Nudity or violence?
Which is worse?
What causes more harm in society, weapons or naked bodies, boxing matches or nude beaches, children being bullied in the playground or a young mother breastfeeding in public? What shocks people more if seen on TV, someone being beaten and shot, or someone walking into the room naked? Actually the matter has already been decided for you. If TV and movies are any guide, seeing naked bodies is what's most harmful to our psyche and wellbeing, hence their deliberate exclusion from our screens, while violence in all its many forms is highly entertaining and enriching.
So is it right that our screens are awash with disturbing scenes of graphic violence, acts that are illegal and actively shunned in real life, while the depiction of innocent nudity and loving sex, which is perfectly natural, normal, desirable and legal in real life, is ... censored? Are we becoming a society of violence-loving prudes?
When, and why, did society, at least NZ society, change from being relatively accepting of innocent nudity and abhorred by graphic violence, to adopting the completely opposite stance? Why have movies stopped showing us James Bond's female companion disrobing, and instead now show us scenes where she is being tortured and murdered? Why are movies replacing scenes of pleasure with scenes of pain and suffering? And why are moviegoers lining up to watch movies with bigger explosions and higher body counts and more sadistic villains, and sometimes even sadistic heroes? Why is no one complaining that the dead body count has ballooned, each one graphically and realistically portrayed, while the naked body count has reduced to near zero, that truly shocking and disturbing scenes are common place while pleasurable scenes are gone or hidden in the shadows?
Call us weird, call us sick, call us perverted, but we're not opposed to seeing naked bodies in movies, on TV, and yes, even in real life. But of late we've come to the realisation that, over the last couple of decades, nudity in movies and on TV has pretty much reduced to where it's almost non-existent. OK, there was never that much to begin with, but the little that was there has now pretty much gone. On TV we have warnings at the start of many programs that alert viewers to the violence, profanity, sexual themes, drug use etc that may feature, but seldom do they now warn us of nudity! Not because broadcasters think we've matured and no longer need childish warnings about nudity, but simply because there is none.
Alas, my hopes have been frustrated. I'm now good at identifying whether the semi-automatic pistol the hero is using is a Glock or a Beretta, I know that the katana was a favourite sword of Japanese samurai, I can disarm bombs (cut the red wire), I've learnt untold self-defence moves to use against vicious assailants, I could easily hack into my local bank or the CIA if I wanted to, and I can spot international villains from twenty paces. And profanity wise, my vocabulary is also coming along nicely. To quote Bruce Willis, one of my mentors, 'Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!' My weekly quota of movie and TV violence is readily achieved, to be honest I have too much to choose from, but I'm not seeing any naked bodies. Zilch, zero, nada ... sigh. What has the world come to when graphic violence is dished out at the push of a button for our nightly entertainment and yet naked bodies, everything from innocent nudity while dressing to pleasurable nudity during sex, have to be carefully deleted from those same programs? Why has violence become the hero and nudity has become, not the villain, but the embarrassing uncle that no one even talks about?
So in this article we'll look at why we think most people are fearful of nudity (both their own and seeing it in movies or real life) and why their reasoning is completely bogus. By showing that people that see nudity in their daily work suffer no harm, we'll challenge their silly belief that seeing a naked body is far more harmful than seeing Rambo mow down the enemy with a .50 calibre machine gun. We'll show that the belief that there is now more sex and nudity in movies than ever before is mistaken, that movies today actually contain less nudity than in the recent past. But even though movie nudity has decreased, the world is arguably a more dangerous place today than it was when there was more nudity in movies and public life, meaning a reduction in "harmful" nudity hasn't made the real world a safer place. And we'll explain why nudity has gradually been replaced with violence. We'll also show that nudity in the public sphere, not just in movies, has disappeared from areas it was once accepted as normal, again contrary to what many think, meaning that society as a whole is becoming more prudish, more fearful of nudity, and yet no safer. Returning if you will to a Victorian mind-set. We'll question whether it's preferable to flood our movies and TV shows with scenes of graphic violence while at the same time hiding scenes where nudity or sex would naturally be expected, with the clear implication being that violence, death and suffering is preferred over nudity, sex and pleasure, that violence entertains us while nudity only offends us. We'll question whether society might have got this backwards. We're not arguing that movie violence should go the way of movie nudity, hidden off-screen, we're arguing that nudity should not be something that offends us, and, being harmless and natural, should be portrayed as openly and realistically as any other scene in a movie.
Violence scores lead in movie, nudity fails to get even a minor role
These thoughts of nudity vs. violence started recently over a coffee when I had to listen to a male relative tell a group of us how repulsed he was on seeing a male cyclist walk into his local café in form-revealing lycra, arguing that like the policy at that Rangiora hotel, lycra shorts should be banned everywhere. His childish argument was that he didn't need to be reminded that other males had genitals. This led to another person telling an even more horrific story of when they once had to walk past a group sunbathing and swimming naked on a remote beach. Now some years later, the shock of that revealing incident still haunts them. Clearly the naked human body with its naughty bits is something most people wish to be shielded from, since the sight of it is apparently traumatic, except perhaps in the privacy of their bedroom and bathroom, although for some, maybe not even there. Did you know that some Catholics in the recent past, especially girls at Catholic boarding schools, were forced to bathe while wearing a chemise so as not to gaze on their own naked body? And I know married couples that even today are quite reluctant to be naked in front of each other. They get dressed out of sight of their partner, and the lights are definitely off if sex is on the menu. While you may think that such Victorian attitudes are rare these days, we would argue otherwise, that our society is in fact becoming more prudish, not less. That fact hit home for me yet again that night as I relaxed in front of TV with a movie called 'Unbreakable' (2000), starring Bruce Willis. It revealed how scared we are of nudity, by paradoxically not revealing any nudity at all in a scene that called for nudity, and at the same time it threw up an extreme and disturbing contrast, of just how enamoured we are with blood curdling violence. Judging by what we watch these days, apparently moviegoers just aren't comfortable seeing nudity, and yet, they're perfectly comfortable viewing graphic violence. Just what is going on here?
Near the end of the movie (and there's a couple of hours I'll never get back), a male intruder breaks into a family home, immediately killing the husband and then tying the wife and two teenage daughters to metal wall fixtures with wire, the wire cutting through their wrists and causing bloody, painful wounds. Their terrifying ordeal lasts for at least a day and night, maybe longer, and it's implied that the wife and maybe the daughters are raped over this period, or else why keep them alive when the husband was quickly killed in cold blood? The hero (Bruce Willis) eventually arrives and following a violent struggle strangles the murderer. The women's wrists are freed, but unfortunately it's too late for the wife, and she slumps to the floor dead. Viewers are forced to grapple with the suffering of the women, the terror of their situation, the murder of the husband, the violent struggle and slow strangling of the attacker, and finally the death, not the rescue, of the wife. As I said, it seems obvious that one or more of the women were sexually assaulted, but this was never shown, the women weren't even shown semi-clad or with ripped clothing. Why is it felt that we can see, indeed need to see, drawn out graphic violence, traumatic suffering and grim death, with the assumption that we won't be emotionally harmed in the slightest, and yet showing the rape, or even the wife naked after the rape, would have been too shocking? We couldn't find a screenshot from the movie, but a similar screenshot from a different movie should set the scene for you:
It's from 'The Girl Next Door' (2007), a sadistic horror movie based on true events, involving the abduction of a 16 year-old girl who was repeatedly tortured and raped, and finally murdered. But at least in the movie, by keeping her clothed, they were caring enough to protect her modesty while torturing and raping her. There's no happy ending, but based on all the cruelty and suffering, and the lack of graphic nudity and sex, it's truly a movie for the whole family. Pass the popcorn please. (I haven't seen the movie and have no wish to.)
After the 'Unbreakable' movie, thanks to some channel surfing I then caught a few minutes of a British TV show, a murder-mystery, set maybe in the 1930s. The lady of the house is found murdered in the drawing room, her clothes covered in so much blood you'd swear she'd been bathing in it. A trembling maid is sitting on the stairs, her hands also dripping blood. A white cat then walks all over the bloody corpse, with the police making no effort to stop it, and then plods across the carpet leaving a trail of bloody paw prints. Just prior to the murder, we're shown the lady of the house perving at a young man in her bath, and in a flashback we're shown the lady of the house in the bath, but with both her and the young man, all we are shown to suggest that they are naked is their naked shoulders rising from soapy bath water. Again, it's felt that the body of a clothed murdered woman covered in blood is something we absolutely need to see, and yet seeing the naked body of the same smiling, beautiful woman in the bath is something that must only be hinted at, lest it give us nightmares. Explain to us again why disturbing violence and bloody bodies (clothed of course) are preferable over joyful experiences and the natural beauty of the naked body?
Most movies and TV shows today only ever hint at nudity, a bare back or thigh, perhaps some underwear sliding to the bedroom floor and a blurry flash of flesh as they jump under the covers. These days they almost never show full-frontal nudity, and even when they appear to, it's often fake. Decades ago when Hollywood wanted to show full-frontal nudity, they simply filmed real naked people, but today they have the technology to fake it, using prosthetics, nude body stockings and computer-generated imagery (CGI ). This means they don't have to persuade an actor or actress to get naked for the part, or worry about the legal battles regarding nudity release forms, and they can make body parts look exactly the way they want them to look, regardless of what the actor playing the part looks like naked. For example, if you think you saw some female pubic hair, that's right, it was almost certainly fake (they're called merkins), with many actresses almost desperate to inform the media afterwards that it wasn't real, that moviegoers hadn't actually seen them naked. There are even cases when actresses were willing to go topless in a movie, but have insisted their nipples be replaced with fake CGI nipples. Seriously! Even when a real naked body is used, it's more often than not a body double, and not the actor playing the part. So if you think you've seen a famous actor completely naked in some recent movie, odds are you haven't, any more than you've seen actors being shot and stabbed. And if a naked shot is anything but fleeting and in a dim light, then the breasts and/or genitals are usually outrageously fake and shown for comic effect. Take for example this screenshot (right) of an Amazon warrior in the (pathetic) comedy movie, 'National Lampoon's Homo Erectus' (2007). Usually these sorts of scenes are designed to make the viewer laugh at the character's nakedness, or to make us feel the character's embarrassment and shame over being caught naked, say when a towel drops or a person accidentally walks in on someone dressing. Whether the sight is funny or embarrassing,we're taught that being caught naked will usually end in humiliating laughter or terrified screams, neither of which is pleasant. So double check that the door is locked, the curtains are drawn and if a towel is involved, it's securely tied.
And movies certainly don't show real sex, just as they never show the actors really getting tortured. And yet strangely, we are often shown a character's "fake" death in slow motion and in graphic detail with blood and guts spraying everywhere. And if we're lucky, we'll get to see the bloody body again as the police examine the crime scene, and then, if we're really lucky, again in the morgue, cut open on the autopsy table as a pathologist explains exactly why their gruesome wounds were fatal. If we're really, really lucky, we'll get to relive the murder several times over as the witness to the murder experiences numerous flashbacks. Somehow we're expected to view realistic torture and death over and over again in many movies (albeit faked), and take it in our stride, but if we were to see a naked body (real or faked) ... what? ... we'll all be traumatised for life? WTF?
As an example of this idiocy, there was some brief full-frontal female nudity in the first episode of the sci-fi TV show 'Stargate SG-1' (A favourite of mine). While they showed this on both U.S. and NZ TV on its original broadcast (1997), amazingly they have now edited this scene out on the DVDs available in the U.S. I read on the Internet the comments of one American father who wrote that he's glad they edited out those few seconds of female nudity (there is no other nudity in the entire ten seasons of the series), since he's been wanting to buy the series and watch it with his young son, but refused to do so while the nudity remained. You may not be familiar with 'Stargate SG-1', but there are more people shot, killed, stabbed, tortured and blown up in the series than in a dozen 'Rambo' movies.
Admittedly the scenes of people dying and being tortured are not as graphic or confronting as those in many movies today, or as seen in many modern TV crime shows, but people are still tortured, shot and killed, meaning there is still a lot of death and suffering that viewers have to come to terms with (if they can be bothered to think about it). This guy's comments show how warped some people's values are, that he has no problem with all the violence and death, or with his young son watching it, indeed he wants his young son to see it, but he was shocked and sickened by a few seconds of nudity in one episode, which wasn't in any way gratuitous. And it wasn't just this one American prude, it was the large number of complaints that apparently forced the distributors to delete the following scene before releasing the DVD to the American public.
This scene (above) showed evil aliens implanting a parasite into a struggling woman's neck (a woman they had forcibly kidnapped), and her screaming as it took over her mind. And it wasn't the forced possession or the screaming that upset U.S. viewers, since similar scenes played out numerous times throughout the series and no one complained, their only problem was that this time the human host was naked. These prudes had no problem with seeing innocent people being possessed by aliens, in some sense one could even say raped, or of being tortured and murdered, they were just so shocked that they had to look upon a naked body. A beautiful naked body. They didn't mind seeing what the aliens were doing to her, if only they had had the decency to let her keep her clothes on as they did it. So the take-home message from this is that murder, torture and rape are quite OK to watch in TV shows and movies, even for children, but we most definitely must never be shown any nudity, even in a non-sexual context. So, to sum up, violence: good, nudity: bad.
How could we have got it so wrong, so mixed up? Both nudity and sex are legal and perfectly natural, and something most people want to experience over and over in their lives, and yet nudity and sex, real nudity and sex, must never be shown, while murder and other violent acts, which are illegal and abhorrent, and something most people never want to experience in their lives — ever — are shown over and over again in extreme detail. In most crime TV shows entire episodes revolve around a violent death or crime of some sort, a crime that isn't left to our imagination as it used to be in the old Alfred Hitchcock movies, we get to view it in graphic and disturbing detail, thanks to the invention of CGI. We've questioned people over the years why they, and the censors, have no problem with movies that show untold people being raped and tortured and killed in all manner of grisly ways, and yet at the same time we must never see naked people having sex, or even naked people not having sex, just innocently strolling naked from the bedroom to the fridge. Think about it, don't you ever find it weird how strangely self-conscious people are in movies and TV shows these days? In bedroom scenes where the clear implication is that lovers have just had uninhibited sex, the woman always has the bed sheets pulled up to cover her chest, while the man can never quite manage to cover his. Hollywood even has a name for this careful positioning of the sheet, one that implies nudity but doesn't actually reveal it, it's a prop called 'the modesty bed sheet'.
Here's a quote from a famous film critic bemoaning this silly use of a sheet:
"Sexy women would 'happen' to be topless in the 1970s movies for no better reason than that everyone agreed, including themselves, that their breasts were a genuine pleasure to regard — the most beautiful naturally occurring shapes in nature, I believe. Now we see breasts only in serious films, for expressing reasons. There's been such a comeback for the strategically positioned bed sheet, you'd think we were back in the 1950s."And if they must get out of bed, they take one of the sheets with them, wrapping themselves up like a mummy so their lover won't see them naked. When of course they already have, usually in great detail. Some actresses apparently think that covering their breasts with a modesty sheet looks silly or is difficult to get right, so get around it by happily letting the sheet drop, but avoid shocking any viewers by keeping their top or bra on. Or stranger still, when they hop out of bed it's revealed that lovers that we assumed were naked under those sheets are actually still wearing underwear! What normal man or woman keeps their underwear on in bed when having sex, or immediately pulls underwear on after sex and before hopping out of bed? And yet in the movies, when the modesty sheet is dispensed with for some reason, men often hop out wearing underwear and women are found to be wearing a bra and panties. Are we seriously expected to believe that this is how decent men and women should dress in bed during and after sex? That even during sex, nudity isn't appropriate? Look at the title of this revealing article: 'Did Hollywood con us in to keeping our bras on during sex?'
Although, it's not as if actresses don't realise how silly it is and sometimes fight for realism. In the movie 'The Island' (2005), starring Scarlett Johansson, the director forced Johansson to keep her bra on in bed even though she wanted to be topless. She apparently 'argued' that, 'Women don't normally sleep in a bra. I can't wake up in this scene wearing a bra, it's ridiculous!'. Unfortunately, the director's desire that the movie not be rated R trumped realism, meaning Johansson kept her bra on. For some bizarre reason, even innocent nudity will see a movie getting a 'Restricted' rating whereas scenes of gratuitous violence and gore won't. However, in the action movie '2 Guns' (2013), actress Paula Patton does appear topless in a scene with Denzel Washington. Like Johansson, it was later revealed that, for the sake of realism, 'Paula chose to go topless in 2 Guns'. But unlike Johansson's director, this director agreed (and the movie got an R rating). Let me quote the relevant text:
'Paula ... plays Denzel's character's lover and admitted she hates it when people keep their underwear on for sex scenes as it's unrealistic. ... "I kept thinking about this scene, and thinking 'Gosh, these two have been lovers for a long time, they've just made love.' It seemed odd and unnatural for her to put a shirt on." ... "And one of my pet peeves is seeing people in bed with a bra on, I just don't understand it." ... "So I came to set and I said to Baltasar Kormakur [the director] and Denzel, 'I'm not going to be wearing a top. It doesn't seem natural.'Now it may seem that Paula agrees with us, that movies showing lovers wearing underwear in bed is utterly moronic and prudish. But only to a point it seems. Look at the following screenshot from that scene in the movie. Notice anything unexpected?
That's right, Paula is wearing panties. We don't see how Paula could honestly make her argument for losing her bra for the sake of realism, but then insisted on wearing panties. We're not saying that there had to be full-frontal nudity, but we all know that certain camera angles could have at least implied that she was completely naked, for the sake of the realism that she was arguing for. It's simply just as ridiculous for Paula to be wearing panties as a bra, probably more so. If she was truly sincere in her belief regarding movie sex scenes, she would have told the director she was going to be naked, not merely topless. You can't publicly express a pet peeve regarding the prudish depiction of lovers in movies, and then in a personal protest, be almost as prudish yourself.
Even when they're alone in the bedroom or bathroom they still carefully arrange the sheets or towel as if they suspect strangers are watching. This is ridiculous, what normal person in real life covers their body in front of a lover or at all when they're alone? Who, in the privacy of their bathroom, emerges from the shower with a towel already securely wrapped around their body? It's silly enough that Hollywood are adverse to showing naked bodies, but it's sillier still that they go to such childish lengths to hide them in plain sight. By unrealistically wrapping them in a sheet or towel they somehow think that they have shielded the viewer from seeing a naked body, and yet the scene deliberately tries to make it very clear that the person behind the sheet or towel is quite naked. The action purposely takes place in the bedroom or bathroom with a scantily clad person to generate the thought of possible nudity, and thus the viewer can't help but visualise that person naked.
It's like me saying that I'm going to name a certain animal and whatever you do, I don't want you to think about it or even form an image of it in your mind. Ready? Polar bear. You of course will now be thinking about polar bears. It's impossible not to, you can't help it. It's the same thing when a movie shows you a couple in bed after they've had sex, or someone in the shower, you can't help but visualise, even if it's only fleeting, what sex and bathing entails — naked bodies. Your mental images may not exactly match the real, hidden bodies of the actors, but there will still be naked bodies occupying your thoughts. So what has movie censorship actually achieved? By deliberately creating a scene where they've forced us to think of the allure of naked bodies, and maybe also sex, not only have they not prevented us from thinking about nudity, they've done just the opposite. While the movie up to that stage might have had me thinking about aliens attacking the Earth or some secret agent chasing a super villain bent on world domination, as soon as they introduce a bedroom or bathroom scene, I'm now thinking about naked bodies. My argument is that since they've deliberately forced my mind to conjure up images of naked bodies anyway, they might have well have shown me naked bodies for real. Both scenarios would have me visualising nudity in my mind, the only difference between the two is how accurately my fantasy bodies compare to the actors' real bodies, and if sex is involved, my imagination certainly goes into more detail than the movie does. So again, it's just stupid for prudes to say that they're going to censor nudity because they don't want viewers thinking about that sort of thing, when, like my mention of polar bears, they've made it so I can't think of anything else! Maybe I'm unusual, but show me a movie scene where the characters have arrived at a nude beach or are having sex, and even though all the nudity and sex is implied and not actually seen, I can't help but have thoughts of naked bodies or sex. If their goal is to keep 'impure' thoughts out of the minds of viewers, then they've failed miserably. If movies don't want me thinking about naked bodies, and instead want me thinking about how some mad scientist is going to cull half the Earth's population by genetically engineering an alien retrovirus which is then spread under the guise of polio eradication and funded by speculating on the futures market, especially Colombian coffee contracts, then don't have a sexy woman explain it to me while she's taking a shower.
Look at the following screenshot from the 2012 American crime comedy movie 'One for the Money', starring Katherine Heigl. An intruder breaks into her house while she's in the shower, and failing to find what he was looking for, confronts her and eventually leaves her handcuffed to the curtain rail. She then has to call a male friend to come rescue her, who isn't keen until she tells him she is naked. While the shower scene was funny, it's quite clear that it was only in the movie to titillate the viewer, to make us think about Katherine Heigl's naked body. Although again, it's a body where we don't actually see the naked bits.
Why do you always see these movie scenes of the heroine being attacked in the shower (making it one of the most dangerous places in the house), and always managing to hide her nakedness with a towel or shower curtain or a well-placed hand as they fight off the attacker, or die reaching for the towel instead of the gun. But we never see realistic scenes like the one below, where the naked heroine completely ignores her nudity and simply fights for her life, where her very survival is far more important than her modesty. Movies want a lot of action to happen in the shower or bedroom to make us think about nudity and sex, but then say they can't show that nudity because that would be ... umm ... rude? They'll happily provide the suggestive stimulation, but we have to flesh out the naked details.
So what are we being protected from exactly with all this silly censorship in movies, what is the perceived harm caused by viewing nudity? It seems that generally there are two reasons offered for why sighting nudity or sex outside your own bedroom could destroy decent society, and perhaps even help bring about the end of the world.
First, it's the belief of many in society that seeing nudity will somehow psychologically harm us and/or cause us to harm others. Apparently we'd harm others since it's believed that nudity creates dangerous lustful desires; intense, unrestrained, obsessive sexual cravings that we can't resist, and "naturally" we'd force others to help us fulfil those desires, and in doing so, harm them. Even if we could somehow resist harming others, our lustful desires will apparently still cause us to harm ourselves, because we'd go blind. Why? Because it's well known that lustful desires that are unsatisfied can lead to masturbation, and masturbation causes blindness. You can't argue with the facts. But people are usually very vague as to what support there is for the belief that nudity causes harm, and personally we think this speaks more about the person that's afraid of nudity than anything else, that they're fearful that they couldn't control themselves, that they are terribly weak-willed and need society to hide naked bodies lest they spy one and run amuck. In his book, 'Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues' (2015), Vincent Ruggiero writes that,
'In "A Return to Modesty", author Wendy Shalit ... argues that modesty in dress and behavior is a good quality that exists naturally in women and helps them avoid being victimized by men. In many cases, she maintains, it also motivates men to exercise sexual restraint and develop a more respectful attitude toward women. If Shalit is right, then the half-naked look affected by many young actresses and singers and imitated by their admirers is harming them (and perhaps the rest of us). Is Shalit right?'This is the sort of silly belief we're talking about, that the chance of real harm goes up as the naked flesh on display goes up. As a male, I have no problem being respectful towards women, even if they're in bikinis, in their underwear or completely naked. I find it insulting when some people argue that I'll turn into a rapist if a woman takes off her sweater, revealing a tank top and naked shoulders. But this is the belief that people like Shalit are pushing. And she's not spending much effort arguing that naked people should cover up, or that only nudity causes men to harm women, she seems to assume that society already has a lid on public nudity. She's talking about women who are already dressed, arguing that the clothing women are wearing now isn't covering enough, isn't modest enough. If just the half-naked look is what Shalit believes causes harm, nudity would no doubt bring about World War III.
But of course it's quite obvious that everyone sees naked bodies every day, if not their partners then at least their own, and it doesn't trigger them to attack others. Much of the nudity people see in real life is innocent nudity, in the gym or pool changing room for example, completely unrelated to sex, and even if sighting a naked body does occasionally generate thoughts of sex (and being human, it does), apart from a few deranged individuals, everyone else is perfectly able to control those thoughts and not act on them. Hollywood and society is convinced that we can view graphic murders in movies without becoming serial killers (even knowing that we all have a list of people we don't like), so why don't they think we can view nudity without becoming rapists? What is driving this censorship, is there actually any evidence that viewing nudity is detrimental to our well-being?
Perhaps we can get an insight into the effects exposure to nudity has on the mind and then our behaviour by examining groups in society that regularly encounter nudity. Five groups spring to mind: (1) beauty therapists that perform body hair removal, eg Brazilian waxing, (2) medical practitioners, (3) nudists, (4) the people that censor our movies and books, and (5) people who view pornography. It's not easy to ascertain if the people in these groups experience lustful desires when they encounter nudity, some likely do, and those that view pornography certainly will, but the important question is whether they act on those desires and harm others. (I think we can ignore the childish assertion that masturbation causes self-harm.) It should be immediately obvious that none of these groups feature in our crime statistics. Neither law enforcement nor society in general is even hinting that we need to keep a close eye on individuals from any of these groups because their much higher than normal exposure to nudity is a time bomb just waiting to go off. So let's dig a little deeper.
(1) Beauty therapists.
To the best of our knowledge, beauty therapists spending their days removing body hair are not reporting an unusual and unexplained increase in lustful desires and going on to sue the government for compensation because of all the genitals they've been exposed to, arguing that hairy vulvas and testicles have been found to be as dangerous as asbestos, and they should have been warned of the risk. And let's remember that body hair removal is an expensive, time-consuming, painful and utterly needless procedure, so if beauty therapists did find that exposure to nudity was harmful to their wellbeing, they could simply stop doing it and concentrate on facials and manicures instead. It does nothing but pander to their clients' puerile vanity and continue a money-making scam for the therapists, so society wouldn't suffer if they stopped, and we'd argue that it would actually benefit, with the time and money being spent on more worthwhile pursuits. But they're not stopping, in fact in the last couple of decades there has been an explosion in therapists offering body hair removal, meaning a huge increase in the number of therapists seeing complete strangers naked. And yet still no reports that the therapists are being affected in any way by all this up-close nudity, day in and day out.
(2) Medical practitioners.
As with beauty therapists, medical practitioners, especially gynecologists and cosmetic surgeons, but also GPs, nurses and technicians that perform mammograms etc., are often required to look at their patients naked, often in detail, sometimes touching is even required. But again, while medical practitioners often (and justifiably) complain about the long hours they work or about insufficient pay or unsafe working conditions, they never complain that they have to sometimes see naked people as part of their job. Whether they like, dislike or are ambivalent about this part of their job is unknown, but clearly they don't see it as harmful and worth complaining about. And as for public safety, just like the beauty therapists, medical practitioners are not exhibiting any sort of worrying behaviour that suggests that their exposure to nudity might be a threat.
This group, nudists, have a much longer and varied exposure to nudity, although not the hands-on contact that beauty therapists and gynecologists experience. For years and years, nudists often spend the entire day around naked people, while being naked themselves, viewing naked bodies of both sexes, young and old, big and small, beautiful and not-so-much, but again, there is not the slightest indication that wall-to-wall nudity does them, or the wider society, any harm whatsoever. In the book, '1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think' (2013), edited by philosopher Robert Arp, the entry on nudism notes that, 'Arguments over the pros and cons of public nudity abound, yet surprisingly very little evidence has been forthcoming to demonstrate that the practice has any negative effect on the moral fabric of society'. I would argue that you may even have some friends or colleagues that are nudists, but you don't know it, because nothing in their behaviour suggests in the slightest that they've been psychologically damaged. In fact, they would likely argue that they were more well-adjusted concerning the naked body than most non-nudists, since they don't scream like a little schoolgirl when they're changing in public and their towel slips off.
Now let's consider our group of censors, the group whose very existence implies that viewing nudity causes real harm that society must be protected from. One thing has always worried me about the people that act as movie (and book) censors, and I feel it discredits their entire reason for existing. Their claim is that certain material is so damaging that if the public were to view it, it would harm us and/or cause us to harm others. Watching just one movie scene with full-frontal nudity or of actors pretending to have sex would risk triggering something inside us all and see us turning into rapists, peeping toms, sex addicts, exhibitionists, pedophiles or chronic masturbators, and thus it must be deleted. But surely their silly belief is badly mistaken, since these censors aren't claiming to be superhuman or even specially trained. They're just ordinary people, they don't have some higher nudity threshold than you or me, and they don't have their memories of what they've watched wiped at the end of each day. And they aren't just watching one movie, they're watching hundreds, they're viewing this "damaging" material week in and week out for years. What makes the adults that are doing the censoring more capable than those they are doing the censoring for? If they're watching truly harmful material that needs censoring, why aren't they being harmed in the process of viewing it? Consider this analogy. To minimise the risk of harm, we limit how much ionising radiation certain people are exposed to, eg commercial pilots and X-ray technicians, but we don't put a limit on how much nudity and sex a censor can be exposed to before he or she becomes a risk to himself and society. Why not? Because as far as we're aware, there is no evidence that censors are harmed in the slightest by all the nudity and sex in the movies they watch. It apparently doesn't effect them in any lasting way, no more than the way a scary movie briefly affects me. They still function normally in society, they continue to relate lovingly to their families and friends, and they don't go on to rape, kill and pillage because of what they've viewed and then banned from the many movies that they've watched. How is this possible? Is the material they're banning harmful or not? Why do these arrogant bastards think they can handle seeing some actors naked and pretending to have sex, but believe that the rest of us would turn into rapists and porn addicts? If viewing nudity and sex, real or pretend, is damaging and harmful, then it must harm those censors that watch hours and hours of movie nudity and sex for a job, how can it not? And yet at the end of a long viewing session, censors assure us they're fine and can be trusted to go home to their kids. Perhaps they'll pick up a pizza on the way. So clearly bingeing out on nudity and sex in movies is as dangerous as watching paint dry, as harmful as watching a beautiful sunset. (And of course the same argument must apply to viewing graphic violence in movies, since the censors clearly don't turn into crazed killers and sadistic torturers due to the untold disturbing scenes they watch, scenes that they then censor so we can't be harmed by them. But why would we be harmed if they weren't? And since NZ's last Chief Censor, Bill Hastings, spent nearly 12 years watching sex, cruelty, horror and violence and is now a District Court Judge, obviously no one thinks he was psychologically harmed by what he watched, not just once or twice, but for nearly 12 years.)
So clearly viewing nudity and sex has no deleterious effect on censors, and looking at our final group — people who view pornography — further reinforces that view. Here we actually have the best evidence that viewing both nudity and sex is not at all harmful, because pornographic movies of real naked people having real sex in graphic detail are easily obtainable and have been watched by millions, to no ill effect. The above group of censors have even reviewed these movies and then released them for our pleasure, saying they are quite safe to view. This fact has been known for many decades, ever since pornography was made legal for adults to view, and was the main reason it was made legal. Even when it was illegal, those covertly viewing it weren't causing harm to anyone. All of us at 'Silly Beliefs'' have watched porn, and none of us have gone on to harm ourselves or others, and since we're also atheists, people that have a questionable grasp of morality according to religious mores, the fact that we can combine porn and atheism and still behave normally is surely good evidence that viewing explicit nudity and real sex isn't harmful. And with the Internet, you now don't even have to leave your lounge to see graphic sex scenes on your widescreen, high-definition TV, which seems quite laughable when you think that our government censors are doing their best to hide fleeting nudity and brief, shadowy, pretend sex from us in mainstream movies. If viewing extended scenes of full-frontal nudity and graphic, real sex was thought to be harmful, then pornography would be banned, but not only is it not, it's now more prolific and easily available than at any time in history. So to repeat, we know for a fact, from decades of data, and personal experience, that viewing the real thing in great detail doesn't do the slightest bit of harm to the typical viewer. And yet movie censors still spend their time, and our money, deleting innocent nudity and pretend sex from mainstream movies. Some might argue that there's a huge difference, in that unlike porn movies made solely for adult viewing, mainstream movies are censored to protect children from viewing nudity and/or sex. But without doubt the only mainstream movies that are being stripped of nudity and sex are movies made for adult audiences, not for children. No one even puts nudity and sex in kids' movies to begin with. Disney movies are not known for their sex scenes, and no one is at all concerned that Donald Duck always puts on a shirt but never any pants. Contrary to the fake image on the right that we saw on the Internet, Princess Anna doesn't emerge naked from the shower in the movie 'Frozen'. But while nudity is a no-no, violence and frightening behaviour is fine for kids to see, with the villain and his henchmen trying to murder both Princess Anna and Queen Elsa several times, and Queen Elsa's giant snowman trying to kill Princess Anna and Kristoff, after they were attacked by a pack of vicious wolves. The only reason no one was killed is that cartoon characters are hardier than real people. Look at Wile E. Coyote. Even for kids' movies the implicit message is the same, violence: good, nudity: bad.
Of course the prudes will argue that children, even if they're told not to, often want to watch movies made for adults, and it's near impossible to stop them, so we have a responsibility to make even adult-themed movies safe for children. Maybe, but the reality is that we don't make them "safe", we don't remove the most harmful and traumatic adult themes from movies, such as the numerous scenes of murder, rape, torture, cruelty, horror and violence, all the truly nasty stuff, and for children, the stuff that will likely be very frightening, upsetting and disturbing. Censors just remove the innocent nudity and pleasurable sex, the stuff normal adults really love and the very stuff young children generally don't care about. Young children don't see anything wrong with nudity, and have to be trained over the years to keep their bodies covered; parents and society must actively subvert their natural tendencies. Children must be taught to be ashamed of their bodies. Just last week a friend refused to let her 3-year-old granddaughter join her in the spa pool, solely because she hadn't brought her bathing suit. The young child said she could go 'rudey-nudey', but my friend wouldn't hear of it. The adult fear of nudity extends to passing that fear onto innocent young children with silly phrases such as 'rudey-nudey', that being nude means you're always being rude! Adults are the ones being childish when even a 3-year-old is viewed as offensive if naked. In his book 'A Brief History of Nakedness' (2010), Philip Carr-Gomm writes,
'In March 2009 the bbc Horizon documentary 'What's the Problem With Nudity?' explored why people tend to feel ashamed or embarrassed when they are naked ... The documentary ... invited eight volunteers to undergo a series of experiences in the nude in the presence of each other and a team of psychologists, which concluded that our inhibitions about being seen naked are the result of social conditioning, and that we are not born with a shame of nudity, but learn it.'And as for sex, prepubescent children generally have no interest in it, finding adult intimacy rather gross. When some young children do go looking for adult movies with nudity or sex scenes, it's only because they're curious as to what it is that adults are hiding from them, thinking that it must be good because adults clearly enjoy it and want to keep it all to themselves. If children grew up knowing what naked adults looked like, perhaps having seen their parents and older siblings strolling naked from the bathroom for example, or having seen innocent nudity in movies, then they wouldn't sneak around trying to view adult movies. For the same reason that children are curious about what's in those colourful boxes beneath the Xmas tree, they're curious what's beneath those clothes that adults continually wear. If adults scream and frantically cover their naked bodies with a sheet or towel when a child suddenly walks in, then of course the child will wonder what they're hiding. Adults by their obsessive, secretive behaviour force children to go looking for information on what naked bodies look like, because clearly their parents aren't going to provide it. As Susan Stanton writes in 'Being Naked: Attitudes Toward Nudity Through the Ages' (2001): ‘There is nothing mysterious about the human body. It is the human attitude toward the human body that is mysterious and bewildering'.
So, there you have it. Five groups in society that regularly encounter nudity, and none show any ill effect whatsoever. Nothing in their general behaviour at a dinner party or poetry reading would suggest that they've seen more nudity than you. Therefore, any argument that maintains that viewing public nudity might subconsciously push us into acting like unthinking and uncaring animals and cause us to satisfy our sexual desires by using and harming others is clearly bogus.
And while Christians generally agree with the above (bogus) argument that viewing nudity greatly increases the risk of us harming others, because we are flawed and sinful creatures, they also have an additional and quite weird belief as to why seeing nudity can harm us personally. (In addition to the masturbation one.) They argue that it doesn't matter if you don't act on your lustful desires, just having them is enough to cause a major problem. For example, you may have heard this quote from the Bible: 'But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart'. (Matthew 5:28) And, human nature being what it is, of course the sight of a sexy naked body might generate lustful thoughts, so it makes sense, if this bullshit were true that some vengeful god was going to torture us because of our thoughts, to hide naked bodies and remove all temptation. The only flaw with this argument, and it's major, is that fully clothed sexy bodies can also generate lustful thoughts. The fashion industry exists to create outfits that makes the body appear sexually attractive, from revealing dresses and skimpy bikinis to tailored three-piece suits. And since hiding clothed bodies is quite impractical, working to just hide the naked bodies is an utter waste of time. If just a single, unintended lustful thought is going to get us tortured for eternity, a thought that wasn't generated by seeing a naked body, then we're all destined for Hell. So let's get naked and enjoy life, since as they say, one might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. Thankfully, since God and Hell aren't real, we can quickly dismiss any and all religious arguments concerning nudity and sex. Keep this in mind as we discuss censorship reason number two.
The second reason people call for censorship is that in addition to causing dangerous lustful desires, desires that we apparently can't help but act on, many also believe the naked body and public nudity, ie. in movies, on the beach, in the sauna etc., is obscene, indecent and offensive because it violates their code of morality. Even if no one is actually harmed, just seeing a naked body is a sin, which according to my dictionary definition is, 'A transgression of a religious or moral law, a deliberate disobedience to the known will of God, and something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong'. Just as I would see it as obscene to watch someone being tortured, raped or murdered, this group also views nudity in the same way; as obscene. Even though torture, rape and murder clearly harms others, and nudity harms no one, supporters of this superstitious view can't see the difference. To them it's not about harmful actions or outcomes per se, it's merely that they follow a moral code that says nudity, in and of itself, is wrong. And in countries like NZ, this group is predominantly made up of Christians. Although worryingly, Muslims are gaining ground with a moral code that pushes an even more oppressive view of nudity.
And unfortunately it's not just a warped opinion that Christians keep to themselves, they take a hardline stance against public nudity and what they call "acts of public immorality". They see nudity as wrong because they view it as shameful behaviour, which my dictionary defines as behaviour that is disgraceful, that gives offense, that is indecent. But is it really these things in anything but their muddled minds that are deeply puritanical in matters of the flesh? As long as we're not harming others, why should we be bound by their primitive, irrational moral code? Is their moral code absolute, meaning it applies to everyone, whether it makes sense or not? And when various groups all push different moral codes, which, if any, are we bound to obey? Without exception, we've found that these groups are always religious in nature. Even if an individual insists that they're not religious, and doesn't refer to some holy book in their argument, further questioning on why they think nudity breaks some moral code always finds its way back to some primitive religious belief. Many are surprised that this is the case, usually saying that they believe it's immoral because their parents, not some god, told them it was. But when asked where their parents got this belief from, the answer is that it was likely from their grandparents and/or society, and back it goes, right back to some passage in some ancient holy book. Try as they might, people can never explain why nudity is wrong. All they can say is that on reflection they don't know, or that some god said it was, and therefore, for reasons unknown, it must be. But if you go down the religion path seeking answers for why nudity is wrong, the truly weird thing is that in Genesis, a foundation book that Jews, Christians and Muslims all take to be true, it clearly says that God created Adam and Eve naked and fully expected them to remain naked, and furthermore that their nudity caused no shame, to them or God.
But then there was an incident with a talking snake (it's a fairytale remember), and suddenly for some unexplained reason nudity, even between lovers, becomes something shameful and forbidden. And so now Judaism, Christianity and Islam all find the naked body shameful, with some groups in all three religions, not just Islam, going to ridiculous extremes. Hiding not just the breasts and genitals, but almost the entire body, with women paying the biggest cost for modesty. And while nudity is horribly offensive and immoral to these people, sex is even more so.
Early Church Fathers like Augustine connected the transmission of original sin with sexual intercourse, or more precisely, sexual pleasure. But even these idiots, or at least some of them, realised that someone had to have sex or else humans would quickly die out. Sex was seen as a necessary evil. So marriage was allowed, although not encouraged, since it was still better to live life as a virgin than worry about the human race. In fact the morons even calculated how much one would benefit on reaching heaven. Virgins would receive 100% heavenly reward, widows and widowers (because they had stopped having sex) would get 60%, and married people only 30%. So marriage and sex was begrudgingly permitted, but it was not under any circumstances to be enjoyed. Thomas Aquinas said that, 'Marriage is aimed at procreation, and therefore the man who loves his wife too passionately contravenes the good of marriage and can be labelled an adulterer'. Jerome stated that, 'The begetting of children is allowed in marriage, but the feelings of sensual pleasure such as those had in the embraces of a harlot are damnable in a wife'. The likes of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great considered sexual pleasure as, 'evil, a punishment, filthy, defiling, ugly, shameful, sick, a degradation of the mind, a humiliation of reason by the flesh, common, debasing, humiliating, shared with the beasts, brutal, corrupted, depraved, infected and infecting'. And even worse, these descriptions are also transferred to women since they are the filthy things that men are coerced into having sex with.
These poor deluded Christian fools can't separate nudity from sex. To them sex is obscene, and the only reason for a body to be naked is to have sex. To them, a naked body is of itself obscene because of what it signifies. A naked body seen in the shower or changing at the pool or relaxing in the sauna is obscene. Naked bodies seen skinny dipping are obscene because these ignorant prudes can picture nothing but the wild orgy that will, in their perverted minds, naturally follow. They fear nudity because they fear sex. But the reality is that sex is not obscene, indecent or offensive, it's beautiful and actually a lot of fun, and rather necessary in the big scheme of things, so even if nudity was solely connected to sex, it still wouldn't be obscene, indecent or offensive.
Of course it wasn't always that way, not if we look back before the deluded views of Jews, Christians and Muslims corrupted the world. In her book 'The Aphrodite of Knidos and Her Successors: A Historical Review of the Female Nude in Greek Art' (2007), Christine Mitchell Havelock 'suggests that the ancients did not share the modern sense of nakedness as humiliating, shameful, and a sign of vulnerability'. And as Georg Feuerstein wrote in 'Sacred Sexuality: The Erotic Spirit in the World's Great Religions' (2003),
'It should be noted here that, generally speaking, in pre-modern times nudity — the exposure of male and female organs — was not surrounded by the feelings of shyness and guilt that characterize much of our own era. Our paleolithic and neolithic ancestors had a far more down-to-earth attitude about nudity and sex than we do. Likewise, images of the genitals, however grossly exaggerated or distorted, were by no means deemed obscene. This explains why representations of the vulva and phallus can be found in countless ancient temples and holy sites throughout the world. Obscenity is a modern notion'.Of course many religious folk and those that have been influenced by current religions don't believe our Paleolithic and Neolithic ancestors even existed, there was nobody wandering around naked until God created Adam and Eve some 6,000 years ago. It is belief in this relatively recent fairy tale that is the reason why religious folk think that the naked body and sex are both offensive and immoral. Because deluded, ignorant old men who lived centuries ago believed superstitious nonsense. The religious can assert that nudity and sex outside the matrimonial bedroom with the lights off is immoral, but an assertion doesn't make it true. You can't sin and disobey some god if that god doesn't even exist, and without God the notion of sin is meaningless, meaning anything that was once considered sinful must be re-evaluated. Christians used to quote their holy book and assert that slavery was moral and working on a Sunday was immoral, but they now agree that their moral code was wrong on both counts. Clearly their view on nudity and sex has the same flawed foundation and is equally wrong, they're just too stupid to realise it. There is no argument that can be offered that shows innocent nudity or sex between consenting adults to be obscene, indecent, offensive or immoral. Saying that you're obeying the commands of an imaginary sky fairy is not an ethical argument, it's an admission of ignorance and blind servitude. It's a failure to be live up to your potential as an independent, free-thinking adult that is contributing to the betterment of society. In simple terms, rather than reducing harm, you're causing harm by being a useless, scaremongering, deluded prude.
There is actually a third reason some people don't want to see nudity, and that is that it sickens them. It has nothing to do with being harmful or sinful, to them the naked human body, male and female, is simply quite gross to look upon, and generates feelings of revulsion and even nausea. One comment I saw was that objections to nudity can be justified solely on 'aesthetic grounds: seeing others naked can violate our visual sensibilities'. For some this revulsion extends to the naked male chest and female nipples or the sight of a bare ass, but for most it's the sight of male or female genitals that truly sickens them. Even clothing that reveals the form of the genitals is too much for them, such as the lycra clad cyclists we mentioned at the start of this article. These are the people that never undress in front of their partners, that bathe wearing a chemise, that have sex with the lights off, that lie back and think of England and get the disgusting deed over and done with as quickly as possible. I was reading a book awhile back on the history of slang, and when Francis Grose (1730-1791) wrote his dictionary of slang words, for the word "Cunt" he wrote this less than informative entry: 'C**t: a nasty name for a nasty thing'. These folk look at genitals, their own or that of others, the way normal, well-adjusted people look at dog shit on their shoe: Eww yuck ... disgusting! What they see is not something that's going to generate lustful desires and cause them to harm others, they don't see it as immoral, it's simply unpleasant to be confronted by it, and something they'd rather not see.
But what generates this revulsion of the genitals, and is it rational? Sure, the genitals are not usually in the running for most beautiful body part, but neither in my view should the likes of the ear or the big toe be considered. I'm not even a great fan of the elbow. But people aren't repulsed by the sight of ears, toes or elbows. And the reason is simply because we're all used to seeing the ears, toes and elbows of other people, but not their genitals. It's that unfamiliarity that shocks and unnerves people, not the genitals themselves. Since they were toddlers, people have been compelled to keep their genitals hidden from others, with the argument being that they are offensive to look upon and certainly not what others want to see. So it's not hard to see why some people view the genitals as repulsive, since it's been a self-fulfilling message that's been playing in their ear their entire life, from family, friends and society. And this creates a real problem when these people are confronted with innocent nudity in the likes of a pool changing room or erotic nudity in sexual encounters. How can they behave appropriately, meaning ignoring the nudity in the changing room and embracing it in the bedroom, when their upbringing has conditioned them like Pavlov's dogs to be shocked and sickened, or at the very least, uncomfortable, with nudity? Even when they want to overcome their puritanical upbringing, when it comes to their genitals many people lack self-confidence. They're afraid that their genitals might not be quite normal, since they have no idea what normal is, and watching pornography only makes them more paranoid, since comparing yourself to porn stars is like comparing your body to that of actors in the movie 'Baywatch'. The male and female bodies in both porn and mainstream movies are a celluloid version of the real thing, where everything from props and CGI to careful editing are utilised to produce an idealised body and an idealised performance. And while a handful of actors do naturally have the muscular and voluptuous bodies we see on screen, it's quite deceptive and misleading for movies and magazines to suggest that the rest of us, 99.99999% of the planet, are abject failures and physical abominations. It's quite annoying that, through ignorance, most people have been fooled into accepting that the natural human body, the one they have, is physically flawed, that it's something to be ashamed of, simply because it doesn't measure up to the fantasies they see on-screen. Movies only engage with us because they take us to worlds that aren't real, with beautiful people doing amazing things that aren't real, and often couldn't be real, but far too many people forget that, and the movie world starts making impossible demands on reality. People start comparing their naked bodies and their sexual performance to fictional movie characters (in both porn and mainstream movies) and naturally come away disappointed. It's like comparing yourself to Superman or Wonder Woman, you're not even going to come a distant second.
We are all quite accepting and comfortable with the ears and noses, knees and elbows, hairstyles and clothing choices of friends, family, colleagues and even strangers on the street. While there is a lot of variety and we may prefer some over others, a nose is still a nose, and we never ask someone to wrap a scarf around their nose before we talk to them. We should be able to look on the genitals the same way we accept a nose or an exposed ankle, as just another part of the body. Humans are not born with a demarcation line on the body to show where innocent skin turns into offensive skin, where a cute navel lies just over the border from gross pubic hair.
Most people we know that find nudity offensive are probably of this ilk, they have been told so often that our genitals are ugly and gross, and everyone they know goes to great lengths to hide theirs, that they have convinced themselves that it must be true. Society has created this problem, convincing people that there is a monster in their pants that must be hidden and never spoken of. Western countries cover up nudity the way Muslim countries cover up their women, both foolishly thinking that some things must forever remain hidden for the good of society. If decent, upstanding citizens of the 1920s could see the amount of flesh on display on a beach today, with the bikinis and topless men, they would be scandalised, and yet most people today think nothing of it, having come to realise that a bare female midriff and male nipples don't corrupt society as was once thought. We need to take that final step and discard the remaining wisps of superfluous material and swim the way humans have for most of history, naked. Naked and free and unconcerned and uninhibited. At the beach we should be worried about sharks and jellyfish and sunburn, not about showing too much flesh. And the same goes for the pool and the sauna and the deckchair in the backyard, it's utterly ridiculous that we'll buy skimpy bathing costumes to reveal 99% of our bodies, but someone should call the cops if we opt for 100%. And I think if people became more accepting of innocent nudity in the public sphere, then it would only improve their attitude in the bedroom, making them more confident and relaxed, where they could focus on enjoyment rather than guilt and shame at being seen naked. They would have realised that the human body comes in many shapes and sizes, that none is perfect, and that no one form is the ideal that everyone seeks. And that the genitals vary as much as the nose and are no more repulsive than the ear. Anyone that feels uncomfortable sighting a naked body and is sickened by the genitals in particular, really has problems and needs help if they are to live a good life. Nudity isn't causing harm, fear of nudity is.
OK, so those are the silly, superstitious and clearly unsupported reasons for why seeing nudity and sex in our movies (and real life) is harmful. But as bogus and antiquated as these views are, they effectively are what guides the decisions made by the censors. And so to protect us from an imaginary harm, our movies are not allowed to show people naked as they leave their bed or shower, but we are allowed, unfortunately, to see them get shot in the head with blood and brain matter splattering all over the wall, and even then, in their death throes, they must somehow still manage to maintain their modesty, clutching that concealing sheet or towel as they fall to the floor, dead. Bleeding profusely from an horrific head wound, but thankfully keeping all the naughty bits covered, their dying concern not to shock their murderer with unwanted nudity.
Maybe it's just us that's sick, in that we'd prefer to see a live naked body than a dead clothed one. Or then again, maybe it's not us, maybe it's those with a fixation on viewing the violent deaths of others. Is that the level society has sunk to, where watching sickening violence is preferred over natural beauty? We just have a niggling feeling that something's not quite right here. But as a society, that's where we seem to be. It's not just that nudity in the movies and in public has reduced greatly this century, it's clear that violence has at the same time increased. And it's not just graphic violence in movies, but positive attitudes to real activities involving real violence has also increased. Decades ago there used to be strip clubs where mostly men would pay to get a very brief glimpse of a naked female body, but they went the way of the dodo in most places. For a decade or so they were replaced by the occasional nationwide tour of male and female strippers, but they too died out. It seems that given a choice between naked bodies or violence, these days people would rather pay to see something that involves naked aggression and the chance of injury.
Locally, we now have a group called 'Fight For Kidz' that gets ordinary men and women to fight each other in organised boxing events to raise money for kids' charities, such as the two women in the photo below. And yes, boxing matches are nothing new, but these are people that have never boxed before, they're not trained athletes, they're just people off the street, like accountants and nurses and motel cleaners. While some of the profit from ticket sales does go to a good cause, what has it come to when the community associates violence with kids, when to help kids you feel your only choice is to punch someone repeatedly with such force that you'll damage their brain and render them unconscious? And that a lot of people will pay good money to watch you do that? This year's event (2019) was in jeopardy, due to a fighter dying in a similar corporate event in Christchurch, but we've just read that it's all on again, and they hope to get over 140 ordinary men and women fighting each other. Not just a dozen or so, but 140! Clearly the real risk of boxers being injured and even dying is not enough to stem the blood lust, and indeed, like the ancient Romans and their gladiators, perhaps it's precisely what the audience craves?
And a couple of months before that we had the 'Southern Rumble', billed as 'the BIGGEST Independent Wrestling event in New Zealand history!' And yes, while pro wrestling gives the impression of being as violent and dangerous as boxing, if not more so, it is of course mostly all an act, almost as fake as the fights we see in the movies. But never the less, it is only popular because of the impression of violence that is delivered, and frankly, we're not sure that all of the fans realise that it's fake. And in any extreme sport there is always the chance for serious injury, that a wrestler bobs when he should have weaved, and he gets hit for real, and clearly this is what the audience is screaming for. They may know it's a dance, but they still want to see someone get hurt.
Our national sport is rugby, a physical contact sport where tackles cause everything from bruising and concussion to severe injuries that can see players sidelined for months. On rare occasions players have even died, and there is increasing evidence that concussion can lead to brain damage later in life. But unfortunately society has a deplorable macho attitude to violence on the sports field. While it's against the rules of the sport, players can violently assault each other and the worst that might happen in a punishment sense is that they will be sent off and perhaps forced to sit on the sideline for a couple of games. If I committed a similar assault on the street, or even just pushed someone, I'd be arrested and charged. Many players have tackled opposing players in such a manner so as to deliberately injure them and remove them from the field. The message to society is that violence is not unexpected on the sports field, since it's a contact sport and a man's game, and only gutless losers would walk away from a fight. Long gone is the idea that sports still has any connection to that quaint notion of sportsmanship.
And what does our national rugby team now do before every game? They perform a primitive war dance known as a haka that has one traditional objective, to intimidate their opponents. They feel they must win at all costs, they truly see their opponents as an enemy that must be defeated, by any means, even if that calls for tactics more appropriate to the battlefield than the sports field. When I played rugby in my teens, we never sought to harm the opposing players or win by cheating, and after the game we would often socialise with the other team. But today, the All Blacks, after their games, flee back to their hotel and deliberately avoid any contact with the other team. They may have won a battle (or not), but the war is ongoing, and there will be no fraternising with the enemy. I hate this 'win at all costs' attitude, remembering that we're talking about a game, not an actual war. But this 'do or die' attitude is the one that far too many in society believe in, that defeating an opponent — in a game — is all that matters in life, and that talk of simply enjoying the encounter, no matter who wins, is for wimps and losers.
Then we have Maori, the people from whom the All Blacks stole their haka. Unfortunately Maori are over represented in our prison population, gangs, crime statistics, unemployment rates etc, and the way to solve these problems, according some Maori and even some politicians, is to train troubled Maori to be warriors, to teach them how Maori warriors traditionally acted hundreds of years ago, when the relationship between neighbouring tribes was often war, not trade. So they're being schooled in the Maori language, they memorise and fixate on their Maori lineage (while ignoring their non-Maori lineage), they're told how they lost their lands to English colonialism, and they learn how to use traditional Maori weapons. And of course they perform the war haka at every possible opportunity, be it after a victory in a game, at a funeral, or when the pizza arrives. But I'm not buying this plan for turning their lives around. I'm not convinced that teaching people to act like warriors, creating division between Maori and other New Zealanders, performing the intimidating haka incessantly, tattooing your face to look threatening, and training in the use of ancient weapons, has the slightest chance of success. A warrior is one who is trained to do battle, and battles mean violence towards the enemy, so this is just another unfortunate example of the flawed belief that the way of the warrior, the way of violence, is the answer to improve society. And in their own way, Maori are answering our question, nudity or violence — which is worse? That's because, while they're now encouraged to embrace the ways of the past, the warrior psyche of the war dance and the ancient weapons, there hasn't been a similar return to their traditional views on nudity, just the opposite in fact. Before Christian missionaries arrived, Maori often wore little and had no problem with public nudity, but now they're shocked and offended by the naked body, brainwashed by Christian superstition. It's truly disappointing that they want to revive their traditional acceptance of violence, the nasty side of their history, while denying their traditional acceptance of nudity, a harmless and enlightened part of their history.
On the TV news we're shown real scenes of unarmed black men being shot in the back by U.S. policemen as they run away, terrorist bombs exploding in crowded markets and the bloody aftermath of dead bodies and limbs, young children in Syrian hospitals screaming in pain as doctors remove shrapnel, bodies being pulled dead from devastating earthquakes and washed up on the shore after human smuggling boats capsize, starving children in Africa that look like stick figures and are near death, video of people that have suffered horrific facial injuries and graphic shots of surgeons operating on them. And on and on this parade of distressing and shocking images goes. And we're not saying we shouldn't be shown them, we need to see them so that we can be aware of what's happening in the world and respond appropriately. We shouldn't be sheltered from the harsh side of reality. But why do those in charge of the media think that we can handle seeing a chest sliced open by a surgeon or a face that was disfigured by a shotgun blast, but that simply seeing a woman's nipple, let alone a penis, or Zeus forbid, an erect penis, will corrupt society and send us spiralling back into the barbarous and uncivilised dark ages?
Look at the hysteria that surrounded Janet Jackson's 2004 Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction", when one of her nipples was exposed on U.S. TV. The rabid outcry led to a FCC investigation and a fine of over half a million dollars against CBS, just because we saw a nipple for for 9/16ths of a second. On the Internet, popular sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr understandably have a ban on pornography, but they also ban images of innocent nudity as well, including genitals and female nipples. On Facebook, even photos of mothers breastfeeding was banned, although back around 2015 they claimed that they had relented on that one. But not really, as in Nov 2018 they banned a young mother from their site for posting a photo of herself breastfeeding, saying that a photo showing "sexual content involving minors ... doesn't follow our community standards". Seriously, Facebook thinks breastfeeding is a sexual act, and millions of idiots agree with them. Many in NZ are just as bad, we still have people, surprisingly it's mainly other women, who cause a real fuss when a mother breastfeeds in public. And depressingly, while NZ has led the way in revamping other laws, breastfeeding in public is still not specifically protected by NZ law. Hence mothers can be ordered from cafes and food halls and harassed by ignorant prudes and the police can do little to help. Why do people fear the female nipple, and yet not the identical male nipple? And as we know, it is the nipple that is feared, not the breast itself, as women often go to great lengths to display their breasts, with low cut dresses, see-through outfits, micro bikinis etc, and are never arrested or harassed as long as their nipples are not exposed. We simply don't understand why a naked breast is obscene and yet the same breast with no more covering than a small piece of cloth over the nipple is not just legally acceptable, it's something that most women like displaying and most men like looking at. Why are the photos below of young women (including singer Miley Cyrus in the middle) quite acceptable simply because the only thing about their breasts not left to our imagination are their nipples? And it seems especially silly and childish to hide them when we all know what nipples look like, because we all have a pair.
Recently a magazine for women, the 'NZ Woman's Weekly', refused to run a breast cancer awareness advert because a photo showed a woman's nipples, saying that, 'readers might not accept the image'. Likewise, I remember reading a news article back in 2013 with the heading: 'Nipples banned from TV breast cancer ad', and that said in part,
'Kiwi prudishness has complicated the Breast Cancer Foundation's adaptation of a Scottish advert credited with a massive increase in breast cancer awareness in Scotland. The foundation said it had to find creative ways to get its message across after the Commercial Approvals Bureau told it nipples were not allowed in television advertising. [The Bureau argued that] the prevailing view was people did not want to be confronted by nudity during primetime television'.What utter bullshit. If the bureau's statement about primetime TV is to believed, then it seems to suggest that people think it's OK to put nudity in time slots outside primetime, just not in primetime, like in the afternoon when children are watching their programs perhaps? The reality is that primetime is when adults are watching and when adult content is expected. The utter stupidity with the bureau's stance is that adult viewers were prevented from seeing a public service advert that could reduce suffering and save lives, simply because we would have seen some nipples, and yet at the same time I remember watching the 1990 sci-fi movie 'Total Recall' on TV, in primetime, and it showed nipples in abundance, merely for entertainment. You may remember this scene with the amply endowed prostitute on Mars propositioning Arnold Schwarzenegger:
Admittedly, as we're arguing in this article, there isn't very much nudity in movies, especially compared to violence, but we all know that occasionally there is some, and when there is, it's most likely to be topless women, nipples included. So how is it that those people that censor our movies think we can safely be confronted with a brief flash of nipples, and these days the breasts, like the violence, are most likely fake, but at the same time those that censor our adverts believe that we couldn't handle seeing nipples in an TV advert about breast cancer? Do they not talk to each other or read the same studies on what the prevailing view of society is? What handful of old prudes clutching their Bibles have somehow decided that adults don't want to be confronted by nudity during primetime TV? No one ever asked our opinion.
A year or so ago I watched a TV documentary on tourism in the Greek Islands, and the locals said that a few decades ago nudity on the beaches was normal and widespread, but now it's rare. (And I can personally confirm that nudity on European beaches as a whole has declined considerably.) While they were filming on some beaches, if a rare naked bather did walk past, and even though they were in the distance and it was hard to tell if they were even male or female, they still felt they had to protect us viewers by censoring the blurry stick figure with big black dots. Consequently I slept well that night, no nightmares of beautiful naked bodies on sun-drenched beaches. Thankyou TV censors. As we've said, we've watched TV news items where some women campaigned for the acceptance of breastfeeding in public, and they've been opposed and abused not just by men, but other women as well, both arguing that it's obscene and offensive. How bad has it got when even women argue that their own bodies are offensive? In 2016 during a publicity stunt in a "naked restaurant" in Hamilton, NZ, TV3's now defunct current affairs show 'Story' featured the "accidental", fleeting and completely innocent shot of the genitals of a nude waitress named Tyler (below), which was quickly followed by a flood of complaints from viewers and then groveling apologies from the show's presenters.
Almost every night we see images on the news and in movies that we genuinely do our utmost to erase. Everything from real images of wars and disasters to movie images of torture, murder, rape and rampaging zombies devouring screaming humans, and yet a fleeting glimpse of a beautiful, semi-naked young woman, who wasn't being killed or killing anyone, or even having sex, she was just walking past, this was the image that people complained about and was the image that generated profuse apologies. We just can't get our heads around how so many people can believe that a glimpse of a woman's nipple or pubic hair or a penis or even a naked ass can be so damaging to our psyche, even though you'll notice in the image of the waitress that you see none of those shocking things. Apparently there is something so disturbing about the naked body that we must be shielded from ever catching sight of it. And yet we can all, even children, be flooded with images of graphic violence and unspeakable suffering and apparently not be affected by it at all. One aggrieved mother railed on the program's Facebook page,
'That live nude shot was not necessary! I get that you wanted to show this new restaurant etc but my young daughters and I didn't need to see a vagina, a parental guidance warning would have been appreciated!!!'She was so annoyed that she felt her complaint warranted three exclamation marks. She was of course wrong in that viewers were given plenty of warning, and seriously, what could one perhaps expect to see at a "naked restaurant"? But that wasn't all she was wrong about. We don't understand why many women, who of all people should know their own body best, want to falsely insist that they've seen a vagina, and worse still, that it was truly traumatic. Even the waitress later made the same mistake in identifying her body parts, saying, 'Okay so it's a vagina, so what?' Clearly more public shots of naked women are desperately needed (or should that be pubic shots?), if only as a public service, with informative labels attached, when even women don't know that the vagina is internal to the body, it's as unseen as her womb or her liver, and the correct anatomical name for a woman's visible, external genitalia is vulva. The only person that might have viewed her vagina would be a gynecologist. Men don't get caught naked and say, 'Oh dear, my towel dropped and she saw my prostate'. And yes, there are untold euphemisms for both male and female genitals, but vagina is no more a euphemism for vulva than prostate is a euphemism for penis. In her book, 'Vagina: A Re-education', Lynn Enright wrote that, 'in 2016, 60 per cent of British women were unable to correctly identify the vulva in an anatomical diagram'. Both women and men (even some educators!) mistakenly believe they are being quite clinical and grownup when they use the word vagina, although many more are still reluctant to say it, and have actually created real 21st century euphemisms for the word vagina, such as veejay, vadge and vajayjay. That's progress for you.
To her credit, the waitress couldn't understand what the fuss was about, but is the typical woman repulsed these days when she sees herself naked, or her friends in the changing rooms at the gym? And if they claim they're not, then why are they so upset when they see a naked woman on TV? What's the difference? What's happened to humanity when we've sunk to a stage where men and even women are repulsed by the sight of female genitals, and in their ignorance, even mislabel them? Surely this childish mislabelling, by both men and women, shows that hiding the naked body creates not only ignorance, but worse still, implies that it deserves to be hidden, that it is something to be ashamed of, and not something an impressionable young girl should ever have to see on TV. And if you have young daughters, you should probably cover any full-length mirrors in the bathroom and bedroom to prevent traumatic shocks while bathing and dressing. You don't want to scar them psychologically for the rest of their life.
But seriously, all this is especially mystifying since we all see nudity every day of our life — at the very least our own, while showering and dressing — and it doesn't faze us at all, in fact most of us are perfectly comfortable with our own nipples and naked asses, and many of us actually love seeing the naked bodies of our lovers, or those we wish were our lovers. Why are most adults happy to see shocking and disturbing acts and graphic violence portrayed in movies and on TV, and often watch it alongside their kids, and yet if they see some innocent nudity (other than when they're secretly watching porn), they get all upset, screaming that it's offensive and disgusting to see others naked? Apparently the only place where nudity is acceptable is in their private sexual fantasies. Even on the TV news a while back we once again had the male news readers almost retching when they showed a picture of Tiger Woods without a shirt on, and then again later on when a similar image of Russia's President Putin was shown shirt-less on a horse, with them moaning that there is no reason we need to see pictures like that, especially around meal time. And they were serious. Even though it wasn't even nudity, they apparently felt that it's inappropriate to see adults that aren't fully clothed. As repulsed as they were by what they were screening, it seems they were showing these pictures as a public service, with the implication being that we should all condemn and ridicule people that think bare flesh is acceptable outside the privacy of the bedroom or bathroom (besides that is, supermodels and porn stars with the "perfect" bodies). We're really appalled at how prudish many people are becoming, insisting that the only time we should see other adults naked, real adults that is, and not just "movie" adults, is when we're having sex with them.
To highlight this increasing prudishness, did you know that on the popular movie website IMDb, in addition to details about cast, trivia and goofs, most movies have a link called, 'Parents Guide: View content advisory'. Here you can read what can be expected in the movie concerning 'Sex & Nudity', 'Violence & Gore', 'Profanity' etc. Under the 'Sex & Nudity' section for the superhero movie, 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' (2015), that I watched recently, was this comment: 'The main male characters wear clothes that accentuate the male form including their large muscles, some of which are exposed. There is also topless male nudity'. Seriously, this is the childish 'content advisory' that adults are writing concerning sex and nudity, that a superhero's large muscles apparently means sex is being suggested, and that a male without a shirt on is what male nudity is all about. Another movie I watched recently was '47 Ronin' (2013), starring Keanu Reeves as a samurai, featuring plenty of violence but no sex or nudity. However under the IMDb 'Sex & Nudity' link was this helpful comment: 'It's obvious Lord Kira shares some sort of sexual relationship with his witch cohort'. What a truly pathetic and worthless comment. You could look at the kid's cartoon show 'The Flintstones' and say that, 'It's obvious Fred Flintstone shares some sort of sexual relationship with his wife Wilma'. Has it really got to the point that we must be advised of sex and nudity that never feature in a movie, but logically most likely happened in their imaginary world when we weren't around? In that case practically every movie and TV show ever made needs a 'Sex & Nudity' warning! The parents of Garfield the Cat and Barney the Dinosaur must have had sex, and some of the Smurfs must have got naked and had sex. Where does this prudish lunacy end? The other night I watched 'Deadpool 2' (2018), starring Ryan Reynolds, a comedy about a violent superhero. Here's some of what the 'Parents Guide' said:
'Sex & Nudity — ModerateCompare the scale of graphic violence depicted in the movie with the level of nudity. The movie gets a moderate rating for nudity because apparently (I didn't notice them) women in bikinis and underwear can be seen in some posters in the background. Curious as to what "nudity" I had missed (but mainly because I enjoyed it), I watched the movie again. The only poster I noticed, and then only because I was looking for it, was the one in the following screenshot. (See the red arrow. If you're struggling to see much detail, you're not being prudish enough, and it is a little clearer in HD on a big-screen TV.) It's of a woman standing in front of a military vehicle holding an assault rifle, and wearing what appears to be long camouflage pants and a bikini top. Not a full bikini or underwear, just the top of a bikini. She's not a real live female actor, she's not in the foreground or the focus of the scene, and she's not even naked, and yet some moron thinks she should be included under the heading, 'Sex & Nudity'. What sort of pathetic, sheltered upbringing have they had to think that nudity and a woman in a bikini top are the same thing? When they go to the beach, and lots of women in bikinis and men without shirts can be seen, do they exclaim, 'Wow, there's a lot of nudity on the beach today!'? And while this prude was concerned that viewers might be shocked to see a woman in a bikini top, they made no mention of the fact that she was holding an assault rifle (or that four real characters were pointing guns at another character and threatening to shoot him). Again we have this totally screwed up attitude, that even clothing that's merely suggestive of nudity requires a warning, while weapons that are suggestive of violence don't even warrant a mention. Call me weird, but if in real life I saw two attractive women approaching me, one in a bikini, the other modestly dressed and carrying an assault rifle, as much as I'd prefer to watch the first, I'd be watching the one with the assault rifle. Why am I clearly in the minority for thinking that nudity in movies is harmless and that it's movie violence that should instead be seen as shocking and disturbing? If the argument is that watching specific movie scenes might pose a threat to the wellbeing of society, then it's the bullets that worry me, not the boobs.
And note that these same fucking cunts have spent their time counting how many times words such as fuck and cunt were uttered. The reality is that the movie is almost non-stop graphic violence, some of it quite disturbing, but it's also very funny, and very popular. No doubt there will be another sequel to look forward to. If I was a parent considering whether I should let children watch it, I'd consider it an insult to my intelligence if you even mentioned women in bikinis, as if briefly seeing them were in any way equal, psychologically speaking, to witnessing just one of the many, many violent deaths featured in the movie. But that's what it's come to it seems, where moviegoers are more shocked by a woman in a bikini top (in a poster in the background) than they are by the hero having his body ripped in half:
So what's the story, does a group called 'Prudes are Us' write the rating reviews for IMDb? It's quite worrying that there are moviegoers who are fixating on an innocent poster in the background while there are people being horribly murdered in the foreground. That they would even mention a woman in a bikini or a male without a shirt on under the topic of nudity is mind-boggling, especially since they are implying we should be concerned lest children see them.
And yet, these same adults see no problem in embracing a recent trend in movies and TV shows that feature a "hero" that in days gone by would have been, without a doubt, the villain. They're fans of TV shows such as 'The Sopranos' (image right), where the main character was a crime boss and murderer, or 'Dexter' where the "hero" was a serial killer, or 'Sons of Anarchy', a show about an outlaw motorcycle club, or 'Breaking Bad', where the protagonist was a drug dealer. NZ even made it own shows with 'Outrageous Fortune' and 'Westside', which followed the lives of the career criminal West family. Some movies that portray villainous or criminal characters as heroes would be 'Ocean's 11' (George Clooney), 'The Fast & the Furious' (Paul Walker), 'Payback' (Mel Gibson), 'Scarface' (Al Pacino), 'Pitch Black' (Vin Diesel), 'Hannibal' (Anthony Hopkins), 'Gone in 60 Seconds' (Nicolas Cage), 'Heist' (Robert De Niro), 'V for Vendetta' (Natalie Portman), 'The Bank Job' (Jason Statham) and even 'Pirates of the Caribbean' (Johnny Depp). Usually they achieve their goal of making the viewer root for the hero, even though this means accepting criminal behaviour, by making the "hero" better looking and/or wittier or simply less villainous than the main villain. Then we have current TV shows like 'The Walking Dead' where sudden and violent death from zombies is the theme, 'SEAL Team' which follows covert and deadly military missions, medieval fantasy shows like 'Game of Thrones' that regale the battles between warring kingdoms, and each week we have people being murdered, children being abducted and women being raped in TV crime shows like 'FBI', 'CSI: Miami', 'Criminal Minds', 'NCIS', 'SVU: Special Victims Unit', 'Criminal Intent', 'Suspicious Minds', 'CSI: New York', 'NCIS: LA', 'NCIS: New Orleans' etc. I actually don't watch those crime shows, since I find their enactment of violent crimes too realistic and depressing. Then we have most people, including many kids, watching untold people being killed in movies like 'World War Z' and 'Rambo'. And it's not just movies made for adults, how many violent deaths do kids witness in movies like 'The Lord of the Rings' or 'Star Wars' or even 'Harry Potter', how many innocent people die when those silly robots in the 'Transformers' movies decide to fight their battles amongst the skyscrapers of populous cities rather than an empty desert?
Of course evil villains, aliens, monsters and wizards don't care about the deaths of innocent bystanders, but equally neither do the movie producers, these deaths are a mere backdrop to the action and excitement. People have to die, often horribly and in great numbers, to highlight what is at stake and to make the hero's task all that more important. I watched the movie '12 Rounds' (2009) the other night where the villain blew up the hero's house, deliberately killing the plumber still inside, then he murdered the security guard that was helping the hero, later he murdered the hero's partner and another colleague, then he murdered two colleagues of the hero's girlfriend in front of her, and on and on his killing went, and while not shown, many innocent people would have been killed unintentionally by the hero too as he rampaged through the city crashing vehicles, trying to save the life of his girlfriend who was being held hostage by the villain. How many innocent men, women and children die in these movies without the viewer ever giving them a second thought, as long as the hero wins in the end? In so many movies the deaths of friends, colleagues, innocent strangers, of people on the street or in opposing armies, are shown as being quite natural and inevitable and nothing to lose sleep over. We're taught not to care about strangers who die in the background, in foreign cities and distant lands. However, if we were running the show, we'd rather that people, and especially kids, were taught not to care about seeing someone naked.
Awhile back I watched the movie 'Kill Bill: Vol. 1' (2003), starring Uma Thurman as an ex-assassin, an expert with the samurai sword and in martial arts. After her old team of assassins murder her fiancé and his family and rip her unborn baby from her womb, they leave her for dead, as seen in this screenshot:
That is just a small fraction of the graphic violence from that lengthy sword fight, let alone what is seen in the entire movie, which was followed by a second movie, 'Kill Bill: Vol 2', which was just as violent, and just as successful at the box office. I'm using 'Kill Bill' as an example because I found a website that provided all those screenshots (and many more), but there are untold other movies that could provide equally violent and disturbing scenes of human suffering. And these movies are all wildly popular, big name movies that have all screened uncensored on TV, some numerous times, where anyone from adults to young children can watch them.
Just off the top of my head, here are some more shockingly violent and bloody movies I can recall viewing over the last few years, many of which had sequels, and all of which make the violence in the 'Stargate SG-1' TV series I mentioned earlier look trifling in comparison. And I haven't included any of the many horror movies in which disturbing violence has become an integral part. That's because I refuse to watch movies whose sole purpose is to use violence to create an atmosphere of fear, in which you know someone, and usually many, will die gory, gruesome deaths, or something equally sickening, just for our entertainment. You'll have to add your own horror movie titles.
As for that last movie, I'm sure you all remember the sort of loving, serene image of Jesus that Mel Gibson pushed in 'The Passion of the Christ', a movie that many churches argued was entirely suitable for young children. If not, here's a typical shot from the movie. And yes, that's his blood on his face and hands, it's not that they served ribs dipped in barbecue sauce at the last supper.
And before we're accused of being hypocrites for watching these violent movies, and enjoying many of them (but certainly not 'The Passion of the Christ'), our complaint is not that we are shown realistic violence in movies (swamped with images of realistic violence even), it's that at the same time images of casual nudity and realistic sex are banned. Society is utterly screwed up over this matter, the general view being that images of realistic, bloody, disturbing acts of violence are perfectly acceptable, utterly harmless and a great source of entertainment, while nudity, if shown at all, must be very fleeting, must avoid exposing the genitals, and sex must only be suggested by movement under the sheets and by appropriate moaning and facial expressions.
Look at the above stock photos of men attacking women with knifes. They're for sale by a reputable companies on the Internet, and you can buy them to use in a publication, company report, or on your webpage. They're deemed perfectly acceptable and respectable images, able to be viewed by anyone and everyone. Yet search as you might through their huge database of stock photos, or the databases of other companies that sell stock photos, and you won't find such confronting and explicit photos of loving couples having sex, or even of naked bodies not having sex. Photos of terrifying violence against women are fine, but photos of explicit love or natural full-frontal nudity are deemed totally unacceptable.
What is society teaching us when in our movies it's OK, enjoyable even, to watch a woman shoot an innocent shop assistant or to watch a man sadistically kill a beautiful woman in graphic detail (eg 'Kill Bill'), but it's not OK, it's disgusting even, to watch a man have loving sex with a beautiful woman in graphic detail? Surely, since your typical adult loves sex and abhors murder, we've got this backwards? Movie directors, censors and the movie-going public apparently have no problem with shots of bodily fluids as long as those fluids are red and not white, such as the following screenshots that were the climax of the movie 'From Paris With Love'. They show a man shooting his fiancee in the forehead in slow motion. Admittedly he had just discovered she was a terrorist with a bomb, and she needed to be stopped, but why did the director insist that we see the extreme detail of blood spurting out the back of her head, when an earlier scene of the young couple about to get naked and have sex stopped abruptly at the bedroom door, with the camera pausing outside only long enough for us to hear a few excited giggles. Apparently the director thought that the viewers' imagination could easily flesh out what was happening off-screen, but when it came to the young woman's later violent death, our imagination was apparently found lacking and the director believed he needed to show how soft flesh responds to high speed bullets.
Likewise the director of the Judge Dredd movie 'Dredd', staring Karl Urban, also believed that viewers needed to see how flesh responds to bullets, in this case as one rips off the side of a face:
So that's a quick example of the readily seen and accepted violence on our big and small screens, and we're sure they were all images that you enjoyed seeing. No doubt we've given you plenty of choices for a rental movie this weekend. But hang on to your seats because now we're going to show some truly disturbing and shocking images. We've discussed what censors are happy for you to see and society is more than happy to watch, now we want to show you a few images of what we mean by innocent public nudity, images that censors don't want you to see because apparently society would be offended, or at the very least, deeply uncomfortable, on viewing them. They're not from TV shows or the movies since these sorts of 'Oh my goodness!' scenes are banned from our screens in the name of common decency. We had to go to some very shady websites to find these examples, websites that are so scandalous and unsavoury that they've only recently found their way out of the dark web, the source of all things immoral and illegal. I discovered that my library's free wi-fi bans their access, even though they will happily rent me movies like 'Kill Bill' and 'Deadpool' on DVD. And a word of warning, lest you be disappointed, there's not a single gun, knife, drop of blood or hint of violence in any of these images that are typically banned from our movies and TV shows.
After viewing those images of innocent nudity you're no doubt utterly scandalised, somewhat nauseated, and truly thankful that our censors and moral gatekeepers don't allow such filth on our screens. But before you compose a strongly worded email to us, or rush to contact your therapist requesting an urgent session to discuss what you've just seen, perhaps you could first explain why it's thought that viewing graphic, realistic violence is deemed a lot less harmful, and far more preferable, than viewing innocent nudity? Like it or not, you've now seen examples of both, so why is violence in movies quite OK, as long as they keep their clothes on?
And again, we're not campaigning to have all the realistic violence cut from our movies and TV shows, we're complaining about the hypocrisy. As I've said, we do find some of the violence far too realistic and depressing, but we're not calling for a ban, we'll simply avoid those movies and TV shows. We're arguing for common sense and equality. Apparently adults, and children too, can watch adults shoot, stab, strangle and beat others to death, can watch adults torture others, can watch adults rape and abuse others, can watch innocent men, women and children die violent deaths in not just natural disasters, but as pawns caught up in fights between superheros and villains, and come away totally unharmed. Some of these violent acts will have been real, and viewed as news footage, but the great majority will have been fake, although totally realistic, and created solely for entertainment. If we can view an inordinate amount of realistic violence over the years, whether it be real or fake, and not be harmed — and we don't believe most people are harmed — why do people think we will be harmed by viewing nudity and sex? Where is the evidence for this? And if the modern consensus is that we won't, then why is it censored from our screens and our beaches?
You are probably in one of two minds. You either think nudity in movies or on a public beach is offensive and needs to be banned, and nudity involving sex doubly so, or you think that innocent public nudity is natural and quite harmless, and if graphic sex was shown in movies it would probably be viewed as titillating, and if not, it certainly couldn't be any more shocking than graphic violence, which we're quite accepting of. So, if you're the first sort and think nudity and sex is offensive, why are they both legal and so sought after by most everyone, especially in their private lives? By legal we mean that innocent public nudity is not an offence, at least not in NZ, if it's not intended to cause offence, eg sunbathing naked at the beach, and sex is perfectly legal between consenting adults, although maybe not on the beach. And if you concede that nudity is harmless, perhaps even quite nice if viewed in a bedroom on satin sheets, why does it suddenly become offensive and shocking out on the patio in a deckchair? This is what you need to explain and justify, how and why a naked body goes from beautiful and alluring indoors and in private, to disgusting and repulsive outdoors in public, whether that's a real body in the real outdoors or a celluloid body in a movie. To us this seems as irrational as insisting that a hamburger looks delicious if seen outside on a barbecue table, but revolting if seen inside on a coffee table.
Let's try a little thought experiment. Think of a Hollywood actor or actress, one you view as very sexy, in a scene from a favourite movie. Now imagine you're lying on a remote beach in Hawaii and suddenly you see them walking along the shore, naked. Would this stunningly handsome or beautiful, and very sexy person that you had previously only viewed clothed, have now morphed into someone gross and offensive, someone you can't even now look at without a feeling of revulsion? We doubt it, in fact being naked has likely only made them more enticing. So why if this happened in real life would some people think it was offensive, and then quickly call the police, or at least avert their gaze? What's changed, why has the naked body gone from very sexy in their imagination to very offensive in reality? Clearly the body hasn't changed, only their attitude to it has. So again, depending on the location, why does seeing a naked body evoke such polar opposite reactions, how does someone justify flipping from desire to disgust?
If, on the other hand, you're the second sort and you view nudity and sex as natural and normal and not something that would shock you if spied at the beach or in the movies, then why does society generally work towards keeping it hidden, even though there's no real legal or ethical requirement to do so? Is it just a matter of numbers? Do the prudes greatly outnumber the carefree, liberal people in society? Or are the prudes small in number but just fanatically outspoken, ensuring their puritanical views are heard, especially in regards to the law, censorship and public morality, while the rest of us carefree folk are out enjoying life, and not trying to enforce our enlightened views onto others?
And we're not pushing that our movies should be full of gratuitous nudity and graphic sex either, merely that when it is appropriate to the story then it is shown in a natural and realistic manner. Nor are we suggesting we make all our beaches nude beaches either, since some locations clearly aren't appropriate for that sort of thing. Too cold. We're simply pointing out that it's just utterly ridiculous that when a body is naked or having sex then it must be hidden behind a sheet, but when that same clothed body is being penetrated by a bullet or knife, blown apart by a car bomb, or having its limbs sliced off with a samurai sword, then not only can it be shown, but it will be shown in all its shocking, gory detail, often in slow motion and extreme close-up. Why the double standards? And if we have to see one sort of body and one sort of act, why has society decided that it's harmless and entertaining to see realistic, bloody, disturbing acts of violence carried out on clothed bodies, and that it's obscene, disgusting and clearly harmful to see bodies naked, even beautiful bodies, let alone naked bodies in a loving embrace or having sex? Why do we allow the gory and censor the beautiful? Graphic scenes of cruelty, hatred and violent death are perfectly OK, even for kids, but scenes of love, intimacy and passion combined with naked bodies, or even naked bodies without any sexual element, such as sunbathing on a beach, are definitely not OK. Society has spoken. End of story. But perhaps we should be questioning what society has decreed, since surely running away from innocent nudity and towards disturbing violence instead is a sign that society is seriously screwed up? Perhaps society needs to be taken down a dark alley and with the aid of an electric cattle prod, given a serious talking to?
When discussing this topic with others recently, some of the group aged in their 20s and 30s agreed that there is certainly a lot of graphic violence in movies and little to no nudity, but they felt that, right or wrong, the reason for this disparity is that it simply mirrored real life. Our TV news is replete with instances of violence while stories of public nudity are almost unheard of. They said they'd watched some old movies like the first Rambo and Diehard movies and they'd seen a few episodes of TV's 'Charlie's Angels' and 'Miami Vice', and while all had violence, mainly people being shot, none had nudity, because again, while you're always hearing of people being shot in real life, you normally never hear of people encountering naked people in real life. They didn't feel we'd proven our case, that instances of public nudity had decreased over the last few decades and that society had seemingly become more prudish. But I disagreed with this assessment. They were basing their view of those times on what was shown in a very small sample of old movies and TV shows, not from experience, and we'd argue that movies are usually a very unreliable way to learn about the past.
So, are there activities from the recent past, say around the 1970s and '80s, where some forms of public nudity was accepted as normal, or if not exactly normal per se, at least not seen as harmful, but today there's a complete reversal? We can immediately think of five examples from the late 20th century where people encountered nudity and thought nothing of it, but where today in the 21st century, these things still exist, but the nudity element is either missing or rare. And if it is suddenly encountered, people are generally freaked out about it. These examples are (1) streaking, (2) saunas, (3) gym and pool changing rooms, (4) beaches, and (5) movies.
Let's now consider each of those five examples.
You will have heard of streakers, where individuals, and sometimes groups, run 'naked through a public place as a prank, a dare, for publicity or an act of protest'. Streaking really took off in the 1970s and '80s, there was even a #1 song denoting its popularity, 'The Streak' by Ray Stevens. We're now going to show some typical images of streakers from the 20th century and then some from the 21st century. We want you to focus on the keyword 'naked' and see if you can you detect any change in attitude from last century to today?
For the history buffs, the streakers are (clockwise from top left): Michael O'Brien, Twickenham, London, 1974; Sally Cooper, London, 1974; Helen D'Amico, MCG, Melbourne, 1982; Sheila Nicholls, Lord's Cricket Ground, London, 1989.
And just to be clear, for streaking to have any impact and make any sense, the runner has to be naked. If you're not naked then you're just somebody out for a run. Nothing to see here. Jump forward now to the 21st century, where streaking, in a boring and immature sense, still happens on occasion.
Did you spot the subtle difference between then and now? Many people now seem to be utterly confused about what it means to be naked. I've seen real people on TV speaking about real life and say that someone they saw was naked, when in reality they were wearing underwear or a towel and certainly not naked. In 2006 in NZ, a woman by the name of Lisa Lewis became briefly famous for "streaking" at a televised All Black's rugby match, and yet she was wearing a bikini! (That's her in the above image between the two security guards). You're not streaking if you're not naked, completely naked, and you're not naked in a bloody bikini. Are women at the beach in bikinis naked? She said afterwards that it, 'was a lifetime goal of mine to streak on a rugby field, and obviously [I've now] fulfilled that dream'. Umm ... no you haven't you moron! Even the equally moronic journalists that later interviewed her asked about her impressive confidence to run naked in public, and many women on social media commented that they could never go naked in public like that. And where might they be getting this stupid notion that you're naked even though you're clearly not? From movies and TV shows. Just the other night I watched a sitcom where one character asked his roommate why he was naked in the lounge, and yet he was wearing boxer shorts! Saying that someone is naked in a bathing suit, a towel or underwear is as stupid as saying that I walked downtown yesterday naked ... well, you know ... beneath my clothes.
And last century streaking was also a popular group activity in some U.S. universities, with organised naked fun runs across campus on the last day of classes. Apparently these naked runs were the origin of streaking, back in the 1960s. In 1974, a naked run at the University of Georgia attracted 1,543 entrants. One of these varsity runs was even the focus of the comedy movie, 'American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile', a run held at the University of Michigan from 1986 until 2004 when the University, 'ended the tradition through arrests and threats to students who ran'. Worse still, in the U.S. the innocent and harmless act of streaking can now see streakers being forced to register as sex offenders for life, since they can charge streakers with criminal sexual conduct. This is because of the ignorant notion that nudity is ALWAYS connected to sexual activity, and, I guess, since you run past people who aren't necessarily willing participants in the streak, it's therefore sexual activity of a criminal nature. Authorities are doing their utmost to dissuade people from being naked in public by turning an innocent and harmless fun run into a criminal offence that could ruin your life, since being registered as a sex offender puts you up there with convicted child rapists, and it carries certain conditions, like going to all your neighbours and advising them that you're a registered sex offender. So instead of 'The Naked Mile' at U.S. universities, we now see fun runs such as the 'The Nearly Naked Mile'. As this advertising poster for one of the events states, there's to be no hint of nakedness on a nearly naked run. That's progress for you. Or not.
Streaking only works due to the surprise of seeing someone run past naked, in places where they normally aren't. For example, streaking wouldn't evoke any reaction or make any sense in a nudist club, and for a similar reason streaking fails abysmally when the streaker remains clothed in places where clothing is expected. And yet streaking has somehow gone from a harmless and entertaining naked prank to a point where the "streaker" now runs with clothes on, which utterly defeats the entire purpose of the run. And in the U.S.A., those that try and remain true to form risk being registered as sex offenders. Nudity is now so feared that what people still childishly refer to as a "naked activity" must be done fully clothed.
In the 1970s and '80s when saunas, steam rooms and spa pools became popular in NZ, male and female nudity wasn't just commonplace in these establishments, it was the rule, a rule that made perfect sense. Why get clothed to sweat? And in the Scandinavian countries where they originated, it's still the rule. Everyone was naked, you had a towel and that was it. And back then, no one freaked out, people weren't as terrified of glimpsing the naked body, their own or that of others, as they are now. We're now going to show some typical images of saunas from the 20th century and then some from the 21st century, and again, see if you can you detect any change in attitude from last century to today?
Sadly no such dedicated establishments exist anymore, and of the few public places that might still provide a sauna or spa pool, such as gyms, motels and hotels, all demand that bathing costumes are worn, with both management and customers now finding the thought of public nudity utterly shocking. As the next set of images show, the prudes have gained control of the sauna mindset and the sauna rules.
A couple of years ago I remember reading an article written by a student from Dunedin's Otago University. She wrote of travelling to Finland and wearing a bathing suit into a sauna and how everyone stared at her, because of course everyone else was naked. She overcame her fear, stripped off and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, discovering that no one cared that they were all naked, and that the lack of restrictive, wet, clingy clothing actually made it more enjoyable. Returning to NZ she was frustrated that all the students in her university sauna wear bathing suits, and wouldn't even consider taking them off.
(3) Gym and pool changing rooms.
It's not just in mixed saunas where our views have regressed to Victorian times, many people are increasingly becoming terrified of being seen naked in single-sex changing rooms at public swimming pools, gyms and schools.
Even in NZ we've had prudes complaining and pushing for public changing rooms to disappear. The following quote is from one article (plus video) on the controversy: 'Debate sparked over etiquette inside pool changing rooms'. One paragraph says that,
'Engineer Shabbir Ahmed was at the Lido Aquatic Centre in Palmerston North in February when he saw a child become distressed on seeing a completely naked man in the open changing area. "The father of the kid put a towel over his face and said 'don't look over there'," Ahmed said. "It does not leave a positive impact on a child's brain". Ahmed said the centre had private changing rooms that adults should use to avoid placing children in potentially vulnerable situations'.Why would a young boy become distressed on seeing a naked man, not on the street, and not holding a priest's outfit, but simply a man undressing at a public pool to go swimming? Hadn't the boy seen his father naked? What has his father or family been teaching him, that nudity is harmful, even in the context of a changing room? But some Kiwis, rather than tell these bloody prudes to grow up, are changing things to suit these primitive, ignorant viewpoints. Pool manger Lynden Noakes said they've doubled the number of family changing rooms and in the video said that they encourage people, both families and individuals, to use them so that, 'They don't have the hassle of seeing anyone else naked'. Strangely, when I was growing up and on occasion saw others naked, especially the opposite sex, I never saw it as a hassle. And still don't. What's wrong with me? Oh my gawd ... am I a pervert?
What's next, will these prudes be complaining that today's swimwear exposes too much flesh and start demanding that bathing costumes return to that of a century ago, and still not satisfied, that men and women use the pool on different days? You'll note in the photo on the right, of bathing costumes from 1922, that back then it was inappropriate for even men to go topless, ie to expose their nipples! In 1927, a London man, Captain H. H. Vincent, was 'arrested for sunbathing bare-chested in Hyde Park. The magistrate was horrified: "To expose the upper part of your body is indecent. I think it is likely to shock persons of ordinary sensibility".' By kowtowing to the prudes in society, are we slowly turning the clock back to those times when even the sight of a shirtless man would cause offence?
Coming down on our side of the debate, the article noted that,
'Massey University senior lecturer in clinical psychology Dr Kirsty Ross said she had not come across research suggesting nudity in changing rooms had negative lasting effects on children ... [and that] parents also needed to be careful not to instil fear in their children. "We don't want kids to be scared going in to changing rooms or concerned that something is going to happen".'And I'd argue that if viewing innocent nudity in changing rooms is having negative effects on children these days, even if it's not lasting, then clearly parents and educators are failing in their duty to teach them the basic facts of life, and what innocent things they can expect to see at the pool. Again, these are changing rooms, where nudity is expected, not the back room at the local Catholic Church or Scout den.
Unfortunately, freelance Kiwi writer Lee Suckling has also detected problems with changing rooms, and has written an article, 'The rules of a public changing room', to tell us how we can limit our distress. In part he writes,
'I'm not ashamed of my body. However I would rather exercise some tact when in a public changing room and prefer to always face the wall when towelling off. I'm all for naturism in the right setting but a public changing room is NOT a place to relax and feel free and comfortable. It's pure personal administration: the goal is to get in and get out as fast as possible'.While he claims to have no problem with public nudity — 'I'm all for naturism' — he then contradicts himself by saying that one shouldn't feel relaxed and comfortable being naked around others, and that 'the goal is to get in get out as fast as possible'. We suspect he doth protest too much. While Suckling isn't demanding private cubicles for everyone, the clear implication is that it would solve all the problems he raises, and unfortunately this does seem to be where we're heading, where increasingly people view it as inappropriate for open plan changing rooms to exist. Apparently if two or more people are naked in the same changing room, and they aren't as embarrassed as you are, then look out, since clearly something sexual is about to happen! Eww ... gross!
In her book, 'Nudity: A Cultural Anatomy' (2004), Ruth Barcan offers more support for the worrying view that young people today are becoming more prudish:
'Among teenage girls, the equation between nudity, sex and immorality still appears to be fairly strong. A physical education (PE) teacher we interviewed told us that if a girl was comfortable with her own nudity in the school-changing room, this would be negatively interpreted as a sign of "sluttishness" rather than positively as a sign of confidence or unselfconsciousness. ...The way we see it, hiding nudity from children is as harmful as hiding the reality of death from them. If children are exposed to innocent nudity as they grow up then they'll think nothing of it. They'll be more accepting of the normal and natural differences between bodies of both sexes, and they'll realise that the majority of bodies they see in magazines and movies are totally unrealistic, that the perfect body is a myth. You can digitally manipulate bodies in magazines and movies, however it's rather difficult in real life. If natural nudity is hidden from them, as opposed to the carefully constructed nudity in pornography and movies, then you greatly increase the risk that they might feel uncomfortable, anxious, inadequate, flawed, disappointed and even traumatised when they finally encounter others naked, and they themselves are seen naked. And encounter nudity they will if they wish to lead a normal life, and it will be real naked bodies in all their wonderful diversity that they encounter, not a Hollywood version that is as rare as Bigfoot.
There's a well-known story from the Victorian era concerning British art critic John Ruskin and the debilitating shock he received on seeing his first real woman naked. All the many paintings and statues he'd seen in art galleries of naked women had never revealed that real women have pubic hair, so he was, as the story goes, apparently quite traumatised on his wedding night to discover that his beautiful 19 year-old wife had pubic hair, so traumatised in fact that he couldn't face having sex with her, and she ended up having the marriage annulled six years later, still a virgin. Another more recent take on what might have incapacitated Ruskin on his wedding night was that he had pedophile desires, and on seeing his new wife naked, including her pubic hair, he finally accepted that naked adult bodies were not something he could be sexually attracted to. He preferred the hairless bodies of young girls. What isn't in doubt is that being confronted with a real naked woman triggered something in Ruskin that caused him to run for the hills and become a laughing stock.
And this is the society we're returning to, where young men and women are overexposed to the unrealistic naked bodies in porn and movies and yet never get to see a real and normal adult naked until their first sexual encounter, and then it's all, 'OMG, your body is nothing like what I've seen in all the porn I've watched, or even the James Bond movies! So ... umm ... thanks, but no thanks. Please put your clothes back on and I'll call you a taxi. Seriously ... why haven't you considered surgery?'
If you think we're deliberately being ridiculous to make a point, we're not. A British TV documentary called 'Sex Education vs. Porn' (2009) surveyed over 400 British teenagers between fourteen and seventeen concerning their pornography consumption and its effects on their sexual attitudes, and found that porn actively misleads teenagers about what normal bodies are like and what sexual practices really involve. In the documentary,
'A group of boys from Sheringham high school in Norfolk is shown photographs of 10 pairs of breasts. All say the most attractive are the ones that have been surgically enhanced. Alarmingly, a posse of their female classmates says the same thing. Both sexes are unimpressed with normal breasts, which — unlike porn stars' silicone-boosted chests — are often not symmetrical and sit down, not up.It was also revealed that,
'Many are having sex without learning proper contraception techniques because the pornography they watch does not show the use of contraceptives, or because "when boys see girls merely as sex objects, they're unlikely to respect them when it comes to matters such as contraception".'On Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, online forums and in the comments section following media articles it is unfortunately all too common to come across vile comments, written mainly by young men, but also young women, that verbally attack, condemn, ridicule, abuse and shame women that have the nerve to post a photo of themselves in a bikini or revealing outfit when they don't have the "perfect" body of a porn star. Society allows free and easy access to the naked bodies in porn while actively concealing even non-sexual nudity in our movies, TV shows and public life, as if to say that the only people sexy enough to be seen naked are porn stars, and that the rest of us are the naked equivalent of the severely deformed Elephant Man. So please, keep your clothes on, we don't need to that!
The real harm in hiding innocent nudity, in hiding normal, natural and diverse naked bodies, is to make people ashamed, critical and dissatisfied with their own bodies and the bodies of others. The harm is not in seeing naked bodies — normal naked bodies — but in not seeing them.
In the 1970s and '80s, especially on the beaches of Europe, boobs were everywhere, as a friend once remarked, since the Europeans didn't have the hang ups the rest of the world had. It was quite common to see women sunbathing, swimming and socialising topless, and sometimes completely nude. They weren't the majority, but no matter what beach or where you looked, some would be topless, and those that had kept their tops on weren't giving disapproving, hostile or shocked looks towards those that had stripped off. Families and young children enjoyed the beach with no concern given to the extra flesh on display. And some of the more remote beaches around the Mediterranean, especially in the Greek Islands, were totally nude beaches, and they were as crowded as the normal beaches, including families. Although Kiwis are generally more repressed regarding nudity than Europeans, even in Queenstown, NZ, it was not uncommon to see one or two women sunbathing topless on the beach, and I remember driving into the nearby Skippers Canyon in a 4WD and passing two young women walking out topless. But that was then.
When I was again in Europe in the late 90's, I still saw one or two topless women on the beaches, but they were now an uncommon sight, and I saw no total nudity. When I was there again in 2007, we didn't see a single topless woman on the beaches. Where topless women were once commonplace and even completely naked men and women didn't raise an eyebrow, now in the 21st century they were apparently extinct.
Note that while the female bathing suit remains firmly in place these days, it's still just as skimpy as it was decades ago, whereas the material making up the male bathing suit has increased considerably. The bare male chest, nipples and all, is still acceptable, but the pants are getting longer and baggier and returning to the style of a hundred years ago. In NZ, sightings of a topless woman sunbathing on the beach is so rare and shocking these days that they usually result in complaints to the police or the local council, which of course gets the media involved. Complainants, and sometimes even the council officers and/or police, then have to be reminded that it is not an offence for women to sunbathe topless in NZ. The thing is, many people these days think it should be. When it comes to the law and beaches and saunas etc, even total nudity is not classed as indecent exposure and isn't an offence in NZ if it's not being done as an obscene act to offend others, that is, if it doesn't feature an element of lewdness or lasciviousness. And it's not just NZ where many people think topless sunbathing should be illegal. We read in an article from 2008 that in Australia, 'A group of male politicians want topless sunbathing banned on beaches ... arguing that the sight of women without bikini tops is offensive'. They're evidently supporting a proposal by the Reverend Fred Nile, so we have just another shameful example of old, white males following a religious agenda and trying to tell women what they can and can't do with their own bodies. Apparently they failed, but maybe those male politicians should just avoid the beaches if they're so easily shocked. The article also noted that, 'Topless sunbathing has been common on most beaches in Australia since the 1960s. Nude beaches are also legal in every state except Queensland'. So again, we've moved from a time when nudity on beaches, while not ubiquitous, was not uncommon, and was not seen as harmful or offensive, to a time where it is now rare and viewed as obscene and something that should be illegal. And as bad as it's become in the likes of Europe, Australia and NZ, in the U.S. it's a million times worse. Americans in general, and certainly those that make their laws, are terrified of the female nipple in particular, and of nudity in general, while paradoxically producing more nudity in the form of pornography than all other countries in the world combined. While topless women could be seen on some U.S. beaches in the 1970s and '80s, and nude beaches were tolerated, topless bathers now risk arrest and many nude beaches have been closed.
Like the previous examples, let's look back a few decades to the 1970s, '80s and '90s and see if, between then and now, there's a discernible difference in society's general attitude to nudity in mainstream movies. And let's consider true nudity, meaning full-frontal nudity, rather than just topless women or the sight of a bare ass, scenes where the nudity is obvious and more than just fleeting. Not scenes where the viewer exclaims, 'Wait ... was that my imagination, or were they naked?' I'm no movie buff, and NZ only gets to see a fraction of the movies that are released, but some movies that spring to mind would be the following.
'The Last Picture Show' (1971), a drama starring Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Kimberly Hyde and Gary Brockette. The screenshots are of teenage friends skinny dipping in the local pool.
Next is the drama, adventure, 'Walkabout' (1971), featuring Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil and Luc Roeg. A teenage girl and her younger brother find themselves stranded in the Australian Outback, and are befriended by an Aborigine. When they finally find water, the girl goes swimming alone.
Then we have 'A Clockwork Orange' (1971), a sci-fi drama about a sadistic gang leader, played by Malcolm McDowell. In the scene below, it's implied that a rape is about to happen, but while nudity is shown, the rape isn't.
Next is the drama, romance, 'Last Tango in Paris' (1972), starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. This is but one scene where Schneider is naked.
The Australian comedy 'Alvin Purple' (1973), was the most commercially successful Australian film at that time, and was followed by 'Alvin Rides Again' (1974). It starred Graeme Blundell, and this screenshot of nudity is just one of many from the movie.
The British comedy 'Confessions of a Window Cleaner' (1974), starred Robin Askwith. I read on the IMDb website that, 'In order to satisfy the censors of a worldwide market, three versions of this film had to be shot. The 'A' Version was the traditional nude format, the 'B' Version had both male and females wearing underwear, while the 'C' Version (made for South Africa) had fully-clothed sex scenes'. Thankfully, we got to see the 'A' Version.
The irreverent and blasphemous comedy 'Monty Python's Life of Brian' (1979), is of course a brilliant movie. The full-frontal nudity of Brian (Graham Chapman) and Judith (Sue Jones-Davies), is just a bonus.
This is the famous shower scene from the comedy, 'Porky's' (1981), starring Dan Monahan, Mark Herrier and Kaki Hunter, where high school girls are actually shown, surprise, surprise, naked in the shower.
'1984' (1984), the movie of George Orwell's dystopian novel, starred John Hurt and Suzanna Hamilton. Obviously it's not a fun movie, but the nudity is realistically portrayed.
Finally we have the Aussie movie, 'Sirens' (1994), a drama featuring Hugh Grant and Tara Fitzgerald. It concerns an artist and the problem the Church has, naturally, with the sexual theme of some of his paintings.
While the majority of movies from this period had little or no nudity (equally they had little or none of the graphic violence seen in many current movies), the nudity that was shown never seemed to shock or offend your typical moviegoer. Worldwide, small groups protested outside theatres showing 'Monty Python's Life of Brian', and it was even banned in some countries, like Ireland and Norway, and in many towns in England and the U.S.A., but they were upset and offended by the blasphemous nature of the film, not by the nudity. Moviegoers weren't all that surprised that nudity was shown in a sex scene or in the shower or while swimming alone in a desert pool, since they were all places where nudity would be expected in real life.
Of course, nudity is still expected in those same situations today, the only difference is that movies now are, except on rare occasions, very reluctant to actually show full-frontal nudity anymore. We still see the sex scenes, the shower scenes and the skinny dipping scenes, except that actual nudity is never shown, only implied. Let's look at some screenshots from movies and TV shows made in the last decade or two that have been on TV of late. And we haven't censored anything or picked non-revealing shots, this was as graphic as they got regarding their depiction of nudity. Here's the combined shower and sex scene with Berenice Marlohe and Daniel Craig in the 2012 James Bond movie 'Skyfall'. The movie is packed with graphic violence, torture and death from start to finish, but any nudity and sex is merely implied, and none of the other recent Bond movies are any different.
And while it was apparently deemed too traumatic to allow movie viewers to see Bond's lover naked, the producers thought it important that we later saw her tortured and murdered, used as target practice by the villain.
Next is Amy Adams in the sex scene from 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' (2016). Again, plenty of violence and death in the movie that we get to witness, but we have to imagine the nudity. The guy, Superman, even remains fully clothed in the brief scene, which only implied that sex followed.
Now we have Kelly Brook in the TV comedy 'One Big Happy' (2015), where her character is seen unashamedly walking around her apartment naked, much to the embarrassment of her prudish female roommate. But of course the viewer is not allowed to see any nudity, the show's producers have blurred out all the naughty bits so as not to shock us. They've deliberately included this scene so that we'll imagine her naked, so that we can't help but visualise in our minds what those blurry bits are hiding, but even though we're now seeing a truly naked woman in our mind's eye, they somehow think that we'd be harmed if we actually saw that naked woman on the screen as well.
Zooey Deschanel features in the next image, a gratuitous shower scene from the movie 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' (2005), a highly anticipated but ultimately terrible American adaptation of the brilliant British original radio show, books and TV series. The American's, typically, felt they had to alter the zany humour and story to match American sensibilities (destroying it's original appeal in the process). So of course they had to include a shower scene, but keep it family-friendly at the same time. As the website that provided this screenshot noted, 'the shower scene never showed anything close to being naughty. It merely made you think naughty'. There were no shower scenes in the original material, this was an addition purely for the American viewers, most of whom, ironically, don't like nudity, not even implied nudity, and who probably felt quite uncomfortable throughout the entire scene. Again, they definitely don't want to show us a naked body, or even have us think of naked bodies, so apparently the best way to keep our minds focused on other things is to show us a beautiful woman having a shower, albeit from-the-shoulders-up. Their logic on this matter is confusing to say the least.
This next screenshot is from the NZ TV comedy '800 Words' (2015), and the scene takes place on a nude beach that's popular with the locals, one that these three friends often spend time at. So if it's a nude beach, and the three people have seen each other naked many times, why is the woman covering her breasts as if she's been suddenly surprised in the shower, and why is the surfboard strategically placed to hide everyone's genitals? The woman (whose character in the show has no qualms about being naked around others) is of course acting totally out of character so as to hide her body from the TV viewer, not from either of the men, who of course can still see her genitals. I hate it when characters are forced to act in ridiculous ways, behaviour that would never be seen in real life, just because producers want to hide things from the viewer.
The 2015 move 'Trainwreck' with Amy Schumer and John Cena provides the next image. It is of course a sex scene, which is implied by their dialogue, their movements and Cena being naked. But do you see a problem with the image? For me, it's Schumer's unbelievable state of undress. Especially since Schumer's character was, to put it nicely, a promiscuous slut, and after they had sex the movie shows the naked boyfriend in the bathroom with just a towel hanging off his still erect penis. That was perfectly OK with the producers it seems, however suggesting that Schumer would be naked while having sex was clearly a step too far. But just as you didn't actually see the erect penis, the towel merely implied it was there, you also didn't have to actually see all of Schumer's naked body, so why with a bit of camera trickery didn't they even pretend she was naked? She was happy to have a scene where a guy was giving her oral sex, under the sheets (and pretend) of course, but not one where she pretended to be naked. What is this problem people have with simple nudity, even pretend nudity, but not with pretend sex acts?
The following screenshot is from the movie 'Z for Zachariah' (2015), starring Margot Robbie as a nuclear apocalypse survivor living alone in a remote valley. With good reason, she believes she could well be the only person left alive on the planet, or at least in the Eastern United States. And yet, believing she is totally alone, and in a dark room, the movie still shows her character wearing panties while bathing, scrubbing any possible trace of radioactive contaminants from her body. She's just returned from a trip outside the valley, so the scene makes sense, as do other scenes in the movie regarding radiation poisoning, technology, agriculture etc in a post-apocalyptic world, so why does the movie get it so wrong when showing how someone would do something simple like taking a bath? Unlike older movies where the character would naturally be shown naked, current movies still want viewers to think about nudity while being too afraid to actually show it.
Finally, here's a couple of screenshots from the latest remake of 'The Mummy' (2017), starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella. If you think the only nudity in the movie is brief and pretty hard to make out, especially compared to the nonstop violence, then you'd be right. But again this is our point, producers of movies these days are very reluctant to provide anything but fleeting glimpses of nudity, and even then they must be hidden in deep shadows.
Thus, with these examples we'd argue that the chance of encountering nudity in public or the movies has indeed decreased over the last few decades. But there's more to it than that. Has this decrease in sighting nudity seen a similar decrease in the risk of harmful behaviour? Are we, as a society, better off with far less nudity?
Earlier in this article we mentioned five groups that are currently exposed to nudity with no ill-effect (beauty therapists, medical practitioners, nudists, censors and watchers of porn), and now we've just listed five more historical examples (streaking, saunas, changing rooms, beaches and movies), where people in the 1970s and '80s might have encountered more innocent nudity than they would today. And yet again, there was no ill-effect noticed, society wasn't suffering harm as a result of people viewing a naked body, and we'd argue that society was generally much safer then than it is now. We'd also argue that generally people had a much healthier and more realistic view of what normal, natural bodies looked like, and weren't worried terribly about body image as many now are. Girls suffering from anorexia nervosa and bulimia were unheard of. When I was a teen growing up, no women were getting breast implants or even wishing they could, unlike now where there is an increasing number of parents buying their teenage daughters implants, not to mention women getting vaginaplasty, labiaplasty and other cosmetic genital surgery. And men are also increasingly seeking cosmetic genital surgery. Now young men and women are fooled into thinking that the performers they watch in pornography look the way we're all supposed to look, and if your genitals and breasts and overall body shape doesn't match a porn star's, then you need some work done, and should keep covered up until the surgery scars heal. Of course, just as with the pornography now, back in the '70s and '80s most women didn't look like the nude models in 'Playboy', but back then most models still looked normal, like beautiful 'girl next door' types that you could occasionally expect to see in real life, women that hadn't achieved their looks through surgery. Look at the bodies in the above movie screenshots from the 1970s and '80s, they're attractive, yes, but they're also quite normal. Men and women were far more comfortable with and accepting of different body shapes, and that's probably because they saw normal looking naked bodies, bodies that resembled theirs somewhat, not just someone's idea of a perfect body that was made in an operating theatre and further improved in Photoshop. Look at the following current image selling underwear, not much diversity there. Even the models in the advert probably lament the fact that they don't have the "perfect" body that the finished photo appears to show, that magazine editors likely still found the need to tweak their bodies, making it even more unrealistic that real women could obtain that look.
So no, we don't think society is better off having eliminated encounters with innocent, public nudity.
Without doubt, there's lots and lots of graphic violence and profanity in today's movies, much more than in the past, and we're arguing that nudity and sex has gone the other way. Of course you'll hear people complaining that there is actually far, far more nudity and sex about these days than there used to be, but they're being disingenuous. What they really mean is that there is far more pornography about today, and free access to it is child's play. And that's true, but what we're arguing is that nudity in mainstream movies and TV shows has reduced drastically, not that access to pornography has reduced. If you're not deliberately seeking out pornography and only watch mainstream movies, if you watch what's on view in public places, the content that most people view for entertainment, then you'll see far less nudity than people did several decades ago. Even nudity in magazines has disappeared from sight. In the 1970s and '80s publications featuring nudity were on every bookshop's magazine rack alongside motoring and gardening magazines, everything from 'Playboy' and 'Penthouse' to nudist magazines. Then in the 1990s they suddenly came sealed in clear plastic so that no one could "accidentally" be shocked by viewing the nudity inside. Shops then moved to wrapping the magazines totally in brown paper so that innocent shoppers wouldn't be shocked by the thought that they were even near a magazine with nudity, and then they pretty much disappeared all together. We suspect that actively hiding a product (never a good idea when you're trying to sell it), the rise of the Internet and an increasing public prudishness towards nudity all contributed to the demise of the magazines. As for the movies, it's been suggested that the promise of full-frontal nudity and sex scenes helped sell mainstream movies decades ago, but since scenes of real sex can easily be found in online pornography these days, for free, going to the bother of putting brief scenes of pretend sex in movies no longer helps sell tickets. It takes time and money to fake it, many actors are uncomfortable with nudity, and some prudes will always complain. The solution: it's simply more bother than it's worth, so let's lose the nude scene and add some more explosions and killing instead!
So, we could go on and on, listing untold examples from mainstream movies made in the last couple of decades that feature scenes that imply nudity, and where nudity is naturally expected in the real world, such as sex, shower and bedroom scenes, changing rooms, strip clubs, nude beaches etc, but where at the same time, nudity is never actually shown, unlike prior decades. Now it's all about suggesting nudity, and then letting the viewers' imagination do all the heavy lifting. And again, that's the strange thing, movies don't shy away from deliberately putting their characters in situations where the viewer is forced to imagine the characters naked. If movie producers don't want us thinking about nudity, then why do they always have some crucial element to the storyline unfold while the person is in the shower or getting undressed? Look again at the above screenshots from 'The Mummy'. What happens in that scene is essential to understanding the movie, but there is no logical reason why the Egyptian princess, played by Sofia Boutella, had to be naked rather than clothed. The nudity, shadowy as it is, was completely gratuitous. Likewise, if they don't want us thinking about sex, then don't have the characters rolling around moaning under the sheets. It's not rocket science, if nudity and sex is offensive and shocking and not something you want to show us, then why are you continually planting the idea in our heads with your suggestive scenes in the shower and the moaning under the covers?
So what explains this apparent paradox, where movies shun frank nudity and yet many promote the idea of it at the same time? Money is the answer. Movie producers, first and foremost, want to make huge profits, entertainment comes a distant second, or perhaps third after fame. The reality is, we believe, that most movie producers, directors, script writers etc would happily put full-frontal nudity, and perhaps even graphic sex, in their movies and TV shows for adults if the scene called for it. No one spends millions trying to make their spaceship interiors and car chases and fight scenes and aliens look as realistic and as believable as possible, and then makes their nude scenes and sex scenes look as though they were filmed by a naïve 5-year-old under the direction of an embarrassed Pope. Ensuring historical, scientific and physical accuracy in movie sets, costumes, props and special effects is one of the major costs of making a movie these days. And yet, even though filming a naked body is simple and dirt cheap in comparison, movie producers deliberately let realism slide when it comes to depicting nudity and sex, so why is this? The reality is that they're rewarded handsomely at the box office for making movies such as 'The Bourne Identity' (2002) starring Matt Damon, or 'Casino Royale' (2006) starring Daniel Craig as James Bond, movies that feature nonstop action that is visually stunning, exciting and violent, but they're punished at the box office for making movies containing full-frontal nudity and/or graphic sex.
Basically movies make money based on how many people buy tickets to see them, and this number hinges on how many people are allowed to see them. All mainstream movies are generally given a rating by a censorship organisation, and in the U.S.A. this is the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). TV shows are different, they aren't rated and the broadcasters themselves decide what they'll screen, although the FCC can fine them for 'violating public decency standards' (whatever that means). If a movie is rated G, then moviegoers of any age can buy a ticket and watch it, but putting even brief nudity in a movie can see it rated PG-13, which limits the audience, and the ticket sales. Movies with full-frontal nudity would likely be rated NC-17 (meaning 'adults only' and no one under 18 can see it), or at least an R rating (Restricted), meaning those under 17 must be accompanied by an adult. And the thing is, restricting a movie's potential audience to those over 17 could see a movie losing a fortune at the box office, possibly not even making a profit at all. We read that as of 2006, 'No film rated NC-17 has been a major box office success'. That's because many theatres are reluctant to even screen R rated movies since the big money, for both the theatre and the producers, are with movies that target the youth market. Decades ago, before DVDs and wide-screen TVs, adults were the big moviegoers, now it's the youth that make or break a movie, and if it's a movie that has profitable spin-offs such as toys and games, such as 'Star Wars' and superhero movies, then that's even more reason to ensure that your movie is rated low enough so that kids can see it. Worse still, if the MPAA thinks a movie content doesn't even fit a NC-17, they'll refuse to rate it at all, and while their rating system isn't enforced by law, most theatres abide by their rulings and won't screen unrated movies since their ticket sales would be poor. Followup DVD sales are the same, with many large stores in the U.S. limiting their display of NC-17 and unrated movies, so again the movie fails to reach the public, and loses yet more sales. It's the same with TV, producers can certainly include more realistic nudity and sex in their shows, but then TV broadcasters won't buy their show. That's because advertisers won't run their ads during shows that prudish viewers will complain about and then boycott. If advertisers stay away then broadcasters don't make money, so like movie theatres, broadcasters refuse to screen anything that might cut into their profits. The exception is some premium cable TV channels such as Showtime and HBO that are not tied to advertising or bound by FCC rules, but even then, studio executives usually limit the nudity while giving the violence free rein. And of course many of the movies and TV shows we in NZ get to watch are made to fit the U.S. market, so the American censors are in effect our censors too.
So that's the answer, we believe, as to why movies and TV shows don't have many scenes of nudity or sex these days. It's not that those making movies don't want to make their nude scenes as realistic as the scenes depicting violence and death, it's just that if they do they'll be severely penalised for it. The censors (and society) have given graphic violence the big tick of approval, while at the same time they've placed a huge X across scenes of nudity and sex, with a helpful note for directors, 'No, no, no ... don't even think about it!' Here is an image of actress Kat Dennings highlighting the double standards of the MPAA, and the following image shows a quote from actor Ryan Gosling where he criticises the MPAA's stance of embracing scenes of movie violence while restricting sex scenes:
So we shouldn't blame movie producers and directors or accuse them of being prudes, since the few movies or TV shows that do have nudity have it only because they argued that it made sense, they wanted it included and they fought for it. For example, I was recently flicking through a book by Martin Howden on the TV show 'Game of Thrones', and by coincidence came across him commenting on this issue of sex versus violence on our screens as it related to that show. He noted that,
'Peter Dinklage has no problem with filming the sex scenes. "Those scenes are fun," he said. "We get so much flak for it, but what's wrong? I just find it to be so sad, people get in such an uproar about breasts, but not chopping people's heads off." [Game of Thrones] Author Martin himself said, "I get letters about that fairly regularly. It's a uniquely American prudishness. You can write the most detailed, vivid description of an axe entering the skull, and nobody will say a word in protest. But if you write a similarly detailed description of a penis entering a vagina, you get letters from people saying they'll never read you again. What the hell? Penises entering vaginas bring a lot more joy into the world than axes entering skulls".'The only thing I'd disagree with in those comments is that unfortunately it's not 'a uniquely American prudishness'. Although America in general certainly has a severe case of prudishness, many countries are following their lead and adopting their 'Less nudity, more violence' mantra, and let's not forget that the Muslim countries are far worse. And we should note that the nudity and sex in the above 'Game of Thrones' is an aberration, it only got through because it screened on HBO, a premium cable TV channel, and even then, the nudity in the show was still swamped by all the graphic violence.
But to return to our point, producers and directors know what makes a good realistic nude scene, they're just not encouraged to make it. The problem lies with those that censor what producers make, that threaten them, forcing them to toe the line or else their movie or TV show may be given the stamp of failure. We believe most producers and directors would love to keep the nudity and the realism that an original script called for, but not at the expense of an R rating and a financial failure at the box office. It doesn't matter if the few people that eventually saw it thought it was brilliant, and that the sex and nudity wasn't at all offensive or gratuitous, you simply can't keep making expensive movies that don't make a decent profit or even recoup their costs due to the censors limiting how many people will buy tickets. It would be financial suicide.
So if it's the censors and not the movie producers that are arguing that nudity is offensive, and ordering the editing, who or what is influencing the censors? Who's pulling their strings? Our answer would be that censors mostly obtain their guidelines from society and contemporary culture. It appears that some ignorant, conservative views in society that we thought were fading into deserved obscurity seem to be finding their voice again, and gaining undue influence. Just as sexist, racist morons like Donald Trump can be elected U.S. President when all intelligent, rational opinion deemed it nigh impossible, it seems that primitive, ignorant views on nudity and sex can have a resurgence and resonate with many in society, driving back decades of social progress. We wonder if movie content is running on a kind of positive feedback loop, where movie censors, who live in this conservative society, hide full-frontal nudity in certain movie scenes based on their own conservative, personal views and that of their equally conservative community. After viewing these censored movies, society then follows their example and hides it too, in real life. On seeing that society is now a little more adverse to nudity than it used to be, movie censors then think they should hide even more from upcoming movies to keep pace with society, and on and on it goes, each cycle feeding off the other to become more extreme.
Could this happen, could some of what's portrayed in popular movies influence behaviour and views in society? If you think of how reluctant movies (and TV shows) are these days to show nudity, then this omission of course necessitates some ridiculous behaviour from movie characters that are forever forced to try and hide nudity when the scene clearly calls for it. Often the nudity is hidden by the character quickly grabbing a towel and screaming. Is this sending the message to moviegoers that naked bodies are shameful and should be hidden, and is this in turn influencing viewer behaviour in real life? We've already mentioned more women keeping their bra on in bed and the modesty one should maintain with their bed sheets. And remember how movies showed people wearing their baseball caps backwards and holding their pistols on their side, both utterly stupid things to do in real life? But people did it anyway. In NZ our gangs now wear different gang colours and some people call everyone else bro or dude, and all this was copied from Hollywood movies. A TV episode of 'Sex and the City' in 2000 apparently created the silly trend of the Brazilian wax. On a rare positive note, scenes of the hero smoking were greatly reduced in movies to try and reduce smoking in real life, and again people followed. There are untold things people do today because some hero in a movie did it first, so clearly, whether it has to do with social attitudes, language, dress or behaviour, movies can definitely influence viewer behaviour in real life. And that influence can be good or bad, since the bottom line is that movie producers are out to entertain us and make money, not to educate us or make us better people.
So is there any suggestion that society is being influenced by what the censors force the movies to hide, and religious nutters argue needs to be hidden? By its deliberate and obvious omission, are movies implying (unintentionally from the producer's viewpoint, intentionally from the censor's) that nudity is obscene, indecent and offensive, harmful to young eyes, unwanted outside the bedroom, and that viewing it might create dangerous, lustful desires? Is there any evidence that people today are taking this proposed threat from nudity seriously and working to remove it from real life, not just the movies? Since we've argued that nudity has indeed disappeared from some aspects of public life where it was common not so long ago, eg saunas, beaches and streaking, then clearly some force is at work to reduce the acceptance of the naked body in public society.
And ordinary people are working to influence movie content too, unwilling to just accept what Hollywood gives us or the censors will let through. Again, we don't think that censors are forcing their values onto society, since they are part of society, and generally they are responding to what they think society wants. Society is saying that they're not concerned with the violence, it's the nudity and sex that offends them, and censors are taking note. As we said at the start of this article, too many people that we know are more than happy that nudity is becoming a rare thing, in public life and in the movies. They're just not comfortable being confronted by nudity, and nudity plus sex is even worse. Apparently if anything is going to cause the collapse of modern civilisation, it's going to be nudity, not violence. If you don't believe us, have a read of this article, 'What some people would pay to eliminate from popular films, if they could'. It states that around 2017, 'Sony had the brilliant idea of re-releasing some of its hottest titles without the sex, violence, and language of the original cuts'. The article said it didn't go ahead, but revealed that Sony wanted to make some older movies more family friendly and was influenced by the fact that, 'there are some viewers who would censor select scenes from films — even G-rated movies — if they could'. It seems that in 2016, by using a service called VidAngel, subscribers could pay to have that company use filters to censor movie scenes that they found offensive, like violence, language, sex and nudity. When the researchers analysed the 2,914 movies VidAngel offered in 2016, they found that,
'Viewers on VidAngel weren't concerned much with violence. They cut sex scenes most often, particularly those involving female immodesty, which was filtered more than 7 million times.We find it quite disturbing that people would pay to have scenes of nudity deleted, and even 'scenes that merely suggested sexuality', such as in a kid's cartoon movie, and yet they paid little heed to all the violence. Even profanity got more attention than violence. I'm currently watching a TV series called 'Justified', an action/drama about a present-day U.S. Deputy Marshal, and Joelle Carter, one of the actresses on the show, made the following comment:
'The funniest thing I got was an email or tweet from a fan going, "We really, really love the show, but the cussing is starting to get out of hand". And I'm like, the cussing? Four people die every episode! It's OK for the killing and you know, the brutal beat downs, but let's not cuss?'But this is the sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in, especially in the U.S.A. where most of the movie censorship happens. Far too many people are accepting of the graphic violence in what they watch but are horrified when the killer utters a naughty word! This sort of childish complaint from a fan shows that people aren't blindly accepting of what Hollywood turns out. Moviegoers are running the show, or trying to, and society is making its views known. What movies they watch, or don't watch, influences what producers put in their new movies. If viewers are consistently flocking to movies with graphic violence, but are shunning movies with nudity (or cussing), then the offensive material must go.
While censors clearly do the actual censoring of movies, our argument is that it's the views of the wider society that guide what is censored. For example, at a time when American society thought that a woman's bathing suit was indecent if it didn't cover enough of her legs, police would stop women on the beach and measure for length violations, as in the following photo taken on a Washington DC beach back in 1922.
Censors are responding to what they believe society wants to see, what they think the man and woman on the street finds morally acceptable, and society is in turn guided by what the censors say decent people should be watching. One feeds off the other. And in the case of some (perhaps most) censors, they're also guided by what they personally think is morally acceptable. For example, the people that work for the MPAA and rate U.S. movies are basically just people off the street, they have no specific qualifications, training or expertise. 'This Film Is Not Yet Rated' is an interesting documentary by Kirby Dick that looks at how the MPAA works, who their anonymous censors are and how biased their decisions are. (You can view it on YouTube.)
In his book, 'More Than A Movie: Ethics In Entertainment' (2000), American producer and entertainment attorney F. Miguel Valenti comments on America's embarrassing stance regarding sex and violence in its movies:
'A number of critics of contemporary media — particularly those with a religious or conservative bent — use as their mantra the elimination of "sex and violence" in films and especially on television. This is rather like trying to combine love and hate or life and death. Sex and violence could not be further apart on the spectrum, yet they are often attacked as one conglomerate evil by parent, religious and other groups. In fact, given a choice, many of these advocates would prefer to see sex eliminated from the land than violence.When writing in 2016 about what might be expected on the then upcoming fourth season of 'Orphan Black', a Canadian sci-fi TV show, American medical ethics expert and science fiction aficionado Professor Gregory E. Pence expressed a similar sentiment, 'Some things I hope will not change: the Canadian feel of the show, where we have occasional violence but not the gross violence of American shows'. Like Valenti, Pence is another American dismayed at his country's love affair with extreme violence.
And it is interesting, and disturbing, that many conservative critics of movies, especially religious fundamentalists, do often consider scenes of sex and violence as both deserving of censorship, and yet if they're told they can only eliminate one, they'll pick sex, seeing it as a far greater threat to a decent society than violence. And seeing that movie violence has increased while sex and nudity has been pushed to the fringes, clearly that's where their efforts are focused these days. And if they were to win the war against sex and nudity, I suspect their next fight would be against those goddamn fucking cunts who use blasphemous profanities in movies, with violence still having to wait its turn. It's simply astounding that these morons find nudity more of a worry than violence. How can they look at movie violence and rate its potential harm level and then do the same for nudity, and nudity comes out as the real threat? It's like they're from another planet. And why do censors listen to them, or do they all go to the same church?
Censors do of course have to ban anything that is illegal in their particular country. But beyond that, it all becomes rather subjective and vague. As Larry Flynt said, 'One man's pornography is another man's art'. So, why can't adults take responsibility for their own lives and simply avoid or ignore things they don't like, why do we need official censors to shield us from things that the censors might find shocking and harmful? And that question reveals another real flaw with how censorship works. Ignoring for the moment the illegal stuff which they're compelled to ban, the censors are, to some degree, shielding us from things that they personally find shocking, not necessarily from things that we find shocking, since of course they've never asked us what it is we find shocking and would rather not see. I don't recall any questions on this in the latest census. Without any research, censors apparently believe that they can somehow take the pulse of contemporary society, somehow they fool themselves into thinking that they've ascertained what the majority most likely does and doesn't want to see, and from there they take an ill-informed guess on our behalf, their decisions greatly influenced by their personal preferences and what they believe, usually without evidence, would be harmful to society. Why is it that a handful of mostly anonymous, unqualified adults that weren't elected to their position get to decide what millions of other adults are allowed to see in public, let alone get to read or view in their private lives?
But, I hear you say, the subjective views of the censors, the things that they personally find acceptable or distasteful, are not the criteria that they use to categorise books, movies, art, video games, websites etc. And you're right, to a degree, since censors have a set of laws and guidelines provided by the justice system to follow, which clearly decree that certain things are permitted, or not permitted, and the personal view of the censor cannot override the law. But that just moves the same argument back a step, instead of censors we now have judges shielding us from things that they personally find shocking. And where judges and lawyers are involved, many of the laws and guidelines around censorship seem to use words such as obscene, offensive, shocking, pornographic, distasteful, harmful, indecent, vulgar, disgusting, repulsive, vile, repellent, disrespectful, blasphemous, irreverent etc, to describe the work being considered. And the well-known problem is that the meaning of these words is vague and subjective, they don't explicitly and objectively define what they signify in the way that words in other laws do, such as gun, murder, prostitution and blood alcohol limit. It's very easy to decide whether a person has a gun, but not so easy to decide if what he's saying is offensive, since what might be offensive to one person can be totally innocuous to another. For example, some Christians have said they find my upfront atheism offensive, whereas I find their barely contained glee that I'm going to be tortured in Hell, along with new-born babies, offensive. Christians and I have differing ideas as to what actions are offensive, ie free speech or torturing babies, and if either of us controlled the censorship department then clearly very different things might end up being censored. They would ban criticism of religion and I would ban threats of violence towards innocent babies and atheists.
You may have heard the famous quote from some judge who said he couldn't define what pornography was, but that he'd know it when he saw it. That guy was Justice Potter Stewart, who in the USA in 1964 tried to explain how judges in their legal system recognised when pornography went from soft-core to hard-core, from barely acceptable to obscene. He said, 'I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced ... but I know it when I see it'. Don't try and tell me that view isn't subjective, based solely on Stewart's personal preferences and worldview, and so vague as to be almost worthless. In no way does it go anywhere towards helping define whether something is obscene, or even in providing some rough guidelines to determine obscenity. And the legal system today still struggles to explain why some things are offensive and need banning, offering nothing but vague, gut feelings that they can't expand on. Recall how in the U.S. the FCC can fine people for 'violating public decency standards', but again this is a pretty vague and nebulous statement, meaning quite different things to different people. To further prove that their rulings are subjective rather than objective, some things that were deemed obscene in the past are now viewed as quite acceptable, while some have even gone the other way, from acceptable to obscene. For example, one of the first married couples to be shown together in a double bed on TV were Herman and Lily Munster in 'The Munsters' (1964). Everyone else, like the married couples in shows like, 'I Love Lucy' and 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', had to have single beds, and stay in them. You couldn't even suggest that married couples might have sex, and of course they both worn baggy pyjamas to their individual beds, no sexy nightwear or hint of nudity. No doubt the Munsters were only allowed because they were 'monsters' and not real people. And then we have that kiss between Captain Kirk and Uhura in 'Star Trek' (1966), which was one of the first interracial kisses on TV, and the studio executives only allowed it because an alien was forcing them to kiss, they weren't doing it willingly (yeah right!). This was because some states in the US still had anti-miscegenation laws which banned relations between different races, and many Americans still thought that a white man and a black woman kissing was offensive and quite wrong. Clearly most have now changed their minds. And for something more recent, people are no longer prosecuted for homosexuality, it's now deemed normal and natural behaviour for some, both in real life and on TV. What was once deemed obscene is now viewed as quite acceptable in our movies and on TV. Most young people today would no doubt find it quite laughable that such innocent scenes as a married couple in a double bed couldn't be shown. Going the other way, nudity in public saunas and spa pools, once deemed normal and natural, is now unacceptable and new rules prohibit it, even nudity in single-sex changing rooms at the pool and the gym is now viewed as disturbing and something to be avoided.
Between then and now, nothing has changed except the views and values of those making the rules, new rules that society is now expected to follow. Homosexuality is still the same as it's always been, it hasn't given up certain aspects in order to make it publicly acceptable, and naked bodies in the 21st century haven't become so repulsive, compared to the 1980s, that we now need to ban them from the saunas to save our eyesight. So what's really changed? No hitherto unknown objective rules have been discovered, no stone tablets have surfaced, only our personal views on how we see the world have changed, meaning society has changed, and clearly not always for the best.
It's obviously good that homosexuals are now treated as normal members of society, but not good that innocent nudity is no longer seen as normal and harmless, that it's now seen as something to be censored, hidden and deeply ashamed of. Over recent decades homosexuality has been slowly brought out from the closet from whence it hid, and innocent nudity has been thrust into the vacated space, as if society's acceptance of homosexuality was conditional on something else taking its place in the shadows.
Of course, like all people, there are personally some things I'd rather not see on TV or in the movies I watch, like scenes of people performing ballet, rap music or the Maori haka, and pretty much anything with Adam Sandler in it. And some things truly offend me, like shots of stupid people praying to some invisible god, and items on the TV news that suggest moronic things, like that homeopathy works or that ghosts are actually real. And it aggrieves me when I see the Bible and books about psychic mediums for sale in bookshops and they've put them in the 'Non-Fiction' section. But we don't campaign to have these movies or books banned, we simply avoid watching or reading them, and if we stumble across them accidentally, then we simply ignore them. Our exposure to the ideas and claims in these books and movies over the years hasn't meant mental scarring which will be with us for life, and therefore we've never felt it necessary to demand that a censorship department be created to ensure we never see these things in the first place. Like spying dog shit on the footpath, we know how to walk around it and get on with life.
But not everyone is as tolerant as us, many arrogant people feel the need to have the world moulded to their values, to run on their rules. They want to be in charge of society, not merely part of it. If something offends their values, rather than look away, they'll demand it be eliminated, no matter that the rest of us aren't offended. Back in the 16th century the Christian Church launched what has become known as the Fig Leaf Campaign, in which they censored ancient Greek and Roman statues that were naked by placing a plaster or metal fig leaf over the penis, although many penises (most?) were simply chiselled off, and paintings that had visible penises and pubic hair had fig leaves or loincloths painted across them. And this is not just some example of idiocy from history, we read that,
'... censorship and the moral dilemmas nudity inspires still rage on. As late as 1995, the city of Jerusalem rejected a gift from Florence: another replica of Michelangelo's David. After much back and forth, they finally accepted the influential sculpture — but only after shielding its loins with underwear.'A book I'm currently reading about anatomy and the human body (published 2013) has a picture of Michelangelo's David on the cover, and the publisher has (thankfully) put a large green fig leaf over the naughty bits. It's been over 500 years since those naughty bits were carved in marble, and still many in society haven't got comfortable seeing them, even though half the people on the planet have their own personal copy that they see everyday. Clearly the primitive, religious notion of nudity being shameful still has a powerful and insidious hold on many in society, and that view is affecting the content of our movies. How long is it going to take until we grow up?
Nudity and sex in movies is nothing new, producers have been putting nudity into their movies since the industry's early days, and the morally outraged have been censoring it our behalf. Hedy Lamarr swam naked in the Czech-Austrian movie 'Ecstasy' in 1933 (below), and was also the first actress to show a female orgasm in movie history. It was immediately banned in the U.S.A.
In 1909 in the U.S., 'The National Board of Censorship, representing mainstream Protestantism, is created after complaints about "indecent" films'. In 1930 the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) create the Hays Code, which 'condemns movies that "lower the moral standards" of viewers'. In 1945 the MPPDA is renamed the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). In response to continuing objections to the Hays Code the MPAA has made changes over the years, such as renaming X-rated movies as NC-17, but it is still the organisation that rates U.S. movies today, it still seeks advice from the Christian Church, and like it or not, censored U.S. movies and TV shows still hold the market share of the world's screen time.
So, it's U.S. society, not Chinese or Indian or Ukrainian society, that's having a disproportionate influence on the rest of the world through their movies and TV. The values and behaviour that they portray in their movies influence, deliberately or otherwise, people in other countries with different cultures and values. As I've said, Europeans used to be quite nonchalant regarding nudity, in movies and at the beach (and still are compared to the rest of the world), but European culture of late has clearly been influenced by American culture, mainly through their movies. More and more Europeans (and Asians and Kiwis etc) are adopting American values and mannerisms and rejecting their own. Women, and men, are copying American ideals of beauty. European and Asian women that never felt the need to shave their armpits to look beautiful now do, beautiful Asian women are having their eyelids surgically altered to look like American women, and the world seems to have a lot more blonde women than genetics would suggest is possible. When I travelled the world decades ago, each different country was a culture shock, and the differences were fascinating and invigorating, but now more and more countries, in Europe and Asia and even NZ, are looking like cheap copies of the U.S.A. American fashion, slang, architecture, technology, fast-food restaurants, books and magazines, and of course, movies. Iran claims to hate America, but walking around Teheran is not really all that different from many U.S. cities. Most Iranians want everything the Americans have, from their clothes, cars and smart phones to their movies, air conditioners and free speech. Satellite TV — meaning foreign influence — is supposedly illegal, but satellite dishes are everywhere. They're already Americans in spirit, but without the nuclear weapons. As a kid growing up in NZ everyone used British English, we said 'lorry' rather than 'truck' and 'petrol' rather than 'gas'. But now people are using more American terms, because as a country we went from watching mostly British TV and movies to American fare.
Through its movies, America is clearly altering behaviour and attitudes worldwide, and some of it is intentional. We can't condemn all Americans for their prudishness regarding nudity, because some are actively fighting to allow nudity in movies (and to keep their nude beaches open), but unfortunately a more powerful sector of U.S. society is doing its utmost to stop them, and they're winning. Organisations like the MPAA were created solely to oppose producers and actors who believed realism in movies sometimes meant nudity and sex, not just graphic violence. Regrettably, the voice of those that oppose public nudity is drowning out those arguing for freedom of expression, probably because many religious nutters hold positions of power in a religiously conservative country like America. And that prudishness has spread to NZ, but we don't understand why it has. We're typically not religious nutters that view censoring public nudity as a good way of decreasing lust and promoting modesty in the eyes of God.
It's not as though society's attitude to public nudity has just stalled, since attitudes towards nudity have actually regressed over the last few decades. We could understand if society had said, 'Enough, no more!', but we can't understand why society has gone backwards. We know why society changed its mind regarding homosexuality and sexual equality and slavery, but not about nudity. What is the argument that convinced people to say that full-frontal nudity in our movies and topless women on our beaches and naked people in our saunas was a step too far; that we tried it, it was a mistake, and now we need to wind the clock back to a time when decent women swooned at even the hint of naked flesh?
New Zealanders like to think of ourselves as intelligent and independent. We don't agree with America on many issues, such as gay marriage, gun ownership and religious observance, so why does it appear that we're blindly following their example regarding nudity in movies and TV, and in our saunas and on our beaches? It seems like too much of a coincidence that many Kiwis are now acting the way fictional characters in American movies and TV shows act.
Let's reiterate our argument here, which is that we disagree with the way movies and TV shows deliberately prohibit and/or censor scenes that show characters engaging in perfectly legal, pleasurable, harmless and desirable behaviours in the form of sex and/or innocent nudity, while at the same time they promote scenes that show illegal, horrifying, harmful, repellent and odious behaviour, in the form of murder, rape, torture and untold other criminal acts; violence that is portrayed in the most realistic, graphic manner possible, sometimes from start to finish. If the censors, movie producers and society in general believe, and clearly they do, that viewers are mature enough that they will not be harmed in the slightest psychologically, nor will they harm others after viewing this graphic violence inflicted on their fellow human beings, then what justification do they have for thinking that graphic scenes of nudity or sex would impact differently on viewers? That these same mature viewers would suddenly run amuck and start harming themselves or others?
We've hopefully convinced you that seeing nudity, in movies or real life, does not cause any real harm. Yes, many people may feel embarrassed or shocked or offended, but it wasn't really a naked body that did that, it was the irrational, screwed up beliefs in their head that made them uncomfortable. We've explained that several diverse groups view nudity as part of their day, and none are harmed in the slightest. Unlike, say, high levels of radioactivity that harms everyone who comes in contact with it, nudity does not emit anything that causes harm. If it did then reducing how much nudity we see should have brought about a real reduction in harmful effects. But we've argued that as public nudity has decreased over the last couple of decades, there has been no real world simultaneous decrease in sexual assaults or violence or harm in general. In fact we'd argue that there has been an increase. So clearly there is no causal relationship between nudity and harm, you could even argue, facetiously, that perhaps nudity was somehow helping keep harm in check, since when we started eliminating nudity from movies and the public sphere all we got in its place was a huge increase in graphic movie violence and real world violence. The problem is not nudity but a society that is mired in primitive, superstitious, irrational beliefs. We don't need to rid the world of harmless naked bodies, we need to rid the world of prudes.
It hasn't been, but if it were successfully argued that seeing a graphic murder or rape in a movie might prompt a viewer to actually murder or rape someone in real life, then that would be a good reason to censor such scenes from movies. We would be preventing real harm from occurring. But let's apply the same argument to nudity and sex in movies. If seeing innocent full-frontal nudity or graphic sex in a movie might prompt a viewer to actually go skinny dipping with friends or to have sex with their lover in real life, then what would be the problem? No one has been harmed, just the opposite, since enjoyable, pleasurable real-life experiences would have occurred. That would be the worst case scenario for showing both violence and nudity in movies, that viewing such graphic scenes might prompt copycat behaviour in real life. But then surely any intelligent, informed person should see that, if such a risk exists, then graphic movie violence should be censored and graphic movie nudity should be allowed. And yet we find ourselves with just the opposite situation, movie violence is rampant while movie nudity is censored. Why is this? Consider that movie violence spilling over into real life would be horrific, innocent people would be dying and suffering, while movie nudity spilling over into real life would mean, at it's worst, that some sheltered folk were occasionally embarrassed. One is genuinely harmful, while the other is inconsequential. If there was any chance that movie violence and nudity might influence viewers and change behaviour in the real world, we'd prefer to be confronted with a world of friendly nudists wearing only sandals than a world of homicidal maniacs carrying assault rifles.
Any argument that says movie violence is harmless entertainment and quite safe to view, that it won't cause injury or corrupt the morals of society, must surely apply equally to movie nudity. If it doesn't, why doesn't it? And unlike violence, even if viewers were swayed by movie nudity to be more accepting of nudity in real life, what would be the harm if a friend saw you naked? Why do people have this irrational fear of nudity but not violence, which believe it or not, can actually harm you. As the humour columnist Mike Nichols once wrote,
'Take off all your clothes and walk down the street waving a machete and firing an Uzi, and terrified citizens will phone the police and report: 'There's a naked person outside!"'
And again, we're not saying that movies should be full of nudity, only that nudity should be portrayed naturally when a scene calls for it, that is, when people would be naked in real life situations. Movie producers now argue that when people get shot and stabbed there will naturally be lots of blood and screaming and horrific wounds, and this needs to be portrayed as realistically as possible to make the scene believable, so we're simply arguing that when movie characters show up on a nude beach, for example, then to make the scene believable, the bathers on that beach should be shown naked. If the bullets ripping through bodies need to be shown and not merely implied, then likewise naked bodies need to be shown and not merely implied, not hidden behind sheets, towels and other strategically placed props, like hiding those offensive nipples behind coffee mugs. If you can hide the nudity and still effectively tell the story, then there's no reason why you can't hide the violence too. The rules for movie violence and nudity should be the same, if one can be shown with no ill effect, and apparently needs to be shown in great detail, then both can be shown. It is utter hypocrisy to suggest that moviegoers can easily handle seeing a man being decapitated in all it's gory and horrific detail, or can watch a woman being tortured and raped without being affected, and yet will be pyschologically scarred for life if shown a naked body in the shower, or shown naked lovers having sex, on top of the sheets rather than under them.
We'll finish with the question that we started with, nudity or violence — which is worse? The question is not which scene do you recoil from in disgust if you see it on our big and small screens. Obviously for most people the answer to that question is nudity, the big question is which really does more real harm to our psyche, our relationships and the world at large? And of course the question is moot, it's already been decided that nudity, not violence, is far worse, and is what would cause the collapse of society if allowed past the censors and out of our bathrooms. What's not so clear, to us anyway, since we must have missed a crucial memo, is how the sight of innocent nudity, or even actual sex, carries the seeds of our destruction whereas viewing realistic graphic violence is nothing but harmless entertainment. Even for the children.
There was an aspiring saying from the last century that went: 'Make love, not war', and yet these days our movies push just the opposite message, with realistic scenes of war flaunted and realistic scenes of love censored. We're not so sure that glorifying violence and condemning nudity is really the way forward.
Authors: John L. Ateo, Rachel C.
Last Updated Nov 2017