The Naked Truth?
Read the text and complete the Quick Quiz below it.
Does nude have to mean rude?
Since the dawn of time the naked or nearly-naked human form has been depicted as beautiful in art. One only has to think of statues like the Venus de Milo or paintings such as Botticelli's Venus or the Rokeby Venus to appreciate that the naked human form can indeed be inspiring for many of us. However, some would disagree, arguing that nudes are rude. This is borne out by examples of famous paintings being altered by later generations in an effort to cover up some of the "rude bits". Michelangelo's Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel suffered this fate when "modesty drapes" were added and the Rokeby Venus in the National Gallery, London, was actually slashed with a meat cleaver by a suffragette in 1914 because she "couldn't stand the way men looked at it". In the story of Genesis, Adam and Eve were created in the nude and were quite happy about it until they ate forbidden fruit, whereupon they discovered the emotion of shame and consequently covered themselves up. Some think that the shame attached to nudity can be traced back to Adam and Eve's embarrassment, although their nakedness itself was not the "Original Sin". So where does that leave us today? Why do some people, such as naturists, feel relaxed about baring all, while others feel that nudity is somehow morally questionable (at best) and actually sordid (at worst)?
Nudity is good for you!
Naturists (people who enjoy nudity, frequent nudist camps and beaches, etc.) claim that nudity does you good. Their reasons for this are that firstly, it is natural – after all, we are born naked, children have no qualms about nudity and it is only as we grow up and adopt the ways of the society we live in that we begin to think nude is rude. Secondly, nudist websites point out that exposure to sunlight increases the amount of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D apparently plays a part in preventing several major diseases and levels of it are often insufficient in the populations of colder countries. Vitamin D supplements can be taken in pill form, of course, but the easiest way to get it is by simply exposing our skin to sunlight. Thirdly, they say the skin is unlikely to burn if it has been exposed to sunlight very regularly, building up steadily from weak sunlight to bright sunny summer days.
Nudity can be acceptable!
Nudity has been acceptable in various cultures and in various circumstances throughout history. The Greeks held athletic competitions in which the contestants wore no clothes. In fact the Greek word "gymnasium" means "a place to be naked"! Nudity was acceptable in Roman times as well, in public baths; and Christians were baptised in their birthday suits until the beginning of the 8th century. Even nowadays group nudity is often acceptable in single-sex shower rooms and changing rooms leading to swimming pools etc. Nudity in very specific settings is also accepted, for example, a doctor may ask a patient to remove their clothes for medical reasons. Also, artists' models and pornographic models accept that they will be working partially or totally in the nude.
Generally speaking, in Western society at least, we seem to have very mixed and muddled attitudes to nudity, either whole or partial. This is demonstrated by the fact that advertisements for products such as shower gels or suntan lotions regularly feature women happily exposing their breasts to the camera without fear of reprisal, whereas Janet Jackson apparently shocked large parts of the northern hemisphere when she famously had a "wardrobe malfunction" and exposed one of her breasts at the 2004 Superbowl.
Quick Quiz: Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.
1. Even nowadays group nudity is often acceptable in single-sex shower rooms and changing rooms leading __________ swimming pools etc.
2. The naked human form can indeed be __________ for many of us.
3. __________ standards?
4. Why do some people, such as naturists, feel relaxed about baring all, while others feel that nudity is somehow morally questionable (at best) and actually __________ (at worst)?
5. The skin is __________ to burn if it has been exposed to sunlight very regularly, building up steadily from weak sunlight to bright sunny summer days.
6. __________ has been acceptable in various cultures and in various circumstances throughout history.