or, if God had intended us to walk around naked, we would have been born that way.
We all have it; we've all seen it. But -- at least in North America -- it's widely viewed as shameful and disgusting. Especially the (ahem) naughty bits, the Parts-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. Parents go out of their way to come up with "acceptable" words for the unmentionable parts. Pee-pee. Thing. Birdie. Down There. Even if they call the parts by their proper names, there's usually an aura of discomfort that pervades their discussion.
I learned the real names for the you-know-whats early. I was given a book called Where Did I Come From? which spelled them all out. I have never forgotten that "vagina rhymes with North Carolina". That little book spared my mom the first few episodes of The Talk.
But I couldn't help notice, even as a little kid, that the material laid out (so to speak) so matter-of-factly in the book was anything but matter-of-fact in real life. It seemed as if a penis, for example, could never actually be called a penis. On the one hand, there was a seemingly endless list of "low" words and clumsy Harlequinisms (how you women can read 'purple-helmeted warrior of love' without collapsing into gales of hysterical laughter is beyond me); on the other, you'd have people vaguely waving in the general direction of the penis and thunderously frowning. Don't think kids don't pick that up...they do.
I spent much of my life buried in books when I was younger. This has shaped my life in countless ways, from the obvious (hey, buddy, do I look like a rugged outdoorsy guy?) to the not-so, or maybe nutso (I have this idealism, a very firm Belief In The Way That Things Should Be, that doesn't jibe well with messy reality). Books have also heavily influenced my views on love and sex, starting with that Where Did I Come From? and working up through Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson, both authors strongly sex-positive (and well ahead of their time). There's something tremendously liberating in seeing one's own thoughts, especially those ideas may be controversial, laid bare in print.
George Carlin is another icon of mine. In a sane world, he'd have been canonized by now. Then again, a sane world never would have needed him so badly. His specialty was deep, thought-provoking statements beneath the caustic comedy. For example, his views on prostitution: "Selling's legal. Fucking's legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal? Why is it illegal to sell something it's perfectly legal to give away?"
I am not a practicing nudist, on account of entirely practical concerns. No pockets, for one. I live in an arctic tundra wasteland for half the year, for another. But I have no moralistic objection whatsoever to public nudity: it's just skin.
This, it turns out, is a very common attitude: just not here. In Germany there are numerous parks with 'Free Body Culture' areas, places in which you'll see businessmen and women eating lunch in the altogether. Any sexual activity is strictly illegal--if you want to see a society that tolerates public sex, you have to look to the so-called "primitive" tribes of Africa, Asia, and South America. But nudity in and of itself is no big deal, not only in Germany, but throughout much of Europe. Like most European norms, this one strikes me as eminently sensible. (See what I mean? Firm Belief In The Way That Things Should Be, which doesn't mesh well with the world as it actually is around me?
I live an hour's drive from one of the largest Gay Pride parades in the world. I haven't been able to go and show my support (yet)--but I've always wanted to, and have had to settle for watching it on TV. Strangely, you can't find coverage even on OUT TV, which bills itself as Canada's Premier GLBT Network, and news coverage is always heavily edited. Now, I gotta tell you, I'm not in any big hurry to sit in front of my television screen and gaze at hairy chests, let alone flaccid penises bobbing along. But the censorship strikes me as bizarre. Insane, even. We can't let little kids see breasts! Better not feed 'em, then, eh? Or...penises! Ha. Little boys figure out penises right early. They may not know their adult purpose, but they sure learn in a hurry how good they feel. I have it on good authority the same holds true for little girls and their clitorises.
You sick monster, sexualizing children!
Who, me? Not at all. Merely acknowledging reality, something which North American culture tends to have a problem doing. Kids are going to masturbate. Later, once grown, they're going to fool around with sex. The more you forbid it, the more likely they will. Humans are curious creatures, and if you put a brick wall in front of them, they're probably going to climb it, tunnel under it, or walk around it.
Religious, by which I mean Christian, types tend to protest most loudly about the 'degradation of morality' and 'gross public indecency'. Memo to these folks: we were all, according to your Holy Scripture, 'made in the image and likeness of God'. I don't know about you, but if I believed that, it'd make me fiercely proud of my body and perfectly okay with showing it off. But no, it's to be kept shielded from everybody, especially the little people that once came out of it. The logic, if there is any, escapes me entirely.
Aside: I've often wondered just how virulent the protests would be in the case of a hypothetical Straight Pride Parade. I'm not saying they wouldn't exist, but it often seems to me as if there's some hidden chapter in the Bible somewhere that states--entirely in red letters, and about six hundred different ways--that Homosexuality Is The Most Unforgivable And Heinous Sin Ever Hatched By The Devil In The Unsuspecting Minds Of Men. (Never women; lesbianism's beneath notice. Weird.) Of all the so-called sins going on in the world, the fixation on that one has always puzzled me.
Then there's the people who claim to have no problem with nudity, provided the naked person fits some preconceived notion of attractiveness. You've probably run across these people, the ones who went to the nude beach on a dare and came back sputtering and gagging at the fat women and wrinkly old men they found there.
This behaviour is inevitable in a culture as hypersexualized as ours is. It's also completely wrongheaded. It stems from the misguided belief that the body IS the person. We've almost completely lost touch with the ancient maxim that we are composed of body, mind, and soul (or spirit, if you like that word better). New Age belief holds not that the body is a container for the mind and soul, but rather that the spirit encompasses the body and the mind. I suspect science will some day prove this to be the case.
I've always believed this, and it's what allows me (usually) not to judge people on their appearances. I've always put more stock in someone's mind and spirit than in their body--which isn't to say I can't appreciate a beautiful body. But we're all going to be ugly--externally--someday. Some of us are internally ugly already. You can't tell who is and who isn't, though, by their skin.
People: love the skin you're in. Maybe you don't need to show it to the world...but there's nothing wrong with you if you do.