Is he a perv in naked sheep’s clothing?

Dr. Daley on Sex and Relationships

Dear Dr. Daley: I’m a 21-year-old woman, and I sort of have an issue with my new boyfriend. He’s really sweet, cute, fun, etc., but recently he told me that he’s a nudist. At first I thought he was joking, but he told me that he grew up in a hippie nudist family, he likes to be naked around the house, and he goes to nude resorts once or twice a year if he can afford it. I’ve tried to keep an open mind, but I’m really, really weirded out by this. He says that it’s not about sex, it’s about being in a natural state and not judging other people’s bodies. But I don’t know – on top of being weirded out, I’m a little worried his parents might have abused him or something when he was a kid. Is being a nudist in any way normal, or is it just more of an excuse to act like a perv?


Here’s a news flash for you: Life is an excuse for pervs to act like pervs. Americans are so psychotic about the human body that you can’t even have a naked baby on the beach. But you can have ads for tit bars alongside every highway. But you can’t breastfeed a baby in public without freaking out some lunatic. For the nude body to be so wrapped up in shame and anxiety is a recipe for perversion. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

My understanding of nudists, or “naturists” as they prefer to be called in many parts of the world, is that they enjoy being naked. Young, old, thin, fat, solo, en famille (that means the whole family, dear reader) – they like to work, play, camp out, swim, practice their backswing, and just sit around (on towels, I kind of hope) naked. At established naturist spas and campgrounds, indications of pervness are carefully screened for and reported. Staring is considered rude. Unwelcome or inappropriate behaviors are considered grounds for eviction from the property.

During my internship in SoCal a couple of decades ago, I had a mad Yugoslavian hairdresser who offered free head shaves for women and liked to drink way too much. He favored an attitude of bitter derision at all times and used to make fun of whatever inhibitions I still possessed. He said that spending a week naked at his house would basically cure me. While I never took him up on his offer, I could see his point: Immersing yourself in nudity can be a very good way to get rid of your body shame and give up your egocentric belief that everyone in the world is staring at your body.

I sure am glad you’re trying to keep an open mind, although I’m a bit skeptical. You sound like one of those people who can eat sawdust and shit two-by-fours, as my dear husband would say. What goes on in your mind, to imagine that parental abuse is a causal factor in an adult taking pleasure in his or her naked body? There’s an interesting essay in one of the Salon collections, written by a woman who’d been raised in a very hippie commune and felt quite traumatized by the lack of appropriate boundaries. That woman won’t be going to any naturist camps in the near future, I bet.

Your sweetie has a good point about not judging bodies. We could all learn something about this. In the ’80s I made a number of visits to Hippie Hollow here in Austin. It was a little odd to go to an official park that had come into existence partly in revolt against official parks. There were warning signs in the parking lot, I guess to prevent shocked visitors from falling off the cliffs. But anyway, I did learn a whole lot about becoming unselfconscious about frolicking around. Was I judgmental? Hell, yeah. Did I wish I could be as comfortable with my naked body as a lot of those folks were? No question.

If you have any real data to support your suspicions that your boyfriend is a perv, break up with him at once and go talk to someone at your local mental health center. But being a naturist isn’t proof of perv by any stretch.

My opinion: If you really want to aim for an “open mind” and you think this relationship is worth keeping, accompany your boyfriend to a nude resort for a weekend. Run a Google, check out a few naturist sites (or just go to your boyfriend’s favorite one, since he’s experienced), and pack a tiny little suitcase with an assortment of sunscreens. I can’t see any down side in checking out this part of the world, and it might do you some good.

And try to remember that the vast majority of pervs live in the world of the fully clothed.

About the author Dr. Nancy Daley is a licensed psychologist and adjunct assistant professor who teaches Human Sexuality at The University of Texas at Austin. If you would like to submit questions for her to answer in this column, please send them to drdaley at thatotherpaper dot com.

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Explorer's picture

I liked your comment especially the last line. A vast majority of pervs live in the fully clothed world. I am from India and I strongly feel that nudism can be a cure to certain kinds of perversions. In places where they allow nudism, there should be screening done. No alcohol or other stuff that can alter a person’s mind.