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"Clothes free" redirects here. For the preference for nudity in non-sexual social settings, see naturism.

Nudity or nakedness is the state of wearing no clothing. It is sometimes 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 of intimate parts and has analogous uses.

Line art depictions of a nude man and a woman designed to educate extraterrestrials about the appearance of the human body, from the Pioneer plaques.


[edit] Terminology

Although nude, naked and bare 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 'unsupported by proof' since 1531, later used an artistic euphemism for physical nakedness in 1631, while "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 'stark naked' is literally 'red' naked as either exposure makes one 'blush'.

[edit] Full nudity

Some expressions specifically express total nudity. Apart from the confusing use of terms literally referring to the most 'provocative' forms of partial nudity, these include such abstractions as 'the nude', 'the bare' or 'the buff', a reference to leather (i.e. the skin, notably depilated unlike fur), just as 'buck-naked'; Spanish also has the euphemism "a la Cordobana", referring to the human hide as "Cordoban leather".

A special case is stark naked or starkers, as these terms were erroneously changed from 'start naked' (start is an old Germanic word for tail, as above fixating on the buttocks) to 'stark', an old Germanic word meaning 'strong' but used as 'utter(ly)'.

Naked women riding horses in the Czech Republic. From Charles MacFarland's film Naked in Public 1.

Euphemisms may be used, such as birthday suit and au naturel (French for 'in the natural state') or the Dutch terms Adamskostuum ('Adam's suit', i.e. the original naked state in Paradise after Creation), spiernaakt ('muscle naked', since one sees every muscle under bare skin) and poedelnaakt (refers to the often ridiculed shaving of poodle dog breeds). The French à poil "to the hair" and its Spanish equivalent en pelota "in the hair" emphasize that human hairgrowth is generally too thin to be less than naked without clothes (while the pubic hair is often thicker, this zone is also most critical in the Christian tradition; in a few Germanic languages, the very word for pubic literally means 'shame', its English cognate: skam- in Danish, schaam- in Dutch, Scham- in German); still in French, nu comme un ver 'naked as a worm' phrases to absence of visually shielding hair by a dysphemistic metaphor. While negatives such as 'undressed' may also refer to partial nudity unless explicitly qualified, in artistic modelling undraped means completely naked, as opposed to such common practices as draping something over the crucial body parts or over the face so as to make the model anonymous.

Full frontal nudity -no clothing and facing the observer- shows the genitals, as opposed to only showing toplessness or bare buttocks It is usually considered the most far-reaching form of nudity, with exception of a close-up of the most erogenous zones, especially the genitals. Also, sometimes people avoid full frontal nudity by turning their back to other people when changing clothes in sight, or by lying on the beach completely nude only on their belly.

The distinction "frontal" is meaningful for pictures and movies. In many cases it is avoided or undone by purposely placing inanimate objects obscuring a view of an actor or actress' genitals or the shot is 'defused' by deliberately hazy lightening or focus. Such techniques not only make some actors more comfortable but usually aim to pass censorship or prevents the film from receiving an NC-17 rating from the MPAA film rating system, which often leads to commercial failure. Thus revealing shots may be cut during the editing; sometimes a more liberal version is released separately, e.g. as director's cut. Few American films show full frontal nudity, while more complete (and therefore, sometimes longer) versions may be distributed in other countries and/or on video or DVD, media which generally are more ready to distribute productions offending various taboos.

[edit] Partial nudity

As 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 (indeed, an 'undressed' state is even considered by some more sexually arousing than full nudity) 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.

swimwear with a large amount of, yet fairly inoffensive male skin exposure...
...but mooning, quantitively barely the counterpart, is perceived as far more exposing

In the Old Testament (Leviticus, Chapter 16) God orders the prophet Moses, about the high priest: He shall be vested with a linen tunic: he shall cover his nakedness with linen breeches: he shall be girded with a linen girdle, and he shall put a linen mitre upon his head. For these are holy vestments, clearly differentiating between the 'strategical' zone which is the criterion of 'nakedness' and the more presentable parts of the human body.

Image:Japanese traditional swimwear FUNDOSHI red rokushaku back photomodel fthong 1.jpg
A Japanese man wearing a traditional swimwear Fundoshi -red rokushaku

Today even wearing boxer shorts, sufficient to guard the modesty of a shooto fighter, is described as near-naked in Japan because the appropriate kimono-type uniform associated with traditional martial arts is missing. 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. Yet for swimming the Japanese man feels comfortable in a most revealing fundoshi.

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-arse 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.
Image:National geographic 1910 11 laundress and street baby.jpg
1910 Korean woman in dress leaving the breasts permanently uncovered for feeding her -completely naked- child
  • 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 rather 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.

[edit] Analogous 'nakedness'

In 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 a stemma where total exposure is the anatomical rule, a mild, in se unnotable hair growth can on the contrary suffice to justify a name like furry lobster.

While the above definitions of full and partial nudity are all positively defined by physical exposure, there are also analogous subjective concepts, where actual skin exposure is not essential or even non-existent.

Thus bareheaded refers to the absence of any hat, which would only cover the skull, which is normally not bare skin since it is naturally covered by hair (baldness being the exception confirming the rule, for which there actually is a different word, like the non-organ-specific glabrous defined solely by the absence of significant hairgrowth), yet it is called 'bare' because the hat in many cultural traditions is considered an essential part of clothing, in symbolical terms, e.g. as a status symbol, and the gesture of removing it a sign of respect or even an admission of one's inferior position.

Often sexual and provocative, many consider non-nude photography an alternative to pornography, but some critics claim it is actually a form of pornography
By a kink in human psychology, the act of revealing skin or even removing clothes, even when only to show another covering layer, is often regarded at least as sexy 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 cloths the swimwear that will be shown without gène after emerging, so not an inch of embarrassing exposure was involved in the disrobing.
Renaissance type tights
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 event), 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 colour 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 fethisms, a second skin -which in fact covers up the real skin- is thus called 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 see they 'feel naked without...' about uniform, a badge of office, even a weapon.

[edit] Historical overview

Anthropologists logically presume that humans originally lived 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.

Image:Sebald Beham 001.jpg
"Adam and Eve", 1543. Engraving, by Hans Sebald Beham

Some religious cosmogonies exhibit analogous constructs; e.g. the story of Adam and Eve describes the alleged first humans after their transgression against God's rules (the original sin), being ashamed of their nakedness and making aprons of fig leaves. Nudity itself was not the original sin, but some people take it so, perhaps explaining the taboo against it.

In various Ancient cultures nudity was held to be humiliating, as attested for Pharaonic Egypt and the Hebrews by the Old testament: "So shall the king of the Assyrians lead away the prisoners of Egypt, and the captivity of Ethiopia, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered to the shame of Egypt".<ref>Isaiah, Chapter 20 : 4.</ref> Similar images occur on many bas-reliefs, also from other empires.

In some ancient Mediterranean cultures, even well past the hunter-gatherer stage, such as Minoan[citation needed], athletic and/or cultic nudity of men and boys –and rarely, of women and girls– was a natural concept.

The civilization of ancient Greece (Hellas), during the Archaic period, had an athletic and cultic aesthetic of nudity which typically included adult and teenaged males, but at times also boys, women and girls. The love for beauty had included also the human body, beyond the love for nature, philosophy, the arts etc. The Greek word gymnasium means "a place to train naked". Male athletes competed nude, but most city-states of the time allowed no female participants or even spectators at those events, Sparta being a notable exception. In Greek culture, depictions of erotic nudity were considered normal, including sexual acts, and even pederastic practices. The Greeks were conscious of the exceptional nature of their nudity, noting that "generally in countries which are subject to the barbarians, the custom is held to be dishonourable; loves of youths share the evil repute in which philosophy and naked sports are held, because they are inimical to tyranny;"<ref>Plato, Symposium; 182c</ref> In both ancient Greece and ancient Rome, public nakedness was also accepted in the context of public bathing. It was also common for a person to be punished by being partially or completely stripped and lashed in public; in some legal systems judicial corporal punishments on the bare buttocks persisted up to or even beyond the feudal age, either only for minors or also for adults, even till today but rarely still in public. In Biblical accounts of the Roman Imperial era, prisoners were often stripped naked, as a form of humiliation.

In the 6th century, Saint Benedict of Nursia advised the monks in his Rule to sleep fully dressed in the dormitory. Until the beginning of the 8th century, Christians in Western Europe were baptised naked, emerging from the water like Adam and Eve before the fall. "The disappearance of baptism by immersion in the Carolingian era gave nudity a sexual connotation that it has previously lacked for Christians" (Rouche 1987 p. 455). About the same time it became common to represent Christ on the Cross wearing a long tunic, the colobium. European men wore long tunics until the 15th century, when codpieces, tights and tight trousers gradually came into use; these all covered the male genitals but at the same time drew attention to them.

During the Victorian era, public nakedness was considered obscene. In addition to beaches being segregated by gender, bathing machines were also used to conceal the naked body. In the early 20th century, exposure of male nipples was considered indecent at some beaches. Ironically, as in the Middle Ages, the bathing suits worn by men, while covering the genitals, often nonetheless made them quite obvious.

In Judaism and in Jewish communities, men and women use ritual baths called mikvahs 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.

[edit] Various modern-era attitudes

Image:Nambassa 1979 'The Plague' on the Main Stage.jpg
Nambassa 1979 'The Plague' on the Main Stage. Photo by Gerard Cooper.

As a general rule, public nudity is not considered "proper" in most societies. There are, however, many exceptions and particular circumstances in which nudity is tolerated, accepted or even encouraged.

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.

Nudity in front of a sexual partner is widely accepted, but 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.

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 inacceptably provocative, nude sun tanning viewed mildly as rather inoffensive.

[edit] Western culture

Group nudity is commonly accepted in many cultures when showering.

Nudity in front of strangers of the same gender is often more accepted than in front of those of the other or both genders, for example when bathing, in common changing rooms, etc. Gender-specific changerooms and toilets serve to prevent accidental partial nudity in front of the other gender. Urinals may have partitions between them to avoid the partial nudity of men to be visible by other men. In some cultures, even for people of the same gender to see each other nude is considered inappropriate and embarrassing. Also, the implication of homosexuality among naked members of the same gender can discourage this type of nudity.

Functional 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, going to a changing room, or changing at home before and after going to the beach.

Image:École des beaux-arts (from the live).jpg
Art model posing in a French painting school
In certain structured settings in which nudity serves a practical purpose — such as providing access to a patient's body during a medical procedure, examination or therapeutic massage, or providing figure drawing students or artists with unobstructed views of the human body — an individual may be naked in front of one or several clothed people. In most such situations, the exposed individual will be given a loose robe or cloth to cover themselves partially, even if their "private parts" must be exposed. Total nudity for the model remains the norm in figure drawing studios, however. Similarly, pornography is typically photographed with the models fully nude and the crew fully dressed. None of these settings are routinely experienced by most members of society, however, so they are not normative; attempts to have subjects pose in the nude in public view as Spencer Tunick stages all over the world are often received with more mixed feelings, if not repressed as indecent exposure.
Study by Eadweard Muybridge Woman walking downstairs, late 19th century.

Although exposure of women's breasts is considered perfectly acceptable in most western countries in appropriate settings, such as while suntanning, in the United States of America exposure of female nipples is still considered criminal by many states and 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 every single US jurisdiction where legal challenges have arisen, and other North American jurisdictions—like Ontario—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 women to have no clothing above the waist; the term "topfree" rather than "topless" is used to avoid the latter term's sexual connotations. However, there are still extreme reactions on the parts of many to exposure of the full breast, as in Janet Jackson's partial breast exposure during the half-time show of the 2004 Super Bowl.

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 from self-exposure versus being disrobed.

Nudity is closely associated with sexuality in most cultures where some level of body modesty is expected. This is evidenced by the existence of striptease in these cultures. Sexual dimorphism when depicted in the main stream media of these cultures is often seen as sexually related. As an effect of Catholic cultural heritage, in Latin cultures the common definition 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.

The trend in some European countries (for instance Germany, Finland and the Netherlands) is to allow both genders to bathe together naked. Typically, older German bathhouses, such as Bad Burg, remain segregated by gender. On the other hand Finnish saunas can be mixed and are always attended nude.

Some 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.

Image:NRT5 2001.jpg
Nacktradtour, Nude German cyclists

Others practice 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.

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.

[edit] Non-Western attitudes

Attitudes 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 breast feed in public, while some have very strict laws about showing any bare skin.

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 several African tribes, 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 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.

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, interpretations differ. Some interpretations state the awrah to be from the navel to the knees. Others state that only the genitals and the anus need to be covered.
  • Some strict interpretations of Islam require women to observe purdah, covering their entire bodies, including the face (see burqa), on threat of severe punishment. A perhaps more common interpretation, however, is to cover everything but the hands and face.
Image:Kids skinny dipping in India.jpg
Boys skinny dipping in a sacred tank of water in India.

The example of the Turkish baths, where men go to get washed by other men, and women to get washed by women, is good example of how some Islamic cultures do not accept the strictness of the above interpretations.

Still 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 seen here:<ref>| CorPun website on corporal punishments</ref> of a thief suffering lashes on the bared buttocks imposed by a traditional chief's court, there was national consternation, not about the flogging (actually extended soon to age 50 and to women) but about the 'peeping tom'. The Ugandan Kavirondo tribes, a mix of Bantu and Nilotic immigrants, traditionally went practically naked, but the men adopted European dress.

See more information in Nudity and children.

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] 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 & [1]

[edit] External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:

[edit] Further reading


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