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Is it possible to "get naked" without thinking about sex?

Essay By: Celeste Neumann
Humor



Anecdote and reflections about the topics of nudity and saunas.


Submitted:Nov 27, 2009    Reads: 605    Comments: 1    Likes: 2   


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A while ago I was surfing on the web, and I came across information about spas in other English-speaking countries - in particular Great Britain, Australia and the U.S. - and I actually was quite amused, because I have completely forgotten the Victorian attitude regarding the subject of nudity.

I was reminded that in past twenty years, little philosophical-moral progress has taken place in regards towards the subject of nudity in the U.S. - particularly in regard to saunas, beaches, and swimming areas. Controversially the U.S. is now the leading producer of pornographic material in the world (Congratulations! - The Americans did beat the Russians in something besides chess!). This seems somehow to have led the Americans tocling to their Victorian attitudes a bit more tenaciously, and now they seem unable todifferentiate between nudity and sexuality. It becomes apparent when you here the cliché, "Let's get naked!", which not only implies to shed one's clothes, but is an overt cue to have sex.

Couldn't anyone imagine just taking off your clothes, without the sex? You see, the Germans have a completely different attitude about nudity when it comes to spas and public swimming/bathing. They have something known as "FKK" (Frei-Körper-Kultur) or "Free Body Culture". FKK derives its roots from the philosophical works from Carl Gustav Jung (one of the founding fathers of modern psychology) and Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (German physicist and philosopher), who maintained nudity was a form of returning to nature. Specifically, it was a form of returning to the natural state of mankind, before clothing dictated our social status, and set standards of how much respect we pay to people based on the clothes they are wearing.

At the beginning of the 20th century the modern philosophy was: if one shed their clothes, then they shed their pretensions, prejudices, disdain and animosity towards one another. It was the concept that clothing is caste regimentation, which prevents honest interaction or dialogue between people. Based on this first form of "I'm O.K. - You're O.K.", taking off your clothes should have been the ultimate ritual in shedding one's inferiority complexes, and promoting fair, honest treatment between humans in their natural state. I repeat, "should have been", because it's still stigmatised to this very day with religious sin concept of nudity = sexuality, nudity = perverted morals, and heaven forbid we should forget nudity = sin. It kind of makes you wonder if clothes are so important, then why did God put us on earth without an unlimited account at Abercrombie & Fitch's, doesn't it?

FKK has one "prime directive" which makes it work: sexuality is taboo. It's not about orgies and swinger clubs. And it's not about a half a dozen gorgeous young party girls jumping in the pool around midnight after they have had a dozen Vodka-Red-Bulls and three lines of coke. That's about sex. FKK is just about nudity - without sex!

It might sound bizarre (and to some perverted), but when it first caught on in the 1920's it was a family thing. Grandma, grandpa, the adult children and the kids all went off on month-long camping outings where no one wore any clothes for the entire month (unless they went into town to get something). They barbequed, ate dinner, told campfire stories, went fishing, played cards and ping-pong all in the nude. And nobody said "Oh my God!" Imagine that!

I remember some time ago having a visitor from the States, who came over in February, the coldest month of the year. I had some time off, and we were trying to make up our minds what to do. She wanted to see some castle, but most of the castles are closed in February. So we settled for a day at the indoor pool complex.

Germany has some impressive pool complexes, designed for the whole family and every taste. It's sort of like a luxury spa for the common man. For as little as 30 American dollars, you can enjoy the entire day relaxing, playing and exercising in park that has an Olympic-size heated indoor pool, a "rapids channel", one or two whirlpools, a kiddie pool, Olympic-size platform diving, weight-lifting room, solarium bank, and an entire Finnish sauna with the "works". They even have a restaurant snack-bar with affordable health food, so there is no reason to put your jeans back on until it gets dark. Admission also includes the free use of a gym locker, changing rooms, shower and toilet facilities and even a blow dryer for your wet hair.

Kathy came over from California. But even as "laid-back" the people in California were, I wasn't quite prepared for her hang-up about nudity. When we got there she was pretty impressed with the size of the place - about 4 acres of pool landscape. She keep chattering about how this was "sooo cool" and "Oh my God! I just can't get over this!"

So far, so good. The first 15 minutes were just fine. There was a private little booth to change from your street clothes into your swim suit if you want to use the pool, or just your bath robe if you are going to the sauna. I told her we would meet at the foot baths, because the Finnish sauna "course" starts with warm foot baths, with foot sinks built into the floor. I thought we would meet right after we came out of the changing room, but Kathy needed a little longer, so I went on ahead, and drew a foot bath.

About a half an hour later, she still wasn't there, and I began to grow concerned. My feet were starting to shrivel, too. So I got up and went to find her. She was still milling around outside the changing booths. And when she saw me, I could see how nervous and frantic she was.

"Omigod! Omigod! Everyone here is butt-naked! You DIDN'T tell me that this was CO-ED!" she said in wide-eyed panic.

Smirking a smile, I said nonchalantly, "Uh, yeah. It's a sauna, you know. It's hot, it's humid; you sweat a lot. I think clothes and Eskimo suits only make it hotter when the temperature's 90° C and there's 90% humidity, don't you think?"

She was still - as she put it - "having a cow". "Omigod! Look at that! Those guys are butt-naked! Don't tell me you're going inside the sauna butt-naked with those pervs!"

I attempted to pacify her. "Hey, relax! They're not pervs, they're just normal people. This isn't a brothel;it's a spa."

She was not just having a cow. A calf was on the way too. "Omigod! I am NOT going into the sauna with those butt-naked guys! That's just too gross! I mean grooooossssss!"

I was beginning to become a bit testy, because we were no longer 15 years old. "Look, you already paid money to get in here, so why don't you just relax? I mean, nobody even knows who you are! It's not like you're boss is going to see you here!"

"Omigod! My boss!" She starting laughing at the ludicrous thought. "You are just so gross! Don't tell me that you would come here if you boss was here!"

Thoughtfully, I tried to picture Mr. Fritz in the nude for a fleeting second, before banishing the absurd thought. "No, maybe not, but then my boss lives 50 miles away from here, so I don't think he's likely to show up today. But since your boss lives about 7,000 miles away from here, I don't think he'll show up here todayeither - or anyone else whomight know you personally for that matter."

Kathy was not buying into logic. Her parental conditioning was simply too strong. "I can't! I mean it's just too… you know? It's just way too freakin' weird! I mean, everybody will be like staring at me!"

I laughed. "Oh, you'll get used to that. Germans stare at everybody, whether your clothes are on or off. They're like that. Yes, they might look at you a bit longer, but believe me they won't stare at you like you think they will!"

She must have held this for a blatant lie. "Yes they will! I'm not goin' in any freakin' sauna to have a bunch of pervs stare at me!"

"Oh Kathy, you'll have to trust me on this one, that when they stare at you, they're not staring at you! They stare at you and think about what they're going to fix for dinner tonight; how their boss pissed them off last week; and wonder when they're finally going to get their tax return! They won't even look at you!"

Now it was her turn to be annoyed. "Hey, it's not like I'mexactly ugly, you know!"

Frowning, I said "I didn't say that, but really, nobody stares and nobody cares. Just try it! Just try it for five minutes, and you'll see that nobody will seem to even notice you at all!"

She was freaked, and there was no way for her to "un-freak". "Oh fuck-hey! I'm not taking off my freakin' bathing suit! No way!"

Now it was my time to look at her wide-eyed. "What a minute! Oh! Oh! Oh! Have you got a bathing suit on under your bathrobe?" I asked sceptically.

"Hell yes! What do you fucking think?"

I put a finger to my lips for a moment thoughtfully, trying to figure out how to tell her this without making her more upset. "You just said, you didn't want everybody staring at you!"

"There's just no way I'm going to have all those freakin' pervs stare at me!"

"Yeah, but you don't get it, do you?" I said a bit exasperated. "If you go into the sauna wearing a bathing suit, they WILL stare at you! They'll wonder why you are the only one who has a bathing suit on, and they'll stare. Guaranteed - 100%! They'll wonder things like, is she weird? Is she a pervert? Does she have a third tit? It will be far worse than if you were naked. And some people might get insulted."

Her face wore the expression of incredulousness. "You bullshitting me!"

Candidly I answered, "No, I'm not! I am totally serious. You'll not only make a total jokeof yourself; some people might even get pissed-off."

"What do you mean?"

"Because wearing a bathing clothes tips people off that you're not normal - that you're a weirdo who gets off staring at nude people, but have a hang-up because you have to keep your suit on while everybody else takes their off. The easiest way to spot peeping toms in a German sauna is to look for the guys wearing trunks or a Speedo, if they're not in the process of going outside to thepool. It's the quickest way to get thrown out of here, because if there's one thing the supervisors hate here, it's peeping toms and perverts. Now, you don't want to get yelled at and thrown out of here, do you?"

"No", she answered in a small voice, considering what her options were.

"Good! Then we'll make a compromise: you can keep your bathrobe on, but you have to take you suit off. And you can wrap a towel around yourself when we go in the sauna, but for God's sake take off your suit! I don't want to get chucked out for coming here with a so-called pervert!"

She was unsure. "I dunno. I just…I just don't think I could go through with it. It's just to freakin' weird."

"Look. Nobody here knows who you are. Just relax. We'll start with a foot bath in our bathrobes, so you can get used to it. You can look around inconspicuously all you want, until you feel like you just don't care anymore. But just don't stare! And when you think you can handle it then we could try a sauna, okay?"

It took me the longest time to convince her to stay, and not freak out. Well, she did freak out the whole time, and kept it up for half the day. Explaining most of the details of how to use public sauna helped her to overcome her "that's so gross" attitude. For example, you cannot park your sweaty naked behind on the wooden bench of a sauna. It's not sanitary. You have to shower first, and then use a clean towel.

But then that was the next problem. If everyone is naked in the sauna, what's the point of having men's and women's showers? She opted for going back into the women's showers in the changing room. The open co-ed shower was too much for her.

I gave up on the common shower, and let her go. It was okay, if she felt more comfortable, but I just couldn't resist calling after her, "Okay, go if you want, but watch out for the lesbians!"

This was rewarded with yet another fearful "Omigod!"

She came back in two minutes accusing me, "I don't fucking believe you!You let me go in there where there really two lesbos getting it on! You are sooo sick!"

It hadn't occurred to me there actually were lesbians making love in the shower, and I really couldn't imagine it, because other people would have complained. Besides I was convinced most lesbians weren't any different than anyone else and preferred privacy.

"Really? What were they doing?" I asked curiously. It turns out one woman asked the other to scrub her back with a luffa. For Kathy that was the non-plus-ultra display in lesbian love. I sniggered, but chided myself for winding her up like a tin car.

Her embarrassment was only rivaled by her curiosity, for it soon became apparent she was not only lacking in the knowledge of lesbian love, but also human social anatomy.

"Omigod!" she exclaimed for about the 100th time. I wished I could give her a Valium, but I had none. Besides sedatives and saunas don't mix.

"What now?"

"That guy over there! Look! Omigod! He's not even circumcised! That is just sooo gross!"

At this point I was getting fed-up with this post-puberty show, and said, "Look, I'll happy to give a lesson in German birds and bees later. It's not like there's no one here who can't understand English, you know what I mean?" This only caused her to become even more nervous, and I was seriously thinking about going home.

Finally, I convinced her to go into the Turkish steam bath, as a warm-up, because it was so steamy -dense as a fog -and you practically couldn't see anyoneor anything for that matter. She was still freaking out because she couldn't take a towel in there. It's senseless,because it would only get sopping wet, but she liked the idea that you practically couldn't see anyone or anything, so she said "okay".

The real challenge was the 90° C sauna, which you went in after a cool shower and a break from the Turkish steam bath. But, once again, she refused to go in until nobody else was in the sauna. Do you have any idea how long that can take in a larger metropolitan area? Yep - about an hour and a half. I lost patience and went in alone twice. It was shortly before dinner time, when most of the people had disappeared, that she finally went in with a towel wrapped around her. I went for the lower bank and spread a towel out on the bench.

"What are you doing?" she wanted to know.

"Protecting the wood. You aren't allowed to drip bodily fluids on the wood. It's unsanitary."

"Ewwweeee! That's totally gross! Do you think some perv like jacked off in here?" she wanted to know, looking around warily for non-existent damp spots on the wood.

"Stop being disgusting! I was talking about sweat, if you really wanted to know. And where is your other towel?" I said.

"I don't need one. I have one wrapped around my waist!" she answered.

"Yeah, but your hair is dripping", I said.

"So what?" she said.

"That's unsanitary. You're not allowed to let your hair drip onto the wood!" I explained.

She sighed impatiently and went to get her other towel.

We were fortunate no one came in for quite a while, and she keep talking incessantly, asking what I thought about this guy or the other she saw walking around the sauna. I couldn't answer any of her questions, for I had failed to pay any attention to any of them. I guess she keep talking because she was nervous. But at some point, I thought I should tell her, "You know if some one comes in, you'll have to shut up until they leave."

"Why?"

"Because you're not supposed to talk in the sauna", I answered.

"What? Is it like the library or something?" she asked laughing.

"No, it's the sauna. You're supposed to relax here - really relax here - and not freak out the whole time!" I said nastily.

"Hey, like I'm sooo sorry! How am I supposed to know you're a freakin' exhibitionist?"

Ouch! That hurt, because I am not an exhibitionist. I don't flash; I don't flaunt. I am not "into" see-through undergarments or blouses, fishnet stockings, or leather mini-skirts. I love the sauna because it's a retreat to go inside yourself, and I have made the transition to embrace the principles of the naturalists - nudity without shame or sexual avarice - Free Body Culture.

Along the way I made an important discovery: most people shed their pretention when they shed their clothes in this fashion, and remember basic politeness and respect, because the one thing everyone wears into the sauna is their human dignity.





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