Contextual Nakedness

I’ve recently been reading some academic papers and research on social attitudes toward nudity over the last century. Some of the interesting background material highlights the contradictory nature of the Greek vs Judaic values Western society has inherited. Specifically the admiration Greek culture has of the naked form, versus the morally unacceptable view Judaic culture traditionally has. IE: Greek celebrate the naked form whereas Judaism considers it shameful. As a predominately Christian influenced culture, Western society has inherited these contradicting perspectives.

A good illustration of this conflict is how we accept or reject nudity, which is intrinsically entwined with clothing whether we like it or not. At a seaside resort it would be entirely acceptable for a woman to wear a somewhat skimpy bikini into a shop. Were she to attempt the same thing on the high street of a city, she would no doubt draw the attention of many onlookers.
As a more extreme example, imagine the same woman wearing only her undergarments to the shops. Even if those undergarments concealed more than the bikini, it would not only be frowned upon, but no doubt draw the attention of the authorities.

This is the real crux of the dilemma that body freedom advocates face. Despite the Naktiv manifesto declaring the naked human body is acceptable in all contexts, we are realistically a long way off this ideal. As it is many participants on the Naktiv site have very different perspectives on what is visually acceptable in terms of naked imagery and what isn’t.

I would pose the question, what is the difference between someone laying naked in a beautiful outdoor scene, versus them laying naked on their sofa. The body itself hasn’t changed, but people’s perception of the nakedness is different. In one context it seems acceptable and appropriate. In the other people are questioning the motive and purpose. Why is this person naked, and why indeed are they posting a picture of themselves naked with no other obviously apparent redeeming features within the image?

There have been many polls and discussions on Naktiv siteabout various hypothetical situations, would you answer the door to a stranger naked. When and where is nakedness appropriate, and should people take measures to avoid offending others.
All such polls and discussions boil down to this philosophical contradiction we’ve inherited. It’s so prevalent, that even in situations where you might well have a legal right to be bare chested, or even naked, you may not exercise that right due to social context and the pressure to conform.

This is no doubt the reason why, in places like NYC, or parts of NZ where it’s legal to be topless or naked, people don’t exercise that right because they’re socially intimidated by what people deem normal and acceptable.

This is an interesting topic that I’ve only just started delving into but in some ways it forces us all as freedom advocates to reexamine our own attitudes and assumptions. The universal declaration of human rights states that all human persons have inherent dignity and worth. The Naktiv manifesto (http://www.naktiv.net/manifesto) declares “that the naked human body is acceptable in all contexts.” If these aspirations are to be realised at all, overcoming inherited contextual prejudices is an important stepping stone.

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14 thoughts on “Contextual Nakedness”

  1. I agree with the additional comments you've both made. The simple fact is that genitals have been demonised in Western culture and not even nudists can move themselves beyond that. This demonisation extends to the naked body itself and again nudists can't move themselves beyond that either. They themselves view the body as a sexual object as evidenced by their sensitivity to its depiction in certain contexts. IE: The wrong pose, wrong location etc. Even pictures of yoga poses have been accused of displaying too much!

    As Bob eludes to, sex and pleasure featured openly in pagan religions and within many museums and galleries you'll see depictions of enlarged female breasts, huge exaggerated genitals on both genders because sex and fertility, in particular, was of great value and importance to non monotheistic cultures.

    An important aspect of the resurgence of nakedness in the modern context is the ready acceptance of genitals on public display. (http://www.philipcarr-gomm.com/phill_books/a-brief-history-of-nakedness/)
    Stage acts such as "Puppetry of the Penis" and artwork depicting the vulva are important for re-establishing a healthy balanced perspective of these alienated body parts.

    An entire subculture has emerged in the early 21st century that celebrates body freedom that absolutely side steps 20th century idealised nudism altogether due to its prudish contradictory values. The penis, vulva, nakedness, breasts, sex and nipples are all celebrated with equal regard, which in turn is a rebalancing of the skewed values responsible for pagan cultural genocide from about the first century AD onwards.

    I suspect one of the reasons 20th century nudism has ultimately failed is because it makes nudity contextual and conditional. "No Shame" strikes me as the battle cry if body acceptance; whole naked body acceptance is to gain any ground.

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  2. I don't see any problems lying naked on a sofa inside or outside except that sofas tend to get soggy if left out in the rain. Use some patio style furniture outside.

    Monotheistic religion is inherently anti-body and anti-pleasure. Asceticism and monotheism apparently are two sides of the same coin for an unfathomable reason. They preach bodily shame and original sin, condemn physical pleasure and allow sex only for procreation. Polytheistic cultures in Greece, Rome, Babylon, Africa, Celtia, and others all celebrated pleasure, joy, and bodies.

    My own respect for ME, for myself, for my body, and rejection of the dogma that I must forever repent for "sins of the flesh," is a big part of why I rejected the monotheistic death cults when I was young. If I was not going to be arrested I would be naked most of the time in warm weather, in most places.

    And I quit wearing shoes. Naked feet are also important. Our feet are evolved to walk on mother earth. Shoes are actually harmful, even more so than shirts. The anti-body police really hate naked feet, even at nudist places.

    https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5340/9201684797_990011941e_m.jpg

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    • Bared feet are an interesting example and illustration of the points I was making about gender inequality and regulation. You'll notice that woman have little to no restrictions on their footwear even where there are strict dress codes for men. EG: A woman's foot can be completely bared other than the sole, whereas in many instances men's sandels would be considered too informal.
      It's as if women are automatically except from dress codes in many instances because they are deemed irrelevant. A mere male assocessry rather than an entire equal. Were this not the case these odd double standards wouldn't exist at all.

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      • Yes, from beach wear to formal wear, men are required to be much more covered than women in western culture. From baggy "board shorts" vs. Bikini bottoms, to plunging neckline formal gowns vs tuxedos, men are covered where women show flesh.

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  3. "Inherited contextual prejudices" – how true!

    In answer to your question regarding the outdoor scene and the sofa; I would hope all here would agree that both locations are equally valid for nudity, many here admitting that they spend as much time naked in their own home as possible at the same time as advocating active outdoor nudity. So it is the posting of the pictures that is the interesting question to answer.

    As a community the Naktiv site is all about being active naked ( 'Naktiv' ). A picture of someone naked in the countryside implies active, even if they are lying down in the picture, because you are 'out and about'. Lying on a sofa is not active; perhaps this is why pictures of naked cooking/vacuuming/etc. are seen as more acceptable? With the sofa there is little more of interest in the picture than the naked person, so we hesitate because posting it borders on exhibitionism and as discussed elsewhere, we don't like that, do we…

    However, everyone's level of participation in naked living is different and maybe being naked at home is as far as some have taken it, so given a desire to contribute to the Naktiv community, a picture of themselves lying on a sofa is as much as they can manage; maybe next time the picture will show them cooking, then gardening, then who knows where as their confidence grows?

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