I would give credit for this, but it’s so ubiquitous online that I don’t know the original source.

I hope you won’t think the lesser of me for it, but I am here to admit that I sometimes think about nudity and wish there were more of it.  Not nudity in the sense of titillation or arousal, just…nudity.  And I wonder what the hell is wrong with nudity for the sake of nudity; nudity for the sake of shedding the constraints of clothing?  I’m not brave enough to assert my right to walk naked into the grocery store, but I am brave enough to call into question the legitimacy of the social fear of, and reaction to, nudity.

This article is what brought the issue to my mind today.  The writer wears the robes (excuse the pun) of reason confronting irrationality, but I think she limits her criticism of constraints against nudity by restricting her arguments to issues with female nudity and further limiting it to exposure of female breasts. I take the issue beyond control and misogyny; I take it to this: what is fundamentally wrong with allowing the human body to be in full view, in all its glory, any time?

Some people might think I’m joking about this.  I am dead serious.  I just do not understand humans’ apparent fear of nudity or, if it’s not fear, our tendency to equate nudity with immorality (which, in my view, is yet another perspective, in this case, based in fear).

It’s hard to have a serious conversation around this subject; people tend to become teenagers when the topic is raised, laughing and behaving as if the subject is “naughty” and deserving of ridicule or worse.  I just don’t get it; why are we so averse to allowing one another to shed clothing without reacting with either terror or lust?

And, of course, I’ve heard comments to the effect that “I don’t want to see the naked bodies of a bunch of overweight old men…”  To that, I respond, “I don’t particularly want to see a bunch of sleek young studs who make me look like an overweight old man, either, but what you gonna do?”  Who cares whether people “want” to see nudity?  Where do we draw the line?  Do we restrict the public display of elbows or kneecaps or ankles or a midriff?  This stuff drives me more than a little nuts.

I remember a time last summer when the weather was particularly unpleasant…hot, humid, and generally not comfortable.  I was wearing a t-shirt and gym shorts and flip-flops, but still felt hot and uncomfortable.  I mentioned to my wife my frustration that I couldn’t feel free to just remove the few bits of clothing I was wearing and sit out on the lawn sipping a beer.  Had I done that, I might have been attacked by angry neighbors; at the very least, they would have called the police and I would have been dragged away from my house and arrested for public indecency.  Indecency?!  Indecency?!  What the hell?!

I’ve never been around nudists, to my knowledge, but I think I understand their perspective on at least one little part of life, the freedom to just be free.  Society has, for a very, very long time, defined the human form as something ugly that must be hidden or, alternatively, something sexual that must be covered to protect us from wanton sexual attacks, I suppose.  Why did those perspectives arise?

I have absolutely nothing against clothing and, in fact, I am pretty sure I’d continue to wear clothes almost all the time, regardless of whether nudity were “permissible.” But I’d feel like I were living among more intelligent beings if the prohibitions against public nudity were to disappear.

Any thoughts on this?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to Nudity

  1. Susanne, I am afraid you are right…I wish you weren’t. Juan, I’ve never spent time in a sauna or steam bath; I should, just to absorb that nonchalance I think we should all have about nudity! This post, even though I posted a link on Facebook, generated very little traffic and fewer comments. Either my thoughts do not inspire debate/comment or people have no interest in them. Ha! We’ll see about interest when I stroll, nude, into my neighborhood Tom Thumb store to buy a can of tomatoes!

  2. juanon says:


    I sat in the sauna this morning at the gym, sweating like a pig. That’s when I really feel Roman you know — like I was Seneca or Catius!

    And so those of us men in the sauna were completely nude, with nothing more than maybe a towel to guard our genitals from vision, because none of us really want to see some old dude’s hairy, sweaty balls hanging or lopped over his bench-seat.

    Nudity is an indifference in saunas or steam-baths, or so we would like to hope. I think it’s what I really like about saunas — that we attempt to enjoy our nudity as men.

    I’m not sure how it is for women.

  3. Susanne says:

    Intelligent beings. I don’t think most humans evolve at the same speed. If they did our thinking even on nudity would be more advanced.

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