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“In order to exploit the environment all organisms adapt their bodies to meet specialized environmental conditions,”

wrote Edward T. Hall [1], the anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher, in his book “The Silent Language” [2], in which he analyzed “the many ways in which people “talk” to one another without the use of words”. He gives a few examples of adaptations:

“the long neck of the giraffe (adapted to high foliage of trees), the teeth of the saber-toothed tiger, toes of the tree sloth, hoof of the horse, and man’s opposable thumb”.

The adaptation of the body is not the end of the story. The author continues:

“Occasionally organisms have developed specialized extensions of their bodies to take the place of what the body itself might do and thereby free the body for other things. Among these ingenious natural developments are the web of the spider, cocoons, nests of birds and fish.” [italics added]

Fieldfare by Andreas Trepte

The man “with his specialized body” is not an exception. (The passage below is cited by Marshall McLuhan in The Gutenberg Galaxy [3].)

“Today man has developed extensions for practically everything he used to do with his body. The evolution of weapons begins with the teeth and the fist and ends with the atom bomb. Clothes and houses are extensions of man’s biological temperature-control mechanisms. Furniture takes the place of squatting and sitting on the ground. Power tools, glasses, TV, telephones, and books which carry the voice across both time and space are examples of material extensions. Money is a way of extending and storing labor. Our transportation networks now do what we used to do with our feet and backs. In fact, all man-made material things can be treated as extensions of what man once did with his body or some specialized part of his body.”

Farmer in rocking-chair reading The Progressive Farmer. “Farmer reading his farm paper” By George W. Ackerman, Coryell County, Texas, September 1931

This can be summarized in the table:

Function Body Body Extensions
Weapons teeth, fist atom bomb
Temperature control biological mechanisms clothes, houses
Rest, recreation, relaxation squatting, sitting on the ground furniture
Communication voice TV, telephones, books
Transportation feet and backs transportation networks

What I learned from this list is that one specialized extension of the human body stands out against the other developments. It is neither shameful nor illegal to squat or sit on the ground, to carry something on your back or to use your voice without touching the phone. But it is extremely undesirable to control your body temperature without clothes on even at comfortable ambient temperatures. It seems ridiculous, especially when one takes into account that the purpose of developing specialized extensions of the body is to free the body.

According to Edward T. Hall, “culture controls behavior in deep and persisting ways, many of which are outside of awareness and therefore beyond conscious control of the individual”. The rich experience taught anthropologists one thing, namely that

“culture is more than mere custom that can be shed or changed like a suit of clothes.”

Posing in the Sun | Vadim aka t-maker | Flickr

References
[1] Edward T. Hall – Wikipedia
[2] Edward T. Hall. The Silent Language (Anchor Books, 1973)
[3] The Gutenberg Galaxy – Wikipedia

Animals don’t wear clothes. We learnt it from early childhood. At three years old, you could keep asking why your cat didn’t wear “some clothes” [1]. You could even get a scientific answer: “animals don’t wear clothes because, for the most part, they are still restricted to climates where they don’t need them” [2]. If you are a little older, you may begin to ask yourself whether taking off clothes brings a man or a woman closer to an animal or even “crosses border” between a human being and an animal.

Once Jacques Derrida [3], a French philosopher, found himself frontally naked “faced with cat’s eyes looking” at him “from head to toe” [4]. He started thinking about “the property unique to animals, what in the last instance distinguishes them from man, is their being naked without knowing it”. The philosopher continued, “naked without knowing it, animals would not be, in truth, naked. They wouldn’t be naked because they are naked. In principle, with the exception of man, no animal has ever thought to dress itself”. It appears that clothing “would be proper to man, one of the “properties” of man”. “There is no nudity “in nature”. Then new questions arose: “Before the cat that looks at me naked, would I be ashamed like an animal that no longer has the sense of nudity? Or on the contrary, like a man who retains the sense of his nudity?” [4]

Leaving all these childish and philosophical questions aside, we can specify what indeed “distinguishes humans from other animals” [5]. The answer lies in the sphere of mind and it is not restricted to awareness of nudity. According to modern scientific studies,”mounting evidence indicates that, in contrast to Darwin’s theory of a continuity of mind between humans and other species, a profound gap separates our intellect from the animal kind”.

Abraham Maslow [6], an American psychologist, introduced the notion of peak experience, “the most wonderful experience or experiences of your life; happiest moments, ecstatic moments, moments of rapture, perhaps from being in love, or from listening to music or suddenly “being hit” by a book or a painting, or from some great creative moment” [7]. Peak experiences can be described “as moments of maximum psychological functioning”, when a person “feels more intelligent, more perceptive, wittier, stronger, or more graceful than at other times” [7,8].

Maslow considered “the taboos on nudity to be entirely a matter of folkways and customs rather than a matter of ethical or moral principle in any cross-cultural sense” [9]. He “had an established but purely theoretical interest in whether nudity would make people in therapy “an awful lot freer, a lot more spontaneous, less guarded” [10].

In the late 1960s, basing, in part, on Maslow’s ideas about peak experiences, it was supposed that nudism can be “a viable path to personal growth, authenticity and transcendence”. The therapy called nude psychotherapy was developed. The naked body was considered “as a metaphor of the “psychological soul”. “Uninhibited exhibition of the nude body revealed that which was most fundamental, truthful, and real” [8,10-12]. “Although nude therapy has an indisputable tabloid character, it is also rooted in a long-standing academic search for authenticity and ultimate meaning through science” [11].

Despite the controversy concerning nude therapy, it gives an insight that nudity does not interfere, but rather helps to realize the human potential.

References
[1] Clare Painter, Learning Through Language in Early Childhood, A&C Black, 2005
[2] Question: why don’t other animals wear clothes?
[3] Jacques Derrida – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[4] Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, Fordham Univ Press, 2009, see also Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Winter, 2002), pp. 369-418
[5] What Distinguishes Humans from Other Animals?
[6] Abraham Maslow – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[7] Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being, Start Publishing, 2013
[8] Margarita Tartakovsky, The History of Nude Psychotherapy – World of Psychology
[9] Jessica Lynn Grogan, A Cultural History of the Humanistic Psychology Movement in America, ProQuest, 2008
[10] Nude psychotherapy and the quest for inner peace – Mind Hacks
[11] Ian Nicholson, Baring the soul: Paul Bindrim, Abraham Maslow and ‘Nude psychotherapy’, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Volume 43, Issue 4, pages 337–359, 2007
[12] Nude psychotherapy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Are nudity and shame inseparably linked?

Some scientists believe that “it is archetypal aspect of human nature to obscure the sex organs – called “shame-parts” in many languages”. According to the biologist J. Illies “if one were to put children by themselves on a solitary island in order to allow them to grow up according to the nature of their species, free from all repressive influences of society, they would reinvent the loincloth at the age of five” [1].

Another point of view is that “shame is not congenital, but the reason why people are ashamed does have a universal, biological background. At its base lies the genetically indiced man-female relationship”. There are “naked women in the Amazon region who feel ashamed when they don’t wear any bands around their arms or ankles. Shame emerges when there is a deviation from the clothing standard, which is applied differently in every culture” [2].

I was reading about the attitude towards nudity in two cultures separated in time and space, both of which are important parts of our humanistic traditions. Some details seemed to be interesting to me.

1. In ancient Greece, it was nudity which separated the Greeks from barbarians, “from whom they wished to be distinguished”. In ancient athletics, bodies were “fully on display” and the “athlete’s naked body communicated important information about their culture and identity”. The nakedness “gave physical proof of discipline, strength, and endurance” [3].

One reads in Plato’s Republic that for most “barbarians”, it was “disgraceful and ridiculous” for a man to be seen naked. “And when the practice of athletics began, first with the Cretans and then with the Lacedaemonians, it was open to the wits of that time to make fun of these practices… But when … experience showed that it is better to strip than to veil all things of this sort, then the laughter of the eyes faded away before that which reason revealed to be best…” [4].

Herodotus confirms that “among the Lydians and most of the foreign peoples it is felt as a great shame that even a man be seen naked” [5].

But it appears that feelings of shame were not alien even to naked Greek athletes. “It was highly improper to allow glans of the penis to be seen; it had to be kept covered by the foreskin at all times. Men doing athletic exercises drew the foreskin over the glans and tied it with a string. To the Greeks, a short foreskin was a clear sign of a dissipated sexual life. Thus when Jews began to appear in the exercises, their circumcized penises became a source of deep embarrassment” [1].

2. In some sense, the period of the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) may serve as an opposite pole to the era of naked sportsmen and sportwomen. Even in ancient Greece, the nudity of the Spartan girls, who wore short chitons which “did not cover their thighs and both of their breasts” during the exercises, was considered as scandalous [1]. During the Victorian Era, women “were urged to cover their entire bodies. Any skin showing was seen as a women exhibiting herself”. Women “were not to advertise their bodies” to men, since a woman’s body was considered as the “property of her husband” [6].

There is a widespread myth that, at the height of the Victorian Era, it was “common to cover all “legs”, even those of pianos and tables, in order to prevent sexual arousal” [6,7].

Victorian attitudes to the body have provided “fertile territory for myth-making” [8]. On her first encounter with the cast of Michelangelo’s David  presented by a Duke of Tuscany, “Queen Victoria was so shocked by his nudity that a firm suggestion was made that something should be done. Consequently, the correctly proportioned fig leaf was created and stored in readiness for any visit Queen Victoria might make to the museum, for which occasions it was hung on the figure from two strategically implanted hooks” [8].

References
[1] Shame and the Origins of Self-esteem: A Jungian Approach. Psychology Press, 1996.
[2] Projet Nudité (Project Nudity)
[3] Anathea E. Portier-Young. Apocalypse Against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2014.
[4] Plato, translated by Paul Shorey. Republic. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1969. Book 5, sections 452c-452e
[5] Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press, 1920. Book 1, chapter 10
[6] Denman Collins. Anomalistic History. Lulu.com, 2011.
[7] Myth #23: Prudish Victorians “dressed” their naked furniture legs with fabric.
[8] The naked truth about Victorians – Telegraph

It’s hard to write something new about selfies. Everyone knows that the word “selfie” was announced the word of the year for 2013 (by the Oxford Dictionaries). Wikipedia defines “selfie” as “a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone. Selfies are often shared on social networking services” [1].

The first photographic portrait ever taken is considered by many to be the first “selfie”. It was taken in 1839 by “an amateur chemist and photography enthusiast from Philadelphia named Robert Cornelius” [2]. Another point of view is that “people have taken self-portraits since the 1880s, when camera shutters with self-timers were first available. This increased in 1900 with the debut of the portable Kodak Brownie box” [3]. According to Oxford Dictionaries, the earliest usage of the term – “so far anyway” – was in September 13, 2002 in an ABC Online science forum posting [4,5].

People are taking selfies, trying to find self discovery and self-acceptance, due to boredom or simply for memories. “The abundance of selfies also quite simply allows us to see more images of a far wide range of people” [6].

If you are a nudist and you take a selfie, there’s a high probability that it would be a nude selfie. Many people are outraged by nudity for unknown reasons and, of course, those offended by the sight of naked man or woman cannot “just look away” [7]. There’s a dilemma. On the one hand, you don’t want to harm anybody’s feelings. On the other hand, it seems quite ridiculous to put on clothes just to take a selfie.

The wrong cultural understanding of nudity has a long history. More than 400 years ago, Michel de Montaigne opposed treatment of nudity as something taboo. In his Essays (Book III/Chapter V) he wrote about men’s “natural furniture”

… it were a chaster and more fruitful usage to let them [women] know the fact as it is betimes, than permit them to guess according to the liberty and heat of their own fancy; instead of the real parts they substitute, through hope and desire, others that are three times more extravagant …

and continued

what do we know but that Plato, after other well-instituted republics, ordered that the men and women, old and young, should expose themselves naked to the view of one another, in his gymnastic exercises, upon that very account … [8]

Montaigne argues that “the wearing of clothing for humans is only a custom” [9]. And there is nothing wrong in having different views on customs.

References
1. Selfie – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
2. Robert Cornelius’ Self-Portrait The First Ever “Selfie” (1839) | The Public Domain Review
3. Albert Costill, 13 Things You Should Know About the ‘Word of the Year’ – Selfie | Search Engine Journal
4. Australia stand up and take a ‘selfie’
5. This photo, posted on ABC Online, is the world’s first known ‘selfie’ – ABC News
6. Jill Walker Rettberg, Why people say they take selfies | jill/txt
7. Rosie Yates, Why are we so outraged by nudity? – Concrete
8. The Essays of Montaigne by Michel de Montaigne, translated by Charles Cotton
9. Stefanie Hollmichel, Montaigne the Nudist?

Self-portrait 04/01/13 by Vadim aka t-maker | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Nude Selfie. Self-portrait 04/01/13 by Vadim aka t-maker | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

P.S. This selfie is from the set uploaded to Flickr. The images were taken with iPhone using a Hipstamatic app for iOS.

Spring has come, time to do some cleaning. I personally feel great, when I have an opportunity to work in my birthday suit. I used to think that (almost) everything we do can be done in the nude. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to make a small investigation and discovered that:

  • “Many witches like to work in the nude, for the subtle energies of the body are more free without cloth to restrict them” [1].
  • “Apparently (and historically accurate), working nude in the day of Jesus was quite common. Men in the fields were known to work nude. Carpenters worked nude on hot days… to see a man or a gardener working in the garden without clothes was not uncommon or shocking” [2].
  • Ritual nudity has been explained with a variety of provenances, including Celtic practices, the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris, ancient Greek and Roman practices of working nude or in ‘loose flowing garments'” [3].
  • “The Bible records that Peter was working nude at fishing” [4].
  • “Working nude has some virtues. So much of our artificial social identity is bound up in our clothes, when we cast them off we become better able to perceive our essential being. Unfortunately, the drawbacks of working naked outweigh the advantages. Most people simply cannot disrobe and be at ease in the company of a group of others” [5].
  • “… as early as 1946, Adolph and Molnar (1946) reported that when working nude at 0°C [32°F], subjects became exhausted and confused within about 1 h even though they were exercising at a rate that they could easily sustain for 4 h in warmer conditions” [6].
  • Going to work in the nude is something most of us only experience in our nightmares. But for thousands of Australians who work from home, it’s a dream come true. Today, the advantages of working from home will be celebrated with Work In The Nude Day… Dozens of brave solo business people will bare all while going about their usual work day” [7].
  • “Author Cynthia Froggatt (2001) refers to the increased tendency for people to work from the privacy of their own homes as ‘working naked’, and points out its many advantages to both organizations and individuals, including enormous savings of time previously spent commuting from home to work, enormous savings of money previously used to rent and maintain workplaces, and increased flexibility, creativity and productivity” [8].

References
1. Teresa Moorey, First Steps in Witchcraft: Flash, Hachette UK, 2011
2. Hol = An opening + Ly = for the living
3. Joanne Pearson, A Popular Dictionary of Paganism, Routledge, 2013.
4. Dale E. Arskware, New Days of Glory, Dorrance Publishing, 2010.
5. Donald Tyson, Ritual Magic: What It Is and How to Do It, Llewellyn Publications, 1992.
6. Thomas Reilly, Advances in Sport, Leisure and Ergonomics, Routledge, 2003.
7. Celebrate Work in the Nude Day
8. Rodney H. Jones, Christoph A. Hafner, Understanding Digital Literacies: A Practical Introduction, Routledge, 2012.

Me sweeping the floor. The photos are partly inspired by the German edition of H&E naturist. All images can be found in my Flickr Photostream and deviantart gallery.

These photos were taken on March 4, 2011 using an Olympus E-30 (1-2) and Sony DSC-TX5 (3), presumably in Mexico.

Mexique 196 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Mexique 196 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Mexique 173 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Mexique 173 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

DSC00198 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

DSC00198 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Images: Mexique 196 | Flickr – Photo Sharing!
Mexique 173 | Flickr – Photo Sharing!
DSC00198 | Flickr – Photo Sharing! (under Creative Commons license)

Link:
Flickr: elienai

In 1925 a society called “Down with Shame” was organised and legally registered. The members of the society undertook not to wear any clothes, and by way of propaganda some of them were sent on tour. One of the groups was proceeding via Moscow, Kharkov, Rostov, Mineral Waters. I saw them with my own eyes, when they were in Rostov-on-Don. I was passing near the Pokrovsky Market at the corner of Friedrich Engels Street and Bogatianovsky Street when I saw a man and a woman absolutely naked standing near a stationary tram. Even the savages of the Polynesian Archipelago wear some kind of cache sex, but this couple only wore a kind of sash, and that across their shoulders! It was a red ribbon with the slogan: “Down with the bourgeois superstition – shame.” In justice to the woman I must add that she also carried a kind of handbag in her hand! While I was looking at them, overcome by astonishment, a crowd assembled, and also a few militiamen to protect the naked couple.The crowd, among which were many people from the market, market girls, etc., were pelting them with tomatoes, eggs, and stones. But when the tram got moving the naked couple triumphantly entered it. In a second the disgusted passengers began to pour out. Once more the tram got under way in a hail of apples, stones, eggs, and similar missiles, empty now except for the naked man and woman and the unfortunate victim of duty, the conductor. About an hour later, when passing the General Post Office, I saw a huge crowd demanding the extradition of the representatives of the “Down with Shame” society. It appears that, fleeing from the wrath of the crowd, they took refuge in the post office. The Communist “cell” of the post office gave them some clothes and let them out by a back door. Such was the effect they produced in the city of Rostov. They produced a much greater disturbance and scandal in other cities. The Soviet powers, seeing that this kind of propaganda was not only abortive but threatened the “people without shame” with lynching, quietly liquidated the society after about a month, and abandoned the attempt.

SourceMoscow unmasked: a record of nine years’ work and observation in soviet Russia by Joseph Douillet. Translated from the Russian by A. W. King. Published 1930 by The Pilot press in London.

Comment: Joseph Douillet (1878-1954) was a Belgian diplomat to the USSR known as the author of Moscou sans Voiles: Neuf ans de travail au pays des Soviets (Moscow Unmasked: A Record of Nine Years Work in Soviet Russia) published in 1928. He lived in Russia from 1891 to 1926. He served as the Belgian consul in Rostov-on-Don. It has been said that he “had spent so long in the country that he was almost more Russian than Belgian.” In 1925 he was arrested in the USSR and was imprisoned for nine months before being expelled from the country. (Joseph Douillet – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Joseph Douillet could hardly be suspected of any sympathy for communist Russia. I’ve heard from an eyewitness that the reaction of the public wasn’t so extreme. Town folks were rather surprised than angry, at least in Ukraine. What is without any doubt is that the normal development of naturist movement was voluntarily interrupted by the communist authorities.

Boris Kustodiev's painting "Bathing" (1921) - Wikimedia Commons

Boris Kustodiev's painting "Bathing" (1921) - Wikimedia Commons

Nowadays it begins to recover, even in Siberia.

Unofficial nude beach at the Novosibirsk Reservoir, near Akademgorodok by Obakeneko - Wikimedia Commons

Unofficial nude beach at the Novosibirsk Reservoir, near Akademgorodok by Obakeneko - Wikimedia Commons

ImagesBoris Kustodiev’s painting “Bathing” (1921) – Wikimedia Commons
Unofficial nude beach at the Novosibirsk Reservoir, near Akademgorodok by Obakeneko – Wikimedia Commons
(This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license)