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Nudity

Nudity is the state of wearing no clothing. It is sometimes used to refer to wearing significantly fewer clothes than expected by the conventions of a particular culture and situation, and in particular exposing the bare skin of intimate parts. The term topless is sometimes used to describe the lack of clothing covering the breasts.

The nude is also a genre of representational art, especially painting and sculpture, that depicts people without clothes on.

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Cultural and Religious Views of Nudity
3 Exploitation of Nudity
4 Nudity in the Media
5 External Links

Overview

Once the universal state of mankind prior to the invention of clothing, nudity is now rare in the presence of others.

Acceptance of nudity and required levels of clothing vary greatly with time and culture; it also depends on whether other people are present, and if so, who. Some nudity is unavoidable when bathing or going to the toilet, but these can and often are done in private.

Nudity in front of a sexual partner is widely accepted, but even here there may be restrictions. For example, only at the time and place of sex, or with subdued lighting, or covered by a sheet or blanket.

Nudity in front of strangers of the same sex is often more accepted than in front of those of the opposite sex, for example in open showers, common changing rooms, etc. Urinals may have partitions between them to avoid the partial nudity of men to be visible by other men. How common they are varies with the country.

On one extreme some people view nudity as sinful or otherwise wrong except in such unavoidable cases, while other people, such as nudists assert that nudity is the natural state that should ideally be always acceptable in public.

Cultural and Religious Views of Nudity

In some hunter-gatherer cultures in warm climates, near-complete nudity was (at least until the introduction of European culture) standard practice for both men and women. However, this was not always the case. For example, native Americans were generally quite prim where nudity was concerned. A notable exception were the Chumash Indians of southern California who were nudists: men were usually naked, women were often topless.

At the most extreme end of the spectrum, one finds some strict interpretations of Islam that require women to cover their entire bodies, including the face (see burka), on threat of severe punishment.

In the West, standards of what constitutes indecent exposure vary widely. Athletes in ancient Greece commonly competed nude, but many city-states allowed no female participants or even spectators at those events, Sparta being a notable exception. In the early 20th century, exposure of male nipples was considered indecent at some beaches. In general and across cultures, most restrictions are found for exposure of those parts of the human body that put in evidence sexual arousal or sexual dimorphism between male and female adults. Therefore, sex organs and women's breasts are often covered.

In the United States of America, exposure of female nipples is still not usually allowed in public; public breastfeeding, since the exposure it involves is functional, may be looked upon more mildly, but still it is sometimes considered problematic. However, courts in some North American jurisdictions—including Ontario and New York State—have legalized the exposure of women's nipples on equal protection grounds (see United States Constitution/Amendment Fourteen). The movement of "topfree equality" promotes equal rights for woman to have no clothing above the waist; the term "topfree" rather than "topless" is used to avoid the sexual connotation of the latter.

In some Northern European countries (for instance Germany, Finland, and the Netherlands), saunas and Spa towns with mixed-sex nudity exist, while in other countries these places always strictly separate the sexes.

Since the mid-20th century designated topless, clothing-optional and strictly-nude beaches have come into vogue. Topless sunbathing is considered acceptable on the beaches of France, Spain and most of the rest of Europe (and even in many outdoor swimming pools); however, exposure of the genitals is restricted to nudist areas in most regions, Eastern Germany being a notable exception (nude bathing was one of the free generally tolerated liberties people could take in the communist GDR, which explains its popularity).

It is common in many cultures for children's nudity to not be seen as being particularly disturbing until they reach puberty, or more restrictively, until a younger age. Social sensibilities towards the nudity of children have become far more restrictive in many developed countries over the past two decades, while conversely the nudity of adults has become far more acceptable in many of the same places. Newfound social-awareness about paedophilia and child pornography has instilled in cultures concerns over dangers and negativity with child-nudity; the nude form of children has come to hold negative sexual-connotations, while previously prepubescents would often be viewed as being innately asexual. For example, in New Zealand in previous decades the appearance of photographs of naked minors in newspapers and magazines was socially acceptable, whereas the publication of the same depictions nowadays would almost invariably invoke horror and revulsion amongst the readership.

Nudity is closely associated with sexuality in most cultures where some level of body modesty is expected (in that, nudity is considered to be immodest). This is evidenced by the existence of striptease in these cultures. As an effect of Catholic cultural heritage, in Latin cultures the common sense of modesty does not generally admit genital nudity, but the definition of what is lewd has changed and women's breasts are now commonly exposed or depicted without scandal.

According to the Book of Genesis of the Bible, the first two humans ever, Adam and Eve, were nude at first, but after a transgression against God's rules (the original sin), no longer felt comfortable like that and made aprons of fig leaves.

In the past, the Roman Catholic Church organized the so-called fig-leaf campaign to cover nudity in art, starting from the works of Renaissance artist Michelangelo (see Michelangelo Buonarroti for details). Islam prohibits any illustrations of human beings so the question does not arise there. (There have been exceptions to this rule in some Islamic societies, but apparently none involving nudity.)

Some people enjoy public nudity in a non-sexual context. This movement is known as nudism, or naturism, and often practiced in reserved places that used to be called nudist camps but are now properly referred to as nudist (or naturist) resorts, beaches or clubs.

Exploitation of Nudity

Streaking is running naked through a non-nudist public place, usually for fun.

Nudity has sometimes been used to attract more attention to a public protest, a tactic used by the Doukhobors in the early 20th century, and later (particularly from the 1960s onwards) used more widely. Modern slogans include "Disrobe for disarmament", "Nudes, not nukes!", "Naked For Peace", "Dare 2 Bare 4 Freedom + Peace", "I'd rather go naked than wear fur!" and "I Got Rid Of My Bush! Read My Lips - No To War!"

Sometimes the phrase "extreme nudity" is used, implying that the absence of clothing is very special (either good or bad).

Nudity in the Media

Images of partial and full nudity are used in advertising to draw additional attention. In the case of attractive models this attention is due to the visual pleasure the images provide, in other cases it is rather due to the relative rareness of the images. Nudity tends to be carefully dosed to avoid that the advertising company is associated with being indecent or unrefined. There are also limits on what advertising media such as magazines allow. This has given light to the saying "sex sells."

The portrayal of nudity in motion pictures has long been controversial. Because several early films of the silent era featured rampant full nudity and acts bordering on pornography, scenes of nudity were forbidden in mainstream American films by the Hayes Code from the 1930s until the 1960s when the MPAA film rating system was instituted. Since then, many films have featured various levels of nudity, however full frontal nudity (especially featuring male anatomy) is still rare in American cinema. Full nudity has gained much wider acceptance in European cinema, where the audience perceive non-pornographic nudity as comparably less controversial than excessively depictured violence. Nudity in a sexual, but non-pornographic, context has however in many European countries remained on the fringe of what is socially aceptable for public shows, although the limits have been pushed during the 20th century.

Noteworthy films which have featured nudity, and thus gained some controversy at the time of release, include:

Broadcast television and most "basic cable" outlets in the United States have been more reluctant to display nudity in most cases, the exception being PBS. A few series in the 1990s, including NYPD Blue have occasionally used partial nudity. Nude scenes from theatrically released films are usually edited out, obscured in some fashion (for example digital imagery may be used to clothe nude actors) for television viewing. Several premium cable services such as HBO and Showtime gained popularity for, among other things, presenting uncut films. In addition, they have produced series that do not shy away from nude scenes, including Sex and the City and The Sopranos.

Nudity occasionally presents itself in other forms of media as well, often with attending controversy. Album cover art featuring nude photographs by performers such as Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Blind Faith, and Jane's Addiction have stirred controversy over the years. Several rock musicians have performed nude on stage, including members of Jane's Addiction, Rage Against the Machine, Green Day, The Jesus Lizard, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

For images of nudity (not necessarily pornography) the most extreme form is "full-frontal" nudity, referring to the fact that the front side of the crotch is exposed. Frequently images of nude people do not go that far and photos are deliberately composed, and films edited, such that in particular no genitalia are seen, as if the camera failed to see them by chance.

Nudity in art, also publicly displayed, is rather common and more accepted than public nudity of real people. For example, a statue or painting representing a nude person may be displayed in public places where actual nudity is not allowed. However, there is also much art depicting a nude person with some piece of cloth seemingly by chance covering the genitals.

On the Internet, especially on websites featuring images of well known people, the terms nude and nudity have often been used (some would say misused) to signify indecent exposure; for example a photo of an otherwise fully clothed woman with a nipple exposed. See also: Nude celebrities on the Internet.

See also: Indecent exposure, Mooning, Nudism, Nudity in Sports, Original sin, Barenaked Ladies band

External Links


The term naked is also used for having no fur, like The Naked Ape, naked mole rat, and figuratively, like naked truth. In Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books the animals frequently refer to Mowgli as being naked, meaning furless, but this draws the reader's attention to the fact that he is also naked in the other sense.