The naked truth
“All the young prudes” (September 1st) observed how Europeans are shying away from public nudity. There is also, however, a growing body-positive movement in Europe. Casual nudity is encouraged at events such as World Naked Bike Rides, naked dining, clothing-optional theatre and the opening of large, popular thermal spas, such as Therme Erding in Munich. Hundreds of mainly young bathers of both sexes and all shapes and sizes are comfortable in their skin without objectification or insecurity. Few of these events existed or were tolerated 20 years ago.
The irony, as many studies have shown, is that women are far more likely to be sexualised when wearing a bathing suit that tantalisingly hides something. Among all the relaxed bodies of a northern European beach or spa, the indistinguishable nudity rapidly becomes frankly rather unremarkable.
I am reminded of “An immodest proposal” put forward by Nicholas Humphrey in the early 1980s. The neuropsychologist’s essay suggested that “our leaders must be given no choice but to go naked into the conference chamber”. “No naked human being”, he wrote, “conscious of his own essential ordinariness, the chairseat pressing against his buttocks, his toes wriggling beneath the conference table, his penis hanging limply a few feet from Mr Andropov’s, could possibly play the game of international politics and barter like a god with the lives of millions of his fellow men.”
The Economist Sept 15-24, 2018 “Letters to the Editor”