Nudity, Sexuality, and Censorship


There’s an interesting pattern I’ve seen over and over: a lot of people equate nudity and sexuality.

This probably isn’t news to you, but I think it has some really important consequences. One of them, of course, is that there are all sorts of laws regulating things like nudity or topless women in public, even when there’s nothing sexual going on.

I suspect that one reason that a lot of folks freak out about women breastfeeding in public (or in photos on Facebook) is that if you equate uncovered breasts with sex, seeing a mother feeding her child is going to make you think of both infants and sex. If you can’t separate breasts-as-erogenous-zone and breasts-as-food-source, then you can either avoid looking at breastfeeding (hard to do in public), or demand that moms cover up or go away.

But sometimes, it goes the other way. For example, I recently tweeted this picture:

The twitter app I use automatically uses lockerz.com to store photos and adds a link so that my followers could see the image. And within minutes, the photo was removed. If you clicked on the link, this is what you’d see:

You’ll need to click on the picture to see, but the reasons listed are:

  1. It was removed by the person who uploaded it
  2. The link you clicked was not valid
  3. The connection was lost during the file upload
  4. The photo contained nudity or SPAM
  5. The photo was a copyright violation

I can only assume that their justification for pulling the photo is the idea that it contained nudity. But if you look, you’ll see that a) she’s still got her underwear on (though clearly, not for much longer) and that b) he could be wearing shorts or underwear. You can’t see anyone nipples or genitals, the usual standard for defining nudity. Sure, nudity is implied in this photo, but there’s nothing showing that isn’t showing in plenty of other photos I’ve seen on lockerz.com. In fact, because of the way the photo is cropped, there’s less skin showing than in the average Sports Illustrated swimsuit photo.

What there is more of in this picture is sex, or at least, implied sex. I’m certainly not denying that. But there’s nothing in the list of reasons given that says anything about sexual expression or activity. It says “nudity”.

If these two people were covered in spandex or liquid latex so that no skin was showing, would it have been pulled? It seems to me that if lockerz.com wants to pull photos that are about nudity, they need some clarity around what that means. And if they want to pull photos that are too sexual (whether implicitly or explicitly), they need to make that clear. Nudity doesn’t equal sex and sex doesn’t require nudity.

Just saying.

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8 Responses so far.

  1. Becca says:

    Hey Charlie,

    A) That is whack.

    B) There is a little underboob in there.  :)

    Ridiculous!

    -BB

     

  2. Mindet says:

    The fuss over people breastfeeding in public is pure crazy.  Plenty of body parts have more than one function.  Context, people!  I could understand a fascination with the nurturing function of breasts as it is rather amazing and not something most people experience much of, but associating it with sex?  Some women stop breast feeding if they feel that the area is returning to being primarily erogenous, some can compartmentalise, some have never felt that it was a particularly sexual part of their bodies etc.  Do any of the people disapproving of public breastfeeding actually bother to ask mothers about any of this, or do they just project their own confusion onto strangers?

  3. Brad says:

    My favorite snack any time of day!

  4. Brad says:

    Mindet,
       Why should anyone object to a woman feeding her child in public whether via a bottle or her breasts.  The latter are the far more natural way.  On occasions, I have noticed a woman breast feeding her child discreetly in public and had no reason to feel threatened or offended. Though I found it a beautiful thing, I was certainly not sexually aroused by it.

  5. The MamaSutra says:

    Regarding breastfeeding and the shame mothers in America feel about doing so in public, I feel sorry for 1) the baby that has to suffocate under that hot sheet covering and 2) for the parent-child bond that gets blocked because mother and baby can’t make eye contact while baby is under the drape.  :(

  6. Brad says:

    The MamaSutra has made a some certainly valid comments that I failed to see (or at least think of).

  7. […] However, by the comments and gossip I heard, people assumed even more. Someone took a bra off, so someone – or even several people – should be nude and this of course must mean that they’re having sex. Quite a natural conclusion, but maybe not the only one or even the correct one? […]

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