If You Have a Problem With Naked Beach Babies, You Have a Problem, Period

The image of the Coppertone baby's bare beach bottom is an iconic one. But for some reason, the sight of an actual baby running naked on the beach is one that people react to with less nostalgia and more anger.

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The author of this Slate piece describes having fellow hotel guests complain to the management about the state of nature in which her 3-year-old son was enjoying the beach. Seaside naked time for tots is apparently quite common in their hometown of Sausalito, but during a vacation to the East Coast, the author had to keep her kiddo clothed in order to stave off other people's grievances. One woman in particular was concerned that a diaperless toddler was something her 8-year-old daughter shouldn't be exposed to. But why?

There is nothing sexual or scandalous about a toddler's body except what adults ascribe to it. At three years of age or so, there's nothing perverse about a little kid stripping down (except maybe his perverse enjoyment of disobeying your orders to get dressed). Being allowed to run around sans pants is something kids enjoy for a lot of reasons: being independent of the clothes Mom or Dad have picked out; showing off their brand-new clothes-taking-off skills; and, of course, just experiencing all the sensations of sand and sea up close.

More from The Stir: When Should Toddlers Not Be Naked Around the Opposite Sex?

Toddlers are a little young to worry about modesty. Telling them to cover up because they're doing something wrong or shameful can't be good for that tiny psyche: Messages learned young dig deep. (And I'm not sure telling an 8-year-old that a naked toddler running around is disgusting is much better.) And for people who are worried about predators, I have the least reassuring reassurance ever, which is that predators are going to sexualize children no matter what they are -- or aren't -- wearing. A swim diaper is not a magical creep deterrent, I'm sorry to say. And as for sanitary concerns, well, assuming that bare bottom has been potty trained, I'm not too concerned about the germs it's spreading compared to what's already freely available in the great outdoors, a.k.a. "wildlife's toilet."

Of course there are times and places where nudity is and isn't appropriate. Naked toddlers don't really belong in restaurants, for example, or at the local grocery store. But the beach certainly seems like it falls into the "no big deal" camp, doesn't it? There's nothing wrong with letting a toddler run around in his birthday suit at the beach ... just remember to pack that high-SPF sunscreen.

 

Image via © Stuart Westmorland/CORBIS

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