I was partly inspired by this blogpost by Bitch Ph.D. about going to the community pool with her small son. She talks about the fact that she's comfortable enough to change in front of her son and the other women in the locker room and how she noticed that she seemed to be the only one. She also mentions that the teenaged girls are all hiding under their towels. (Something I also saw when I lived in NZ.)
Completely unrelated to that, there was a big art installation by Spencer Tunick with 840 nude people of all ages fairly close to me today. Before you ask: I didn't go.
This got me thinking about different cultural perceptions of nudity and also about personal limits we all have.
There seems to be a big difference between Europe and the United States in how the naked body is perceived and how much of it is permitted to be shown. I couldn't understand the fuss about Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction - you didn't even get to see a nipple! Then there was the brouhaha in the livejournal community about banning default userpics showing breastfeeding. Generally speaking, in Germany and other parts of Europe, we tend to see more completely naked people on tv or in magazines and full-frontal male nudity is shown, too.
Part of this might have to do with the fact that we don't automatically connect the nude body with sexuality and see it more as a 'natural state' of the human being. Even if the nudity is shown in a sexual context there is less censorship involved - it's quite interesting to compare the age restrictions of movies - in Germany, violence is more often the reason for restricting the audience of a film and films that feature full frontal nudity here can be seen by a twelve-year-old or even by a six-year-old if there is no strong sexual content.
I've also noticed how for some Americans being in your underwear already equals being naked which I think goes a bit far! But there are also women who'd say that they feel naked without their make-up on.
I grew up in a pseudo-hippy family, so running around naked at home isn't a big deal for me. Going to the nudist beach with my family was okay, but puberty made me slightly more ashamed (though I must say that swimming in the nude is much nicer than in a bathing suit) and I stopped going with them. Today, I'm still quite comfortable in my skin, but have started worrying about silly stuff like showing bodyhair etc.
So, what's naked for you? How much nudity do you want to see around you - at home, on the television, on stage, in movies? How much are you prepared to show?