For about a year now, posting a nude each Saturday has been my most cherished way of whining about how the nude body is often thought of as always sexual, often vulgar, and never quite wholesome. I’ve cheerfully fantasized I’m making a statement about those attitudes by posting works of art that are seldom sexual, often beautiful, and always harmless. But why should I — or anyone else, for that matter — care what folks think of nudity?
Well, to any great extent, we shouldn’t care. Nudity isn’t that important of an issue when compared to a number of other issues. Given the seriousness of challenges like nuclear proliferation, global warming, war, and the worldwide economic crisis, we might generously rank nudity as high as the advisability of certain food additives. I wouldn’t want to see the issue disappear, but I’d be appalled if folks ranked it front and center of the world’s problems. So, it’s appropriate only little blogs like my own devote much space to it.
On the other hand, there are at least two, broad reasons for somewhat caring how nudity is viewed (shameless pun intended). First, the notion that nudity is scandalous, immoral, and even dangerous contributes to all sorts of socio-political absurdities. Janet Jackson once exposed her nipple for less than two seconds on national television and caused a controversy lasting several days that at its peak swept aside major news stories. A school teacher was reprimanded then fired for taking her children to a museum that displayed nude sculptures. A grandmother was prosecuted for photographing her two partly-clothed granddaughters bouncing on her bed. Here in Colorado Springs, a woman threatened to sue a drug store for “trauma” after she accidentally received images of a nude man from the store’s photo lab. And a man in another state was once convicted of sex offender charges for walking about nude in his own home without closing his drapes. All of these examples and others point to some of the consequences of our accepted, but ridiculous attitude towards nudity.
Perhaps another reason we should be a little concerned about how nudity is thought of are the many studies that suggest a more healthy attitude towards nudity has profound benefits — especially for women. Here are the results of just three such studies:
(1) Research conducted at the University of Northern Iowa found that nudist children had body self-concepts that were significantly more positive than those of non-nudist children–and that the “nudity classification” of a family was one of the most significant factors associated with positive body self-concept.
(2) A study by psychologists Robin Lewis and Louis Janda at Old Damien University reported that “increased exposure to nudity in the family fosters an atmosphere of acceptance of sexuality and one’s body.” They concluded that children who had seen their parents nude were more comfortable with physical contact and affection, had higher self-esteem, and showed increased acceptance of and comfort with their bodies and their sexuality.
(3) Clothes-compulsiveness creates insecurity about one’s body. Studies show that nudism, on the other hand, promotes a positive body self-concept.
These effects are especially significant for women. Studies by Daniel DeGoede in 1984 confirmed research done 16 years earlier, which established that “of all the groups measured (nudist males, non-nudist males, nudist females, and non-nudist females), the nudist females scored highest on body concept, and the non-nudist females scored lowest.”
Apparently, there are no studies that indicate nudity is harmful to anyone.
So, there you have a couple reasons why it should concern us — if only a little bit — to promote a healthier attitude towards nudity. Of course, I’m not of the opinion that nudity should be forced on anyone, or that everyone should go nude. Some people — for whatever reasons — have no use for it and should not feel obligated to indulge in it. Yet, despite that, it seems worthwhile to combat the notion nudity is unhealthy, immoral, or dangerous. After all, is there any sane reason a significant portion of society should live in fear of seeing Janet Jackson’s nipple?