I took two things away from my experience in Sweden: 1) women in America don’t see nearly enough normal, naked female bodies with which to compare themselves; 2) somewhere in their education, American men are taught that being naked equates the potential for sex.
I think a lot about behavior and how it’s formed. When we say it’s society’s fault that women feel ashamed of their bodies and men are pigs, who are we blaming? Society is us. It’s our own actions and behavior that perpetuate these ideals—and we are the ones who can change it.
What if women actually liked their bodies? What if men were taught in sex-ed that nudity doesn’t equal foreplay? What if neither sex was taught at an early age that a naked body was taboo? Would women’s near-constant quest to be more “physically attractive” cease? Would men’s ideas of acceptable sexual advances be curtailed? Would “asking for it” involve women actually asking men for sex instead of men assuming a low-cut top is a secret signal? I don’t know.
What I do know is that after four weeks of being naked in a Swedish co-ed sauna (excluding the American ogle-fest that was week three) I learned that it is possible to like my body, and for men to appreciate it without sexualizing it—two statements I never thought I’d hear myself say—which is really the saddest part of the story.