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Nudity and Censorship ─ fig leaves and pixilation

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While I am not much of a reality show kind of guy I have been tuning in to Discovery's, "Naked and Afraid." Recently it was announced that the show, "the No. 1 ad-supported program in the 25-54 category and the 18-49 category on Sunday" according to Entertainment Weekly, has been renewed for a second season.

If you haven't caught the show here is the premise. Billed as a show that takes "survival of the fittest" to the next level, in each episode a new pair of complete strangers, one man and one woman, are left stranded in one of the wildest least hospitable locations found on the planet, exposed to some of the most extreme climates without food, drinking water, no kit except for one personal survival item allowed for each person and no clothes. They couple must survive on their own for a full 21 days depending on their wits, what survival skills they bring to the show and teamwork.

I started watching the show not because of the survivalist angle (after all you just can't top Bear Grylls in "Man vs. Wild" if that's what you are after) but to see through the naturist lens how the program dealt with nudity. To be fair, when it comes to how nudity is presented on the show, there is both the good and the bad.

[Make your opinion heard by taking this survey: More access to public lands for nude recreation]

The positives in my estimation include allowing average television viewers whom most likely aren't nudists or naturists, to see nudity in a non-sexual context, some for perhaps the very first time. Viewers also observe each week just how amazingly quickly that two complete strangers thrown together while completely naked get comfortable with the whole nude thing. Nudity almost immediately ceases to be a concern even for those who had expressed a bit of apprehension at the start of an episode over having to see a stranger of the opposite sex naked and in turn being seen naked themselves. Finally I think it is always positive to have another show that depicts non-sexual nudity. Nudity is going to remain the taboo that it is in our society until the majority learns to feel comfortable with it and stops seeing nude people as something offensive or shocking. Shows like this one can help I think.

There is however one glaring negative in my opinion. While you will see bare buns in abundance on the program, beyond that all other nudity including female breasts is censored with pixilation which in balance makes the nudity a bit phony. Clearly the blame for that can't be laid at the feet of Discovery. The broadcaster is compelled by law to comply with the Federal Communications Commission's "Obscene, Indecent and Profane Broadcast" regulations for television. At least in the minds of those at the commission, the average person, applying contemporary community standards, finds that full nudity "appeals to the prurient interest" and "is patently offensive."

[More from Dallas Nudist Culture: Nudists ─ real people with real bodies]

Doesn't it seem that media censorship and regulations against nudity are a bit outdated? We think they are. It seems a bit random that in our culture sex plays a starring role in American films and television shows and that advertisers use sex to sell everything from cosmetics to automobiles yet it is still not permitted to show nudity in a non-sexual context. Isn't freedom of expression supposed to be one of the foundational principles of our country? Yet nudity continues to be a touchy subject. Mainstream media and the pornography industry have so sexually objectified female breasts that content providers like this one don't permit uncensored images of them. I'm not saying that it should be anything goes when it comes to television programming. I wouldn't support porn being broadcasted on network television for example. Without judging those who consume it, pornography is clearly intended to appeal to prurient interests. I also think you can make the argument that porn sexually objectifies and marginalizes women. It is understandable that many find pornography is offensive, don't want to view it on television and certainly don't want their children exposed to it. But again we are talking about context. There is nothing lewd about the nudity shown in programs like "Naked and Afraid" and if the pixilation was dispensed with that would remain just as true.

In the realm of the World Wide Web, there are a few well known media companies who seem to get the idea when it comes to not censoring people's freedom of expression. Weblog host Tumblr, now owned by Yahoo! has allowed nudity for years and continues to do so. Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer promised that Tumblr would keep its independence emphasizing, “We really want to let Tumblr be Tumblr..." inferring it seems that Yahoo! has no intentions of censoring nudity at Tumblr. That is one reason I decided to create my weblog on Tumblr. It gives me more freedom to present tasteful naturist content including uncensored images without worrying about the editorial terms I must comply with here.

Google guidelines generally prohibit nudity but exceptions are made when it is presented in an educational, documentary or artistic context and care is taken to add appropriate warnings and age restrictions. On the Google blogging platform, Blogger, blog creators are simply expected to click an "adult content" box when creating a blog if they wish to include content that involves nudity or other adult content. When someone visits such a blog they first see a warning that the blog contains adult content and then can decide for themselves whether they want to view it or not.

Naturists continue to struggle to find tolerance in the United States. Nudity remains a taboo in America primarily because most equate nudity or nakedness with sexuality and we as a nation are highly ambivalent about sexuality. Naturists understand that a lack of understanding about what naturism is among those outside the lifestyle is very apparent. Ignorance of the general public towards naturism affects the naturist community in very negative ways. Education then is the best way to combat this ignorance.

Until people can relax about nudity and grasp that nudity is not just about sex, the taboo will stand. Desensitization is means by which people could start learning to see nudity as normal, natural and not inseparably sexual. In psychology desensitization, defined as diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it, is a process primarily used to rid people of phobias and anxieties. If people were exposed to wholesome, non-sexual nudity regularly in the context of mainstream television programming, they might find it offensive at first but would likely after repeated exposure stop reacting to it so negatively and eventually even start to feel more comfortable with nudity. I think the nation is ready. After the initial shock wears off, people I think would generally start accepting non-sexual nudity without a second thought.

Naturists are fans of nudity – obviously. We can appreciate a sexy, tasteful image that breaks the boundaries when it comes to things typically subjected to censorship. Lately, a recent act of censorship I experienced personally has me questioning, “What’s the big deal anyway?” Are the regulations that prohibit nudity in media outdated? We think they are. What do you think?

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