- The state of being naked
Nudity is the state of wearing no clothing. Nudity also sometimes is used to refer to wearing significantly less clothing than expected by the conventions of a particular culture and situation, and in particular exposing the bare skin or intimate parts, and has analogous uses. In this sense it is related to the concept of modesty.
TerminologyAlthough "nude," "naked," "bare," "stripped," "unclothed," and other terms have the same objective meaning (i.e., not covered by clothing), they have differing subjective connotations, which partly match their differing etymologies. "Nude" originally had a meaning of "plain, bare, unadorned" in a broader sense when introduced into English from Latin nudus, originally only as a legal term meaning "unsupported by proof", since 1531; later used an artistic euphemism for physical nakedness in 1631. Meanwhile "bare" and "naked" derive from the common Old English words, with many cognates, for "uncovered". Some consider one term more appropriate than the other. The book Nude, Naked, Stripped suggests that these three terms define a continuum ranging from artistic or tasteful absence of clothing by choice, at one end, to a forced or mandatory condition of being without clothes (e.g., a strip search), at the other. In general, a "nude" person is unclad by choice and is generally shameless; a "naked" person is involuntarily caught undressed and is generally embarrassed.
Various synonyms refer specifically — often as a negative — to the absence or rather removal of clothing, such as denuded, divested, peeled, stripped, unclad, unclothed, uncovered, undressed and dis- or un-robed.
Another euphemism for the embarrassing state of nakedness is "exposed", to glances no less than to the elements; not only the expression "to show skin" refers to nudity in terms of the dermis, in Manx Gaelic jiarg-rooisht and Scottish Gaelic dearg rùisgte, translated as "stark naked", is literally 'red' naked, as such exposure may make one 'blush'.
Full nudityFull nudity is used to describe a state of total nudity, with nothing covering genitals. In English, phrases such as "nude", "bare" or "in the buff" (a reference to leather, i.e. skin notably hairless, unlike a pelt; compare "buck-naked"; Spanish also has the euphemism "en cueros", meaning "in leathers") carry a similar meaning.
A special case is "stark naked", or "starkers", as these terms were erroneously changed from "start naked" (start is an Old High German word for "tail") to the "stark", an old Germanic word meaning "strong" but used as "utter(ly)".
Euphemisms may be used, such as "birthday suit" and "au naturel" (French for "in the natural state"). In the Dutch language a naked person may be described as "spiernaakt" ("muscle-naked", since the musculature is visible under bare skin) or "poedelnaakt" ("poodle-naked", which refers to the often-ridiculed shaving of poodle dog breeds), or as wearing "Adamskostuum" ("Adam's suit", i.e. the original unclothed state of Adam and Eve in Eden). A similar expression exists in Italian ("costume adamitico"). The French "à poil" — "to the (body) hair (or fur)" — and its Spanish equivalent "en pelotas" ("in the balls", i.e. showing your testicles, though it applies to both males and females), emphasize that human hair growth is generally too sparse for one to be considered covered without artificial clothing (while the pubic hair is often thicker, this area of the body is also most critical in the Christian tradition; in a few Germanic languages, the very word for pubic literally means (and is cognate with the English word) "shame": skam in Danish, schaam in Dutch, Scham in German). Likewise in French, "nu comme un ver" ("naked as a worm") refers to absence of visually shielding hair, via a dysphemistic metaphor. While negatives such as "undressed" may also refer to partial nudity (cf. "topless", below) unless explicitly qualified, in artistic modelling the term "undraped" means completely nude, as opposed to such common practices as draping something over the sexual body parts (or over the face so as to make the model anonymous).
Full frontal nudity refers to wearing no clothing and facing the observer showing the pubic area, as opposed to only showing toplessness/barechestedness or bare buttocks. It is usually considered the most far-reaching form of nudity, with exception of a close-up of the genitals. In many cases, full frontal nudity is avoided in motion pictures by purposely placing objects to obscure an actor's or actress's genitals, or the shot is diffused by hazy lighting or focus. In one scene from A Shot in the Dark, actor Peter Sellers infiltrates a nudist colony but avoids full nudity by holding a guitar in front of his genitals. Unlike the nudists, he is intensely embarrassed. Such techniques not only make some actors more comfortable but usually aim to pass censorship or prevent the film from receiving an unfavorable rating, which may impede the film's commercial success. Thus, revealing shots may be cut during the editing; sometimes a more liberal version is released separately: e.g., as director's cut. Few non-pornographic, mainstream American films show full frontal nudity in their theatrical versions, while more complete versions may be distributed in other countries, and/or on video tape or DVD (media which generally are more ready to distribute productions offending various taboos). When full-frontal nudity is shown it is more likely to be female since the female genitalia can be easily obscured by pubic hair or closed legs.
Partial nudityAs the concept of nudity often refers more to perception by the observer than the mere description whether someone's body is covered or not, there can be a grey area, known as partial nudity. Thus, while someone exposing 'private parts' is often called 'naked' regardless of garments on other body parts, hence the terms half-naked and, a fortiori, near-naked refer to a body that is not completely exposed, but showing more than is customary or considered quite acceptable, at least in a given context. However the quantity of skin exposed is not the determining criterion, it's the "quality" that counts for perception.
Half-naked is also used for a degree of skin exposure that is not offensive (as no delicate zone is shown) but still barer than 'fully dressed', such as a man in bare torso.
As the exposure of specific, usually intimate, skin zones suffices to be offensive and/or sensual, it is not surprising that specific terms are commonly used for such cases. More specifically:
- Terms like bare balls (not to confuse with freeballs) and bollock-naked are used to explicitly emphasize the naked exposure of the most private parts, often as a dysphemism for total male nudity, even in a context where another part of the anatomy is functionally more relevant.
- Terms like bare-butt and bare-ass or kaalgat in Afrikaans (literally 'bald [arse-]hole', also an illustration that one's own dense body hair is considered to undo or at least mitigate nudity; animal furs are probably the oldest form of warm clothing) focus only on the buttocks; apart from the literal sense (which may be functional, as in the case of a spanking) this is also a popular metaphor (also in other languages) for full nudity, at the same time more explicit than most euphemisms and yet avoiding to mention the genitals.
- The term topfree or topless is sometimes used — especially in reference to females — to describe the lack of clothing covering the breasts. For men, the same state of undress, however less strategic, is called bare chested or shirtless.
- See also cleavage (breasts) and cleavage (buttocks)
- Even a term referring to an apparently less revealing skin zone can be significant in a functional context, e.g., bare-knuckle in certain martial arts, or even sometimes have strong cultural associations, as with barefoot. In the case of bare hand(s), the expression is even commonly extended as a counterpart to handling something with gloves to protect the hands, or even with a mechanical device, whether operated manually or not, allowing to keep the hands at safe distance. The naked eye is a similar figure of speech referring to human visual perception that is unaided by optic equipment.
Nudity may be indirectly exposed through reflection. This may be accidental, or accomplished deliberately by the nude person http://www.snopes.com/photos/risque/kettle.asp, or accomplished by a voyeur.
BiologyIn biology, names like Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Naked Mole Rat or Nude mouse are used to indicate that certain animal species or at least specified skin zones on them are not covered by hair (as opposed to furry species), plumage, scales, etc., which is, however ,a permanent (or cyclic, in the case of moulting) and involuntary condition of their anatomy, since man is the only species that wears (removable) clothes (not counting 'housing' like a hermit crab's seashell use). Similarly, plant names like Eriogonum nudum refer to the lack of foliage. In genera where total exposure is the anatomical rule, a mild, unnotable hair growth can on the contrary suffice to justify a name like furry lobster.
PsychologyThe act of revealing skin or even removing clothes, even when only to show another covering layer, is often regarded at least as erotic or offensive as the actual sight of bare skin. Thus one often feels the need to use a dressing-box etc. or at least retreats into a lockerroom with restricted access in order to change, even if one is already wearing underneath one's clothes the swimwear that will be shown without jeans after emerging, so not an inch of embarrassing exposure was involved in the disrobing. This very suggestive power of divesting is the basis of striptease, the very word rather referring to such a 'tease' by partial stripping off, rather than the 'full monty'.
Similarly attitudes quite like those concerning nudity are often displayed towards clothing which covers the skin, but suggestively follows the contours of a sensitive body part, such as the male genitals in tights. Wet clothing which sticks to the skin, e.g. the buttocks or a female breast (as in a wet t-shirt contest), can thus also be regarded as if it had become truly transparent.
The taboo by association can go even further: garments which prevent any exposure of strategic skin zones can themselves be given a subjective status rather fitting a revealing one, especially underwear - thus a man whose open trousers fly reveals nothing more than the color of the underwear, no skin, is nevertheless considered embarrassingly exposed. Thus euphemisms are used for undergarments, notably those in touch with the intimate parts, or even, as in the case of the word unmentionables, the trousers worn above these. The word dishabille (from the French déshabillé 'undressed', which still refers to a negligee) uses a common euphemism for nudity to refer to being partially or very casually dressed, a matter of comparison with the fashion-sensitive 'proper' dress, not to an actual revealing characteristic of the 'lesser' garments worn. In certain erotic fetishisms, a second skin — which in fact covers up the real skin — is called this because it is perceived as providing a more intense stimulus than the normal response associated with real naked hide.
Finally the 'image' of nudity and the notion of vulnerability are used for various absences of clothing and other symbolical objects where no body visibility is required — thus people say they 'feel naked without...' about uniform, a badge of office, even a weapon.
Society's response to public nudity varies on the culture, time, location and context of the activities. There are many exceptions and particular circumstances in which nudity is tolerated, accepted or even encouraged in public spaces. Such examples would include nude beaches, within some intentional communities (such as naturist resorts or clubs) and at special events.
In general and across cultures, more restrictions are found for exposure of those parts of the human body that display evidence of sexual arousal. Therefore, sex organs and often women's breasts are covered, even when other parts of the body may be freely uncovered. Yet the nudity taboo may have meanings deeper than the immediate possibility of sexual arousal, for example, in the cumulative weight of tradition and habit. Clothing also expresses and symbolizes authority, and more general norms and values besides those of a sexual nature. It is thus not clear what society and people's spiritual beliefs would have to be like, were nudity to be regarded as universally normal.
Similar to religious traditions in which nudity symbolizes a non-recoverable state of primal innocence, there also exist secular, cynical attitudes, accusing nudism of hypocrisy and repression. Such views are rarely taken seriously, however.
Not all naturists frequently contemplate a society that would accept nudity in all situations, but when the question is put to them they do not tend to shun such a possibility. Still, their own social nudity might be viewed by some as merely an agreement of trust with others who share a rare degree of confidence and comfort in being nude.
Another common distinction, also considered by censoring authorities, is that gratuitous nudity is perceived as more offensive than the same degree of physical exposure in a functional context, where the action could not conveniently be performed dressed, either in reality or in a fictitious scene in art. The intent can also be invoked: whether the nudity is meant to affect observers; e.g., streaking can be considered unacceptably provocative, nude sun tanning viewed mildly as rather inoffensive.
Non-sexual public nuditySome people enjoy public nudity in a non-sexual context. Common variants of the clothes free movement are nudism and naturism, and are often practised in reserved places that used to be called "nudist camps" but are now more commonly referred to as naturist resorts, nude beaches, or clubs. Such facilities may be designated topfree, clothing-optional, or fully nude-only. Public nude recreation is most common in rural areas and outdoors, although it is limited to warm weather. Even in countries with inclement weather much of the year and where public nudity is not restricted, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Denmark, public nude recreation indoors remains rare. One example is Starkers Nightclub in London, a monthly nude-only disco party.
Others practise public nudity more casually. Topfree sunbathing is considered acceptable by many on the beaches of France, Spain and most of the rest of Europe (and even in some outdoor swimming pools); however, exposure of the genitals is restricted to nudist areas in most regions. In the United States, topfree sunbathing and thongs are common in many areas, with a number of nude beaches in various locations.
Where the social acceptability of nudity in certain places may be well understood, the legal position is often less clear cut. In England, for example, the law does not actually prohibit simple public nudity, but does forbid indecent exposure. In practice, this means that successful prosecution hangs on whether there is a demonstrable intention to shock others, rather than simply a desire to be naked in a public place. Occasional attempts to prove this point by walking naked around the country therefore often result in periods of arrest, followed by release without charge, and inconsistencies in the approach between different police jurisdictions. Differences in the law between England and Scotland appear to make the position harder for naked ramblers once they reach Scotland.
Even where the general public is fairly tolerant of public nudity, it is still notorious enough to be used as a deliberate, often successful means to attract publicity, either by naturists promoting their way of life or by others for various purposes, such as commercial nudity in advertising or staging nude events as a forum for a usually unrelated messages, such as various nude biker tours demonstrating for different causes or celebrities revealing their natural state by removing a fur coat to support a campaign against fur sales.
Nudity and children
Nudity in the homeParental nudity is a controversial issue. There are differences of opinion as to whether, and if so to what extent, parents should appear naked in front of their children. Gordon and Schroeder report that there is a wide variation on parental nudity from family to family. They opine that "there is nothing inherently wrong with bathing with children or otherwise appearing naked in front of them", noting that doing so may provide an opportunity for parents to provide important information. They note that by ages 5 to 6 children begin to develop a sense of modesty, and recommend to parents who wish to be sensitive to their children's wishes that they limit such activities from that age onwards.
Bonner recommends against nudity in the home where children are exhibiting sexual behaviour considered problematic.
A United States study by Alfred Kinsey found that 75% of the participants stated that there was never nudity in the home when they were growing up, 5% of the participants said that there was "seldom" nudity in the home, 3% said "often", and 17% said that it was "usual". The study found that there was no significant difference between what was reported by men and by women with respect to frequency of nudity in the home.
In a 1995 review of the literature, Paul Okami concluded that there was no reliable evidence linking exposure to parental nudity to any negative effect. Three years later, his team finished an 18-year longitudal study that showed that, if anything, such exposure was associated with slight beneficial effects, particularly for boys.
Nudity of childrenseealso Depictions of nudity Depictions of child nudity or children with nude adults appear in works of art in various cultures and historical periods. These attitudes have changed over time and have become increasingly frowned upon particularly in recent years, and especially in the case of photography. In recent years there have been a few incidents in which snapshots taken by parents of their infant or toddler children bathing or otherwise naked were challenged as child pornography. In May 2008, police in Sydney, Australia, raided an exhibition by the photographer Bill Henson featuring images of naked children on allegations of child pornography.http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/henson-exhibition-shut-down/2008/05/22/1211183043937.html
Children seeing nudityAttitudes toward children seeing nude people, other than their parents, vary substantially, depending on the child's culture, age and the context of the nudity.
British TV is required to avoid displaying scenes of sex from 5:30am to 9pm (the so-called "watershed") to avoid viewing by children. The Broadcasting Code requires that "Nudity before the watershed must be justified by the context."
Attitudes to nudity vary substantially throughout Europe, with Scandinavia in the north being the most relaxed about it.
Communal showeringAnother issue has been the nudity of children in front of other children.
Europeans have generally been more insistent that all students shower communally after physical education classes.
In the United States and some of English-speaking Canada, students at tax funded schools have historically been required to shower communally with classmates of the same sex after physical education classes. In the United States, public objections and the threat of lawsuits have resulted in a number of school districts in recent years changing policy to make showers optional. A court case in the State of Colorado noted that students have a reduced expectation of personal privacy in regards to "communal undress" while showering after physical education classes.. According to an interview with a middle school principal, most objections to school showers that he had heard were actually from the student's parents rather than from the student.
Nudity in photography
Nudity has been used in photography since the invention of photography itself. Nudity in photography does not necessarily claim any artistic merit, while nude photography typically does. Unlike nudity in photography generally, nude photography is generally not a snapshot, but a composed image of a person in a still position. As an art form, nude photography is a stylised depiction of the nude body with the line and form of the human figure as the primary objective.
Photography of installations of massed nude people in public places, as made repeatedly around the world by Spencer Tunick, claim artistic merit.
Nudity in Western culture
Sex segregationNudity in front of strangers of the same sex is often more accepted than in front of those of the other or both sexes. For example when bathing or showering, in common changing rooms, etc. Sex-specific changing rooms and toilets serve to prevent accidental partial nudity in front of the other sex. In some cultures, to be seen naked, even by people of the same sex, is considered inappropriate and embarrassing.
Functional nudityFunctional nudity for a short time, such as when changing clothes on a beach, is sometimes acceptable when staying nude on the beach is not. However, even this is often avoided or minimized by a towel.
Breastfeeding in public may involve partial nudity and sometimes creates controversy. Most courts in western countries would not consider breastfeeding as indecent exposure.
The exposure of women's breasts is not, of itself, normally regarded as indecent exposure in most western countries, at least in appropriate settings, such as while suntanning. In the United States of America exposure of female nipples is a criminal offence in many states and not usually allowed in public (see Public indecency).
Prosecutions of cases has given raise to a movement advocating "topfree equality," promoting equal rights for women to have no clothing above the waist, on the same basis that would apply to men in the same circumstances. The term "topfree" rather than "topless" is advocated to avoid the latter term's perceived sexual connotations. However, there was still a public outcry to the exposure by Janet Jackson of her breast during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show.
Naturism and nudismNaturism (or nudism) is a cultural and political movement practising, advocating and defending nudity in private and in public. It is also a lifestyle based on personal, family and/or social nudity.
Naturists reject contemporary standards of modesty which discourage personal, family and social nudity, and seek to create a social environment where people feel comfortable in the company of nude people, and being seen nude, either just by other nudists, or also by the general public.
Nakedness (full or partial) can be part of a corporal punishment or as an imposed humiliation (especially when administered in public). In fact, torture manuals may distinguish between the male and female psychological aversion to self-exposure versus being disrobed.
Nazis used forced nudity to attempt to humiliate citizens held in its concentration camp. This was depicted in the film Schindler's List.
In 2003, Abu Ghraib prison earned international notoriety for allegations of torture and abuses by members of the United States Army Reserve during the post-invasion period. Photographic images were widely circulated and exposed practices of posing prisoners naked, sometimes bound, covered in feces and being intimidated.
Non-Western attitudesAttitudes in Western cultures are not all the same as explained above, and likewise attitudes in non-western cultures are many and variant. In almost all cultures, acceptability of nudity depends on the situation.
Cultural and/or religious traditions usually dictate what is proper and what is not socially acceptable. Many non-western cultures allow women to breastfeed in public, while some have very strict laws about showing any bare skin.
Nudity in AfricaStill very different traditions exist among, for example, sub-Saharan Africans, partly persisting in the post-colonial era. Whereas some tribes and family-groups including some Togolose and Nilo-Saharan (e.g., Surma people) still commonly parade fully naked or without any covering below the waist (especially at massively attended stick fighting tournaments, where well-exposed young men can hope to catch the eye of a prospective bride), amongst Bantu people there is often a complete aversion from public nudity — thus, in Botswana when a newspaper printed a photograph (of a thief suffering lashes on the bared buttocks imposed by a traditional chief's court, there was national consternation, not about the flogging but about the 'peeping tom'. The Ugandan Kavirondo tribes, a mix of Bantu and Nilotic immigrants, traditionally went practically naked, but the men eventually adopted western dress.
Anthropologists logically presume that humans originally lived naked, without clothing, as their natural state. They postulate the adaptation of animal skins and vegetation into coverings to protect the wearer from cold, heat and rain, especially as humans migrated to new climates; alternatively, covering may have been invented first for other purposes, such as magic, decoration, cult, or prestige, and later found to be practical as well. For men and women, public nudity was at least permissible in ancient Sparta, and customary at festivals.
In some hunter-gatherer cultures in warm climates, near-complete nudity has been, until the introduction of Western culture, or still is, standard practice for both men and women. In some African and Melanesian cultures, men going completely naked except for a string tied about the waist are considered properly dressed for hunting and other traditional group activities. In a number of tribes in the South Pacific island of New Guinea, the men use hard gourdlike pods as penis sheaths. While obscuring and covering the actual penis, these at a longer distance give the impression of a large, erect phallus. Yet a man without this "covering" could be considered to be in an embarrassing state of nakedness. Among the Chumash Native Americans of southern California, men were usually naked, and women were often topless. Native Americans of the Amazon Basin usually went nude or nearly nude; in many native tribes, the only clothing worn was some device worn by men to clamp the foreskin shut. However, other similar cultures have had different standards. For example, other native North Americans generally avoided total nudity, and the Native Americans of the mountains and west of South America, such as the Quechua, kept quite covered.
In the ancient culture of Southern Asia, there is a tradition of extreme ascetism (obviously minoritarian) that includes full nudity, from the gymnosophists (philosophers in Antiquity) to certain holy men (who may however cover themselves with ashes) in present Hindu devotion.
Nudity in religion
JudaismIn some parts of Judaism and in some Jewish communities, men and women use ritual baths called mikvaot for a variety of reasons, mostly religious in the present day. Immersion in a mikvah requires that water covers the entire body (including the entire head). To make sure that water literally touches every part of the body, all clothing, jewelry and even bandages must be removed. In contemporary mikvahs for women, there is always an experienced attendant, commonly called the "mikvah lady", to watch the immersion and ensure that the women have been entirely covered in water.
At the same time, religious Jews are very protective about their naked body. Under the laws of Tznius (modesty), both men and women cannot reveal the body parts considered to have sexual connotation (including upper arms, collarbones, legs, and — for married women and all men — hair, which is covered completely or partially). It is postulated in the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Law) that one must uncover as little body as possible when in the toilet room and even when changing before sleep (trousers are often taken off and exchanged for the pajamas under the covers). By Jewish law observed by Orthodox Jews, no clothes may be present during sex; and it is done completely under covers and in complete darkness. This ensures maximum acuteness of spiritual sensation during sex and also decreases the feeling of self-awareness and shame about one's body.
Conservative and Reform Judaism do not share the same attitudes about nudity in private.
IslamIslam on the other hand has a much more modest view regarding nudity. In Islam the area of the body not meant to be exposed in public is called the awrah, and while referred to in the Qur'an, is addressed in more detail in hadith.
- For men, the awrah is from the navel well to well below the knees, which means that in public Muslim men have to cover themselves at least from the navel down below the knees.
- Some Muslim women wear the hijab, which covers the entire body except for the hands, the feet, and the face.
- Some Islamic countries require women to observe purdah, covering their entire bodies, except the face (see burqa). However, the degrees of covering vary according to local custom and/or interpretation of Islamic Law.
Sources and references
- Rouche, Michel, "Private life conquers state and society," in A History of Private Life vol I, Paul Veyne, editor, Harvard University Press 1987 ISBN 0-674-39974-9
- Brandom, Robert, "Critical Notice of Blind and Worried", Theoria 70:2-3, 2005.
- Etymology OnLine- various lemmate & http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=bare&searchmode=none
External linkswikiquote Nudity
- Theory of the Nude - How and why we create the nude in art
- Nudity in art Today by Art Lister
- 20 century Nude in the "History of Art"
- Nudity in Ancient to Modern Cultures by Aileen Goodson (This chapter excerpt is from Aileen Goodson's Therapy, Nudity & Joy)
- Storey, Mark Social Nudity, Sexual Attraction, and Respect Nude & Natural magazine, 24.3 Spring 2005.
- Storey, Mark Children, Social Nudity and Academic Research Nude & Natural magazine, 23.4 Summer 2004.
nakedness in Afrikaans: Naaktheid
nakedness in Arabic: عري
nakedness in Catalan: Nuesa
nakedness in Czech: Akt (výtvarné umění)
nakedness in Danish: Nøgenhed
nakedness in German: Nacktheit
nakedness in Spanish: Desnudo
nakedness in Esperanto: Nudeco
nakedness in French: Nudité
nakedness in Scottish Gaelic: Luime
nakedness in Croatian: Akt
nakedness in Iloko: Kinalabus
nakedness in Italian: Nudità
nakedness in Hebrew: עירום
nakedness in Hungarian: Meztelenség
nakedness in Malay (macrolanguage): Kebogelan
nakedness in Dutch: Naaktheid
nakedness in Japanese: 裸
nakedness in Norwegian: Nakenhet
nakedness in Polish: Akt
nakedness in Portuguese: Nudez
nakedness in Russian: Нагота
nakedness in Simple English: Nudity
nakedness in Slovak: Nahota
nakedness in Finnish: Alastomuus
nakedness in Swedish: Nakenhet
nakedness in Vietnamese: Khỏa thân
nakedness in Yiddish: נאקעט
nakedness in Chinese: 裸体