Learn About Sexuality

The significance of nudity & being touched

Private parts refer to parts of the body that we may want (or be required) to cover up. Private parts include the genitals and the female breasts. Little girls are discouraged from showing their panties. Boys learn to keep their penis hidden. It may be considered ‘indecent’ to show too much bare flesh. Parents often express embarrassment over the idea that their children might see nudity or sexual activity. But there is no reason why children should be harmed by nudity. Children should know what adult nudity looks like.

People wear clothes to keep warm and protect the body. Nudity can be embarrassing because bodies are all so different. Nudity tends to generate a great deal of curiosity in both sexes. Differences in physical appearance can cause us to feel insecure and embarrassed. As we age we may be embarrassed by the effects of aging or by having a less than perfect body.

Nudity is not always aimed at arousing anyone. Men need explicit images to assist with orgasm without a partner. Pornographic images involve close-up shots of the genitals and penetration. Censorship exists to limit the publication of images that are generally offensive to women. Some images use clothing (such as a thong) to accentuate anatomy such as buttocks. Provocative behaviour may be implied by facial expression or words. Other images are simply tasteless or lacking in human dignity.

Men don’t want women to see their flaccid (non-erect) penis because it is often quite small. Men also do not want their arousal to be apparent where it is not appreciated. Men may be embarrassed if their arousal is visible to others. Most men want to know that their erection will be appreciated before they display it. A woman may laugh out of nervous embarrassment and the last thing a man wants is a woman laughing at his penis.

Censorship restricts the portrayal of the nudity to protect the dignity of the individual. Women often feel exploited because someone else is aroused by their nudity. Men rarely express the same concern perhaps because men see themselves having more control over their sexual choices. Also a man is rarely in the situation where someone else is using his nudity for arousal.

Men enjoy nude images because they find them arousing. Gay male porn has little impact on mainstream society. But images of women aimed at heterosexual men are everywhere. The female body is sexualised and objectified (projected in such a way as to cause male arousal). Such images give misleading impressions about the availability and sexual willingness of women. This is very confusing for boys and dangerous for girls.

Many women prefer to keep their clothes on to avoid the attention they inevitably get from men. Female modesty is due to women’s lack of confidence over their bodies. Women do not want to be judged by men, who can be highly critical and insulting towards women they don’t find attractive. Media images of young women with perfect bodies enhanced by computer technology cause women to feel that their bodies are ugly. Men enjoy a variety of different female genitals, breasts and body shapes.

Children should know that other people can touch them in some ways but not in other ways. They also need to understand that nudity is not always appropriate. This does not mean that they should be ashamed of their bodies. With those we love, in the family, among friends, nudity may be acceptable as long as everyone is at ease with this. But we are expected to abide by the social conventions of the society in which we live. Many people feel uncomfortable unless they are conforming to social norms.

When we touch another person it is a tentative sign of trust. It may be an invitation or an offer of further intimacy. There are cultural differences. What is acceptable in one culture or family may be unacceptable in another. Different personalities are also more inclined to touch others in daily life. Customs about what is considered appropriate intimacy both within and outside the family group, varies from culture to culture.

Most people avoid touching other adults out of respect for individual privacy. ‘Inappropriate touching’ is when someone attempts to touch someone on or in the vicinity of their private parts. No one is obliged to allow another person to touch them however innocently. Children do not generally appreciate having their genitals touched by another person. Men enjoy having a lover touch their genitals. The desire for genital stimulation is a characteristic of male responsiveness and is, therefore, only relevant after a boy has reached adolescence. Women enjoy more platonic forms of general body touching that may be used to communicate affection.

Women often complain that their husbands never touch them unless they want sex. (Michele Weiner-Davis 2010)

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