Depictions of nudity

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Depictions of nudity include any images or performances of people without clothing. These images have been made throughout history, both in the arts and sciences. Nudity in real life is restricted in most societies, but visual images of nudity may serve recognized social purposes. In Western societies, these are art, erotic images, including pornography, and information or science. Any image not fitting into one of these functions may be misunderstood, leading to disagreements.[1] One of these disagreements is the difference between artistic and erotic images.

Nudity in art[change | change source]

The human body was one of the first subjects of art, and has remained popular to the present. The traditional fine arts media include drawing, painting, and sculpture. Because they are made of durable materials such a stone, ceramics or metal, older sculptures have survived to the present. Drawings and paintings have survived only in caves or other places protected from the weather.

Nude children in art[change | change source]

Works of art, such as paintings, statues, or photographs have shown nude children, or nude children with nude adults. For most of this history, childhood nudity represented innocence, and could be shown anywhere. In recent years, showing nude children in photographs is seen by some as sexual.[2] When photographs were taken to labs for processing, those taken by families showing small children naked were sometimes seen as child pornography by the police. When there is no sexual contact shown, charges have never been sustained.[3][4] In May 2008, police in Sydney, Australia, raided an exhibition by the photographer Bill Henson. This exhibition showed images of naked adolescents. The raid was done on allegations of child pornography.[5]

Nudity in photography[change | change source]

Since the beginning of photography, people have taken photographs of nudity. At first, the photos imitated paintings to avoid censorship, or were sold as references for artists.

In the 20th century, photographers wanted to make photography respected as an art medium. As public nudity became accepted, photos could be taken in a variety of locations rather than only posed in a studio.

In addition to fine art, photography of nudity has also been glamorous, sexual and then pornographic.

Nudity in popular culture[change | change source]

As new media have appeared though history, the human body has been one of the most popular subjects.

Nudity in film[change | change source]

Nudity on television[change | change source]

Many countries have made laws that should protect children from seeing sex scenes on television by accident. That way, such scenes may usually not be shown during the day. British TV must not show such scenes between 5.30am and 9pm. The time when content not suitable for children may be shown is called "watershed". The Broadcasting Code requires that "Nudity before the watershed must be justified by the context."[6][7]

Nudity for advertising[change | change source]

Nudity is often used to draw the attention of customers to a given product. That way, nude people or people with very little clothing are often shown on covers of magazines, even if the content of the magazine has nothing to do with nudity. Naked people, sometimes in connection with body painting are used to distribute fliers at events.

This uses erotic stimuli, especially to people of the opposite sex. On the other hand, nudity seems to work all by itself in such contexts. Nudity in public places is rare, and people generally do not expect it. The more it is used however, the less it will act on people. At some point it will have become normal.

Nudity in live performances[change | change source]

Theatre[change | change source]

Nudity in Western theatre was once limited to models posing in imitation of works of fine art (called "tableau vivant"). Nude performers could not move while the curtain was open. The Windmill Theatre operated in Soho, London from 1932 to 1964, but could not compete after strip clubs were allowed.[8]

Nudity in American theater began in 1968 with the opening of Hair on Broadway.[9] Nudity on the American stage has become more frequent, but has remained controversial.[10]

Dance[change | change source]

Nude ballet was accepted in Denmark in the 1970s, but performances by the Royal Danish Ballet in the United States were limited to New York City.[11] Today, nudity has become one of the possible "costumes" for modern dance.[12]

Erotic performances[change | change source]

Public performances that have the intent of arousing sexual interest have a long history, perhaps as long as prostitution. Modern striptease did not end with performers entirely nude until the twentieth century. In the 21st century, sex on stage is allowed in some countries.

Nude photography[change | change source]

Photographic media may be used to create images of all types, artistic, erotic, educational and scientific.

Erotic images[change | change source]

Erotic images are those intended to arouse sexual interest.

Nudity in science and education[change | change source]

Images of the naked body are used to illustrate educational or scientific information.

In the European Renaissance artists performed there own dissections of the human body and drew illustrations.[13]

In the 19th century, photographs of naked Indigenous peoples became popular in Europe. Most claimed to be scientific, or ethnographic images. Whatever the intent, they became commercial (or erotic) images. It is unclear which images were posed, rather than being of everyday attire.[14][15]

The deep space probes Pioneer 10 (launched March 2, 1972) and 11 (launched April 5, 1973) each carried a metal sheet with a "message of peace" for extraterrestrials that might find them. Both are the same, and include line drawings of nude male and female humans. The male has a hand raised in greeting, although its meaning would not likely be clear.[16]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Beth A. Eck (Dec 2001). "Nudity and Framing: Classifying Art, Pornography, Information, and Ambiguity". Sociological Forum. Springer. 16 (4): 603–632. doi:10.1023/A:1012862311849. JSTOR 684826. S2CID 143370129.
  2. Higonnet, Anne (1998). Pictures of Innocence - The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-28048-7.
  3. "Citizen's Guide To U.S. Federal Law On Child Pornography". US Department of Justice. 2015-05-26. Retrieved 2020-10-09.
  4. Kincaid, James R. "Is this child pornography?". Archived from the original on 2007-04-30. Retrieved 2007-04-28.
  5. Paul Bibby (May 23, 2008). "Henson exhibition shut down". Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  6. "The Ofcom Broadcasting Code". Ofcom (Office of Communications, UK). 2005-07-25. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
  7. "House of Commons Hansard debate transcription (part 31)". UK Parliament Publications & Records. 1996-07-01. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
  8. Chapman, Helen (20 July 2018). "Windmill Girls meet for reunion and remember dancing days in old Soho". Islington Tribune.
  9. Libbey, Peter (29 April 2018). "When 'Hair' Opened on Broadway, It Courted Controversy From the Start". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2018-05-01. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  10. Houchin, John H. (2003). Censorship of the American Theatre in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge studies in American theatre and drama. Vol. 16. Cambridge: University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-10835-5.
  11. Mork, Ebbe (May 16, 1976). "Nudity Is Natural for The Royal Danish Ballet". The New York Times. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  12. Cappelle, Laura; Whittenburg, Zachary (1 April 2014). "Baring It All". Dance Magazine.
  13. "De humani corporis fabrica (Of the Structure of the Human Body)". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  14. Hutnyk, John (1990-07-01). "Comparative Anthropology and Evans-Pritchard's Nuer Photography". Critique of Anthropology. 10 (1): 81–102. doi:10.1177/0308275X9001000105. ISSN 0308-275X. S2CID 145594464. Retrieved 2019-07-08.
  15. Levine, Philippa (2008). "States of Undress: Nakedness and the Colonial Imagination". Victorian Studies. 50 (2): 189–219. doi:10.2979/VIC.2008.50.2.189. ISSN 0042-5222. JSTOR 40060320. PMID 19069002. S2CID 43750425. Retrieved 2019-07-08.
  16. Rosenthal, Jake (January 20, 2016). "The Pioneer Plaque: Science as a Universal Language". Retrieved April 4, 2022.