Okay. There are basically two things we, as a globalized world, consider taboo as when watching television and life in general: violence and sex, and maybe drugs can be added to this list too. This taboo is something many consider as the creepiest thing society accepts as a cultural norm. That being said, we don’t only consider the actual intercourse as taboo, but also do we treat the naked human body like if it were a repulsive and/or disgusting being.
How did this abhorrence towards our own bodies become so standard?
Many would be content by simply answering ‘Religion‘. I instead consider such answer as, not only false, but mediocre too.
Many debates and discussion threads have been made regarding this subject. I recently found an argument made by /u/ShakaUVM which majestically explains why religion is not the reason why we treat the naked human body as if it were a repulsive and/or disgusting being. After all, the human body is viewed at least in Catholicism as beautiful. Just take a look at renaissance art and the church’s paintings. What makes us see nudism this way, in my and /u/Sir_Llama‘s opinion, is the constant sexualization of the body, making it seem like private parts are only useful for sex and are therefore not to be referred to in public.
By accusing religion as the causative of such action one might be inclined to think it’s implying Christianity or Islam, in general terms. Nevertheless, the Hindus that wrote the Kama Sutra were religious, and obviously not puritan.
But even if it were Christianity, for example, the theory of religion being the motivator of nudity being seen as bad wouldn’t explain why heavily Christian countries like Western Europe allowed toplessness in the past (Agnes Sorel, official mistress to the King of France liked showing off her breasts in public) and to a big extent still do to this day in beaches for example. By the way, these url links are for mature only and Not Safe For Work.
Needing a NSFW warning for historical paintings. Sounds like a pretty perfect example of this societal boob allergy.
Diane de Poitiers by François Clouet (1571) at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
No. The opposition to toplessness came about through the notion (which reached its peak in Victorian times) that toplessness is okay in lower class women, but upper class women should keep covered up at all times. in other words, showing your titties is a sign of classlessness. Upper class women would hire wet nurses to nurse their kids. We all, essentially, consider ourselves upper class individuals these days.
Since this notion is still around, we still think it’s fine to show the breasts of African women on National Geographic, and not the breasts of white women.
Victorian culture is also why we like tans, when historically being pale-skinned with a sign of beauty (rich people could afford to go on holiday to the beaches, such as Llandudno in Wales or Nice in France), and so on and so forth.
That mindset still exists in China and many other Asian countries, by the way.
Historically, being pale skinned was a sign of wealth because it meant you could stay indoors and have other people do work for you. Poor people had to work out on the farms and thus get tanned. The switch came when people with money could afford to go on holiday, and the working people in the factories stayed at home, all pale and gamer-like.
In Islam, it might be a bit more difficult to explain, at least for me, since I am an ignorant in the subject. Doing a bit of research, I’ve found Islamic clothing does indeed serve a variety of religious functions. The Qur’an stresses modesty for both men and women, but also has practical functions. Covering the body provides protection from sun exposure and allows perspiration to remain on the skin, which keeps the body moist.
Islamic dress may also reflect a political agenda. Some Muslims don traditional clothing as a way of applying religious principles to society, and others use this type of dress to demonstrate their commitment to replace a secular political system with an Islamic one. During the 1970s, for example, Muslim women in Iran wore traditional clothing to show their opposition to the government of the shah. After Islamic revolutionaries seized control of the country, the new religious government made traditional dress a requirement.
Summerizing, abrahamic religions at least don’t tell us our bodies are shameful, they tell us our bodies are gifts from God to be celebrated with our spouses.