Shame is probably mostly relegated to humanity for two reasons, first because it requires a sophisticated level of self awareness, and second, because a good number of the things cultures latch on to to be shameful about are qualities that remind us of the ways in which our nature is like animals.
So nudity is particularly shameful in cultures which value the idea of human superiority to nature.
But beyond that, I think nudity is particularly popular in shaming because it feeds into the basic idea of shame itself, which is the feeling of wrongness and or vulnerability which needs to be hidden, escaped, or covered up, for which clothing makes us feel more secure. Even in places where clothing is standard, maybe people wear sunglasses in non sunny places to escape the penetrating gaze of strangers. Whether clothed or not, the sensation of shame and the feeling of exposure or vulnerability are physiologically similar.
IMHO it is related to sexuality, as demonstrated by the fact that the sexual organs/characteristics are the ones required to be covered. (Once you get past the practical, like avoiding catching dangly bits on the thorny underbrush).
Sexual interactions is an extremely powerful dynamic in society. It starts fights. It creates social friction and jealousy. It causes feelings of inadequacy. Humans are self-aware. Therefore societies make it the norm to hide sexual characteristics to some degree or other except in certain practical situations (even Papua New Guinea, as mentioned, cod pieces are the norm). This I assume is a form of “hands off” warning, or “already taken”, or similar message. It removes the view - out of sight, out of mind. Once this social conditioning is learned, it is hard to un-learn.
Plus there’s the consideration that sex leads to babies, and in the good old days, the standard nuclear family requires the male and female to provide for the children. Grandparents did nt want fly-by-night males leaving them to provide for grandchildren - even more relevant as society evolved from wandering tribal groups to single (extended) family farms.
Of course, clothing have evolved from practical to decorative and have become a way to decorate. think about why certain clothing (or lack) is considered socially inappropriate - why? usually because of the message it sends. being naked, or in a string bikini or speedo, in the wrong (or right) social setting is considered sending a message that normally society wants repressed - specifically to avoid that fighting and jealousy that could result. Everyone ignores the elephant in the room, socially, when those elephants are covered up.
Well, the specifics aren’t universally shared, but the concept seems to be.
Or else: why did they wear the codpieces?
Are there actually cultures that exhibit no nudity/modesty mores, as opposed to just different ones?
I mean, sort of. Nudity isn’t always sexualized. But the fact that there are specific social contexts in which nudity is ok doesn’t mean that there’s no body modesty. The Finns don’t disrobe in other contexts.
So true! It’s the same phenomenon present in mens lockerooms (can’t speak for womens). The ones who wouldnt make you want to bleach your eyeballs after seeing their nude bodies are ever the guys who do choose to let it all hang out. Those men are always the ones that make you feel traumatized for being exposed to their “glory”.
Consider the lesson in the Bible. I assume it’s the written version of oral history from about 4,000 years ago or more… Their explanation for clothing (or fig leaves) is that when man and woman learned the difference between good and evil, they were immediately ashamed of their nakedness. What does this say about the mindset back in the day even when available clothing was a lot more limited - that the imperative was to cover their genitals?
So the question to ask really is - why does human society try to in various ways restrain its members from having sex whenever they feel the urge? Clothing is just one way to reduce the temptation. Whether it’s by clothing, by social pressure and social mores or more explicit rules and punishments; societies try to limit the opportunities and formalize the right to have sex - generally in most societies - only within some form of social binding like marriage. I can think of a number of reasons, all having to do with peace, order, and good government… and child support.
I should also point out that we feel ashamed of other urges and consider them “bad” such as jealousy, greed, gluttony… (i.e. “the seven deadly sins”). Basically, it is the primal urges or base instincts detracting from cooperative and communally beneficial behaviour. It is necessary to deny one’s immediate instincts for longer term good, to ensure that social conflicts don’t arise; sex just happens to be one of the strongest and therefore must have been considered the “baddest” of these urges, plus has the most disruptive and lasting consequences.
Can you provide a cite that shows nudity is inherently sexual for humans?
Several cultures in tropical areas have demonstrated partial or complete nudity is separate from sexual arousal especially without contact. Equating nudity with sexuality seems to be purely a product of particular cultures and not an innate human trait from the information I can find.
I read a report about public nudity in India a couple of years ago.
According to the report, nudity vanished in northern India due to Muslim influence. It persisted in the south until long-term European visitation, invasion, and conquest. I assume sexual harassment by Europeans played a role. However no public nudity spread fast in the south, when I assume many areas in southern India saw very few, if any, Europeans.
That is a remarkably provocative quote, when you consider the quote I’d heard:
In Goa, the last European outpost in India (reclaimed long after unification,) there’s still a large number of European expats. And women wanted to go topless on those beaches. It was tolerated well until the 1980’s until the local government had to step in and essentially say, “Look. We recognize you have a long tradition of the European culture of beach toplessness. But this has been our country for a while now, so cover up.”
Like the md2000: examples, and mine regarding Ancient Rome, and the several others regarding cultures of tropical areas, we really don’t know what is sexuality (md2000) what is random shame (my earlier post) what is some sort of moral trip (my Ancient Rome, md2000’s biblical reference, the reference to Muslim influence) and what’s a reaction to heat and comfort (Papua New Guinea.) And we’re getting conflicts when we try to ignore broader cultural mores with outliers (Scandinavian sauna nudity vs they wear clothes in other contexts, the nudity subculture which may simply be family nudity) or even ignoring how the Westerner offended the Papua New Guineans by not wearing a penis gourd, despite the fact that in Western contest, exposed testicles is nudity, penis gourd or lack thereof notwithstanding.
We’re close though. Humans are more self aware than other animals. This notion of self is going to drive how we present our “self” to others, restricting it from some people, exposing it to others and trying to entice yet others by letting the shield slip slightly.
The question is how we decide to make the transition from, “I’m cold, I’m covering up” to “You look cold, here, have one of my spare animal skins,” to “Ok, wrap your torso in a wool toga, like a Real Man™” to “You, yeah you, topless blonde Portuguese lady, cover up those pasty white flapjacks, you’re frightening the Hindu and Muslim children. Seriously, they think you’re poor, or something.”
Recently, I’ve been reading on Wikipedia about the toga: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toga I wanted to know how it was draped, around a human body for day to day wear. When I was in grammar school, and there was a story about a Roman boy, just getting into adulthood and they described draping it, drape over this shoulder, wrap here, drape over arm, etc. What I learned was that Wikipedia can’t describe it better than that, styles changed over the centuries. Meh. However, I learned more from that article about clothing, which is why I hark back to Roman culture for a discussion on nudity.
The toga is a circle of wool cloth. It a manly garment. Manly, I say. A real civilized man’s man garment, an Ancient Roman would say. Oh, some sissy man might wear a tunic underneath, but not a Real Roman. A girly man could use a broach or a pin to keep it from unraveling. Pfft. The rough wool will hold it in position during normal wear. That’s right. That’s the toga – a man and a circle of rough woolen cloth.
Compare this to the Scottish kilt. What’s worn underneath a kilt?
Nothing. Everything under kilt is in proper working condition.
Ha. Ha. Seriously, its cold in Scotland, you just gonna wear a kilt and nothing else on rainy, windy days?
Yeah. Just me and the kilt. Like a True Scotsman™. In fact, the other day it snowed, and I used my tallywacker to clear the path.
OK. Then why do the Highland games specify that you have to wear under pants when competing?
Maybe it’s not just psycological vulnerability, but actual, physical vunerability.
Just may WAG, but consider: Humans are virtually the only mammals who walk around with their squishiest, most vulnerable organs front and center, exposed to predators and rival humans. Even the other great apes walk crouched over; humans, OTOH, walk upright with their parts sticking out in front. Perhaps our ancestors felt that leaving their crotches exposed was too great a temptation for enemies to attack, and decided that hiding them would be more prudent.
As an aside I still get shocked when a male character on a longstanding show takes his shirt off for the first time and he’s ripped as hell. I know I shouldn’t be shocked, since he’s an actor, but it just goes to show that unless you’re wearing extremely tight clothing all the time it’s basically pointless to get that ripped.
No disagreement that there are societies where nudity around other people is considered acceptable in some circumstances. But, there are very few societies where constant public nudity after puberty is standard, where clothing is optional. (There are, National Geographic tells us, some societies where bare female breasts are normal) All around the world, it seems covering up is a social norm. AFAIK American aboriginals did not learn about loincloths from the European invaders. Nor did outsiders teach Papua New Guinea about codpieces.
Nudity may not automatically evoke sexuality, but the equipment is in full display and everyone knows what it’s for. Putting it “out of sight, out of mind” to help repress a socially disruptive primal urge is probably a prudent thing in the eyes of any society.