File:FYN 06.jpg

Florida Young Naturists

Nudity, or nakedness, is a state of being in which a human person is not wearing clothing, or more specifically not covering their genitals.[1] Modern humans are the only primates that are essentially hairless and the only animals that wear clothing. For humans, nudity and clothing are connected to many cultural categories such as identity, privacy, and moral behavior.

In Western societies, there are two contradictory cultural traditions relating to nudity. The first comes from the ancient Greeks, who saw the naked body as the natural state and as essentially positive. The second is based upon the Abrahamic religions, which have viewed being naked as shameful and essentially negative. The interaction between these traditions has resulted in Western ambivalence, with nudity representing both positive and negative meanings in individual psychology, in social life, and in depictions such as art.Template:Sfn

In Africa, there is a sharp contrast between the attitude toward nudity in Islamic countries and the attitude toward nudity in certain sub-Saharan countries that never abandoned precolonial norms. In China and India, the norms regarding public nudity are in keeping with the cultural value of social propriety and human dignity. Japan had a tradition of mixed gender public baths before Western contact began in the 19th century.

Societies use clothing (or the lack thereof) as a marker of social status and may define different standards regarding nudity for men and women. At the extreme, individuals may intentionally violate norms regarding nudity; those without power may use nudity as a form of protest, and those with power may impose nakedness on others as a form of punishment.

Meaning and usage[edit | edit source]

Although the general term "nudity" may be defined in English as the complete absence of clothing, the meaning of nakedness is culturally complex due to different meanings of states of undress in differing social situations.Template:Sfn

Synonyms and euphemisms for nudity abound, including "birthday suit", "in the altogether" and "in the buff". "In a state of nature" is also used by philosophers to refer to the state of humans before the existence of organized societies.[2]

In the United States the legal definition of "full nudity" is exposure of the genitals. "Partial nudity" includes exposure of the buttocks by either sex or exposure of the female breasts.[3] Legal definitions are further complicated by laws regarding indecent exposure; this term generally refers to engaging in public nudity with an intent to offend common decency.[4]

Few broad academic studies of nudity have been made, perhaps because each discipline has its own theoretical orientation and definition of terms. There is little that can be said about nudity in general because each instance takes its meaning from a particular context. Few studies are made of everyday bodily experience. Art historians speak of the metaphorical meaning of nude representations. Sociology and criminology until the middle of the 20th century often studied nakedness, including nudism, in the context of deviance or criminality.Template:Sfn However, more recent studies find that naturism has positive effects on body image, self esteem and life satisfaction.Template:Sfn The Encyclopedia of Social Deviance continues to have an entry on "Nudism"Template:Sfn, but also defines "Normal Deviance" as violating social norms in a positive way, leading to social change.Template:Sfn

Prehistory[edit | edit source]

Main article: Human evolution

Evolution of hairlessness[edit | edit source]

The relative hairlessness of homo sapiens requires a biological explanation, given that fur evolved to protect other primates from UV radiation, injury, sores and insect bites. Many explanations include advantages to cooling when early humans moved from shady forest to open savanna, accompanied by a change in diet from primarily vegetarian to hunting game, which meant running long distances after prey.Template:Sfn However, the explanation that may stand up to modern scientific scrutiny is that fur harbors ecroparasites such as ticks, which would have become more of a problem as humans became hunters living in larger groups with a "home base".Template:Sfn

Jablonski and Chaplin assert that early hominids, like modern chimpanzees, had light skin covered with dark fur. With the loss of fur, high melanin skin soon evolved as protection from damage from UV radiation. As hominids migrated outside of the tropics, varying degrees of depigmentation evolved in order to permit UVB-induced synthesis of previtamin D3.Template:Sfn

The loss of body hair was a factor in several aspects of human evolution. The ability to dissipate excess body heat through eccrine sweating helped to make possible the dramatic enlargement of the brain, the most temperature-sensitive organ. Nakedness and intelligence also made it necessary to evolve non-verbal signaling mechanisms, such as blushing and facial expressions. Signalling was supplemented by the invention of body decorations, which also served the social function of identifying group membership.Template:Sfn

Origin of clothing[edit | edit source]

Main article: History of clothing and textiles

The wearing of clothing is assumed to be a behavioral adaptation, arising from the need for protection from the elements; including the sun (for depigmented human populations) and cold temperatures as humans migrated to colder regions. It is estimated that anatomically modern humans evolved 260,000 to 350,000 years ago.Template:Sfn A genetic analysis estimates that clothing lice diverged from head louse ancestors at least by 83,000 and possibly as early as 170,000 years ago, suggesting that the use of clothing likely originated with anatomically modern humans in Africa prior to their migration to colder climates.Template:Sfn What is now called clothing may have originated along with other types of adornment, including jewelry, body paint, tattoos, and other body modifications, "dressing" the naked body without concealing it.Template:Sfn Body adornment is one of the changes that occurred in the late Paleolithic (40,000 to 60,000 years ago) that indicate that humans had become not only anatomically but culturally and psychologically modern, capable of self-reflection and symbolic interaction.Template:Sfn

History[edit | edit source]

Main article: History of nudity

Ancient Mediterranean cultures[edit | edit source]

In ancient Egypt, attire was simple. For men, skirts called schenti—which evolved from loincloths and resembled modern kilts—were customary apparel. For women, sheaths called kalasiris were customary apparel; kalasiris were ankle-length sheaths held up by straps. Slaves and laborers were nude or wore loincloths, and children were nude. Nudity was considered a natural state.Template:Sfn

Male nudity was celebrated in ancient Greece as in no culture before or since. They considered embarrassment at having to disrobe for sports a sign of barbarism.Template:Sfn

Ancient Roman attitudes toward male nudity differed from those of the Greeks, whose ideal of masculine excellence was expressed by the nude male body in art and in such real-life venues as athletic contests. The toga, by contrast, distinguished the body of the adult male citizen at Rome.Template:Sfn The poet Ennius (c. 239–169 BC) declared, "Flagiti principium est nudare inter civis corpora" (which, in English, means "exposing naked bodies among citizens is the beginning of public disgrace").Template:Efn Cicero endorsed Ennius' words.Template:SfnTemplate:SfnTemplate:SfnTemplate:SfnTemplate:Sfn

China[edit | edit source]

In stories written in China as early as the 4th Century BCE, nudity is presented as an affront to human dignity, reflecting the belief that "humanness" in Chinese society is not innate, but earned by correct behavior. However, nakedness could also be used by an individual to express contempt for others in their presence. In other stories, the nudity of women, emanating the power of yin, could nullify the yang of aggressive forces.Template:Sfn

Japan[edit | edit source]

Nudity in mixed-gender public baths was common in the Japan before the effects of Western influence, which began in the 19th century and became extensive during the American occupation after World War II. The practice continues at a dwindling number of hot springs (konyoku) outside of urban areas.Template:Sfn

Another Japanese tradition was the women free-divers (ama) who for 2,000 years until the 1960s collected seaweed and shellfish wearing only a loincloth. Their nakedness was not shocking, since women farmers often worked bare-breasted during the summer.Template:Sfn

Tropical cultures[edit | edit source]

In tropical regions within Africa, Oceania and South America, complete or near nudity was common for both men and women before contact with Western cultures. This lead in the colonial era to the stereotype of the "naked savage"Template:Sfn, which has persisted in Western cultures.


Western cultures[edit | edit source]

Template:Also The meaning of the naked body in the societies based upon the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) was defined by the myth of Adam and Eve: A story of the creation of the first man and woman naked, and unashamed until they ate the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The association of nakedness with shame and anxiety became ambivalent in the Renaissance. The rediscovered art and writings of ancient Greece offered an alternative tradition of nudity as symbolic of innocence and purity which could be understood in terms of the state of man "before the fall". Subsequently, norms and behaviors surrounding nudity in life and in works of art diverged during the history of individual societies.Template:Snf

Europe[edit | edit source]

Middle ages and Renaissance[edit | edit source]

Attitudes and behavior were dependent upon social status, creating a great difference between the cultural meaning of nudity for society as a whole, and for the upper classes. Clothing in the form of fashion was a significant indicator of class, and thus its lack became a greater source of embarrassment. These attitudes only slowly spread to all of society. Template:Sfn

The Adamites were an obscure Christian sect in North Africa originating in the 2nd century who worshiped in the nude, professing to have regained the innocence of Adam. Sects with similar beliefs emerged in the 14th century.Template:Cn

Until the beginning of the eighth century, Christians were baptized naked, to represent that they emerged without sin.Template:Snf

Although there is a common misconception that Europeans did not bathe in the Middle Ages, public bath houses—segregated by sex—were popular until the 16th century, when concern for the spread of disease closed many of them.[5]

In Christian Europe, the parts of the body that were required to be covered in public did not always include the female breasts. In 1350, breasts were associated with nourishment and loving care, but by 1750, artistic representations of the breast were either erotic or medical.Template:Sfn

Early modern[edit | edit source]

The Victorian Era is often considered to be entirely restrictive of nudity. However, throughout the United Kingdom in the 19th century, workers in coal mines were naked due to the heat and the narrow tunnels that would catch on clothing. Men and boys worked fully naked, while women and girls (usually employed as "hurriers") would generally only strip to the waist (in some locations, they were fully naked as well). Testimony before a Parliamentary labour commission revealed that working naked in confined spaces made "sexual vices" a "common occurrence".[6]

United States[edit | edit source]

Public pools[edit | edit source]

Public swimming pools in the U.S. were the product of municipal reform movements beginning in the mid-19th century. Civic leaders had not intended pools to be used for recreation, but for health and sporting activities. Initially, the working class boys swam in the nude, as they had previously done in lakes and rivers, which also had been segregated by gender. The era of nude swimming in municipal pools ended when mixed-gender bathing was allowed.Template:Sfn

Communal male nudity in the United States and other Western countries was not a taboo for much of the 20th century.[7] Historically, males have been more likely than females to be expected to swim nude in swimming pools or to share communal showers in school locker rooms with other members of the same sex.Template:Sfn These expectations were based on cultural beliefs that females need more privacy than males do.Template:Sfn Social attitudes maintained that it was healthy and normal for men and boys to be nude in the presence of other men and boys. A 1963 article on a swim program in Troy, New York stated that boys swam nude, but that girls were expected to wear bathing suits; the writer of the article found nothing remarkable about these requirements.Template:Sfn

General attitudes[edit | edit source]

In 1974, an article in The New York Times noted an increase in American tolerance for nudity, both at home and in public, approaching that of Europe. However, some traditional nudists at the time decried the trend as encouraging sexual exhibitionism and voyeurism and threatening the viability of private nudist clubs.Template:Sfn

General issues[edit | edit source]

Child development[edit | edit source]

Template:Also The National Child Traumatic Stress Network issued a report on child sexual development that states that children have a natural curiosity about their own bodies and the bodies of others that needs to be addressed in an age-appropriate manner.

  • Children of less than four will normally touch their own private parts, look at the private parts of others, and remove their clothes wanting to be naked.
  • Between four and six children will be more actively curious, seeking to see others dressing or undressing, or perhaps "playing doctor".
  • Between six and twelve, children will expand their curiosity to images of undressed people available in the media, but will develop a need for privacy regarding their own bodies, and begin to be sexually attracted to peers.

The recommendation is that parents learn what is normal it each stage, including sexual behavior, and not overreact unless there is an indication of a problem, such as anxiety, aggression, or sexual interactions between children not of the same age or stage of development. [8]

Tous à Poil (Everybody Gets Naked) is a French illustrated book that seeks to address the curiosity of children by providing images of "Real bodies in natural situations from a child’s everyday life to counter the numerous images of bodies... altered by Photoshop or plastic surgery, that are shown in ads or on the covers of magazines." The response from right wing French politicians was that the book is immoral, and claimed that liberal politicians had place the book on school reading lists, which was not true. The Culture Minister defended the book's being available for parents, and supported libraries that were under attack.[9]

A series of sex education videos from Norway, intended for 8-12 year olds, includes explicit information and images of reproduction, anatomy, and the changes that are normal with the approach of puberty; and include nude people of all ages. While it is noted that the age of consent in Norway is 16, abstinence is not emphasized. This is in contrast to the United States, where if a school does teach its students about sex, 37 states require that the curriculum include lessons on abstinence and 25 require the “just say no” approach be stressed. Studies show that early and complete sex education does not increase the likelihood of becoming sexually active, but leads to better health outcomes overall.Template:Snf

The naturist/nudist point of view is that children are "nudists at heart" and that naturism provides the ideal environment for healthy development. It is noted that modern psychology generally agrees that children can benefit from an open environment where the bodies of others their own age of both sexes are not a mystery. However, there is less agreement regarding children and adults being nude. Doctors thought some exposure, particularly to parental nudity, may be healthy, but some medical practitioners, notably Benjamin Spock disagreed in his popular books. His view was later attributed to the lingering effect of Freudianism on the medical profession.Template:Sfn

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1983-0815-302, FKK-Strände des Senftenberger Erholungsgebietes.jpg

A nude woman, child, and man (the nude family) at Lake Senftenberg in the 1980s


In their study on the effects of social nudity on children, Smith and Sparks conclude that "the viewing of the unclothed body, far from being destructive to the psyche, seems to be either benign or to actually provide positive benefits to the individuals involved.Template:Sfn One psychiatrist recommends that parents allow nudity as a natural part of family life when children are very young, but to respect the modesty that is likely to emerge with puberty.Template:Sfn

Gordon and Schroeder report that parental nudity varies considerably from family to family. They contend 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 five to six, 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.Template:Sfn

Psychologist Barbara Bonner recommends against nudity in the home if children exhibit sexual play of a type that is considered problematic.Template:Sfn 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.Template:Sfn Three years later, his team finished an 18-year longitudinal study that showed that, if anything, such exposure was associated with slight beneficial effects, particularly for boys.Template:Sfn

Cultural differences[edit | edit source]

High and low context cultures[edit | edit source]

Template:Also High and low context cultures were defined by Edward T. Hall. The behaviors and norms of a high context culture depend upon shared implicit intuitions that operate within a social situation, while in a low context culture behavior is more dependent upon explicit communications.Template:Sfn An example of this distinction was found in research on the behavior of French and German naturists on a nude beach. Germans are extremely low in cultural context. They are characterized by individualism, alienation, estrangement from other people, little body contact, low sensitivity to nonverbal cues, and segmentation of time and space. By contrast, the French, in their personal lives as relatively high context: they interact within closely knit groups, are sensitive to nonverbal cues, and engage in relatively high amounts of body contact. To maintain public propriety on a nude beach, German naturists avoided touching themselves and others and avoid any adornments or behaviors that would call attention to the body. French naturists, on the other hand, were more likely than Germans to wear make-up and jewelry and to touch others as they would while dressed.Template:Sfn

Concepts of privacy[edit | edit source]

Societies in continental Europe conceive of privacy as protecting a right to respect and personal dignity. In America, the right to privacy is oriented toward values of liberty, especially in one's home. While Europeans maintain their dignity, even while naked where others may see them, Americans see public nakedness as a surrender of "any reasonable expectation of privacy". Such cultural differences may make some laws and behaviors of the other society seem incomprehensible.Template:Sfn

Laws regarding public nudity[edit | edit source]

Main article: Indecent exposure

The major differences in laws regarding nudity are between banning exposure of specific areas of the body versus banning offensive or disorderly behavior.

In 2006, three young men who had been skinny-dipping outside Brattleboro, Vermont decided to go into town to see what would happen if they disrobed there. They were not arrested, because there was no law against being naked. The following two years saw a number of incidents until an ordinance banning nudity was passed.Template:Sfn

In some states, such as Oregon, public nudity is legal and protected as free speech, as long as there is not the "intent to arouse".Template:Sfn

In the United Kingdom, nudity per se is not unlawful, but the circumstances surrounding particular episodes of nudity may create public order offenses, according to a police spokesman in July 2013. Most naturist comply be being nude only where others cannot see.[10] After repeated arrest, prosecution, conviction in Great Britain, the activist Stephen Gough sued at the European Court of Human Rights for his right to be nude in public outside of designated areas (like nude hiking), but his claim was ultimately rejected.Template:Sfn

Morality[edit | edit source]

Template:Also Shame is one of the moral emotions often associated with nudity. While guilt is the emotion experienced in response to a particular wrong action, shame is a more general and long-lasting self-assessment. Shame is often thought of as positive in response to a failure to act in accordance with moral values, thus motivating an individual to do better in the future. However, shame is often negative as the response to perceived failures to live up to unrealistic expectations. The shame regarding nudity is one of the classic examples of the emotion, yet rather than being a positive motivator, it is considered unhealthy, standing in the way of developing a positive self-image.Template:Sfn Others argue that the shame felt when naked in public is due to valuing modesty and privacy as socially positive.Template:Sfn However, the response to such public exposure of normally private behavior is called embarrassment (like guilt, also a short-term emotion), rather than shame.Template:Sfn

Positive associations[edit | edit source]

Positive associations with nudity include:

  • Authenticity and truth. Metaphorically, the naked truth; the bare facts.Template:Sfn
  • Freedom. The liberation of the body is associated with sexual liberation, although naturists tend to downplay this connection.Template:Sfn
  • Honesty, openness. In some forms of group psychotherapy, nudity has been used to promote open interaction and communication.Template:Sfn
  • Innocence, humility, and childhood. Naturists often speak of their nakedness in terms of a return to childhood.Template:Sfn
  • Nature and naturalness. All humans are alike in their nakedness, while clothing represents their differences.Template:Sfn
  • Simplicity, being without artifice or worldliness. Nudity is associated with persons (such as holy men) who reject the world as it is, or who use nakedness as a protest against an unjust world.Template:Sfn

Negative associations[edit | edit source]

Negative associations with nudity include:

Psychopathology[edit | edit source]

Psychological issues involving nudity include the following:

  • Exhibitionism: A condition marked by the urge, fantasy, or act of exposing one’s genitals to non-consenting people, particularly strangers;
  • Gymnophobia: An abnormal and persistent fear of nudity; and
  • Voyeurism: A sexual interest in, or practice of, spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors like undressing or sexual activity.

While some individual cases may seem to fall into the above categories, these feelings and behaviors are a indicative of a psychological problem only if they interfere with normal functioning or well-being and become mental disorders.

Sexuality[edit | edit source]

Template:Also The connection between nudity and human sexuality is complex and ambiguous, since it also involves issues of gender identity, body image, and moral judgements concerning what is normal, deviant or even criminal behavior.Template:Sfn

Naturists (persons who practice and advocate personal and social nudity) distinguish between sexual and non-sexual nudity. Studies of naturism find that its practitioners adopt behaviors and norms that suppress the sexual responses while practicing social nudity.Template:Sfn Such norms include refraining from staring, touching, or otherwise calling attention to the body while naked.Template:Sfn

Modern social practices[edit | edit source]

Norms related to nudity are associated with norms regarding personal freedom, human sexuality, and gender roles, which vary widely among modern societies. Situations where nudity is accepted vary. Some people practice nudism within the confines of "nudist camps" or clothing-optional resorts, while naturists seek more open acceptance of nudity in everyday life and in public spaces.Template:Sfn

Baths and spas[edit | edit source]

File:Fotothek df n-11 0000458.jpg

Nude men in sauna

Template:Also Bathing for cleanliness and recreation is a human universal found worldwide, and the communal use of bathing facilities has been maintained from many cultures from varying traditional sources. When there is complete nudity, the facilities are often segregated by sex, but not in others.

The sauna, originating from Finland, is attended nude in its source countryTemplate:Sfn as well as in most Scandinavian countries and in the German-speaking countries of Europe.Template:Sfn This is true even when a swimsuit must be worn in the swimming pool area of the same complex.Template:Sfn The trend in some European countries (Germany, Finland and the Netherlands, for instance) is to allow both genders to bathe together naked. For example, the Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden has designated times when mixed nude bathing is permitted. Most German (not to mention French, Spanish and Greek) beaches and swimming pools offer FKK (clothing-optional) areas. The German sauna culture also became popular in neighbouring countries such as Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.Template:Efn In contrast to Scandinavia, public sauna facilities in these countries—while nude—do not usually segregate genders.Template:EfnTemplate:Sfn

In Japan, public baths (Sentō) were once common, but became less so with the addition of bathtubs in homes. Sentō were mixed gender (konyoku) until the arrival of Western influencesTemplate:Sfn, but became segregated by gender in cities.[11] Nudity is required at Japanese hot spring resorts (Onsen).Template:Sfn Some such resorts continue to be mixed gender, but the number of such resorts is declining as they cease to be supported by local communities.Template:Sfn

In Korea, bathhouses are known as Jjimjilbang. Such facilities may include mixed-sex sauna areas where clothing is worn, but bathing areas are gender segregated; nudity is required in those areas.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn

In Russia, public banyas are clothing-optional and are usually gender-segregated.Template:Sfn

Non-Western societies[edit | edit source]

File:Princess Swaziland 013.jpg

HRH Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini of Eswatini (centre), dancing at Umhlanga, 2006. She wears a red feather crown, distinguishing her as a royal female.

Indigenous traditions[edit | edit source]

In India, priests of the Digambara ("skyclad") sect of Jainism and some Hindu Sadhus refrain from wearing clothing to symbolize their rejection of the material world.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn

In sub-Saharan Africa, full nudity or nudity below the waist is the norm among some ethnic and family groups—including some Burkinabese and Nilo-Saharan (e.g. Nuba and Surma people)—in daily life or on particular occasions. For example, at highly attended stick-fighting tournaments, well-exposed young men use the occasion to catch the eye of prospective brides.[12] The assertion of post-colonial culture has resulted in the adoption of traditional dress for certain events, such as the Umkhosi Womhlanga (Reed Dance) by the Zulu and Swazi.Template:Sfn

In Brazil, the Yawalapiti—an indigenous Xingu tribe in the Amazon Basin—practice a funeral ritual known as Quarup to celebrate life, death and rebirth. The ritual involves the presentation of all young girls who have begun menstruating since the last Quarup and whose time has come to choose a partner.Template:Sfn

Clothing optional recreation[edit | edit source]

Template:See also

Nudity in Asia is limited to very isolated locations or private resorts.Template:Cn

Western societies[edit | edit source]

Private nudity[edit | edit source]

A 1999 survey by the Federation of Canadian Naturists found that 39% of Canadians "have walked or would walk around their houses nude".[13] According to a 2004 U.S. survey, 31% of men and 14% of women report sleeping in the nude,[14] while a 1996 BBC survey reported that 47% of U.K. men and 17% of U.K. women have done so.[15] In a 2019 survey of American sleep habits, only 17% of respondents stated that they slept entirely naked.Template:Sfn

Semi-public facilities[edit | edit source]

Historically, certain facilities associated with activities that require partial or complete nakedness (such as bathing or changing clothes, for example) have limited access to certain members of the public. These normal activities are guided by generally accepted norms, the first of which is that the facilities are most often segregated by gender; however, this may not be the case in all cultures.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1987-0609-302, Köritz, Duschraum des Kindergartens.jpg

Kindergarten shower room in Köritz, a district of Neustadt-Dosse (1987)

Changing rooms and communal showers[edit | edit source]

Template:See A changing room may be provided in stores, workplaces, or sports facilities, some of which have individual cubicles or stalls affording varying degrees of privacy. Locker rooms associated with sports generally lack any individual space and include showers, thus providing minimal physical privacy.

Behavior in women's locker rooms and showers varies by age, younger women covering more, and full nudity being brief and rare.Template:Sfn

The men’s locker room—which historically in Western cultures had been a setting for open male social nudity—is, in the 21st century United States, becoming a space of modesty and distancing between men. For much of the 20th century, the norm in locker rooms had been for men to undress completely without embarrassment. That norm has changed to involve men wearing towels or other garments most of the time and avoiding any interaction with others while naked. This shift is the result of changes in social norms regarding masculinity and how maleness is publicly expressed; also, open male nudity became associated with homosexuality.Template:Sfn

By the 1990s, communal showers in American schools had become "uncomfortable", not only because students were accustomed to more privacy at home, but because young people became more self-conscious based upon the comparison to mass media images of perfect bodies.Template:Sfn. In the 21st century, some high-end New York City gyms were redesigned to cater to millennials who want to shower without ever being seen naked.Template:Sfn

Social and public nudity[edit | edit source]

Template:Also Attitudes toward public nudity vary depending on culture, time, location, and context. There are particular contexts in which nudity is tolerated, accepted, or even encouraged in public spaces. In Europe, such contexts include nude beaches, within some intentional communities (such as naturist resorts or clubs) and at special events.

While some European countries (such as Germany, for example) are rather tolerant of public nudity,[16] other nations disfavor or punish public nudity. In the United States in 2012, the city council of San Francisco, California banned public nudity in the inner-city area. This move was met by harsh resistance because the city was known for its liberal culture and had previously tolerated public nudity.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn Similarly, park rangers began filing tickets against nudists at San Onofre State Beach—also a place with long tradition of public nudity—in 2010.Template:Sfn

Naturism[edit | edit source]

Template:Main article

File:At the nudist beach.jpg

A group of naturists on a beach in Crimea, 2008

Naturism (or nudism) is a subculture advocating and defending private and public nudity as part of a simple, natural lifestyle. Nudism originated in opposition to the industrialization of Europe in the late 19th century.[17]

Naturists reject contemporary standards of modesty that discourage personal, family and social nudity. They instead seek to create a social environment where individuals feel comfortable being in the company of nude people and being seen nude, either by other naturists or by the general public.Template:Sfn

Nudism spawned a proselytizing literature in the 1920s and 1930s. Nudism's other common name, naturism, signals its core contention that the naked body is natural and that modesty and shame are cultural impositions with deleterious effects on psychological, sexual, and social well-being. Early nudism was in dialogue with sexology and feminism. Its proponents believed that nudism could combat social inequality, including sexual inequality. As a socially marginal practice based on the naturalness of nakedness, nudism has had a complicated relationship with sexuality and pro‐sex discourses.Template:Sfn

Nude beaches[edit | edit source]

Nude people at Haulover Park, USA

Main article: Nude beach

Template:Also A nude beach, sometimes called a clothing-optional or free beach, is a beach where users are at liberty to be nude. Such beaches are usually on public lands. Nude beaches may be official (legally sanctioned), unofficial (tolerated by residents and law enforcement), or illegal.

Photography[edit | edit source]

Photography of groups of nude people in public places has been done around the world with or without official cooperation. The gathering itself is proposed as performance art, while the resulting images become statements based upon the identities of people invited to participate by posing, and the location selected; urban, scenic landscapes, or sites of historical significance. The photographers state a variety of artistic, cultural, and political reasons for their work.

  • Spencer Tunick has been photographing his "installations" since 1992, often in urban spaces but also in landscapes. The number of participants has also varied, but generally grown from hundreds to thousands, all volunteers.
  • San Francisco Bay area photographer Jack Gescheidt[18] stages events as part of an ongoing series, called "The Tree Spirit Project".[19]
  • Photographer Henning von Berg photographs naked people in public urban locations around the globe. [20] One of the locations was the Reichstag building in Berlin.[21]

Gender differences[edit | edit source]

Template:Also In Western cultures, shame is the result of not living up to the ideals of society with regard to physical appearance. Historically, such shame has affected women more than men. With regard to their naked bodies, the result is a tendency towards self-criticism by women, while men are less concerned by the evaluation of others.Template:Sfn

File:3 Topless Females Sunbathing on a Beach.JPG

In many European counties women may sunbathe without covering their breasts.

In much of the world, the modesty of women is a matter not only of social custom but of the legal definition of indecent exposure. In the United States, the exposure of female nipples is a criminal offense in many states and is not usually allowed in publicTemplate:Sfn. In the United Kingdom, nudity may not be used to "harass, alarm or distress" according to the Public Order Act of 1986.Template:Sfn

The "topfreedom" movement promotes equal rights for women to be naked above the waist in public on the same basis that would apply to men in the same circumstances. [22]

Breastfeeding in public is forbidden in some jurisdictions, not regulated in others, and protected as a legal right in public and the workplace in still others. Where public breastfeeding is a legal right, some mothers may be reluctant to breastfeed,Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn and some people may object to the practice.Template:Sfn

Depictions of nudity[edit | edit source]

Main article: Depictions of nudity
File:Pioneer plaque humans.svg

Images of a man and woman attached to Pioneer 10 as part of a message to any extra-terrestrial intelligence the space probe might encounter.

In a picture-making civilization, pictorial conventions continually reaffirm what is natural in human appearance, which is part of socialization.Template:Sfn

In Western societies, the contexts for depictions of nudity include information, art and pornography. Any ambiguous image not easily fitting into one of these categories may be misinterpreted, leading to disputes.Template:Sfn

Indecency and obscenity[edit | edit source]

Limits of the depiction of nudity are based upon the legal definitions of indecency and obscenity. Although obscenity is defined as the portrayal of violence or sexuality in a manner that is offensive to community standards, the lack of any one community standard reduces the legal definition of obscenity in the United States to the application of a test known as the Miller test. In 1973, the Supreme Court in Miller v. California established the three-tiered Miller test to determine what was obscene (and thus not protected) versus what was merely erotic and thus protected by the First Amendment.Template:Sfn

Depictions of child nudity (or of 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,Template:Sfn especially in the case of photography. In recent years, snapshots taken by parents of their nude infant or toddler children were challenged as child pornography.Template:Sfn

File:Venus von Willendorf 01.jpg

The Venus of Willendorf made between 24,000 and 22,000 BCE.

Art[edit | edit source]

Main article: Nude (art)

The nude human figure has been one of subjects of art from its Paleolithic beginnings, and a major preoccupation of Western art since the ancient Greeks. One often cited book on the nude in Western art history is "The Nude: a Study in Ideal Form" by Lord Kenneth Clark, first published in 1956. The introductory chapter makes (though does not originate) the often-quoted distinction between the naked body and "The Nude". Clark states that to be naked is to be deprived of clothes, and implies embarrassment and shame, while a nude, as a work of art, has no such connotations.Template:Sfn This separation of the artistic form from the related social and cultural issues was largely unexamined by classical art historians, but became a focus of social and feminist critiques in the 1970s, when classical nudes of women were seen as symbolic of male objectification of female bodies.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn The debate over objectification has continued, recently energized by the #MeToo movement.Template:Sfn

Lucien Freud was one of a small group of painters who continued to create nude works in the 1970s when it was unfashionable to do so.Template:Sfn By the end of his life, however, Freud's works had become icons of the Post Modern era; those works–including his series that featured an obese model–depicted the human body without a trace of idealization.[23]

Photography[edit | edit source]

The nude in photography includes scientific, commercial, fine art, and erotic photography.Template:Sfn

Film[edit | edit source]

File:Audrey Munson as nude art model in movie Inspiration (1915).jpg

Audrey Munson in Inspiration (1915)

Main article: Nudity in film

Rather than showing nakedness as a normal part of everyday life, nudity in films has generally exploited the mainstream public's interest in sexuality, with increasingly explicit portrayals. Films with nude scenes made during the Pre-Code era were generally erotic, including those using the pretext of being ethnographic documentaries to show unclothed natives in jungle settings. This led to a backlash between 1934 and 1960 when the enforcement of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) production code severely censored not only nudity, but all topics related to sexuality. Social change in the 1960s lead to the adoption of the current rating system. Nudity is one of the factors in the system, with even the briefest nudity earning a film a PG-13, and male nudity being rated R (adults only).Template:Cn

Nudist/Naturist films[edit | edit source]

Many films have used the nudist camp setting as pretext for showing nudity without addressing the reality of naturism. Films made by naturists to promote their lifestyle are not widely distributed.Template:Cn

Television[edit | edit source]

Template:Also Broadcast television in the United States has restrictions on profanity, indecency, and obscenity that generally prohibit all nudity, although the limits were pressed with some productions such as NYPD Blue, which featured partial nudity. The legal test for community standards becomes "I know it when I see it"; therefore, rulings may be case by case in response to viewer complaints. Cable television, as a paid subscription rather than a public service, may broadcast content deemed indecent or profane, but not obscene.[24]

Rules in Europe are less restrictive, with the first nude appearing on TV in Holland in 1967 and the UK broadcasting a documentary about naturism in 1979.Template:Sfn Music videos that include nudity appear on TV in Europe, but are edited or otherwise censored on American TV.Template:Sfn

Television and radio regulations in many countries require broadcasters to avoid transmitting images or language considered inappropriate for children from 5:30 am to 9 pm (the so-called "watershed"). In the United Kingdom, the Broadcasting Code states, "Nudity before the watershed must be justified by the context."[25] In the U.S., the safe harbor rule forbids depictions of nudity between the hours of 6 am and 10 pm. Violators may be subject to civil legal action and sanctions if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determines the broadcaster did not meet its standards of "decency". "Material is indecent if, in context, it depicts or describes sexual or excretory organs or activities in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium."[26]

Performance[edit | edit source]

Nudity may be used as a part of live performances, such as dance, theater, performance art and nude body painting.

Dance[edit | edit source]

Dance, as a sequence of human movement, may be ceremonial, social or one of the performing arts.

Partial or complete nudity is a feature of ceremonial dances in some tropical countries. However, some claim that modern practices may be used to promote "ethnic tourism" rather than to revive authentic traditions.Template:Sfn

In Western traditions, dance costumes have evolved towards providing more freedom of movement and revealing more of the body; complete nakedness is the culmination of this process.Template:Sfn Some modern choreographers consider nudity one of the possible "costumes" available for dance. Others see nudity that expresses deeper human qualities through dance as working against the sexual objectification of the body in commercial culture.Template:Sfn

While nudity in social dance is not common, events such as "Naked Tango" have been held in Germany.Template:Sfn

Theater[edit | edit source]

A well-known performance that included nudity was the Broadway musical Hair in 1968.Template:Sfn

Erotic performances[edit | edit source]

Models posing on stage nude was a feature of tableaux vivants at London's Windmill Theatre and New York's Ziegfeld Follies in the early 20th century.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn English law did not allow nude actresses to move on stage, but allowed them stand motionless to imitate works of art.Template:Sfn

There is a long history of striptease and other sex shows. There is a more recent history of nudity at semi-public events, such as Folsom Street Fair and Nudes-A-Poppin'.Template:Cn

Protests[edit | edit source]

Template:Main article

File:WNBR London 2012.jpg

People taking part in the World Naked Bike Ride in London

Nudity is used to draw public and attention to a cause, sometimes including the promotion of public nudity itself.Template:Sfn

Curse of nakedness[edit | edit source]

Template:Also In Africa, women have used stripping naked on purpose as a curse, both historically, and in modern times. The idea is that women give life and they can take it away. The curse initiates an extreme form of ostracism, which anthropologist Terisa Turner has likened to "social execution". The curse extends to foreign men as well, and is believed to cause impotence, madness or other similar harm.Template:Sfn The threat has been used successfully in mass protests against the petroleum industry in Nigeria,Template:Sfn by Leymah Gbowee during the Second Liberian Civil War,Template:Sfn and against President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast.Template:Sfn

Imposed nudity[edit | edit source]

Historical treatment of the poor and insane[edit | edit source]

In England during the 17th to 19th centuries, the clothing of the poor by Christian charity did not extend to those confined to "madhouses" such as Bethlem Royal Hospital, where the inmates were often kept naked and treated harshly.Template:Sfn

Punishment[edit | edit source]

In some situations, nudity is forced on a person. For example, imposed nudity (full or partial) can be part of a corporal punishment or as humiliation, especially when administered in public.

For example, in 2017, students at a girls' school in the north-east Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh were forced to undress as a form of punishment, police say. Although not as common as corporal punishment, it is not unusual for stripping to be used as a form of punishment in Indian schools.[27]

Torture[edit | edit source]

File:Abu Ghraib 21.jpg

Prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad (Iraq), including forced nudity, was widely condemned.

Nazis used forced nudity to attempt to humiliate inmates in concentration camps. This practice was depicted in the film Schindler's List (1994).Template:Sfn

In 2003, Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad (Iraq) gained international notoriety for accounts of torture and abuses by members of the United States Army Reserve during the post-invasion period. Photographic images were circulated that exposed the posing of prisoners naked, sometimes bound, and being intimidated and otherwise humiliated, resulting in widespread condemnation of the abuse.[28]Template:Sfn

Strip search[edit | edit source]

Main article: Strip search

A strip search is the removal of some or all of a person's clothing to insure that they do not have weapons or contraband. Such searches are generally done when an individual is imprisoned after an arrest, and is justified by the need to maintain order in the facility, not as punishment for a crime.[29]

See also[edit | edit source]


References[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]


Citations[edit | edit source]

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