Psychology
24 Aug 2018

Kids treat nudity as something natural -- It’s adults who associate it with sex

Reprimanding your son or daughter for touching their genitals is as bad as introducing the “no clothes” rule in the house -- an interview with psychologist Aleksandra Józefowska.

Wysokie Obcasy
Magdalena Karst-Adamczyk Wysokie Obcasy, Global
Kids treat nudity as something natural -- It’s adults who associate it with sex - NewsMavens
Family at beach, PixaBay

The following fragments are from Magdalena Karst-Adamczyk’s interview with the psychologist Aleksandra Józefowska which appeared in “Wysokie Obcasy” in August 2018.

Magdalena Karst-Adamczyk: I recently watched the Swedish film “The Children of Noisy Village” with my sons. There’s a scene by the lake, where the kids spontaneously drop all their clothes and jump into the water.  The elementary-school-aged boys and girls do it instinctively, with no sign of embarrassment. I don’t think I could imagine a similar situation happening today.

Aleksandra Józefowska: Perhaps it’s something unimaginable for you, as an adult, but would it really be a problem for 6-10-year-olds? You never know. It’s an individual matter as children start to feel modest at different ages. Some time ago, on one of the Internet forums about nudity, I found a post published by a woman who had been a witness to a very similar scene. A group of children, 7 or 8-year-old, appeared on the beach and just like in the Astrid Lindgren’s novel, they jumped into the water. They had no bathing suits, so they took off their clothes and stayed in their underwear, instead.

According to the woman’s story, the kids were having a lot of fun and they paid no attention to each others’ bodies. Nevertheless, she was outraged. Mainly because the girls ran into the water wearing knickers and undershirts, which stuck to their bodies and gave a “wet t-shirt” effect. As she could almost see through the material, she found their behaviour highly inappropriate. The question is: what or who sexualized this situation? The young girls playing in the water or the onlooker watching them play?

MKA: Why ‘sexualized’ and not ‘sexual’?

The distinction is deliberate.

“Sexuality” is inborn and natural, “sexualization”, on the other hand, is imposed and refers to the objectification of a person.

The way I see it: little girls jumped into the sea to enjoy the water and a grown-up outsider transformed them into “wet t-shirt” contestants -- sexual objects.

MKA: Is it the adults’ fault?

In this case -- definitely. Kids treat their own and others’ nudity as something natural. It’s grown-ups who associate it with sex. Not all of them, of course, it depends on the individual’s upbringing, experiences and cultural context.

MKA: Cultural context was surely a decisive factor in the film I mentioned earlier. Scandinavians are incredibly open-minded about nakedness.

That’s true. Topless people on the beach in Sweden or Norway are a common sight. Another popular practice in Scandinavia is family sauna sessions -- children, their parents and grandparents see each other naked and no one sexualizes it. It’s just a family, spending time together. Except, they’re all undressed.

MKA: Does it mean that parents, even those who find nudity highly uncomfortable, should drop their clothes for the sake of their children?

Absolutely not. Parents have a tendency to cross the line. They either scold their children for playing with their genitals or taking off their clothes or, on the contrary, they suddenly change their attitude and decide that from now on everyone should walk around the house in the nude. Reprimanding your son or daughter for touching themselves is as bad as introducing the “no clothes” rule in the house. 

Every parent should consider what will be right and safe for them, their child and the whole family. Reflection on the subject might help each individual  identify their own fears and prejudices concerning nudity.

MKA: Is there anything else parents should be aware of?

We should remember that it’s our job to teach our children what intimacy is and how it works; to explain that we all have bodies and even though they differ, they’re all unique and beautiful. We also need to make them aware that no one is allowed to touch their private parts, expect parents -- when helping out in the bath, or a doctor -- at a checkup. Another important issue is respecting other people’s privacy -- kids need to know that they can’t touch or hug their colleagues without permission or against their will. And they should never expect their friends to take off their clothes either. If running around undressed is a common practice at home, our child might suggest this kind of play to other children. It’s natural, but it’s also our responsibility to clarify to our son or daughter that these rules apply only to our house. 

MKA: It’s a summer holiday. Kids from homes with different models of upbringing meet at the beach. To what extent should we cover or uncover their bodies?

It depends on the context and situation. If other kids are in swimming costumes and we feel that they might point fingers at our child, our little one should probably wear a bathing suit too.

I wouldn’t recommend using our child to promote our “pro-nudity” attitude on the beach. The best solution is to be sensitive to what our child wants.

MKA: Some parents object to letting their children be naked in public, because they’re afraid of pedophiles...

They’re doing it out of concern, which is a positive thing, but keeping your child fully clothed on the beach to protect them from perverts doesn’t seem too effective to me. It has never been proven that a naked child is more attractive to pedophiles, than a fully dressed one.

MKA: On the one hand, we cover our children to keep them safe, but on the other, we “sexualize” them ourselves. Little girls play on the sand or in the water, wearing mini versions of sexy bikini bras for women.

It’s a paradox. The very purpose of the bikini top is to cover woman’s breasts. A little girl without a developed bosom has nothing to hide! Shops already offer push-ups and G-strings for kids -- parents who buy such “novelties” have clearly lost the thread. Even if they don’t realize it, they’re supporting the sexualization of their own daughters.

MKA: What are the greatest benefits of being an “unabashed” parent or of bringing up an “unabashed” child?

Apart from the fact that our son or daughter knows what breasts, vaginas and penises look like, and they don’t associate nudity with sex, such openness also strengthens our parent-child relationship. In times of poor sexual education at schools and easy access to the Internet, our kids are exposed to sexual and pornographic content as never before. They’re taught how to refuse drugs or alcohol, but the issue of sexual consent is commonly omitted.

Even if we struggle with the subject of nudity and we find our kids’ sex questions uncomfortable, we should never evade or disregard these matters, regardless of the children’s age.

It might help avoid future misunderstandings, disappointments and potential tragedies.

***

Aleksandra Józefowska --  coach and sex educator. For over 16 years she has been coordinating the Ponton Group of Sex Educators, affiliated with the The Federation for Women and Family Planning.

--Translated from Polish by Martyna Kardach

inbox_large_illu Created with Sketch.
Tired of the news media’s prevailing male perspective? We are too.

Get our newsletters composed exclusively by female journalists from all over Europe.

WITH FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM:
SUPPORTED BY:

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

STRATEGIC PARTNERS:
NewsMavens
NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
CORE TEAM
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at https://newsmavens.com/transparency-policy
System.Threading.Tasks.Task`1[System.Threading.Tasks.VoidTaskResult];