05 June 2013

Nudity and Children

A few days ago there was a piece in the the Portsmouth News, the local paper for the eponymous city on England's south coast. The reporter, Liz Bourne, asks "Why do we think nudity is shocking for children?" and comes to the conclusion that it isn't.

This interested me because, aside from my interest in nudism, local papers are not often known for their liberal views. But here was a balanced and reasonable article which said essentially children aren't phased by nudity, even when "a little squeamish about wrinkly bits" and we can all understand why some people want to be nude even if it isn't for us.

Here are the nuts of the article:
In my experience, children love nudity. When very young, two of my children both enjoyed stripping off and flouncing around with the sun on their bare skin. On several occasions my son was known for taking all his clothes off in a rage, usually in the most public of places ... Although not encouraged, within reason I did accept it as an expression of their innocence and, in my son’s case, frustration of being restricted by clothing. Now that they are older, they are less keen to bare all. And when news of the naked bike protest was revealed, they were struck with both bemusement and horror.

"Ughh, all those saggy old men", one declared.
"Won't they get cold?" was another reaction.

But as a parent of three impressionable children, at no point did I feel the need to sign a petition against the protest. By making a point about nudity being 'offensive' and 'indecent' aren’t we sexualising it unnecessarily? Children revelling in their own nudity isn't sexually motivated. And the naked cyclists had other things on their agenda. By protesting against it, isn't this linking nudity with a sexual element, which is much more skewed?

I explained to the children that the cyclists were protesting against global oil dependency and our inherent car culture, as well as how vulnerable cyclists are on the roads. With this information, they understood the purpose of the nudity and, although still a little squeamish about wrinkly bits, accepted that if this is how some people wish to express themselves, so be it.

The protest took place in the middle of the day — a school day — and passed without incident ... for research purposes, I took a couple of snapshots and showed them to the children. The images of blurred buttocks were met with derisory laughter, not shock and outrage. They were more perplexed that I had chosen to go and watch it ...

Why anyone would be concerned about such an event I am not sure. Why should we protect our children from nudity? There are so many other things we should be protecting them from — drunk people in the street, dog poo on the pavement and the overpowering stench of celebrity culture in the media ... That, in my mind, is much more damaging than seeing a few saggy buttocks on bikes.
Indeed so!

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