What does it mean to be naked? Western civilization seems to understand the concept, and most people will agree that, regardless of personal belief, public nudity is not the status-quo. But there is constant disagreement as to what constitutes nakedness, how to define a public place, and when or where and under what circumstances the human body should be regarded taboo.
The other day, I went with a friend of mine to the beach. His eight year old daughter was wearing a rather small bikini bottom that kept slipping off her butt. At one point, she was digging in the sand and you could clearly see a good four inches of plumber’s crack. It didn’t matter to me, being a nudist and all, but I jokingly remarked, “Your daughter is on the wrong kind of beach.” He turned to me, somewhat offended, and said, “She’s just a kid.” OK, I can understand if she was two, but eight? When and where does society draw the line? If she were nine would that kind of exposure be less acceptable? What about ten? Eleven? What if she were completely nude? It’s quite common to see a toddler running around without a bathing suit; most people don’t mind. But at what age does nudity become taboo? And who decides?
Things get more confusing as you add variables. For instance, we could agree that any and all adult nudity is unacceptable. But again, what constitutes nudity? Is a T-back bikini, which reveals part of the butt cheek, OK? What about a thong? How short do you cut your bathing suit? Years ago, thongs became illegal in Clearwater, Florida. Some lawyers actually drew up diagrams, which looked like a surgeon’s guide to liposuction, to help police determine the parts of the gluteus maximus that were legal. I have yet to hear of police pulling out a protractor and geometry book to arrest someone, but the whole thing is preposterous. It gets worse when you consider how differently bodies are shaped. One diagram doesn’t fit all. Skinny women with bony butts have less inches of cheek than obese women. Does this mean obese women are at a higher risk of breaking the law?
Now if we could come to an agreement as to what constitutes nudity for every kind of person and swimwear, things get hazy when we try to define a public place. Wearing a thong at the mall or at a restaurant may not go over well, of course, and unlike the beach, shoes and shirts are typically required. But what about public locker rooms? The other day, I needed to ride my bike eleven miles from the beach, but my bathing suit was soaked. I could have tried the hand dryer, but it was mounted too high, and the numerous changing stalls were intimidating. If men are too shy to undress in front of other men, they’re likely to be offended with my bottoms in my hand. OK, what about your own backyard? While technically private, laws regarding nudity even on private property depend on many factors, and differ from county to county. After all, I can’t strip on my driveway without getting arrested. Do I have a high enough fence or hedges? Do your neighbors, like mine, have a two story house with windows looking down on your property? What if the fence has a hole in it so that a child can look through it? According to Florida law, nudity is not illegal unless it is in a “lewd or lascivious manner,” but what the heck does that mean? Lewd and lascivious are even more ambiguous than nakedness, which is why I constantly worry about my neighbors calling the police. Who knows whether a judge deems my playing pool volleyball with the family lascivious. I am sure a lawyer could get the charges thrown out, but why go through the hassle? For all I know, my neighbors might be nudists themselves. Or they might be Bible thumping Baptists who believe the sight of genitalia damaging to their children. I suppose I could stick to nudity within the confines of my own house. But again, I have seen some scary news stories about people arrested after they were seen through their windows. There was even a story about a couple who lost their two kids for months to Child Protective Services after taking their bath time photos to Walmart.
Things get harrier when we consider specific body parts and their functions. What if you have to pee behind a bush and somebody sees you? Embarrassing, perhaps, but should it be illegal? Recently, Facebook changed their policies regarding breast feeding photos after a public outcry. Now here’s a switch, the general public coming to a consensus that showing naked breasts is OK, whereas a privately owned company disagreed. Whatever the reason, female nipples (but never male nipples) result in either mass hysteria or complete indifference. Since 1992, it has been perfectly legal for a woman to walk bare chested in New York City, and yet, all live television broadcasts are delayed seven seconds due to 2003’s Nipplegate, after Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” revealed part of her nipple during the Super Bowl halftime show. It forces me to wonder: How can it be OK for a woman to show her breasts in public, even in church (according to Pope Francis), as long as she has a baby in her arms? Why do we assume that children are not harmed by the sight of (nipples + baby)? Do babies somehow nullify whatever psychological effects nipples have on youth? When I was in Morocco, my wife’s cousin pulled her breast out in mid-conversation to feed her child. Even for me, it was a bit of a shock. After all, Morocco is a Muslim country, where many women can be seen in burqas, a garment covering every part of the body from head to toe.
Source: Being and Nakedness
Original publication 29 October, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 27th April 2021
[scf-post-tag output=”p” separator=”, “]
Reference to an article does not infer endorsement of any views expressed.