Sauna Nudity Becomes a Hot Topic in West Fjords

A group of inhabitants of the West Fjords have written an open letter to the authorities of the city of Ísafjörður, taking issue with the swimsuit policy for the sauna at the local swimming pool. Bathers are required to wear swimsuits on entering the sauna and the residents publishing the letter are demanding that this rule be abolished and bathers be allowed to go naked.

Seven of the ten people who composed the letter are Finnish and sauna is a Finnish custom. As the letter argues, going naked into the sauna is not only traditional, but it is also more sanitary. They point to research that shows that bathing suits are full of bacteria and wearing them into a sauna is counter to the health-enhancing effects of the practice. The whole point of steaming is to sweat out impurities and leave feeling clean and pure.

Another argument against the swimsuit rule is that the sauna is separated by gender, so there’s no point in people of the same gender having to be modest in front of one another while they steam. The letter states that in the sauna, “shame is banished” and asserts that one should appear as in the Garden of Eden, i.e. nude.

The final point of the letter is that the swimsuit requirement is a denial of the cultural heritage that undergirds the sauna tradition. The letter states that the prohibition against entering naked is a “severe insult to the cultural and social space of the sauna,” and compares this to a Finnish person smearing ketchup all over their Þorramatur (the traditional Icelandic fare eaten during the holiday month of Þorri).

It remains to be seen how the city of Ísafjörður will respond.