Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Open Space: The joys of being naked

September 21, 2015 by Keagan Hawthorne, contributing writer

I recently got myself a “plus” membership to the downtown Y. The quiet change room has a hot tub, steam room, and sauna. Men linger after swimming or working out to catch up on news and gossip, quietly relax, or read the paper. There is a sense of unhurried ease, and there are bodies of every imaginable shape and size out on display without shame or fear.

That’s right: most of the men are naked most of the time. I’ve become one of those men, and I love it.

Naked socializing is an activity that’s foreign to most Canadians. We’re a body-shy culture, with puritanical ideas about sex and shame. But what could be more natural than being unclothed? Dipping into the hot tub, sweating it out in the sauna, or just sitting around reading the paper with all your bits bared is refreshingly nice.

This story originally appeared in our September 9, 2015 issue.

In many cultures nudity is a no-brainer. The ancient Celts fought bloody battles in the buff (imagine a horde of screaming, naked swordsmen descending upon you!), and the Greeks, inventors of the Olympic Games (originally naked) gave us the word “gymnasium,” which means something like “place for naked sports.”

Today the Swedes and Finns enjoy their saunas nude, and over in Germany you can go naked in some co-ed baths and steam houses.

I got my first taste of communal nudity at an onsen, or hotspring, in Japan. I was sitting on a stool washing myself when the man on the next stool looked at me and said, “Canada? Oh! You a cowboy?” accenting his question with a bucking bronco pantomime that I won’t soon forget.

And being naked doesn’t just feel better: it is better for you. A host of health benefits are claimed by those who sleep naked: deeper sleeps, healthier genitals, more sex, money saved on pyjamas… Sunlight on your genitals can help stimulate a healthy libido, and being nude around others helps develop healthier attitudes by increasing body confidence.

The pleasure of communal nudity doesn’t come from a toe-tingling sense of adventure. It’s the oppositeŃthe pleasure is that the comfort of it isn’t a big deal. It’s empowering to feel good about being naked because it’s empowering to feel ownership of your body and its boundaries.

So the next time you have the chance to let it all hang out, give it a try. You’ll feel great.

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