Sex & Dating | November 4, 2021 7:27 am

How I Got Over My Fear of Nudity

With a little naked yoga and the help of the professionally naked, one self-proclaimed never-nude conquered a life-long fear of being in the buff

A nude mannequin sits gazing up at a group of other nude mannequins standing nearby
Feeling exposed?
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It all started in preschool. I couldn’t have been older than four when … they saw it. 

Everyone’s parents had come to school that day for what I assume was a family photo event. I remember the excitement in the air as moms and dads from all over town gathered with their respective kids. I — still waiting on Dave and Viv to show up — decided to kill some time on the indoor slide. I got to the top, closed my eyes, and launched myself down head-first — as was the style of the time. I opened my eyes to a room of giggles. My pants had caught on the top of the slide and come off on my way down, revealing my flacid little baby dick to a room full of kids and adults. Everyone saw my peepee and everyone laughed. Thus, my lifelong distaste for nudity began. 

Almost 32 years later and the sight of a slide still makes my stomach tighten. I’m a never-nude by choice in the sense that I barely ever get fully naked. I shower naked, I’m briefly naked when I change into my day sweats, and I’ll sometimes take all my clothes off for sex. Aside from that, I don’t get naked. 

I knew from the start this was going to be a problem. Every girlfriend has noticed, at the very least asking why I always change in the bathroom. One made me take off my clothes and walk around my basement with her in the buff. I don’t really know what she was trying to prove, but we don’t speak anymore.

I’m the kind of guy who likes getting down to the bottom of problems. It’s not so much curiosity as it is a symptom of ADHD: hyperfocusing. I’ve gotten over past foibles like my fear of oranges and my fear of train station bathrooms, so I wanted to see if I had it in me to overcome this Never Nude Nervosa.

I started with some naked yoga. After getting hooked up with a trial membership for True Naked Yoga (which is exactly what you think) I was able to spend some quality time with myself and a library full of guided naked exercises.  

Nudity feels incomplete for me. I always feel like I’m missing something, like pockets or a belt. So spending 19 minutes and three seconds in the buff for this HIIT Core Yoga Flow video took some getting used to. As I watched Shannon’s glistening body hold prolonged Vinyasa poses and other exercises meant to tone and build muscle, I couldn’t stop thinking about my own decidedly un-glistening tube of flesh. So, I reached out to one of True Naked Yoga’s Head Instructors Jannica Klingborg to talk me through my issues. 

“I think being nude is a natural thing,” says Jannica. “We were born nude so we should embrace our beautiful nude bodies. Being nude and teaching kids about nudity and positive body image from a young age is important.” ​​

Growing up in Scandinavia, Jannica says she was always taught to be open and unashamed of her body, only witnessing the stark contrast in attitudes toward nudity on American television and movies. Jannica says naked yoga has helped her discover new ways to look at her body, allowing her — and others — to embrace their imperfections. 

“Being nude can feel very freeing and liberating,” adds Jannica, encouraging those with my particular, uh, predicament to embrace nudity at home and “see your whole body as a whole person.” 

My body’s never felt like anything more than a vehicle along the lines of a mid-size sedan or an electric scooter. It gets me from Point A to Point B and theoretically should keep running until I die or the sun consumes the earth. So you can understand how the concept of using your body as a money making machine could seem a bit alien to me. 

Elaina St. James is a single mom living in the Midwest who’s currently sitting among the top 1% of OnlyFans models, earning more money now in a month than she used to in a year. Elaina wasn’t the type of person you’d expect to see on OnlyFans, and only knew about the site from hearing success stories on the news of “MILFs hitting it big” across the controversial platform before ultimately trying it out herself. 

“For the last 10 years, I didn’t think retirement was in my gameplan,” says the 54-year-old performer. “My first priority was taking care of my son and I was just planning to work until I drop.” Elaina did a test run on Instagram, teasing out some erotic (albeit faceless) content to the delight of her first followers — two twenty-something dudes — who convinced her to try her hand at OnlyFans. Elaina ended up making enough money on the platform to quit her full-time office job.

The transformation from office mom to someone you can pay to play your mom in a custom jerkoff instruction incest video also transformed Elaina’s view of her own body.  

“When I was younger in the late ’70s, Farrah Fawcett and Cheryl Tiegs were the vision of beauty,” continues Elaina. “Blonde, thin, athletic, small boobs, thin lips. I didn’t have those things. I was insecure to the point where I wanted to have my lips reduced.” Elaina used to struggle with the appearance of her stomach, breasts and arms — especially after having a child — and still feels genuinely tickled by a fawning fanbase that drools over every picture and video of someone who once described herself as “vanilla vanilla vanilla.”

Elaina suggested many ways to get over my issue — a nude beach, nude resort, a sexy boudoir photoshoot — but it was something she asked that caused me to reexamine my fear and ultimately shifted my way of thinking: Did I like my body? 

Believe it or not, the answer is yeah, I actually do. My issue is tied to a memory, one that didn’t cripple me, but was painful enough to cause an adverse reaction when disrobed. I don’t think what I was feeling had to do with my body itself; I think it had to do with shame.

Siri Dahl got into porn around 2012 — an experience she assures me is a boring story. 

“Before I got into porn, I’d been dabbling in the kink/poly/swinger community, so I had some experience with sex parties,” says the avid bodybuilder with a passion for powerlifting, activism and sex-positive work. Siri was never one to feel insecure or ashamed of her body, saying nudity is second nature at this point in her career.

“If you’re not the only one who’s naked in a room, there’s far less pressure,” she says. “Nudity isn’t inherently sexual on a porn set. You could just be running around naked and like, no one bats an eye.” Originally from Minnesota, Siri moved to the small town in the Bible Belt during middle school, opening her eyes to the oppressive nature of a conservative environment. Instead of hindering Siri’s growth, it actually inspired her to explore her sexuality. 

“There are a lot of places in the United States where you might find yourself in an environment that makes it almost impossible to have any sort of sexual self-discovery,” adds Siri, “This country has puritanical Christian roots, and a pervasive Evangelical movement that you cannot escape. It takes a lot of work to escape. It takes conscious work to escape that.” 

When I’m naked I feel exposed, embarrassed, small and weak. Something I stopped feeling — or, at least, feel a lot less of now — is shame. I grew up in the ’90s where television’s combination of overly-sexual and anti-sexual content confused me about how I should feel about the naked body. There were just so many mixed signals; on one hand you’d hear about TV shows like Sex and the City breaking boundaries by featuring a pair of bare nipples while bullshit like “Nipplegate” felt reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials. 

I took away a lot from just talking to Siri, Elaina and Jannica, which surprised me because I was wondering if I’d have to sign up for OnlyFans to change my way of thinking. My fear of nudity started and ended with other people. It sprang up from a most unfortunate incident where I felt embarrassment, which curdled, bubbled and naturally fermented to turn into stone cold shame. 

I watched another naked yoga video — once where you’re actually encouraged to close your eyes. On a particularly rainy-ass day I took off my robe, turned on the heat, got naked, and did a little naked meditation. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the embarrassment from that day, but for five minutes, I felt like my distaste for nudity could be at least separated from that memory.  

Viewing my fear of nudity as a social construct (as opposed to an inherent feeling) helped me dismantle and eventually overcome it in the same way I was able to figure out my fear of oranges (the fear of vomiting or seeing others vomit), my hatred for clothing tags (ADHD), or my fear of flying sober (an all-consuming fear of death). 

I remember Jannica saying something along the lines of people being programmed to believe “the more skin you show the less of a person you are,” and that is obviously not true. Jannica and I have a lot in common: we both agree there’s a time and place for nudity, and we both think nudity can be customized. My naked experience involves me, a thoroughly locked room and a space heater. If that gives me peace of mind and helps me change in front of my wife without being weird about it, great. If I can achieve some level of nude peace from the simple act of meditating outside my comfort zone? Cool. At the very least, I can say I’m no longer letting my fear take the wheel and steer.