Added: Ector Verdin - Date: 16.10.2021 04:04 - Views: 42866 - Clicks: 722
Has anything changed in the decade since I wrote a book about nudity? What bigger issues does the seemingly frivolous topic of nudity point to today? There was a precise moment when I realised this. He offered me a tiny towel that only just covered the essentials. At the time, I saw nakedness as paradoxical — mundane yet controversial, simultaneously natural and unnatural. For there is a fundamental ambiguity in the nature of human existence: humans are originally naked for however brief a moment!
Humans may be naturally naked, but we have used clothing to define our species, and to differentiate ourselves from each other. Nakedness is also conceptually interesting. Can a face be naked? An elbow? A finger? This, in their view, disqualified Aboriginal people from full humanness.
According to philosopher Mario Perniola , this duality — nakedness as a of sin and degradation versus nakedness as a of innocence, authenticity and truth — permeates the Western tradition. Many of the nudes in the Tate exhibition can be understood through one or other of these cultural frames. But lots of things — migration, globalisation, consumerism, sexual liberalisation, the internet, social media, changes in gender roles — have transformed Australian society over the last few decades.
All of them have had a substantial impact on individual and collective values and mores. So surely things are different now? Well, yes and no. Our relation with nudity in Australia today is more a story of the intensification of earlier struggles than one of stark change. The sheer quantity, ubiquity, durability and global reach of images means that perennial cultural trouble spots — the nakedness of indigenous people, women, children and teens, for example — are still sites of struggle.
In this supercharged media environment, divisions within and between communities are more visible and more actively called into play. And everyone — prime ministers, popes, performers and police — can be dragged into them without notice. The first site of intensified struggle in recent years concerns images of children. And was the production of such images an instance of exploitation — even criminal exploitation? Such questions, with their stark legal as well as psychological ramifications, were dangerous and complex.
Mainstream political discourse, into which this controversy was rapidly plunged, was not a vehicle for ambiguity. The potential for nudity to mean different things could not be acknowledged and complex questions Is nudity always or only sexual? At what age does one cease to be ?
The unstable, fraught and debated nature of the dividing line between childhood and adulthood continues to be pushed to the forefront of public conversation by another major change — the fact that almost everyone now has a camera attached to an international distribution network in their hand or pocket most of the time.
The legal and psychological ramifications of the by now common teenage practice of sexting, for example, understandably surface frequently in the media. Thankfully, a of scholars of media and gender, such as Kath Albury, Catharine Lumby, Alan McKee and Kate Crawford, have been working hard to try to undergird this public conversation — which matters so much to parents, educators and teens themselves — with some empirical understandings of what nakedness means to those who participate in these practices, and what some of its social consequences and ethical parameters are within teenage lives.
While the active negotiation of sexuality by young people points to new forms of sexual ethics and new experiences of gender, some elements of gendered experiences of nudity remain depressingly familiar. Recent events — such as the revelation in August this year that a network of teenage boys and young adults had posted more than images of Australian schoolgirls without their consent — point to a technological upscaling of age-old sexual and social dynamics.
This term alludes to the strange and potent blend of camaraderie and hierarchy that often characterises relations between men. The teenage trade in naked images of girls has as much to do with young men trying to prove themselves to each other as it does with the direct exploitation of women. It points to the ongoing role played by male-male relations in shaping female experiences.
Young women are increasingly taking control of and pleasure in their own sexualised images, but the social and psychological consequences of the circulation of such images remain strongly gendered. The reach and potential durability of such images is unprecedented. Sex might be more liberated, but nakedness is not yet democratic. And nor is being covered up a guarantee that one will be looked kindly upon.
A woman in nearby Cannes was also fined for wearing too much clothing on the beach. These incidents occurred almost 70 years to the day after the first bikini — a French invention of — scandalised the world. In the words of one recent commentator:. The different social and cultural rules governing male and female nudity, and the unequal social punishments attached to violating those rules, continue.
Breastfeeding in public continues to attract opprobrium from some quarters, irrespective of whether a breast might be visibly exposed. Simply the idea of the breast — coupled, I suspect, with a newly intensifying disgust at such embodied and fluid intimacy — can be all it takes. The picture becomes even more complicated when encounters with nakedness have cross-cultural dimensions. In March this year, indigenous blogger Celeste Liddle shared an image on her public Facebook of a group of Aboriginal women performing traditional dance at a protest against the Northern Territory intervention.
Were the images of bare-breasted women performing ceremony offensive? The law, with its reliance on like offence and affront, does not seem to have much scope to view nakedness more bountifully. Happily, some of the more joyful, frivolous or liberating meanings and experiences of public nudity persist, albeit in highly circumscribed and regulated ways.
The annual Sydney Skinny Ocean Swim or the occasional visit by photographer Spencer Tunick offer rare opportunities for joyful collective public nudity. I understand this, and respecting that is part of what it means to live in a modern nation in the 21st century. This article was first published on The Conversation. InReview is a ground-breaking publication providing local and professional coverage of the arts in South Australia. Your tax-deductible donation will go directly to support this independent, not-for-profit, arts journalism and critique.
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