Nakedness

Everybody knows what everybody else looks like with no clothes on, but there are few of us who would consider going around in public without them. It is our sexuality that we're most concerned to hide from each other, needless to say, although one sometimes wonders why. Males and females both come with more or less standard equipment, after all. There would be no major surprises.

It started, of course, with Adam and Eve. Before they ate the apple, "the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed," Genesis tells us, and it was only afterward that "they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons" (2:25; 3:7). In other words, part of knowing evil as well as good was to know sex as a way of making objects of each other as well as a way of making love, and we have all felt guilty about it ever since. Pudenda, deriving from the Latin for "that of which we ought to be ashamed," is etymology at its most depressing.

People go around dressed to the teeth, and in our minds we go around undressing them. Again one wonders why. It's not just to see their bodies, surely. We already know what those look like. If our most abandoned fantasies came true and we were actually to have our way with the bodies that attract us most, I suspect it wouldn't even be that either. We already know just what bodies can do and what they can't.

Maybe our hunger to know each other fully naked is in the last analysis simply our hunger to know each other fully. I want to know you with all your defenses down, all your pretenses set aside, all your secrets laid bare. Then maybe I will be brave enough to lay myself bare, so that at last we can be naked together and unashamed.

~originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words