There is an expression that sweeps over a person’s face whenever something comes along and knifes their bubble. Awkward chills creep up their spine and they start to cringe, pulling away their eyes or their body from whatever irks them. This is an understandable reaction – sometimes.
For instance, when you’re young you might have heard something questionable coming from your parents’ bedroom. Good time to cringe. Another good time is when you’re at a bar and some incoherent person starts to rub up on you. This always warrants an unpleasant smirk.
However, there are times that people get these same reactions from things that are just not as bad. Society has plastered a memo into our brains to tell us not to like it and to feel estranged by it. We’re socialized to believe – personally – that certain things people do should not be done in front of us. But does it have to be personal?
Huge reason for society to freak out number one: naked people. If you’re home alone watching naked people on your own time, it’s no big deal. If you’re looking at your significant other, it’s no big deal.
Yet, you see your housemate in their underwear and – oh my god, life as you know it is more awkward than it was moments ago. Take off the underwear and it’s a mini heart attack.
Why, though? What’s so weird? Chances are it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. It’s just a bunch of skin thrown off a few bones and some muscles. What’s the big deal? Furthermore, aren’t we supposed to see the body as beautiful – because isn’t it?
This is somehow Adam and Eve’s fault; if not it’s John Milton’s. Supposedly it was their nakedness that caused them to feel shame after the fall of man, and now this is the world we live in. We see a pair of boobs on TV and children’s eyes get covered, and girlfriends shoot boyfriends evil stares for looking too long or liking it too much. It’s crazy.
In Zulu culture, women let their breasts hang free when they’re single. It doesn’t matter what she looks like – short, tall, fat, skinny, hot, not. It doesn’t matter. Zulu people don’t associate beauty or even sexuality with breasts.
The back of the upper thigh is their hot spot and that stays covered. Seeing the booty shorts that people wear around here in the summer would drive a Zulu man wild. It’s all skin – so what assigns shame to showing it off?
What if you just don’t like wearing restricting clothes? It can be uncomfortable. What if you’re hot and want to cool off a little? You could turn on the air conditioning or you could just take your shirt off. Guys do it. Why not girls? Who decided it’s overly sexual – some Biblical fairytale character?
The upper thigh Zulu fetish seems to be the opposite for men. When people see the upper thigh of a man, cringing almost always ensues. This is most likely because men’s bathing suits cover that area up and during the summer there are these gauche contrast lines barring upper thigh from mid-thigh (unless of course, you’re in Europe).
Once again, who cares? If it’s hot out, people should be allowed to be comfortable without feeling guiltily for it. You see yourself naked. Hopefully that doesn’t make you nervous. It’s the lens you put on when you look at other people that makes it sexual or not. You have the power to decide for yourself.
Well, except for the fact that it’s illegal in public. Say you want to go skinny dipping while on vacation on the Cape Cod National Seashore this summer. Not okay with the law.
Chapter 272, Section 7.67 of the General Laws of Massachusetts in Part IV of the Crimes, Punishments and Proceedings in Criminal Cases reads, “Public nudity, including public nude bathing, by any person on Federal land or water within the boundaries of Cape Cod National Seashore is prohibited. Public nudity is a person’s intentional failure to cover with a fully opaque covering that person’s own genitals, pubic areas, rectal area, or female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola when in a public place.”
Who decided this? It’s so specific. This required some serious thought. Someone just decided that when they’re sitting on Cape Cod National Seashore they don’t want to see below a point immediately above the top of a woman’s areola? C’mon.
We should decide how naked we want to be. Your body is your body. If you want to skinny dip this summer, you should be able to decide – not Massachusetts.
Leigh Greaney is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.