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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

There is one mystery that continues to evade scientists of numerous disciplines like “archaeology, anthropology, and zoology, as well as the evolutionary, psychological, and sociological branches of biology”: “why, comparatively, man’s penis is so disproportionately large” [1,2]?

It is true that “virtually all human penises are big in comparison with those of the other 192 primate species. Flaccid, the penis of the gorilla and the orangutan, both with much bigger bodies, is virtually invisible; erect, it reaches 1.5 inches or less; the chimpanzee, man’s closest relative (sharing 98 percent of his DNA) achieves an erection twice that of the other two apes but still only one-half the average human one” [2]. It seems obvious that this human superiority cannot be explained solely by the requirements of sexual reproduction, since “the male ape successfully propagates his kind with much less”. So another theory is put forward that “the human penis has also become an organ of display, like a peacock’s tail or a lion’s mane” [3].

Jared Diamond states in [3] that “the human penis is an organ of display … intended not for women but for fellow men” and the main role of this organ is to pose a threat or emphasize a status. But, I think, there is one problem with this explanation. Not only human males are generously endowed by the nature. “Human females are unique in their breasts, which are considerably larger than those of apes even before the first pregnancy” [3]. The simple rough charts below demonstrate that men and women show the same tendency in exceeding their ape counterparts.

Image: The length of the erect men’s penis and size of the women's breasts in comparison with primates, respectively

Image: The length of the erect men’s penis and size of the women’s breasts in comparison with great apes, respectively

The real explanation must be applicable to both genders. It is highly unlikely that women’s breasts are organs of display for “fellow women”. It is probable that men’s and women’s organs are indeed intended to be displayed, that is why, their sizes are so noticeable. Also it is notable that here we are dealing with primary and secondary sex characteristic, which allow to distinguish with certainty one gender from another. So, in my opinion, the display in both cases is addressed to both genders and it has some social function. There might be definite scientific grounds for nudist practices not to cover the body with clothes from time to time, since man and woman have evolved to be nude and not afraid to show it.

References
1. Thomas Hickman, God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis, Soft Skull Press, Berkeley, 2013.
2. Thomas Hickman, Slate: Average penis size
3. Jared Diamond, The rise and fall of the third chimpanzee, Vintage, London, 2002.

I’ve found this short true story in Jet, in the magazine’s issue for the year 1966 (page 29). Here it is.

Naked Excuse. In Miami Beach, Fla., after a 22-year-old woman arrested for driving in the nude explained that she was on her way home from a swimming party and wanted to dry off in the night air and that nudity is beauty, like in statues, Judge Eugene Weiss cited her the indecent exposure statute and fined her $25.”

Nudity is beauty. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

1960s - Mk1 Lotus Elite with model. Bob Challman Nude Woman promo by bickars | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

1960s - Mk1 Lotus Elite with model. Bob Challman Nude Woman promo by bickars | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

The image is, of course, unrelated to the story directly. It is available under a Creative Commons license.

Source: Jet, Sep 1, 1966

Today I’m posting links to the photos taken by Austrian photographer Alfred Georg Weissenegger. These images may be seen in his gallery on deviantART. If I was going to write something profound here, that could be: Art needs no comment.

lonely girl by alfred-georg on deviantART

lonely girl by alfred-georg on deviantART

ot47 by alfred-georg on deviantART

ot47 by alfred-georg on deviantART

Links
1. alfred-georg on deviantART
2. Alfred Weissenegger photo portofolio
3. ModelMayhem.com – alfred-georg – Photographer – Amstetten, Niederösterreich, Austria

A few months ago, I’ve posted links to the gallery of Funstyle Chu from Taipei, Taiwan. Today I’d like to mention another superb Chinese photographer, 许 哲桢 (Xu Zhen Zhe, 普渡众神 花 on Flickr) from Shanghai. His female portraits have especially a peculiar charm.

消逝的時光 by 普渡众神 花 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

消逝的時光 by 普渡众神 花 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

lalalalala la~la by 普渡众神 花 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

lalalalala la~la by 普渡众神 花 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Link
Flickr: 普渡众神 花’s Photostream

Clothing alters the image and likeness of God possessed by people. At least Medieval friars were quite sure about that. Susan Haskins in Mary Magdalen: myth and metaphor (Riverhead Books, New York, 1993) mentions Augustine of Hippo, a Latin church father, who fought with vanity considered as one of the forms of the sin of pride. Women who donned their finery, and wore cosmetics were very unpopular in the Middle Ages, since expensive dresses and makeup were placed on the same footing as “idols and masks”.

It seems that Tertullian, an early Christian author, was the first to touch the subject. He opposed those who presumed to alter the work of the Creator – the body – with paints and the dyeing of hair were in fact criticising their Maker, and subverting Nature, which had been created by God, the “artificer of all things.”

That which He Himself has not produced is not pleasing to God, unless He was unable to order sheep to be born with purple and sky-blue fleeces! If He was able, then plainly He was unwilling: what God willed not, of course ought not to be fashioned. Those things, then, are not the best by nature which are not from God, the Author of nature. Thus they are understood to be from the devil, from the corrupter of nature… (On the Apparel of Women. Book I)

Of course, Tertullian didn’t stand for nudity, the state in which, according to the same logic, God ordered people to be born. He recommended the garb of penitence as a style of dress that should remind the Christian woman that the sin was introduced through her ancestress, Eve. Imagine what such a world would look like. Fortunately, we live in more tolerant times, don’t we?

Woman holding sign reading "?"

Woman holding sign reading "?" Washington, D.C., 1922

The photos for this week’s column are taken from Sailormary87‘s gallery on deviantART. Sailormary87 provides the following information about herself:

I’m Dorothy and I’m a student of Art at the University of Zielona Góra. I like Speed Metal and photo modeling.

These photos were taken with Konica Minolta Dynax 7D.

sailormary X by Sailormary87 on deviantART

sailormary X by Sailormary87 on deviantART

sailormary 6 by Sailormary87 on deviantART

sailormary 6 by Sailormary87 on deviantART

Link
Sailormary87 on deviantART