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Nudity is the state of a human without the added layers of artifice called "clothes".

Nudity is politicized, generally by religious groups, into "that which is not controlled", "the sin-filled", and "profane". To show skin is to challenge society; to show total skin is to say rules and norms do not, or should not, apply.

As with most things that might imply sexuality, nudity or the showing of any skin has special applications to women, who still are, in Western society, controlled in terms of what they may and may not show at any given time.[note 1]

Arguments for anti-nude laws[edit]

Most arguments against legalizing nakedness come from the viewpoint of "Ew, I don't want to see naked people in public" (unless they're hot women) and that going in public places without clothing is immoral, sinful, obscene, and lewd. In the Abrahamic religions, this stems from the story of Adam and Eve, who were naked in the Garden of Eden until they ate the fruit of knowledge and realized that they were, horror of horrors, in the buff. It's likely that this story, and its teachings about nudity, were made up after social norms settled on "clothed is better than naked."

Logical arguments for clothing, of course, include protection from inhospitable weather, and its potential harmful effects (e. g. hypothermia, sunburn, etc), the preservation of dignity (especially for men with normal-sized penises) and privacy, and general public hygiene (you don't want people leaving skidmarks on public seating, after all).[note 2] This utilitarian nature of clothing has since evolved into the arguments about "decency" that we know and love today.

In addition, people working in the textile industry will become jobless if clothing is abandoned. The textile and clothing industries form an important part of low-wage developing nations' economies. The indecent connotation of nudity is a conspiracy created by the textile industry in order to sell more clothes. However, this is a bit more post facto than the above and quite ridiculous as well.

Arguments against anti-nude laws[edit]

A nude protest in full swing. (NSFW)
What is it about volleyball?

Arguments against clothing come primarily from people who are associated with the naturist movement and various clothes-free organizations. Modern social nudism movements can trace their origin to Germany in the 1920s-1930s, where it emerged as a reaction to urbanization and rapid industrialization.[1][2] Most of these don't advocate complete abolition of clothing (first person to climb Everest[3] perform a spacewalk nude wins the prize!), but many will ascribe purported feel-good "benefits" to social nudity... such as "it's good for your health",[4] it's "in harmony with nature", it helps you "feel free", etc.[5]

All feel-good claims aside, nudist movements also argue that social nudism encourages body acceptance[6] (an argument actually backed by some evidence[7]). Furthermore, some will also argue that nudity eliminates the well-known[8] social stigmas, identities, paradigms, and sexualization associated with various forms of dress, creating a "more level playing field for human interactions".[9] Of course, this doesn't really address the currently-existing stigma against nudity.

Due to its norm-challenging shock value, public nudity has been used by various groups as a means to protest, such as the World Naked Bike Ride (environmentalism and body positivity) and FEMEN (feminism).

Arguments against clothing that's designed to look like nudity[edit]

Not only is it ridiculous, it's also a little really fucking creepy (NSFW, obviously).

Arguments for clothing that's designed to look like nudity[edit]

If designed well, clothing designed to look like nudity in a different way than the above example (due to a skintight fit, for example) is potentially safer (in environments where loose clothing can snag, for example), can be particularly advantageous in certain sports, and in other recreational applications can look somewhat attractive.

Nudity in religion[edit]

Adamites being rounded up.

"Naturism", also known as "nudism", is a political, social, and cultural movement advocating public and private social nudity, based on the loose concept of "returning to nature".

Despite the New Age-sounding reference to nature, naturism is not generally a religious expression, nor is it allied with any particular religion as much as it is a movement about political expression and freedom. And middle-aged people who really can't be bothered giving a shit any more about getting skin cancers in places no one should.

In the first few centuries of Christianity, there existed a group called the Adamites,Wikipedia who believed that going naked would return them to a pre-Fall state of innocence. They, and their occasional later copiers, were suppressed as heretics. David Berg's group, the Children of God, held similar views.

In the Digambara branch of Jainism, monks wear no clothes (as clothes are seen as a possession which can attach one to the material world). Digambara is often translated as "skyclad", a term used by Gerald Gardner to describe ritual nudity in Wicca, even if the association of nudity with witchcraft is a long oneWikipedia at least on visual arts, from where it migrated into various other versions of Neopaganism. Raëlians are also into (at least topless) nudity.

Nudity in art[edit]

"We’re not going to show the full statue of David to kindergartners. We’re not going to show him to second graders. Showing the entire statue of David is appropriate at some age. We’re going to figure out when that is... And you don’t have to show the whole statue! Maybe to kindergartners we only show the head. You can appreciate that. You can show the hands, the arms, the muscles, the beautiful work Michelangelo did in marble, without showing the whole thing"
—Tallahassee Classical School board chair Barney Bishop III, getting squeamish about classical sculpture[10]
Michelangelo's "David", proudly wearing no pants

The nudeWikipedia is an enduring tradition in Western art, particularly in ancient Greece, as well as holding a central position in the art of the Renaissance. This factoid has caused some notable conflict for fundamentalists, in particularly relating to an educational movement associated with them called "classical Christian educationWikipedia".

Roots of the movement can be found as far back as the 1980s, but in the 2020s, conservative Christian college Hillsdale CollegeWikipedia started promoting a national "classical charter" school network designed to turn the tide on what the college saw as "a hundred years of progressivism" in public education.[11][note 3] The movement, with a hint of cultural xenophobia, purportedly tries to emphasize "Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman roots", while also maintaining strong ties to right-wing Christian culture and politics[13][14] Subsequently, this charter movement was welcomed and endorsed by Republican politicians such as Ron DeSantis and Bill LeeWikipedia.[15].

"Judeo-Christian" / "Greco-Roman" art history, however, is full of paintings and statues with dangly bits and exposed bosoms, things which tend to conflict with the parts of American Christianity still attached to purity cultureWikipedia. All of this came to a head in March 2023 when a principal of one of these Hillsdale-affiliated schools, Tallahassee Classical School, was fired after complaints about a lesson in a sixth grade class that showed one of the masterpieces of Renaissance sculpture, Michelangelo's DavidWikipedia. Reportedly three parents objected to the work; one parent reportedly objected on the grounds that the iconic statue was "pornographic". This was enough to get the principal terminated.[16][note 4]

This is not the only reported incident where the nude in classical art gives fundies in schools the willies. Though the circumstances of exactly who modified the book are unclear, in 2019, a Reddit user shared a book about classical art purportedly found in the library of Pensacola Christian College where all the naughty bits (including the very slight cleavage of the classic Mona LisaWikipedia painting) was covered in black marker.[18] In Mormon Utah in December 2017, an art teacher was fired for sharing postcards containing classic artwork for a fifth and sixth grade art lesson about color theory, postcards which happened to contain some nudes.[19][20]

Facebook is also very well known for its "no nudity" policy inadvertently censoring many classic art nudes. Notably, headlines have been generated for Facebook censoring Gustave Courbet's L'Origine du mondeWikipedia;[21] a cubist painting by Pablo PicassoWikipedia called Femme à la Toilette;[22], a painting by Charles BlackmanWikipedia called Women Lovers,[23] and multiple paintings from Peter Paul RubensWikipedia.[24][25]

On the flip side, in February 2018, in the wake of the MeToo movementWikipedia, the Manchester Art GalleryWikipedia temporarily removed a painting of female nudes called Hylas and the NymphsWikipedia in order to "encourage debate" on how the female nude in art should be presented. In a blog post, the gallery complained that this painting and others in the surrounding gallery presented "the female body as either a ‘passive decorative form’ or a ‘femme fatale’", and wished to debate how classic art could "speak in more contemporary, relevant ways".[26] Rather than encouraging debate, the temporary painting removal (which was widely seen as censorship) mostly pissed everyone off.[27]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. For those who think this isn't an issue, look at how much commentary First Lady Obama created by wearing a (oh, dear God!) sleeveless frock to her husband's State of the Union address. Huffington Post
  2. Also, pockets tend to be quite useful for carrying small objects around.
  3. Given that Hillsdale college is staunchly opposed to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act ("nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs"), to the point where they refused to accept any federal aid in order to avoid following those pesky anti-discrimination regulations, you can infer what they meant by that.[12]
  4. The censorship of Michelangelo's David was an important plot point in a Simpsons episode in 1991 called Itchy & Scratchy & MargeWikipedia, further adding to the mythos that The Simpsons can predict the future.[17]


  1. "The Waxing and Waning of Nudism in America", The Star, November 17 2015
  2. "Turning to Nature in Germany: Hiking, Nudism, and Conservation, 1900-1940", John Alexander Williams, Stanford University Press, 2007
  3. "Strippers with altitude", The Guardian, 27 Sep 2007
  4. "Nudism is Health Care", AANR
  5. Deanza Springs Resort, "Getting Started with Nudism"
  6. Frequently Asked Questions About Nude Recreation, AANR
  7. "Naked and Unashamed: Investigations and Applications of the Effects of Naturist Activities on Body Image, Self-Esteem, and Life Satisfaction", Journal of Happiness Studies, March 2018 Volume 19, Issue 3
  8. "Fashion and Its Social Agendas: Class, Gender, and Identity in Clothing", Diana Crane, University of Chicago Press, 2000.
  9. "The Skinny on Nudism in the US", July 21, 2004]
  10. "An Interview With the School Board Chair Who Forced Out a Principal After Michelangelo’s David Was Shown in Class" by Dan Kois, Slate, 2023 March 23
  11. "How Hillsdale College-affiliated charter schools spread" by Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, 2022 July 30
  12. "The Hillsdale Solution for Harvard: Give up Federal Money and Run Admissions the Way You Want" by Mark J. Perry, AEIdeas, 2018 October 16
  13. "The Rise of the Bible-Teaching, Plato-Loving, Homeschool Elitists" by Louis Markos, Christianity Today, 2019 August 19
  14. "The Lesson in Republicans’ Alarming Embrace of “Classical Education" by Annie Abrams, Soapbox, 2022 March 30
  15. "Amid the Pandemic, a Classical Education Boom: What if the Next Big School Trend Is 2500 Years Old?" by Kevin Mahnken, The 74 Million, 2023 March 22
  16. "A Florida School Focused on Classical Western Civilization Fired a Principal Over a Lesson Showing Michelangelo’s ‘David’"
  17. "‘The Simpsons’ Once Again Predicts the Future as Florida Parents Protest “Pornographic” Michelangelo Statue" by Raven Brunner, Decider, 2023 March 23
  18. "Why Did Pensacola Christian College Censor These Works of Classical Art?" by Hemant Mehta, OnlySky, 2019 April 27
  19. "Utah art teacher fired over classical nude images wants an apology from school district" by Kelly Schmidt, Salt Lake Tribune, 2018 January 3
  20. "Utah Art Teacher Fired for Unintentionally Sharing Classical Nude Paintings Speaks Out" by Cathy Free, People, 2018 January 4
  21. "Facebook Finally Lands In French Court For Deleting Nude Courbet Painting" by Cecilia Rodriguez, Forbes, 2018 February 5
  22. "'It's ridiculous. It's Picasso': Facebook reviewing anti-nudity policy after blocking Montreal museum ad" by CBC News, 2018 August 2
  23. "Facebook's ban on Charles Blackman nude artwork attacked as 'living in the 1950s'" by Melissa Davey, Guardian, 2017 February 28
  24. "See the Flemish Tourism Board’s Hilarious Response to Facebook’s Relentless Censorship of Peter Paul Rubens" by Kate Brown, Artnet News, 2018 July 24
  25. "Facebook bans Flemish paintings because of nudity", BBC, 2018 July 23
  26. "Presenting the female body: Challenging a Victorian fantasy", Manchester Art Gallery blog post, archived on 2018 February 1
  27. "Victorian nymphs painting back on display after censorship row", BBC News, 2018 February 2