Remember when you were young and you and your friends ran to the library to look at the pictures in the National Geographic’s? The ones showing the African or South American or South Sea Island natives in the all together? I was reminded of this strangely enough by a radio news story about a German dude who was arrested for hiking in the Black Forest in the nude and was subsequently allowed to go to serve his sentence in the nude, ostensibly because he was a naturist. In remembering the N.G. pics, then as now what struck me most about them was not the naughty bits on display but the complete nonchalance and candidness of the pics. Those natives thought nothing about being in the buff, weren’t really displaying their naughty bits because no one in their society had spent 10000 or so years telling them they were naughty.
The incident in Germany, which reminded me of the N.G. pics also reminded me of a vacation I took a few years back to Panama and the nude beach I frequented there and further back in the stores of my memory a vacation I took with some friends in college to a naturist resort up near Ottawa. In both cases one shed their clothes at the entrance and thought nothing of it. At the beach were people of all sizes, shapes, colors, walks of life. Trouble was, we were all exceptionally equal there. We all had two arms, two legs, 10 fingers and toes and a few naughty bits (only considered naughty because we been told that for a few thousand years). Nobody walked up and down the beach in total arousal, ogling the opposite sex, passing any kind of judgment related to appearance. Everyone was there to enjoy the sunshine, lounge about, read a book, swim in the ocean (an incredibly exhilarating and natural feeling, swimming naked in the salt water of the ocean). It was the most natural thing in the world, put you in touch with the environment in a way that can never be matched when clothed and no we weren’t eaten alive by mosquitoes and black flies.
Recall the huge fuss and kerfluffal a few years back when a few women in Ontario chose to go topless in summer? There were court cases, media coverage and outrage on all fronts, it was going to be total anarchy they said. Why? Because it’s taboo for women to go topless that’s why. No one blinks an eye when a man (good looking and muscled or 450 pounds ugly as all get out) goes topless, funny that. Mostly it’s because we equate nudity with sexuality, believe that the moment someone get naked (or even partially so) we’re all going to lose control, get aroused and do the things that everyone knows should be private. Truth is that is not so however.
Remember that vacation at the naturist camp I mentioned? I was in my last year of college in those days, so I was young (compared to my age these days) but still old enough to see the truth before me. The resort we stayed at could have been mistaken for any posh resort or KOA campground you care to mention. There were people playing tennis, lounging by the pools, kids canoeing in the lake, playing Frisbee. There were two major differences however, first there were no clothes to be seen anywhere, second there was no way to tell (by looking at the people there) who had arrived in the Mercedes 450SEL and who had arrived in the Ford Maverick. Everyone at that resort was just that, themselves, equal and any shape, size, color you could imagine. Couldn’t tell how rich how poor, what religion, what preference they were. They were just people, no taboos, no naughty bits, no embarrassments, no judgments.
So why do we wear clothes? In the beginning way back when we were less civilized (some might argue that point what with modern wars, prejudice and inequalities) we wore clothes to keep us warm, keep the dudes in the next cave from bashing our heads in, to show off our hunting prowess and maybe attract the good looking girl on the other side of the cave. Funny how little things have changed over time? Modern clothes are the costume of society, the badge of office, the suit of armor for the business world. Kids can’t be cool if their shoes aren’t Nike, their jeans aren’t DKNY. You can’t be a professional if you’re dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. You can’t be better off than the Jones’s if you shop at Wal-Mart instead of Neiman-Marcus. Oh and don’t forget, you can’t display any of the naughty bits; we’ll all lose control of ourselves.