Encyclopedia > Nudity

  Article Content


Nudity is the state of wearing either no clothes at all, or significantly fewer clothes than expected by the conventions of a particular culture and situation, and in particular exposing the bare skin of intimate parts. The term topless is sometimes used to describe the lack of clothing covering the breasts.

Acceptance of nudity and required levels of clothing vary greatly with time and culture; it also depends on whether other people are present, and if so, who.

Some nudity is unavoidable when taking a bath or going to the toilet, but these can be done and are often done without any other people present.

Nudity in front of a sexual partner is widely accepted, but even here there may be restrictions, for example only at the time and place of sex, or with little light, or covered by a sheet or blanket.

Nudity in front of strangers of the same sex is often more accepted than in front of those of the opposite sex, for example in open showers, common changing rooms, etc. Urinals may have partitions between them to avoid partial nudity of men to be visible by other men. How common they are varies with the country.

On one extreme some people view nudity as sinful or otherwise wrong except in such unavoidable cases, while other people assert that nudity is the natural state that should ideally be always acceptable in public.

In some hunter-gatherer cultures in warm climates, near-complete nudity was (at least until the introduction of European culture[?]) standard practice for both men and women. However, this was not always the case. For example, native Americans were generally quite prim where nudity was concerned. A notable exception were the Chumash Indians of southern California who were nudists: men were usually naked, women were often topless.

At the most extreme end of the spectrum, one finds some strict interpretations of Islam that require women to cover their entire bodies, including the face (see burka), on threat of severe punishment.

In the West, standards of what constitutes indecent exposure vary widely. Into the 20th century, exposure of male nipples was considered indecent at some beaches. In general and across cultures, most restrictions are found for exposure of those parts of the human body that put in evidence sexual arousal or sexual dimorphism between male and female adults. Therefore, sex organs and women's breasts are often covered.

In the United States of America, exposure of female nipples is still not usually allowed in public; even public breastfeeding is sometimes considered problematic. However, courts in some North American jurisdictions - including Ontario and New York State - 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 woman to have no clothing above the waist; the term "topfree" rather than "topless" is used to avoid the sexual connotation of the latter.

In some Northern European countries (for instance Germany, Finland, and the Netherlands), saunas and Spa towns with mixed-sex nudity exist, while in other countries these places always strictly separate the sexes.

Since the mid-20th century designated topless, clothing-optional and strictly-nude beaches have come into vogue. Topless sunbathing is considered acceptable on the beaches of France, Spain and most of the rest of Europe (and even in many outdoor swimming pools); however, exposure of the genitals is restricted to nudist areas.

It is common in many cultures for children's nudity to not be seen as being particularly disturbing until they reach puberty, or more restrictively, until a younger age. Social sensibilities towards the nudity of children have become far more restrictive in many developed countries over the past two decades, while conversely the nudity of adults has become far more acceptable in many of the same places. Newfound social-awareness about paedophilia and child pornography has instilled in cultures concerns over dangers and negativity with child-nudity; the nude form of children has come to hold negative sexual-connotations, while previously prepubescents would often be viewed as being innately asexual. For example, in New Zealand in previous decades the appearance of naked photographs of minors in newspapers and magazines was socially acceptable, whereas the publication of the same depictions nowadays would almost invariably invoke horror and revulsion amongst the readership.

Nudity is closely associated with sexuality in most cultures where some level of body modesty is expected (in that, nudity is considered to be immodest). This is evidenced by the existence of striptease in these cultures. As an effect of Catholic cultural heritage, in Latin cultures the common sense 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.

According to the Book of Genesis of the Bible, the first two humans ever, Adam and Eve, were nude at first, but after a transgression against God's rules (the original sin), no longer felt comfortable like that and made aprons of fig leaves.

In the past, the Roman Catholic Church organized the so-called fig-leaf campaign to cover nudity in art, starting from the works of Renaissance artist Michelangelo (see Michelangelo Buonarroti for details). Islam prohibits any illustrations of human beings so the question does not arise there. (There have been exceptions to this rule in some Islamic societies, but apparently none involving nudity.)

Some people enjoy public nudity in a non-sexual context. This movement is known as nudism, or naturism, and often practiced in reserved places that used to be called nudist camps but are now properly referred to as nudist (or naturist) resorts, beaches or clubs.

Sometimes, in a public protest, protesters undress for additional attention. Slogans include "Disrobe for disarmament", "Nudes, not nukes!", "Naked For Peace", "Dare 2 Bare 4 Freedom + Peace" [1] (http://www.sfheart.com/naked_for_peace) and "I Got Rid Of My Bush! Read My Lips - No To War!"

Sometimes the phrase "extreme nudity" is used, implying that the absence of clothing is very special (either good or bad).


Images of partial and full nudity are used in advertising to draw additional attention. In the case of attractive models this attention is due to the visual pleasure the images provide, in other cases it is rather due to the relative rareness of the images. Nudity is carefully dosed to avoid that the advertising company is associated with being indecent or unrefined. Also there are limits on what advertising media such as magazines allow. (Similar tactics are often used to draw attention to visual media such as movies.) Thus giving light to the saying "sex sells."

For images of nudity (not necessarily pornography) the most "far-reaching" kind is "full-frontal" nude, referring to the fact that the front side of the crotch is exposed. Frequently images of nude people do not go that far and deliberately photos are composed, and films edited, such that in particular no genitalia are seen, as if the camera failed to see them by chance.

See also

Indecent exposure, Mooning, Naked News, Nude celebrities on the Internet, Original sin

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article

... Luo elder. The KPU was banned and its leader detained after political unrest related to Kenyatta's visit to Nyanza Province. No new opposition parties were formed after ...

This page was created in 28.8 ms