A survey by Center for Ungdomsstudier (centre for youth studies) has found that 55 percent of Danish pupils in grades 7-9 – so those aged 13 to 16 – avoid stripping down in front one another because they are anxious of being naked in front of their peers.
The trend to skip showering after a physical education class due to body-shyness is also widespread among the older teens at the Danish high schools (gymnasiums), where more and more students would rather return to the classroom in their sweaty clothes.
Positive body image
Jeppe Hald, a project manager at the Danish family planning association Sex og Samfund, warns that a fear of communal showers has implications for young people’s health and sexuality.
“It affects their desire to participate in sport activities at school and in their free time,” Hald told Politiken.
He also believes that showers after a sports class help young people to develop a positive body image, because they get the opportunity to see how ordinary people look like.
“You cannot form a realistic understanding of the body by only looking at photo models, sports stars and porn actors.”
Social and health effects
Hald further claims that having a negative body image based on unrealistic ideals can lead to unhealthy habits, such as excessive training, eating disorders or a detachment from one’s body.
“Young people can also find it difficult to achieve intimacy when they begin to develop their sexuality,” said Hald.
“The consequences of not wanting to shower with each other goes far beyond good hygiene. It has both social and health effects.”
Take kids to swimming pool
Anne-Birgitte Rasmussen, the chairman of the Danish high school association Danske Gymnasier, believes the best way to deal with the problem is to talk to students about the issues of human physiology, nudity and body image during biology, social sciences and physical education classes.
“The best advice I can give is that all children should go more often to a swimming pool, where they can see people of many shapes and sizes,” Rasmussen told Politiken.
Many schools in Denmark have a policy that bans the use of mobile phones in school locker rooms to remove young people’s concerns of being photographed naked.