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Shame on you!
Shame on you! Oh, the shame! You must have been so ashamed.
These are all expressions that many of us will be familiar with and may have heard many times over our lives.
One of the biggest areas where shame is projected on us is that of the naked human form. While it is accepted in art and sculpture as some high ideal, the mere appearance of the naked body in a public place creates an avalanche of hysterical and illogical responses. In some countries, the act of appearing naked in public is a criminal offence and can result in arrest or a fine. This is even the case in some advanced and supposedly free nations that embrace freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
Of all the living species on the planet, humans are the only ones to be ashamed of our naked appearance. Some humans have shunned this shame, and enjoy a naked lifestyle, while most of us spend time and money trying to keep up with the latest fashion to fit into a constantly changing style that is unrealistic and for many unobtainable.
Body shame is a learned response. No one is born with it. The very young are happy to be free of clothing and children will happily run around naked or swim naked without a second thought.
For some reason, society has developed an idea that the naked human form should be hidden and covered up, and to achieve this state of dress, has developed several shame building strategies to foster a sense of shame in our children.
“Put that away, no one wants to see you naked” and other such statements are often aimed at the young by parents, and comments like this help build an idea that the human body should be hidden away and not celebrated.
Schools, churches and the community at large all reinforce the message that nudity is wrong, dirty or naughty and we should be protected from it.
Society is constantly chipping away at the body confidence of our children, and then wonders why we have such a warped sense of values. Violence and aggression are routinely shown in all manner of media, but the sight of a naked human body is preceded by a warning of offensive content or shown with breasts and genitals blocked or pixelated. Why is an image of war or violence more acceptable than a naked human?
This sometimes hysterical attitude to nudity seems to stem from society's inability to separate nudity from sex. The assumption is that because someone is naked, that they are being sexual is so prevalent, that it overrides common sense. If you have ever been involved in anything like a world naked bike ride, a naked swim event, or even spending time in the privacy of your home, gardening naked, you will know that there is nothing remotely sexual about those activities.
Gender inequality in today's world is pervasive, and although improvements are constantly being made, there is one area where the disparity between genders is so ingrained in society, that most of us don’t even realise that there is an issue. The offending article is the female nipple. We can look at male nipples without a second glance, but a female nipple has to be covered for some inexplicable reason. This is even though many male nipples are sitting on larger amounts of breast tissue than the offending female equivalent.
Movements such as the “Free the Nipple” campaign are gaining popularity in some places, but we have a long long way to go before gender equality on this issue alone is resolved.
Women’s magazines and increasingly some media aimed at men are insidious in their messages that reinforce body shame and insecurity. Pick up any mainstream women’s magazine and the articles will scream body shame and conformity to an unobtainable standard. “Get that bikini body”, “Eat your way slim”, “How to get that catwalk look”, and “Flawless makeup secrets”. Such headlines all reinforce the idea that the person you are is not enough, and you need to change. Women are not the only targets of advertising trying to shame you into using products, a recent online advertising campaign aimed at men is just as bad. A razor company is packaging their product with scrotum deodorant and moisturiser.
And yet advertising uses sex to sell. We are constantly shown images of people (usually only beautiful people) and told that we too can be worthy of adoration if only we would buy this product. Scantily clad beautiful people are ok for media, but ordinary people, not so much.
TV shows, like Naked Attraction, are an opportunity to demystify and normalise the human form. They are bold enough to show normal people naked, with all their bumps, scars and imperfections, but still manage to reduce things to a base level with overtly sexualised comments and observations. It’s an improvement, but still has some way to go. I strongly believe that we need to see more nudity on media and social media platforms and that it should be treated with the indifference that people treat strangers walking down the street.
Nudity is our natural form. It is how we were born into this world, like every other living thing on this planet and we are the only species to impose body shame on ourselves. Clothing has several important functions and allows us to live in climates that we might find hostile without it. I'm not advocating that everyone should be naked all the time, but being naked should be an option for those who wish not to dress, and there should be no shame about it.
Shame is a tool of oppression. (Brené Brown)
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.