The History of Nudity
Lately I keep seeing a lot of controversial debate going on about Nudity. Debates about women breast feeding in public, about giving women the same topless rights as men, and debates in the artistic community about allowing nudity to be showcased on social media sites with less restriction. This debate is something I happen to be really passionate about, considering 65% of my art is about people in their natural form.
There are so many different ways to look at this. We can start with the scientific route, and point out that the female and male breast are not that different. Both male and female breast have tissue, fat, muscle, a nipple and the areola. Both can produce milk. The only real difference there is, is the difference in our perception of them. The women breast is seen as something sexual, and the sexualization of them is cultural conditioning. It’s a state of mind that could easily change, and has changed throughout history. Let’s dive in to a little breakdown on how our perception of nudity has changed over the years.
According to my research, “going topless” was a very common thing for women leading up to the 19th century. Breasts, in this time period and up to the Renaissance, were mainly portrayed as a source for food for children, and sometimes were a sign of wealth and social status. Showing your legs was considered much more “devious”. If you look at the art from these time periods, you can see that nudity is everywhere, including paintings of breast feeding. There was also a lot of nude art featuring males back then.
In the 19th century you started seeing experimentation with Photography and of course with this came interesting and unique pictures of the human body. Back then nudity was no big deal at all, I would even say it was celebrated. Women were free to go bare-breasted in public, and Men were not “distracted” by it. Women being topless only became inappropriate in the majority of the world, with both the Muslim and Christian expansion and the influence of missionaries.
In the early 1900’s, a woman’s bathing suit was a long knitted dress, with tights, and sandals. The picture above shows Annette Kellerman, an Australian Underwater Ballerina. She was arrested for wearing this “racy” swimsuit that exposed her legs, arms, and neck(not really). At the time, the women she would have been dancing with were wearing swimsuits that had belts, cuffs, and collars. See how quickly things changed? Just one century and women went from being allowed to roam freely without a shirt on, to being arrested for showing your neck and arms. It’s nothing short of insanity. The difference here is that men were also not allowed to go swimming topless, they had to wear a shirt.
1910, showing the knee in public started to be more acceptable. Not really though…because in the 20’s, “decency measurements” took place on beaches to ensure women were not showing off too much upper leg. The ruling was that suits not be six inches over the knee. Throughout the 30’s you started to see small changes. Near the end of the 30’s men finally WON their right to go topless in public. Though, it was mainly economical reasoning, because if parks departments had to provide swimsuits, which they sometimes did, it was cheaper to provide just the trunks.
From then on something weird happens. You see less and less clothes on women in public and in photographs, although never really allowing us to go topless, and the extreme sexualization of a gender. Back in history before the 1900’s, nudity wasn’t seen as a sexual thing…just seeing a woman naked back then wouldn’t have given a man an erection. Women weren’t pressured to be sexy and skinny the way that they are today. These days with the invention of porn, the fact that being naked has been turned into such a “naughty” thing, and all the brainwashing the media has done, it seems a large part of the male gender can’t even handle being around a girl dressed a little bit provocatively. Sure, women have come a long way in so many ways. We aren’t forced into the role of a house wife, and we can vote and work…but there is something really really wrong with the way we view the BODY of a women. In our society today, women are extremely objectified and when people deny that it really shows their ignorance.
For some reason it is acceptable for women to walk down the street looking like they walked off of a porn set, but god forbid you see a nipple. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with looking and acting sexy. To me being naked and being sexy do not really go hand in hand. Being sexy is what should be done behind closed doors with someone who deserves it, sexy is not lying on the beach, minding your own business, soaking up the sun. I think our society is a little confused. When I go into literally any store, I am blasted with headlines like SEX SEX SEX. The moves that will drive him wild in bed. Get the lingerie that will make him go nuts. BLAAAAAH. How come that is so socially acceptable, but I can’t go tan next to the river topless. How come Facebook is plastered with Victoria Secret ads, but I can’t post my nude artwork on there. It’s a frustrating debate. It gets under my skin.
I am not asking for a world where everyone walks around naked…even though I wouldn’t mind that world, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. What I am asking is, for people to simmer down, take a step back and realize that being naked is not being indecent. It is a beautiful thing, and people should do it more often. Women should be able to breast feed in public without some asshole getting his/her panties in a knot because of it. It’s a natural thing. The best feeling in the world for me is being out in the forest BUTT NAKED. We were born naked. We are supposed to spend more time naked. It feels so good to let your skin breathe. It feels so good to tan in the sun and know you aren’t going to have weird tan lines, and that all of your skin is soaking up that beautiful vitamin D. Girls need to flex their rights more and tan topless at the beach, and if you don’t want to to contribute to a good cause you can, at the very least, stop insulting the women who do want to. We are not indecent or slutty, we just want equal rights and no tan lines. Guys need to work on de-programming themselves, we are not here solely for your penis and visual entertainment. If you see a pair of boobs in public and instantly get a boner, you have serious control issues. It’s up to us to make the world a different place. We need to change our perception of nudity and sex.