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.
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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.
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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.

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7 Responses To  “The History of Nudity”

  • Completely agree with you, but it will be a very hard change in a culture that associates any type of nudity with sex. I think it has a lot to do how this North American culture was developed. In Europe, topless beaches are a norm, and no one runs around pointing fingers and giggling hysterically… and if they do you know for sure they are from North America :) Unfortunately this culture has a lot of religion behind it, and that was usually kills it for everyone. We are being shamed, our bodies are being shamed, and anything that is nude is portrayed as sexual. Since we are brought up in this thinking, to change that you would have to go through a revolution, and even then it would take a couple generations to almost completely root out these problems. I always wondered why violence is so prevalent in the media (film, news, etc. etc.), yet when it comes to any type of nudity, even if it’s shown with out any sexual content, it’s restricted. We live in a strange world, to be sure.


      I think you’d be surprised how quickly we could make these changes if we put our minds to it. My mom gave an awesome example to me last night at dinner. She used to go tree planting out in the middle of the forest, and they would have a uni-sex type shower set up. The first few times they all showered as a group together it was uncomfortable, but the more they did it the less it bothered them and eventually it was the last thing on anyone’s mind. She said “it’s amazing, in a matter of days those feelings, perceptions and inhibitions of nudity went away entirely.” — sure that was small scale, but think it is a true testament to how un-natural our behavior currently is surrounding nudity.

      • Like you said, your mom’s experience was a small scale. Yes it worked, because most people are normal and do not associate nudity with sex. Unfortunately the leaders of our society bow down to the loudest screamers that nudity is evil, and dirty. That we do not want to expose our children to media portraying nudity. I remember soap commercials that showed bear breasts, and there was on issues with that what so ever. Same with printed ads showing the same. Completely non sexual. Why is that we have to battle nudity, calling it indecency? It’s not porn. I remember my first boudoir photo session I’ve done. Sexy lingerie etc. etc. yet there I was feeling nothing sexual about it. I did my first nude photo session recently, and same thing, nothing sexual about it. I would say the boudoir had more sex it in than the full nude one. All this was for the woman in front of the camera to feel awesome about her self, even though she wasn’t a supermodel from a magazine… but she was a supermodel in front of my camera. My wife and I try to teach our kids that nudity, and sexuality are two different things. No we don’t run around the house in the nude (I’m old fat and ugly), but I don’t have a problem where there are nude scenes in the movies.

  • Lakshani

    HI Tara..
    I truly appreciate the effort you take to change peoples mind with your imaginary and artistic talent.
    I read every word of yours here in blog and It’s true to the core how large percentage of people see the things in this world.
    I don’t understand the social concept they have built up for their cheap entertainment states to make themselves excused. It’s so sad to see how low the appreciation level of human., How unnatural their behavior not only towards nudity but for any living being ,animals , children etc ..
    I wish you all the best and support in anyway that I can for you pure intention and the innocent beauty . It’s a talent you are gifted with.
    Best of luck.

  • Hi Tara,
    I agree completely with you, even if I’m only seventeen, I’m sure that your work deserves more respect, not many people can have photos like your’s ,and your’s are amazing…
    By the way, even in my country (Mexico), man can be wearing only shorts or even underpants and it’s okay, but if the women try to use a short skirt or a croptop it’s not well seen..
    Another dissapointing fact is that people usually confuse erotism and nude art with porn, the first one is art, completely art and a natural expression of the body. People can’t deny that it is nature itself.. . And yes, it’s going to be difficult to change an entire world minds, but if we get together maybe we can change a few peoples mind, and those few people can change other ones…
    What I have learned in my society is if you want and like something, you’ll have to fight for it… Be sure that I will be supporting you..

  • Stefanie Glasgow

    Completely agree. Great blog post.

  • Fb friend

    Jesus you are so hot naked
    I would hit it over and over and over and again for good luck

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