When I asked the question on Facebook, "Can you please tell me what it is about a naked body that freaks people out so much they will keep their children away from it as if it were an oncoming speeding train?" I had no idea I would get such great responses! I'm putting them here to share more widely. Folks have some really interesting thoughts about it. Please feel free to join the conversation either on facebook or by posting your comments here. (I've changed the names of people to numbers to protect the privacy of people involved unless I have explicit permission to include their names.)
Susan Singer: Can someone please tell me what it is about a naked body that freaks people out so much they will keep their children away from it as if it were an oncoming speeding train? I really don't understand it.
#1: Pretty much the USA. I too have traveled and it's not the same anywhere else; well anywhere near a beach.
#2: neither do they!
#1: Hee hee.
No, no, you guys don't understand - we're too like-minded! I really need to understand the other point of view. Otherwise how will I work to help these folks love their bodies too? I'm so immersed in my view of how things should be that I can't see another point of view. I'm sure they have some valid points, and it would be good if I could address them. (Or if they are simply fear-based, it would be great to be able to address the fears and try to allay them.)
Hal Vaughan: I've heard that in a PG-13 movie a man can hack off a woman's breast, but he can't kiss it. Do we have a mixed up set of concerns or not?
#4: I've always had nudes in my bathrooms. I like them.
Hal Vaughan: I think it's because, in the US, nudity = sex. If children see naked bodies, then they'll want to know more and explore and will have sex. It's the logical fallacy (or phallacy, in this case?) of not drawing a line and assuming that taking the first step means one will take all the steps.
Hal, I think we might. Read my blog for more about that.
I'm curious - I have a model who is embarassed to buy the painting I did of her because she's worried people would see it and think... I'm not sure what she thinks they'd think... would you hang a painting of a nude somewhere other than a bathroom or your bedroom? What would it say about you if you did? (Or what do you think people would think?)
Hal, I think you're on to something. So, OK, then, what's actually wrong with having sex? (I know, that's going to open up a huge can of worms.) I wouldn't want my young children having sex - I don't think they're ready for it emotionally, but what's wrong with people having sex otherwise as long as it's consensual? My belief is that if we talk to kids about sex - I mean really talk to them about it - the good, the bad, and the ugly - then they're wise enough to make good choices - despite raging hormones. If they see affection and naked bodies when they're young and have a real choice, maybe they won't need to go around having sex to do each of those when they're too young just to have the experience. I think kids have sex to get affection, to spite their parents, because they don't know they have a choice, and lots of other reasons. And of course there are those hormone things! What if there were enough information for kids that they could actually make an informed choice?
#1: Planned Parenthood gets info out there as much as possible. Hormones rule. I distinctly remember not knowing what to do with mine! Even when I thought I did know.
#5: "Take off all your clothes and walk down the street waving a machete and firing an Uzi, and terrified [American] citizens will phone the police and report: 'There's a naked person outside!' " (Mike Nichols)
#1: Weapons are legal.
#1: #2 said it, here, "neither do they!" Seems to me the first people to set foot on this shore were covered from chin to toe.
#5, you're killin' me! That's the best quote I've heard all day!
#1, which people do you mean? The people who wandered over by foot across the Bearing (sp?) Straight or the Europeans with weapons?
#1: The European's with weapons. No bare feet, no bare anything=)
Hal Vaughan: The problem is that the people that don't want nudity are the same ones who will NOT allow anyone else to talk to or teach their children about sex and, in my experience as a teacher (mostly in residential treatment), they tell their kids info that the kids don't want to know (like "God says don't do it until you're married). They don't talk about... See More the hormones or anything else -- and I think a lot of it is because they were treated that way as kids and barely know more than which parts go where themselves, so they get flustered and don't want to admit they know so little in the first place.
#1: There is definitely a lot of truth to that, Hal. And every child is different. I have found, from personal experience, that as soon as children think of what goes where, they look at they parents in complete disbelief. Parents have a hard time with that imagery in their child's mind.
#1: It passes.
#6: I'm still blaming the Puritans...and their unclaimed baggage...
#7: Nudity is art and nakedness is shameful it's a point of view based on personal vulnerabilities and a mind set....... that plus the fear of uncontrollable leakage, we're only flawed humans and filled with psychosis. We live in a fallen world.
#8: The very words "nude" and "naked" have huge differences in my experience. Nude is natural, nude is art, nude can be beautiful and peaceful. Naked is vulnerable, scary, and joked about/jeered at. "Nekkid" can be said in lighthearted fun with the right companion or good friends, but "naked" is just... somehow the word makes me want to cringe.
I'm loving this conversation. You all have such interesting input and insights. I really appreciate it.
How would you feel about my posting your comments on my blog? I could use your name or not use your name - your choice - or I'll not use your comment if you prefer. Thanks for considering the possibility.
Hal Vaughan: So how come lovers tend to say, "Let's get naked together," (or "Let's get nekkid together") instead of "Let's get nude together?"
You can post my comments and, heck, you can even use my full name if you want.
#1: Let's get naked and let Susan paint us=)
So, #7, is your last name really "Peeler"? hee hee.
#9: After we voted to accept a nude figure painter for an exhibition at a local art center, one of the committee members quit, saying, "this is a family art center, and my ten-year-old can't handle nudes." Another member said, "Well, better not take him to Italy."
That reminds me of a student of mine whose brother wouldn't go to the National Gallery in DC because he didn't want his 16-year-old daughter to see the nudes. Two years later, mind you, that same daughter won an all expense paid trip to Paris for a painting she did of her and her boyfriend - both nude from the waist up!
I don't think it works to restrict children from life.
Hal Vaughan: "I don't think it works to restrict children from life."
I wish "The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg" (http://tinyurl.com/y8s92pz) by Mark Twain were mandatory reading for EVERYONE before they turned 18. It's a short story and I strongly recommend it. It's about a town that protects everyone from temptation, so once they're faced with it, they don't know how to respond.
I taught for a year in a fundamentalist church school (I needed a job!) and saw so many false limits placed on kids that would one day be out in the world facing all the things their parents hid from them
Hiding the truth of life from kids is just stupid. They'll see it all soon enough -- should they face it with guidance or when they can legally do it all and don't have any of the restrictions they do when living with Mom and Dad?
#1: Love the story Susan. It's not about restriction for me, it's about maturity and the ability of a very young person to have a place in their head for certain information and images. Adult content and sex are two different things.
#1, I'm interested in what you're saying - I agree completely about kids being exposed to porn (I'm thinking that's what you mean by "adult content" - images and information they're not ready for. My son had a very bizarre experience once - he was bringing our garbage cans around back from the street and saw some porn magazines in them - ... someone had apparently thrown them in there for some weird reason. My son was very confused and weirded out by what he saw - he was maybe 8 or 9. That was obviously not helpful for him.
I also think that if kids see nude bodies as they grow up, then nudity won't be bizarre and strange and weird and scary and strange. I'm not talking about kids watching sex or porn. Rather, I'm talking about kids seeing the authentic human body in normal settings so that it is normal for them. Then I think it is healthy and comfortable and they can grow up with a more normal view of bodies, including their own.
#1: Personally, I like your work, you are very accomplished. As a 57 yr. old, I have a hard time with the aging process and gravity, as it were. I'm planning a show on my Birthday, Oct. 12 and am planning a "nude" presenation along with the name "Abstract Revealed". hee hee. I'm scared.
I'm planning a photo of me in front of one of my really large paintings, painted as well? Most of me anyway. I've go to loose 10lbs. My kids are gonna die! and my mom.
#1: In Mexico, there little statues of couples, making love, all over the place in perfect view of children. There is a very large sculpture, on a playground in Mexico City of a woman laying on her side and the kids can go into her mouth and come out of her bottom? It's weird, but there aren't too many secrets, it appears.
Hal Vaughan: Susan: Are you saying that bodies in porn aren't authentic?!?! But they're real human bodies! They're real flesh and blood and steroids and silicone and ... oh, never mind!
When I was a kid my parents let me try beer -- hated the taste but I'd try it every now and then, hoping I developed a taste for it. The same with wine, but after about 12, ... I kind of liked wine and they'd let me have a glass. Then when all the other kids were making a big deal out of drinking, some said, "It was never a big deal to me, since my parents let me try it when I was a kid." Well, it was so little of a deal because of how my parents handled it, that I didn't even realize it wasn't a big deal -- it was a total non-issue for me.
I think if we weren't so uptight about nudity, Hugh Hefner would not be a millionaire and the same with Larry Flint and all others like them. Men wouldn't pay money for naked bodies if it weren't such a big deal.
Hal Vaughan: #1, I'm 47 and in denial. Honestly, though, after spending years running a business 24/7 (which is why Susan hasn't seen me at Meeting for a good while!), I'm getting in better shape and I've become addicted to ballroom dancing, which is really helping me as I challenge myself in that field. It's great to see myself losing weight and getting ... back in shape.
Many men wear shirts slit open to the waist. I won't be doing that for a long while -- likely never, but there certainly is no shame of one's body in ballroom competition!
#1: I agree that porn and nudity are two different things. Nude ballroom dancing would be interesting. Where would you put the top hat then?
I'm just kidding Hal. I think nude ballroom dancing would be pretty. Back to that weight thing, having fun and loosing weight at the same time. Cool. I don't dance or run anymore. This is hard.
#10: Susan... I've been following your work for a few years (ever since I saw them in Richmond a few years ago when Mom and I came to visit) and have been a fan. You bring an elegance, a quiet beauty, a comfortable quality to the subjects you paint -- I see them as "art" and not "pornography" but then I like to think I'm not so offended by the nude body (there are some people I would just LOVE to see nude... Johnny Depp, Daniel Craig, the list goes on... ha!) and art is totally subjective. As is literature, music, religion. I've been pondering your questions, too, and I can tell you from MY point of view that I've only recently been comfortable in my own "skin" so to speak. I live alone (for now!) and frequently make the run from my bedroom on the 1st floor to the laundry room on the 2nd floor completely naked to fish clothes out of the dryer... always peaking around the corner to make sure my neighbors or yard guys are not in front of the front door where they'd see me in all my gloriousness as I dash up the stairs. However, in doing so, I feel a little tinge of "how cool and comfortable am I to be doing this" despite not wanting my neighbors to see -- its not out of embarrassment for my nakedness, its out of not wanting to make them uncomfortable the next time they see me at the mailbox. Having said that, I've been keeping my request for you to paint ME on the tip of my tongue for a few months. Still not convinced that I could pose for you, being family... my own mother hasn't seen me naked since I was little! But yet I have no problem changing clothes in front of my girl friends or, for that matter, my boyfriend and I've walked through the house in an over sized t-shirt and underwear in front of his 7 year old son without batting an eye. I think I have a beautiful, womanly body and I do admire it in the mirror when I get out of the shower and would be proud to have a painting - especially by my cousin - on display. But yet I think I would have to hide it when my boyfriend's son was visiting.
I'm curious to hear what you have to say in response. ♥
Hal Vaughan: #1, nude ballroom dancing would be rather awkward, especially at higher levels where one uses a rather close hold and, honestly, clothes keep the dangly bits from getting in the way.
Plus, in truth, it's no fun having to stick your right hand into a number of armpits during the summer with the inexperienced woman dancers who don't wear actual sleeves and go with straps instead.
I think that brings up the other end of the range. While one can be comfortable and unashamed of being nude, I've only recently discovered there can be a good side to dressing up. For most of my life I had the Quaker attitude that simplicity was better and fancier clothes were just a way of hiding one's self. I always hated anything more formal than jeans and a t-shirt, but now I love the chance to put on my tux, like in my avatar, where I have a top-hat, tails, white gloves, and even a dance cane. I don't think an acceptance of nudity or formal clothing necessarily negates an acceptance and/or appreciation of the other.
#7: Yes, #1, my name is really Peeler which is synonymous with strippers as well as the police there is even a store in Hollywood called Peeler's that sells clothing with these subjects as motifs.
I have children and an art degree and I have taken my 7 year old to all the museums I can since he was a baby. He has seen lots of nudity, we have always had a Waterhouse print in our living room which has beautiful nude water nymphs as the subject. He has no problem with any of this. He was also nursing at 3-1/2 and his baby brother is being nursed now he is not bothered by any of it and is also respectful of everyone bodies and privacy and knows what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior when it comes to our bodies. I do think he might be troubled by seeing our neighbors gardening and doing assorted home maintenance in the buff though, I could be wrong I am sure he would be concerned for their safety.
#1: Bravo gentlemen! Thanks for the personal, can't wait to meet you all sometime, maybe at an art opening?
#7, I have raised my kids the way you're raising yours. It was admittedly challenging for them when I was working on my 12 Naked Men series when they were teenagers - at times they would refuse to have friends over unless I took the pictures down. I worry that might have been weird for them - but now when I ask my 18-year-old if I need to take stuff down, he just looks at me and says, "Mom, I am SO over that!" He actually has two friends who are girls who draw the female figure themselves. They have conversations about the female body frequently. How many 18-year-old young men could do that with a straight face and a modicum of comfort?!