Is the bare human form still culturally offensive? For many the answer is a resounding no. With today's proliferation of nudity inclusive television, has nudity returned to its post-taboo status or are television contestants just more liberal than most?
VH1's Dating Naked explores the relationship between sexuality and romantic attraction. The primary question that moves the plot is: to what extent does sexuality determine romantic attraction? In the show, the typical veil of clothing is removed and with it the body's socially determined sexuality. What's left is a human being who must find other ways to inspire interest and intrigue. How contestants deal with the task and the occasional boner is the attraction of the show.
The Discovery's Channel Naked and Afraid uses nudity as a literal and philosophical stripping away of possessions, as contestants are left with nothing but their skin and told to survive in the wild for 21 consecutive days. The show critiques the social construction of clothing by modeling modesty as low on the list of priorities for survival. Unlike VH1's Dating Naked, there are no accidental boners in this show, as contestants are more focused on their next meal more than romantic and sexual entanglements.
TLC's Buying Naked does not explore the interconnection between the unclothed body and sexuality. Instead it uses the naked body as a cheap gimmick used to attract a younger and perceivably more perverse viewership. The creation of this show only serves to highlight the disconnections between the way different communities view nudity and consequently how they represent it to others.
On Sept. 6, Philadelphia held its annual naked bike ride. The Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride (PNBR) is part of the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) circuit, in which many major cities across the globe participate. The function of the ride is to draw attention to the decreasing view of the general populace to see the body as a tool, especially in regards to transportation. A common phrase both uttered and professed through writing at the rallies is, "more ass less gas." The focus of the organization on the use of the body as a tool coincides with others' in the movement who retain a great interest in environmental issues caused by the use of cars. Others are interested in liberating the human body from the social and legal constraints of nudity, particularly in public spaces.
Nudity, by virtue of its absence in everyday culture, is still taboo in the sense that those who violate the norm are aware that they are doing so. However, as one's body is exposed, it grants other people the permission to expose themselves as well. This domino effect leads to a shift in society. One thing is for certain, there is market for these naked television events and programs. Nudity in society or its absence thereof inspires the art world, and that in turn inspires society. With time, perhaps, the nude human form will once again return to being an accepted form of dress.