Bodies. We’ve all got them. So why is there so much shame about the naked human form? The easy answer is: religion. Religion, usually concerning itself with non-corporeal forms of reality, has good reason to advocate the rejection of physicality and especially any pleasure derived from physical sensation. If you love the pleasures of this world so much, how can you ever hope to leave it behind for the spiritual world believed to exist after the flesh?
It makes sense, if you are of this belief, to reject those pleasures in preparation for the afterlife to come. You fast. You are chaste. You abstain from alcohol. You wear plain clothing, nothing too showy. If, then, you are a religious leader and wish to guide others in the ways of being all holy, you have to find a way to convince future devotees that they are on the right path and that all these sacrifices are necessary. So, naturally, you exaggerate! Some religious leaders don’t even realize they are overstating the case; these zealots believe wholeheartedly in every word they utter. Yes, your mortal soul is in danger. Yes, this is the only way to save yourself. Yep, your whole life is a sin, you grotesque hairless ape. How better to convince would-be followers than to introduce the element of fear?
Suddenly it’s not good enough for your hand-wringing brethren to avoid the pleasures of the flesh simply to prepare for a milquetoast existence in the next world. After all, it would be far too easy to stray from that path. A tiny taste of succulent wild cherry pie, a flash of honey-drizzled, sun-dappled skin and all too soon they’re enmeshed in a full-on, knock-down, drag-out orgy of epic proportions during which a mincing vermilion dandy with curling horns, spiked tail, goat ears and an animal skin loincloth shows up first to join in, then to drag you down into an icy pit of fiery torment where you’ll be forced to wear adult diapers and listen to Hall & Oates for THE REST OF ALL ETERNITY. Also, no Nutella. If you’re going to put them on the path to righteousness, you have to make them fear any intrusion, however slight, into their carefully constructed lives of piety.
Hence, shame of the human body. Oh, we give plenty of reasonable excuses for it. The naked form is immediately associated with the sex act, and why would you be naked in public anyway unless you’re a skeezy slutbag? (Thanks, religion.) What about ugly people and fat people? No one should have to see that, right? (We’re already incensed that we have to see them with their clothes on!) And how about those disgusting people who actually want to nurse their infants in public? The sight of an uncovered nipple would surely corrupt our children, even though most of them a) nursed as infants themselves, b) have a parent with breasts, c) will develop breasts in the future and may nurse their own children, or d) will enjoy seeing breasts in the future because, c’mon, who dun like titties? Why, a child might see an adult human being walking along with a boob hanging out and/or a penile erection and be damaged* for the whole history of forever!
Protip, prudes: by creating a taboo around something, you ensure excitement when that taboo is broken.
Frankly, I’m grossly offended by the notion that the human body is inherently evil, dirty or deserving of shame. Okay, yes, sometimes our bodies make gross sights, sounds and smells, but then all we have to be ashamed of is that we ate Taco Bell after a night of hard drinking.
I’m not an exhibitionist, but I do feel oppressed by societal expectations of perpetual clothedness. Lacking evidence, I conclude that this life is probably the only one I’ll get and I feel I should be able to live it fully in all the ways that please me yet do no harm to others. I’d like to go outside and feel the warm sunshine on my hindquarters without also fearing that neighbors are going to call the police because children might see me — oh, I don’t know — trimming my pot plants or juggling chainsaws or basking on a blanket…naked. I’d like to go naked in the world without the sure knowledge that some people will be offended or embarrassed by my nakedness despite my obvious magnificence and that some will likely take it upon themselves to inform me that I am fat or ugly or slutty. I’m not ashamed of my body, but it’s stressful to always be on guard for a hateful confrontation, no matter how truthful it might be. I’d like to be able to go out in skimpy clothing without the nagging feeling that I may be making myself more of a target for sexual assault, without meeting anyone who feels entitled to my body simply by virtue of the fact that I am there and scantily clad. I’m not asking for it unless I’m literally asking for it, clothes or no clothes.
The only reason nudity isn’t considered innocent is because so many people conspire to make it seem dirty. I wish humanity would knock that shit right the fuck off.