is a comprehensive piece of writing with some very compelling concepts within it.
    Something it immediately brings to mind is the pagan fertility festivals such as Easter that the early Christians ironically preserved through to modern time by "christenising" them because they couldn't stop early Gauls and Britons celebrating them.

    That aside, one thing I need to think about carefully is the premise that a naked hairless body invokes sexual desire.
    I think whether or not somebody is clothed, if you find them sexually alluring, this occurs anyway.
    The breasts and penis theory has some real weight to it though. That could be why clothes don't make a difference. What guy isn't attracted by cleavage? If Broad City is to be believed the same appears to be true in reverse. "When you can even tell the religion" of some of the male hoops players as the girls observe 🙂

    The comparison to primates is interesting. Perhaps one behaviour that primates engage in that humans don't is grooming.
    I perceive that this is, or could be a very intimate activity that both contributes to and reliefs sexual tension and arousal.

    There is certainly a lot to be thought about here.

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  15. I love your writing. Interesting perspective, particularly the anthropological background. What you write makes a lot of sense and it gives me a new framework to think about my personal attitude towards nudism and sexuality.

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    • I appeciate that. I think that most people tend not to put these sorts of things into the context of an objective and scientific basis. We tend to look at "issues" through the lens of differing viewpoints that are influenced by religion and politics. Science is really the best means for sorting out the details and framing a sensible background. As far as the anthropological background, I should point out that anthropology is by no means a "hard" science, and by no means is there universal support for any one theory. I'm cherry-picking, here, to make my point. But the general line of reasoning is logical and persuasive, I think.

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    • Thank you very much! This here is just ramblings, so I appreciate it. I had considered doing my thesis on nudism in anthropological context, but wrote about the benefits of organic farming, instead 🙂 I have enough of a storehouse of ideas to indeed write a book that I would probably title something like "New Nudism" or some such but the sheer amount of work involved… No thanks…

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