I have been conducting extensive research over the last few years on the history of nudity in social situations, and I am looking to expand my research base now I have come across a few other interesting facts. I have found a lot of facts stating that although the wearing of clothes is the social norm in most cultures; some cultures, groups and individuals are more relaxed about nudity (for example Nudists/naturists - WARNING! - Link is NSFW), however, attitudes often depend on context. It is generally agreed by naturist organisations (for example, British Naturism and International Naturist Federation) that eroticism and blatant sexuality have no place in naturism and are, in fact, directly opposed to its ideals. Reasons that have at times been given include rapport with other humans including equality and respect.

Being nude in groups makes all feel more accepted – physically, intellectually and emotionally (Veltheim, 2010)

On the other hand, some people feel uncomfortable in the presence of any nudity, and the presence of a nude person in a public place can give rise to controversy, irrespective of the attitude of the person who is nude. You only have to look at the history of Steven Gough as an example.

Besides meeting social disapproval, in some countries and in some settings within more liberal countries, public nudity may constitute a crime of indecent exposure. Many people have strong views on nudity, which to them can involve issues and standards of modesty, decency and morality. Some people have a psychological aversion to nudity, called gymnophobia.

On the flip side, there is a form of psychotherapy I have not long come across called Nude Psychotherapy which is

the use of non-sexual social nudity as an intentional means to improve the participant's psychological health.

The field began in the 1930s with psychological studies of the effects of social nudity on the lives of naturists. It developed in the 1960s along with the encounter group movement as a way to challenge preconceptions and promote intimacy and trust, but suffered a decline in the 1980s. It is still used by some organizations that offer participatory workshops on intimacy, sex and love...

...Today The Human Awareness Institute (Global Site) (UK Site), an organization that offers participatory workshops on intimacy, sex and love continues to conduct group sessions in which the participants have the option to be naked. (Shewey, 1994)

There are a lot of historical studies on the history of clothing, social nudity, and nudity in art, ancient Greece and ancient Rome; plus there are also anthropological studies on the irony of losing fur when evolving from primates (Horizon: What's The Problem With Nudity, 2008). I am not after biblical references (I have lots of those through my research) and I am not after personal opinions without scientific backing. What I am wondering is are there any referenced books, articles or scientific studies anyone is aware of, on the psychological effects of nudity - particularly social nudity?


Horizon: What's The Problem With Nudity, (2008) [Film] Directed by Paul King. UK: BBC. Available on YouTube

John Veltheim, (2010). Naturism: Naked Beneath Your Clothing

Shewey, Don (1994). Healed With a Kiss


3 Answers 3


Quoting from one paper, which doesn't say all that much:

The experience of nakedness under the gaze of others is highly diverse, and important background differences will affect the relative comfort with which one might strip in front of others.

Cover, R. (2003). The naked subject: Nudity, context and sexualization in contemporary culture. Body & Society, 9(3), 53-72. DOI: 10.1177/1357034X030093004

And from one of the few studies of nudists in the US, back when this was more common over there (that is 1964):

Among changes reported by nudists were “less concern with appearance,” “reduced anxiety,” “more benevolence,” and “less inhibition.”

Casler, L. (2010). Some Sociopsychological Observations in a Nudist Camp: A Preliminary Study, The Journal of Social Psychology, 64:2, 307-323

Fairly similar findings from a nude group therapy "marathon" (24hrs session):

Nudity apparently facilitates group interaction in a marathon. 17 of 20 participants felt that the factor of nudity increased their ability to open up to each other emotionally and to achieve a greater degree of authenticity and transparency. The group integrated and seemed to become therapeutically functional more rapidly than clothed marathon groups

Bindrim, P. (1968). A report on a nude marathon: The effect of physical nudity upon the practice of interaction in the marathon group. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 5(3), 180-188

And a pretty interesting discussion contrasting the German and UK cultural differences in how sexuality relates to social nudity is found in Smith, G., & King, M. (2009). Naturism and sexuality: Broadening our approach to sexual wellbeing. Health & place, 15(2), 439-446.

  • $\begingroup$ 5 interesting papers added to my collection there. Thanks :-) +1 $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 11:50

There's this article which I'm unable to obtain: "The Psychology of Social Nudism", Lutzeier, Daniel Paul


  • $\begingroup$ Looks like registration as a researcher at Princeton University is required to view a copy. Will look into that. Thanks $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2020 at 5:34

For the psychology of small groups of people, we have for example:

The Social Psychology of Behaviour in Small Groups By Donald C. Pennington

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Psychology.SE. Can you please elaborate on how this book would help with this question? Looking at the index of sections via Amazon's "Look Inside" facility, there are no glaringly obvious sections looking at nudity in a small group social context. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 5:43

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