We have varying attitudes towards our own nudity and the nudity of others. Some people are relaxed about appearing less than fully clothed in front of others, while others are uncomfortable or inhibited in that regard. Much can depend upon upbringing; my children have grown up regularly seeing me naked or breastfeeding, I thought they were not body conscious but after seeing friends on a beach change into swimming costumes behind a towel held by Dad, they developed a sense of modesty and started doing the same. My four year old has no problems with his own nudity and thinks nothing of running around naked which is as it should be.
But it is worth asking, why does nudity upset some people so much? Why does it excite others? Why do some religions condemn nudity while others recommend it? Do naked protests achieve anything worthwhile? Until the mid-1970s for all Christian religions woman’s nudity was seen as sinful and debauched and even today some female followers of Islam wear full burquas. It is because nakedness is taboo that it has become a transgressive act and nudity can therefore be used as a protest. Animal -rights, groups, peace and anti-war movements, feminist causes (Femen being one of the most recent) have all used nudity in their campaigns and it has certainly achieved the goal of increased public awareness as heads are still turned by nudity, especially a pair of breasts on a billboard. Opponents of any public nudity claim that it is indecent especially when it can be viewed by children; while others argue that it is a legitimate form of expression covered by the right to free speech. Some nude activism is not to promote a particular cause, but rather to promote public nudity itself, or to change perceptions of the naked human body, or as an expression of a personal desire to be nude in public. Stephen Gough, The Naked Rambler is the most famous nude activist in the UK and has been arrested several times (and put in prison) in the course of his rambles.Streakers like to take off their clothes and run naked through a public place, often a sporting arena and often done for fun or a bet.
Attitudes to nudity in certain circles started changing with the publishing of some of the works of Sigmund Freud in which he wrote on the dangers of repression of sexuality. 1968 saw an even greater relaxing of attitudes; John Lennon and Yoko Ono released an LP called album ‘Unfinished Music No 1: Two Virgins.’ Controversially, The LP showed the pair nude on the front and the reverse had them naked from behind.Many record shops refused to stock it and where it was sold it was handed over in a brown paper bag. Theatre censorship was also abolished in 1968 and ‘Hair’ and ‘Oh Calcutta,’both considered very avant-garde at the time were played to wide audiences. Decades on though, the thrill of nudity is still present, the films The Full Monty and Calendar Girls I doubt would have received a fraction of the publicity generated had it not been for the famed nudity. As a birthday suit is the one costume we all own, we should be liberated, not repressed or embarrassed: as Kevin Bacon out it, “there’s something therapeutic about nudity … Take away the Gucci or Levis and we’re all the same.”