Thursday, March 6, 2008

Nudity is dirty in America

I recently read a “Dear Abby” column about nudity.

A woman had written a letter to “Abby” (advice columnist Abigail VanBuren) about how offensive her neighbor’s 16-year-old son was, walking around naked in his room. The woman, who could describe exactly what time of day the young man would appear in his kitchen every morning to eat breakfast (naked), complained that he was being rude and inconsiderate to his neighbors.

Abby advised the woman to put curtains on her window and call before dropping over for a visit.

A few weeks later, several responses were published from readers. Most said the woman was nosy and should keep her eyes to herself. One reader, however, pointed out the underlying problem:

“Americans tend to view nudity as an invitation to sex. It need not be.”

While nudity is considered natural on other continents, Americans see nakedness as something ugly, something to be ashamed of. It is associated with pornography, something young children need to be protected from. God forbid anyone under the age of 18 would ever see a naked breast of a woman on national television. God forbid a 9-year-old boy should see his parents naked. That just doesn’t happen here.

The whole society is affected by this. Boys grow up thinking there is something magic about naked bodies. They grow up worshiping porno magazines and adult movies. They also grow up thinking that any non-fictional woman who takes her clothes off is a slut.

Girls grow up thinking there is something wrong with their bodies. While some like to show off skin in tank tops and short skirts, they are constantly reminded by school administrators and strict public policies that bare skin is ugly, forbidden territory.

Combine that with the conservative laws that demand “abstinence only” classes as a substitute for education about sex (and god forbid they should talk about those gay people!), and you get a sex-crazy people with lots of guilt and no touch of reality in their system.

How did it get to this point? Why are Americans and Europeans so different?

Comments welcome.

1 comment:

Vickan said...

From Anne Sofie:

I might be wrong, but I think we have to go back to the Mayflower. The Puritans and members of other pietistic movements left Europe to be able to live according to their beliefs. Some of them met with setbacks, they were marginalised, but the a little less extreme ones were to be the ruling elite in their new country and thus set the moral standards.

Of course you can object that quite a few crooks crossed the pond as well, but they came for their personal luck, not to build Utopia.

Still religion and church is essential in many Americans’ lives. Much more so than in most European countries I think. The President of the United States – no matter who he is – takes every chance to involve God in his speeches. Which is quite odd, considering how many religions and beliefs are represented in the U.S.

In Europe religion is put in peoples’ private spheres. The run of society is based on politicial ideologies and empathy and ethics from a philsophical point of view. There is no other way to run for Parliament here. Not successfully.

/Anne Sofie