I think your view of nakedness says more about you than how conventionally beautiful you are. It’s not about how many packs you’ve got in your stomach, or how much bounce you’ve got in your boobs. It’s about how you approach life. People who feel comfortable naked are apt to give bear hugs. They relish food and will share theirs with you, and will also spear some off of your plate. They like to make new friends, and don’t judge others based on what they are wearing. If they fart in public, they just laugh and say, “Whoops.” Naked people don’t mind what other people think of them, and will take risks in the pursuit of fun.
(h/t to home clothes free)
I agree with much of that. Your view of nakedness absolutely does say a lot about you. Certainly, it’s about how you approach life. And people who feel comfortable naked are often fun to be around (even when they’re not naked).
But I think there’s a lot more subtlety to being a “naked person”. In particular, I don’t think being a naked person really indicates that much about your personality, at least not in the way that psychologists usually talk about personality. Psychologists generally recognize five “dimensions” of personality: the “Big Five”. A personality dimension isn’t the same thing as a “personality type”. Personality dimensions are simply traits that can be measured (sort of) on a scale defined by standardized tests. A personality “type” (if such a thing exists) is a complicated mixture of different measures on each of the five scales. “Extraversion”, for example, is one of the five dimensions. An person who’s an “extrovert” would have a high score in the extraversion dimension. But the person’s actual personality could vary greatly depending on scores in the other dimensions, because the different factors interact with each other in complicated ways.
From the quote above, it might seem as if a “naked person” is likely to be extroverted, with a high extraversion score. Gypsy Taub, perhaps (though I haven’t met her and don’t know). Yet I would say that a lot of people who enjoy social nudity are not extroverted, and may in fact be shy and reserved, at least in most circumstances. For instance, a person who values authenticity may not enjoy making small talk about relative trivialities, such as the weather or recent celebrity scandals. Such a person might then seem shy and socially awkward. In general, I’d suggest that being a naked person involves characteristics that are poorly captured by the Big Five.
If there are characteristics that are common with someone who’s a “naked person”, I would tentatively say they’re things like authenticity, an impatience with pretense, and openness to self-disclosure. That trait of openness doesn’t mean that people who have it are likely to talk a lot about themselves. It means they are willing to “open up” and reveal some of themselves under “appropriate” circumstances – for instance, when they feel it is “safe” to do so.
It might seem that people who are comfortable being socially naked would be more willing to “bare all” about their inner selves as well as their physical bodies, but that doesn’t necessarily follow. Naturists generally consider clothes to be a very superficial indication of either an individual’s feelings at a particular time, or of an individual’s more fundamental personality. So a person who’s not wearing clothes might not reveal much except being comfortable with nudity. Conversely, clothes can be used as much to disguise feelings and personality as to disclose them. Going naked greatly reduces (but doesn’t fully eliminate) the possibility of disguise. Clothes are frequently worn to communicate something, though not necessarily truthfully. People who are naked are unable to use clothes for communication, but there are other, nonverbal cues they can use to communicate (or miscommunicate).
So if being naked actually curtails overall the means of communication about oneself, in what way does it imply “baring all”? A good way to think of the choice to be socially naked could be to see it as initiating a negotiation. It is an offer to begin a conversation. The person making the offer would expect to see indications from other parties of a willingness to reciprocate the openness, and also to refrain from taking unfair advantage of this openness. When the negotiation results in suitable indications of agreement to proceed, then real communication can begin.
Although social psychologists have studied social nudity very little, they have discovered various other interesting and relevant things. For example, experiments have show that when people are required to sign their names at the top of an official form (such as a tax return) instead of at the bottom, then the statements they make on the form are more likely to be truthful. It is as though a promise up front not to dissemble is taken more seriously than one made only later. Political candidates and interest groups take advantage of this tendency too. They send out fake “polls” that urge you to give your “opinions” on statements that are biased towards the position of the group or candidate. If you overtly acknowledge that you agree with those positions, then you will be more likely to contribute money to the “cause”.
Being naked makes a similar kind of commitment. If you go along with the “playing a role” view of social behavior (“all the world’s a stage”), then you are more likely to act as the role requires if you have accepted the role to begin with. And so the choice to be socially naked leads people, at least some people, to take more seriously the importance of honest, authentic communication. If you signal that you “have nothing to hide” (by being naked), then perhaps you’ll actually be less likely to hide things, even if nudity doesn’t in fact itself constitute disclosure. Nudity should be used as the beginning, not the end, of honesty and disclosure.
I’m reminded of a well-known poem of the notoriously reclusive Emily Dickinson. She used the word “nobody”, but if we put “a naked person” instead, the poem would begin
I’m a naked person! Who are you?
Are you a naked person, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.