I Raised My Kids On A Nude Beach — And I'd Do It Again In A Heartbeat

"At the naked beach, my children saw elderly bodies, overweight bodies, and bodies of people who have disabilities, all of which are good and valuable bodies, despite being rarely represented in our culture."
The author enjoying the beach.
The author enjoying the beach.
Photo Courtesy of Nadine Robinson

“I cannot wait to get to the beach and look at all the penises,” squealed my daughter, Claire, from the back seat of the car.

She was 4, and we were on our way to a nude beach. I had discussed with her (and my three other daughters) what behaviors were acceptable at the naked beach, and they knew staring was frowned upon. But I also always encouraged them to be respectfully curious about bodies.

Having shame-free conversations about sexuality was the norm in our family.

I was a practicing midwife for five years, so coming home at 6 a.m. from an all-night delivery to talk about pubic hair and placentas was completely normal. Why we get cellulite, what the clitoris is, and whether or not you can feel yourself ovulate were typical dinner table topics in our house. I can’t even remember if I ever had “the sex talk” with my kids. Talking sex and babies was like chatting about the weather and raincoats in our house.

I also homeschooled my children. And because of my job, this meant that sexuality and sexual health were baked into our days. A homeschooling day for my kids might have included coloring anatomically correct vulvas, creating a uterus and fallopian tubes out of modeling clay, or playing “Pagers,” a game where my kids pretended to be “on call” waiting for a client to go into labor. Oh, the groans I would hear from the living room as someone pretended to give birth!

It didn’t seem like a huge leap to go to a naked beach.

I had been going to nude beaches myself since I first discovered them at the age of 16, when I snuck away from my parents on a family vacation in Hawaii. I loved the freedom of being naked in the waves, and I couldn’t believe how confident I felt.

So when I decided to pack my four daughters, ages 11, 9, 6 and 4, into our Acura MDX for a road trip across British Columbia for summer vacation, we planned a clothing-optional pitstop at a beach along the way. I told the girls it was just like a regular beach, with the only difference being that some people took their clothes off, and they were excited to go.

I had another important reason for wanting to take my daughters there: I hoped it would help immunize them from the cultural idea that women’s bodies exist for men’s viewing pleasure.

Scantily clad women’s bodies are on display in every aspect of pop culture. And that imagery is harmful not because it shows too much skin, but because all that skin looks the same: skinny, white and young.

The mainstream media gives women a dangerously narrow definition of what is beautiful. I was much more terrified that my children would internalize an unrealistic image of women’s bodies from a Grand Theft Auto commercial than I was of them seeing a 60-year-old woman’s bare breasts at the beach. I wanted to expose my daughters to all types of bodies, at all ages and stages.

When we reached our destination, I parked the car, and we began to unload backpacks, snacks, umbrellas and all the usual beach gear. My kids ran ahead as I trudged down the staircase, lugging all our goods. As I reached the bottom, I saw all four of my girls standing on the staircase platform with their mouths agape. People really were naked!

The beach was packed on this hot summer day. There were couples, families with young children making sandcastles, and groups of friends scattered in the sand. Some people were playing Frisbee or bocce, others were enjoying the warm waters, and many were simply sunbathing. It was a perfectly normal beach experience, sans clothing.

So many people think nudity means sex. Well, I have taken care of thousands of women’s very naked bodies as a midwife, and I guarantee, it wasn’t sexual, ever. Neither is the nude beach.

Nude beaches are about body positivity. And most people at naked beaches are trying to undo the harmful cultural stereotypes they were indoctrinated with. So, when children are there, adults are enthusiastic gatekeepers of their healthy sexuality and safety. The innocence, honesty and normalcy of bodies is celebrated on a naked beach, and most people are very welcoming to children.

“Let’s go,” I encouraged. We found a space in the sand, popped up the umbrella and laid down our beach blankets. There is never any pressure to be naked on the beach; it’s completely optional. They all opted to keep their swimsuits on as they played on the beach. I stripped naked, happy for the freedom to enjoy the beach without a soggy sandbox in my bikini bottoms.

I should point out that every naked beach has its own “vibe.” Some are more adult-oriented. But the beach we raised our girls on is extremely family friendly ― there are always many children, of all ages, on the beach every day.

Aside from fears about the experience being sexualized, one of the top questions I get asked is about safety at a nude beach. But guess what? Clothing-optional beaches are generally safer for children, because the respect for the rules and other’s boundaries are more strictly enforced.

Nudists are pretty tolerant. But they aren’t hedonistic sex freaks either. There are unwritten rules at the naked beach: no sex, no masturbation, no photos, no drones, and most importantly, the safety of children. I have witnessed people escorted off nude beaches for inappropriate behavior with a firm discussion of what might happen if they come back. I’ve seen people demand that others delete photos off their phone. I have never seen any of that happen on a clothed beach, despite the fact that there is just as much (if not more) creepy behavior there.

Another drawback to clothed beaches: There is a lot of peacocking. If you don’t fit within the narrow spectrum of “beauty,” the subtle implication is that you should sit down and cover up. The message is: “Your body is not welcome here.”

Believe me, being naked is a great equalizer. Nobody is 100% perfect.

At the naked beach, my children saw elderly bodies, overweight bodies, and bodies of people who have disabilities, all of which are good and valuable bodies, despite being rarely represented in our culture. My kids loved their first experience at the naked beach. They were comfortable, confident, and it really demystified nudity.

After that first visit, we spent every summer on a magical island on the west coast of Canada visiting the naked beach. My children are now grown. Each of my girls has had their own relationship with nudity over the years. Sometimes they went completely naked, other times they stayed clothed, honoring their personal comfort as they moved through life stages like puberty, pregnancy and postpartum.

When I shared with them that I was going to write this article, they were so supportive. They were excited to share with others that you can have a weird midwife mama and spend your childhood roaming on a naked beach and grow up to be wildly in love with your body.

These days, all three of our amazing sons-in-law also come to the naked beach with us. It’s not weird or gross or uncomfortable. They weren’t raised on naked beaches, but my daughters chose well ― good men don’t objectify women.

Two of my daughters enjoyed the bliss of floating, naked and nine months pregnant, in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. They later sat in the shade, nursing their babies and proud of the accomplishments of their bodies. Even I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to be publicly naked at six weeks postpartum!

I raised four empowered, confident daughters who today experience the freedom, joy and pleasure of feeling comfortable in their bodies, both on the beach and off.

I still get a little side-eye when I tell people that I raised my girls on a naked beach. I know this is something that makes people feel uncomfortable. But the trade-off of raising confident women who embody that rare gift of feeling comfortable in their own skin is worth any judgments people might have about my parenting.

Nadine Robinson is a holistic women’s health and relationships expert. She lives in Canada, but spends her summers at an island home where she frolics on the naked beach. You can find her at www.nadinerobinson.com.

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