Modesty and Nudism: Part 1

Note: This post contains artistic depictions of nudity.


There are two reasons why I became interested in the subject of nudism:

  1. Years ago, after watching a few minutes of Naked and Afraid out of morbid curiosity (This show can’t be what I think it is. TV can’t have sunk this low…), I was reminded that “People who go naked exist.”*
  2. I was eventually reminded again, after reading this blog post: Revealing Intimacy.

My interest in nudism is because of my Catholic faith.

My interest in nudism stems from a desire to reach out to nudists — a group of people whom I feel are treated by pariahs by Catholics, if Catholics know such people exist at all — and tell them “God loves you. He created you, and said you are ‘very good.'” (Genesis 1:31) As a Catholic, I don’t want people to be swept under the rug because Jesus said to go and proclaim his teachings to all people.

I used to think nudism was immodest because of this part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. (CCC 2521)

I thought: “Well, that means going naked isn’t allowed.”

Then I read these words by Saint Pope John Paul II:

Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness. Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person, when its aim is to arouse concupiscence [i.e., lust], as a result of which the person is put in the position of an object for enjoyment.

And, recently, I read these words about modesty from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person. (CCC 2524)

My point being: The Catholic Church’s teaching on modesty is more complex than I thought it was.

I’m not saying “The Catholic Church condones nudism.” Because I don’t know that for sure.

What I’m saying is this:

To me, a Catholic who is trying to live their faith, modesty is about more than clothes. It’s about a person’s attitude, too — how a person views themselves and others. Thus, if a person’s intent for being naked is pure — if a person is naked in an environment where it’s clear that their intent isn’t to arouse, but to be seen as the human being they are — than I don’t see how I can object since “The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another.” The “culture” I’m talking about is “nudist culture.” For example: A nudist community, or a family where nudism is practiced: Environments where going naked is not considered immodest.


On a side note: What could “…refusing to unveil what should remain hidden,” mean for a nudist? It could mean to save physical intimacy (sex) for the appropriate context.

Like everything I say on my blog, what I have just said is subject to change: The more I learn about my faith, the greater the possibility that I could eventually realize “It is immodest to go naked for non-sexual or non-medical reasons.”

If the day comes where I realize that nudism is considered immodest by the Catholic Church, I will still treat nudists with love and respect.

Why? This is why:

Whatever you did to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me. (Matthew 25:40)


*I don’t dislike Naked and Afraid because the show contains nudity. God created everything, including the naked human body, and said is was “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) The reason I dislike the show is because, from the few minutes I watched of it, and reading the premise of the show — naked people try and survive in the wilderness — I got the impression that the nudity was there to titillate. Not educate.



11 thoughts on “Modesty and Nudism: Part 1

  1. Don’t know that your characterization of the nudity on Naked and Afraid is accurate. (I am a big fan of the show in part because it does what you describe in your post) The survival situations are so intense that any ttitilation factor is quickly lost. When people are extremely cold, haven’t eaten for days or had clean water to drink focus is not on the naked body it’s on getting fire food and water. I do think though that those who whine about removing the blur are focus too much on the need t see people bits. I believe that in the practice of clothes free living the focus in really on the whole person and what they are doing not just the body of the person. Thanks for the continued dialogue.

    1. You’re welcome.

      Good point: When a person is cold, thirsty, or hungry, they’re not focusing on the other person’s body: they’re focusing on relieving their hunger, quenching their thirst, and keeping warm.

      My concern about the show doesn’t stem from the possibility that the two people who are naked will see each other only as their pleasurable parts, but that the people watching the show will see the two naked people only as their pleasurable parts.

      The reason why is that, as far as I can tell, the two people surviving in the wilderness are naked because “nudity on TV = shock value, controversy, and ratings.” The nudity is what got me to watch the show — I was morbidly curious — and, from what I’ve been able to find, when the show first premiered the largest demographic of people who were watching it were young men: Young men whom, I would guess, weren’t all watching the show in order be educated about surviving in the wilderness, but were watching it in order to see a woman’s butt or breast.

      I appreciate that clothes-free living is about focusing on the whole person, not their body: “A person is more than their body” is one of the teachings of my Catholic faith. All over the world men, women, and children are valued only for their pleasurable body parts, and I’m glad that people living the clothes-free life are standing up and saying “A person is more than their body.” The world needs that truth to be shouted from the rooftops.

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