male nudity and the collective unconscious

male nudity and the collective unconscious

I have been thinking about the greater amount of men versus women who are practicing nudists. After viewing a couple of vintage videos that showed that up until recently is was much more socially aceptable for men than women to participate in nude activities.  I wondered if male nudity is something embedded deeply in the collective unconscious of humanity.

The collective unconscious is a concept developed by psychologist Carl Jung. It posits the idea humanity has collective unconscious mind that independently shapes and organizes human experiences. This consists of universal inherited preexisting forms, images and representations shared by every culture and group of people in human kind. When these representations are personified Jung calls them Archetypes. Following that thought I am suggesting that one of those universal representations is the nude male.

Throughout history the image of the nude male has bubbled up from the collective unconscious to symbolize many things in many cultures. I think that it is this unconsciously pervasive cultural image of the male nude versus our female counterparts that drawsmaybe even drives us males towards nudist practice.  This same phenomenon may be present in the historical practice of societal covering of women, even in cultures where the people tend to be less dressed than those of us in western culture. So if this image is so embedded in our collective unconscious minds, what accounts for the modern day aversion to the nude male body? The representation of the nude male was and is always symbolic of something in each era. It has been symbolic of the warrior, athletic perfection, sexual prowess and more. But as human beings have developed and evolved the unencumbered body in battle has been replaced by the armored body. Athletes are covered with the perfect tools for modern day sports. For the most part the modern day symbolism of the nude male has become exclusively attached to sexuality.

This is where the tension reflected in modern western society arises. The unconscious universal and dare I say a naturally positive image remains. However, it is being overshadowed by a modern conscious perception that is only a partial expression of the more wholistic unconscious representation. In modern western culture the  loss of connection to this deep natural and universal acceptance of male nudity has had significant effects on society. It has led to a hyper sensitivity to the nude body, both male and female. Images of both the male and female body have become hyper sexualized driven more by modern ego perceptions than the true self. This in turn has lead to all kinds of body image issues with women especially, but also men. See the prevalence plastic surgery to modify unacceptable body part, (including increasing genital modification surgery among women). Hear the concerns of men unwilling to be seen nude because of their fear of being ridiculed about genital size. Understand the fears of men and women that they will be hit on by the trolling nude males in nude settings.  Imagine the anxieties of parents who are fearful that their kids might become victims of perverted nude men.  All “real” perceptions of the conscious mind. 

So how does this relate to nudism/naturism and being clothes free? I think the nudism is one way that human beings are unconsciously seeking to reconnect with the collective unconscious. I believe the more we can understand this deep psychological tension in society, the more relaxed we will become about clothes free living and develop a more appropriate perspective on male and female nudity. This understanding may also help to explain the disproportionate representation of men among nudists/naturists overall.  We can help to promote a healthier body positive view of nudism if we help people to understand the roots of the conflicting views at work in the human psyche. Let me know what you think?

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24 thoughts on “male nudity and the collective unconscious

    1. From my experience, one of the biggest reasons is because that’s all many people seem to be interested in talking about, is how good or bad a woman looks. Especially men. There can be a perfectly neutral image of a woman cooking or playing guitar or swimming, and so often, instead of commenting on context and story, it goes straight to “beautiful, nice curves, great tits” and so forth. It is so pervasive. That’s what I’ve seen and experienced myself my whole life, and it was really highlighted when I started clothes free life last fall. The problem is greater than just individual women’s “insecurities.” Some broader cultural and societal conversations about women are mainly about their appearance, and often times going a step further to sexual tone.

      I see it in posts on Instagram, Twitter, even blogs every day. A woman lying in the grass reading a book draws comments about her physical body. Especially from men. A man lying in the grass and reading a book? People more often say, “Cool. What a great idea. I should go outside today, too” or, “Man that’s whack I ain’t goin outside naked.” Less often a comment on his physical appearance. There are major societal issues at play here.

  1. I have have had more or less the same thought develop in my mind, i.e. that there is an instinctual, cross-cultural male desire to be nude as a strong form of personal affirmation in specific contexts. Examples are the tradition for men to be nude at the male-only funerals of tribal leaders in Maori society, and the way men sometimes strip nude as a celebratory response to having reached the culmination of an arduous trip, for example on reaching the South Pole, or the summit of a mountain. I have also heard of young Japanese men stripping nude on the terraces of sports stadia to celebrate their team winning. The habit of hiking in national parks nude is similar, and also the recent phenomenon of young western men stripping on having reached the climax of the Inca Trail, i.e. arriving at Macchu Picchu. It is a passionate, powerful affirmation of connection or belief in something. It is saying ‘this is the true, essential me, and I affirm this moment, this event, or this achievement with my whole self’.

    But also, less profoundly, men at times seem to just want to display their physiques to the world, in a testosterone-driven kind of way. Here I am thinking of the times I have seen young men with lean torsos running or walking along roads, sometimes after dark, in shorts, bare chested. I think it is an atavistic impulse.

    1. And I forgot to mention the recent vogue for nude political and environmental protests; again this seems to be using nudity to make a very strong personal affirmation of, or belief in, a cause.

  2. what was said about men having body image insecurity rang true for me. That’s the biggest plus for adopting the naturist lifestyle:extinguishing the effects of having other junior high and high school “friends” point and laugh at my lesser-endowment while in P.E. showers. The humilation was like a third-degree burn for me.
    Thanks for understanding,fellow naturists!

  3. Very well-written and interesting article. Nudism is almost the norm on the coasts of Croatia, in Europe. It is traditionally part of the Croatian culture it seems, and the number of women nudists are higher than in other areas of the world I think – though a fair number are tourists from other countries,

  4. Now for a response to your article. Yes, I do think that there is an archetypal aspect for the nude male, something that has energy, a positive energy; and as with all other archetypes, a dark energy. Why do we have such a negative response in our modern western world to male nudity? I think it has mostly to do with the objectification of women as sexual objects. We use nudity and near nudity to sell just about everything from cars and clothing to what we eat and where we play. If nude women are sexual objects, the positive side of nudity, then nude men are also sexual objects, the negative face of the `nude`archetype. I think I just surprised myself with this response. I think there is a blog post in the making here, or even something larger. 🙂

    1. I agree with you on the “dark energy”. Western society sees nudity as “sexual” (and increasingly, so does the rest of the world), and while there will be nudists/naturists who will vehemently deny my next words – it is truth based upon what I have seen: I see more self-proclaimed nudist men posting items of sexual nature than I do women.

      To be blunt, the “here’s my cock ‘n balls” photos on Twitter accounts is a groaner, something that causes me to roll my eyes. (Vagina shots cause me the same reaction.) Why? Because THAT is apparently what those people feel is “who they are” – a set of genitals. They have reduced themselves to the sexual anatomy, not people with a brain who think and have feelings.

      Now, while I know that the “prude alarm” is going to go off for some people reading this, I posit the idea that people who focus on their own reproductive organs put out the vibe that that is what they focus on with everyone else as well. They have made themselves into a sexual object, ergo nudity is sexual.

      It’s a hindrance to the causes that naturists promote under the guise of holding true to the tenets of naturism itself.

      1. I like your comments and I believe they ring true for many individuals. I think many would say some of these feelings are a response to a repressively felt religious upbringing. Let me pose a question and maybe I’m a little off topic. Many the world’s major religions have tenets of how a woman should dress and behave for a variety of reasons. But, they were all written by men. If they were written by women how do you think the differences between the sexes would differ? Do you think our present day approach to sexuality would be any different?

        And you are correct in that what we spend our time and energy on is definitely where we place our importance.

      2. It is so fascinating for me to come by this article 2 years after its posting and see that the things I’ve been encountering and feeling as a newbie to all this (still less than a year of clothes free life under my belt) have been stated by others.

        To add a blunt reflection, one of the reasons I hate the genital and sexual posts is that those conversations drag so many people down to that singular way of thinking. I still can’t get over how people think they are being revolutionary by posting images and videos of a sexual nature under the guise of nudism/naturism. I want to scream, “Folks, look around. There are peep shows down the street, porn stores everywhere, and the internet is a never-ending field of sex play. Nudity tied to sex is nothing new. What IS worth noting and exploring is the possibility of a clothes free lifestyle with regard to everyday activities. What IS different is clothes free life as a vehicle for healing and returning to the roots and origins as mentioned in this article.”

        The purely sexual conversations are keeping us FROM returning to our roots, from reconnecting beautifully with earth and life in a holistic way. In these months I’ve experienced so much depth and healing from this lifestyle. I’m talking even addictions and destructive ways of living being healed. But these sex talks take the conversation away from all these other possibilities.

        I will also say that the endless comments I see even from those who claim to be seasoned about how “good” people look make me uncomfortable. I see those kinds of comments all of the time. And, honestly, people talking about how good bodies look only draws attention back to the body which will change and shift over time. For me, it keeps the conversation at the surface, it sounds like everything I’ve heard before I came here. I’m sorry to say it, but for me there is nothing revolutionary there for me either (and this is just my personal thing; I can’t speak for others). People talking about the goodness of the lifestyle, though, that is different and refreshing and encouraging for me. If I share a picture of myself playing the viola clothes free, I’m not fishing for comments on the goodness or sexiness of my curves. I’m posting it with a caption or thoughts to start a conversation about how cool it feels to me to play my favorite instrument clothes free…what it does for me psychologically, how I feel. But people over and over again take it back to the body. For me, that behavior hovers closely to those folks who take it all the way back to sex.

        I might have strayed from the original point of all this, but reading both the article and the comments, particularly this one, brought up a lot of things I’ve been struggling with. I’m grateful for discussions like these.

      3. musingsoftheamusingmuse We’d suggest that the depiction of social nudism you describe online is highly skewed. No ‘vehement denial’ here, just agreement that MOST ‘nudist/naturist’ things you find online, whether Twitter, Facebook, (shudder)Tumblr, G+ or websites are masturbatory postings by non-nudists or those who may think they’re naturists because the like looking at pictures of naked people..

        No legitimate nudist/naturist information source will focus on depictions of genitals, individual body parts, inappropriate behavior, or even the idea that social nudism is remotely related to LOOKING AT naked people.

        “Naturists’ don’t post these things, and you are entirely correct that they are detrimental to our efforts to overcome the deeply ingrained idea that social nudism is one great orgy.

        You’re also right that more of these photos are posted by men than women (or men posing as women), but there’s a fair share of them posted by women with something to sell, whether it be a subscription to more pics or only an ego boost.

        All of them need to be ignored by our community (other than to vilify them whenever possible) and, instead, to share good, honest articles such as this one and others that can be found via GOOD sources!

        But for the handful of websites devoted to mainstream social nudism, the internet is the WORST place for someone interested in nudism to seek information, lest the stereotypes be re enforced and, if possible, made worse.

  5. Wow! I am so excited to find another person who sees a connection between naturism and Jungian psychology. Would you mind if I reblogged this on my site, or better still have your post at my site as a guest blogger? I look forward to your response.

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