Individuals learn the appeal of nakedness from early childhood whether while being bathed, changed or dressed. These sensual, expressive and unadulterated experiences underscore the utility and pride of exposing bare skin. Such an intimate and dependent tactile connection is unprecedented and only vaguely resembled in adulthood, where nakedness carries a taboo sexualized value. This leaves many losing sight of the comfort and confidence once associated with skin pleasure, associating nudity with sex. Even when nudity is meant to signal intimacy, the vulnerability and dependency of exposing the self can create anxiety, with body consciousness and discomfort in physical appearance inhibiting sexual expression.

The following are some examples of inhibited expression of sexuality:

  • Restricting: Self-consciousness can dictate the way individuals maneuver their bodies. Instead of being adventurous with sexual positions or behaviors, limitations are imposed to positions that are flattering or non-accentuating of certain body parts. This also influences the extent and willingness to explore varying sexual practices. 
  • Hiding: When individuals feel embarrassed and insecure about their bodies, they will engage in sexual activities partially clothed, under sheets or with no lights. They feel exposed without these conditions in place and preoccupied with perceived flaws. Unless aiding in eroticism, covering up takes away from the bodily freedom of full nudity and doesn’t allow for any exhibitionistic elements.  
  • Avoiding: Appearance anxiety contributes to disinterest and gradual avoidance of sexual behavior. Body dissatisfaction and distractibility tends to discourage intimacy and leads to a decline in the quality of sexual life.   

Appreciating body exposure is critical in restoring feelings of security from sensual gratification. Baring skin demonstrates a sharing of the self with another, and relates the unconscious significance of forming such a tender bonding experience. Individuals can develop comfort with nudity by engaging in massages, disrobing and/or undressing their partner(s). The merging of exposed bodies creates warmth and energy, and reflects the human capacity for symbiotic and corporeal connection.

Source: Weinberg, M.S., & Williams, C.J. (2010). Bare Bodies: Nudity, Gender, and the Looking Glass Body. Sociological Forum, 25 (1), 47-67.