POST REVISED - May, 2021: Awkwardly enough, this was one of my very first posts when I first launched this blog, (my third such endeavor over the course of twenty years,) about social nudity. Pee Wee's Big Adventure was a source of running gags in our home, and I simply couldn't get past the irony of this iconic moment in that film. When I first published this post, the blog had a few dozen followers. Today, if you count those who follow us through various channels of social media, we have dozens of thousands of followers. So I thought I'd comb through this post, fill out a couple of the weak spots. and repost it as part of my new series of "Essays about Social Nudity."
The famous scene in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, with Pee Wee and Simone, sitting in the mouth of a dinosaur, talk about Simone’s “big but(t).”
I find multiple layers of irony in this scene, not the least of which is Pee Wee’s subsequent demise (a couple years after the release of this film) when he was convicted for a rather unseemly episode of indecent exposure in a movie theater. Awkward.
But I have to agree with Pee Wee, “[pretty much] everybody I know has a big but…” That thing they have yet to do that seems beyond the social norms, but leads to some level of fulfillment in the end. (Could spin any number of blog posts out of that one.)
Everybody’s got a big butt…” Indeed, that’s the one common thing that every human has! What intrigues me is our collective fascination with the rest of the human anatomy, largely a matter of plumbing intended to prolong the inevitability of the human race. Male and female genitalia, breasts, and pubic hair have transcended past the Victorian age to provide a very clear definition of right and wrong; ethical or not; decent or indecent. As one who studies Art and the human condition for a living, I am struck by how narrowly we define our ethical perspectives on the basis of the last one hundred years or so of post-industrial ideology, much of which is deeply influenced by the supposed values of the conservative Christian church. Three hundred years ago, before most of the population could actually read the Biblical account of Adam and Eve, was it a sin to expose one’s breasts? Not sure how that worked in Western Europe at that time, with the influence of plagues and crusades and all, but most “uncivilized regions of the planet” had seemingly little stigma about nakedness before we civilized them and ‘brought them to their senses.’ It seems to me that part of missionary creed included inherent tenets of teaching of body shame, especially if you had a big butt
But today, we have the internet, with breasts (and genitalia) abounding! Many of us are less religious than our parents, but I suspect, more conservative than any time in the history of man; at least about simply nudity in the midst of educated men. When did we decide that clothing was necessary for competing in the Olympics? When did we decide that wrapping one’s body in nylon was the best way to experience the sea? When did we decide that a breast or a buttock was more attractive than an ankle, or an eyebrow, or an earlobe. Biology? Psychology?
Since I first wrote the original edition of this post, we have traveled the world to so many naked places. Acknowledging that Europe has something of it’s own eco-system as related to fitness, eating habits, and perhaps not by coincidence, a general comfort level with communal nudity, most every other naked places we’ve been has proven to be something of a sanctuary of “body acceptance.” Big butt? Small penis? Lopsided breasts? At least in America, the nudist community seems to rally around such things that cause so many people so much worry and grief. “Accept me for who I am” is most certainly trending, and to their credit, most nudist resorts are on the crest of that wave.
The moral of the story? In the end, everyone’s got a big but(t)! If you’re worried about your big butt, maybe you should check out a nudist resort.
This post was originally published in May 2013. You can see the original post here, along with the comments of readers who contributed to the conversation.Follow The WordPress.com Blog on WordPress.com
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Several medieval paintings (even religious ones!) depict women with naked breasts. Also according to Wikipedia English women bathed in the nude till 1670 while men could swim naked till around 1860. So this emerging prudery seems rather a kind of social evolution than religiously driven. A historian told me once that that prudery was a means to portray other people as less civilized. Such a ‘moral superiority’ was convenient for some people to justify their actions.
That all checks out. Personally, I’m fascinated with all that’s been left in the wake of colonialism in every corner of the earth. Particularly fascinating to this point is that most objections to casual nudity seem to trace back to one form of organized religion or another. When you look at how much of Africa speaks French, how many of those countries are existing within a converted Christian value system, and resultantly, how rare nudity is in “civilized Africa” today, it’s a real head-scratcher. But go to France, and they are NOT particularly religious, and have very few hangups about nudity. Huh!
indeed, the effects of the misuse of religion for other purposes can last a very long time. Unfortunately.
+10,000 for Jo’s comment on the misuse of religion!
“Big butt? Small penis? Lopsided breasts? Scoliosis? etc.” — I’m glad that ‘body acceptance’ appears to be gaining ground against ‘body dysmorphia’, ‘poor body image’, ‘all bodies are beautiful’. Why? The second group of terms implies the size/symmetry of body parts is in the eye of the beholder. Really? In which universe? Aside from that, if the characteristics of those body parts are largely perception, then height and shoe size must also be largely perception. See what I mean? It just doesn’t work. Reality is that many/most people DO have some body part(s) that fall outside the norm. (accuracy of said norm is a separate debate). To suggest that a person’s small penis or lopsided breasts is not reality but the person’s perception is both patronizing and belligerent, in addition to straight up lying. The phrase ‘body acceptance’ at least acknowledges reality and leaves open the possibility of considering relevance of an anatomical fact that may or may not be true.
(Feel free to edit/delete this part if you like)
To use a straightforward, uncomplicated example: Penis size. Anyone, anywhere who suggests that penis size and bedroom skill have any kind of correlation is actually making a rather loud & blatant announcement that he/she has not spent much time with penises in bedroom settings.
I admit that this trend of attempting to re-frame objective data as subjective on the part of the person pointing out said data in one of my pet peeves.