Lust & FantasyPornography

Public Nudity: An Antidote For Pornography?

I came across an article recently from a fairly well-respected counseling group in the area of sexual addictions.  This organization specifically works with Christians addicted to pornography and helping them break free.

I read the article and by the time I was done, was very confused.  The overall idea is that we need to re-introduce a non-sexual appreciation for the beauty of the human body.

Their suggested means of doing this was to encourage “more public nudity.”  The specific nudity they are referring to?  Breastfeeding.

The article was complete with a link to a website full of images of Mary nursing baby Jesus, and then questions asking if the viewer found it sexual and uncomfortable.  Further questions asked if this discomfort resulted from a pornographic culture that caused the viewer to be unable to view the body ‘rightly.’

I have a different question:  Is that even necessary?

It seems shaming to me.

We know you’re going to struggle, so here, look at these pictures and then we’ll tell you how you shouldn’t be struggling with this and how looking at these pictures more will help you stop seeing women in such a sexual way.  I do not understand the psychology behind that at all.  Please feel free to explain.

I, for one, don’t consider breastfeeding in public to be public nudity.  Public nudity is the streaker at the soccer game who gets thrown in jail for indecent exposure.

Public nudity is not a mother feeding her child, and I think by even labeling breastfeeding as public nudity, they sexualize it and shoot their own case in the foot.

Confusion about methods aside, I want to address the overall premise that more public nudity will develop a non-sexual appreciation of the body which will, in theory, reduce the pull of pornography.

Looking at that premise as a woman, a woman in possession of a sex drive and a woman who has an appreciation for the beauty and strength of the male body, I think it misses the mark for a few reasons.

Porn isn’t about bodies.

Maybe it used to be about bodies.  Back in the day when all you had was centerfolds of naked women, I could understand this line of thought.  Today, though, pornography is more than a body.  It is an interaction.  It is an experience.  For men, it’s the ‘control.’  For women, it’s the ‘romance.’

It doesn’t work for women.

Essentially, what they are talking about here is desensitization.  The basic premise is, if we can desensitize them to nudity in a non-sexual way then sexual nudity won’t be as appealing.  The act of public breastfeeding is encouraged because it helps men see the beauty of the woman’s body in a non-sexual way.

How, exactly, do we plan on turning these tables? Because the only way men could be more exposed is to actually be exposed, which, coincidentally gets them thrown in jail with the label of ‘sex offender.’

Beauty and sex go hand-in-hand.

At least they do for me, and for many women I’ve spoken with.  We have a God-given desire for sex and a God-given appreciation for beauty.

I don’t think you could place me in front of a man and just ask me to “appreciate the beauty” of his body without being turned on (just being honest).  I could appreciate the science of his body, if that makes sense, but the moment you ask me to appreciate his beauty, you are tapping into a very intimate part of my soul.

Beauty is something very near my heart.  It elicits emotion.  I can find a man attractive, sure, but to take in the beauty of his whole body?  That’s different.  That’s intimate and intimacy is sexual.

What happened to modesty?

I think it’s hypocritical to demand that people dress modestly and, in the next breath, encourage more public nudity in order to appreciate the beauty of the body.  What are you going to do when a teenage boy asks your daughter to strip so he can ‘appreciate the beauty’ of her body?

I was asked to take my clothes off when I was no older than nine.  I sat there, on the school bus, by my classmate, naked.  Do I just write that off and say, “He was appreciating my body?”  Should I feel honored?

I get that our bodies are beautiful.  I agree.  I also believe our bodies are sexual and I think we need to be careful in what we encourage.  Appreciating the body’s beauty does not mean sharing it with everyone.

I also believe that sex is beautiful, but I would not advocate for public displays of intercourse so people could ‘appreciate the beauty’ of it.  There are some things that are sacred, and I truly believe the human body is one of those things.

Choosing modesty does not mean that I am a victim of a sexualized culture and just need to ‘lighten up.’

I’ve said it before: I don’t dress modestly to save men from themselves.  It’s not my job to keep their minds on track.

I dress modestly because I believe my body is beautiful, and I believe that beauty is intoxicating, and I believe that the entirety of that beauty is meant for one person alone.  Bottom line: I don’t mind if people think I am beautiful, but I don’t want people other than my husband appreciating the beauty of my naked body, thank you very much.

If you want to make an ‘antidote’ for pornography, don’t dangle naked bodies in front of people and tell them not to lust.  If you want them to walk away from pornography, you exalt the true beauty and glory of sex itself.  That is what is being counterfeited.

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4 comments

  1. A great post, and well-handled considering how challenging achieving that biblical balance is. Because of our sinful nature, beauty and sex are difficult to separate–there will always be a fine line between them. But I can personally say (only because of God’s grace and healing) it is possible. As Hugo Schwyzer noted in his article “Beauty vs. Sexuality” in Job 31:1, the covenant isn’t to avoid looking or even delighting in what is seen; the covenant is to look while stopping short of sexual objectification.

    Incidentally, another very objective and biblically-based article I read on this subject is by Dr. James McKeever in his book “It’s in the Bible” (Omega Publications: Medford, Oregon, 1988). Specifically, chapter 7 entitled “Nudity and Lust” (p. 73-80). His book has been out of print for sometime, but is well worth reading if you can find a copy.

  2. Now that makes it clear! Well, for nudity art, I think it’s okay for me though. I believe that our bodies are sacred and it is destined to our future spouses to see and not by everyone. 🙂

  3. Opinions about nudity gleaned and parroted from within a porno-prudish culture seem logical on the surface. Take them into a hospital setting, or into a naked culture, or even into a college figure drawing class, and the shining glory in God’s bare human “temple” definitely exposes their prejudicial nature. Western culture, especially its American component, often treats its cultural opinions as matters-of-fact. Confident American Christians even bring that cultural audacity into how they interpret the Bible.

    For the record, my sister, in my past 33 years as a male RN, my exposure to the beauty of the naked body did exactly the opposite of what religious warnings presuppose and what your reasoning confirms. This became especially apparent when, 23 years ago, I became an L&D nurse, helping women deliver and breastfeed babies. The naked body never changed—its beauty did not go away, nor did my male appreciation of the female form diminish. Instead, the “naked truth” transformed my way of seeing. Reality culturally deprogrammed my eyes. And a few years ago, taking art classes actually heightened my visual perception of beauty in unadorned human anatomy. My personal testimony from realistic experience is not unique, just as your untested opinion about the effect of being in an environment of normal, non-sexual nudity is not unique….

    Everyone has a right to their opinions, but some opinions harbor latent dangers and unwitting dysfunctionality. Objectify the body sexually by religious precept and you open a culture to nudity’s pornographic exploitation. Those suffering most from this sexual objectification are women, not just in our culture, but in every culture to which the West religiously imported its “body shame.” This sociological pornification of body parts in previously non-pornographic cultures—through the dissemination of Western moral codes for dress—is a tragically irrefutable history and may be at this stage irreparable. If there is hope at all for change, it’s in adopting a new, Creator-honoring, incarnational view of the embodiment of humans as persons and of body parts as identifying features of personality.

    The evangelical church may be starting to recognize this crucial need to re-evaluate its long cultural allegiance to Victorian porno-prudery. (See my recently published article on Seedbed.com, a Wesleyan theology think-tank blog.) I pray it be so.

    1. Reverend,

      I appreciate your comment and I think… we might agree? Maybe. I think, perhaps, you approached my writing with an inaccurate assumption of my prejudices and my “untested opinions.”

      As someone who appreciates the health sciences, grew up in the health sciences, and wanted to be in the health sciences, I understand what you are saying from your experience around the human body. I have seen nudity in a health science context and I will tell you that my reaction to that was far different from my reaction to the men I saw in pornography. I pointed that out when I stated that I can appreciate the science, but don’t ask me to appreciate his beauty. If I walked into the room of an elderly man in need of a bedpan change, I can do that without issue. That is different from walking into a room and just staring at him lying naked on the bed. One is your job; the other can cause you to lose your job. Science and beauty.

      My argument was in direct countering to the article that stated that the cure for pornography is to desensitize people through exposing people to public nudity. Specifically, they mentioned breastfeeding. I don’t see how more public breastfeeding discourages pornography use. At the same time, I don’t know how we apply the same principles to women struggling with pornography and lust. How do we desensitize them?

      As I have pointed out before in other posts, the idea for covering ourselves starts in the garden and God never undid that. Even in uncivilized cultures, not exposed to ‘body shame’ we see clothing, and it isn’t (as some have suggested) to protect them from the elements. While the breasts might be exposed, you will almost always find the genitals covered- male or female, young children being the exception, and even in uncivilized cultures not exposed to the ideals of a sexualized society, they call intercourse the “work of the night.” So, I think there is a part of us that understands sacredness, which is different from shame. Sacredness allows for the appreciation of beauty- shame does not.

      I do agree with you, though, that the church approach to this can be equally as objectifying. That’s one of the unfortunate mis-handlings of this topic. In trying to promote what should be sacred, we ended up shaming people about their bodies. In trying to ‘protect’ sex, we demonized it, and we need to fix that.