Skinny dipping

Last week I was talking about nudity and wondering why it is so very taboo in some countries and considered natural in others.

Surely it is an example of walking a thin line between porn and nature? Between accepting our bodies and denying them? Between embarrassment and confidence?


Yesterday, I was with my 11-year-old niece who has come over for a two-week stay from England and the anklebiters, up at the little red summer cottages that we are renting.

After a sudden thunderstorm, the evening sun shone gloriously and we decided to take a dip in the evening warmth down at the nearby lake. After a while, a tanned, silver-haired and extremely tall Swede turned up with his young son. He looked surprised to see us, as if hoping to have the tiny beach to themselves.

“Oh, we’re going to go swimming,” he said. “We didn’t bring our swimming clothes, though. I’m going to swim anyway, so I hope no one will be offended,” he said firmly – but with a smile.

“It’s OK. We’ve got friends who often swim  nude at their summer place. And I promise I won’t look!” I said… although in reality I was thinking, “Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all!” (And no – I didn’t take a picture!)


The kids didn’t bat an eyelid and just carried on swimming and playing.

Although it did give my niece pause for thought…

“You could never do that in England. Sweden is so much better!”

It’s wonderful that people can be so natural and not at all self-conscious. It was, all in all, a lovely swim.

So – would something similar be able to take place in your country with so much grace and charm?

36 responses

  1. Ok, that may be more common in Sweden than in England, but not all Swedes are comfortable with it. Me being one of these Swedes. I go swimming often during the summer, but never in the nude…my body is my own and I don’t like sharing it with all and sundry. And I don’t need to be informed of other peoples business either ;).


    July 16, 2009 at 12:46

  2. The lake looks beautiful by the way!! And I am pretty sure in the states, someone would have a heart attack. Maybe think he was a pedophile and call the police, and have him charged with indecent exposure, and coupled with being in front of children, it would bump him up seriously, and he would end up having to register on the sex offenders list.

    But if he were with people that were a little more liberal and understanding, they’d probably just collect their things and let them carry on, and they’d come back another time.

    In Brazil, I have no idea, I’ll have to ask Sidnei and get back to you!


    July 16, 2009 at 12:49

  3. Heh – he would probably end up in prison over here!


    July 16, 2009 at 12:50

  4. well, forget about swimming in fresh water here in japan. it’s feared!! because of parasites? i’m not sure. too bad, because there are plenty of lakes and rivers.

    and i don’t think i’d swim naked in the ocean…and i’ve never seen a japanese person skinny-dipping. quite reserved, the japanese seem to me….


    July 16, 2009 at 13:28

  5. No, it wouldn’t happen here. You’d probably be arrested and if children were present, the charges would be more severe. I’m not sure I understand the hang ups about our bodies and nudity.
    Anyway, interesting post and beautiful photos.


    July 16, 2009 at 13:50

  6. I have no idea what would happen here in Paraguay. I´ve never been in such a situation and never considered it either. My body is not worth showing…
    But I´m sure people here would not be as comforable as you were. We are really really “stuffy” Mennonites!! 🙂


    July 16, 2009 at 14:02

  7. I have never quite understood why it is okay for a child to be exposed to extreme violence through TV shows, video games, and movies, but yet it is damaging to them to see a naked person. I mean, I would rather Emma see a naked man than watch a violent TV show. Nudity is natural, violence is not.


    July 16, 2009 at 14:30

    • I agree with you 100%! Well said.


      July 16, 2009 at 17:16

  8. Donn had a Swedish person in his French class and one day she was talking about nudity, and how it was natural to go outside and chat with the neighbours in the nude. “Is it like this in America?” she asked Donn, and he, with straight face, said, “Yes. Exactly like that.” He told me, “I hope to read about her in the newspapers one day.”
    No, Americans are rather uptight and, dare we say, puritanical about nudity. There are exceptions, for example there’s a nude beach on the Columbia River near Portland, and you can go nude at Bagby Hot Springs. Nudity in America is like the way Americans handle public drinking; it’s adult only and a little skanky. (i.e. “bars” with no windows, as opposed to Europe’s pubs and cafes.)


    July 16, 2009 at 15:09

  9. I completely agree with Jacki. We live in California and when we took our sons to Corsica, there were women topless on the beach. After a few minutes of looking, they got used to it, and then it became natural. Americans probably look at, “Is she sexy? does she have nice large breasts?” whereas the Swedes and Danes, probably don’t judge bodies the way they do in the U.S. They are more accepting, perhaps because they see so many different shapes and sizes. Also age does not affect them as much as it does here. I really miss the freedom to be who you are in Scandinavia, compared to life in California.


    July 16, 2009 at 15:15

  10. No it wouldn’t happen here. Each to their own though!


    July 16, 2009 at 15:18

  11. Kata

    The redeeming factor here is that every-one was so polite and civilised about it all (how swedish is that!!) if you had been silly about it Fi, then the children would have picked up your cues. As it was they picked up the sensible ones!!
    Aussies are pretty laid back and on an isolated stretch of beach or in the outback you would get a similar reaction, but probably not in the city these days. Perth currently have two nudist beaches- one near the army shooting range (precisely!!!) and the other also fairly dull and no amenities nearby.


    July 16, 2009 at 15:20

  12. Kata

    Addit to above comment: nudity probably not a big thing in Australia because of the risk of sunburn!! (and skin cancer)


    July 16, 2009 at 15:21

  13. Jen

    Part of a local beach is now under going lots of attention because a group of people are claiming it was always a nude beach, the other groups are claiming it was not.

    Well, around here, you could only skinny dip for a few months due to the weather, what is everyone worrying about?

    Don’t go there, if you don’t want to see what you have seen before.



    July 16, 2009 at 15:45

  14. Absolutely no way this can happen in India, of course. Not sure about the US. Maybe not out in the open like this. It’s great to be free and experience nature without being all wound up about it.


    July 16, 2009 at 15:47

  15. Well, it wouldn’t happen here because you’d freeze – even in summer weather!! Go to the beach in Ireland during the summer and not only do people have swimwear on but wet suits!! Biggest summer seller here is wetsuits for kids!! That’s how cold and wet our summers are!

    Love the fact though that the Swedes are so comfortable about their bodies!


    July 16, 2009 at 16:33

  16. Nothing wrong with a tall fit fit naked Swedish guy. But that doesn’t mean all nudity is good. Plenty of nudity, for example in Germany, is just not good.


    July 16, 2009 at 18:08

  17. You make me miss Sweden!

    Here in the USA, you can be arrested!

    I lived at a Folkhogskola in Sweden where there was a sauna, only one for everyone, and of course no one wears clothes in the sauna in Sweden! It totally blew my mind. Then I got used to it. Now I miss the carefree attitude.


    July 16, 2009 at 18:37

  18. not unless its a specified nude beach. The thing is…Ive been to nude beaches, and I guess I just dont see the problem? Its not like its a giant orgy or something (sorry can I say that on your website? You can delete it if not) which I can only assume is the reason nudity offends ..the possible sexual implications right? my comment is rambling…I personally have more of a problem with women in low cut tops with serious cleavage where the POINT is to be sexy, than with a person wanting to just swim comfortably.


    July 16, 2009 at 18:53

  19. I don’t think Swedes IN GENERAL are more comfortable with their bodies… I would not feel like being near the nekkid man swimming at all 😦


    July 16, 2009 at 19:04

  20. mother of the cousins

    As mother of the niece, she is at the age of being private with her body, so nice to see a natural reaction from the Swedish father.
    I think it was very good that he actually warned you, was polite, and was going to do it. Did his son?
    Did the children?
    And did you??? After all, you like the idea. You could all have had a Swedish liberal once-in-a-lifetime swim…..


    July 16, 2009 at 20:31

    • Yes, his son was naked too. We were already in the water in swimming costumes so would have been weird to strip off…

      Kids do swim naked with other friends, so it’s not a problem.


      July 17, 2009 at 09:13

  21. Uh… Uh… Uh… I… I… Um…. I…. I have no idea what I would have done. My experience with nude people on beaches have been too weird and scary. I felt like I was being bullied, by a naked guy who wanted to force me to talk to him about the tides and admire him… all of him… He was clearly messing with me. But with a different person, in a different place, who just left me alone, I don’t think I would care.


    July 16, 2009 at 20:45

  22. Heck no! And if it did happen it would have been handled badly by everyone involved. In my head I enbrace this. And I’m fine if others want to swim naked. But there’s NO WAY I’d be caught swimming naked. I wish I weren’t so self conscious… but I am 🙂


    July 16, 2009 at 22:05

  23. Po

    I am afraid I am far far too shy and prudish for that, but I have no problem with anyone else doing it!


    July 16, 2009 at 22:59

  24. Umm, but the silver-haired swede sounded so delicious. How could you resist not looking?


    July 17, 2009 at 04:49

  25. Maybe some are trying to soak up nature and sunshine as much as possible due to the short summers? I definitely can’t speak for the whole USA but it is certainly frowned upon in our neighborhood. “Mr. Roberts, for Pete’s sake – get a bathrobe!”


    July 17, 2009 at 06:32

  26. Well I grew up going to Sauna naked..then I had to learn to wear a swim suit in the sauna at a summer camp..I just thought naked was natural. I have always loved to skinny dip, in fact, I thought of it the other night. Far Guy and I have been skinny dipping lots, but always at night..very sensual..but just the two of us..and here in Minnesota you stay in the water cause of the mosquitoes at night! Our children as teens planned skinny dipping adventures at night, it seem so daring for them.. and fun. One time their Grandpa snuck down and grabbed all their clothes.. we had to rescue them with towels! We had an exchange instructor from France that sun bathed topless at out resort.. she almost caused many boating accidents. I think many Americans are prudes, and laws are such that you could be charged with public nudity..especially men. Women could probably get by with it! It was nice of him to warn you, you did great, just being matter of fact, and kids are so flexible. Not even one peek? You amaze me. cause I would have had several peeks:)


    July 17, 2009 at 07:53

  27. I could never go anywhere in the nude – I am totally self conscious and even when I had a fairly good bod I still wouldn’t have been able to do it. I envy people who are so free as to be able to do it.


    July 17, 2009 at 12:21

  28. I’m in Turkey right now… By the more liberal beaches you can go topless but forget about full nudity! Tonight we went out to a nice dinner and my uncle made me change because my just-higher-than-knee-length dress was too short!


    July 17, 2009 at 21:06

  29. In answer to your question…uh, no.

    I think I want to move to Sweden. (Not so I can swim nude but it just seems to nice there.)


    July 18, 2009 at 04:17

  30. I’m pretty sure he’d be arrested in California. And I’d probably be one of the people calling the cops. That’s not appropriate in front of young children.


    July 18, 2009 at 07:02

  31. J

    Interesting point. I was lucky in China that my apartment was next to the school, so I never had to use the horrendous staff toilets, and the only ‘communal’ style loos I encountered where in Xian train station.
    I found some of the clothes/nudity issues in China fascinating. In the women’s changing rooms, no one would bat an eyelid about being starkers (I certainly didn’t get naked though, I attracted enough attention fully clad!), and it was quite acceptable for men to whip off their tops, but for a woman showing your shoulders was controversial – however wearing a totally see through shirt so you could see your bra underneath was fine.
    That wouldn’t happen here, although I was surprised to see a woman sunbathing topless on Brighton beach the other day. It’d be nice to be able to do that though, although I’d be assidous in the application of sunscreen!


    July 18, 2009 at 13:32

  32. Indeed, as everyone mentioned, you’d most likely be arrested here in the States. It’s regarded as pedophile in nature but whether there are children present or not, it’s just considered criminal!


    July 18, 2009 at 23:46

  33. Not well seen in Poland too (unless you’re on a nudist beach) but Poles are eager to go nude in all those Mediterranean beaches.


    July 21, 2009 at 09:41

  34. joz1234

    Yes, in the states I think you actually have to go to places that are nudist beaches to get away with that.

    I can type here and say it’s nice that everyone thinks that way, but if it happened in front of me, I’d freak!

    That’s just the way it is here. We are not used to it.


    August 8, 2009 at 19:48

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