It’s not just US.
The United States is not alone in its attitude to nudity.
Ok, grammatically incorrect title alert, but I hope the grammar pedants will excuse my poetic licence.
Recently I wrote about the incident in the United States and the disbelief around the response to a liberal arts school and the showing of Michelangelo’s statue of David to 6th graders. As I alluded to in my article, I suspected that there were other factors at play rather than just the reaction to nudity, and it appears that was the case. Several U.S.-based readers provided some relevant context around the incident, and as is often the situation the media reporting could be categorised as sensationalist and headline-grabbing rather than accurate and unbiased. Such is the nature of the demise in news reporting around the world.
One reader pointed out that there is a tendency to hold the U.S. up as an example of outdated and some say illogical attitudes to nudity, where there are plenty of examples from other countries. I may have been guilty of this myself, but the U.S. often does itself no favours with reactions to nudity. The U.S. also holds itself as the self-appointed bastion of democracy and freedom, and yet consistently shows itself to be neither particularly democratic nor free.
Having said that, there are plenty of international examples of public outrage at simple nudity and the U.S. is not alone in irrational responses.
The U.K. has plenty of examples and I have written about some of these in previous issues.
Even Australia, often regarded as a liberal haven of good weather and skimpy swimwear, has shown recent examples of ridiculous attitudes to nudity. The New South Wales surf club banning nudity in changing rooms defies logic.
A recent U.K. example was the indignant outrage at the TV program “Naked Education”. I haven’t watched the whole series, but the episodes that I have seen all appear informative and responsible. I wonder if the people complaining have actually watched the episodes, or are simply complaining about what they imagine the content to be.
Curiously when I looked it up on Youtube, nearly all the results were opinions overwhelmingly against it, and yet when I used Google to search for the show, there were many articles supporting it as well as articles opposing it. The cynic in me wonders if the results from some sites are being manipulated to skew attitudes. To be fair to Youtube, the show itself is now available to watch, yet it wasn’t when I was first compiling this blog.
(Since posting this blog, Youtube has removed the episodes).
The reaction to Naked Education seems odd given that the show's predecessor, Naked Attraction, has morphed from a fairly positive show celebrating body positivity to a more sexualised spectacle of objectification, apparently without much complaint or objection about its content. It seems that salacious sexualised content is good but informative and educational content is not so good.
When it first started, Naked Attraction did a reasonable job of normalising the naked form of everyday people rather than promoting an airbrushed illusion of reality, but Naked Attraction appears to have slipped into a sleazier format. Naked Education, on the other hand, seems to have hit a nerve with people. Perhaps this is due to the involvement of children. I use the term children, but we are talking about post-pubescent young adults as opposed to children or infants.
Naked education seems to be specifically about addressing attitudes and preconceptions around body image and answering young people's questions. It appears to be trying to highlight to teens, many of whom are already viewing adult content via a very warped and distorted lens, the fact that most real people are not the product of a carefully curated and enhanced process. Is this not a good thing?
Given the overwhelming prevalence of manipulated and unrealistic images in advertising and media, showing normal people “warts and all” may be trying to provide some balance to young adults, and a positive step in combatting the increasing incidences of body dysmorphia that our young people are dealing with.
I imagine that most people would want our children and grandchildren to grow up with a healthy respect for their bodies and without any shame about their appearance. If that is the case, why do we keep trying to teach them that the natural human body is shameful when we know they have access to heavily manipulated and distorted images of beauty? Have we forgotten what a normal body looks like? Are we projecting our own shame onto future generations?
Naked Education has prompted over 1000 complaints to the U.K. broadcasting watchdog organisation OfCom. This is from a country that until recently featured topless women in their daily newspapers. One of the most prominent and popular, Samantha Fox, was only 16 when she was featured under the headline “Sam, 16, quits A-Levels for Ooh-Levels”. It is curious that so many are complaining about nudity in front of 14 to 16-year-olds when one of the best-selling newspapers in the country used to feature a topless 16-year-old. How the times have changed.
“Until I became human, nobody ever told me there was something wrong with my body.” ― Christina Henry, The Mermaid
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.