Thursday, 24 April 2014

On the theme.......

...of nipples, my post yesterday received a mixed reaction, which was what I expected. If I post something a wee bit controversial I count backwards until the private messages arrive and nothing did all day, and then I posted the above photo on FB. Before long "BING BONG" up came an acquaintance on Messenger warning me that I'd probably have the photo taken down, which actually didn't happen (so presumably she didn't report me) and she then expressed her disagreement with me. She hadn't read my blog and so my FB post seemed to come out of the blue.

So, I'm going to try to explain this a bit more.

I am not suggesting we aim for a society where we all walk around topless, not yet, anyway. There are far too many problems associated with that.

Most of all, there are deeply ingrained sensitivities, and it would take several generations to get over them.

The fact of the matter is, our "natural" modesty isn't. There's nothing natural about the urge to cover our bodies. It is a learned thing.

What's more, even if you have no religious beliefs, it comes from that. Centuries of religious teachings becoming civil laws and customs have affected the attitude of every generation, so that these days, because it is normal to see adults wearing clothes, by the time a child reaches about 5 years of age, he begins to be aware of his own body and voluntarily covers up the parts he's not used to seeing around him. This would not happen if adults were naked.

Then, depending on what else is taught, he grows up with ideas about how much clothing is the minimum required, and behaves accordingly. If, at an early age he keeps hearing how wrong it is to cover or show a given body part he will take that on board, it will become part of his own beliefs, and he will then expect others to agree with him. And on it goes down the generations.

A percentage of individuals (a minority) develop an awareness of just how this all works, and rebel against it, but most of them will still abide by it up to a point, simply to avoid problems. Others will develop body issues, or at the very least, a sense of shame or fear of being naked. None of this is natural. It is cultural, and culture is very weird indeed.

The problem is that of nakedness being associated with sex. Clearly it is possible to be naked, even around other people, without sex being involved, but it's not a common practice.

There is, therefore, tremendous pressure to cover up according to the local norm, but in some places in the world it is quite normal for women to go topless on the beach. If you visit these beaches, as I have, you soon discover the pressure to uncover. You feel very silly, very fast if you don't remove your top. Some women are so conflicted with this whole situation that they simply won't visit topless beaches, because they are torn between embarrassment at being uncovered and embarrassment of not conforming to this new "norm". It's all part of that urge we have to follow norms, unless of course we don't.

But as you cannot fail to miss, this only applies to women, because men can go topless without any of this concern. Somewhere along the way women's nipples, as I said yesterday, became associated with sex, and it all went sideways from there.

This led to the crazy situation where a woman feeding her baby has to cover up or else receive unwanted attention, rude comments, and possibly actual persecution. Women are starting to fight back.

Nevertheless, we still hear people saying that it is "disgusting" etc, and what's worse? It's often women saying it! These women have bought the whole idea that women's nipples must be hidden.

In fact women are OFTEN the worst critics of other women's choices with regard to clothing.

Yesterday I saw this on FB:

This is the latest attempt to convince women that our bodies are supposed to be covered up. It says "Modesty is Beautiful" but as always, there's no agreement as to what modesty is. Or indeed what its purpose is. It's probably a backlash against minimal clothing, and there will be all sorts of attempts to justify it, but none of them are valid, because there is no definite, logical, agreed upon, or obvious level of "modesty". It is a totally subjective concept.

What any of us are saying with regard to our own choices of clothing is "this is what I'm comfortable in". We will defend it, one way or another, and some of us will pretend that our choice is in some way sensible. We will try to justify it. We may even believe what we are saying. A little honesty here would go a long way, because the next step is to judge others who deviate from OUR levels of comfort.

Isn't that bizarre? But we all do it. I have done it many times. So have you. I have seen women in shorts so short that their pubic hair is showing, and I have thought "UGH!". I have, yep. I have even  recognized that as I did so, I was projecting my own standards onto somebody else, but still couldn't stop myself.

That is how powerful this stuff is. It's a type of brainwashing.

Does it really matter? It's not like western women are all suddenly going to choose to wear a chador. And frankly, in these northern climates there isn't much opportunity to run around naked. Most of us dress to a level that most of us find acceptable because it's comfortable. Comfort is a very good rule of thumb.

I just happen to think that if we are aware of how silly inconsistencies like the top photo are, if we recognize why these double standards exist, if we acknowledge that collectively, we have a body issue, maybe there will be a bit less "slut-shaming" going on, and we could concentrate on more important things.


  1. Nicely done. As a couple that has enjoyed social naturism, we are quite acquainted with the concepts of body consciousness and body acceptance, but even so, we are in a minority regarding that understanding. As you point out, there is so much "convention" that is both ridiculous and powerful. Alas, I have very little hope that society as a whole will come to any better understanding of the whole scenario. Yeah, it all drives me bonkers, too.

    1. People have very comfortable preconceived ideas. I can't really blame them for it. It's HARD to get over comfortable ideas. I just wish they'd admit it rather than place the blame elsewhere.

  2. Smile. I have the fondest memories of the casual nudity of the hippie days.

  3. So many of us are in discord (and maybe denial) in a lot of ways when it comes to body use and image. We want the best for our babies/children, yet turn to manufactured 'formula' instead of using what nature provides. On that same note, 'human nutrition' is another subject with taboos. If someone chooses to participate in an adult nursing relationship (outside of the bonds of marriage, of course), they are 'in it for the sex,' presumably, although wet-nursing was something that kept many women engaged in a societal role for many generations.

    Still another part of it is the 'why get the milk for free' concept, which also goes against the 'sensibilities' of all things capitalist. Another may be the number of women who discover their bodies cannot produce milk, and what that might mean for them--again, imposed 'standards' and expectations.

    The flip side may well be the abuse women might suffer in relation to both ends of the spectrum--because, let's face it, woman can, under certain circumstances, endure a variety of traumatic events. Actively disassociating and ignoring the issue seems to be 'the' acceptable way to handle it. [Talk to the hand; let's not go there.]

    Unless, of course, one is a dedicated theatrical artiste--then nudity (for stage and screen) is perfectly all right and encouraged for the 'reality of a role' to be on displayed and compensated. --Might that be a class issue, of who can 'pay for the privilege? ~ Blessings! :)

  4. That photo (the second one where hems are being measured) reminds me of my private high school days. I went to a religious school and hemlines had to reach the knee. Even then, I thought the whole thing was silly. Southern Cali is warm and calls for light clothing. I sincerely doubt the sight of my knees would incite lust.

    It is my belief that comfort should prevail when choosing what to wear. And if I ever double take on what I feel is inappropriate clothing, my reaction is generally mirth. Lots of things seem funny to me, though.