There is a theory based on Sigmund Sigmund FreudFreud as to a sense of shame: "It is only certain, that there is no innate »natural shame« … What is innate to every human being, is only the ability to be able at all to feel ashamed. But each individual has to learn, of what s(he) should be ashamed." In volume 2 of his work "Der Mythos vom Zivilisationsprozess" [en: "The myth of the process of civilisation"], the ethnologist Hans Peter Duerr has set up a "Theorie der Körperscham" [en: "Theory of shame as to the body"], from which we want to quote and discuss some aspects of the question, whether shame is innate or acquired.


"It seems, that most teenagers begin at a certain age to feel ashamed, when others see them naked. There are reports, that some adults still remember a »fear of death«, they had to endure, when they, as an adolescent, were forced to undress, especially in front of adolescents of the opposite gender."

"The Angmagssalik-Eskimo called puberty … kanisulerser – »(s)he begins to feel ashamed« – and from that time on, no adolescent would be seen without shorts."

"Neill, the founder of the Summerhill School, reports that in the fifties not only the male teenagers wore swimming trunks, but also the female teenagers a breast covering swimsuit. Some of the female teenagers sunbathed in the nude, but never in the presence of a male teenager". And continues: "In the sixties, however, habits seem to have partly changed, because the young female teenagers usually bathed without a bathing suit, even when male teenagers were present, but these almost always remained with the bathing suit, »in deference to physiological reactions, of which they have no control«."

"Also during the »orthopaedic nude gymnastics«, which Adolf Koch, a teacher at a social democratic elementary school, carried out from 1923 …, the ten to fourteen-year-old female teenagers were nude, while the male teenagers of the same age kept swimming trunks on."

Like the naturists, the Jewish kibbutzniks started from the thesis that "people exempt from historical burdens could show themselves in the nude »without thinking anything about it«." When, of course, the older male and female teenagers, who had to sleep in the same room and shower together, experienced sexual feelings and shame, they were ashamed of their shame and of feelings, which they had to regard as »dirty« …"

Naturists know, that teenagers, beginning at a certain age until the end of their puberty, are no longer willing to tag along in the buff to a naturist camp or beach, even when they were used to it from an early age.


"Well, do all these examples show, that the shame as to body parts is innate …?" Duerr is of the opinion, that the question, whether shame as to the body is »genetically determined« or acquired, cannot be decided at present, and considers it as necessary, to carry out and evaluate experiments under numerous other social conditions, before this question could be decided.

It is noticeable, that all examples on this subject concern children or adolescents. natury is stick to the opinion, that the experience of emerging sexuality overwhelms youngsters intellectually from a certain stage onwards and that, what was quoted here as examples of shame as to body parts, in reality does not prove shame, but uncertainty and inexperience, how you could deal with the phenomenon of a sexual arousal, with sayings or even only curious glances from representatives of the other – or also your own – gender.

The focus is not on "the concern, to do something wrong and to violate norms", i.e. what would cause shame by definition, but simply on the wish, to avoid such complicated situations in the first place, which contain new complex experiences for the adolescent, for which (s)he does not know a modus operandi to cope with it, often not even a comprehensive explanation. So it is not shame, that triggers such protective reactions, but shyness – namely the purposeful avoidance of situations, that seem uncontrollable to the person concerned.


Therefore, natury sticks to the view of the Freudian thesis: "It is only certain, that an innate »natural shame« does not exist." There are only temporary intellectual overloads to cope with seemingly "shameful" situations, and corresponding protective reactions to avoid such situations.