On Public Nudity


So, I am not some kind of nudity freak, but you might at first have a different impression once you realize I have more than one blog post about the subject.  I am still shocked and embarrassed every summer at the plethora of tits and ass and even the Full Monty blatantly frolicking in Tiergarten.  But it just so happens that some of my more jolting experiences in Germany have involved public nudity, therefore I would not be a good “sharer of experiences abroad” unless I blogged about them.

Often Europeans say to me, “that is so hypocritical! Americans invented the pornography industry!” and I have to admit that is a bit hard to defend.  What the OUS-er (Outside United States pERson) does not understand is that part of the reason the typical American tends to be so publicly prude about porn and all things naked is due to that very fact.  It is regulated!  Strongly.  By both law and by parents, in order to protect younger people from being exposed before they can handle it.  And furthermore, the productions in question tend to originate from locales that are associated with a certain sleaziness – crime, drugs, excessive drinking, gambling, prostitution — which no Puritanically-based society like ours could ever do anything but condone and/or control.

That doesn’t mean we are polarized on the subject, with a portion supporting being naked and a portion of us against it.  Bi-polar is probably a better word.  I mean, movies like Boogie Nights don’t become sleeper blockbusters with exceptional critical acclaim for no reason (okay yes, great story too).  Americans like their nakedness just as much as any culture.  But there is a strong association of sexuality that comes with it.  And that means there is a certain time and place for it.  You cannot just go walking through the park with no pants on because you are enjoying the sunshine.  We have sort of like prudeness-guideliness.  They tend to be unspoken because they are culturally inherent for those of us who come from the US, which is why the OUS-er doesn’t understand it.

Just to be clear, that does not mean I think nakedness is about sex – at least not anymore.  The more I am exposed to the Freikörperkulture (FKK) in Berlin, the more I realize…hmmmm…it really isn’t such a big deal to be nude, is it?  In the US men can easily walk around with no shirts on.  So why not women?  However the fact that I even put that to paper is probably viscerally shocking for my fellow patriots (oh, okay, and still even for me just a little as I write it).   But really, I am not the only expat to have gone through this kind of experience and found my mind a little freer.  Cheryl Howard, a Canadian expat, also tells a funny story about going to a spa in Berlin.

No, for me personally, the subject of whether or not it is okay to be nude is primarily about how you look nude.  If I haven’t had a wax in a while or I eat a gigantic piece of cake the night before, I might be a tad more worried about the size of my butt the next day.  Then again, now that I consider it fully — maybe that is still rooted in the sex thing.  Because it is a question of attractiveness, and why do we want to be attractive…?

Yeah.  Ok.  So my mind is half open to the FKK mentality…I even wrote a poem about it…maybe eventually I will get all the way there and being naked won’t matter at all anymore to me.  Then again – would I really want that?  Somehow there is something about the mystery of what is underneath the clothes that eventually makes taking them off that much better.

Can’t get enough of this naked tale?  For a real account of stripping down and strutting through Tiergarten, the main central park of Berlin, check out Travels of Adam.

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Categories: Berlin, City LIfe


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8 Comments on “On Public Nudity”

  1. September 15, 2011 at 7:16 am #

    As a Berlin-based Photographer I could tell you stories …. It’s all about how you feel inside your body and how you see yourself. For some guys out there it’s just as normal as saying “Hi, how you doing?”, others would rather die before undressing only partially …..

  2. SandyInBerlin
    September 15, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    :) thanks so much for coming back and commenting again, esp after my faux pas.

  3. February 29, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    Look, Sandy. If God had meant us to be nude we would have been born that way.

    • SandyInBerlin
      March 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm #


  4. Basti
    July 31, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    I know your feelings about this. I’m originally from germany and hey – to be honest – I don’t think nudity can be completely unsexual. A nude women will always trigger my buttons. So, maybe your American fellows are right after all ;)

  5. August 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    GENAU!! :)

  6. Roos
    April 3, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Hi Sandy,

    I really enjoyed your piece on this! For a Dutch tv-series ons love and sexuality we’re actually looking for someone or a couple who are part of the FKK to interview about this.
    Would you perhaps be able to help us get in touch with someone?
    This is what the program looks like (these three episodes were pilots), so you get an idea :)

    really hope you can help! :)
    best wishes,

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