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[Opinion] The “Let’s-Get-Naked” Culture

Posted August. 08, 2005 03:04,   


An old man who struggled for the “right to be naked” in his entire 80-year life passed away last week. Then, in his last journey, would he, or wouldn’t he wear clothes? His family chose to let him have clothes on even though that was against his dying wish.

Robert Norton, who was living in a small town in Illinois, U.S., was an oddball who always went out with his clothes off and got arrested when his neighborhood reported to the police. Since the year 1962, when he was first arrested for exposing his naked body in public, he has been in and out of the police station more than 20 times in the last 43 years. His family defended him, saying he became insane after fighting in World War II, but they could not stop his eccentric behaviors. This is why they dressed him gray pants and shirt at least on the road to heaven, explained his elder brother who is a pastor.

Naturalist movements put much weight on “wholeness,” and in plain English, this can be called nudism or naked culture. They began in Germany back in the 1890s in an effort to fairly assess the beauty of the Aryans and emphasize health and strength. These movements spread all across Europe after the end of the World War I, and even to America in the 1930s. Hitler, however, banned nudity in 1933, possibly because he was not attracted by naked beauties. His explanations were that nudity deprived women of their natural sense of shame and got rid of men’s reverence for women.

Nudists argue that being naked has nothing to do with obscenity. Rather, they say, it makes people indifferent to pornography or sexual desires. Everyone agrees that this is the case in public saunas. Nevertheless, it seems that people have as much desire for exposure as for hiding, even though it is in the public sauna or it is for nudism. In sexy dance contests, which are reportedly prevalent in the “hottest” night clubs, there are not only “bounty hunters” who have their eye upon prize money, but also plenty of “addicts” who are eager to expose their naked bodies.

If the right to get naked should be respected, what also needs to be respected is one’s right to choose not to see others naked in time and places he or she does not want. For “Couch,” the indie band who stirred a huge controversy by exposing their naked bodies on television, their bodies might be a means of expressing art. For others, however, their expression of art can be an attack or pollution. Besides, the “selective exposure” of their bodies makes their real intentions more dubious. We are already living in a world where we have trouble seeing and discovering too many things that we do not want.

Kim Sun-duk, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com