Naked in front of the (step) kids?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  October 15, 2009 02:26 PM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

There's much buzz about Hillary Swank's interview in November's Marie Claire, in which she tells Joanna Coles that she sleeps in the nude -- even with her boyfriend's 6-year-old son around.

Our society is a little over the top when it comes to equating nudity with sexuality. (It's OK to wear a bikini at the beach, but if my child sees me in my bra and undies at home I've scarred him for life? Come on). Granted, most of us don't have Hillary Swank's figure, and so the issue of sexuality isn't quite as blatant for most of us. But still, it's there -- even more so if the child isn't biologically yours, and still more so if the nude or semi-nude adult is the dad and the child is a girl (the interview doesn't mention whether Swank's boyfriend is nude in front of his son).

From the interview:

JC: What do you sleep in?

HS: I don't sleep in anything. Do you sleep in a nightgown?

JC: I sleep in pj's. I have two young sons, so I have to be conscious of that.

HS: Well, my boyfriend's son is 6 years old, and you wonder at what age you should stop walking around nude. Every morning he comes into the bedroom, and you're just nude. But he doesn't look twice; he doesn't think about it yet. I just toss and turn too much when I sleep, and if I'm in clothes, I get all twisted up.

I think she has a point: Little kids don't really think about nudity yet, at least not in terms of sexuality. And I totally understand what Swank means about getting all twisted up; I hate sleeping in pajamas, and I hate the way nightgowns ride up. And yet... even when my big kids (my stepchildren) were very young -- young enough to be running around naked themselves -- if they were at home with us I kept my nightclothes on.

Interestingly enough, when my two youngest kids were born, I didn't have any qualms about nursing them in front of our big kids -- that kind of micro-nudity felt perfectly natural. And I still don't worry about my 5-year-old girl or my 3-year-old boy barging in on me while I'm in the bathroom or changing -- something that happens at least once a day, it seems.

Back in June, there was a great Parenting Traps column by Jennifer Mattern in the Globe Sunday Magazine. In it, she wrote:

In this all-female household, there are no locks on bathroom or bedroom doors. The three of us wander around in various states of undress. I brush my teeth in the buff while my younger daughter, who is 5, sits behind me on the toilet, singing to my rear end. My elder daughter, 8, sticks her head into the shower to ask me about the various “yuck” factors of puberty, about the feminist and anthropological ramifications of shaving my legs, about the real low-down on babies finding their way into their mommies’ bellies. I tell my girls that what they are seeing when they see me is a real woman.

I think that countering the much-hyped image of Photoshopped female perfection and having your daughters understand what a woman's body really looks like is a good thing. That said, having a blended family lends a layer of complexity to the nudity question.

For all of the comments I've read at The Huffington Post (Sample: "Being nude is actually the most natural thing in the world. Kids only have a problem with it when they're TAUGHT to have a problem with it") and at Yahoo!'s Shine ("Naked in front of your own kids is one thing...but naked in front of your BOYFRIENDS 6 year old son is very creepy"), I'm still left wondering about two things:

1.) Would people still think it was creepy if her boyfriend's child was a girl?

2.) Would people still be outraged about it if she and her boyfriend were married?

Moms and Dads, what do you think? When do you cover up in front of your kids? And if you're in a blended family, where do you draw the line when it comes to nudity?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

30 comments so far...
  1. If the children's mother is fine with it, then it's no one else's business. But I hope Hilary is checking the kid's cell phone for nudie pictures!

    I think we in New England are more modest/prudish than on the West Coast. Maybe it's the weather?

    Posted by cosmogirl October 15, 09 04:55 PM
  1. Too cold to be in the buff here. I'm only ever naked in the shower.

    No, I don't think nude parents or step-parents are creepy, so long as any opposite-sex children are pre-pubescent.

    Posted by helphelpimbeingrepressed October 15, 09 05:22 PM
  1. yup try being a man in the same sitution and you'll have a pissed off EX hauling you to court for child abuse, endangerment and indecent exposure. Whether you think its cute or not, whether you think it puritanical or not there are laws that can be selectively enforced with the drop of a dime.

    Posted by John Adams October 15, 09 06:33 PM
  1. Coming from Europe I am still amazed at the fake prudishness in the US. If you go to a beach in Germany all the little kids (0-4) are naked and if they have to pee they go behind a tree. This would be unthinkable over here. Yet if you visit a high school in the States there is all kinds of exposure...We don't make a big deal about it at home. We all know how we look naked but tell our kids to do whatever feels natural to them. That means wearing clothing most of the time because it is so cold...

    Posted by AngelaH October 15, 09 07:39 PM
  1. I'm naked in front of all my kids, 10 year old girl, 7 year old boy, 3 year old girl.

    I have no problem walking around the house naked. And I will continue to be this way even when my oldest daughter is 16. If she doesn't like it, she can avert her eyes. My 3 year old knows what a vagina and penis is and can say the words.

    My kids don't have a problem with it and it's no one else's business. Period.

    Posted by Dave October 15, 09 07:53 PM
  1. 1. It would have sincerely screwed with me if there was a naked step-mother running around. Six is too old.

    2. But beyond that, this article and the first two responses are disgustingly sexist. How so?

    If a man did this in front of his six year old step daughter, he WOULD be hauled off to jail. I guarantee that. He would be a level 1 or 2 sex offender and subjected to humiliating (and far worse) conditions for life.

    Swank is a woman, so it's O.K.

    Sorry folks. Chauvanism isn't the only sexism. I figured people as forward-thinking and open minded might have thought of that.

    Posted by D October 15, 09 08:41 PM
  1. As a previous poster said, if the biological parents are ok with it, then it's ok.

    But on a personal level, I am uncomfortable enough about a new clothed girlfriend being around my child through my ex. A naked one would just push me over the edge. For me, it would be 100% unacceptable. It's not about nudity, but boundaries.

    Posted by Climbingthewalls October 15, 09 08:47 PM
  1. Yes, I can understand how anyone seeing Hillary Swank naked would be scarred for life.

    Posted by dave October 15, 09 09:21 PM
  1. If its your own child, its your comfort level that determines it. I'm ok with having my daughter see me, but my husband is not. Opposite gender makes a bit of a difference.

    A step-kid, maybe not a good idea.
    My stepfather wandered in his tighty-whities and I didn't appreciate it much, nor did my friends, who would occasionally witness the spectacle.

    Posted by lala October 15, 09 09:21 PM
  1. i do think gender plays into it. i live with my boyfriend, and we have joint custody of his six year old daughter. i do not parade around naked and do not sleep in the nude, however, with kids, it is unrealistic to think she wont bust in when i am in the shower/getting dressed. i am not an exhibitionist on any level, but there are times when there will just be some exposure. for instance, taking her to the bathroom when its just the two of us. its just going to happen. she always asks if i can get in the tub with her like her mom does, but i put myself in her mother's shoes. i cant imagine i would want my child naked in a tub with someone else. i just have gone with my gut.

    Posted by beth October 15, 09 09:54 PM
  1. Funny no one considers the 6 year old's opinion on the subject. Kids can transition from oblivious to painfully aware and shy practically overnight. If it bothers him, it should not be done just out of courtesy to his feelings. If he's oblivious, making a big deal about could cause more harm than good.

    Posted by Bill October 15, 09 10:34 PM
  1. door locks. teach your child boundaries as well. sleeping in the nude is not the same as parading around a 16 year old (Dave). at 6, he should be learning to knock or, if he's not quite there yet, lock your door. get up, and put some clothes on. and dave, do you parade around when your children have sleepovers?

    Posted by kara1464 October 15, 09 11:19 PM
  1. This article could only run in the United States.

    In the US, society censors nudity. In Europe they censor violence.

    Perhaps that explains why there's a lot of articles like this one, and very few about decades of war-mongering Presidents whose lust for power and manhood has more to do with sex than a passing naked parent ever could.

    Why even bother to have a word for "nudity" and another for "sexuality", when nudity is inherently sexual to an American?

    The teen pregnancy rate in the US is the highest in the developed world, and a teenager here is nine times more likely to get pregnant than a teenager in The Netherlands, a country very open about bodies and sexuality. And we think we know something that they don't?

    Posted by Realist October 15, 09 11:20 PM
  1. Some of the comments here think all nudity = sex. Drop it. That attitude creates the problems. It doesn't matter what sex anyone is in this story.

    If you assume that a male step-parent is likely to assault a 6-year-old girl because of what she's not wearing, you need to see a psychologist, or at least stop foisting your own salacious weakness onto others.

    Posted by Paul Rapoport October 15, 09 11:49 PM
  1. This brings back really bad former stepfather memories. He should have known better: He was a Psychotherapist!

    Please, please, please, especially with opposite sex steps or parent's boyfriends/girlfriends, for everyone's sake please keep covered. Just because the child doesn't say anything doesn't mean that they are comfortable with your state of undress. You can communicate positive feelings about the human body by the way you care for yourself and the way you encourage a child to care for her or himself. It doesn't take exposing skin to do that!

    Just because you are comfortable with nudity, and you feel like you have raised the child to be comfortable with nudity doesn't mean the children aren't exposed to sexual mores throughout our society!

    Posted by merilisa October 16, 09 12:00 AM
  1. I'm with Hillary. Who can sleep with clothes on? It's not a morality issue; it's a comfort issue. If you can't be comfortable enough to sleep - in your own bed - then what are you entitled to? As for the six-year-old, I'm assuming he has at least one hand and several fingers. Hillary, point his knuckles, and demonstrate the KNOCK. Until he learns to knock on the bedroom door, he is a risk of seeing things potentially far more inappropriate than nudity. And you can model the behavior by knocking before entering his room too. Still sleeping nude. Adult children unscarred.

    Posted by tamara kort. October 16, 09 09:37 AM
  1. Very well said Merillisa..... common sense dictates that clothing should be worn. Modesty is still in vogue for most of America. And poster Dave, PLEASE KEEP YOUR CLOTHES ON AROUND YOUR 16 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER. Or would someone please call Social Services!

    Posted by BR October 16, 09 11:48 AM
  1. This reminds me of a Letter to an advice therapist which I forwarded to a prominent Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in our USA. It was not just about nudity. The letter was from a new step dad whose new wife and son were, let's say, close.

    My correspondent wrote to me that in her many years of prominent practice in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, here, it is her observation that some children a happy about sexual experiences and that some others are traumatized.

    I would really love to hear YOUR thoughts about this.

    Posted by raymond October 16, 09 12:11 PM
  1. Those advocating body-shame should think long and hard about the effect those attitudes have on children and young people. Teenage pregnancy rate, abortion rate, sexually transmitted infection rates, age at first intercourse, contraception, condom use, the list goes on and on. Try comparing the most prudish western countries, for example the USA, with the most liberal western countries, for example Denmark and The Netherlands. The differences are absolutely enormous and the reasons are well understood. Attitudes matter but there is incredible prejudice against facing up to the implications.

    I will just give one figure. A teenager in the USA is over seventy times more likely to catch gonorrhoea than a teenager in the most progressive western countries. Prudery is little better than child abuse with good intentions.

    Posted by Malcolm Boura October 16, 09 02:53 PM
  1. I second Comment #19. Those of you advocating body shame risk inflicting *terrible* psychological harm upon children. I know, because it took me *years* to overcome the damage that I suffered.

    I went through puberty *terrified* of the physical changes that I was going through. Strange things were happening to parts of my body that I had already been taught to be VERY ashamed of. Group showering in high school was made needlessly traumatic to me because of this inculcation of shame.

    If there is anyone reading this who saved Playboy magazines from 1977 and 1978, look for a letter to the editor signed [name withheld by request], Dallas, Texas.

    I'm the one who wrote it.

    Posted by David October 16, 09 07:06 PM
  1. you could try actually asking the children what they want, and think about being naked or in the presence of naked adults. Then listen carefully.

    Posted by John October 18, 09 11:40 PM
  1. These attitudes... I've never been so embarrassed to be an American.

    Kudos to #13 and #19.

    Posted by Jane R. October 19, 09 11:46 AM
  1. Nudity does not HAVE to equal sexuality, of course. And yet we all know that sexuality and nudity often, and very naturally, go together. To assume that children are not sexual beings, and do not have sexual impulses and feelings that can be triggered when being exposed to adult sex organs, is just ignorant. Also, to deny the power imbalance a grown adult has over a child is likewise ignorant and insensitive. Children ARE sexual beings and can have sexual feelings and can become stimulated when exposed to naked bodies, just like adults do. They can also feel confused and frightened, because kids are not just cute little miniature adults….they are little children with only a child’s developmental ability to process their experiences…and therefore all those edgy feelings get jumbled together into a very confusing mix made all the more so when triggered by exposure to an adult or parent they must rely on and trust. Are we all so narcissistic these days that we have no common sense anymore? What makes us think our kids want or need to see our genitals, anyway? And what is with the ‘all or nothing’ thought process? I’m so sick of this ridiculous idea that Europe somehow has all the answers to societies woes. Is there no ability to see a middle ground or use critical thinking skills anymore? Parents that aren't completely freaked about nudity or sexuality, can STILL show the decency, respect, and good boundaries to cover up when possible around children especially with opposite-sex gender, with those kids going into puberty or teens, AND for gods sake keep your clothes on around kids who are NOT your biological offspring. This is simply using common sense and teaching children about decent boundaries and having respect for themselves and others. Geeze.

    Posted by Susan October 23, 09 04:02 PM
  1. Question: I was trying to find info online about my situation and this interaction here is what came up.
    My son is now 18, approximately 4 years ago his older brother turned 18, which by the math made by son almost 14. Anyway, his stepmother had naked pictures of herself taken for her husband. She then decided she needed to show these pictures to the boys. They were naked, but more than that, they were sexual in nature, the poses and different "props". Now that I know this (it was just brought to my attention a week ago or so), I dont know what to do. She has never had children of her own, so thats part of the problem (I think?), but they are raising my son's cousin (a 12 year old). Any thoughts?

    Hi, Pauline. I'm not an expert, but I have to say that I don't think it's OK for any adult to show sexual pictures to a minor (there's a difference between nudity and sexuality). Not having children of her own isn't the issue -- what she did was completely inappropriate, and her husband (your ex? Your kids' father?) should have intervened. -- LMA

    Posted by Pauline October 30, 09 11:19 PM
  1. Firstly i think comment 11 is the best answer.
    anyway...
    There was this family walking down the road when a convertible came past and there were two naked women sitting on up on the the back, smiling and waving, happy as can be. The mother, instantly mortified for her young son having witnessed such a disgusting display of blatant sexuality, cried "Oh my God, can you believe that?"

    Before father could reply, the young son said "No way! Those Ladies weren't wearing ANY seatbelts!!

    The mother needn't have worried in such circumstances, and (generally) neither should we.

    That being said, it is probably better to have a rule of thumb that nudity is more (rather than less) acceptable in public/ with more than one "other" around!

    i.e. a child should not be repremanded for coming across/seeing an (even unrelated) adult naked (said adult should also refrain from desperately trying to cover themselves lest they give the impression that being naked is something to be ashamed of) but it can be gently made clear to them that while there is absolutely nothing wrong with being naked, it is (generally) *innappropriate* for just two people to be naked, particulary in private confines (especially, but not exclusively, when one is an adult and one is a child) and as such the child should out of respect (not fear or shame), limit their presence in said confines to just what is necessary whenever there are no other (trusted) people present. This way the issue is one of privacy and respect of elders rather than shame or fear of nudity. teach a child that nudity is natural and fine but that it is also perfectly ok to expect privacy when naked.

    It can also allow for child to be taught that it is normal for an adult to feel that nudity in the presence of a child alone can be innappropriate so that, while an adult may chose to waive the above condition and allow a child in the room if the child wishes to be there, the child can be taught to be extremely suspicious and uncomfortable if and adult should ever *request* / *invite* / *insist* that child be present in such circumstances. This teaches child to be aware of the abult's behaviour rather than nudity!!!

    Posted by Vyntr March 5, 10 02:18 AM
  1. To comment #23....

    The whole reason we liken nudity to sexuality is because we are taught that way. The simple FACT of the matter is that in countries where nudity is excepted, the children (especially older) do NOT think that way. They do NOT see a naked woman, or man, and think how nice it would be to do this that or the other.... Instead they see a naked person and they simply walk on by as if nothing is out of the ordinary, because nothing is out of the ordinary. As a result, these countries also have a lower rate of adultery as well, because they are not looking for sex around every corner, they are not tempted by the nudity of the opposite sex. They look for "real" relationships. Also less teen pregnancies. If in doubt, do the research... I did! (Psychology Major)

    What we do here in America is insane. Allow me to offer this loosely related example. If you create a box with no writing on it and no markings other than a little red button that says, "Do not touch". Place it in a high traffic area and watch how many people push the red button. You'll be surprised. Humans are attracted to the unknown. When we teach children not to do something, they end up curious and do it anyway.

    More proof (more or less) get someone who is addicted to sex or nudity and show them a picture of a beautiful woman naked. At first they will be happy and perhaps aroused. But after seeing the same person over and over and over again, they lose interest. Why? Because they already seen it, it no longer interests them. I've done this experiment.

    We think of nudity as bad or sexual for only a few simple reasons...

    #1, as a child someone, at some point, yelled at us or scolded us for looking at, trying to look at, touching ourself or being naked. When you yell at a child it imprints a very strong memory and impression in their minds and they do not forget.

    #2 Media tells us stories of sexual predators, and we tend to think it's extremely abundant. While it is abundant, if you do the research, again, i have, you will find that the number of cases has dropped considerably since the 40's and 50's. We have more access to media now-a-days, so we simply hear about it more.

    The harder we try to prevent something, the more likely it is to happen. Case in point, Prohibition in the U.S. from the 20's to the early 30's. Alcohol was made illegal, yet you could get an illegal drink pretty much everywhere you looked. The only ones not drinking were the conservatives. Even some of them were known to have a private stash hidden away for "special" occasions. Marijuana is illegal, yet if you want it I can guarantee you wouldn't have any trouble getting it. Since marijuana became a schedule 1 drug, the amount of marijuana on the streets have quadrupled.

    My point is, that if we as Americans would take a backseat for a generation or two and laxed our attitudes on nudity, sexual crimes and thought of sexuality would change drastically, for the better...

    As well as being a Student, I am also a very well paid nude photographer. And I can tell you that when I first started shooting nudes, I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.I couldn't wait to see who I was shooting next.These days, I could care less. When I see a naked female, it doesn't do anything for me. It's no different for me than seeing a fully clothed person. Why you may ask? Well this will bring me to my final reason....

    In America it's becoming more and more accepted that "we", especially our children, are becoming more and more "Desensitized" towards violence. There are so many movies, t.v. shows and video games that contain bloody violent acts that the things that would once shock us or leave us cowering in under the covers from fear are less affective to us. Fewer and fewer people disagree with this.

    It stands to reason, that the same thing would happen with nudity. If we saw it every day in our homes and on the street, we would get less and less affected by seeing it. Fewer and fewer people would stop to gawk and less and less would have these deviant thoughts of sex if the general public didn't see nudity as a sexual thing and it was simply a normal everyday thing. (Nudity not sex!) We can see this in other more nakedness liberal countries. Take native African (and other) tribes. The ones that go around letting it all hang out. Do you ever hear of reports about rape or pedophilia among these people? No you do not! Again, I have done the research.

    Posted by Concerned April 15, 10 05:05 PM
  1. Hillary should be ashamed of herself. The boy would not be allowed to buy a magazine with naked women, so why should he see her naked? Also as long as we put women like this on a pedestal the more broken homes we will have.

    Posted by valerie August 30, 10 03:59 PM
  1. Being a mom going through this I can only offer my personal opinion. I have a 3 year old son who is just starting to find that certain things turn him on (not that he knows what it means yet) and it is all around naked bodies. My ex has let his girlfriend go to the bathroom in front of my son, show him how to pee outside together, and has changed clothes around him. As his mother I am extremely angry that his dad allowed this and that she would even think it at all appropriate to do so. I would never do these things with my boyfriend's children (he has 2 boys around the same age as my son) and I would never allow him to do so in front of my son. It's just not appropriate for the adult. I went from sleeping naked to wearing pajamas when my son could get out fo bed on his own at night. I am
    very comfortable with nudity but I don't think we sholuld expose ourselves to children. Society may teach us some messed up things but I think it also teaches us to be aware of the bad things that can happen. Would you be ok with allowing your 8 year old daughter or son to sleep naked at a sleepover with their friends just because that is what they see and do at home? We as parents need to set the boundaries and teach kids to not be ashamed of the naked body but that it is something that is not meant for everyone to see (there are a lot of bad people in this world). I allow my son to look at non-sexual nude art (ie statue of david and old paintings) since he is learning about the body but I also use them as teaching tools to explain art and control where his curiousities are taking him.

    In regards to Hillary I think 6 years old is too old to be running around in front of him naked, even as a parent. However everyone's situation is different but if I was the mom, I would be very leary and 100% against it.


    Posted by Kim September 13, 11 05:08 PM
  1. I am a 32 year old guy and have a 15 year old stepson.We have lived together almost 10 years.His mom is 40.We only have 1 bathroom and he has stripped for a shower and walks around nude all the time.He has seen me in the nude because he just walks in when I am in bathroom which doesn't really bother me.He never walks around naked in front of his mom and will say im not dressed if she knocks on door.He has been like this for about 3 or 4 years about the time he had to start showering in gym.He might have used me to get used to being naked around other people and just kept doing it.We get along good and i have never thought about it as anything sexual and I don't think he does or ever has.Its more convienient for me to shave and brush my teeth when he is in shower and he gets out and I get in and he finishes getting ready.We leave at the same time in the morning and his mom leaves an hour before us.His mom will ask me to take towels in or something like that when he is in shower.He is very private with her about nudity.I didn't walk around nude when he was little.It started one day when I was shaving and he asked me if he could get shower while I finished.If he was a girl I wouldn't feel comfortable at all.If we are in bathroom and his mom thinks it just me and walks in he will stand behind me and be like mom do you mind?

    Posted by Joe October 29, 11 02:36 PM
  1. kids are taught their views about nudity , and sexuality from their parents . if we teach our kids nudity is wrong or shameful they will think it is wrong or shameful . if we teach them nudity is normal , natural , and not sexual , they will think it is normal , natural , and not sexual .
    i dont understand why a parent would be ok being naked in front of their same sex child but not their opposite sex child . i would assume that a parent does not think it is wrong to see their child naked just because they are the opposite sex . if so it says they feel that it is wrong for their opposite sex child to see them naked . why ? do these parents tell the child why it is wrong for them but not their sibling ? do they say it is wrong for kids to see adults ? do they say why it is wrong at all ?
    how could this kind of behavior from parents do anything but damage their children . teaching children that nudity is not wrong or shameful gives them a much healthier view of themselves , and their bodies . it also makes it much more comfortable to come to their parents with questions about sexuality .

    Posted by stoney August 17, 12 02:15 AM
 
30 comments so far...
  1. If the children's mother is fine with it, then it's no one else's business. But I hope Hilary is checking the kid's cell phone for nudie pictures!

    I think we in New England are more modest/prudish than on the West Coast. Maybe it's the weather?

    Posted by cosmogirl October 15, 09 04:55 PM
  1. Too cold to be in the buff here. I'm only ever naked in the shower.

    No, I don't think nude parents or step-parents are creepy, so long as any opposite-sex children are pre-pubescent.

    Posted by helphelpimbeingrepressed October 15, 09 05:22 PM
  1. yup try being a man in the same sitution and you'll have a pissed off EX hauling you to court for child abuse, endangerment and indecent exposure. Whether you think its cute or not, whether you think it puritanical or not there are laws that can be selectively enforced with the drop of a dime.

    Posted by John Adams October 15, 09 06:33 PM
  1. Coming from Europe I am still amazed at the fake prudishness in the US. If you go to a beach in Germany all the little kids (0-4) are naked and if they have to pee they go behind a tree. This would be unthinkable over here. Yet if you visit a high school in the States there is all kinds of exposure...We don't make a big deal about it at home. We all know how we look naked but tell our kids to do whatever feels natural to them. That means wearing clothing most of the time because it is so cold...

    Posted by AngelaH October 15, 09 07:39 PM
  1. I'm naked in front of all my kids, 10 year old girl, 7 year old boy, 3 year old girl.

    I have no problem walking around the house naked. And I will continue to be this way even when my oldest daughter is 16. If she doesn't like it, she can avert her eyes. My 3 year old knows what a vagina and penis is and can say the words.

    My kids don't have a problem with it and it's no one else's business. Period.

    Posted by Dave October 15, 09 07:53 PM
  1. 1. It would have sincerely screwed with me if there was a naked step-mother running around. Six is too old.

    2. But beyond that, this article and the first two responses are disgustingly sexist. How so?

    If a man did this in front of his six year old step daughter, he WOULD be hauled off to jail. I guarantee that. He would be a level 1 or 2 sex offender and subjected to humiliating (and far worse) conditions for life.

    Swank is a woman, so it's O.K.

    Sorry folks. Chauvanism isn't the only sexism. I figured people as forward-thinking and open minded might have thought of that.

    Posted by D October 15, 09 08:41 PM
  1. As a previous poster said, if the biological parents are ok with it, then it's ok.

    But on a personal level, I am uncomfortable enough about a new clothed girlfriend being around my child through my ex. A naked one would just push me over the edge. For me, it would be 100% unacceptable. It's not about nudity, but boundaries.

    Posted by Climbingthewalls October 15, 09 08:47 PM
  1. Yes, I can understand how anyone seeing Hillary Swank naked would be scarred for life.

    Posted by dave October 15, 09 09:21 PM
  1. If its your own child, its your comfort level that determines it. I'm ok with having my daughter see me, but my husband is not. Opposite gender makes a bit of a difference.

    A step-kid, maybe not a good idea.
    My stepfather wandered in his tighty-whities and I didn't appreciate it much, nor did my friends, who would occasionally witness the spectacle.

    Posted by lala October 15, 09 09:21 PM
  1. i do think gender plays into it. i live with my boyfriend, and we have joint custody of his six year old daughter. i do not parade around naked and do not sleep in the nude, however, with kids, it is unrealistic to think she wont bust in when i am in the shower/getting dressed. i am not an exhibitionist on any level, but there are times when there will just be some exposure. for instance, taking her to the bathroom when its just the two of us. its just going to happen. she always asks if i can get in the tub with her like her mom does, but i put myself in her mother's shoes. i cant imagine i would want my child naked in a tub with someone else. i just have gone with my gut.

    Posted by beth October 15, 09 09:54 PM
  1. Funny no one considers the 6 year old's opinion on the subject. Kids can transition from oblivious to painfully aware and shy practically overnight. If it bothers him, it should not be done just out of courtesy to his feelings. If he's oblivious, making a big deal about could cause more harm than good.

    Posted by Bill October 15, 09 10:34 PM
  1. door locks. teach your child boundaries as well. sleeping in the nude is not the same as parading around a 16 year old (Dave). at 6, he should be learning to knock or, if he's not quite there yet, lock your door. get up, and put some clothes on. and dave, do you parade around when your children have sleepovers?

    Posted by kara1464 October 15, 09 11:19 PM
  1. This article could only run in the United States.

    In the US, society censors nudity. In Europe they censor violence.

    Perhaps that explains why there's a lot of articles like this one, and very few about decades of war-mongering Presidents whose lust for power and manhood has more to do with sex than a passing naked parent ever could.

    Why even bother to have a word for "nudity" and another for "sexuality", when nudity is inherently sexual to an American?

    The teen pregnancy rate in the US is the highest in the developed world, and a teenager here is nine times more likely to get pregnant than a teenager in The Netherlands, a country very open about bodies and sexuality. And we think we know something that they don't?

    Posted by Realist October 15, 09 11:20 PM
  1. Some of the comments here think all nudity = sex. Drop it. That attitude creates the problems. It doesn't matter what sex anyone is in this story.

    If you assume that a male step-parent is likely to assault a 6-year-old girl because of what she's not wearing, you need to see a psychologist, or at least stop foisting your own salacious weakness onto others.

    Posted by Paul Rapoport October 15, 09 11:49 PM
  1. This brings back really bad former stepfather memories. He should have known better: He was a Psychotherapist!

    Please, please, please, especially with opposite sex steps or parent's boyfriends/girlfriends, for everyone's sake please keep covered. Just because the child doesn't say anything doesn't mean that they are comfortable with your state of undress. You can communicate positive feelings about the human body by the way you care for yourself and the way you encourage a child to care for her or himself. It doesn't take exposing skin to do that!

    Just because you are comfortable with nudity, and you feel like you have raised the child to be comfortable with nudity doesn't mean the children aren't exposed to sexual mores throughout our society!

    Posted by merilisa October 16, 09 12:00 AM
  1. I'm with Hillary. Who can sleep with clothes on? It's not a morality issue; it's a comfort issue. If you can't be comfortable enough to sleep - in your own bed - then what are you entitled to? As for the six-year-old, I'm assuming he has at least one hand and several fingers. Hillary, point his knuckles, and demonstrate the KNOCK. Until he learns to knock on the bedroom door, he is a risk of seeing things potentially far more inappropriate than nudity. And you can model the behavior by knocking before entering his room too. Still sleeping nude. Adult children unscarred.

    Posted by tamara kort. October 16, 09 09:37 AM
  1. Very well said Merillisa..... common sense dictates that clothing should be worn. Modesty is still in vogue for most of America. And poster Dave, PLEASE KEEP YOUR CLOTHES ON AROUND YOUR 16 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER. Or would someone please call Social Services!

    Posted by BR October 16, 09 11:48 AM
  1. This reminds me of a Letter to an advice therapist which I forwarded to a prominent Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in our USA. It was not just about nudity. The letter was from a new step dad whose new wife and son were, let's say, close.

    My correspondent wrote to me that in her many years of prominent practice in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, here, it is her observation that some children a happy about sexual experiences and that some others are traumatized.

    I would really love to hear YOUR thoughts about this.

    Posted by raymond October 16, 09 12:11 PM
  1. Those advocating body-shame should think long and hard about the effect those attitudes have on children and young people. Teenage pregnancy rate, abortion rate, sexually transmitted infection rates, age at first intercourse, contraception, condom use, the list goes on and on. Try comparing the most prudish western countries, for example the USA, with the most liberal western countries, for example Denmark and The Netherlands. The differences are absolutely enormous and the reasons are well understood. Attitudes matter but there is incredible prejudice against facing up to the implications.

    I will just give one figure. A teenager in the USA is over seventy times more likely to catch gonorrhoea than a teenager in the most progressive western countries. Prudery is little better than child abuse with good intentions.

    Posted by Malcolm Boura October 16, 09 02:53 PM
  1. I second Comment #19. Those of you advocating body shame risk inflicting *terrible* psychological harm upon children. I know, because it took me *years* to overcome the damage that I suffered.

    I went through puberty *terrified* of the physical changes that I was going through. Strange things were happening to parts of my body that I had already been taught to be VERY ashamed of. Group showering in high school was made needlessly traumatic to me because of this inculcation of shame.

    If there is anyone reading this who saved Playboy magazines from 1977 and 1978, look for a letter to the editor signed [name withheld by request], Dallas, Texas.

    I'm the one who wrote it.

    Posted by David October 16, 09 07:06 PM
  1. you could try actually asking the children what they want, and think about being naked or in the presence of naked adults. Then listen carefully.

    Posted by John October 18, 09 11:40 PM
  1. These attitudes... I've never been so embarrassed to be an American.

    Kudos to #13 and #19.

    Posted by Jane R. October 19, 09 11:46 AM
  1. Nudity does not HAVE to equal sexuality, of course. And yet we all know that sexuality and nudity often, and very naturally, go together. To assume that children are not sexual beings, and do not have sexual impulses and feelings that can be triggered when being exposed to adult sex organs, is just ignorant. Also, to deny the power imbalance a grown adult has over a child is likewise ignorant and insensitive. Children ARE sexual beings and can have sexual feelings and can become stimulated when exposed to naked bodies, just like adults do. They can also feel confused and frightened, because kids are not just cute little miniature adults….they are little children with only a child’s developmental ability to process their experiences…and therefore all those edgy feelings get jumbled together into a very confusing mix made all the more so when triggered by exposure to an adult or parent they must rely on and trust. Are we all so narcissistic these days that we have no common sense anymore? What makes us think our kids want or need to see our genitals, anyway? And what is with the ‘all or nothing’ thought process? I’m so sick of this ridiculous idea that Europe somehow has all the answers to societies woes. Is there no ability to see a middle ground or use critical thinking skills anymore? Parents that aren't completely freaked about nudity or sexuality, can STILL show the decency, respect, and good boundaries to cover up when possible around children especially with opposite-sex gender, with those kids going into puberty or teens, AND for gods sake keep your clothes on around kids who are NOT your biological offspring. This is simply using common sense and teaching children about decent boundaries and having respect for themselves and others. Geeze.

    Posted by Susan October 23, 09 04:02 PM
  1. Question: I was trying to find info online about my situation and this interaction here is what came up.
    My son is now 18, approximately 4 years ago his older brother turned 18, which by the math made by son almost 14. Anyway, his stepmother had naked pictures of herself taken for her husband. She then decided she needed to show these pictures to the boys. They were naked, but more than that, they were sexual in nature, the poses and different "props". Now that I know this (it was just brought to my attention a week ago or so), I dont know what to do. She has never had children of her own, so thats part of the problem (I think?), but they are raising my son's cousin (a 12 year old). Any thoughts?

    Hi, Pauline. I'm not an expert, but I have to say that I don't think it's OK for any adult to show sexual pictures to a minor (there's a difference between nudity and sexuality). Not having children of her own isn't the issue -- what she did was completely inappropriate, and her husband (your ex? Your kids' father?) should have intervened. -- LMA

    Posted by Pauline October 30, 09 11:19 PM
  1. Firstly i think comment 11 is the best answer.
    anyway...
    There was this family walking down the road when a convertible came past and there were two naked women sitting on up on the the back, smiling and waving, happy as can be. The mother, instantly mortified for her young son having witnessed such a disgusting display of blatant sexuality, cried "Oh my God, can you believe that?"

    Before father could reply, the young son said "No way! Those Ladies weren't wearing ANY seatbelts!!

    The mother needn't have worried in such circumstances, and (generally) neither should we.

    That being said, it is probably better to have a rule of thumb that nudity is more (rather than less) acceptable in public/ with more than one "other" around!

    i.e. a child should not be repremanded for coming across/seeing an (even unrelated) adult naked (said adult should also refrain from desperately trying to cover themselves lest they give the impression that being naked is something to be ashamed of) but it can be gently made clear to them that while there is absolutely nothing wrong with being naked, it is (generally) *innappropriate* for just two people to be naked, particulary in private confines (especially, but not exclusively, when one is an adult and one is a child) and as such the child should out of respect (not fear or shame), limit their presence in said confines to just what is necessary whenever there are no other (trusted) people present. This way the issue is one of privacy and respect of elders rather than shame or fear of nudity. teach a child that nudity is natural and fine but that it is also perfectly ok to expect privacy when naked.

    It can also allow for child to be taught that it is normal for an adult to feel that nudity in the presence of a child alone can be innappropriate so that, while an adult may chose to waive the above condition and allow a child in the room if the child wishes to be there, the child can be taught to be extremely suspicious and uncomfortable if and adult should ever *request* / *invite* / *insist* that child be present in such circumstances. This teaches child to be aware of the abult's behaviour rather than nudity!!!

    Posted by Vyntr March 5, 10 02:18 AM
  1. To comment #23....

    The whole reason we liken nudity to sexuality is because we are taught that way. The simple FACT of the matter is that in countries where nudity is excepted, the children (especially older) do NOT think that way. They do NOT see a naked woman, or man, and think how nice it would be to do this that or the other.... Instead they see a naked person and they simply walk on by as if nothing is out of the ordinary, because nothing is out of the ordinary. As a result, these countries also have a lower rate of adultery as well, because they are not looking for sex around every corner, they are not tempted by the nudity of the opposite sex. They look for "real" relationships. Also less teen pregnancies. If in doubt, do the research... I did! (Psychology Major)

    What we do here in America is insane. Allow me to offer this loosely related example. If you create a box with no writing on it and no markings other than a little red button that says, "Do not touch". Place it in a high traffic area and watch how many people push the red button. You'll be surprised. Humans are attracted to the unknown. When we teach children not to do something, they end up curious and do it anyway.

    More proof (more or less) get someone who is addicted to sex or nudity and show them a picture of a beautiful woman naked. At first they will be happy and perhaps aroused. But after seeing the same person over and over and over again, they lose interest. Why? Because they already seen it, it no longer interests them. I've done this experiment.

    We think of nudity as bad or sexual for only a few simple reasons...

    #1, as a child someone, at some point, yelled at us or scolded us for looking at, trying to look at, touching ourself or being naked. When you yell at a child it imprints a very strong memory and impression in their minds and they do not forget.

    #2 Media tells us stories of sexual predators, and we tend to think it's extremely abundant. While it is abundant, if you do the research, again, i have, you will find that the number of cases has dropped considerably since the 40's and 50's. We have more access to media now-a-days, so we simply hear about it more.

    The harder we try to prevent something, the more likely it is to happen. Case in point, Prohibition in the U.S. from the 20's to the early 30's. Alcohol was made illegal, yet you could get an illegal drink pretty much everywhere you looked. The only ones not drinking were the conservatives. Even some of them were known to have a private stash hidden away for "special" occasions. Marijuana is illegal, yet if you want it I can guarantee you wouldn't have any trouble getting it. Since marijuana became a schedule 1 drug, the amount of marijuana on the streets have quadrupled.

    My point is, that if we as Americans would take a backseat for a generation or two and laxed our attitudes on nudity, sexual crimes and thought of sexuality would change drastically, for the better...

    As well as being a Student, I am also a very well paid nude photographer. And I can tell you that when I first started shooting nudes, I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.I couldn't wait to see who I was shooting next.These days, I could care less. When I see a naked female, it doesn't do anything for me. It's no different for me than seeing a fully clothed person. Why you may ask? Well this will bring me to my final reason....

    In America it's becoming more and more accepted that "we", especially our children, are becoming more and more "Desensitized" towards violence. There are so many movies, t.v. shows and video games that contain bloody violent acts that the things that would once shock us or leave us cowering in under the covers from fear are less affective to us. Fewer and fewer people disagree with this.

    It stands to reason, that the same thing would happen with nudity. If we saw it every day in our homes and on the street, we would get less and less affected by seeing it. Fewer and fewer people would stop to gawk and less and less would have these deviant thoughts of sex if the general public didn't see nudity as a sexual thing and it was simply a normal everyday thing. (Nudity not sex!) We can see this in other more nakedness liberal countries. Take native African (and other) tribes. The ones that go around letting it all hang out. Do you ever hear of reports about rape or pedophilia among these people? No you do not! Again, I have done the research.

    Posted by Concerned April 15, 10 05:05 PM
  1. Hillary should be ashamed of herself. The boy would not be allowed to buy a magazine with naked women, so why should he see her naked? Also as long as we put women like this on a pedestal the more broken homes we will have.

    Posted by valerie August 30, 10 03:59 PM
  1. Being a mom going through this I can only offer my personal opinion. I have a 3 year old son who is just starting to find that certain things turn him on (not that he knows what it means yet) and it is all around naked bodies. My ex has let his girlfriend go to the bathroom in front of my son, show him how to pee outside together, and has changed clothes around him. As his mother I am extremely angry that his dad allowed this and that she would even think it at all appropriate to do so. I would never do these things with my boyfriend's children (he has 2 boys around the same age as my son) and I would never allow him to do so in front of my son. It's just not appropriate for the adult. I went from sleeping naked to wearing pajamas when my son could get out fo bed on his own at night. I am
    very comfortable with nudity but I don't think we sholuld expose ourselves to children. Society may teach us some messed up things but I think it also teaches us to be aware of the bad things that can happen. Would you be ok with allowing your 8 year old daughter or son to sleep naked at a sleepover with their friends just because that is what they see and do at home? We as parents need to set the boundaries and teach kids to not be ashamed of the naked body but that it is something that is not meant for everyone to see (there are a lot of bad people in this world). I allow my son to look at non-sexual nude art (ie statue of david and old paintings) since he is learning about the body but I also use them as teaching tools to explain art and control where his curiousities are taking him.

    In regards to Hillary I think 6 years old is too old to be running around in front of him naked, even as a parent. However everyone's situation is different but if I was the mom, I would be very leary and 100% against it.


    Posted by Kim September 13, 11 05:08 PM
  1. I am a 32 year old guy and have a 15 year old stepson.We have lived together almost 10 years.His mom is 40.We only have 1 bathroom and he has stripped for a shower and walks around nude all the time.He has seen me in the nude because he just walks in when I am in bathroom which doesn't really bother me.He never walks around naked in front of his mom and will say im not dressed if she knocks on door.He has been like this for about 3 or 4 years about the time he had to start showering in gym.He might have used me to get used to being naked around other people and just kept doing it.We get along good and i have never thought about it as anything sexual and I don't think he does or ever has.Its more convienient for me to shave and brush my teeth when he is in shower and he gets out and I get in and he finishes getting ready.We leave at the same time in the morning and his mom leaves an hour before us.His mom will ask me to take towels in or something like that when he is in shower.He is very private with her about nudity.I didn't walk around nude when he was little.It started one day when I was shaving and he asked me if he could get shower while I finished.If he was a girl I wouldn't feel comfortable at all.If we are in bathroom and his mom thinks it just me and walks in he will stand behind me and be like mom do you mind?

    Posted by Joe October 29, 11 02:36 PM
  1. kids are taught their views about nudity , and sexuality from their parents . if we teach our kids nudity is wrong or shameful they will think it is wrong or shameful . if we teach them nudity is normal , natural , and not sexual , they will think it is normal , natural , and not sexual .
    i dont understand why a parent would be ok being naked in front of their same sex child but not their opposite sex child . i would assume that a parent does not think it is wrong to see their child naked just because they are the opposite sex . if so it says they feel that it is wrong for their opposite sex child to see them naked . why ? do these parents tell the child why it is wrong for them but not their sibling ? do they say it is wrong for kids to see adults ? do they say why it is wrong at all ?
    how could this kind of behavior from parents do anything but damage their children . teaching children that nudity is not wrong or shameful gives them a much healthier view of themselves , and their bodies . it also makes it much more comfortable to come to their parents with questions about sexuality .

    Posted by stoney August 17, 12 02:15 AM
add your comment
Required
Required (will not be published)

This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.

About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

Submit a question for Barbara's Mailbag


Ask Barbara a question

Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

Send your questions to her at:
meltzbarbara (at) gmail.com.
Please include your name and hometown.

Child in Mind

Moms
All parenting discussions
Discussions

High needs/fussy baby

memes98 writes "My 10.5 month old DS has been fussy ever since he was born, but I am getting very frustrated because I thought he would be much better by now...has anyone else been through this?"

More community voices

Child in Mind

Corner Kicks

Dirty Old Boston

Mortal Matters

On Deck

TEDx Beacon Street

RSS feed


click here to subscribe to
Child Caring

archives