Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Brief History of Nudity

Ever since Adam and Eve discovered that there was more to life in the Garden of Eden than picking apples, the world has become obsessed with nudity.
It began with curiosity, segued to intense interest and then blossomed into lust, where it remained for a good many years, sweeping the world’s continents and finally ending up in America where it was forbidden.
Puritans believed that nudity equated with sex, which was also strictly forbidden outside of Christian marriage, although a few managed to work it in on the side.
We railed against what came to be called smut as it was celebrated in books, music, art, photographs, movies, neckties and stained glass windows. Most difficult to exclude was classic art, notably portrayals of naked women created during lapses in the world’s purity wars.
All was going very well for morality until the 1920s when a form of madness caused women to begin revealing more than was allowed, kicking and squirming to wild music in public places and drinking alcoholic beverages until their eyes went white.
Sanity was restored during the depression when we were too busy looking for work and praying for pork chops to be concerned with nudity. But then good times returned with World War II, restoring previous interests but without prurient content. It was, after all, the Eisenhower Era. There was laughter and sweetness in the air.
Who could have anticipated the 1960s?
They began when, for the first time in history, the sex microbe was isolated in a Berkeley laboratory to considerable fanfare, reviving interest in its potential when combined with nudity as a catalyst. The government immediately banned any use of an extract refined from the microbe, but it was too late.
Free love and free will were upon us.
During riots that accompanied sit-ins and protests on the U.C. campus, students broke into the endocrine lab, stole the sex formula and sold it to Timothy Leary. That was once more the end of a morality cycle in America.
Bras flew off, panties came down and bare nakedness in public soon became, for reasons obscured by the revolution itself, the new morality, created in the name of peace and freedom. Exactly why it was established as a logo for social change remains unclear, but it worked. The Vietnam War ended and we elected Nixon to lead us into the future.
But, alas, instead of once more retreating into a climate of purity, we continue to be obsessed with nudity, led by movies, the Internet and the hedonistic behavior of those such as Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and, to some extent, daddy’s little girl Miley Cyrus, the 15-year-old Hannah Montana of Disney fame.
Photographs by Annie Leibovitz in Vanity Fair show daddy’s little girl in various provocative poses but exposing only a little of her midriff and a corner of her “pea green bra” as one writer put it. She did not bare it all as first suggested but revealed just enough to continue piquing our curious obsession with nudity.
While teenaged girls flash considerably more than pea green bras on the bikini-rich beaches of Southern California, those girls aren’t being promoted as Disney’s shiny little virgin while Miley Cyrus is. She’s supposed to be Tinker Bell, not Lolita.
Because she is worth a lot of money to Disney, Cyrus will no doubt continue in her role as the unblemished little girl next door until the day that she really kicks off her clothes and declares herself grown up. Then she will show us every aspect of the body God gave her and we will look upon it until we are drained of our drool and then we’ll return to other more profitable indoor activities.
Perhaps it is my age or my familiarity with human anatomy, but I am growing weary of our obsession with the human body. However, I do understand that there are men who have never seen a real naked woman and women who have never seen a real naked man, leaving them to wonder if the pictures they study are real or altered. Curiosity alone can keep them awake at night.
I suggest that for their sake and as a possible way of turning the titillating nature of nudity into just another boring aspect of neighborhood life, we appear every Monday at exactly 7 p.m. after the cocktail hour, standing naked on the front porches of our homes facing the street. By that, you see, first-timers will have their curiosities satisfied and we will all be so damned tired of looking at naked bodies that our obsession will pass and we can move on to other interests.
Stripped of our outer personages, we will appear as human beings, differing in details but the same in basics, and no matter how many of us you look at, it will always be just that. Now scoot inside before you’re arrested. All of you.

21 comments:

Mark C. Ferelli said...

Sorry, Al. My body would not inspire the aesthetic in man, but derision or horror instead. Age and too many jelly donuts have taken their toll.

I'll stay on the inside looking out at 7...which is not the worst possible option.

Cheers.

Tommy Crosson said...

Well you've done it Al, the perfect solution to cease the constant chatter regarding nudity. The appearance at 7 PM (safter coctail hour) on our front porches in the nude is just PERFECT! I for one am looking forward to Monday evening.

The Raconteur said...

As a former resident of Elysium , I can concur with you.

THAT was the point that Ed was making.

jan said...

I'm with Mark. Can we just have a cheering section?
Poor girls. I'm starting to think it was easier being a young girl in the '50s.

Kanani said...

Ah. Well.
I guess I should start selling sunscreen, then.
Maybe sunscreen in colors that they can paint on as clothes.
Even provocative ones!

Billie said...

Another great column...what would we do without you. Please keep the blogs coming as once a week in the Times isn't enough. You have the best ideas!

Gary Eisenberg said...

Another insightful (inciteful?) superb piece of writing, Al. I was thinking, as I read this, about my visits to Munich, where there's this little stretch of park called the English Gardens. On a typical springtime day, probably not unlike a day like today, at around noon, one can find a smattering of nude sunbathers in the park, nursing a beer or maybe reading a book during their lunch break. No big deal. Can you imagine if a similar type of scene emerged at, say, Pershing Sqaure or MacArthur Park?

Keep up the fine work!


Gary Eisenberg

Mook0135 said...

Never understood what all the fuss is about! This is one thing we ALL have in common! Why make a big deal of one breast showing at half time, or indeed any time? Maybe if we all embraced the idea that the human body is simply natural, we could move on and forget all about twisted ways we have been forced to look at our bodies and indeed at sex. Too much exposure becomes a bore, so why not go for the 7 o'clock daily exposure? Hopefully, we will all tire of all that flesh in full view of the neighbors.Then, let's move on.....

Don Rogers said...

One of the advantages of being neck-ed is going through airport security quicker.

Looking at a naked body is less obsene than a ravaged land.

#1 fan in whittier said...

it`s all in the mind, you can make of it as you wish !

T. said...

I agree with you. I'm so sick of the constant chatter over who's naked. I also hate that young women feel obligated to get naked to advance their careers in Hollywood.

No one is requiring Harrison Ford peel it all off for his reprisal of Indiana Jones.

That isn't a request, just an observation.

Richrorex said...

I don't think there is a neighbor that I want to see naked. Really nice people, but I hope they keep their clothes on.

'Column One' in the Chicago Tribune of Los Angeles would be an appropriate spot for the musings of Mr. Martinez.

Here's to a better tomorrow. I still want all lawyers and probably all accountants taken HALFWAY to Hawaii. This would decimate the overload of politicians that are corrupting Washington and Sacramento.

Michele McGee-Yepiz said...

If the hypothesis holds true that exposure to an abundance of violence desensitizes compassion, then would the same be true of nudity?
Our culture appears too fixated on the impact of viewing the body in its natural state, when if it were customary, nakedness would be the norm, not titillating and illegal. And an improvement in our Puritan culture. That stated, I avoid, and suggest others, viewing my sagging elderly birthday suit.

Margie - Simi Valley, CA said...

Al, just picturing our family and our neighbors nude on our porches at 7:00 p.m. every Monday sent me into gales of laughter, and I am sure our neighbors would be laughing too.

Since "laughter is the best medicine," I think your idea goes far beyond its original intent and promotes good health and togetherness as well. A group of (clothed) people actually do get together in a San Francisco park every morning just to laugh. (I read about it in the Times!) Perhaps they should try it nude!

Thanks for the laugh, Al, and I will do this if all my neighbors will do it first!

Margie
Simi Valley

dr.john85 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel said...

I'm with Mark, except mine was due to bear claws. I'm reminded of my friend's story that when traveling with his 13 year old son in Scandinavia they encountered women sunbathing in a local park during lunch time. His 13 year old could not take his eyes off of them.

John said...

Elmer,
We have a standing spot at our local sushi restaurant, every Monday evening.
As much as I would love to join the 7pm movement, I would be quite apprehensive about trying it that close to the chefs, with those overly sharp knives.
I think I'll just stick with a pair of shorts in the front yard, the rest of the week.
My neighbors already judge the weather by the amount of clothing I wear. Anything more than shorts, it's cooling down. Pants and a shirt, it's cold. If the front door is closed, and I'm not outside, it's probably raining, and we are dry and warm with a nice bottle of wine to maintain that warmth.
We will toast you next Monday, at 7pm
Kampai, Salut, or Cheers, to you and Cineli.
John Wade, ORF

boychik said...

Now I see today the festering scandal over the inflatable dolls in the ChiSox locker room. The article went out of its way to point out that the dolls were *naked* as if an unclothed sex doll were somehow more scandalous or insulting than a suitably attired one. Attired for what? It's the locker room!!

Gerald Everett Jones
Author of "My Inflatable Friend"
boychiklit.com

Soul of Service said...

Nude Ain`t Rude or Crude
Now that I`m back here on the frigid tudra of New England, I look back on many sultry summer afternoons at Elysium w/greater fondness.

I`ve been painting & drawing the body for over 35 yrs and never tire of its beauty.

Keep scibblin Al

The Raconteur said...

Since I sleep nude, 7 AM would be the best time to see me.
As I progress through the day I add items of clothing , depending on how far I am going.

Carl said...

According to rumor, a charity event was held in Palm Springs last winter featuring several male celebrities dancing onstage in a chorus line. Two of the dancers were holding between them a tasteful life sized photograph of Al Martinez brushing his teeth au natural, which so excited the audience of matronly society women that they began calling for the entire chorus line to disrobe. To placate their lust, hundreds of smaller copies of the nude photo were given away.