I’ve seen my housemates naked.
No, we don’t live in some whack-o nudist colony, where we welcome guests into our home with, “Be a dear, please remove your shoes and knickers before entering, thanks”, nor was it through a key hole to the bathroom like I had originally planned, when I was feeling unsure of what a woman’s body looks like. Instead, much discussion was had about this topic over the dinner table.
If the only reference women have to female nakedness is ourselves, ourselves five years ago and the media’s mystification of women’s bodies, it’s no wonder we are curious about body normality. We’re clapping with one bare hand.
Another realisation I came across, was that I’ve seen a number of boyfriends walk to and from the bathroom hangin’ out, and am more familiar with the male physique than I am with my own gender. Similarly, men have seen far more breasts, belly button rings and bottoms than we women ourselves. This kind of naked-exchange is usually in a relationship dynamic, so does that mean we can only experience nakedness in a sexual context?
As a mainstream girl living in the 21st Century, I’ve received many negative messages about being naked. The scolding “put some clothes on!” to girls in mini-skirts, the breastfeeders being cast out of cafes as though mothers are intending on swapping the soy for their own and the idea that the #nomakeupselfie is as far as women can go to exposing themselves. These social stigmas only highlight issues with nudity girls like me have.
But how do we know what it really feels like to be naked when so often you’re experiencing it alone? It’s like that age-old philosophical proverb, if a woman walks around the house naked, and there’s nobody there to see her – does it really feel like anything?
After another personal conversation housemate to housemate, woman-to-woman, sister-to-sister, I found out that nipple hair is in fact an areola accessory for everyone. This was a shocking realisation, as I had spent a good portion of my womanhood feeling as though I was abnormal for this sprouting stubble, and no matter how much I plucked, out came the full moon and I would turn once again. I was annoyed that the social embarrassment that surrounds our bodies can have such a detrimental effect on how we view ourselves.
If only I knew what ‘normal’ looked like, then perhaps me and my friends wouldn’t feel so confused about scars, ingrowns, cellulite and other lumps and bumps.
This is when I suggested that my roommates and I should strip down and not hide our bodies like they’re a big secret. Also keen for the experience, they were onboard. We share a home together, food together, jokes together, tears together and well, why not?
Off came bras, down went trousers and on came the TV (what’s Q & A without a little T & A?). Of course we laughed about the situation at first, and pointed out cliché ‘areas’ like the roll of fat that blobs on your tummy when you sit down, the fascinating patterns that moles come in and the satisfaction in knowing that we all have ‘ugly’ scars somewhere. But what started out as – let’s be honest – a somewhat perverted experiment, where subconsciously I probably just wanted to see who had the perkiest boobs, it became less about how other people looked and more about how I felt.
It was my arched spine stretching like a cat as I wasn’t weighed down by my Winter coat. It was the warmth of the heater sting my bare skin, the open window’s breathes on my shivering shoulders, the novelty of tracing my ribs with my fingertips and it was the confidence gained, that I could sit in front of people, collarbone to calf on show, and think “hey, I’m sittin’ here naked… wild.”
The experience, and the other tits-out-by-the-fire sessions we’ve had since, felt great. When there’s a mutual respect and everyone is in the same naked boat, being nude doesn’t feel vulnerable, uncomfortable or embarrassing or any other negative adjectives usually associated with the situation.
Additionally, the sexual side of nudity was non-existent. I’m not and never have been attracted to my friends, why would it make a difference after seeing them with their clothes off? No one’s sex organ (yes, the vagina… *shock horror*) is even on show. Contrary to what pornography might suggest, it’s actually very tucked away under thighs and that little pudge of fat below the naval, not in your face and the main feature of the human form. Do you know how I know this… Now? Because I’ve seen real women naked.
From my experience, I felt more in touch with my natural state and kind of analysed contemporary living. “What are these two material bowls (or in my case, tea cups) that we strap to ourselves to hold up our breasts?”, “what the fuck is a neck tie and what does it do?” and “bags are strange, material pouches that we keep our things in, and take everywhere we go.” Why is nakedness so outrageous, but wearing a $600 leather jacket standard? Who is this cow and where did her skin come from?
I’ve got to be realistic here, I don’t think I’ll take this lifestyle up full-time; the winter is too chilling and I have a weakness for designer clothes. But like a weekly face mask, or a monthly trip away, it will be a luxury I treat myself to, in order to build my confidence, relax my muscles and connect with my friends.
There was no need to burn sage or break out into a menstrual tribal-dance. We just hung in the loungeroom, and it was so damn liberating.
Hanging out naked with your friends. Would you ever go there?
Sophie is a radio presenter, freelance writer and hardcore feminist. Hailing from Canberra and growing up in a house where each room was a different rainbow colour, Sophie is scared of conservatism. Follow Sophie, @sophieverass