Nudity and Body Image Essay

Submitted By Supergirl3sd1
Words: 7841
Pages: 32

Social Perspectives on Nudism across Cultures
Sarah Day
Petra Cunningham-Smith

It’s a hot, summer day in Europe so everyone decides to spend the day at the beach. Just like Americans, Europeans enjoy swimming in the ocean. However, Europeans do not believe in the use of towels to dry off; especially when they brought a spare bathing suit to change into. Upon getting out of the water, it is natural for them to simply take off their wet clothes on the public beach to put on a dry bathing suit. In America, the display of nudity in public is seen as disrespectful and a criminal offense. Social attitudes towards nudism have changed dramatically from the 1800s to present day, yet have always varied across cultures due to the particular beliefs, values, politics and religious practices expressed within diverse groups. In my opinion, it seems as if one of society’s recent recurring themes is “natural,” referring to the use of less makeup, hair products, and diet pills, and focusing more on expressing the true image of an individual and embracing the person that they were born to be. Furthermore, what’s more “natural” than a nude figure? Individuals were born naked, so how can public display of one’s body be an immoral action? I believe that it is common for people to associate nudity and sexuality, when they should not be referred to as two interchangeable words.
“Prudes,” extreme social conservatives, believe that by promoting a sexually repressive society, fewer unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases will occur. It is evident however, that the case is the exact opposite. Countries in Western Europe that embrace topics despised by social conservatives despise such as nude or topless beaches, pro-gay legislation, comprehensive sex education, adult entertainment, and legal or decriminalized prostitution tend to have less sexual dysfunction than the United States (Howard 160). Compared with sexual attitudes of Western Europe and the United States, it is understood that there is a strong correlation between social conservatism and higher rates of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Advocates for Youth, one of the most sexual liberalist countries in the world, The Netherlands, was reported to have had a teen birth rate of 5.3 per 1,000 compared to 39.1 per 1,000 in the United States in 2009 (Sandfort 85). The Netherlands also reported an abortion rate of 8.8 per 1,000 in 2006 compared to 14.8 per 1,000 in the United States in 2007. In 2009, the United States had three times as many adults living with AIDS or HIV as the Netherlands. The list of sexual health problems in America goes on and spreads to other Western European countries, such as Switzerland, Spain, Germany, and France (Howard 160).
So, the question is, why do we avoid the topic of nudism in America? Shouldn’t we learn to be comfortable in our own bodies, despite what society provokes as the ‘ideal body image’? Nudism is not meant to only be appropriate for those who have “perfect” bodies and it should be encouraged. Nudity is not all about the appearance; presenting oneself in such a natural state has positive psychological effects on an individual. Naked people don’t worry about what others think of them, and will take chances for fun. Naked people aren’t necessarily better; they just approach life with a different mindset. I believe that our society would greatly benefit by simply asking ourselves the question- “Are you a naked person?”
Since the beginning of this nation, Christian ideals have encompassed our societal values and led to the conservative perspective upheld until the 1960s. While sex is still considered a taboo by some, and nudity is commonly associated with sexuality, our society tends to perceive a naked body as disrespectful, immoral, and unacceptable. Looking back to the 1800s, women were forced to cover