“Nude Is In the Eye Of the Beholder”

hard hat

It’s shortly after the New Year’s holiday and Nude News has been on the road. As we welcome in the New and Nude Decade from a tropical (but chilly) garden, nearly as far south as you can get in the U.S., we glance at late ’09 stories about nudity that prove our main points concerning the subject:

1. Nude is hot. There is a constant flow of stories in the media for us to comment on. Newspapers, TV, the Net report and communicate these events without knowing their meaning in the epochal struggle between dress and undress, nature vs. artifice.

2. In the 21st century there is still no agreement among persons or cultures about who or what is nude, or for that matter lewd. Our story out of Egypt makes it clear that to some Moslem women the showing of any flesh whatever constitutes both the nude and lewd. Our story out of Virginia shows that to one dude wearing nothing more than a hard hat means he’s doing what comes naturally, at least at home. Nude means that which people think it means. Our own stance is: Naked is as naked does.

PETA protesters will strip naked from New York to Barcelona at the drop of a fur stole (http://blog.peta.org/archives/naked/).These peaceful guerillas have been getting nude in a bunch in highly public places to protest the wearing of animal skins. Being an animal with a skin, it’s a cause we support that deserves a post on its own.

Finally, New York’s Metropolitan Opera recently showed a new production of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman that featured stripper-like chorus girls, g-strings, pasties and all. However, the girls were covered up when the opera was shown on closed TV in various movie houses. Don’t they know how much skin the movies already show? The decision to jazz up old Offenbach but afterward to dress up the girls for select movie houses is simultaneously a blow for everlasting American Puritanism and bad taste—a natural pair. Please read on–

The Egyptian story, according to the N Y Times, is about “an intensifying struggle between the moderate Islam championed by the state and a populace that is turning to a stricter version of the faith, whose most visible hallmark is the niqab — the dress that covers the entire female form.” A woman dressed in this outfit looks like an ambulating pyramid—nothing shows. The article cites one Fatma al-Assal, 22, who has a veterinary degree but has been refused a job. We are not told how she proposes to treat animals while dressed in the awkward, confining garb. She is not getting near our cats—she would frighten them.

A remark by Ms. Assal gives away her real purpose: “Dressed that way, I feel respect. I don’t have anyone looking at me. Islam says all the woman’s body is a temptation.” As a matter of fact, dressed like a tent in Cairo among more usually dress women will naturally cause people to stare, so more rather than less people will be looking at her. Which we suspect she wants. She is making a silent but loud statement: Islam demands this sort of dress, and you women who dress in Western garb are no better than whores. As for any part of a woman being a temptation, we wonder which part of which woman? We are reminded of Oscar Wilde’s quip that the only way to overcome temptation is to give into it. Having given into tempting women many times, we are no longer intrigued by their random parts. The ”full monty” might be something else.

Back home in Old Virginny, according to the AP, “As Erick Williamson, 29, sees it, being naked is liberating, and if passers-by get an eyeful while he’s standing in front of his picture window, that’s not his problem.” One of those passers-by, a librarian (what else?) named Joyce was driving to work when she heard loud singing. As she drove past Erik’s home, “she saw him naked, standing directly behind a large picture window.” While she fails to mention he was dressed in a hard hat, we presume Joyce slowed to gawk. Knowing librarians, we are certain she was offended by his singing, and that given the chance, she would have shushed him. Instead, she called the cops.

A few hours later, a housewife named Yvette was walking her 7-year-old son to school past Erik’s home. She heard a loud rattle and saw the culprit standing naked, full frontal, in a side doorway. “He gave me eye contact,” said Joyce, but he made no gesture toward her or her son. The noise was caused by Erik’s packing up his belongings to leave town, which explains his need for a hard hat. Yvette also called the cops. In response, Erik claims it did not occur to him that people outside his home might see him naked. We don’t buy that—he was showing off. Whether or not he had anything worth showing, we aren’t informed.

Under Virginia law, the charge of “indecent exposure” requires “an obscene display or exposure” and must occur in “a public place or a place where others are present.” At the trial, Erik’s defense attorney argued that “Nudity in one’s own home is not a crime.” The prosecutor argued that Erik’s intention was to expose himself to the women by making a loud noise such as singing. Obviously, the prosecutor was no music lover. What tipped the scales was the prosecutor’s claim that “No one deserves to see it [nudity], certainly not a young child.” Egad! How would you like to be this uptight schmuck’s son? The judge found Erik guilty but suspended his prison sentence. The offense could have cost him a year in jail. The moral: In Virginia, it’s illegal to get naked in your own home unless you pull down the blinds—but it’s fine to be a peeping Tom and a snitch.

Today’s  final bone to pick is with New York’s august Metropolitan Opera House. The new production of Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman features “partial nudity.” We don’t like the phrase, feeling that being naked is like being pregnant—either you are or not. You may have a few tatters of clothes left on, but if you feel nude, there you are. It’s a thing of the spirit. Stripper Gypsy Rose Lee took off less clothes than other girls working the ramp but she left the audience feeling they had seen all of her. She did not tease, she entertained. The Met’s very slightly clad chorines—now you see them, now you don’t—are mostly tease. This is not the wide-open New Burlesque but a tip of the hat to Offenbach’s day when Napoleon III ruled France and Queen Victoria presided over the British Empire and tits were kept just slightly covered to titillate without giving anything away. Our plea to the Met’s directors and chorus girls: Honey, take it off!

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