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Why I'm Glad I Showered With My Parents as a Child
I understand why the Internet broke when Heather Whitten posted a picture of her husband holding her sick son in the shower. But I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the fact that a father is holding his son while naked in the shower. I would know—I used to shower naked with my parents when I was a toddler. My father is not a creep, so he didn’t see anything sexual about sharing a shower with his daughter. I was raised to see nudity as natural, normal, and appropriate within certain contexts and boundaries.
When Whitten took this photograph, her poor little son, Fox, was suffering from severe Salmonella poisoning. Her husband, Thomas, held Fox in the shower for hours “trying to keep his fever down and letting the vomit and diarrhea rinse off of them both as it came.“ As far as this family is concerned, “Whitten explained that the image is not remotely sexual and was never intended to be exploitative. Rather, it was meant to capture a moving moment between father and child.”
When I looked at this picture, I assumed there was a wholesome story attached to it because I don’t equate nudity with perversion. I have my parents to thank for that. While I'm definitely iffy about mothers posting naked pictures of their child on the Internet, I was brought up with the belief that naked bodies are natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Sure, my parents placed boundaries on when and where I could be naked and made sure I knew that adults were not supposed to see or touch me while I was naked. I picked up any and all shame or weirdness about nudity from the world outside of my household.
Showering with my parents was the most efficient way to get me clean as a child. My parents had pure intentions because “as several parents have pointed out, family nudity is often just an issue of practicality.” With all those screaming and limb-flailing tantrums brewing inside of me, I wasn’t an easy kid to bathe. My scalp has always been incredibly sensitive and for as long as I can remember, adults accused me of being overly dramatic instead of in genuine pain. My father, however, was gentle on my head. Instead of turning bathing into a whole ordeal, I simply went into the shower with him. I do remember showering with my mom, but not as often. After all, showering with my father was her idea.
However, my mother had reasons other than practicality for supporting my showertime with Dad. She wanted me to understand that nudity was natural, comfortable, and nothing to be ashamed of. But she also chose to be open with her daughters about nudity because of how closed her own parents were with nudity. My mom was about 4 when she saw her first penis. It belong to a neighborhood peer whom she had over for a play date. When she peeped through the ajar bathroom door, she saw him standing and aiming in front of the toilet.
“Cool squirt gun!” she exclaimed as the boy laughed at her naivety.
To be honest, I never really think about how I used to shower with my dad when I was a toddler. When I think of showering with my dad, I think about singing songs, blowing water out of my mouth, and a bunch of other generic, 1,000% family-friendly activities. The only thing that’s seemingly inappropriate about me showering with my dad was the fact that I did it in the presence of naked adult. After doing this for a portion of the first 3 to 4 years I had been alive, we stopped at an appropriate time and I lived happily ever after.
What I don’t think about is perversion of any kind. That was exactly the point of raising me to accept the naked body as natural. I grew up knowing what was “down there” and to be honest, I really didn’t care. On the flipside, I still found nudity to be hilarious. One of my favorite things to do was to snicker to myself while peaking into a particular rock ‘n roll book with nudes of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. So while I internalized the message that naked bodies are natural and come with variety of genitalia, I also picked up on society’s stigma that makes nudity such a big deal in the first place.
Due to my upbringing, I've never been one to sexualize paintings or family photos with naked children on the occasions I've seen them. The same goes for nude photography of adults. I cannot say the same for other people. It genuinely creeps me out how society automatically conflates nudity with sexuality. We were all born naked. Nudity doesn't only exist for the sake of erotic pleasure.
Of course, all of this worked out strictly because neither of my parents were predators. Any and all sexual violence I've ever received has been dealt to me at the hands of burgeoning friendships, acquaintances, and strangers. My family has never inflicted any sexual abuse upon me in any way, which is why my feelings about Whitten's photograph are so PG. My heart melts into a palpitating puddle of led when I think about how many people have traumatic childhood memories of being sexually assaulted in showers by adults. In the context of their lives, showering with adults was not a matter of practicality, but often a means of plausible deniability to commit sexual crimes against them without being noticed. Images like these can trigger PTSD symptoms in those who survived CSA and put the children in the picture at an increased risk of being tracked down by sexual predators. I understand why people are so uncomfortable with the idea of parents showering with their kids and this picture being posted on the Internet. As such, I will never take it upon myself to tell parents what to do with their kids when it comes to showering.
I will, however, confirm that showering with my parents as a youngster played a big part in how I grew up happily naked.
#Real #FamilyShower #HappyChildhood #Nudism #NudityIsNatural #TheNakedTruth #BodyPositivity
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