I find nudity interesting. More accurately, I find the ceremonial PC dance that we feel obliged to do around it interesting.
Maybe some of that interest can be attributed to growing up in Europe and taking biological anthropology here at BU (you should too). But I really do have a lot of conversations about nudity, and the opinions I’ve heard vary widely — most prominently away from my own highly liberal view.
The more I think about it, the more this wide variety of opinions doesn’t really surprise me. The Western world seems to be incredibly confused about nudity these days. There was a time when it was totally chill — I mean, didn’t they wrestle nude in the original Olympics? That’s all changed now baby; it’s a new world. On one hand there’s the hyper-sexualization of everything from pants to Pepsi. On the other are our Puritan values, and the belief that the exposure of certain body parts is incredibly intimate and a sign of vulnerability and trust. We can’t seem to make up our mind.
But here’s my question: Why are we so caught up on nudity in the first place? What is it about the exposure of those parts of our body that makes us vulnerable?
It only makes sense to a certain extent: If you hyper-sexualize some body part by covering it up, it’ll be more attractive and will encourage more attachment if revealed. We always want what we can’t have, right? But once you look a little closer, it starts to fall apart. There is no logical reason why it should be this body part or that body part. And if it is true that there is no intrinsic reason this or that should be sexualized, it seems to me there’s no logical reason that any of them should. Why do we care? In the end, a breast is just a breast, a penis just a penis. And though I talk the talk, I can walk the metaphorical walk, too. I have been asked in the past to show my penis, usually because I’m not circumcised and apparently no one knows what that looks like, and I’ve had no problem with it. Why should I?
But just think. As far as I know, we’re the only species of animal that covers up specific parts of the body for non-survival reasons. Now, you might say we’re more evolved than other animals. Well, not all that much. That we are more civilized. Okay, maybe. But riddle me this: Has our discomfort with nudity really helped us? I think that’s worth considering. Because, “civilized” as we may be, we are the ones that create such lovely concepts as vanity, eating disorders, gender norm-ing, and body dissatisfaction. All because we want to look good naked. All because we care what we look like naked. That’s all in our heads. All part of what we perceive as highly evolved, civilized society. You’ll never see a gorilla turn down a banana because s/he is wary of the carbs.
I’m not trying to bring about a revolution of people walking around naked. That would only be fun for about an hour.
Just think about it.