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.