Nudity season

[Warning: this post may not be suitable for Americans.]

Spring has sprung here in Old Europe, and that means the naked people have come out to play. Old and young alike are sunbathing naked in the parks, enjoying a nice naked sauna, or looking forward to that first trip to the beach where the can have some naked fun in the surf and sand.

Nudity isn’t exactly everywhere (and before you start whipping off that bikini bottom, be advised that its appropriateness varies greatly by country and situation), but to American eyes it sometimes sure seems like it is. Even after all these years here I sometimes catch myself staring when an unexpected boob or penis jumps into my range of vision. It’s not my fault – growing up in the US my brain was conditioned to pay attention to such things, since they are extremely dangerous and might attack me at any moment.

No, you say, they’re not going to cause me harm? Well then why are Americans so very afraid of them? I offer you Exhibit A: Nipplegate, a scandal which seized the entire country back in 2004. During the Superbowl halftime show, Janet Jackson’s breast was momentarily exposed at the end of a performance (her nipple, however, was covered). Meanwhile, over here in countries where boobies grace the cover of the TV guide on a weekly basis, people were scratching their heads trying to figure out what all the fuss was about.

This event caused a huge public uproar in the US which led to firings, lawsuits, public apologies, and fines. This rabblerousing was justified by the fact that children had been watching, and breasts are very dangerous to the delicate sensibilities of American children. Now I’m no child psychologist, but what do you really think is going to do more psychological damage to little Johnny: seeing part of a breast for a fraction of a second, or hearing his hysterically angry mother yelling about how evil breasts are?

I’m not saying the Europeans have it exactly right when it comes to body acceptance and sexuality, but personally I prefer living in a society which doesn’t deem any parts of my anatomy to be inherently repulsive. Plus it’s much easier to put a bra on in a public locker room when you’re not trying to keep your bits covered up with a towel the whole time. Much easier.

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12 thoughts on “Nudity season

  1. It’s funny how perceptions of nudity (or any exposure of body parts for that matter) vary so much from culture to culture. I was a little shocked while visiting India last summer when my grandmother silently buttoned up my jean jacket before I went shopping; underneath, I had been wearing a tight-fitting but perfectly respectable v-neck top that I had worn to teach summer school only a week earlier.

  2. Do they have the AIDS awareness ads in Zürich, too, with the totally naked men on the bed? Granted no wee bits are showing, but I still find it a funny to see posters of naked men embracing out on the street with little kids just running by, barely giving it a glance. Maybe I spent too much time in the Midwest.

  3. I don’t get what’s so frightening about nudity, but I guess I’m not a typical American ;-)

    And I totally agree with you, freaking out about a nipple is much more harmful than seeing one.

    Speaking of different cultures reactions towards nudity, my Thai mom is a total prude who would not discuss sex in any way, shape, or form (my dad had to give me “the talk” and take me to my first Gyno appointment!), but she used to walk around butt-naked all the time while we were kids. Maybe that’s the difference…

  4. Berlinbound – I don’t do saunas, so I can’t really say with authority whether I have the same angst. But I can only imagine it would be somewhat more angst-inducing than, say, a locker room, given the close quarters.

    Christina – too funny! Your story goes to show that comfort with nudity and sexual openness do not necessarily go hand in hand…

  5. I’m still getting used to the nudity in ads here – you’d get some pretty racy ones in Montreal, where I came from, but nothing like what you get here. Favourite recent one – an art-photography black and white poster filling to the frames with a giant male butt, advertising an unguent for hemorrhoids.
    Don’t see much of the real thing away from the swimming holes though and even then the men tend to keep their bottoms covered.

  6. I have lived in Europe for the past 10 years and have worked in advertising. I do believe one’s body is beautiful in all shapes & sizes. I think how pics, shows & adverts are exposed is key…the context. We should also understand that different cultures have different views. But I don t believe that one should be ashamed. In Europe more women breast feed (I guess due to the decent maternity leave & healthy benefits to baby) so kids should not associate the breast as a shameful thing. What is disturbing is the rude sexual stuff children are exposed to. The body is a naturally beautiful object as many artists present & past have been inspired to paint, sculpt & photograph.

  7. I was in Munich as a Mormon misisonary for two years. You can’t imagine what torture it was to walk through the English Garden in summer. In fact, now that I’m no longer a Mormon… it’s still torture!
    Aloha, Eric

  8. Laughing my ass off at “since they are extremely dangerous and might attack me at any moment”!!! Phffrrrrttt!!!

  9. I walked through the English Garden when I was in Munich a few weeks ago… nothing compared to the beaches on the Ostsee! I don’t think the Westies can come close to the Ossies in full FKK appreciation!

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