Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"But the thing you don't realize is that there's good naked and bad naked"

I came home from work last night to find Mr E Man watching one of those survival shows on the Discovery Channel. Some testosterony chap was striding around the Namibian desert killing snakes and being condescending in a way that reminded me of my ex-boyfriend ("not a lot of people know this, but..." and "you might think [X], but you'd be wrong").

But the really weird part came when the show restarted after a commercial break. One of those parental warnings came on screen, and a very deep and serious voice announced that "this show contains scenes of indigenous nudity".

Indigenous nudity?

As opposed to regular nudity?

Indeed, the next segment featured Condescending Man killing a porcupine with a group of indigenous people. There were bums (as in butts, if you're North American) and boobs on display.


But but but...

Is this supposed to be different to Western nudity? Like, is it supposed to be "better" (i.e. less corrupting to children) to see an African hunter-gatherer's bum or boob than a bare bum on the street in Toronto, or a boob on stage at the Superbowl half-time show? If so, why? Because "they're savages and don't know any better?" There was something about the whole show that got my back up (maybe the similarity to my ex-boyfriend, duh), which might be making me infer more from the parental warning than was actually there.

But c'mon, people. A bum is a bum and a boob is a boob.

And neither is inherently corrupting to children.


  1. I like reading your posts while I eat my yogurt. It's messy, but fun.

    I've never seen a late night movie where scantily-clad folks (ie baring bums and boobs) were performing any type of rite or custom.. usually they are just humping. I'm sure they could find a better way to state this, but they were probably trying to give parents a heads up that it was indeed EDUCATIONAL nudity, not sexual. Watching sexual nudity with parents is far more awkward.

    Let's see how many more times we can say bum and boob in this thread!

  2. So what's wrong with "non-sexual nudity"?

    Also, it was the Discovery Channel. At 7pm.

    Sorry about your yogurt!

    p.s. bum bum bum, boob boob boob

  3. Can I escalate to tits and arse?

  4. Escalate away, my friend, it's Christmas after all.

  5. Well, look, we don't mind exposed genitals of animals, do we ? So, if we think it is all right to show nudity of "indigenous" but not of westerners, it must mean that in the back (or front) of our minds, we do not regard the two as people in the same way. Pretty frightening eh ? Or, is there any other explanation ?

  6. That was pretty much what I inferred, and I found it very depressing.

  7. Cath> as being a somewhat odd bird here in the land of "oh no, we don't have a good concept of our bodies and nudity", I would say that many people equals nudity with SEX. And since they do it, everyone does it, right?!?!

    I find this a bit funny, since my experience is nudity is nudity, and sex is a bit different. Then again, I come from the land where you can have a sauna (or how ever this would be written - can be In a sauna) naked with people from the other gender as well as your own and there will be (gasp!) no sex. I know, isn't it Sooooooo strange?!!? People can actually be naked/scantly clad without humping eachother. Not to mention that you can change clothes in the bathhouse without having a locked door because there are only females in the female section....etc...


    (this long rant is mainly because I don't want to contemplate massimo's comment since I think it might be way too true. After all, it was one of the "problems" the Christian missionaris found on their trips... this "indigenous nudity" that didn't bother anyone but the missionaries... imagine that. Indigenous people not thinking about sex "just because" they see a boob... makes you wonder who is evolved/truthful/having a naturla behaviour and not.)

  8. Tits boobs butt tits arse? Boobie-boobs, tit arse butt arse tits, tits butt. Titty...arse butt tits arse.

  9. Umm tits and arse are nowhere as cool as boobs and bum.

  10. Seriously though...I do think Massimo hit the nail on the head, which is unfortunate. Apparently indigenous nudity is educational, or implies they just don't know any better, while "western" nudity = sex.

  11. If ever a post needed a nested comments thread...

    UR, I think so too, and yikes indeed.

    Chall, that definitely plays into it, and I don't think you're odd, I think you're normal. I only stopped going to Wreck Beach (Vancouver's nudie beach) when I started meeting way too many people I work with there, including my then student... it's such a shame that people think the human body is offensive. My mention of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" was deliberate - I couldn't believe the outrage that got hysterically drummed up in response to a woman's boob being on TV for about 2 seconds. People said their children were traumatised. Well, maybe they wouldn't have been if you weren't such a prude...

    Great analogy with the early Christian missionaries BTW

    Alyssa and Dr. A, thank you for your insightful contributions.


  12. bum and boobs, boobs and bums. I personally prefer boobies over boobs. Yes Massimo hit the nail on the head. Us colored folk don't know any better, according to you whities.

    Then again we actually understand that nudity does not equal sex...

    Is it inappropriate that the monkey grabs my boobies and says "my boobies"???

  13. On Massimo's and Chall's comments: Would Discovery Channel bring out a show on Sweden including white western (weeelllll, granted, a bunch of communists, the lot of them, but you get my meaning) people in a Sauna? If so, the point of the warning was "for our prudish Anglo-Saxon audience: They're not gonna have sex right sway, even if they do show more than you'd be comfortable with". If not, the reason was what Massimo wrote.

  14. schlupp> haha, that might work. then again, there are of course people who do view the naked in a sauna as sexy ... but I would think that main old school swedes (and finns) would regard the sauna as a non sexual place since you are sweating and relaxing. Not to mention that if you ever have worn a wire bra in a sauna you'd know how much it HURTS (;) ) and that bathing suits are forbidden in saunas in the bath houses since (drumroll) that leads to more germs and unhealthy stuff. Most of us though, have a smaller towel since it is nicer (less bacteria etc as well) to sit on it and (those of us who feel a bit contious about our very private parts) can cover up a bit....

    Most of it though, would be, imho, that we aren't as victorian in our views of naked/natural/shame/sex.

    here endeth the "we're so good" lesson ;)

  15. ScientistMother, I apologise on behalf of all whities (although please note that I prefer the term honkies).

    Monkey is not inappropriate for his age! I know of kids who've said much worse things in public (e.g. my Mum's friend's daughter who said "my brother has a little willy, and my daddy has a big willy, but I don't have a willy at all!" to a complete stranger in a busy supermarket). (Yes, I just escalated to willy).

    Schlupp, I dunno, I don't usually watch the Discovery Channel! For some reason I suspect they'd blur out Swedish bums and boobs. (On Survivor, which I do watch (but don't tell me who won! I haven't watched the finale yet, we were at the hockey game on Sunday) they blur out even the very top of any butt crack that's showing above someone's shorts, which looks ridiculous. Different network, obviously, but same concept).

    Chall, hooray for Sweden!

  16. I agree with Dr. A's original comment. I also agree that "non-sexual nudity" would have been a much better way to put it.

    It's true that people in the USA tend to be kind of prudish, but that's just the way we roll.

  17. I'm sure that's what they meant, but really, they need to change the wording.

    Is the prudishness a kind of founder effect hangover from the Puritans, do you think? Or a reaction to the over-sexualisation of pop culture (music videos etc)?

  18. It's not just the North Americans who are prude, my Indian mother would not be okay with sexual nudity on television at all.. but for that matter she would probably also leave the room after a "indigenous nudity" warning.

  19. Very true. I guess in the US it's the contrast between the highly sexualised pop culture, and the prudishness about nudity in any other context.

  20. It does not stop at nudity. It is the same reason our local or national newspapers will make it a headline if a single western child dies for whatever reason (a tragedy, mind you), but that 30000 children die every day of starvation in Africa hardly makes the news anymore. Same reason why the international community will mobilize to end tyrannies and killings in other world regions, but genocides in Rwanda and Sudan are allowed to go on. Unfortunately I cannot help seeing the underlying, tacit assumption that human life is not worth the same everywhere.

  21. Haha, I doubt anyone in the US would believe that a show about Swedes in a sauna (Discovery Channel or not)could be non-sexual :D

    .. and yes, that sadly proves that Massimo is right!

  22. There's also the fact that Rwanda and Sudan don't have oil, but yeah, I agree with you. The former Yugoslavia got much more attention, because those people look like us...

    Lisbeth, very true!

  23. Not haha to Massimo's last comment of course!
    If being optimistic about the general equal value of human life, distance plays an important role in an individual's assessment of the level of catastrophe; 'events' closer to home always hit harder. However, I must agree that it is not a matter of absolute distances since e.g. the US and Australia seem 'closer to home' in European media than e.g. African matters....

  24. Dr.A - I think that Indians who emigrated from India decades ago are way more prudish than those that live there. When I was nursing it was all the "modern" aunties who were uncomfortable with discussing nursing or even having me nurse in public. The Old folks were totally blasa about it.

  25. Cath - I think its totally cute that monkey does that. He is actually quite fascinated by the differences in our bodies which is cool. He also like to talk about willy in public too.

    I can't wait to see what search terms this thread will bring up!

  26. Lisbeth, I'm sure that both cultural and geographical distance play a part.

    SM, I think that's true of immigrants from everywhere to everywhere - they retain the culture that they remember from whenever they or their ancestors left the old country, even when the culture in that country has actually moved on since. I see this with my British mother-in-law, who's been here since 1960.

    I agree that Monkey saying "my boobies!" is cute - but if he's still doing it when he's 13, it might be time to seek professional advice ;)

    Search terms?! Nothing yet, but I'm sure it's coming! To answer Dr. A's question at the end of the first comment, this comment thread currently contains:

    10 bums
    12 boobs
    4 boobies
    8 tits
    7 arses
    5 butts
    1 titty
    5 willies

    (I just kept a tally count on a post-it, which I will now need to destroy).

    All of this keeps me from getting too depressed about the issues raised in the sensible parts of the comment thread.

  27. Scientistmother, my toddler also refers to *my* boobies as *her* boobies. Carry-over effect of breast-feeding, I'm sure. My older girl was almost four before I finally weaned her off of grabbing at my boobies (although she was weaned from actual nursing around one.) I've heard many other breastfeeding moms with similar experiences.

    And no, I see no reason whatsoever why the simple sight of a boob, bum, or willie should traumatize a child or anyone else for that matter. Context is all, of course, but as Cath says, there's nothing *inherently* corrupting about it. Our bodies are natural, and I expect my children to feel that way; I don't want them to ever feel ashamed about their bodies.

    Massimo is depressing, but right.

  28. Is the prudishness a kind of founder effect hangover from the Puritans, do you think? Or a reaction to the over-sexualisation of pop culture (music videos etc)?

    Cath - Probably a little bit of both, and other reasons as well. The Puritans get both blamed and credited for a lot of the characteristics of US culture, but there were a lot of other factors at work as well. One of these may very well be that the US is such a "nation of immigrants", and as you pointed out, immigrants often end up being more conservative in certain cultural aspects than the majority of people in the cultures that they left behind. Plus, the US attracted a lot of immigrants from religious groups that were determined to keep their beliefs pure against both government persecution and the pressure of the society around them - the Puritans were just the first of many. This was also true to an extent for Canada and other countries with a population largely descended from European immigrants, but I think that the percentage of religious immigrants in the US might be higher and their influence greater.

    In spite of this, I think that religion might get too much blame (or credit, if you think that it's a good thing) for the strong moralism of US culture and society. There are probably a lot of other reasons why the US gone along a more religious and moralistic path than most other western countries. Also, I feel obligated to point out that just because the USA is different from other western countries doesn't necessarily make it worse or less right. From the perspective of a religious and moralistic American, our country is keeping good qualities that the rest of the western world has mostly lost or forgotten.

  29. Bean-Mom, I'd never heard of this phenomenon before ScientistMother and you mentioned it! I shall warn my breast-feeding friends!

    I hope your approach is successful and your girls develop a good body image.

    RPS, I knew you'd have good insights into the issue! It's interesting how Canada and the US have developed quite differently, despite similar beginnings.

  30. Bean-Mom, I'd never heard of this phenomenon before ScientistMother and you mentioned it!

    Hah!!! Eldest was all about going for the- boobs - anyone's boobs. Hell, when he was uber-tiny and stretched across my chest asleep, he would occasionally find his mouth on my tiny man nipples...

    I am rather saddened by us U.S. Americans and our attitude about nudity. I really miss Portland, where you could probably walk down the street naked - arse and "willy" flapping in the breeze and barely garner the odd look here and there. It is very irritating that people are so very concerned about boobs, bums and willies - like we don't all have some combination of these bits.

    Personally, having spent a lot of time on nude beaches, in nudist camps (playing gigs in the buff) and Portland, I think it is far more sexual for people to wear certain sorts of clothes, than it is for them to wander about naked. Super short skirts, tight shirts - tight pants and the like are far more titillating than walking around in the buff.

    Besides, exposing your penis, vagina, mammaries and glutes - along with the rest of your body is really rather refreshing. Though right about now, here in MI, it would be rather more refreshing than even I can appreciate...

  31. Y'know, I've been planning to visit Portland...

    and your mention of playing gigs at nudist camps just reminded me of the Clouseau film (Shot in the Dark, I think) where he ends up hiding his parts behind a guitar in just such an establishment!

    Nude (or rather "clothing optional", in Vancouver's case) beaches rock - except when they're full of colleagues and former students who are wearing more clothes than you.

  32. I actually ran into a couple I did a lot of work for, while they were taking part in the naked bike ride. Another thing I love about Portland - they weren't the least bit embarrassed. Of course neither was I, which probably helped.

  33. eeeh, just wanted to add that the fennoscandian sauna habit *can* be pretty sexual. Not always. But sometimes. Just sayin'.

  34. Over drinks some time, eh? TMI for this forum probably ;-)


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