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When and why did human body censorship begin?

  1. Apr 22, 2010 #1
    From the breasts to the genitals, when did humans want to start covering themselves (not for protection), and what made them ashamed of their body? No bible jokes please.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2010 #2
    This question is perfect for some of the older folks who where around back then.
  4. Apr 22, 2010 #3
    What made them ashamed of their bodies? Probably McDonalds.
  5. Apr 22, 2010 #4
    Or maybe they just didn't like to have dust entering their:... Or maybe they didn't want their xxxx freezing and... :blushing:
  6. Apr 22, 2010 #5
    To be ashamed of your own body can only be your own fault.

    But then again, people like to point blame for their problems. In the end, problem goes unsolved.

    It's amazing what people do to lose weight. And now people are convincing themselves that this problem is actually the NORM of a human body. I highly doubt nature had a body full problems in mind when constructing the human body.

    The portion sizes are ridiculous. I can't even eat a full steak as people nowadays eat it. I buy mine at the grocery store and cut it half. Sure it's good but seriously, eating the whole things ruins it. I have no idea how Westerners do it. I went to Cheesecake Factory, and I split my plate with my girlfriend. I looked around people eating the whole plate like nothing. I was astounded. Everywhere I went there was big portions. Some even ordered Entrees and Dessert after eating all that alone!!!

    Then they go home and eat a yogurt because the commercial says it's healthy. Biggest joke ever. I don't even consume dairy, other than a little cheese here and there, and I have no problems going to the washroom. Yet, I heard fellow Canadians and Americans use laxatives to help with going to the washroom in their 20's! They think this is normal! Oh, but laxatives and yogurt is a healthy combination. :rolleyes:

    Seriously, back to it.

    When were humans beginning to hide their private parts? Well we know Egyptians were covering themselves. That goes back 5000 years ago. It's a very interesting question actually. There have been cities up 10 000 years old. I wonder if they covered themselves then. There might be a real social reason. There might have been issues with walking around naked in a social atmosphere when social interaction started becoming a larger and larger role in our lives. Who knows... maybe humans just started humping each other constantly and clothing helped control that. (Quite the opposite of being ashamed.)
  7. Apr 22, 2010 #6


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  8. Apr 22, 2010 #7


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    Egyptians, yeah. Just that anyone in the cold northern regions would have done it way sooner than them. And for some reason genitalia is sensitive to cold temperature from a health point (males not so much, yet freezing is a shame). Let's just forget about Egyptians and concentrate on northern people. Considering that they were clothed at least 9 months out of a year, a small habit might form.

    Social status was as now, important in all our history and running naked in a cold environment just seems like your a poor dumb one...
  9. Apr 22, 2010 #8


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  10. Apr 22, 2010 #9


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    Maybe at some point they spontaneously realized that being naked all the time alludes to sexuality a bit too much. Indeed, could one function normally (even in stone age) while thinking about sex all the time? We think enough about it with clothes on, anyways.
  11. Apr 22, 2010 #10


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  12. Apr 22, 2010 #11


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    Truly puritan thinking right here, as my own 1 person case study tells us that being naked around sexual opposites does not impair you from driving heavy machinery.
  13. Apr 22, 2010 #12
    I think that cultures of body-covering evolved as a means of shaming people out of free sexual expression so that they would have a motivation for doing labor. Even today there are expressions like "mental masturbation" and "screwing off" to shame people into finding work to do.

    If marriage can be made the reward for working hard and proving yourself, premarital virginity and marital monogamy are the means of controlling sexuality prior to and outside of marriage. Marriage makes men responsible for providing for mother and children, who are stuck with each other basically because of an inability for men and women to negotiate labor-sharing.

    Maybe once upon a time covering the genitals was a way of driving up curiosity to stimulate hard work to pay a dowry/wedding/etc. - now, it has just become a way to sell media containing nudity:) Amazingly, the nudity/sex industry has begun to mature recently, as evidenced by the offer of some porno movie company to fund the whole life of the "octomom." This is the first time I've ever heard of porn offering to take care of its illegitimate children.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2010
  14. Apr 22, 2010 #13
    The use of clothes to cover or hide the genitals is so ubiquitous that I too wonder if it doesn't have something to do with preserving premarital virginity and marital monogamy. Margaret Mead wrote in Coming of Age in Samoa that there was neither much of a nudity taboo nor much disgrace if a girl had a child before marriage because children were raised by the extended family and thus were little added burden.

    That said, I wonder if the nudity taboo actually discourages sex outside of marriage. It probably has little effect either way but I can't help but wonder if casual nudity doesn't desensitize the libido somewhat just as some clothes energize it.
  15. Apr 22, 2010 #14
    I know from cooking naked, and also working outdoors naked, that clothing offers a lot of protection.
  16. Apr 22, 2010 #15
    This is obviously it. On top of general distraction there are issues of possessiveness and jealousy, Men would want to keep other men from getting ideas about their mates, and visa versa.

    Even in extremely sexually liberal cultures, like in Polynesia, there were restrictions and rules to be followed about how much flesh could be on public display.
  17. Apr 22, 2010 #16
    ewwww - old person wrinkles!
  18. Apr 22, 2010 #17
    I'm surprised a few people ignored this part of my post:

    when did humans want to start covering themselves (not for protection)
  19. Apr 22, 2010 #18
    I was thinking along the same lines and wondering if adornment with jewelry, tatoos, and other markings, or possibly perfumes, are not the solution to the diminishing eroticism problem of normal nudity.
  20. Apr 22, 2010 #19
    Probably people got the idea that nudity was erotic as they migrated into colder climates and had to cover up for the cold. When spring comes, eroticism is a combination of less clothing, more comfortable temperature, seeing nature come back to life, etc. People probably also figured out that spending time away from each other for work had an erotic effect, as did the worker coming home with a sense of accomplishment. Probably the general culture of covering up and modesty arose out of a complex series of cultural developments trying to exploit the eroticism of it, and also the discipline for people to focus on their work, including shaming them for sexuality and dressing immodestly. I think there's a lot of people who study victorian sexuality and dress for this reason.
  21. Apr 26, 2010 #20
    I once read that humans wearing clothing started out as ornamentation for the body.
  22. Apr 27, 2010 #21
    John Kyff studied this and I learned from his research. Clothes cannot be made without needles, and those were not found as far back as 50-100,000 years ago. Man-made clothes are a much more recent development. I doubt that you could isolate one event or date and state "this is when people desired to wear clothes out of shame rather than praciticality".

    Egyptians wore clothes mostly as ornamentation, rather than out of shame. Ancient Egypt was essentially a nude society.

    The ancient Greeks revered the body as a temple of the soul and mind, and competed in the nude in the Olympics for about 500 years. This was their peculiar convention, so it tells us that each society forms its own rules about the propriety of clothing.

    I do recall an ancient society that revered nudity so much that slaves were forced to remain clothed as punishment. Only the wealthy and well-connected were permitted to be free from clothing. That might be apocryphal, who knows?

    This is not a "bible joke", but the Catholic church played a huge role in Europe for centuries, so its influence cannot be ignored. You can thank Saint Augustine for the sense of shame used by the church to keep the masses in line. I think that figures heavily into the body shame typically found today in western societies, although that is slowly easing as people stop to think about it, rather than respond to programming. The Internet is helping with that as people discover nude beaches and resorts, for example.

    Then there is the history of German free body culture in the early 20th century that worked against the dehumanizing effects of the industrial revolution through a return to Nature that incorporated nudity. No body shame amongst those people, and they prospered in even more oppressive times than we live in today.

    And prior to that in the 1700s and 1800s in the fledgling United States it was commonplace for farmers to skinnydip in the pond or river. This practice faded in the 1970s and 1980s with urban sprawl encroaching on skinnydipping holes here and there.

    Eastern cultures have a totally different history, so that's a horse of a different color. You can't look at their history through the lens of a westerner.

    There are still tribal cultures in the Amazon and New Guinea who live nude, so the notion that this is only a thing of the past is incorrect. It also exposes the lie that clothing is necessary to mute sexual curiosity. In fact clothing heightens sexual curiosity by creating a mystery where there was none before. People like to figure out mysteries, just like a good spy novel.

    This is a complex question with no clear answer, with what little historical research we have available on this specific topic. There is no specific when or where, apparently, because the rules of each society vary all over the place through history. People in warmer climates wear less, people in colder climates wear more, but whether society forces people to wear clothing is another matter.
  23. Apr 27, 2010 #22
    What about hand-weaving and animal skins?
  24. Apr 27, 2010 #23
    You must think back before humans needed to keep warm such as in Africa. Humans wore the skins of animals that made them look powerful to others like lion’s skins or other scary beast. They could scare off their enemy’s like many animals do today by making themselves looking larger or like making themselves look like animal that can hurt them. This can be called ornamentation. I have seen pictures of World War 2 paratroopers that had their head shaved with paint on their face to scare their enemies.
  25. Apr 27, 2010 #24


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    Come to Farmington, Maine this Friday. A 22 year-old woman is planning a topless march and has been walking topless through town all week (brr!) trying to drum up support. Luckily, Friday is supposed to be pleasantly warm and sunny.
  26. Apr 27, 2010 #25
    The o.p. asked about "censorship" which I interpret to mean that people were "forced" to wear clothes rather than "choose" to wear clothes.

    I myself am not a big fan of fashion or clothing other than as a necessity and I have studied this issue to some extent. But I am not allowed to exercise my judgment because Americans are "censored" (to use the original language). That is the essence of the question. It's as if the police have been enlisted as the fashion police.

    Wearing animal skins to keep warm or to ward off enemies is not "censorship" in the context of this discussion. I don't know how you weave animal skins together effectively by hand. How does a Human weave together skins or cloth without needles?

    This discussion boils down to why some societies enforce rules that require clothing, even when it might be harmful to the wearer. There is scientific evidence to support the notion that wearing clothing in some cases can, indeed, be harmful, by the way.

    Even without scientific evidence, why is it necessary at all?
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