30 April 2015

Nudity - the Default State

There's a special type of pedal used by serious bicycle riders which has a locking mechanism that attaches to a special metal cleat on bicycle shoes, which snaps the foot and pedal together, allowing for more efficient pedaling and more control.

The old fashioned way was to have a tiny metal cage called a "clip", with a cloth strap around it, which you would slide your foot into.  Some commuters still use these, but basically all racers and serious amateurs have gone to the new system.

Since the new system no longer has the metal bracket - the  "clip" - sticking out of the pedal, the new system was initially called "clipless".
The name stuck and caught on, and now, even though a young rider starting out today would find the interlocking-pedal-and-shoe-system the standard default, cyclists still refer to them as "clipless" pedals.

I was thinking about how odd it is that we would designate something's identity in the negative like this.  In other words, a "clipless" pedal is defined by what it isn't.
Which is odd, especially now that the new system is the standard.

Defining something as ______-less implies that whatever it isn't is the default.

I tried to come up with other things which we define by what they aren't, and couldn't think of much.  There used to be "horseless carriage", which is what automobiles used to be called, but today we have long since dropped the connection to horses, and even shortened "carriage" down to just "car".

Looking it up (powerless nameless worthless purposeless doubtless flawless motionless regardless endless fearless homeless reckless restless spotless useless) the majority of them refer to intangible states - mostly states of mind, or otherwise determined subjectively. None of them refers to a concrete, definite, observable state of being, the way a pedal either has a clip on it or it doesn't, a carriage is either pulled by a horse or not.
And they are all terms in which the opposite would indeed be reasonably considered the default state.

But then I eventually thought of one other common word which is defined by what it isn't - it had alluded me because it has become the de facto assumed "default" state to such an extent that the term doesn't even have the suffix -less in it at all.

You can probably guess, given the blog post title...

Or naked.

What those terms actually mean is "clothes-less".
They are defined by not having some form of cloth wrapped around the body.

We've all grown up in the modern world, so we take it for granted, but if you think about it, this is kind of strange.

Obviously in some specific circumstances we might want people dressed.  In a hospital, for example, or a restaurant, on public transportation or the grocery store.  Which is no different from having specific places designated "no shoes, no shirt, no service" currently.  But in a park? Walking down a sidewalk?  Driving one's own car?  In front of a window in one's own house?

There can not possibly be any objectively valid justification, an explanation which isn't either axiomatic or circular.

The genus homo- has existed for about 2 million years.
The earliest clothing was thought to be 170,000 years ago (though numerous studies date it much later) - 830,000 years after we lost most of our fur/hair, with just a thick patch on the head, and little bits in select other areas.

That's 830,000 years of people spending every moment, from birth to death, walking around upright and hunting large animals, with skin exposed to the air and light.

Modern humans - homosapiens specifically - in both anatomy and behavior have been around about 200,000 years.  People who would have been indistinguishable from people alive today, spent 30,000 years living life, using tools and fire and language, before it occurred to anyone to wrap their bodies in cloth.

30,000 years is about 1000 generations.  Looking back 30,000 years ago from now brings us into the paleolithic - or stone age.  30,000 years goes back to cave painting days, and spans literally everything you think of as human history.  That's how long humans went with no concept of clothing.

Of course, (not withstanding silly Bible stories) every human society on Earth did not jump from no concept of clothing to universal anti-nudity rules over night.  Clothes would have been worn under certain specific circumstances, when there was some practical reason to.  Not wearing them would have still be the default.  The word "naked" wouldn't have existed.  Some version of "enclothed" would have instead.

In fact, evidence suggests that it was only those early humans who began migrating northward that adopted clothing use, and that likely only because they happened to move into Europe right around the time of an Ice Age.  In Africa humans lived hundreds of thousands of years without clothing.
In fact, in almost all places, even as clothing became used more regularly, and even as societies grew and developed cities and laws, clothing remained optional in most places for the vast majority of human history.


It appears as though the idea of "modesty", of body shame, only began with what became Judaism, from there influencing Christians and Muslims - who then between them conquored or colonized nearly every culture on every continent on the planet.  While many places eventually won back independence, having once been controlled by them left a permanent mark.

Judaism wasn't founded until a fairly recent 4000 years ago.  While clothing had existed for about 168,000 years before then, they were rarely if ever mandatory.  In most places and times they were most likely thought of as more akin to tools - something you use when the situation calls for it, like we might use a coat, hat, or apron today.  In warm climates this might just mean a loin cloth for running and hunting, while in winter in cold climates it might mean head to toe covering.
That means for the vast majority (196,000 years out of 200,000) of human existence - even modern style humans, living in cities on agriculture grown on farms, with various forms of government and religion and sport - people (of all ages) would have been exposed to other humans not wrapped up in animal skins or fabric at least occasionally, and it would not have been any big secret what the human body looks like.

And yet (oddly enough?) there is no reason to believe that the vast majority of humans in every location for almost all of history spent every waking hour engaged in orgys and debaurchery, or that rape was rampant and non-stop - quite to the contrary, all available evidence today shows a positive correlation between rates of rape and a society's level of sexual repression.

Does anyone really believe that, until a couple hundred years ago, every single human on Earth grew up psychologically traumatized and damaged, because as children they saw adult human bodies?

Even with that influence, things didn't get really bad until the Victorian era.  Before that, while it may have been seen as embarrassing, or perhaps a sign of low social status (as in ancient Rome, for example), in few if any places was it actually codified in law, with threat of punishment for violation.
Unfortunately for us all, the Victorian era seems to have had the strongest lasting influence on the US specifically, which today is only surpassed by the Islamic world in the extremes of repression.


In some countries that base civil law on the Koran, woman (but not men, though conservative dress is still mandatory), are expected to be covered literally head to toe in public.

Here in the US many people find that horrible, repressive to women, sexist and repugnant.

But is it really all that different from our own standards?

It is meant to serve the exact same purpose - to prevent men from thinking sexual thoughts about someone who isn't their own committed partner.  A woman can still be sexy with her breasts and butt covered though, so if you are going to de-sexualize a person, why not do it all the way?
The difference isn't qualitative, its just drawing the line a different place.
We mandate covered breasts, because breasts can be sexual - they are one of the few key differences between the sexs, and they can play a role in the sex act.
Faces meet those same criteria - the faces of men and women are distinctly different, and mouths can certainly play a big role in the sex act.
So by the same standards, why wouldn't we make it illegal for women to show their face in public?

If that sounds ridiculous, what justification can be made for any anti-nudity law?

Outside of the most extreme fundamentalists, every adult knows what a naked human body of both sexes looks like, and everyone knows that everyone else knows.
The most common rationalization for mandatory clothing then, is that it somehow protects children. From what exactly isn't clear - from knowing that men and women's body's are different?  From figuring out that sex exists?
Unless one gets their morals handed down in a book or from an arbitrary authority figure - and those morals say "all sexual activity and thoughts are bad by default, except in the specific instance of deliberate reproduction within a government and religious sanctioned marriage" - there is really no conceivable way seeing other humans in their natural state would be intrinsically harmful.
In other words, the only arguments are axiomatic - nudity is bad because all sexual thoughts are bad, and those are bad because we say so.  Stop asking questions.

When confronted with the hundreds of societies, past and present, in which clothing is an optional tool and "nudity" is no big deal, people will typically say something along the lines of: "oh, well thats different - that's their cultural norm, so of course it seems normal to the people growing up that way".  Well, yeah! Duh.  That line of reasoning is circular.  It implies the reason for forcing everyone to wear clothes at all times in public spaces is because everyone is forced to wear clothes at all times in public spaces.  If we removed that restriction, then it would become our cultural norm.
In other words, any psychological harm to children is a result of our repressive culture.  It is the opposite of prevented by it.

I've proposed before that the origin of sexual repression may be closely tied to social control by a central authority, be it religious or government.  The more centralized the power, the less individual freedom and autonomy, the more the culture punishes whatever it deems deviant behavior, un-married sex, masturbation, homosexuality, pornagraphy, prostitution, whatever.  These prohibitions are always rationalized as being for the sake of the "perpetrator" (who is simultaneously a victim), but in every case, when the legal and social stigmas are removed, the same behavior is no longer associated with negative side-effects.

Outside of learned moralizing - rules taught to us by others - it would never occur to anyone that feelings of pleasure would be intrinsically bad; no one would deliberately avoid good tasting food and survive on whatever diet was most unpleasant, or go out of their way to be too cold or too hot at all times to avoid being comfortable.  Without religious or government influence, people would simply live and experience life.

If one wants to try to convince another person of a really stupid concept, the most effective way to do it is when they are so young that they don't know any better yet.
Human babies are born not knowing how to walk, or do anything else, making them some of the least developed infants outside of marsupials.  We have great big brains, but not a lot of instincts, so we have to learn everything about the world as we go along.  Since we require more than a decade (and in modern society, up to two decades!) to be mature and knowledgeable enough to survive without direct and consistent parental care, it makes sense that the human mind is primed to believe pretty much anything a caretaker claims.  Unfortunately, this is so strong it tends to win out even when those claims go against everything the child has learned about the world directly.

So if you want to convince a person of something ridiculous - say, the story of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, or that Jesus was the literal son of Mary and God who preformed a bunch of random miracles and then deliberately had himself executed because it would cause all sins of every human after that time to be forgiven as long as they believe the story - the best strategy is to start indoctrinating them at as young an age as possible.  Some stories are complicated enough that you have to wait at least until they understand language, but with sexuality it is possible to begin indoctrinating children with ideas and feelings of shame and guilt, of "naughtiness" and the disgustingness of normal human bodies and behavior, just by making sure sexuality stays a secret as long as possible, so the child is uninformed and confused, so that sex remains unknown and mysterious and therefore scary.

Both the traditions of female and male circumcision were both originally intended to prevent children from masturbating or expressing (or even feeling) any sexual feelings.  In males this purpose has been long forgotten (although it was the primary reason for the practice as late as the early 1900s in America) but females this is still the explicit purpose (and is - rightfully - decried by most cultures outside of those that actually practice it).  Bans on pornography serve largely the same purpose.  But what better a way to make desexualization of individuals as extreme as possible as making sure they have no understanding of how sex even might work, of even what the physiological differences between the sexes are, or in fact that there even are any at all, than to make sure they never even see a genuine human body, but merely the clothes they get wrapped up in with a head sticking out on top and hands on the sides?

Of course, it doesn't actually work that way.
Repression doesn't make nature and biology simply cease to function.
It merely turns natural desires and behaviors into pathologies.

And, as one might expect, the rates of sexual violence are greatest among those places where repression is the highest...
...places with Islamic law ban porn and mandate burkas, while having honor killings of rape victims and capital punishment for sex outside of marriage, the countries which practice female circumcision are among the highest in the world for forcible rape, and here in the US one can be put on the Sex Offender Registry for life for peeing in a park, breastfeeding in public, taking a picture of your baby in the tub, or for being a teen having sex with your same age partner, while commentators and law makers struggle in vain to figure out who to blame for the (supposed?) college rape crises and "rape culture".

All along the "Social institution and Gender Index", as sexual repression increases, so does gendered oppression: http://genderindex.org/ranking?order=field_sigi_value14_value&sort=asc

At the opposite extreme from the Muslim world is Spain, where being naked in public is a protected right and over half of the executive branch cabinet is female.
"Nudism is protected under the basic pillars of democracy itself and the Spanish democratic Constitution states:

  • In freedom of thought, not being discriminated against because of the way one thinks or because of one's personal circumstances (Article 16).
  • In the right to have our own image and clothing or the absence of the same (Article 18).
  • In freedom to wander throughout the territory without restrictions (Article 19).
  • In freedom of expression not having freedoms cut off on the basis of opinions (Article 20).
  • In the right to bring up our children in accordance with our morality (so long as this is within the framework of the law)(Article 27).
  •  And in not considering illegal whatever is not regulated; the consideration that everything is illegal except for what has been declared to the contrary is befitting of dictatorships and not of democratic nations."
"For the first time in history, unless you believe the ancient Greek myth of the Amazons, a European country has a government in which more women than men hold positions of power. The new Spanish cabinet, sworn in by the socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has nine women alongside eight men... ""...legislation ... prohibits men or women from making up more than 60 per cent of the candidates of any political party that contests national or local elections. It also demands, but does not require, that by 2010 any company negotiating for public contracts should appoint women to 40 per cent of the places on their boards of directors. The rule will have only a limited impact on the Spanish parliament, where women already make up 36.6 per cent of the deputies, the fifth-highest figure in Europe, but it could open spectacular opportunities at local government level, and particularly in the boardroom, for Spain's female university students, who outnumber male undergraduates."
"While Spain has made the biggest strides in the past decade, they are not the pioneers in this field. That distinction belongs to the Scandinavians, and particularly to the Swedes. In 1972, the Swedish Liberal Party decided to make a pitch for the increasingly important female vote by making sure that at least 40 per cent of the MPs the party returned at the next election would be women. This was possible because Sweden's system of proportional representation gave party managers the power to manipulate numbers from the centre in a way that would be very difficult under the "first past the post" system in the UK.

The Swedish Social Democrats realised that the Liberals were on to a good idea, and matched it by bringing in the so-called "zipper" system, under which if there is a man at the top of the party list, the number two position must be occupied by a woman, the third by a man, and so on. The proportion of women in the Swedish parliament, around 14 per cent in 1971, soon trebled. In the 2006 election, women took 164 seats out of 349, or 47 per cent of the total, the highest proportion in Europe and the second highest anywhere in the world. (Rwanda has the highest with 39 women out of 80 in the lower house.)
The principle of "every second seat for a woman" is now well ingrained in Nordic countries. Finland, Denmark and Norway are all in the top 10 countries in the world for the proportion of women in their legislatures. Norway has a Gender Equality Act which requires that all publicly appointed committees, including the cabinet, should be made up of at least 40 per cent men and at least 40 per cent women. This rule was extended in 2004 to state-owned companies. Then in 2006, the government legislated to impose an extraordinary ultimatum on Norway's public limited companies – either have a minimum of 40 per cent of women on the company board by 1 January 2008, or be closed down. Despite the dire prophecies of economic catastrophe, the law has come into force without driving out any major company."

"Sweden ranks as one of the world’s most gender-egalitarian countries, based on a firm belief that men and women should share power and influence equally. An extensive welfare system makes it easier for both sexes to balance work and family life. However, the Government recognises that there is still room for improvement in many areas... Gender equality is one of the cornerstones of modern Swedish society. The aim of Sweden’s gender equality policies is to ensure that women and men enjoy the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all areas of life.
The overarching principle is that everyone, regardless of gender, has the right to work and support themselves, to balance career and family life, and to live without the fear of abuse or violence.
Gender equality implies not only equal distribution between men and women in all domains of society. It is also about the qualitative aspects, ensuring that the knowledge and experience of both men and women are used to promote progress in all aspects of society.
In the Global Gender Gap Report 2013, Sweden is named as a world leader in equality. The report, drawn up at the initiative of the World Economic Forum, measures equality in the areas of economics, politics, education and health. It can be read at: www.weforum.org

And the Swedes attitude toward the site of the human body?

"Swedes are a very polite, considerate people. Even when it comes to stripping down to their birthday suit. They may be more liberal than many other nationalities, but there are rules of etiquette. Getting naked isn'talways okay. 

Dancing naked on TV with your friends while covering your privates with Swedish hard bread (knäckebröd) is acceptable. And of course you should always be naked in the sauna. ...
Nyström explained that sunbathing topless - or entirely naked - on your balcony should be okay, and having sex by a window is fine and dandy as long as the neighbours don't have a clear view in. But not being considerate of others may end you up in court. So Swedish 'lagom' is key."
But wait, it gets better...

"Swedish Court Rules That Public Masturbation Is Legal

A court in Sweden has handed done a rather novel ruling. The Södertörn District Court has declared that it is legal to masturbate in public so long as you are not “targeting” anyone in particular. Moreover, public prosecutor Olof Vrethammer says that he entirely supports the ruling.
The case concerns a 65-year-old man who dropped his shorts on a beach in Stockholm and started to masturbate in front of people. He was charged with assault...
Vrethammer stated: “For this to be a criminal offence it’s required that the sexual molestation was directed towards one or more people. I think the court’s judgement is reasonable.” "

This connection is not by coincidence.

The entire point of demonizing sexuality is to justify oppressive top down control, and patriarchy specifically.  What better a way to get a populace to rely on those with a special connection to God and to mold an unquestioning obedience to authority than to make someone hate and fear their own natural self, to equate their default state with sin and punishment?

Clothing covers up the natural differences in male and female bodies - but in doing so, it makes them seem far more dramatic, more significant, than they really are.  In reality all human bodies are 98% the same, with just a couple of very small differences, which are mostly only relevant during reproduction.  But, as is always the case with human psychology, a mysterious unknown takes on mythic proportions.  In a book or a movie, the scariest antagonist is one you never quite see, can never figure out.  People are afraid in the dark not because of what is there, but because of what they imagine might be there.
We dress people up in cloth - but always in different cloth.  From the earliest age, we cover the parts that show what sex a person is, but then make a point of still letting everyone know via differentiated clothing styles.  Even among infants, where sex really doesn't even mean anything, clothes come color coded - all so we can begin the process of making societies pre-determined gender roles as ingrained as possible.  It is vital that a person "identifies" with not only their sex, but their "gender", so we start the socialization process literally from day 1.

Making the default natural state of human existence a crime is the first step in forcing everyone in a society to fit into predetermined roles, regardless of individual preference.
Removing mandatory gender roles is the first step toward egalitarianism, equality, and freedom for all individuals.
This theory is well supported by the high correlation with gender equality and freedom with freedom to wear clothes or not.


  1. Wow, Bakari, this is home run writing! I question everything, and so do you. Is the Burka any worse than our own mandatory clothing standards?

  2. I'm so glad I found this blog (on MMM forums). This post puts into words what I've been thinking for years. I've read several articles and I am definitely going to read more!


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