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On Nudity

(yes, „sex“, I know)


Life drawing Firenze, 2023

What is actually nudity? It feels like that so many people shy away from being, looking at, talking about, or even thinking about nudity. We have a problem. The most normal thing became shameful. But why is that? And is it good for something?


In the Western world, nudity is often mixed up and bound to sexuality. Which from my perspective steals very nice qualities of the nude body.






Different cultures have different traditions, rules, ideas, and beliefs. Depending on where we grew up and who we grew up with we have different ideas on nudity. 


  • A friend from the US - them being a nude model for my life drawing sessions - is still surprised (and excited) when everyone in a German sauna is nude. 

  • I remember being in a sauna in Australia (ok that is kind of 25 years ago, but still) I found fully clothed people sweating along with me. 

  • A friend from Britain - who also runs life drawing sessions for artists with nude models - says that it is normal for him to see the nude body of his partner only in sexual contexts. 

  • We have a lot of sexualized nudes in advertisements. I haven’t come across a body in an advertisement that should not be sexually appealing. Have you?


We put clothes on our bodies because our skin, our body is vulnerable. We need to protect it from the cold, the heat, and all kinds of surfaces and things which could scratch or harm it. 

So this is a good reason for clothes. And of course, there is no „naked is better than dressed“ or the other way around from my perspective. And yes, I am not blind to our sexualized society. And understand that one wants to protect oneself with clothes from stares, abuse, rape. And can we still work on normalizing the human body?


If fire can burn us should we forbid and shame it completely? Even in a safe oven? And what are the consequences and harms of this?


Being naked is mixed up with sexuality. Being naked is not being sexual. And I think this is the main topic, issue, problem that leads to this strong connection of the nude human body with shame (besides capitalism and the included idea of perfectionism) Can we untangle it?


Interesting fact: even though it still feels like our society thinks that women should cover up more than men (try to walk around without a shirt being in a female body) to not wake the rapist in the next person - it is more difficult to find a man as a nude life model. 


How did we end up there? Today we might even feel guilty looking at a nude body because for some reason it makes us feel like we are the predator. If we look at a nude person and we feel our life force energy / erotic or creative energy rising we seem to be guilty. But guilty of what? There is a difference between this (pleasurable) feeling and acting on it without consent. 


We learn that it is forbidden or shameful to feel arousal and we don’t want to see or feel the connected fear and shame in ourselves. Therefore we use projection (seeing in someone else something we want to avoid at all costs in ourselves and blaming them) to make this uncomfortable feeling of potential shame and our responsibility for our actions go away. Let’s say we see a nude person, we feel aroused and even before we allow ourselves to recognise this arousal and make a decision on how to act properly on it we jump to the idea that the nude person is bad. That they are provoking bad behavior and that they themselves are bad-mannered and evil. Clever. That makes life a lot easier. Unfortunately only for a short while. 


To break this unfortunate and unhealthy cycle of shame, guilt, and projection we need to allow ourselves to be ok with so-called negative feelings. Only what we recognise in ourselves we can question and change (if we want to). This takes courage. And we need to take over ownership and responsibility for our own feelings and actions.


I assume that patriarchy and capitalism have a role in that. (Prove me wrong. I would like that discussion :-)) More precisely: If people are „owned“ by other people in relationships, they should not have children with or even have or give pleasure to other people. In addition, people who are not in charge of fulfilling their own needs are a lot easier to manage / lead / reign / take advantage of. 


Restricting and shaming sexuality can be a good reason for being unreasonable in front of everything which reminds us of our painfully suppressed sexuality. To feel shame is natural. But WHAT we find shameful is made up. We can create shame around everything. Isn’t it time to build a more healthy understanding of nudity and sexuality?


Many of us are in an anxious state when it comes to the most natural state of all life. Being nude. A nude art model I interviewed once said: Being nude is the most natural thing. Your skin is your best-fitting garment. It is made for you. To wrap it in some sort of shame is just so sad.


Hope.


Things can change. These days a wrist or an ankle of a fair lady does not arouse most people in the Western world. So there is evidence that what we restrict more creates more interest. Wouldn’t it be nice that in a civilized society, people would be allowed to be their sexual selves and everyone would take responsibility for their feelings and actions? I truly believe that this would lead to a more peaceful world. 


I remember participating in a tantric workshop a few years back where I wanted to consciously realize when and with who I am ready to be naked with in a nonsexual setting. I did not want to join the „nude is better than dressed“ idea, just figure things out for myself. See whether I need to be or feel beautiful for being naked. I found out that clothes can be nice when it’s hot to suck up sweat. And that a naked bath is just beyond. My favorite experience though is still that I found myself flirting with a dressed human. Which would usually be a power imbalance. After 5 minutes of talking, I recognised myself being naked and them being dressed. And after a short thought of „is that appropriate?“ I could consciously trust the situation and see us as equals having a fun conversation. No predator on any side.


A question for you:


In the English language, there is a difference between being naked and being nude. From my understanding „nude“ sounds more sensual and „naked“ feels more vulnerable. What is the status of being without clothes called in your language and what does it make you feel?


Looking forward to your thoughts,

Siri

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