Monday, 12 August 2013


I think that nudity is an interesting subject, and a challenge for many people. And something that the church seems to have a problem with - maybe it is because church people like to dress up, not undress.

The thing is, attitudes to nudity seem to be generationally divided. Young children growing up today will mostly have seen a naked person by the age of 16 - either on TV, or on the internet. I am not saying that I agree with this or approve of this level of nudity, but this is the reality. In my time, a generation or more earlier, this was less likely to be the case. We might have seen some porn mags, but may not, and it is quite possible to hit that age without having seen a naked person.

This generational divide is also reflected very much in the churches approach to nudity, and the rather Victorian, Puritan approach to nudity, because of its association with sexuality - something that the church also has a major hang-up about. Nudity leads to sex, and so must be avoided at all costs.

This seems to be the real problem with nudity. The truth is, when shown not gratuitously but appropriately, it is not a problem. There is something to be said for a celebration of the beauty of the human body, and for an appropriate presentation of this in stories where it is relevant. The truth is, people are sometimes naked, and if that is appropriate, it is more honest to show this than to hide it.

Of course, the real issue is sex, and the fact that a naked body might arouse sexual feelings in the viewers. Therefore it is a Bad Thing. The truth is that sex is a good thing, something to be celebrated, enjoyed, reveled in even. The churches obsession with denying sexuality is damaging to everyone - not least clergy who are expected to remain celibate, whether that is a choice they would otherwise make or not. It is also damaging when a Victorian sense of sexual purity is imposed on couples in the church. The problems with homosexuality are - to an extent - about a sexual prudity.

I should point out that some churches are not so bad. As always, what I am talking about is the perceived teaching of the churches, as a whole. There are places that stand against the tide - and all power to them.

I should also point out that abusive pictures, pornographic images, images that are air-brushed to present an impossible figure to aspire to - there are issues with all of these. The problem here is not nudity, it is the abuse and exploitation of people. That is always wrong. But these are issues that need to be addressed without starting from the position that Nudity Is Always Bad. Mainly because these issues are also present without the nudity.

Nudity - appropriately done - is a real celebration of the human body. That is something that is great to celebrate.


  1. Back in May, on Have I got News For You, Richard Coles, the former Communards keyboard player turned C of E vicar, said that he visited a nudist beach, not thinking he'd bump into anyone he knew. He met his archdeacon.

    1. I think I remember that. Richard Coles is not, of course, a typical CofE vicar, in many ways.