Getting Naked: It’s Not Just About the Sex

Couple's naked legsI’ll never forget the first time my friend took me to Elysian Fields, a “nudist colony” in Topanga Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles. I was twenty-something and petrified; I’m not sure why. I guess I was convinced that everyone would be staring at me and evaluating my body. What a surprise to discover that when we’re naked we all look pretty much alike!

When it comes to human intimacy (or lack thereof), there are different types of nakedness. During one-night stands, getting naked means exposing a lot of skin—usually rapidly.

A client once told me that she figured she could strip and shower in the locker room with no problems, so why not strip and hook up with a partner she found attractive? She did this several times until she began to tire of the shallowness and yearn for a partnership with more depth—as she put it, “someone who I can be emotionally naked with.” Years later she found that person, and discovered that true nakedness was both challenging and rewarding.

Often, people assume that their sessions with me are going to be focused on what/when/where with their genitals. They’re often surprised when I suggest we discuss “the importance of getting naked.” A great deal of honesty and trust can be generated when you are nude with one another, something that rarely develops if the sole purpose of getting naked is to have intercourse.

If you and your sweetheart are new together, or trying to resurrect the newness and the thrill of physical intimacy, here are some thoughts and ideas for getting naked together:

  • If you feel your relationship is ready, you might consider undressing one another, or playing strip poker or engaging in lighthearted wrestling. One partner can blindfold the other before undressing him or her; it can be quite thrilling!
  • When I suggested to an older, heterosexual couple that they undress each other while dancing, the gentleman’s eyes began to twinkle. “We might suddenly find ourselves doing the polka!” he said. I explained somberly that I meant a different kind of dance, and we all laughed uproariously. Sex doesn’t have to be so serious.
  • For couples who are feeling especially awkward, writer Jay Wiseman suggests getting naked in complete darkness: “Each partner then takes turns examining the body of the other with a small flashlight—one of those little penlight things that excites just enough photons to light up an area the size of your thumbnail.” I know two couples who tried this, eliciting a lot of laughter and “fascinating fantasies,” as one young woman put it. It definitely helped decrease the nervousness of being seen naked all at once, like the scene in The Graduate when Dustin Hoffman looks up and Mrs. Robinson is standing in front of him, stark naked!
  • Guys often worry, as one put it … “Wood good, or wood bad?” He went on to wonder whether he should or should not have an erection, and when said erection should appear. The answer: It doesn’t matter. What does matter here is learning to associate nudity with something other than genital sex.
  • Occasionally, I’ll suggest to a couple who are fine about nakedness for sex that they get naked simply to talk or hold one another. I find it fascinating that often these couples will find this idea distinctly unappealing—perhaps because this kind of nudity feels too intimate?

Being comfortable in your own skin is an important part of being comfortable and intimate with your partner. If the idea of just being naked together is scary, you may want to consult a therapist. If it’s exciting, go ahead and try it!

© Copyright 2013 by Jill Denton, MFT, CSAT, CCS, therapist in Los Osos, CA. All Rights Reserved.

Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org. The preceding article was solely written by the author name above. The view and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Harrold

    January 23rd, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    Being naked is associated with being completely revealed as evidenced by anxiety dreams in which one is standing in front of a crowd of people naked. It certainly takes a great abundance of trust in order to allow oneself to be naked in front of another person. But, if you don’t have that kind of trust with your partner, is it indicative of trust lacking in other areas of your relationship? Maybe a willingness to be naked and a comfort with doing so is a good litmus test for relationships.

  • I Magnum

    January 23rd, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    Ha! My brother just moved to Topanga Canyon. No wonder!! :0)

  • jerry

    January 23rd, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    As someone who has lived in other countries off and on, being self-conscious of being naked in front of other people is an American phenomenon. A perfect microcosm of the macrocosm is in locker rooms at gyms. In America, everyone is all covered up all the time. If someone is walking around the room unclothed, everyone glances at her and then looks away embarrassed. But, in other countries, people look at you strange if you try to cover up with towels, etc. Everyone is walking around, trying to get things done so they can leave. If being naked is the most efficient thing to do at the moment, that is what they do.

  • Mary

    January 23rd, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    it would make me so uncomfortable to do #3. I’d feel like i was like a weirdo or something. like trying to look at someone who didn’t know i was looking. no thanks!

  • dunston

    January 23rd, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    I love my wife and all, but just getting naked to have a conversation? Impossible

  • Cyndi

    January 23rd, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    Your comment is hilarious . .
    I needed a good belly-laugh . .

  • leslie

    January 24th, 2013 at 12:29 AM

    but isn’t being emotionally naked far more important than physically?after all you do not need to get undressed to express yourself or understand your partner better.what is important is to overcome the emotional hurdles and make the connection through your heart and soul,not through exposing your body.

  • Casey

    January 24th, 2013 at 4:02 AM

    There is something to be said for finding comfort in one’s own skin.
    I don’t mind getting naked in front of my husband mainly because he has always made me feel kind of perfect.
    I know that he never sees the imperfections and flaws that I see, only the beauty that he sees, and that des tend to make it a whole lot easier to flaunt it for him. ;)
    But how could you ever be that confortbale in front of someone who did not make you feel that comfortable and whom you thought was picking every little thing apart? That would be a bit of a challenge.

  • Bob

    January 24th, 2013 at 5:52 AM

    Cuddling up naked after sex, or just talking like that seems okay.But stripping naked just to make a ‘connection’ seems like a new idea,and something I’m not totally sure I can do.Will propose this to the wife though.Maybe this will turn out to be good.

  • ELLIS

    January 24th, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Getting naked is letting go of inhibitions and masks. Being naked with your partner for reasons other than sex is good IMHO. It sends the message that you are ready to bare yourself to them and that you trust them completely. Also you indicate that you are not putting up a mask or a fake face but are being yourself in their presence. A good way to connect with your partner I think. I have practiced this before and it works well. But only if both of you are comfortable with it. Happy exploring this avenue folks!

  • All-Nudist.com

    January 25th, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    As long-time nudists these conversations about body shame and fear of nudity always bring a chuckle, and kind of a tear to the eye too. It’s such a shame that so many people experience so much trouble over such a minor thing as clothing!

    We were Textiles once and were where most people are, mired in shame and embarrassment over having a human body, but it’s hard to really remember how awful that is!

    We’re not going to attempt a sell-job here, but y’all might be interested in reading the personal accounts of some folks (men and women) who have taken that big step and gotten naked in front of strangers!

    Don’t worry, it’s not contagious (well, actually…) but it IS the most freeing and empowering experience most women will ever have!

  • jacob

    January 25th, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    Where did all of this discomfort about our own bodies come from? It’s like we are kids one minute and don’t care one thing about going around naked, and then the next minute we are terrified about what others think about us.

  • Malcolm

    January 25th, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Different people, different thinking, and different ways of feeling honest, liberated or whatever feeling it is. What works for one may not for another. For some of us, getting naked may not be necessary to feel connected or free, so for those of you who think it works for you please carry on. But for the rest of us, we have the right to choose too, please don’t call us as being uptight or ashamed!

  • drew

    January 26th, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    I’ve never been comfortable in my own skin ever since childhood. Too much trauma for me to overcome. Surprised I managed to stay married for 28 years finding it impossible to connect with my wife while naked. She finally gave up on me.

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