A summer holiday with daily tours on a nudist beach gave me some thoughts about nakedness and life quality.
Illustration: Rasmus Sand Høyer
When I was young, I once had a boyfriend who was very upset by the size of his … equipment. Yes, sorry, hope you didn’t get something wrong in the throat, but just a moment and you’ll understand why I started the article in this way. For it was in fact an unusually beautiful model not belonging to the category “Small”.
But he felt bad and had terrible complexes over it, and I wish that I had had him with me on my daily walks during the holidays, which I just got back from. Every morning I went through a nudist beach, where everything hung loose and could be looked at, and I named it quickly “Balls-and Sausage Beach”. Of course I mostly looked out at the water, but occasionally my eyes stuck in a breast, a penis, balls or a pussy and many times I had to hide a smirk behind my sunglasses.
Smirk, not because it was embarrassing, but because every time I was surprised by the unlikely diversity of what I saw. I love the fact that certain body parts are available in all shapes, sizes and colors, with and without hair, with or without wrinkles, with or without fillings.
And dimensions are certainly not an obvious feature, because I looked left and right breasts that just as well could belong to two different women, so different were they in size. I saw balls, which were MUCH longer than the penis, and it was not because they sat by a cocktail size sausage.
But it was not only the normally hidden parts of the body, which I got free insight in. It was as much the rest of the body, which quite clearly was shown with a different freedom than on the beach, where I came from. Big hairy beer bellies, man boobs, oiled shiny butts in every imaginable design, men with stretch marks, women with cellulite the most incredible places, several layers of meat in the back, navels that fell out and in, women with narrow hips, so they looked like men from the rear, and women with wide hips, so they got a bottle figure, men with narrow hips and a birds chest, men with soft hips and full beard.
Almost everything you can imagine, plus a whole lot more, filled my field of vision in those weeks. I stored it as a tribute to the human biodiversity and not the least to the freedom of body. Occasionally I also had to turn my face rapidly toward the sea, when a naked man with hairy butt stuck it high in the air in a unobstructed view to everything, because he wanted to correct his towel. Or a woman who practiced yoga and thus initiated the rest of the beach in her internal anatomy. It was simply too exposed and intimate for me, but I could at the same time do nothing else than enjoy the fact that they dared doing it in the open. Being so free in their bodies.
All of this is only interesting because different studies show that only half of the Danes are satisfied with their body, while about 25 percent are totally dissatisfied with it. If I had had my boyfriend then with me on the beach, I’m sure he would have been much happier with himself. He would discover that he certainly had nothing to be unhappy about, which could have given him many years with a slightly better quality of life.
Studies that concern this topic are normally related to women and their self-esteem. Women’s social status and value are culturally and historically much more linked to beauty than men’s is and therefor it is perhaps logical that women’s self-esteem is generally lower than men when it comes to their appearance. Voxmeter made together with Dove a survey among Danish women aged 15 to 60 years, which showed that more than 50 percent have a negative view of their own body, which means that 44 per cent of them find that their self-esteem will be reduced, while 31 per cent will be in bad mood due to it. For 22% it does affect the sexual life negatively, 17 per cent feel diminished compared to other people, while about 16 percent are seeing their quality of life deteriorated.
In the case of young people it is really problematic. According to a study from Sex and Society from 2010, 12 percent hate their bodies and 16 percent are dissatisfied with it. When you dig into what they are most dissatisfied with, you see this ranking:
1. Stomach (42.6%)
2. Weight (39.7 percent.)
3. Hair (31.9%.)
4. Body shape (30.3%)
5. Sex organs (29.3%).
And it is precisely here that the article title finds all it’s real value: If all young people came on a week’s stay at a nudist beach, it would with no doubt do wonders to the way they value their own bodies – and indeed their partners body as well. It is really chocking that almost one-third are dissatisfied with their own genitals!
Today many young people don’t shower after sport activities and at the same time there is such a free access to porn, where it is often the more streamlined (read: surgically corrected) bodies that are shown, and for men the generously grown penis scale that will be exposed, so that alone gives them a fairly wrong reference to start comparing their own (or their partners ) body with others.
Just five days on a nudist beach, where they will be exposed to all types and forms of human bodies, would probably help them to get a more positive and free view of their own bodies – and thereby find greater joy of life and not least confidence in themselves.
It is probably unrealistic. But wouldn’t it be nice, if they already from the beginning had a wider view at the human body, so that they understood it as a tool for enjoyment rather than an object of embarrassment?
The adults could also learn quite a lot of it here, so in other words “just go out there naked and be happy”. And maybe even giggle slightly down into your towel, because yes – there might be some funny moments where some bodies will surprise you !
Free translation by J.Valckenaere and Emilia van Hauen of the article originally published in Jyllandsposten 31.07.16.
Emilia van Hauen (born 1966  ) is a Danish cultural sociologist (MSc Soc. From University of Copenhagen 2001), HD (A) from Copenhagen Business School, lecturer , trend consultant and lifestyle commentator on television, newspapers and magazines internationally. She is on of Scandinavia’s most sought-after keynote speakers and most quoted sociologists on the topics of current trends and social tendencies and phenomena.
Emilia van Hauen is the author of five books. Her latest, Ladycool: Your Gender is a Strength, Use It! became a national bestseller, as did her previous publication, Goodbye Egoparty, which explains why we should embrace the communities that we are part of. From 2009, she is an ambassador for CARE Denmark  and the Danish Heart Association ,