“In the sauna nudity is not the objective; it is simply a necessary condition for bathing properly”
– Bernhard Hillila, ‘The Sauna Is’
Something I’ve learned in many years of research comparing the US and EU is that many of the ‘strange things’ that Europeans do are for a good reason. They are often more focused on real practical results rather than surface feelings.
My wife’s cousin in Sweden told me “You don’t shower with clothes on, why would you sauna with clothes on?”
And perhaps a bit of overreaction from Finnish friend: “It is greatly unsanitary to bring dirty, chlorinated swimsuits—drenched in dirt and bacteria, which are well fostered in the fabric until the suit hits the heat of the sauna and its nasty abominations dissolve and desecrate the senses of women and men, their bodies and souls, so that they return to the world sickly and diseased, and not invigorated and spirited, as they had planned.”
In most countries, except the US, everyone enjoys sauna together naked and nobody gives it a second thought. People sauna without clothes because it is more comfortable, makes sauna more enjoyable and importantly, is more hygienic.
But not so much Americans.
Americans (and to a lessor extent, other english speakers) have an interesting relationship with nudity. On the one hand discomfort, fear and a bit of Victorian overreaction perhaps. On the other we lead the world, by a wide margin, in publishing nude selfies of ourselves. We are totally backwards from others – we’re fearful of doing that which is not harmful and excel in doing that which is.
Nudity is surprisingly complicated. There are a variety of nuances and misunderstandings that can have important implications.
In Europe and many other parts of the world there is a distinction between natural nudity and sexual nudity. Not so in the U.S. where all nudity is considered sexual. And this may not be a good thing for us.
While someone in Sweden or Germany might think nothing of natural nudity on a beach or in a sauna, they’d never consider sending a nude selfie to anyone other than their spouse because they know the harm it would cause.
It’s also important to keep in mind that nobody, including children of any age, is harmed by simply seeing someone nude. In reality it’s good for children to be exposed to natural nudity. Many cultures have a belief in children younger than puberty or early teens going nude at beaches and pools for both their own comfort with their own body and they believe that children seeing each other naturally likely lessens some of the more harmful sexual nudity in teen years.
Nudity is kind of fascinating. Most of us don’t care if someone else sees our hand. We walk around all day with it exposed and anyone who wants can see it. Our genitals are another story. And perhaps one of the oldest stories when we consider that nudity was one of the first topics discussed in The Bible.
Why so different? It’s just skin.
Just as with extra-marital sex, nudity, or more specifically erotic or sexual nudity, can be a significant issue for marital bliss.
We know that her pre-marital sexual activities are the greatest predictor of how stable a family she and her children will have. If she’s a virgin at the alter then there’s about a 96% likelihood of a stable (and happy) family. If she’s not done anything sexual with anyone other than her future husband then she’s still in relatively good shape with a 90% probability of a solid family.
Otherwise, things begin to look not so good for her.
There are a few things that likely contribute to this but the core appears to be weakened commitment for making it through the struggles that every marriage faces. This is an underlying foundational thing, not a surface thing.
One key cause of this weakened commitment is her having multiple conflicting Oxytocin induced pair-bonds. Another is someone being bothered by feeling like they’re sharing their spouse with others.
By the way, his pre-marital activities do not appear to have any effect on his marriage statistically nor for the most part based on counselor and psychologist experience. This partially because he does not develop pair-bonds as she does. And yes, it may seem unfair that the stability of a family for her children is all up to her but that appears to be the human package that we all have to live with.
So, nudity. There are a couple of key bits to this. First is that for guys sex is purely a physical thing. No emotions or oxytocin pair-bonds or romance. No relationship necessary. This is why guys will so willingly pay a prostitute $500 for sex. Gals on the other hand say ‘that just doesn’t do it for us’. Psychologists are fond of saying that she goes home after sex wondering when he’ll text, he goes home and begins flipping through Tinder and wondering when his pizza will come.
The second thing is that guys are extremely visually oriented, her genitals in particular, when it comes to sexual arousal – visual sex.
One rather honest guy once told me “I don’t like the idea of other guys having visual sex with my wife, whom they don’t know and don’t love and don’t care about. I don’t like that they used her body …the way I did with gals on the internet. And that she invited them to do so.”
Context matters. And context largely distinguishes what harm, if any, will result.
If guys getting aroused by seeing her nude is a purpose, even if not her intent, then it’s erotic nudity. This can or often does have a negative effect on her marriage though the extent is not well known. Skinny dipping, nude runs and games such as strip poker fall in to this category. This seems primarily an issue of his being bothered by other guys having seen his wife nude and having then been aroused by her nude body. Kind of visual sex lite.
On the other hand, if guys getting aroused is not a purpose, and particularly if there is a practical purpose for being nude, then it’s natural nudity. Sauna and sunbathing at the beach are generally both natural nudity for example.
Some guys will be bothered by this, especially if other similar age guys are or were present, and some guys not. There is no right or wrong nor any indication of why one person is bothered by it and another not. It appears to largely be innate rather than a choice he’s making and not something that he can usually change though it does often change over time with his becoming less bothered as he ages.
And context within this can matter. For instance, someone might be much less bothered by this in Europe where it’s considered normal than in the U.S. where it’s more unusual.
Finally there’s sexual nudity – acts that may result in her developing an Oxytocin induced pair-bond. These are typically things involving her and one other guy and in particular a guy she’s romantically interested in. Showering or skinny dipping together are common examples. This largely falls within Tech Virgin and with similar effects on her marriage.
So, what’s a gal to do? The absolute safest course is to avoid any kind of coed nudity and even some gals in Europe do this beginning in their teens until they marry. Natural nudity such as in a sauna is unlikely to be an issue though unless some similar age guys are present.
On the other hand, skinny dipping or playing strip poker with a coed group of friends carries some and possibly considerable risk as does any kind of sexual nudity.
Nude photos are their own category with their own complications and generally carry higher levels of risk.
Her having sent nude selfies to a guy or letting a guy take photos of her appears to have a similar or maybe even greater impact to having had intercourse with another guy – resulting in weaker commitment for she and her husband and a likelihood of divorce.
The causes are complex. She may have developed a pair-bond with the guy she sent the photos to which creates a number of problems itself. Psychologists and counselors have also reported problems of increased anxiety over revenge porn as well as husbands disliking the idea that at any time other guys are likely jerking off to nude photos of his wife – visual sex.
On the other hand gals who’ve done nude modeling for artistic paintings, statues or photos do not seem to have negatively impacted their marriage though they also say that there are a very limited number of guys who are comfortable enough with her past (or present) modeling to marry her so she is also being more selective in mate choice.
There are other elements that play in to all of this.
Most guys are less bothered by others seeing her topless than bottomless.
The more similar in age, the more that a guy could be a romantic competitor in any way, the more of an issue there can be. This regardless of her having any romantic interest in them. This is particularly an issue if she or her husband know them in some way.
A good example of this latter is a story of a gal who, if I remember correctly, spent a couple of years in Europe as an exchange student. Her fiancé knew that on numerous occasions she’d been nude at beaches while there and said that while he was somewhat bothered it wasn’t that big a deal. Some time later he learned that one of those days she’d run in to some university friends of theirs and hung out with them chatting for an hour or so. He told himself that it was not a big deal but it gnawed at him that they’d seen her nude.
In most countries, all except the US actually, everyone enjoys sauna together naked and nobody gives it a second thought. People sauna without clothes because it is more comfortable and more hygienic.
It is more comfortable in the sauna because swimsuits or towels wrapped around you keep your skin from breathing and create uneven heat across your body.
It’s especially more comfortable outside though. Skin dries fairly quickly making it enjoyable to stand outside, swimsuits not so much. A wet swimsuit just isn’t comfortable, especially when it’s cold or breezy and doubly worse when dripping.
The time spent out of the sauna cooling down between rounds is perhaps as important as the time spent in the sauna and an uncomfortable cold wet swimsuit can make this time less enjoyable and shorten the amount of time you want to stay outside.
This also makes the routine of showering with soap before sauna and then rinsing well afterwards and before getting dressed a lot easier and more pleasant.
For hygiene there are two elements. First is that having all of your skin exposed to air eliminates any bacteria growth that happens any time we sweat. One of the great things about sauna is that we get rid of all of this bacteria that has built up since our last sauna – and that’s good and healthy for our skin.
Cloth that is not freshly cleaned with unscented detergent can also transport unappealing scents and bacteria. This is why most saunas actually forbid any swimsuits, not just recommend not wearing them.
Scandinavians will also say that not having clothes on makes everyone more equal.
There are two exceptions. Finland’s default is separate male & female rather than everyone together but mixed if all agree. You will also find public tourist saunas in Finland that require swimsuits. In the U.S. and somewhat in the UK and Canada people often wear swimsuits though that is slowly changing.
The default for our sauna is everyone wearing a swimsuit or towel. However, if all agree then it may be swimsuit optional. We can also setup separate male/female/family times if people want to give it a go in private.
The sunken patio is fairly well protected so there, the lower level of the house and of course in the sauna you are welcome to wear whatever you do or do not want. Beyond these a towel, shorts or swimsuit is a good idea.
Oh, no jewelry or electronics. While watching someone who’s just realized that their earrings are getting very hot very fast is entertaining it’s also a bit painful to see.
As much as I prefer being nude for sauna, I enjoy being with friends and family more so I always have a swimsuit ready.
For those who choose to wear a swimsuit in the sauna…
For both guys and gals the two important things are to leave as much skin as possible exposed to air and for your suit to be fast drying and non-drip.
For guys; briefs (‘speedo’) are best but a tight fitting square leg, square cut or boxer (three names for the same thing) is a bit more modest and works well to avoid uncomfortable cold drips. Jammers are probably third best with loose trunks or board shorts the worst.