unlearning shame

15 03 2009

I haven’t been able to get the video to load, but this article is interesting nonetheless.

Eight ordinary people – none of them nudists – were recently brought together for an experiment filmed by the BBC’s Horizon programme, to test some of the scientific theories that explain why naked bodies make us so uncomfortable.

It’s completely unsurprising to me, and probably to most naturists, that these non-nudists lost their discomfort after being nude around each other for just a short time. At the same time, the researchers suggest that our shame about nudity does relate to sexuality.

That’s where our shame of nudity comes in. Over thousands of generations, we’ve learned that showing off a naked body sends out sexual signals that threaten the security of mating pairs. And we’ve chosen to agree that that is a bad thing.

From an evolutionary perspective, discomfort with nudity serves to reduce the risk that a mated pair will break their bond (and run off to mate with other individuals) while they are rearing children. Obviously, we’ve evolved to a stage where other factors affect the parenting process, and we have developed other rules that govern our relationships.

So while our shame at being seen in the nude has a biological root, it is largely enforced behaviorally, and the learned shame can be overcome, as the subjects found out:

As the weekend drew to a close, they were presented their final, surprise challenge.

They are invited to walk naked in the street to waiting taxis, which they do. They have overcome a significant bit of socialisation.

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One response

17 03 2009
h

Well i’m part Irish and its St Pat’s day so finding 8 Englishmen who are normal is sort of impossible. The article says nothing about naked tribes in africa or south america who dont’ have shame about nudity so it cant be about cheating on marriage. Also cavemen ran around bareass for a million years. its not built inrto our body.i gotta get another drink.

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