Nudity and the clinical scientist

Somehow, on holidays and being invited to visit long lost friends in France, my wife and I found ourselves in the world’s largest nudist colony at Cap D’Agde. Not being a nudist (other than the odd skinny dips some years back when I had abs) but happy, albeit wary and a bit panicky early on –(talk about graded exposure!) to go along with our dear friends, I suddenly found myself on the beach, pink from the Australian winter, surrounded by 20,000 very brown, tightly packed nudists. I am sure you could have spotted me from Mars!

Lying on the beach and observing the passing parade, the clinical scientist in me quickly emerged. “What good posture nudists have and how happy and freely mobile they seem to be”, were my first thoughts. And such body confidence too, despite all shapes, sizes, ages, scars, missing bits and extra bits. I noted people with what appeared to be MS, stroke, and Parkinson’s. A quick on- beach Google brought up an old study suggesting that nudists have better body concepts than non-nudists (Story 1984). Another Google search found support for this and also the finding that college students who were more pro-nudity were more accepting of other religions, gays and lesbians than those who were less pro-nudity (Negy &Winton 2008). Well at least I am scientifically safe I smugly thought.

It’s a well- known saying in these parts that without clothes everyone is equal and that you can’t be judged with your clothes off. In fact, the study cited above (Story 1984) reported that body judgements made by male nudists were based more on function than attractiveness. My wife disagreed with this finding. 1984 is a long time ago and it may well now be “lovely hips” rather than “gee those hips work well”. But are we equal? It seems that, even in the wearing of a tiny piece of jewellery, a piercing or a tattoo, the inevitable augmentation, or the waxing or style of waxing of body hair, an element of judgement, discrimination and potential inequality is reintroduced.

But readers – what a fabulous feed for the mirror neurones! Imagine if you had a sore shoulder and you let it escape from all those clothes and straps and all around there were thousands of naked shoulders doing all sorts of activities “with you”. There is a freedom, a liberation of the senses in removing one’s clothes, it appears, that allows also a freedom of movement, and probably an adjustment/liberation of the brain representation of body. What of the body ‘force field’, the space around our body encoded in our representations of self that appear altered in some pain states and with the arms crossed. Do clothes and fashion alter the extent and potency of this space? Should Moseley, Gallace and others (2012) involved in this research area run some trials in a nudist camp and include the nudity variable? They’d have to be in the nuddy as well! Sometimes variables turn into treatments. Once again, talk about graded exposure! Maybe there is something in showing the world your sore, missing or misshapen parts and then realising that the world doesn’t care as much as you thought they did.

And gosh! Whatever happened to body hair? A lot of people wax these days, or is this sampling error judgement? Is it healthy?

I am not sure if a return visit is on the cards, but I am sure our readers have some good thoughts, stories and experiences to add here. Best to add the stories over on the NOIjam blog.

Moseley GL. Gallace A 2012 Body illusions in health and disease: physiological and clinical perspectives and the concept of a “cortical body matrix” Neurosci Biobehav Rev 36: 34-46
Story M 1984 Comparison of body Self-Concept between social nudists and non-nudists. Journal of Psychology 118:99-102

What else is happening on NOIJAM?
Hunger pains in the US
Back infection mop up
Louis Pastuer
Here’s to whistleblowers and tiny testicles

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Tim Beames (UK)
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One Response to “Nudity and the clinical scientist”

  1. | noijam Says:

    […] on the “rollercoaster of professional life” than any other, even more than the previous months NOInotes on nudity. Most have commented by saying “that professional rollercoaster accurately describes my […]

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