Why be Naked?
"Why Naked? What's with the nudity? It's just not necessary!"
Yes, you may be someone who feels that it's inappropriate to ride the streets completely naked in public and the above response is your first reaction. Yes, you're right; it's not necessary. In fact, some riders won't be completely naked. But many things in life are not "necessary"; we do them simply because they have meaningful purpose and advantages.
People can feel uncomfortable with public nudity for a number of reasons that they believe are valid. For example: some parts of the body are private and should always be covered; it's immodest and goes against the teachings of the church; it's harmful to children; a naked person is offensive and obscene; it's just plain wrong!
Whatever the reason, you won't be alone. I'm sure there are plenty of folk who share your point of view. But I hope that you are a person who is smart enough to be able to question and evaluate your beliefs with an open and understanding mind. Have you ever thought to wonder about the origin of your beliefs and where you learned them? For many people, what they believe is simply an unquestioned mindset that was taught to them from infancy. But what if that mindset was based on myth rather than fact? Let's quickly look at two or three of the beliefs I've mentioned above.
1. Some parts of the body are private and should always be covered.
This belief is based on the idea that nakedness and sexuality are linked together and inseparable and that, if a person's genitals or breasts or buttocks are uncovered, then they are acting in a sexual way that is only appropriate in private. This understanding has its beginnings in the porn industry and all the titillating magazines, videos and websites that portray models flaunting their genitalia with the sole purpose of providing sexual excitement. And because of this, the idea that a person can be walking, hiking, cycling, gardening, or doing a host of other activities naked, in sight of other people, without any sexual intent is difficult to conceive.
But the fact is, they do. In New Zealand alone there are an estimated 5,000 men, women and children who don't bother with any clothing when there's no need to. That's a very conservative estimate - there could be many more. Some belong to naturist clubs, while many more simply spend time around home, at the beach, or go on forest hikes and bush walks. There is nothing remotely sexual in any of these contexts.
2. It's immodest and goes against the teachings of the church.
This is a belief that stems from a misunderstanding of the word "modesty" as used in the Bible. The apostle Paul told the early church that people, particularly women, must dress modestly. The reason was that women were tending to use church as a way to flaunt their wealth in front of the less well-to-do. Instead of showing off their fine jewelery and expensive clothing, they were to dress in modest attire. The instruction had nothing at all to do with covering any part of the body. In fact, in those days, baptisms were always conducted while totally naked.
When God created the human body, he created it in his own image (Genesis 1:26). Mankind was the pinnacle of God's creation and he declared everything he had created as "very good. For someone to declare the human form - God's own image - as obscene or offensive is nothing short of blasphemy!
3. It's harmful to children.
This is a belief we hear quite often and, once again, it comes from the mindset that nudity equals sex equals pornography. Of course, it is inappropriate for children to be exposed to sexual activity - we have no argument with that! But is a child harmed by simply seeing a naked human body?
In fact, there is sound empirical evidence that the opposite is true! Children who have regularly seen other naked people tend to grow up with healthy, positive attitudes towards people of all shapes, sizes and colours. Naked people are totally unremarkable to them. Children acquire a confidence about their own looks and are not subject to body-shame and associated illnesses such as depression and anorexia. Boys especially are far less likely to get into porn, and don't objectify women. Kids love to be naked themselves. It's adults that have the issues - not the kids!
4. A naked person is offensive and obscene.
Again, it comes down to mindset. Why is it we can stare at sculptures and paintings of naked men, women and children in a museum, but to see the real thing is considered by many to be vulgar? Why is it that being naked is normal to people of some societies, while other societies see it as obscene. Have your picnic lunch naked in a city park in Germany and nobody will bat an eyelid. Do the same in America and you'll likely end up on the sex offenders register!
Face it. A body is a body is a body! In 1990 New Zealand enacted a statute to affirm recognition of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; which both declare the human person to have inherent dignity and worth. That statute is the Bill of Rights Act.
Such dignity and worth obviously must apply to the complete human person. If it is not the whole person, it is meaningless. Therefore no part of the person which has inherent dignity and worth can be rationally determined to be an attack on society. No mere part of a human form can rationally cause disorder, nor can it offend the average reasonable person – as conflated within the Bill of Rights.
The World Naked Bike Ride employs nakedness to draw attention to the vulnerability of cyclists using the roads. Time after time, motorists who hit cyclists claim they didn't see them. Almost always it's due to carelessness on the part of the motorist. By riding naked, we are saying, "LOOK! We've got no clothes on! I bet you can see us now!"
And by riding naked we are also demonstrating that people can be naked, enjoying freedom from the trappings of fashion, and be completely devoid of any hint of sexuality. Being naked is good for the body, soul and mind!
Try it! But be warned - it can be addictive!