Baring it All?

My bloggy friend Lisa started a discussion over at her blog about this topic the other day and I’ve found myself thinking a lot about it ever since then.  I don’t have any real answers but these are some of my musings.  Where do you fall on this issue?

The issue is NUDITY.  (That’s right, I said it.)

The more I think about it the more I find that I’m kind of pro-nudity.

I’m just against sexualized nudity.

Although I’m not quite to the point that I’m going to go out and join a nudist colony (yet) I really have no problem with nudity of the non-sexual variety.  It’s just darn hard to find.

My 8 year-old daughter, the Princess, has three younger brothers.  In our conversations about the birds and the bees she’s never displayed any but the most benign interest in penises.  As I said, she has three younger brothers, she’s seen her share.  On the other hand, I distinctly remember having a rabid curiosity about the male anatomy at her age.  (I have two brothers but they’re both considerably older.)  So much so that I once sat through “Never Cry Wolf” at my friend’s house because I was told that at some point the main character ran, completely naked, through the pack of wolves (or something).  (As an aside I’ll tell you that after sitting there for what felt like years, the movie was winding down and I was sure my moment was coming, when my mother called and told me to come home for dinner and my brilliant plan to see a ding-dong was frustrated.)

I’ve been a nursing mother for the past nearly three years.  I try to be sensitive of other’s comfort and I make sure to cover up when in public, or even in someone else’s home, but in my own home- that’s too much work.  As a result, the Pea has gotten an eye-full on more than one occasion.  He doesn’t care.  He’s not disgusted, he’s not even interested.  To him breasts are just breasts, they’re for milk, his mother has them, he’s seen hundreds of them…(sorry, I got carried away quoting) but the point is that his seeing me nurse his baby brothers has de-sexualized for him something that our society seems to think is all about sex.

I’m not naive enough to think that this effect will last.  I’m not under the delusion that when he’s 13 and all his friends are giggling over the Victoria’s Secret catalog he’s going to glance over and go “meh, I’ve seen em” and go back to his Legos.  (I pray for that, but I don’t expect it.)  But maybe, just maybe, I’ve built a good foundation.

Working in the medical field, as I do, nudity is nothing new or exciting.  A naked body is just a naked body and I’m here to tell you that no one looks good laid out on an operating table.  Again, there are things you can do with positioning, lighting, strategic placement of coverings, whatever, to sexify your nakedness but just being nude,  meh.  In fact when I was in training I remember one of my preceptors, a guy, saying to me that “working here has really made me appreciate a well dressed woman.”

So what’s the solution?  Obviously, pornography is inappropriate, dangerous and addictive, but does the same go for all nudity?  Is there a place for “artistic nudity”?  Educational nudity?  And how do you, how can you, introduce it?  As I mentioned, or at least alluded to, I’d like my younger boys to be somewhat familiar with female anatomy how do I accomplish that?  I’ve been somewhat jealous of Lisa, who lives in Poland, for the fact that European attitudes seem to be so much less prudish than those in the US, but then I had the impression that nudity for them was not overtly sexual.  To hear her tell it, that’s not the case so maybe I take back my jealousy.

What I need are some good take your kids to work days.  (You don’t think watching us cut kids open will scar them for life do you?)

Update: I want to make it clear that I do not avdvocate wanton or unnecessary nudity.  I would not EVER join any kind of nudist colony, and I am certainly not volunteering to model nudity, even of the non-sexual variety for anyone (with the one notable exception).  All comments to the contrary were made solely for comedic affect.

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24 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kristina
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 22:21:44

    If you need to introduce your kids to nudity, just send them over to my house one night. I’ll let you know when it appears the neighbors are going to show us the goods. Although, they also like to add the sexual element to it as well, so maybe not.

  2. The Boob Nazi
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 22:29:26

    There is educational nudity! I had cut-off penises and cut-off boxes of women genitalia during anatomy. That was the saddest week of the class. I didn’t go in and study because I thought other people would think I was weird…. whatever.
    My friends and I would pause Now and Then (the movie) during this one part where we SWORE we could see Davon Sawa’s junk. No joke. We were strange…. And he was hot!

  3. Jen
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 23:47:14

    I think I have an answer to your dilema. Scientific human anatomy books. I totally let my kids look at anything that is labelled, diagrammed, or showing the vascular system – and it stopped being such a giggle-fest when they realized it was okay. They still pull them out ocassionally, but I think it’s helped the shock factor wear off, if you know what I mean. Normalized it a bit.

    But I don’t really want people to see me nude, so when you go to your nudy beach, I won’t be coming along. Sorry, I’m just not into disappointing my public – if you know what I mean.

  4. LisAway
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 04:06:32

    I still think our bodies are meant to be covered. I don’t turn my eyes when I see a Renaissance painting with the chubby ladies, but I don’t think it is necessary to help us appreciate the human body. And if thin was all the rage back then, and that’s what was painted, I WOULD think it inappropriate. Arousing or not, I don’t think we’re meant to see each other. And I can’t believe you’ve chosen a work environment where you DO see people disrobed! 🙂

    I think “art” doesn’t need it. I know art is supposed to be free and expressive etc., but I think Hollywood/movies etc. is also art. Art is not always a beautiful or meaningful thing. (and some would argue that it is not OFTEN a beautiful or meaningful thing).

    I don’t freak out and race to cover my children’s eyes when something like this is before us, but I have taught them that we don’t look. And they get it, at this point in their lives.

    I realize that I’m super extreme on this, but there it is. And I love that Jen commented just what you emailed me. And I DO want my kids to know what a body looks like. I remember when I first was nursing Aaron, almost six year-old David saw my breast for the first time and asked, “Is that really what it looks like?” I thought it was darling (not my breast, his question), and I definitely think it’s important for our children to know what “it [DOES] look like.” (not necessarily mine, but you know what I mean)

    Oh, and I talked to my husband about the nudist colony thing, as he spent time on one as a teenager (before) and he said that while it is not arousing to be there and it feels almost normal, later you can’t stop thinking about some things. Of course he was a teenage boy, but I think the same would go for most people.

    I don’t think it’s meant to be. They’re called “private parts” for a reason. 🙂

  5. LisAway
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 04:07:31

    What’s my prize for longest comment on any post on any blog EVER?

  6. julie
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 08:13:03

    thanks for all the points to ponder about nudity. I think the body has to be shared up to a point and I like you don’t like the sexualized version of it either. I believe to be more open about this topic since my parents were while we were young. Hope that this makes some sense.

  7. Camille Machen
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 08:46:05

    I think the Europeans have a more open mind on this matter. You go to their beaches and the only ones ogling the topless ladies are the Western males. Same goes for art, you wouldn’t ask Michaelangelo’s David to cover up.

  8. Annette
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 10:12:21

    I understand where Lisa is coming from, but I think I agree with you more.

    During the three years I lived in Finland, I came to see nudity very differently–in a very non-sexualized way. (Yes, there’s still the pornography more open there that you see in most European countries, but that’s not what I’m talking about.)

    One funny story involved the Finnish sauna (total nudity) and the wife of a seventy experiencing her first one with my mother and a sister from the stake and her children. The woman was obviously uncomfortable, thinking that the sauna was a very worldy and evil thing, and muttered something about her perm getting ruined in the heat.

    The young mother of the little kids stood up, hands on hips, buck naked, and said, “Sister, in the sauna we put away all worldly concerns!”

    In my mind, the sauna especially is a place where nudity is as far as you can get frome sexual–and you can really put the world AWAY.

    Now I’m just rambling.

    How about I just say, “ditto.” 🙂

  9. Neanderthal Man
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 11:03:19

    What are these COLONIES? You sweet old fashioned things, nudist COLONIES died out about a hundred years ago. Clubs, yes, resorts, yes, beaches, yes, but COLONIES??? Only in cheap jokes and cheap journalism, folks.

    I’ve been a nudist most of my life and I’m nearly pension age now, and I’ve never known what all the fuss is about. OK, I’m one of these liberal Europeans in your book, I suppose.

    Private parts are called that because people insist on calling them that, that’s all. I don’t myself use such a Victorian-sounding phrase.

    I’m long past the child-rearing stage, but the way I played it with kids around was not to panic and cover up when, say, I got out of the bath, but not to make a show either. Similarly on a beach, I will go quietly about my own business, or chat in a relaxed way to people, but there’s no parading.

    I worry, honestly, much more about the sexualised clothes for even young kids doled out by the fashion industry. I worry even more about what happens in the Middle East or the rain forests, but that’s by the by.

    The anatomy books sound good to me. The kids won’t be interested for that long, and it may help demystify a lot of things if they see this educational material.

  10. the letter Bee
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 11:25:40

    Hahaha yes, Kristina’s neighbors WOULD give a detailed and complete education on all aspects of the subject.

  11. The Boob Nazi
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 13:45:31

    I like how Neanderthal man says he’s worried about sexualized clothes… That just seems very ironic to me.

  12. Natalie
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 15:13:17

    Wow, Jen beat me to it. As I was reading your post I was thinking “anatomy books”. My kids have a few books geared towards kids (both the full body ones with the heart, lungs, intestines, etc. and a couple that are actually about the reproductive system itself and say in really basic, innocent phrases “this is the uterus where you lived inside of your mommy” and stuff like that.) It all seems too normal and scientific when it’s in print meant for kiddos. I, for one, don’t want my kids to be the ones who are so curious about the unknown that they torture themselves watching long movies hoping for a glimpse of something or that are so shocked and embarassed that they giggle uncontrollably in class at school. So, I treat the human body like I treat pretty much all of the sensitive subjects in the world and just talk normally about it as if it were no big deal.

  13. Cj
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 16:51:50

    Being male, on a blog frequented mostly by females (with the glaring exception of Neanderthal Man), let me offer another perspective, though not necessarily an opposite one.

    Men think about this stuff more than women. A Great. Deal. More. Almost no one thinks a naked man is sexually arousing, not even women, but most men think naked women are arousing, even if not necessarily “sexy” in the traditional sense. Very few girls have shown me their nakedness on purpose, and I have to say that that never made a lot of difference – accidental peeks were just as interesting. If you doubt this is generally the case, I invite you to Google “upskirt”.

    Guys like to see naked women. This is practically universal. The reverse is not true, so far as I can determine. So if we’re talking about nudity, I start in a different place than most of you do.

    But I think I end up with about the same attitude. At the point where a child is able to be sexually aroused by naked members of the opposite sex, and this is about 8-9 years old, I think, general displays of any sort of nudity are going to be dangerous. An aside: I appreciate the comments of Neanderthal Man – it is always good for the soul to meet someone whose perspective is so far from mine, and whose experiences so different – but I rather suspect that the Wonderland has as its core values something closer to mine than his. Displays of nudity around children capable of sexual arousal are morally dangerous, and especially dangerous to males.

    That said, women, although they are far more social and pack-forming, are much LESS likely to be found in group nakedness. Men frequently shower together around a six-nozzle pole at busy gyms and locker rooms, where women almost always have individual stalls. Perhaps this is a holdover from a more prudish time; I prefer to think there is some profound psychology at work.

    In our house, general nakedness is not tolerated. My wife breast-feeds and does so discreetly, but without display. Other nudity, with the occasional exception of male-male in bathrooms where speed is necessary, is avoided rather scrupulously. The boys wear shirts, all the time, even outside, even in high summer. The girls wear as much clothing as the activity permits. This feels right to us.

    I am certain that my sons know what breasts look like, and that they are interested in seeing more of them. They also know that they are to do nothing to make such views more likely, and that they, and their sisters, have a responsibility not to give others any reason to think more about their bodies than their minds.

  14. Cj
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 16:56:45

    And I’ll take that “longest comment” award, thank you!

  15. robyn
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 20:54:55

    Not to burst anyone’s bubble here, but there is a “colony” a stone’s throw from where I live. It has been there for years. My once boy friend now husband and his band mates, had a gig there just after we started dating. The event still lives in infamy around here (not to him, he forgot about it years ago, but to me – lots of back story there). However, it is alive and well and they do recruit for members.

    Nudity, by it’s very nature, is fine. It is the attitude, and setting that makes all the difference. Art is a great place to start. Your medical books – the exact place I got my education (thanks Mom! she’s an RN) are a great place too. I say this because the pictures invoke questions. But the questions are pretty benign, as opposed to the kinds of questions you get while watching inappropriate movies or they get access to the wrong magazines or internet sites.

    You are on the right track. You defintely want a dialogue, but in a good way. My mom was always too clinical, and it was embarrassing to me as everything had a proper name and pronunciation. Couldn’t we once just call it a generally accepted term? Please?

    Coming from a home filled with daughters, we rarely even got a glimpse of the male anatomy. Thank goodness for John and Yoko (infamous record cover inference – we’re vinyl fans) or my daughters would have all gone to an outside source for info! Oh and of course the Huntington Library.

    just my two cents.

  16. annie valentine
    Jan 01, 2009 @ 01:30:22

    Sorry Neanderthal Man, but we ran across a Nudist Bed and Breakfast in Louisiana last month. Unfortunately, we did not stay there.

    I for one love being naked. In fact, you could call me Pro-Naked. Growing up, I was terrified and curious about male anatomy (no brothers in the house), and even rented “A Room With A View” just so I could get an eyeful (although I was so embarrassed during the swimming scene that I didn’t watch a speck of it).

    My mom was always very comfortable being naked and I appreciated that. It made me comfortable with my body, and that kind of personal acceptance is important.

    And if it wasn’t for my gawking husband, I’d probably go topless at a beach without batting an eye.

  17. Dollie
    Jan 01, 2009 @ 09:18:42

    Haha great topic my mom and grandma and poor brothers and sisters would get frustrated when i blowed dried my hair in my bra and underwear (yeah not even naked eh?) anyway they got mad at me my thought was I was going to sweat a little blow drying if I wore clothes so if I didn’t then I was fresh when I walked out the door. Made perfect sense to me. By the way a question when you live in a nudist colony what do you do about your monthly visitor?

  18. LisAway
    Jan 01, 2009 @ 11:10:08

    What a great discussion you have going on over here! I love the two guys’ perspectives.

    I knew when I typed “there’s a reason they’re called private parts” that it was a fallacy. What I should have said is, “There’s a reason society has dubbed them private parts.” And it’s not just because they’re prude.

    I remember the German exchange student who was on the swim team and everyone who was in the locker room with her tried to keep their eyes averted. I think there is a little problem with people being scared or ashamed of nudity, but mostly I think America is in the right on this. It’s hard to teach that bodies are normal but also that we shouldn’t show ours or see others’.

    I think there are two separate issues, as you mention, the objectifying of the “ideal” body and the issue of nudity, sexual or otherwise.

    I’m pretty sure Adam and Eve weren’t prudes and I’m following their example. (I say, as if I really know exactly what their continued views were on this subject.)

    INTERESTING, Alison!

  19. Jami
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 01:33:21

    I’m not looking at the comments. My thoughts are meandering enough without tossing in other people’s ponderings.

    I was raised by a nudist hippy, and when I was about 12, I begged my step-father to please wear something. Please. He chose a tiny towel like thing that wrapped around his hips and a portion of his nether regions. That was too much nudity, imo.

    We are pretty lax around here in the modesty department, but everyone wears something pretty much all the time. Except the baby who strips. Every day. No matter how many times I dress her.

    Re: art. I have a huge pastel self-portrait one of my favorite friends drew. She’s in a birthing tub and is nude, though she’s facing away and only a portion of her is showing. I was her doula, so the painting is profoundly meaningful to me as well as being truly beautiful. But it’s not in my livingroom.

    I think there is a time and a place for nudity in real life and in art. Not as many times and places as most people seem to think, but more than most members seem to think.

    OK, now I’m going to go read what everyone else thought.

  20. Alison @ hairlinefracture
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 09:06:27

    Wow, how fascinating to read everyone’s opinions!

    I try to be matter-of fact with my children: “Yes, boys have a penis…” and I like the idea of the anatomy books. However, once our kids get old enough to get interested in their parents’ nudity (I’m mostly referring to the opposite sex parent) we start covering up around them.

    I completely agree with the part about desexualizing breastfeeding. It’s just wrong that so many Americans think feeding a baby is a sexual display. I too covered up in public, but not in my house!

  21. Jo
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 19:28:54

    There is a time and a place for almost everything. Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. I personally lean a bit more the European side in terms of my feelings about nudity, but I don’t let my 11 yr old, (emotional age 3) see me naked because he is WAY too interested. I like this post, I like to know what other people are thinking, it is interesting.

  22. the letter Bee
    Jan 03, 2009 @ 18:50:12

    Hahaha I love what you put above my adoption button. Thanks for your support (and willingness to sacrifice your own for the cause.)!

  23. zstitches
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 00:20:43

    I don’t know if there’s any point in commenting 9 days late, especially since I’m likely to surpass LisAway’s lengthiness. But this is a topic I’d been thinking about lately (I must have seen it come up somewhere else.)

    Although in our house we do teach modesty, we’re also fairly casual around each other when bathing and dressing, especially when the kids are younger, because I DO think it’s important for the kids to get to see bodies in a non-sexual context, have body parts identified, and not have nudity be a shameful or overly charged thing. However, I’m pretty much with Lisa on nudity in public and art — I just don’t quite believe that it’s ever as non-sexual as is often claimed, even in Europe (aside from perhaps the sauna, although personally I’d probably choose to skip the sauna experience.) We hear all the time that all that European nudity isn’t sexual in nature, but there’s certainly a high level of what Americans and certainly Mormons consider to be promiscuity in a lot of those liberated European countries, and I’m just not so sure there’s not really a correlation, frankly.

    Also, although I have no idea how I ended up at the site and could probably not find it again to save my life, a while ago I read an autobiography by a grown daughter of (American) nudists who had a miserable childhood and who as an adult wanted nothing to do with her parents. She was basically forced to go nude with her parents (at a colony or whatever you call it) and felt miserable all the time; her parents’ attitudes did NOT rub off on her, and she just felt vulnerable and ashamed. Her parents also encouraged her to be friendly with an adult male friend of theirs, even after she told them he made her uncomfortable. He ended up molesting her, and they didn’t believe her about that.

    I think that a lot of the time when the world affects tolerance with a “live-and-let-live” attitude, we (or anyway what I’m calling “the world”) forget that unless everyone involved is childless, innocents may be harmed.

    (See, I knew I could outdo Lisa.)

  24. zstitches
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 00:23:05

    (Or anyway match Lisa.)

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