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What's Wrong With Nude Camps for Teens?

Aired June 20, 2003 - 20:47   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well last night we told you about some unusual summer camps for teenagers. They're a lot like most summer camps except for one thing, the kids don't wear clothes. The phenomenon has not gone unnoticed on Capitol Hill. Congressman Mark Foley has called for an investigation by authorities in Florida where one of these camps is located. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARK FOLEY (R), FLORIDA: You put 11 and 18-year-olds together in a camp where they're nude, I think it is a recipe for disaster. It is like putting a match next to a gasoline can. You'll have disasters sooner or later.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well what do you think? Is the congressman right? Are nude camps for teenagers a recipe for disaster or are they just an early introduction into a healthy lifestyle?

We have three guest tonight. Dr. Robert Butterworth is a child psychologist, he joins us from Los Angeles. Horst Kraus is the owner of the Shangri La Ranch in Arizona. And Jesse Ferrier is a counselor at the camp, again, attending nudist camps when he was 17.

Appreciate all of you for joining us tonight. Jesse, let me start with you. What do you like about these camps?

JESSE FERRIER, COUNSELOR, SHANGRI LA RANCH: I like that everybody is open and everybody is accepting. Nobody is judged in any of these camps. And it is really just a healthy atmosphere.

COOPER: Dr. Butterworth, you have apparently treated some kids who, I guess, didn't like being at one of these kind of camps. Tell us about it. What is your concern?

ROBERT BUTTERWORTH, CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I'll tell you, Anderson, hold on to your chair, we're going to have a bumpy ride on this one. I mean, you know, here are these kids, I mean, you know, interacting with each other. It is hard enough when they have their clothes on and here we are taking the element of their clothes off. Problems with self-esteem, problems with inferiority.

And not only that, they're playing contact sports, soccer. There are a lot of legal implications to this. He touched me, I touched him.

You know this is really a barrel of trouble. Really as far as I'm concerned, it is every parent's nightmare.

COOPER: Well let me ask, Mr. Krause, you run -- operate one of these camps. What is your experience? You think it's a good thing for kids?

HORST KRAUS, OWNER SHANGRI LA RANCH: Absolutely it is a good thing for kids. The self-esteem the doctor just alluded on will just act in the opposite direction. Kids who walkway from those camps with an enhanced self-esteem. They know how to appreciate their own bodies. They know that nobody is perfect.

This is not -- we are not in a race for who is the beautiest of them all. This is a matter of nude lifestyle as a matter of healthy wholesome, family nudism. I don't understand what the doctor's find...

BUTTERWORTH: I'll tell you where I'm coming from. When it comes to adults, I have no problem with this. When it comes to teenagers, we're talking about hormones.

And listen, I don't know if you've been around teenagers, but I have. When they're 14, when they're 15 and when they're around the opposite sex and when they're naked, trust me, nature is going to take over. And if you don't know about that I don't know what rock you've been living under.

COOPER: Jesse, let me ask you. You are a teenager. You've been at this camp. You're now a counselor. Is there a lot of hanky panky? What sort of a -- is it a sexualized environment?

FERRIER: There is no -- it is not sexual at all. When I was 14, 15, you know, I was nude around girls, guys. I didn't think about any sex or anything like that.

COOPER: Do you think it helps your body image or do you think it makes it more natural for you or does it -- did you feel uncomfortable?

FERRIER: I felt perfectly fine because it helps because when you're clothed and look at other kids you think are they developing faster than me? Why am I not developing?

And in this kind of environment, you can learn from other people and from yourself that, you know you don't have to develop as fast as they are. They might not be as developing as fast as you and it is perfectly fine.

COOPER: Dr. Butterworth, what have you heard from the kids you talked to who have been to see you, I guess?

BUTTERWORTH: Every kid in America that is 13 and 14 and 15 thinks about sex five minutes every day, if not five minutes every minute. For this kid to say, gee, I'm in an environment where there are a lot of girls running around naked, I didn't think of sex as all, maybe I'm the one with the problem.

But I tell you, when I was 14, it went through my mind and there are a lot of kids I talked to, it went through their minds. And when they're clothes are off, it didn't all of a sudden stop.

COOPER: Horst Kraus, final thought.

KRAUS: When I cam to this country I was a plumber. And for the first six months I thought Americans all have plumbing problems because the only people I knew had plumbing problems. And I'm afraid the good doctor is in the same position.

BUTTERWORTH: I'm sorry I'm uptight. Sometimes being uptight is the not the worst thing in the world.

COOPER: All right, we're going to leave it there. Horst Kraus, Robert Butterworth and Jesse Ferrier, appreciate all you joining us and adding your perspective. Thank you.

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