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Are we indecent?
Society has a lot to say about a lot of things, and one of the things that society often claims is that nudity is indecent. Many individuals may argue with that definition, but society as a collective continually demonstrates that it finds the naked human body improper and insists that it is covered in public.
What is decency? Who arbitrates the standards of society? The climate of public opinion is prone to change over time. Some things that were once considered wrong are now mainstream, and some things that were once common are now branded as outdated and inappropriate.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram all have policies around decency that re-enforce the message that female breasts are indecent. I have heard the argument that these social media policies reflect the attitudes of society. However, I haven’t met anyone who openly agrees that the female breast is indecent. Why then, are female breasts considered indecent when male breasts are accepted openly and often with indifference? I am yet to hear a coherent argument that can demonstrate why.
Why is nudity considered indecent and yet people, including school children, will line up to view works of art such as Michelangelo’s statue of David or the Venus de Milo by Alexandros? Some have suggested that over many years the church taught us that nudity is indecent, and yet how many nudes you can spot on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel?
Simple nudity should not be considered indecent. The act of being naked is as natural as anyone can be and no part of the human body should be considered indecent.
We don’t consider all the other species of animals on the planet indecent, many we even call majestic or elegant, even though no other animal on the planet needs clothing nor, it would appear, do they exhibit shame in their natural form. We should treat our nudity with the same indifference we treat the nudity of our cats and dogs or our farm animals.
We can all agree that a simple image of a person outside naked by a river is not indecent, however, the same person engaged in sexualised behaviour may be too much for many. The significant factor is that the nudity is not indecent, it is the behaviour that crosses the line. As it is for antisocial behaviour from clothed people, the clothing, or lack of, is irrelevant to the actions of the individual.
Society should be able to distinguish between the act of simply being naked and the type of behaviour that could be considered offensive.
Many things in this world are indecent, and most of those are human behaviour rather than any natural condition. The naked human body should be considered natural and normal rather than shameful or indecent.
The level of poverty and hunger in the world, and not just in third-world countries, could well be considered indecent. There are many families even in the so-called developed nations striving to earn a living wage or struggling to feed their families. The gap between the “Haves” and the “Have nots” is widening at an alarming pace, with a disproportionate amount of wealth controlled by a small number of incredibly wealthy people, while most struggle close to or even below the breadline.
The amount of single-use plastic we, as consumers, buy and discard into the environment is not just indecent, it is bordering on criminal. The first plastic was invented in 1907, and it took nearly 70 years for the annual production to reach 50 million metric tonnes. Since the mid-’70s production has increased at an exponential rate, with annual production currently sitting at around 375 million metric tonnes. The UN Environment Programme estimates that if global plastic trends continue, production will top 1,100 million metric tonnes by 2050.
The world seems happy to accept violence in many forms as part of the world we live in. Violence is frequently displayed in the media and on the sports fields. It is glorified in films and even celebrated in the boxing ring. Surely violence toward another human being is indecent. How have we come to live in a world where people can beat each other to a pulp to cheers and applause, and yet a person in their natural form is considered offensive?
There seems to be a common misconception that simple nudity is sexual. By all means, call out inappropriate sexualised behaviour or comments as indecent and hold those responsible to account, but by labelling simple nudity as indecent, we perpetuate attitudes of body shame that can be extremely damaging to people's wellbeing and mental health.
I recently saw a post on social media referencing a study by Reebok that indicated the average person is engaged in sexual activity for 0.45% of their life. So our genitals are used sexually, on average, for less than 1/2 a per cent of the time. For an activity that makes up such a small part of our overall lives, the idea that a naked person is sexual seems at odds with reality.
The sexualisation of the nude seems disproportionate to the amount of time engaged in sexual activity.
Of all the things in the world to be considered indecent, the naked human body should even be on the list.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.