In contemporary lm, for example, nakedness

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has occasionally connoted vulnerability, humiliation or funny transgression: almost
compulsory in adolescent humors is a scene of male nudity in a public space for
comic goals. Movies such as Lost and Found (1999) in which David Spade loses
in a game of strip poker — a representation that’s used in the marketing material
for the lm — are not altogether distinct from the context-based existence of
nakedness in carnivalesque transgressions such as the New Orleans Mardi Gras,
in pornography, in the communal showers, or other circumstance-based ‘include-
All such representations and
spaces function as a circumstance for the representation of nakedness in legitimated
Methods that defuse both vulnerability and obscenity. Despite the cultural legitimacy
continue to come from more conservative quarters suggests that the represen-
tation of nakedness isn’t altogether exempt from differentiated reading
Places. I assert here that there’s an encroaching design in which nakedness as
gazed upon is read correlatively with the sexual, and that zones, bodies or
contexts of nude representation that might once have been considered ‘non-
sexual’ are more frequently sexualized or eroticized. Where David Spade’s bare
comic humiliation might, for instance, usually be read as harmless amuse-
ment, others might just as readily read as an improper display of
sexuality or as a prompt for masturbatory fantasy.
The experience of nakedness under the gaze of others is tremendously varied, and
important background differences will influence the comparative relaxation with which one
might strip in front of others. Such variables of might
include the amounts of privacy afforded within the private house among and
between generations. Mark Davis suggests that such internal, personal seclusion
has been on the increase in recent decades with the modern house designed to
keep children’s rooms away from the exclusive spaces (and toilets) of parents

Customs regarding nudity that differ from those of the cities — the nude
swimming in the Australian outback waterhole for example, as the cover to
Such conventions, experi-
ences and codes that contextually attempt to keep nakedness different from the
sexual are probably as varied as the variety of clothes worn now. Nonetheless,
what is of interest are the trends in how the public sphere — as the mediated site
of cultural exchange — reacts in and towards discussions of nakedness.
I begin by discussing the ways nakedness in modern western
culture, as a relationship between an unclothed body and the gaze of others, is
variously legitimated through contexts of portrayal, and how those contexts
are placed in routines of a cultural hysteria over the legitimate and the obscene,

Despite the increased depiction of ‘nudity’ in lm, tv and advertisements.
Working through increasing contentiousness in instances of common nakedness, such
as communal same sex showers, bath-time pictures of kids and contem-
porary lm and popular culture portrayals, I suggest that a sexualization of
the public world destabilizes the circumstances in which non-sexual nakedness and
Comprehended through fears of illegiti-
mate sexual reading, homophobia and a fear of presenting the embodied self in a
Style of eroticization, this contextual classification leads to an increasing de-
legitimation of several sites of nonsexual nakedness. Where there is an increased
bodily and psychic anxiety about the self naked under the gaze of others, this is
not simply caused by contemporary ethnic codes of the obscene, vulnerabil-
ity and private privacy, but of the ‘postmodern’ destabilization of contexts,
Bodies and reading practices which previously ‘protected’ the naked in particular sites
from stealing into signications of the sexual.
Context: Sexing and De sexing the Naked
has been inseparable from sex and sexuality, and has thus been found adjacent
to the indecent, the obscene and the immoral. The primary ‘authority’ which
informs this link is in the Judeo Christian genesis creation myths, and while
biblical ability might be in question in 20th- and 21st century western culture,
it takes its position as ‘residual’ which, in Raymond Williams’s (1977) conceptualization,
does not belong to modern dominant (liberal-humanist) culture, but
informs it nonetheless. In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were naked but
innocent, naked but ‘not ashamed’ (Genesis 2:25).
Shame, for Adam and Eve,