Is It Rude To Be Nude?

Venus Anadyomene (Venus rising from the sea) from a Pompeian mural. Is this a rude painting?

Is it rude (behavior) to be nude?

Ok, so what is this post about? Why, in the world, would I want to write about nudity and rudeness? These are two good questions and I have only one answer – because I’m curious to know why we humans (especially me) react to nudity in the way I observe we do.

Covered in clay on a Spanish nude beach! Is this rude?

So, what is my observation regarding nudity? Generally, nudity in public is considered an inappropriate or rude expression/behavior. Overall, from my point of view, nudity is acceptable in private, but unacceptable in public. Of course, there are many diverse exceptions such as bath houses, art sculptures and paintings, medical examinations, very young children, and nude beaches. I realize, that some of you might disagree with some or all of my exceptions; let’s just agree to disagree! :-)

Before going any further with this discussion, let’s try to define what is meant to be nude or nudity. Nudity is the state of wearing no clothing according to Wikipedia. There are other uses of nude, for example, in law, nude implies, “without consideration or other legal essential: said esp. of contracts.”  For this post, I am going to use nude and nudity to mean being completely naked, uncovered and/or without clothing. Of course, we run into some rather interesting questions using the definition of nudity as the state of wearing no clothing. More about this later! :-)

Topless women in Portland, Maine. Is this rude?

A few years ago, a relative of mine mentioned that two children were running nude along the street and she thought that was rude. I asked, “How old are the children?” She said: “One was very small and maybe, because she was so young, that it was ok for her to run nude, but the other child was at least three years-old and that was just rude of the parents to allow such a thing!” Was it rudeness for the parents to allow a two year-old and three year-old to run nude along the street?

Last April (4/03/2010), approximately two dozen women marched through the streets of Portland, Maine without any clothing from the waist up. Were they nude? Well, sort of. In fact, according to Ty McDowell, the organizer of the group of women, they were challenging the double standard regarding male and female nudity. If a man and woman are without clothing from the waist up, he isn’t nude from the waist up, but she is. Is it rude for her to be nude (from the waist up)?

Badu falling to the ground naked amid sounds of a gunshot - near the area where John F Kennedy was shot in 1963. Is this rude?

Three weeks before the ladies in Maine removed their tops and marched through the streets or Portland, Erykah Badu received a fine for disorderly conduct during the filming of  a music video entitled, “Window Seat.” Ms. Badu, while filming the video, stripped naked and feigned being shot in the head near the park where John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The fine wasn’t for feigning being shot in the head, but for being naked in public. Was it rude for Erykah Badu to be nude in public?

Perhaps, we should consider what the word rude means before discussing this any further. There are many meanings of rude, but the ones I think are applicable to this discussion are: rude implies insulting, uncivil, vulgar and/or obscene behavior and/or action. So, considering the three previous examples, are any examples of being rude because of nudity? I think the last two examples were in the same category and perhaps, would be considered an act of rudeness. They both were promoting a sense of the female body as a subject, and therefore, we could consider their demonstrations as instructional. In other words, they both attempted to move away from using the female body as an object. But, the first example was about the nudity of little children in public. This, I think, is in a different category. From my point of view, the nudity of the little children was not about using them as an object or subject. They were simply running nude along the street and my relative saw them. Were they insulting, uncivil, vulgar or obscene? I don’t know!

Nude babies. Is this rude?

The rudeness about nudeness and how it applies to children is perplexing. If you “google” baby pictures, you will find an unbelievable number of nude babies. Is this an expression of rudeness? Of course, if you “google” nude women or nude men you will find an unbelievable number of nude pictures. I suppose “googling” nude women or men is not a fair assessment regarding the rudeness of nudity. On the other hand, if we consider how nudity is “allowed” in the general public, we do have a double standard between men and women. In order to not be nude, generally both men and women must have their genitalia covered, but women have an added condition of having to cover their breasts. This is the double standard that the women in Portland, Maine were marching against. Why do we have different standards for what constitutes nudity between men and women? Is this more rudeness in nudeness? :-)

John Ashcroft in front of one of the statues that was covered with the blue drapes. Is this a "rude nude?"

Back in 2002, the United States government installed two blue drapes at a cost of $8000, so two partially nude statues could be hidden in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice. ABC News reported that then Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered the statues covered because he didn’t like being photographed in front of them. Is it rudeness to have nude statues?

Arts students often report a new respect for nudity after taking an art class on nudity. From cave pictures to modern photography, nudity has been portrayed without shame. David a sculpture created by the Italian Renaissance artist, Michelangelo, is considered a masterpiece. But, the statue, created in the early 1500s, is of a completely nude human male. The original statue is now housed in Florence, Italy, at The Gallery of the Accademia di Belle Arti. Is it rude (insulting, uncivil, vulgar or obscene) to proudly display the nude “David?”

Michelangelo's David - Is this a rude presentation of a nude male?

One of the main purposes of my blog is, “writing for learning.” So, have I learned anything about rudeness and nudeness? Reflecting on what I have written, I think nudity is a lot more complex than I initially expected. What I mean by complex as related to nudity is that like art, it seems to be in the “eye of the beholder,” BUT nudity is also in the “eye of the present culture.” Whether nudity is an expression of art, gender, childhood, culture, beauty, life, … OR rudeness is in the “eye of complex society.” Ouch!

Is it rude (behavior) to be nude? I don’t know, but I do need to take a bath and that means I will have to be rude nude! :-)

What do you think?

4 Comments on “Is It Rude To Be Nude?”

  1. Interesting blog my friend. First let me get politics out of the way. Ashcroft is a prude who is rude enough to cover art that he surely detracts more from the art than it detracts from him. One wonders just when in human evolution clothing became a requirement when the original purpose was simply protective rather than correct. Another point, while I have no statistics, I bet there are fewer sex crimes in socities where nudity is the accepted norm, than in our enlightened socities where covering up is required. Also I find it interesting that it is ok to have a levelnof violence in movies where it is ok tocutboffa female breast with a chainsaw but not ok to show one.


  2. Rich, your points are good. I especially appreciate the last one.

    I really don’t understand why our society allows, tolerates and in many ways, encourages violence. Movies and/or shows that show very graphic violence will be rated suitable for children and yet, with no violence and some nudity, the rating will be restricted to adults.

    Now, I’m not promoting nudity, but I am promoting the idea that violence is more harmful than nudity. There is a serious imbalance, from my point of view!


  3. Hey, was this the work of a rogue spellchecker? Michelangelo’s David is indeed at the Accademia di belle arti, but it is in Florence, not in France…


  4. Nathan, thanks for pointing out my mistake. I have made the correction.

    It wasn’t a rogue spellchecker, but a rogue blogger. :-)


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