I am shameless: Britney Spears, Mother, Nude
Allegations from Britney Spear’s former bodyguard of her parental nudity has become a focus over the past two weeks. The first thing that popped into my mind was that of all her supposed and actual parenting faux pas, this is the one on which I would least focus. But our puritanical and finger-wagging society cannot help itself. Plus, hello, the ratings and search engine traffic from Britney Spears, mother, and nude together would make such coverage irresistible. That’s why I’m writing this, of course.
No, really, it does bring up an interesting issue of whether kids should see their parents naked, or until what age. A couple of years ago, I was told by a child psychologist that starting around three years of age kids should no longer see their parents nude. This psychologist told me of existing research that suggested that kids experience undue emotional anxiety from the feeling of physical inadequacies relative to their parents. Said psychologist went on to explain that the much discussed “penis envy” goes back to early boyhood exposure to and memories of dad’s private parts. Immediately, I was suspicious.
In light of this Britney news, Slate has gone the common-sense route to report that “if a kid is younger than three it’s probably harmless… [but it] can be confusing for older kids who are more curious about bodies and sexuality. A child might wonder why a parent’s genitals look different from his own; he might feel inferior by comparison, or jealous; and he might be a bit frightened of the size and hair. Too much exposure might also overstimulate a child, stirring up sexual excitement along with Oedipal anxiety.”
I spoke at length with my friend, motherhood expert and author of Motherhood without Guilt, Debra Gilbert Rosenberg about this issue. Her take was realistic and respectful: it all depends on the family and what’s “normal” and “comfortable” in the air at home. For some parents, modesty is what is normal and that’s okay. For others, they are comfortable being more casual and that’s okay, too. However, Debra makes it clear that parents need to listen to and take cues from their children. Some kids are much more aware of body differences, and others don’t even notice. But at some point, all kids start checking mom and dad out, poking and asking lots of questions. And, a thoughtful approach to this is for parents to just answer questions candidly but keeping in mind the child’s comfort level. Also, at that time, a gradual progression to more modesty is definitely a better approach than one triggered just because a child turned a certain age.
After all this discussion, I was still bothered knowing that out there, somewhere, there was research concluding that no! parental! nudity! after your kid turns three! So, I searched for, um, about 2 minutes and found a study published in the mid-90s. But, huzzah, the conclusion was not what I was previously led to believe. Behold, “Early Childhood Exposure to Parental Nudity and Scenes of Parental Sexuality (“Primal Scenes”): An 18-Year Longitudinal Study of Outcome.”
“Specifically, in the case of exposure to parental nudity, findings pointed toward potentially beneficial correlates of exposure both for boys and girls–for example, greater frequency of positive rather than negative sexual experiences in adolescence and fewer reports of abuse of certain recreational drugs–however, these benefits were attenuated for girls.”
Peoples, this is an 18-year study.
If you find any contradictory studies, I would love to see them.
So in conclusion, Britney girl, since your sons are two and under I think you can parade around in your skivvies (or less) all you want, for now. Alpha Mom gives you permission.