Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Construction (and Deconstruction)

This week I'm putting together a new desk.

That is, when I'm not taking a break to take pictures of me putting together a new desk. (But I knew you'd thank me :p).

Some of these pictures got me thinking about an issue I have with a lot of people's attitudes towards nudity. One of the most common criticisms levied against nudism is the fact that "it's never the people you want to see naked" (which isn't strictly true, but is accurate enough in a statistical sense). Now, as any nudist will understand, this is completely missing the point of nudism. But most non-nudists haven't experienced nudism, and don't know the feeling of going nude, which is why they focus on the seeing, instead of the being. It's also a possibility that only a minority of the population is wired (or conditioned) in such a way as to be able to derive enjoyment from the practice of going casually nude. Which could, in part, explain why nudism is a minority lifestyle that the majority of the population thinks is - at best - weird.

Regardless, there is some truth to the complaint that not every body is nice to look at in the nude. In nudism, you get used to seeing people's bodies, and even getting an eyeful of the less flattering ones tends to bother you less and less. (And I would argue that this is generally a healthy thing, because you become less hung up on bodies and what they look like). But, nonetheless, nobody (barring a small minority I don't doubt exists, who are into this sort of thing) really wants to see, for example, their overweight, aging uncle bending over a desk, without any clothes on - I'm not trying to pass off an absurdist argument here. But you know what is nice? The same view, but of an attractive, twenty year old hottie.

However, sights like this are exceedingly rare in everyday life, given that we feel compelled to censor them for a variety of reasons, including fairness and equal rights (although I would argue that it's worth it to let unattractive people go nude just for the reward of seeing attractive people nude - but this is not the majority's opinion). And while the rarity of such sights might make them feel extra special, I would argue that we don't get to experience them nearly enough (call me a hedonist - although "aesthete" would be more accurate - but I want to be surrounded by beauty, not simply awarded a few furtive glances here and there, scattered throughout a long and miserable life)*.

Not all of us have the good fortune of being able to have the experience of being in an intimate relationship with a supermodel (one of the few contexts in which one might encounter - and be permitted, socially as well as legally, to encounter - this kind of sight with any regularity), and even those of us lucky few who do, tend to get to do so for only a limited period of their lives, before time (or feelings) takes its toll. There is porn, for sure, but I object to the assumption that this kind of thing has to necessarily be associated with sex (sometimes it's nice to get the view without that extra baggage and added pressure), plus it's also more visceral a treat when you get to see it in person.

But this idea that the human body is "disgusting" and offensive to look at - I'm not gonna go so far out of my way as to say that there is no truth to that statement. Sometimes nature - raw and uncensored - can be hard to stomach. And all bodies are not "beautiful" in the same visual, physical way. But you know what? Some of them are. And I don't understand why we can't celebrate that separately from the idea that the human body is taboo.

Yeah, sure, if some ugly guy takes a snapshot of his asshole, chances are it's going to be a disgusting, offensive picture that very few people are going to want to look at (much less appreciate being shown without warning - if posted, for example, anywhere other than an amateur porn site). But why is that an argument against the exhibition of a picture of a beautiful model being depicted tastefully, albeit explicitly? I understand that much of this is subjective, and there is always going to be a grey area, but why are community standards so heavily biased towards the one side? Can't we at least rule fairly on the black and white cases lying at the extremes?

Like everything else, bodies can be depicted tastefully and tastelessly, so why is it that a body tastefully depicted (and I mean being able to see the anatomy, not "tasteful" in terms of the coy, "you can't really see anything" teasing that is so popular in the mass market media) is lumped in with disgusting, distasteful depictions of human flesh? It's all treated as taboo, without distinction. But this idea that there is something fundamentally disturbing about the human body - not in the way it is shot or posed, but intrinsic to its very nature - is extremely unhealthy. Is this not obvious?

How can we go through our lives believing that our bodies - our very bodies! - are such loathful things? Is it any wonder we have serious body image issues in our culture? Not just because we hold ordinary people up to extraordinary standards, but that even the people who have beautiful bodies are made to feel that there is something fundamentally wrong with them - that if, for example, a kid were to see it, it would psychologically damage them for life. And even if it's the case that beautiful naked bodies tend to remind people of sex, why does it make sense for people to be so neurotically sensitive to that topic, which informs most of what we do as animate lifeforms crawling over the face of the planet? I think it's clear where the psychological damage can truly be found.

* You know what, this calls for a full-on rant. But I'll save it for another post.

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