Family Skinnydippers

205 Arguments in Support of Social Nudity
as presented by The Naturist Society

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 Nudity is often more comfortable and practical than clothing
 Naturism promotes mental health
 Some observations on the nature of modesty
 Naturism promotes sexual health
 Naturism promotes physical health
 Naturism is socially constructive
 Naturism is healthy for the family
 Naturism is especially consistent with feminism and the struggle for women's freedom
 Naturism is more natural than clothes-compulsiveness
 Accepted clothing requirements are arbitrary and inconsistent
 Naturism is growing in acceptance
 Constitutional support for Naturism
 Additional legal support for Naturism
 Historical support for Naturism
 Historical origins of the repression of nudity
 Christianity supports Naturism
 Personal experience supports Naturism

102-106. Accepted clothing requirements are arbitrary and inconsistent.

102. Clothing standards are inconsistent.

For instance, a bikini covering is accepted and even lauded on the beach, but is restricted elsewhere--in a department store, for example. Even on the beach, an expensive bikini is considered acceptable, whereas underwear--though it covers the same amount--is not.

103. Clothing requirements are arbitrarily and irrationally based on gender.131

Until the 1920s, for example, female ankles and shins were considered erotic in Western cultures, though men wore knickers. The Japanese considered the back of a woman's neck erotic, and contemporary Middle Eastern cultures hide the woman's face. During the 1991 Gulf War, female U.S. army personnel were forbidden from wearing t-shirts that bared their arms, since it would offend the Saudi Arabian allies. Women (but not men) were forced to wear full army dress in stifling heat.132

104. Today in America, women's breasts are seen as erotic and unexposable, even though they are anatomically identical to those of men except for lactation capacity, and no more or less a sexual organ.

Medical experts note that men's breasts have the same erotic capacities as women's.133 In addition, studies suggest that women are as sexually attracted by men's unclothed chests as men are by women's.134

105. The arbitrary nature of clothing requirements is reflected by different standards in different cultures.

For example, a review of 190 world societies in 1951 found that, contrary to the standards of our own culture, relatively few considered exposure of a women's breasts to be immodest.135 Julian Robinson observes, "few cultural groups agree as to which parts of our bodies should be covered and which parts should be openly displayed. . . . Indeed, many people find it difficult to comprehend the logic behind any other mode of clothing and adornment than what they are currently wearing, finding them all unnatural or even uncivilized. The thought of exposing or viewing those parts of the body which they generally keep covered so frightens or disgusts them that they call upon their lawmakers to protect them from such a possibility." 136

106. The arbitrary nature of clothing requirements is reflected by history. Even in the same culture, taboos about what parts of the body could or could not be revealed have changed radically over time.137

For example, until statutes were amended in the 1930s, men were arrested in the United States for swimming without a shirt.138 Many of the paintings and sculptures today considered "classic"--for example, Michelangelo's Last Judgment--were considered obscene in their day.139 The body taboo reached its height in mid 19th-century England and America, when it was considered improper to mention almost any detail of the human body in mixed company. Howard Warren writes: "A woman was allowed to have head and feet, but between the neck and ankles only the heart and stomach were permitted mention in polite society. To expose the ankle (even though properly stockinged) was considered immodest." 140 On the other hand, in the early part of the 19th century, women's clothing fashions in France were so scant that an entire costume, including shoes, may not have weighed more than eight ounces.141 Lois M. Gurel writes: "One must remember that clothing itself is neither moral nor immoral. It is the breaking of traditions which makes it so." 142

The degree to which women's breasts may be exposed has varied especially in Western cultures. At various times in history, women's necklines have plunged so deeply that the breasts have been more exposed than covered. Historian Aileen Ribeiro notes that in the early 15th century, "women's gowns became increasingly tight-fitted over the bust, some gowns with front openings even revealing the nipples." Breasts came back on display throughout the early 17th century, and again in the 18th century, especially in the Court of King Charles II of England. Ironically, in this latter period, a respectable woman would never be found in public with the point of her shoulders revealed.143

Continue to arguments 107-113


131. It is interesting to note that while R-rated movies are prohibited from showing full-frontal male nudity, full- frontal female nudity is perfectly acceptable--as long as there is no male in the frame with her.

132. Hoffman 35.

133. See Fahringer 144; Glazer 130.

134. Wildman et al. 485; Fahringer 144.

135. Ford and Beach 47.

136. Robinson, "Introduction" xiii.

137. For an excellent discussion of the changing views about nudity in fashion (and art) over the course of history, see Hollander. Laver (Modesty in Dress 38-39) presents an excellent, brief summary of the different concepts of modesty in fashion throughout history.

138. For details, see Agate 75, et al.

139. Allen 18-19. For a brief history of the censorship of nudity in art, see Noble.

140. Warren 163-64.

141. See Robinson, Body Packaging 65-67; Ribeiro 117; Shields 291; et al.

142. Gurel 4.

143. Ribeiro 52, 80-82; Laver, "What Will Fashion Uncover Next?" 160, and Modesty in Dress 9. For a brief history of the exposure and censure of breasts in fashion, see Ribeiro, and Shields 289-91.

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