07 March 2007

Nudity in NL

I emerge from the world of academic writing to discuss an intriguing aspect of Dutch culture: Their jaunty attitude towards nudity. Here in the Netherlands, nude beaches are in abundance, and nude saunas (spas) are the norm. In fact, I've heard stories of American tourists getting laughed out of spas when they refused to remove their bathing attire. Recently I saw an article about the enthusiastic response to a nude fitness center and decided it was time for some blog articulation.

As an adventurous 23-year-old, I was determined to experience it all (by all I mean the beach and the sauna). Undressing for the first time was very unnerving - every fiber of modesty was screaming, "No! no! You're not supposed to do this!" It was pretty much like a naked dream - you know, the one where you go to school in your birthday suit and everyone laughs at you? Well, the difference is that although initially any nudist is plagued by fear, nobody laughs. Provided the revealing is done in a proper place, of course.

Two important things I learned - shockingly - after being in a room full of naked people is that everyone 1) does not look like a movie star and 2) is not instantly and compulsively drawn to having sex with every other person in their vicinity. Disturbingly, I somehow thought that both 1) and 2) would be the case. (What is wrong with me?)

The situation, in fact, is decidedly NOT sexually charged. Picture a man running down the beach, his glory on display for all. Picture a woman sitting in a steam room, legs at haphazard angles, shoulders drooping and jaw slacking. Maybe I'm providing too many visuals, but the point is: NOT SEXY.

So once again, the Dutch have taken something as taboo as nudity and demystified it to an almost alarming extent. The human body? Yawn. I hope they don't manage to completely demystify sex as well, or the population will disappear. And I've conquered my instincts, however briefly. Although I will admit that given the choice, I will leave my bathing suit - or towel - on.

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