General Question

molly's avatar

Why is nudity such a big deal?

Asked by molly (259points) August 11th, 2008

in the US, at least (i know other cultures tend to be more open about it). first off, we all used to be naked/scantily clad back when we were cavemen, right? it’s natural, it’s normal. sure, climate and social standards nowadays have hindered peoples’ freedom to be sans clothing, but come on! why do i remember janet jackson’s nipple slip at the superbowl better than who actually won it? why can we walk around in a bathing suit on the beach but not in our underwear down the sidewalk? why are people so afraid of the human body? if it’s such an amazing thing, why is it so taboo to see it?

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26 Answers

marinelife's avatar

We started out as a Puritan culture. We are very hung up about sex. That lends itself to nudity taboos. Hey, we are even worse about talking about death.

wundayatta's avatar

The uncovered appearance of primary and secondary sexual organs is believed to lead to lewd and lascivious carnality. Carnality, of course, is bad. Bad. Very, very bad.

There’s a whole lot of history and religion involved, too.

AstroChuck's avatar

It has never been a big deal in my upbringing and it isn’t in my household today. Everybody has seen each other and no one hides it. It’s just not an issue. I’ve never understood the mindset that nudity is somehow taboo.

tinyfaery's avatar

I don’t find it offensive, and I personally don’t see it as taboo, but I don’t really want to see all that stuff hanging out all over the place either. Nude beach, nude spa fine, but I can choose to go or not go to those places. I can’t imagine just walking down the street, or talking with a client at work and seeing their woo hoo(s) hanging out.

molly's avatar

astrochuck- me neither, i just don’t get it. it was not an issue in my upbringing either, and in my life now, most of my friends and i have seen each other naked and no one has a problem walking around half clothed or changing in front of each other. it’s strange to me to think people have such a problem with that.

molly's avatar

hahah, tinyfaery, i do agree, this is what i mean by my understanding that social standards mean something, and i don’t think everyone should always be hanging out all over the place, but i’m not sure why it’s as big of a deal as it is.

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

i’m happy as well that it is considered taboo but only for the reason that i see the body as something that is special and should only be shown/viewed to/by people you’re comfortable and close with. my body is a temple and i dont want no stranger walking down the street to see my boobies.
i feel like this has nothing to do with you question, peach. haha. buy um, yeah. i love you.

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

I notice that girls feel more comfortable walking around in their underwear in each other’s presences than guys, at a bunch of parties I go to when I crash with a bunch of other people all the girls strip down to their skivvies and the guys just go to sleep either fully dressed or with our shirts off, of course some are naked in the other rooms but that doesn’t really apply to just hanging out.

molly's avatar

pork soda, that’s funny, because i wanted to argue that statement by saying that most parties i end up at it’s the opposite, but when i think back to as many specific circumstances as i can remember, you’re pretty much correct. the only adjustment from my experiences would be that girls aren’t quite that ready to strip down, but guys are almost always more clothed than the girls.

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

Haha, yea I agree, but it was after a whole night of drinking, dancing, and some, dare I say, miscellaneous substances for some people. The parties I go to aren’t really huge like they are in movies like American Pie and The Girl Next Door, it’s more like 10–20 people and we’re all good friends to say the least so I guess I could say that they might be comfortable being naked and half naked around us all. Plus we don’t play it like we’re trying to get some, but we’re more than happy to accept haha.

molly's avatar

hahaha, i agree with that as well, that sounds like all the parties i go to too in every sense.

GG's avatar

To get back to your original question, I think the answer about religion is correct. There is a strong tradition of scorn and distrust of the body in Christianity… I think this came as part of the package when the early church father were busy stamping out the pagan and the goddess. What other force could possibly be strong enough to turn people away from the one true path? Well, clearly that was sexuality, the life force. So what was natural became unnatural and taboo, and what was visible in life and art had to be hidden. Hundreds of years later, some people are making a fuss when they see a mother nursing in public… the most natural, life-sustaining act in the world that some people in our culture have labeled weird and disgusting.

TheHaight's avatar

I don’t know why it’s such a big deal, but then again i’d never walk around nude in the public. I agree with aneedle; I was raised in a family were your body was special and “modest is hottest”. I feel the most comfortable around the ones I love, and never would in front of strangers. I think the body is such a beautiful thing, and other cultures have it worse- the Indian women can’t show more then their hands! So I guess it’s just different Everywere with every culture/the way you were brought up. I think nudity can be beautiful and also can be “lewd” like how Daloon explained it. It all just depends on the person as well..

molly's avatar

thehaight – very true, i guess it is a varying thing and i can see both sides of it moreso now.

TheHaight's avatar

lurve to you Molly for seeing both sides:)

molly's avatar

thank you! :)

sndfreQ's avatar

GG-as I recall, the shame that is implied in biblical scripture comes from the original sin of Adam and Eve, having eaten from the forbidden tree (of knowledge), they “became” ashamed and apparently aware of their own nudity, and decided they needed to be clothed. Prior to that, they had no understanding what shame was (especially of their nakedness). It was God’s way of punishing them for disobeying him (his order not to eat from the tree).

Thing I can’t wrap my brain around is, if man (and woman) were made in his image, what is there to be ashamed of? Seems like an odd punishment and sets the tone for the guilt-laden doctrine to follow (coming from a former subscriber). If I’m dead wrong on this, then anyone feel free to correct me; I’m not an expert on the subject, but am going off of years of church-going.

bodyhead's avatar

Could everyone in this thread send me some pictures? Awesome.

wundayatta's avatar

The association of the nude body primarily with sexuality or lewdness couldn’t be more wrong, in my experience. Sure, if you look at porn of any kind, that’s what you get. However, the naked body can be so much more. Sexuality is only a tiny part of it.

Human bodies, in my opinion, are beautiful, no matter what shape or size. Yet, in our culture, we are ashamed of anything less than perfection, and we cover it up. In the disturbingly vast majority of cases, only perfect bodies are allowed to be seen, and then only in highly sexualized situations such as strip clubs, and porn of all types.

The other thing that few people know, because few people have any experience with it, is that when you interact with someone nude, it can lead to a much greater ease and relaxation with that person, particularly if that person is a stranger. If you’re nude, you have nothing to hide. To experience the beauty of many kinds of bodies, and to experience that kind of openness, you have to try it; and due to social taboos, that is extremely difficult for most people.

One very special place to experience these kinds of things is at Esalen Institute in Big Sur. Esalen is in a bit of trouble now, not because it has “clothing optional” hot tubs, swimming pools, and rock beaches, but because of the recent fires. I had all kinds of prejudices about bodies before I went there, and they were all wrong. I had no idea that without clothes, people don’t hide nearly as much, and you get much more of the real person. However, I don’t think anyone can believe me, unless they try it, and I doubt many will.

Funny thing about bodies. The idea of nudity makes people so uncomfortable, and many respond by joking about it. Such people will no doubt find me unbearably earnest and humorless. To them, I say this: take off your clothes in mixed company, and then try making the same humorous comments. Yeah. I thought so. ;-)

WakeUp's avatar

“We started out as a Puritan culture.”

What an interesting statement. I thought we started out in Africa, you know, where the oldest human remains were found.

You know ethnocentrism has reared its ugly head when you scale back evolution to that of puritanism, and stop.

And if you are trying to say that “our” forefathers brought with them their Puritan culture, you need to read some Thomas Jefferson and some Thomas Paine.

tonedef's avatar

This is an interesting question. WRT to needleinthehayy’s answer, most people want to reserve the right to view their bodies, but this question asks with “why,” not “what.”

I think the rationale behind things like public indecency laws is that seeing someone naked will somehow affect your psychological well-being. This is a completely artificial reaction to seeing someone nude (in a non-sexual context): walking around a baby naked isn’t going to damage it. I see that my argument is really against the “Save The Children!” mentality of our culture… we assume how a child should react to a certain scenario based on what our parents believed, we teach them to develop this reaction, and then we do whatever we can to prevent a child from ever having to undergo that same reaction. Tradition is so bizarre.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@ WakeUp – Uh.. I fail to see the issue, other than semantics? I don’t get it… who was talking about evolution? How is this ethnocentric? The questioner references the United States, asking why nudity is so taboo in this country. What we know now as the United States was first settled by European colonists in 1607. The next colony was in Massachusetts in 1620, by the Puritans, who were fleeing the religious persecution they felt in England.

During this time period, I think it’s safe to say that caucasian Europeans dominated the culture in the not-yet-U.S. I am talking about culture in the settlements then as it relates to the culture now, so I am excluding native peoples (we would have benefited, actually, had we been more accepting of their culture). I think it’s silly to disregard Puritanical influence, because the Puritans were extremely vocal about their religious opinions. Mass. was full of them, and they drove people out for preaching religious freedom and such.

Lastly, I don’t understand the referencing of Thomases Jefferson and Paine, considering they both lived over a hundred years after the time period Marina was talking about. There is more to the word “forefather” than the meaning we use when referencing the founding of our country. The first settlers are just as much our forefathers as are the men that drafted a government.

– Ancestor; Cultural ancestor; one who originated an idea or tradition (Princeton WordNet)
– Person from an earlier time who contributed to the tradition shared by some group (Wiktionary)

Knotmyday's avatar

There’s still a stigma attached to nudity because we correlate it with privacy. We associate nudity with sexual activity, bathing, and performing bodily functions, each of which which are generally done behind closed doors.
I’m sure vestigial puritanical shame has a tiny bit to do with it, but if you catch some creepy guy watching you in the midst of the aforementioned activities, you are more likely to be angry at the violation than ashamed of your naked body.

dulcecorazon's avatar

it all depends on the occasion. and in an artful manner.

JackAdams's avatar

@Molly: You appear to have some very good attitudes and mature viewpoints, regarding the naked human body.

As one preacher accidentally thundered during a church sermon on the subject, without really thinking, “If Almighty Gawd had intended for human beings to be totally naked all the time, we would have been BORN that way!”

Consider membership in the American Association for Nude Recreation. I’m a life member, and their website is here:

They have a lot of member parks, camps, resorts, clothing-optional beaches, nude-only apartment complexes, entire mobile-housing communities and especially (in Florida) nudist retirement villages.

One of the distinct advantages of living in a nudist environment (as I have, in the past), is that you NEVER have Mormon Missionaries or Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on your door. In fact, no “outsiders” at all, ever knock on your door.

August 23, 2008, 4:34 AM EDT

Violet's avatar

I blame religion

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