Monday, 23 May 2016

Nudes and prudes

There's a general assumption nowadays that prudery has died out and all the old hang-ups about sex and nudity are a thing of the past. But it's not true. Everywhere you look sex and nudity are causing as much fuss as ever. If anything the squeamishness is getting worse.

A long list of things can prompt anything from tut-tutting to all-out uproar. Breastfeeding in public. Kissing in public. Over-revealing female clothing. Too much visible cleavage. Bra-less breasts. Naked male chests. Nudity on TV. The word vagina. Politicians having affairs. Older people's sex lives. Photos of women with stretch marks, scars or mastectomies.

Despite today's supposed laid-back attitudes, in fact there's still a vast unspoken code of conduct about what's permitted and what isn't, and one step over the boundary can unleash a barely-concealed puritanism.

Of course there should be limits on what we do or show in public. I don't think daily life would be improved if everyone strolled around in the nude and shagged wherever they felt like it. But a bit more tolerance and open-mindedness would avoid a lot of the sillier complaints.

Some protests are just balmy. Is it really outrageous to name a female body part? Or show your affection by kissing someone? Or feed your child as nature intended? Only if you're a fully paid-up member of the Permanently Offended community.

Given my enthusiasm for kissing and hugging in public, I'm surprised nobody has ticked me off, though I've had a few disapproving looks. I don't expose my chest to all and sundry, and not my legs either unless it's a scorching Aussie summer. And I've never had an affair, so I'm free from criticism on that score.

But I have to report that prudery is a long time dying.

28 comments:

tammy j said...

sometimes i think it would be lovely to be like in gauguin's day and move to martinique ... and walk about in colorful sarongs bare breasted and brown and living innocent of lurid purist's thoughts!
though i'm sure marinique is totally westernized by now and prudish civilization has straightened them out but good!

Nick said...

Tammy: It would be wonderful to live somewhere where bodies are just taken for granted and there aren't all these modern-day taboos and restrictions. But as you say, most such places have probably been fully westernised by now.

Helen Devries said...

I just wish the Offended of this world would get uptight about the things that matter...poverty, exploitation, wars, state terrorism...

Nick said...

Helen: Amen to that! I never cease to be amazed at the trivia people get so worked up about.

Ursula said...

As usual, Nick, you and I inhabit different worlds. I don't recognize yours. As far as I can tell no one objects to letting it all (literally) here in the UK (burkas notwithstanding). Quite the opposite: Give them flesh. I remember, fondly, when - many years ago - my husband used to point out that my bra strap was showing. Now? Now underwear is outerwear. Times change. Fine.

On a personal note - and this does not make me prudish - there is such a thing as taste. Aesthetics. And, as someone wise once said, less is more. Ask Grannymar. She'll be the first to agree with me on this one.

You talk about kissing in public. What do you actually mean? A peck on the cheek? Or a full on? I am sorry, Nick, unless you persuade me otherwise, I don't buy into you snogging in full and day light view. It's not how I perceive you. But then I may be wrong.

As to your question whether it is "outrageous to name a female body part?". Yes, Nick, how about, and forgive me for being crude but then you are not squeamish, grown up men calling grown up men "cunts"? That's ok, is it?

U

Wisewebwoman said...

I see it getting more outrageous Nick, the tolerance for nudity. I think readily available porn has more of an influence than you're perhaps aware of? Men hate seeing breasts for what nature intended. True.

The world is mighty effed up but I don't see prudery anywhere. The opposite in fact. I'd like a bit please.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

Ursula: By kissing in public, I mean exactly that. What's the objection? I'm not talking about anything more intimate.

Obviously I was referring to the word vagina. I strongly dislike the word cunt, with its vicious overtones. And I also dislike its use as an insult. That's the opposite of prudery, it's deliberately focusing on the body in an offensive way.

Nick said...

www: Maybe it's a bit different where you are, but here in the UK there are regular spats over public breastfeeding, "inadequate" female clothing and the like. I think prudery extends to porn, which is why it's mainly viewed in private and people are reluctant to admit they use it. I know many people regard porn as destructive to healthy sexual relationships but I couldn't say as I've never seen any.

Nick said...

www: Except for the one porn mag I was shown by another boy at school. But I can't remember anything about it.

Dave Martin said...

I strongly agree about the breastfeeding thing - how can anyone get upset about something so natural?
The perpetually offended of this world need to get a life.

Nick said...

Dave: Exactly. People fuss about something so natural, yet ignore the grossly unnatural things like plastic surgery.

Maria said...

A mother breastfeeding her child is the most beautiful thing to watch, it's love and life, I don't understand why it offends some people?!
Greetings Maria x

Nick said...

Maria: As you say, love and life, and a mother caring for her child. Only someone with a very warped mind could find that objectionable.

Bijoux said...

The majority of women who breastfeed do it discreetly. I'm surprised there is still any sort of uproar about it anywhere.

Funny that you see prude behavior in Europe. Message boards I've been on see the US as complete prudes compared to Europe.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I think a lot of women only breastfeed in private, such is the sensitivity. Shop security staff are sometimes very heavy-handed about breastfeeding.

If Americans are more prudish than the British, I can't imagine what goes on over there. Certainly the transgender bathroom issue seems to be red-hot!

kylie said...

American attitudes seem much more prudish to me than either the Brits or Australia (terrible sentence but you know what i mean)

I do think things seem to be going strangely backwards. When i was younger everyone we would wear a thin (not sheer) blouse with just a bra underneath. Now they wear a camisole so nobody can see the outline of the bra but at the same time they will have their bum hanging out of their shorts.

The other thing I find weird is that little girls wear shorts under their dresses so that nobody sees their underwear when they are actively playing. When I was a kid you would sometimes see a little girls underwear and it was ok because it was a little girl and they were allowed some innocence. Making them wear shorts just seems to sexualise them when the intention is to reduce the sexualisation of children. I mean, if we really just saw them as innocent little, untouchable creatures we wouldnt need to put shorts on them, would we?

I feel very old when I consider some of this stuff

Ursula said...

Kylie, on the subject of girls, dresses and innocence I do disagree with you. Or rather, would like to put a different point.

When I was a little girl both my grandmother (who sewed my dresses) and later my mother (who didn't sew my dresses) would make sure that I'd always wear something matching underneath my dress and over my knickers. This has nothing to do with allowing a child "innocence" as you put it. Whilst I was taught that there are boundaries adults should observe I just accepted what was said to me, didn't give a second thought to it. Because, as you say, that is what children are: "innocent".

Another example, and I'd like to hear your take on this one: I (and all my female friends) were taught by our mothers to keep our legs together when sitting down. Did it take my "innocence" away? Did I even think once on why I was advised to do so? No. I just did as I was told because I trusted my grandmother and mother that there was a reason to do so.

Fact is, Kylie, and I am sure you'll agree with me, as humans we send signals (usually with no intent and unconsciously) which may contribute to the reason of being harmed. When I think back to how I was parented, it was all about what I call "damage limitation". No helicopter hovering parenting in those days, oh my god didn't we have such freedom, but good advice (in a non alarmist way) to limit potential damage to the kids.

U

Nick said...

Kylie: I do agree with all of that. I hadn't actually noticed the shorts under dresses thing myself, but yes, isn't that just sexualising them rather than preserving their innocence? I think you're right that when we were young there was much less fuss about how girls and women dressed, mainly because there wasn't all the routine harassment that occurs nowadays. Now the widespread harassment has made everyone extra sensitive to how girls and women are dressed, and as you say we're going backwards.

Nick said...

Ursula: Personally, I think innocence has more to do with ignorance of adulthood than with clothing conventions. Childhood innocence is being eroded faster and faster nowadays because information about adulthood is so easily available on social media and kids everywhere have laptops and smartphones so are adultised (adulterated?) from an early age.

Ms Scarlet said...

I think you're right that when we were young there was much less fuss about how girls and women dressed, mainly because there wasn't all the routine harassment that occurs nowadays.

....apart from Jimmy Saville et al.

Sx

John Gray said...

I dont get my tits out for anyone
Public or not

Nick said...

Scarlet: Yes, there were the paedophiles like Savile but not the routine street harassment that goes on these days (or maybe I just never heard about it?)

John: Oh go on, give us a look. You know you want to.

kylie said...

nick,
i know about the shorts because i am a mother of girls and this crazy trend started when my daughters were in primary school.

ursula,
i love it when toddlers have little bloomers to match their dresses.

i taught my daughters to keep their legs together while wearing dresses and i am sure they didnt think about it either. i believe that kids are usually innocent about these things.

my problem with little girls wearing shorts under dresses is that putting shorts on them makes an assumption that anyone who happens to catch a glimpse of underwear will be thinking sexually. I dont believe that most people are thinking that way and i think it is naive if we believe that a pair of shorts will stop a genuine paedophile. it's pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Anonymous said...

Body and soul. I'm hugging, cuddling and kissing wherever I am. Where's the problem? When people look I often tell them to do the same. To feel ashamed is once again a cultural environment question. Difficult to explain it in English but I think you understand.
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: Indeed, where's the problem? Why be ashamed of something so natural and affectionate? Unfortunately a lot of people are taught that such public displays of affection are somehow wrong.

Liz Hinds said...

Overweight white (very) men wandering around town in their shorts. No! The beach is the place for that. There it's acceptable. Just.

Liz Hinds said...

I am totally in favour of breast-feeding in public. However there was a photo on facebook recently - I think it might have been doing the 'keep posting this photo because Facebook keeps taking it down' rounds. It was of a mother breast-feeding. So far so good. But in my eyes it had been sexualised (is that a word?)

The mother was very glamorous - unlikely in itself with a young baby in my experience - and very large breasted. It was a posed photo and gave the impression to me that it was not just a happy mother and baby shot. It had another motivation.

Nick said...

Liz: The problem is that overweight middle-aged white men seem to think they look wildly attractive in skimpy clothing. They fondly imagine they are still twenty something and gorgeously thin. Do they ever look in the mirror?

I haven't seen that breastfeeding pic. So there is now a trend for posed and sexualised breastfeeding photos? How very depressing.